Archive for September, 2017

Proverbs 23:1-25Words

Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Favorite from September 30, 2010.

Toil not to gain wealth; cease to be concerned about it; while your glance flits to it, it is gone! . . .

Remove not the ancient landmark, nor invade the fields of orphans; for their redeemer is strong; he will defend their cause against you . . .

Apply your heart to instruction, and your ears to words of knowledge . . .

Get the truth and sell it not – wisdom, instruction and understanding . . .

Let your father and mother have joy; let her who bore you exult . . .

We are also told to beat our boys with a rod so that they do not die.  Of course when we consider the context of this advice we can see the wisdom in it.  Today we know that brutality only begets depression and initiates waves of violence.

The Book of Proverbs has much to say to us.  It is best taken in parts and considered in light of its era.  When allowed to rest in our hearts for a time, it nurtures the seeds of wisdom planted within by the Maker, redeemed and transformed by the Savior, and cherished and graced by the Spirit.  We have only to open our hearts and ears; we have only to meditate on the Word . . .  to know that goodness created us . . . and longs to live within us.

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2 Chronicles 20Invasion

Jehoshaphat Defeats Moab and Ammon

Friday, September 29, 2017

A Favorite from September 24, 2009.

There are so many ways to invade, so many ways to be invaded.  None of us is impervious to others, no matter how thick or high we build walls.  And once we are pierced, once we lose what we believe to be our identity or our footing, we will need both a strong foundation to stand and recovery strategies.  Jehoshaphat today shows us what to do when even what is rightfully ours is taken away or ruined.

They rose early in the morning . . .

Oh how many times do I wish that my day did not begin before the sun rises; yet this early rising gives me the quiet edge I need to pray and reflect . . . and to begin well.

They went out into the wilderness . . .

Oh how I wish that I were not so often alone with such little sustenance; yet this leaving behind of all comfort gives me the proper feeling of dependence on God . . . a trusting child before a loving parent.

Believe in the Lord your God and you will be established . . .

Countless times do I pray the Creed – I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth . . .; yet still I need the encouragement from God to trust God’s plan.

Believe his prophets . . .

Countless times do we hear prophetic words and want to turn away from them because they call us to a place of discomfort; yet we follow for we know that there is no other Way to the eternal.

Give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast love endures forever . . .

Endlessly do we praise God for his careful providence in healing our willful ways and waywardness.

And the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around . . .

Endlessly do we shelter from the violent storm beneath the altar of sacrifice for our God . . . and after the violence has passed . . . we rise again to find that we have weathered the invasion . . . and that we are saved.

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Joshua 13-21Boundaries

Caravaggio: Narcissus

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Favorite from September 18, 2010.

We are a fairly narcissistic society and there was a recent flutter among journalists regarding the connection between Facebook and narcissists as *a few links below will tell us.  No matter where we stand on this issue, even the idea that there might be a connection brings out defenders and critics alike.  Clearly, we are interested in one way or another, in our own faces . . . and the conversation that erupts when the disease of narcissism is brought into the spotlight is not easy to miss.  This disease is one in which its sufferers cannot distinguish appropriate boundaries, and it brings havoc into many lives and many families.

Joshua and the early desert peoples were wise to follow God’s instruction to establish borderlines around their family camps; their hope was to bring order out of the chaos that from time to time took hold of them during their wanderings.  Each clan might get a grip on its own people and come up with a design to help one another to live in harmony and unity.  Of course, boundaries can also cause conflict and turmoil, but when we know where emotional, political and even physical boundaries are, we have less difficulty understanding our spiritual boundaries.  When we know that we humans are created and loved by God, and that our purpose is to seek and know God, to obey and serve God, then we have fewer problems with the world.

If you have some time this afternoon, and if you are thinking about boundaries, you may find something else to think about:  Do we recognize, repair, and celebrate the boundaries in our lives that are meant to bring order out of chaos through God’s love?  And do we look for God’s guidance as we work at transforming our human selves into our divine selves with God’s grace?

I offer two citations for us to ponder during this weekend in late summer.  The first is the poem “The Mending Wall” by Robert Frost – one of my favorites – about repairing a property boundary.  Frost speaks of gaps in walls and we might think of the gaps in our lives.  “No one has seen them made or heard them made, but at spring mending-time we find them there”.  When our spring mending-time arrives, do we willingly repair the gaps we find? https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44266/mending-wall

The second is from 1 Corinthians (15:35-37, 42-49) which is today’s first Mass reading.  In this letter Paul tells us that our own resurrection is sown corruptible and is raised incorruptible through Christ.  It is sown a natural body and is raised a spiritual one, through Christ.  Are we aware of this process of transformation going on in our lives?  Do we recognize our own spiritual self as we look at our natural face?  When our own resurrection arrives, will we recognize it?

*A CNN poll shows some fascinating correlations between Facebook and narcissism: http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/social.media/08/30/facebook.narcissism.mashable/index.html 

*THE ATLANTIC, “How to Spot a Narcissist Online”: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/01/how-to-spot-a-narcissist-online/283099/

*SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, Study of Facebook Users Connects Narcissism and Low Self-Esteem: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/status-update-im-so-glamorous/


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Luke 5:27-32Rise and Follow

Caravaggio: The Calling of Saint Matthew

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Favorite from September 21, 2009.

This is Luke’s version of the story we hear in today’s Gospel from Matthew 9:9-13, and in it we see the tax collector being called from a life of working with numbers to a life of working with souls.  At first glance, this seems like an unlikely move to make – a tax collector becomes a fisher of men’s souls.  At second glance, it is the kind of move which calls Matthew/Levi to newness, and it is the kind of move we are each called to make.

Saint Bede the Venerable (who died in 725) is cited in today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation: Jesus saw a man sitting in the tax-collector’s place, and he said to him, “Follow me”.  He saw him not so much by virtue of corporeal vision as by inner compassion . . . Jesus saw the man, and felt compassion for him because he was devoted only to human concerns and [Matthew] was not yet worthy of an angelic name . . . “And he rose and followed him”. We should not marvel that a publican, upon first hearing the Lord’s voice ordering him, left the earthly gains that he cared about.  Disregarding his property, he attached himself to the band of followers of one whom he perceived to have no riches.  For the Lord himself, who outwardly called him by a word, taught him inwardly by with an invisible impulse so that he followed him.  He poured into his mind the light of spiritual grace, by which he could understand that the one who was calling him from temporal things on earth was capable of giving him incorruptible treasures in heaven. 

When we are called but know that our ready response promises discomfort and a complete handing over of self to God’s mission for us, may we rise and follow him as eagerly as the apostle Matthew.  Some speculate that he is the brother of another apostle who Jesus had already chosen and so in this way would have had an introduction to Jesus and The Way he proposed.  This may or may not be the case but whether or not this apostle knew something of the Christ prior to the day of his call, we can learn something about his eager and immediate response to The Word which is this:  When we hear the call that Levi/Matthew heard, we will want to rise and follow as he did so that we too, might be worthy of an angelic name . . . and add to God’s incorruptible treasure in heaven.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 21.9 (2009). Print.  

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Ecclesiastes 7: Elusiveness 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Favorite from September 13, 2008.

Wisdom and Righteousness are elusive, Qohelet tells us; and this does not surprise us.  We seek these qualities throughout our lives because they lead us to our divine self, our immortality, our infinity.  Today’s reflection invites us to seek our divine self  by looking at the inversions presented as evidence that this divinity lives in us constantly . . . it is with us, even as we go in search of it.

Perhaps we do not find this divine self because we are distracted by the cares and needs of daily living; yet it is in this quotidian life that we find the divine.  Qohelet reminds us that we best find understanding through sorrow, joy through grief, success through failure, happiness through pain, fulfillment through loss.  He further invites us to examine the life of the wicked and the idolatrous as contrasted with that of the wise and the righteous.  The former finds mirth in a present life of carefree festivity, while the later finds divinity in this life and in the next . . . through an ever-maturing communion with God.

Our divine self is elusive when we seek it with our human eye; yet it steps into full view when we drop all pretense and allow ourselves to be directed by the voice that challenges us through loss.

We find this divine self, Qohelet points out, when we put aside impatience and put on the enduring mantle of hope.  We find it when we put aside relationships in which we are the hunter and the hunted, and make the decision to enter into those that blossom with fidelity and constancy.  We find it when we commit to the worship of the one true God rather than false covenants of comfort or fame.

When we allow God to balance our lives, we journey from the dark places to the light, wisdom makes an immediate and steadfast appearance, and righteousness guards us as we weave between the stones in the obstacle path of our pilgrimage.  The divine self we seek is no longer elusive.

And so in gratitude we pray as we read.

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.  Bring us your wisdom, O Lord.

It is better to hearken to the wise man’s rebuke, than it is to hearken to the song of fools. Bring us your wisdom, O Lord.

As the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the fool’s laughterGrant us your righteousness, O Lord.

Better is the patient spirit than the lofty spirit.  Show us our divine self, O Lord.

Consider the work of God.  Who can make straight what he has made crooked?  On a good day enjoy good things, and on an evil day consider: both the one and the other God has made, so that man cannot find fault with him in anything.  Be not elusive, O Lord.


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Psalm 142With Full Voice

Monday, September 25, 2017

We are always petitioning God, and that is as it should be.  By placing our petitions before God, we demonstrate that we understand our true relationship with the creator.  By asking Jesus to show us the way, we demonstrate that we understand him as a model for our own behavior.  By seeking wisdom from the Spirit, we demonstrate that we understand that true wisdom comes from God.

When we ask all of these things, how do we ask?  In tiny whispers?

When we ask all of these things, why do we ask? In order to complain?

When we ask all of these things, when do we ask?  Only when we have gotten beyond our limits?

God expects us to petition him constantly . . . with full voice . . . with our hopes, our fears, our impossibilities and our joys.  And he expects us to call out to him with full voice.

A Favorite from September 17, 2010.

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Sirach 27:30-28:7: Limitless 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Jan Van Hemessen: The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

Once we begin to enact our own shepherd parable, we will want to keep in constant touch with the healer, guide and protector who calls us. We will need to put aside our negative thoughts and emotions. And we will need to be open to the positive flow of goodness the Shepherd bestows on us.

From last Sunday’s readings (24th Sunday in Ordinary time) we find words of wisdom. Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The sins we commit are our many or few big and little separations from God more than a list of specific immoralities. Could anyone refuse mercy to another and expect healing from the LORD? Fortunately for us, the Shepherd forgives endlessly and so we too must practice giving the gift of forgiveness to those who harm us. Sirach describes how we must step away from our dual, black-and-white perspective to open ourselves to the broad, generous arms and heart of the Shepherd.

Claude Vignon: Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus tells his disciples – and he tells us today – that we must forgive endlessly, just as we are forgiven. “I say to you, not seven times seven but seventy-seven times”. Scholars tell us the number 7 is special in scriptural context. It’s special meaning implies a sense of completion or even perfection. Knowing this, we might ask, how much is seventy-seven times, and who among us counts each word of forgiveness as we dole it out to others? Far better, Jesus tells us, when we listen to the lesson of the unforgiving servant, that we forgive others endlessly from our hearts.

Today we reflect on these verses and gather strength to live out our shepherding parable with forgiveness that is more than seven times seven. With forgiveness that is an infinite seventy-seven times.

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Ezekiel 34: Parable of the Shepherds – Part VI

Saturday, September 23, 2017

In a world that too often gives us reason to fear, we turn to a Shepherd who both guides and protects. In societies that bring us exclusion rather than inclusion, we remain in the Shepherd who brings us hope. In work places that foster denial rather than encouragement, we learn to be faithful to the Shepherd who loves. In families that control us rather than nurture, we enact our own parable of shepherding.

And so we pray.

Oh Master Shepherd,

Gather us up,

Gather us in. 

Cornelis van Leemputten: Shepherdess with her Flock

We wander in barren and hostile lands. 

We hear your voice,

We see your face,

We know your touch.

Gather us up.

Gather us in. 


We wander in search of something we have lost.

We hear your voice,

We see your face,

We know your love.

Gather us up,

Gather us in.

We wander seeking your nurturing shoulders, your strong arms.

We know your voice,

We know your face,

We know your embrace.

Gather us up,

Gather us in.


Adapted from a Favorite written on January 20, 2008.

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Ezekiel 34: Parable of the Shepherds – Part V

Friday, September 22, 2017

There is a reference to God as shepherd in the letter to the Hebrews (Chapter 13) and in Peter’s first letter (Chapter 5). In Revelation 7 we see Jesus the Lamb as the ultimate shepherd amid the great multitude in white robes. All of this is not a coincidence.  All of this is a sign to us, a complete and complex image.  In today’s reading from Ezekiel we are reminded that false shepherds abound.  They are subtle yet abusive.  Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves!  They prey on the weak and lord it over the flock.  They eat the very sheep they are called to protect.  There is also the one, true and constant shepherd who will gather the scattered, who will rid the countryside of ravenous beasts, who will send rain in due season so that the trees might bear fruit.

God asks us these questions through Ezekiel in verse 18: Was it not enough for you to graze on the best pasture, that you had to trample the rest of the pastures with your feet?  Was it not enough for you to drink the clearest water, that you had to fowl the remainder with your feet?  God tells us that he will judge the lean and the fat.  God, the Ultimate Shepherd, knows each sheep by name.  God, the Good Shepherd, carries the ewes and the lambs in hopeful arms.  God, the Protecting Shepherd, defends the sheep from the wolf.  God, the Healing Shepherd, will seek out the lost and the weary.  God, the Abiding Shepherd, will gather us home with all of the faithful flock.

God as Faithful Creator, Hope-bearing Savior and Abiding In-Dweller is the First and the Last of the Good Shepherds . . . and if we are made in this image, we know what we must do.  We who may be tempted to push with side and shoulder, and butt all the weak sheep with . . . horns until they [are] . . . driven out . . .  must instead follow the voice of the Master Shepherd who guides, heals, unites, brings home, restores, and rejoices with the arrival of each straying sheep.  We are called to follow God’s example and as we grow in our skills of shepherding, we become a guiding light to others as we find our way into the One True Fold.

Tomorrow, a prayer for shepherds.

Adapted from a Favorite written on January 20, 2008.

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