Archive for June, 2018

2 Kings 14The Blustering Thistle  

Saturday, June 30, 2018

In this portion of Israel’s history we will need commentary to sort out who is the cause of what; and what today’s brief fable signifies.  The vulnerable thistle approaches the tall, strong cedar with a useless proposition.  This likely illustrates the foolhardy policies and actions of the leader Amaziah who threatens the powerful Jehoash.  Because Amaziah experienced victory over the Edomites and he now believes he can do anything.  He makes a common mistake – he believes in himself and follows his own ego rather than taking counsel from God.  The result of this bluster and imprudence is turbulence and it spells the end for Amaziah.  Yet in the end . . . and here is where we see God’s goodness . . . God saves the faithful people despite their foolhardy leaders.

It is likely that each of us can point to a time when we have been the thorny thistle threatening the mighty cedar; and if we are honest, we will also remember the turbulence that followed.  In our ego-driven culture we are inculcated in the thinking that we can do anything we put our minds to.  We can make more money, be more beautiful or handsome, buy a larger home or car, have the most current technology . . . and all of this will make us more popular and happy.  This, of course, is the thinking of the threatening thistle . . . and it is false.  How much more prudent it is to turn to God rather than bluster our way through life.

We see a clear choice before us today.  We can act as the foolish leaders do or we can turn to the God who created us in love . . . to be loved.  We can threaten others as the thistle does, or we can act in mercy, compassion and fidelity as God does.  And so we pray . . .

Our loving God is waiting to rescue us from the threats of the world.  Open our ears that we may hear God’s word.

Our tender God is waiting to heal us in love.  Open our eyes that we may see God in others.

Our compassionate God is waiting to transform us in joy.  Open our hearts that we may act in and through God.  Amen. 

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 30, 2011.

Read Full Post »

Jeremiah 9Joy Out of Corruption

Friday, June 29, 2018

Jeremiah’s concern in this chapter of his prophecy is the corruption of the people; he describes it with vivid images.  They ready their tongues like a drawn bow; with lying, and not with truth, they hold forth in the land.  They go from evil to evil, but me they know not, says the Lord.  Rather than speak of trust and compassion, the following verses warn all to be on guard.  Even Jacob – whose name indicates that “he supplants” – is remembered as the brother who cheated his twin Esau out of his inheritance rather than the man who fathered the twelve tribes of Israel.  Here we read about perverse friends who are guilty of slander, and commit violence upon violence, deceit upon deceit.  We have all likely been touched by this kind of duplicity in which associates speak cordially while in their hearts they lay ambushes.  We may have participated in these ambushes knowingly or unknowingly.  Verses 1 through 8 give us a sad picture of a people who have turned away from God.

The verses that follow describe what has happened to the land once her people forget God.  Birds of the air, beasts of the land have all fled; the cities are a wasteland.  God evokes a funeral dirge from his people; the wicked have polluted everything they touch.  The intensity of the sadness increases, yet . . . as always with God there is a flicker of hope. As always with God good comes out of evil.  As always with God no harm goes unanswered with compassion.  And this is the reaction we are called to give as we read these dark passages; rather than sink into the pit of darkness as the wicked would wish, we are to rise in resurrection hope with the faithful who refuse to give in to iniquity.  As believers in a God who forgives, redeems and transforms, we are to do as St. Paul reminds Timothy (2 Timothy 4:2): Proclaim the word: be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.  Imagine the world of Jeremiah if enough people had united in a voice that called for goodness over corruption.  Imagine our world today if enough of us are able to animate one another to do good rather than succumb to evil.

At the close of this Chapter Jeremiah warns his contemporaries – and he warns us – that we ought not be smug, nor ought we believe that our own talents or powers have kept us from failure since our wisdom, strength and glory all come from God.   Even circumcision as a sign of faith becomes a hollow, worthless act if we refuse to turn in hope to God.  Returning to Paul’s letters we find in Romans 4 and 5 a similar statement concerning those who appear to live in the Spirit but who in fact do not – while there are many uncircumcised who act in the Spirit and are therefore justified through their faith.  Paul recommends that we not turn away from any suffering we experience because of our work in the Spirit because this kind of pain produces a perseverance, character and hope that also carry a peace that comfort bought with collusion and corruption can never give us.   If we are looking for any kind of guarantee of joy . . . we find it in the true Spirit of the Living God . . . and never in the dishonesty and complicity Jeremiah tells us about today.

And so we pray with Jeremiah and Paul: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, nor the strong man glory in his strength, nor the rich man glory in his riches; but rather, let him who glories, glory in this, that in his prudence he knows God, knows that the Lord brings about kindness, justice and uprightness on the earth.  And so rather than sink into despair at the corruption around us, we ask God to bring goodness out of this harm.  And we give thanks for the struggles that produce perseverance, character, and hope . . . a hope that does not disappoint, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us.  Amen. 

Image from: https://www.pexels.com/search/joy/

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 29, 2011.

Read Full Post »

Luke 8:4-15: Living as an Engaged Listener

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Vincent Van Gogh: The Sower

This familiar story has much to teach us not only about our capacity to instruct others but about the way we engage the mysteries of God’s kingdom.  Commentary tells us that this parable “can serve to encourage those who have looked at their failures and who have forgotten that some seed will yield abundantly.  What is important is to realize that this is a parable, and therefore is not a simple illustration of a point being made otherwise.  Rather, a parable is the message, and a message offered in such a way as to elicit listener involvement in its meaning.  With parables listeners bear heavy responsibility for what is heard and understood; quite often the message is not obvious nor available to casual, unengaged listeners . . . In the interpretation (8:11-15) the parable is made into an allegory, i.e., a story in which each item in the narrative is made to represent something else.  Most scholars agree this interpretation represents the situation of the early church in its missionary preaching to a variety of conditions.  As an ‘explanation’ of the parable, however, the interpretation is less than clear”.  (Mays, 939)

We always want answers to our questions in the same manner as we warn a meal in a microwave oven.  We hit a few buttons and we have our desired result.  Listening for and to God’s voice is not so swiftly done.  In order to hear the wisdom of scripture we must settle ourselves, read the words before us, and then grapple with the “less than clear” interpretation given to us.  As the commentary points out, even when we are active, engaged listeners we will not clearly discern the message we know is being placed before us.  And so we look for more clues.

In Matthew 13:18 Jesus seems to be saying that the word goes out to four kinds of hearers: those who will never accept the kingdom’s word, those believe for a little while and then lose heart and fall away, those believe but who are too anxious to act, and finally those who hear the word and produce fruit abundantly.  We see roles defined and demarcations made; the mystery becomes a bit more clear for us and we are less uncomfortable.  Yet we know there is more.  We understand that with this story – as with all stories that Jesus tells – we are given the opportunity to clear away some of the fog that always clutters our view when we are kingdom-seeking.  We are given the chance to examine our failures and successes without being judged.  Knowing that there is more to be found than these simple equivalents of soil and people, we return to Luke’s Gospel . . . we concentrate and read again.  We lean forward a bit as if to physically engage ourselves with these verses in order to wrestle more clarity from them . . . in order to dispel the fog that impedes our vision.  We pray as we read each verse.

Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God has been granted to you . . . and we offer a quick prayer of thanksgiving for this story that shows us that although we work hard at conveying God’s message of love, we will not always succeed.   We marvel at this God who is so patient and willing to give each of us all the time we need to find our way to him.  Thus one of the mysteries of the kingdom is revealed.

But to the rest [the mysteries] are made known through parables so that ‘they may look but not see, and hear but not understand’ . . . and we offer a quick prayer of petition that stony hearts be softened and stiff necks unbent.  And we marvel at this God who is so merciful and loving that he waits endlessly for us to finally listen and hear . . . to finally see and understand.  And here is another mystery of the kingdom revealed.

The image of sowing and reaping was common in Jesus’ day and so the story of the sower was easily understood on a practical level.  What was challenging for Jesus’ listeners then – and what is just as challenging for us today – is to engage with the mysteries Jesus offers to us, to enter into the inscrutable ways of the kingdom, and to willing accept the heavy responsibility of living in this swirling fog of trust, fear, compassion, mystery . . . and love.   This is a message Jesus gives his kingdom-builders.  It is a message we are called to live.

Mays, James L., ed. HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 1203. Print.

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 28, 2011.

Image from: https://gl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ficheiro:The_Sower_-_painting_by_Van_Gogh.jpg

Read Full Post »

Leviticus 24:1-9The Sanctuary Light and the Showbread

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Jesus as the Light of the World is a familiar theme to Christians which is celebrated during the Advent season.   In the Jerusalem Temple the sanctuary light served as a symbol of the presence of Yahweh and so it was important that the oil be clear – this purity ensured the burning of the lamp.  The Showbread was prepared with a particular recipe and laid out in a special fashion with frankincense; it was eaten only by the Temple priests.  Both the bread and the light served to remind the Israelites of their perpetual covenant with Yahweh.

In his homily this morning Bishop Newman referred to the habit we humans have of taking and saving photographs as we try to capture particular moments in our lives.  The custom of making scrapbooks or yearbooks to commemorate events is something we do as we conserve for later recall the goodness of certain moments or periods in our lives.  The Bishop suggested that we would do well to make spiritual scrapbooks of our lives that would serve to remind us of the goodness of God; and he asked that we reflect on today’s Psalm (103) in an intentional way: The Lord is kind and merciful . . . O, my soul, forget not all his benefits . . . he heals all ills . . . he redeems life from destruction . . . he is slow to anger and abounding in kindness . . . he does not always chide . . . he does not keep wrath forever . . . he does not requite us with our crimes . . . he crowns us with kindness and compassion.  Reading this litany of God’s goodness reminds us of Paul’s anthem to love in 1 Corinthians 13: Love is patient, love is kind . . .

Light and Eucharist – both serve as Jesus’ constant presence to us.  When we enter the church today, we find the sanctuary light burning faithfully to represent the presence of the Eucharistic bread of Christ himself.  Many religious rites call for the use of incense.  Our Judeo-Christian culture brings us these signs of God’s presence and of the presence of his eternal covenant promise to us.  We need to keep these multi-sensory symbols in mind as pages of our spiritual scrapbook.  In this way, we may find it easier to be and do good as God is and does good.  We may be able to curb our anger and be more comfortable with treating others kindly and compassionately.  We may be better able to cease judging and chiding others for their faults and crimes.

By remembering in this special way that God is Light and Sustenance, we crown others with kindness and compassion even as our loving and eternal God crowns us.  And so we pray: Good and kind God, As the Sanctuary Light and the Showbread reminded the Israelites of your fidelity and promise, let today’s sanctuary light and the Eucharistic bread remind us that . . . as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is your kindness toward those who love you.  Amen. 

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 27, 2011.

Image from: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/egypt/edfu/photos

Read Full Post »

Matthew 7:7-11The Answer to Prayers

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

This month marks my parents’ 75th wedding anniversary; they celebrated 60 years together before Mother died in 1997.  It seems a long time ago – yet a brief time ago.  I think of them as I spend time with my grandson on visitor’s day in the middle of his two-week Boy Scout camp.  Both Mother and Dad were heavy contributors to the Boy and Girl Scouts as adult volunteers.  My siblings and my oldest son were all scouts.  I found the Brownies a bit boring (I was not into making “sit upons” or selling cookies – although I love to eat them) but as an adult I participated in Scouting as a Den Leader, a Den Leader Coach and as an Assistant Commissioner.   Scouting, it seems, is one of my family themes . . . and scouting was one of the places that we all learned that collaboration and congeniality are as important as prayer and elbow grease when moving a group toward a goal.  It is one of the places where we learned – and it was re-enforced – that a huge task becomes a small one when broken into parts for willing hands.  It is one of the places we learned that preparedness, forward-thinking, and attention to detail and to one another ease the formation of community.  These lessons came from Mother and Dad yes, but as worried parents they used any vehicle handy to bring those lessons home.  And the scouting movement was one of many tools for them.  This afternoon, watching my grandson scamper along forest paths laid down by scouts who now return as adult volunteers, I felt my parents’ wisdom.  And as a parent and now grandparent, I understand how many prayers my parents offered up to God in our behalf . . .and I understood with a surety I cannot prove that they pray for us still.

In today’s Noontime we see the simple statement that God is a loving parent who wants to grant our wishes.  God wants to give us bread and not stones, fish and not snakes.  God is standing just on the other side of the door we have closely firmly against him like a two-year old in tantrum or a teenager in angst; he waits patiently for us to see what is before us . . . that we are loved, and that we can do nothing to earn this love.  It is a gift freely given.   We may believe this is fact or we may think it fiction.  In either case, God waits patiently, Jesus tells us.  He wants to pardon, to save and to redeem.  All we need do is ask.  God is the eager parent who uses any tool to hand to bring his children together and to build community.  Although we may not see or feel this, God works constantly on our behalf, God moves to answer all of our prayers.  Like a patient parent, God wants to give us all those good things for which we ask.

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 26, 2011.

Read Full Post »

2 Samuel 19:2-15Dreams Unrealized 

Monday, June 25, 2018

David evidently was in denial about his son Absalom.  All we need do to read about this young man’s abuse of the status and power given to him is leaf back a few pages to Chapters 13 through 18 to read the details of his story.  It is not positive.  Yet, David mourns the loss of this child, ignoring the horror that Absalom played out even against his own father.  We watch David struggle with the reality he does not want to see and now in this reading we watch David give over to his grief completely.  We wonder . . . does he mourn the loss of what actually was?  Or does he mourn the loss of what might have been?  We have no way of knowing.

Joab approaches David with words that eventually bring about a reconciliation between king and people.  His words are harsh and to the point; David comprehends quickly.  The greater offense here seems to be not so much that David mourns the loss of a child but that he appears to be oblivious to the harm this child’s behavior has brought about.   Many of us can identify with this.  We have likely gone to a family member or friend to try to being clarity to a murky situation only to be accused of speaking ill or of causing problems.   When delivering bad news, we must always be prepared to be blamed; and if we are not, we can breathe a sigh of relief and thank God.

In today’s story, David’s fragile state becomes apparent despite Joab’s recalling him to the realities of his role as leader and king.  We may not be as fortunate as Joab; but whether we are believed or rejected, we must consider the difficulty we bring someone when we bring bad news about a loved one; and we must deliver our words carefully.  If we are the ones who receive this bad news . . . we must be prepared to see another’s reality or else . . .  Not a single man will remain with you overnight, and this will be a far greater disaster for you than any that has afflicted you from your youth until now.

Whether we be Joab or David, we do well to remember that dreams fulfilled are welcome allies while dreams not realized are formidable enemies.  If we hope to step out to sit at the gate as David does, if we hope to bring the dreadful truth to someone so that it is heard as Joab does . . . we do well to enter the interaction carefully, and always include God in the exchange.   Only then can we hope for reconciliation.

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 25, 2011.

Read Full Post »

Matthew 28Wonderfully Made

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The truly wonderful part of the resurrection story is that we are a part of it.  This event is not only something that happened two thousand and some years ago.  This story is really about conversion . . . and conversion takes place constantly not only within our own hearts, but it also happens all around us.  For this reason we can sing Psalm 139 that was part of today’s Mass readings: We praise God, for we are wonderfully made.

Jesus’ resurrection is not only his own returning to the Father, it is also our return to the Father (John 17), and so . . . We praise God, for we are wonderfully made.

The guards at the tomb are entirely astonished, not knowing how Jesus’ body was removed from under their noses; but we know . . . and so . . . We praise God, for we are wonderfully made.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary discover the empty tomb and believe that the Lord’s body has been stolen.  The angel tells them: Do not be afraid and so . . . We praise God, for we are wonderfully made.

They run away quickly, fearful yet overjoyed . . . as are we and so . . . We praise God, for we are wonderfully made.

Jesus meets them as they return with the other disciples and they all fall to their knees . . .  as do we . . . and so . . . We praise God, for we are wonderfully made.

The disciples gather in fear and joy in Galilee.  They worship him, but still they doubt.  Somewhere deep inside we see ourselves in Christ and worry that we may be lacking; yet still we find the courage to say . . . We praise God, for we are wonderfully made.

Uncertainty, anxiety, shame and fear.  Jesus recognizes all of these in us and still he chooses to suffer and die so that we might be with him.  If nothing else within us tells us that we are special, this story should.  If nothing else around us affirms our goodness and holiness, this story should.

Hope, joy, courage and patience.  Jesus recognizes all of these in us and for this reason he chooses to suffer and die because he wants to be with us.  If nothing else within us tells us that we are special, this story should.  If no one else around us affirms our worth and our purpose, this story should.

We are wonderfully made . . . we are made to love and be loved . . . we are in God’s image . . . we are sisters and brothers of the risen Lord.  We are fear-filled and awestruck at God’s power.  We are overjoyed and hopeful at God’s presence.  And so . . . We praise God, for we are wonderfully made . . . and wonderfully loved. 

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 24, 2011.

Read Full Post »

Micah 3:5-7Avoiding Collapse 

Friday, June 23, 2018

From today’s MAGNIFICAT Mini-Reflection (Peter John Cameron 323): Those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom of heaven.  Those who listen to and act on the words of Jesus will be like a wise man whose house is built on rock.  As Hagar experienced, no matter what force of abuse is unleashed on us, we stand firm; we do not collapse.  The authority of Christ upholds us. 

This refers to today’s readings of Genesis16, Psalm 106, and Matthew 7:21-29.  In particular we look at the story of Hagar, the servant girl who becomes smug with an unrealistic sense of power.  When her circumstances change and she suffers abuse, she runs away from her mistress and master . . . only to be urged by the Lord’s messenger to return.  I do not believe that we are to take away from this story the idea that we submit to abuse.  When abuse is severe and life threatening we must in prudence remove ourselves from the abuser and, in fact, report this abuse in some way to the appropriate authority.  I also do not believe that it is possible for us to change an abuser in any way . . . only the abuser him or herself can be converted and then only through expert guidance and a good deal of prayer.  What Hagar’s story tells us is this: when we find ourselves in unbearable circumstances hoping that someone in power has a change of heart, we must rely on God rather any power we think we might have.  We petition God to convert the stony heart of the corrupt authority; we remove ourselves only if we are in imminent danger.  In the end, we can never change others, but we can change ourselves.  And the wonderful mystery is this; God uses our own conversion to transform others – thus redeeming many souls.  Our God is a marvelous God.

This is similar to the lesson we learn from Matthew today: if we want to follow Christ, we must learn to enact the Law of Love rather than become mere parrots of the Mosaic Law as are the scribes.  The crowd is astonished to hear this new concept – that we might think for ourselves and that God’s Law is about Love and not about compliance to hundreds of rules we cannot remember clearly.  It is no wonder that the scribes and temple authorities become angry with Jesus.  By preaching that our reliance only on God as our rock and sturdy foundation, he eliminates any need we may have of them as we forge our personal relationship with God.  Jesus expends himself for the redemption of many.  No wonder the crowds were astonished. 

These lessons are so simple and easily remembered, yet we cannot hear them too often: Trust God, avoid false prophets, pray for our enemies, do what it right, act in God’s love rather than mimic God’s words, and stand firm . . . do not collapse. 

We do not want to hear the Lord declare: I never knew you . . .

We yearn to hear the words: You are a good and faithful servant . . .

We do not want to flee into the desert as did Hagar . . .

We want to remain in close contact with those who form our inner circle . . .

We do not want to be put to shame and confounded . . .

We hope to be blessed as are those who observe the right, and who do what is just . . . we hope to rejoice in the joy of God’s people . . . we want to remain firm rather than collapse . . . and so we give thanks to the Lord who brings prosperity to his chosen ones  . . . for the Lord visits us with his saving help . . . and so we say with confidence . . . the Lord is good.  Amen. 

Peter John Cameron, Rev. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 23 June 2011: 323. Print.

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 23, 2011. 

Image from: http://www.digitalhit.com/posters/p/3649814 

Read Full Post »

Ezekiel 38The Land of Gog

Friday, June 22, 2018

Scholars tell us that the land of Gog was located in Asia Minor, and Ezekiel predicts that these tribes will attack once Israel returns to her land.  The Israelites are not to worry, however, for God will be with his faithful remnant as he has promised.  God will not abandon those who remain in him.  This enemy will not realize that the Israelites who appear weak will in fact be strong because of Yahweh’s presence; and Gog’s defeat in a cosmic battle will serve God’s purpose: “When the nations see God’s victory, then they will recognize the divine power at work on Israel’s behalf”.  (Mays, 621)  This is a familiar theme for us.  God will save his people and in so doing he will prove himself far more powerful and far more loving than any pagan god.

Today’s Mass readings also speak to God’s fidelity to the covenant promise he makes with us (Genesis 15:1-18, Psalm 105, and Matthew 7:15-20).  Created in God’s love, we are to beware of false prophets and remain true to who and what we are: creatures brought into existence to bear the fruit of love.  This is our nature whether we believe it or not for, as Jesus reminds us . . . a good tree cannot bear bad fruit. 

So we are reminded today that the Land of Gog, or Magog, and the people of Meschech, Tubal, Gomer, or Beth-togarmah are always just over the horizon.  These alien tribes who do not know the promise of the Living God will think themselves superior and they will invade . . . and they will be surprised by the strength of the God who abides with us and protects us.  They will be overcome by the breadth and depth of our God’s presence and power.  There will be a great shaking upon the land . . . but God’s faithful will be saved.  This happens, God tells us, so that the nations may know of me, when in their sight I prove my holiness through you, O Gog.

No matter the number of the enemy, no matter the strength of the invading horde, no matter the skill or persistence of those who would invade and conquer . . . God’s faithful will remain while others will disappear . . . for this is how much our God loves us . . . that he delivers us out of the hands of the people of Gog.

Mays, James L., ed. HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 1203. Print.

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 22, 2011.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: