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Archive for May, 2017


Sirach 44:1-15: The Upright

erik erikson

Erik Erikson

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Fr. Richard Rohr speaks of psychologist Erik Erikson’s (1902-1994) description of a generative person as “one who is eager and able to generate life from his or her own abundance and for the benefit of following generations”. (Rohr 160)

When we reflect on this topic and how it links with Old Testament thinking, we might spend time with these verses from this ancient book of wisdom. The commentary in the HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE tells us: “The ancestors are glorious because of their recognition by God, their honorable achievements, their recognition by their own generations, their godliness, their legacy to their children, and their lasting name and memory”.   (Meeks, 1601)

We consider what it means to be upright in God and we look at Acts 2:36-41: For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.  

All generations – from our distant ancestors to our childrens’ childrens’ children are known to God.

All generations – from the beginning of time to its ending – are well loved by God.

All generations have the opportunity to be upright in and with God.

Rohr continues: “The God [of generative people] is no longer small, punitive, or tribal. They once worshipped their raft; now they love the shore where it has taken them. They once defended signposts; now they have arrived where the signs pointed. They now enjoy the moon itself instead of fighting over whose finger points to it most accurately, quickly, or definitively”. (Rohr 160)

And so we ask ourselves . . . What raft do we steer, and on what shore have we landed? What signposts do we hold up, and which do we follow? On what moon do we set our gaze, and what do we do with the gift of God’s promises?

Tomorrow, whose gaze do we follow?

Adapted from a reflection written on April 26, 2017. 

For more about Erik Erikson, click on the image above.

Richard Rohr, OFM. A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations. Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016.

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. Print. 

 

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Revelation 3Superficiality, Fidelity, and Mediocrity   

Tuesday, May 30, 2017    

To the church in Sardis . . . I know your works, that you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead . . .

sardis

A Greek temple in Sardis

To the church in Philadelphia . . . You have limited strength, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name . . .

To the church in Laodicea . . . I know that you are neither hot or cold . . .

Today we read the greetings to three of the seven churches addressed by John in the last book of the Bible.  The seven represent the universal church.  Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea have something special to tell us.

Notes will inform us that Sardis was once a capital city and was noted for its immense wealth at the time of Croesus in the 6th century before Christ.  It had a fortress with the fame of being impregnable, yet it was taken by surprise by both Cyrus and Antiochus.  This church gives the appearance of being unassailable . . . but is warned to be on its guard.  Be watchful and strengthen what is left, which is going to die, for I have not found your works complete . . .

We will also learn that Philadelphia was rebuilt by the Emperor Tiberius in C.E. 17 after a different quake.  It may be for this reason that there are references to its royal nature.  Because you have kept my message of endurance, I will keep you safe in the time of trial that is going to come . . .

Laodicea IMG_5913 - Copy

Ruins in Laodicea

Laodicea was a wealthy industrial and commercial center eighty miles east of Ephesus that exported beautiful woolen garments.  It had a famous medical school and was known for an eye salve that could be purchased there and the people had so much money that they were able to rebuild after a devastating earthquake about sixty years after Christ.  And they did this with no outside help.  They were able to stand in their own and were beholding to no one.   For you say, “I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,” and yet you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich, and white garments to put on so that your shameful nakedness may not be exposed, and buy ointment to smear on your eyes so that you may see . . . (Senior 403-404)

ancient philadelphia

Ancient Philadelphia

Here we have the faithful church sandwiched between the complacent, self-satisfied, self-protecting churches.  As we contemplate this juxtaposition, we might ask ourselves where we stand today.  Are content with doing just enough?  Do we tend to appearance and neglect the inner self?  Are we bothered by poverty of all kinds, or do we brush it away where we cannot see it?  Do we even allow ourselves to see suffering in any way?  If we do, how do we react?  We can spend time in Revelation 2 and 3 and wonder how our preparations for a guest compare with how we prepare ourselves to receive Christ.  Now we focus on three churches that bring us a special window we might open into our own souls.  Are we superficial?  Are we content with mediocrity?  Do we follow Christ faithfully even though the journey of life has taken its toll?

Superficiality, Fidelity, or Mediocrity . . . how do we choose to live?  What is our guiding principal?  Whom do we follow?  Why and how do we do what we do?  The Book of Revelation announces what Christ expects.  Whoever has ears ought to hear what the spirit says to the churches. 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.403-404. Print.  

For more images of a pilgrimage to the churches, click on the images of Sardis or Laodicea above, or visit: http://www.farnborough-kent-parish.org.uk/recent_turkey.html 

Adapted from a Favorite written on March 27, 2011.

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godsplan1-2blk96gPsalm 54: Nothing is in Vain

Monday, May 29, 2017

Adapted from a Favorite from May 24, 2010.

Nothing I experience is useless; not even one second is in vain.  We should be aware of everything we live, because everything is for his plan.               

Monsignor Luigi Giussani (MAGNIFICAT, Monday, May 24, 2010 Meditation)

We read these words and comprehend their meaning; but this does not always translate into something we can live.  We are not always able to manage our anxiety and fear.

We know that sacred scripture is God speaking to us and that the Psalms of petition are particularly appropriate for the faithful to intone when they are frustrated, disheartened or discouraged.  Psalm 54, Confident Prayer in Great Peril, is one that we will want to pray often, especially when we feel that all we have said and done has been said and done in vain.  As Monsignor Giussani reminds us today, in God’s economy, no word and no act is lost or wasted.  All that we say and do finds a place in God’s plan.

In verse 7 we see that the psalmist asks that the work of the evil be turned back upon them.  The writer is familiar with how God moves in our lives for we know that when the wicked fall, it is by a plot of their own making that has turned in upon them.  And when the faithful flourish, they do so despite the evil that would severe their connection with God. In the closing verses, the psalmist recognizes the power we find in making petitions in God’s name and so we find the logic in ending each prayer with the final words of . . . we pray this in God’s name . . . or . . . we ask this in Jesus’ name . . . or . . . we make this petition in Jesus’ name who together with the Holy Spirit hears our prayers.

Your-Plan-B-is-Gods-Plan-AGod’s word lies open to us today and we have the opportunity to examine our word as we make our requests known to God.  We will want to consider if we pray in confidence or in hesitation.  We will want to examine our relationship with God. Does our doubt outweigh our faith? Is our disappointment stronger than our hope? Is our antagonism more intense than our love?  And we will want to take a look at how and when and why we think that the words we have uttered and the acts we have accomplished in God’s name may have been completed in vain.

Nothing I experience is useless; not even one second is in vain.  We should be aware of everything we live, because everything is for God’s plan.

When we petition the Lord, let us ask with confidence, let us know that God turns evil back upon itself, and let us believe that all we say and do has a place in God’s plan . . . especially when we ask in God’s name.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 24.5 (2010). Print.  

 

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Isaiah 61-63: The Mission of the Afflicted . . . Prayer for the Return of God’s Favor

Sunday, May 28, 2017god's favor

The spirit of the Lord is upon me . . .  I am called an oak of justice, planted by the Lord to show God’s glory.

The people of Isaiah’s day yearned for the intimate presence of their God.  Today, faithful sufferers have this precious union in the protective armor of Christ that they put on each morning.  Today these loyal servants have the nurturing presence of the Holy Spirit to drink in each morning at their rising.  They live in the days of the Presence, the days between the arrival of the Christ and his second coming.  They are the faithful who walk The Way guided by the Maker, accompanied by the Word, dwelt in by the Spirit. And so we pray.

Fellow pilgrims,

When suffering arrives at our door, perches on our shoulders, tears down all that we have seen built up in Christ’s name, we remember this.  We are so blessed. We are so honored. We are so loved, for we walk in the footsteps of the Teacher who shows all God’s children The Way.  We do not shy away from some dreadful task that is done in Christ’s name; rather, we take it up gladly.  For it is in this pain that the kingdom comes.  It is in this suffering that dreams are birthed into reality.  It is in this dreadful passage from dark to light where miracles transport us to the super reality of our transformation and resurrection with Christ.  This is an arduous Way; but it is the way for all who follow Christ.  This is the mission of the afflicted. It is the life of the disciple, and it is the reward of the brokenhearted. 

When suffering arrives at our door remember this . . . it is a sign that we have all been set free.

When suffering arrives at our door remember this . . . it is a spark that will ignite the fire of our love.

When suffering arrives at our door remember this . . . it is a drink of clear water that quenches in the desert.

When suffering arrives at our door remember this . . . it is the arrival of the groom who comes in search of his bride.

When suffering arrives at our door remember all of this.

And when suffering arrives at our door . . . 

Let us rejoice and be glad!

Adapted from a reflection written on May 24, 2008.

 

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Isaiah 61-63: The Mission of the Afflicted . . . Restoration

Saturday, May 27, 2017CLF - Olmstead Parks

Oaks of Justice

The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication from our God, to comfort all who mourn; to place on those who mourn in Zion a diadem of ashes, to give them oil of gladness in place of mourning, a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit.  They will be called oaks of justice, planted by the Lord to show his glory.

These are the words Jesus reads out in the synagogue in Capernaum to initiate the Kingdom of God on earth; and for delivering this message of hope and freedom, he was accused of heresy and nearly killed by his audience.

Those who suffer well, who offer their pain for the salvation of others, suffer with Christ, in Christ, and through Christ.  They make their pain salvific and in this way, together with Christ, they offer to save the world.  These sufferers become co-redeemers.

In the old days, we wore white and red robes and caps when we were confirmed as a sign that we were willing to step into the ranks of those who suffered for Christ and for the world.  We became “soldiers” for Christ. Today we see the confirmandi as disciples who work for and in Christ, followers who build the Kingdom of God in order to bring transformation to the world, aid to the afflicted, and restoration to the Kingdom.

They shall rebuild the ancient ruins, the former wastes they shall raise up and restore the ruined cities, desolate now for generations.  Strangers shall stand by ready to pasture your flocks, foreigners shall be your farmers and vinedressers.  You yourselves shall be named priests of the Lord, ministers of our God you shall be called.  You shall eat the wealth of the nations and boast of riches from them.  Since their shame was double and disgrace and spittle were their portion, they shall have a double inheritance in their land, everlasting joy shall be theirs. 

The faithful who suffer are well rewarded for the work they do in Christ’s name, because Jesus knows how difficult it is to walk The Way. The faithful who suffer are transformed when pain brings them closer to God. The faithful who suffer must not remain silent and thus indicate their assent with all that causes their suffering.

For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch . . . No more shall men call you “Forsaken”, or your land “Desolate”, but you shall be called “My Delight”, and your land “Espoused”.  For the Lord delights in you, and makes your land his spouse.  As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder will marry you; as a Bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.

God will not let these faithful, suffering servants come to harm when they speak out to witness to what is unjust and unloving. God cares for these Oaks of Justice constantly, tending to the littlest of details in their lives even when the earth trembles beneath them and the skies darken above them. God sheds favor upon the faithful, urges them to set down deep roots into the richness of The Word, and persistently calls them to stay focused on the light so that they might bear God’s light into the world.

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you.

Tomorrow . . . a prayer for the return of God’s favor.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 24, 2008.

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Psalm 106Grafting to the Vine

grafting vines

Grafting vines in Napa Valley, USA

Friday, May 26, 2017

A Favorite from May 13, 2009.

We can always count on God’s fidelity despite anything we think, say or do.  God’s love is that immense.  All generations experience the collective sin of turning away.  All generations have the opportunity to return.  How do we show God that we desire this goodness?  We thank and praise God when God visits the many small miracles of each day upon us.  We credit God with what is God’s; we credit God with all that is true and honest; and we allow this truth and honesty and love – this God – to become manifest in us.

From today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation by Sister Lucia, one of the three children who spoke with the Blessed Mother in Fatima, Portugal on this day in 1917.  To love is to possess the greatest gift of God, himself . . . It is to possess God and be ourselves immersed in God; it is the true love of God in us . . . The materialistic world does not know God, does not understand the spiritual life of the indwelling of the most high Trinity . . . And not only does it not understand it.  It actually despises it and even persecutes it; but it persecutes it because it does not know it, and is unaware of the countless treasures and intimate riches which are contained in it . . . The world seduces and deceives, and Christ cannot reveal himself to those who allow themselves to be caught in the deceitful illusions of the world.  Hence, those who abandon themselves to materialism do not understand the language used by Jesus Christ who is the Word of God; they have been called, since we were all called to follow the divine law, but they have not been chosen, because they do not wish to hear the voice of God, . . . the teaching of Christ . . . They have blocked off their own entrance to eternal life.

Being a language teacher, and thinking about these words, I want to rush about setting up environments and laying out lesson plans to be certain that all of us learn the language of God so that we might fear less and love more.  Then I pull myself up short and realize that each day as I go through my thousand little jobs and works, I have the opportunity to create these plans by the way I move through the many scenarios of my day.  The words I say and the gestures I enact are my lesson plans.  And more than this, the time I spend with God in reflection prepares me to enter into these scenarios.  It empowers me to try to live these scenes with truth and light.  And lastly, it brings me the tools I need to discern the fruits of each day.  Have my thoughts, words and deeds borne fruit?  Has this been good fruit or bad?

Today’s Gospel is from John 15 when Jesus explains that we might remain in him just as he remains in the Father.  We become the branches of his vine.

From a mini reflection in MAGNIFICAT: Branches severed, branches hanging tenuously from Christ the vine, wither.  Branches firmly grafted into Christ the vine continue to be refreshed and renewed by the water of life, the Spirit of God, for whom all human beings thirst, knowingly or unknowingly.

When we graft ourselves firmly to the vine, we find grace in every situation – both the bad and the good.

When we graft ourselves firmly to the vine, we become renewed in the Spirit – even when we have reached the bottom of our resources.

When we graft ourselves firmly to the vine, we can acknowledge freely our turning away from God – whether the turning is individual or collective.

When we graft ourselves firmly to the vine, we need not fear the materialistic world – whether it despises or loves us.

When we graft ourselves firmly to the vine, we can join the psalmist who writes: Give thanks to the Lord, who is good, whose love endures forever . . . Let all the people say, Amen!  Hallelujah!

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 13.5 (2009). Print.  

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Ezekiel 43: God’s Glory Returns

archway-roman-ruins-tyre-lebanon_12240_600x450

National Geographic: Ruins of Roman Archway in Tyre, Lebanon

Thursday, May 25, 2017

As a counterbalance to the description of the downfall of Tyre on which we have reflected before, today we have a description of the temple in the New Jerusalem. What we see described here is God living with all of the Israelites forever. The man leading the prophet through this beautiful scenario says: Describe the temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins. Let them consider the plan, and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple – its arrangements, its exits and entrances – its whole design and all its regulations and laws. Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations. This portion of Ezekiel’s prophecy is full of detailed descriptions of the place and the people who make up this new city where God dwells forever with his people. It was meant to both instruct and to bring comfort to those who lived in exile with this prophet. The footnotes in the NAB point out that in the new Israel the temple is free, even physically, from civil jurisdiction – moving away from the habit of corrupt kings like Ahaz and Manasseh who treated it as a private chapel for pagan rites.

Jerusalem _ Old City Walls _ Noam Chen_IMOT

Noam Chen: Old City of  Jerusalem

When Jesus arrived on the scene hundreds of years later as the true Messiah, he upset much of this separatist and purist thinking. It was for his openness and universality that he was hunted down, condemned and put to death.  Because his new Law of Love fulfilled and superseded the old Law of Moses, he and his apostles were hounded out of towns and executed. Even in the early Christian church we see the struggle with this idea of openness and universality with the first Council which convened in Jerusalem to determine the importance of circumcision as a requirement for church membership. After discussion, and when the dust settles, we read in Acts that circumcision was not determined necessary.  God’s church is open to Gentile and Jew, slave or free, woman or man – to all those who will be faithful to the Covenant first established with Adam and Eve.

This is how we see the New Temple and the New Jerusalem as revealed by Ezekiel millennia ago. This place of worship where God dwells is where we live even today . . . if we might only choose to open our eyes and ears to it. This prophet was painting a picture of radiance for his exiled peope, and they must have taken heart at the memories these words stirred of how it is to gather together as Yahweh’s faithful to repent, to petition, to give thanks, to worship.

As Easter people who believe in the Resurrected Jesus, we too, can relax into these images and make them our own. We can carry them into the world with us each day as we encounter and then counter the darkness that wishes to prevail. We can arm ourselves with these pictures of the universal gathering of all of God’s People . . . the Faithful to the Covenant . . . the Hopeful in all things hopeless . . . the Truthful in all relationships . . . the Struggling with the cares of this world . . . the Freed who have escaped the chains of doubt and anxiety. For we are Easter people who live the Resurrection even now. For God’s Glory has returned in us . . . in our willingness to serve . . . our willingness to be vulnerable . . . our willingness to witness . . . our willingness to be Christ and Light and Truth to a world struggling to be free of the darkness.

This is God’s Plan. This is God’s Design. This is God’s Law.

Amen.  Alleluia!

A Favorite from April 13, 2008.

For a Noontime reflection on Tyre, visit: https://thenoontimes.com/2012/09/18/tyre/ 

For more National Geographic images of Lebanon, click on the image above. 

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2 Samuel 18: Recklessness

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

kingdavidpalace02_m_0722

King David in Grief

When we examine the story of David and his son Absalom, and see that sometimes we cling to outmoded ideas or dangerous people.  We humans seem to prefer the devil we know to the one we do not.  We make a way to survive with the horror we experience rather than set boundaries against the craziness of the world.  This is the fine line we walk between forgiving transgression and accepting abuse.  This is the difference between pardon and leniency.  It is the distinction we draw between recklessness and prudence.

Absalom is the favored child who does as he likes; he is coddled and feels entitled.  We see many examples of this in our current world – men and women who take what they like from whomever they like, pitted against the innocent who are open and trusting.  It is an uneven match and we wonder why God does not protect the naïve and unknowing more.

In today’s reading we see the dreadful end of Absalom, the favored child who abused his father who had given him so much.  We also watch the mourning of the father who believes he has recently lost a child without understanding that he had lost him years before.

As Jesus reminds us, we cannot put new wine into old skins.  (Matthew 9:14-17, Mark 2:21-22 and Luke 5:33-39) We cannot sew new patches on old sleeves.  We are called by our maker to transform ourselves, to move beyond our old form and style, to become new in Christ.  For just as the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New, as the old Covenant is re-written on the new heart, so are we called to make a place for a clean spirit, so are we called to sit at the city gate to indicate that we have returned – but in a new form.

In this Easter season, let us be determined that when we are fuddled by the line between compassion and acceptance of violence against one’s self, we will examine our lives in light of the Gospel to see if our suffering bears fruit or draws us down.  In recent days at Mass we have been reminded that we are the fruit bearing branches of the vine that is Christ.  We are nothing and do nothing except through the Creator.  There is no secret thought; we keep no actions from the Spirit.  We belong to God and our lives are transformed when we understand this.

From the mini-reflection in today’s MAGNIFICAT we read in reference to Acts 16:1-10: “Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number”.  This was due in large part to Paul and Timothy’s attentive docility and obedience to the Holy Spirit.  They had been chosen “out of the world” by Jesus.  When we act out of belonging, conscious that we do not “belong to the world”, we change the world”.

And this is how we address the recklessness and violence we see around us.  We take on Christ, we go to the Creator, and we allow our transformation in the Spirit.  In this way, we pray that we do not come to harm when the violence of the world threatens us.  And we pray that when the violence of the world does invade our lives – as it surely will – we will have the courage, strength and clarity to witness with attentive docility and obedience to the Holy Spirit.  We pray that we remind ourselves of our true belonging.  And we pray for the lost souls of those who have been sucked into the cycle of danger and fear.   In this way we change the world.  Amen.

A Favorite from May 8, 2010.

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 8 May 2010. Print.

 

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Acts 13:44-52: Wild with Jealousy

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Johann Heisse: Paul and Barnabas in Lystra

We have visited this reading before and we do well to visit it again. The themes are vitally important to us.

Some of the Jews, seeing the crowds, went wild with jealousy and tore into Paul, contradicting everything he was saying, making an ugly scene.

Whether we are the Jews, the Christians or the Gentiles . . . we must guard against jealousy and the ugly scenes this negative emotion brings.

But Paul and Barnabas didn’t back down. Standing their ground they spoke.

Like Paul and Barnabas . . . we must remain in Christ, trust God, and live in the Spirit so that we might share the healing message of the Good News.

All who were marked out for real life put their trust in God—they honored God’s Word by receiving that life. 

Like those who heard the good news of salvation . . . we must open our hearts and minds to God’s movement in our lives.

Some of the Jews convinced the most respected women and leading men of the town that their precious way of life was about to be destroyed. Alarmed, they turned on Paul and Barnabas and forced them to leave.

Like the most respected women and leading men in our town . . . we must remain in Christ and the surety of Christ’s promise.

Paul and Barnabas shrugged their shoulders and went on to the next town, Iconium, brimming with joy and the Holy Spirit, two happy disciples.

Like Paul and Barnabas . . . we must shrug our shoulders, move on to the next town, allowing the joy of the Spirit to overflow our hearts.

For other reflections on Paul and Barnabas, enter the apostles’ names in the blog search bar and explore.

For more on Iconium, visit: http://bibleatlas.org/iconium.htm

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