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Archive for August, 2018


LamentationsSurviving Ruin

Friday, August 31, 2018

When we reflect on national, local and international news reports, we might believe that our world is falling apart. When we do, we might want to revisit this post from July 17, 2011. And for more reflections on the books of the Bible, visit the Book of Our Life page on this blog.

“The sixth century B.C. was an age of crisis, a turning point in the history of Israel.  With the destruction of the temple and the interruption of its ritual, the exile of the leaders and loss of national sovereignty, an era came to an end.  Not long after the fall of Jerusalem (587) an eyewitness of the national humiliation of Zion, submission to merited chastisement, and strong faith in the constancy of Yahweh’s love and power to restore.  The union of poignant grief and unquenchable hope reflects the constant prophetic vision of the weakness of man and the strength of God’s love; it also shows how Israel’s faith in Yahweh could survive the shattering experience of national ruin”.  (Senior 1017)

We might not want to reflect on a time of crisis in our personal lives when all we knew had been destroyed or lost, when a time of happiness and prosperity ended.  We may want to avoid thinking about any humiliation or chastisement we have experienced.  The memories of our personal shattering may be too difficult to handle, too painful to live with.  The Book of Lamentations written by Baruch, the prophet Jeremiah’s secretary, is a small one and may be easily overlooked; yet it holds so much that is vital to living happily.  In Lamentations we find the important lesson that while we do not want to center our lives on suffering, neither do we want to circumvent its message.  Focusing a life on the avoidance of pain only leads to more obstacles, more grief, more distress and, eventually, even more pain.  Learning how to pass through pain patiently, placing our trust in God as we navigate the grief also allows the transforming touch of God to bring us the serenity we yearn to experience . . . despite the sorrow we feel.  When we allow God to alter our attitude about the losses we suffer, we also consent to God’s transformation.  We enter into life’s shattering experiences, and then exit with a new view of the world, a renewed sense of compassion, and a serenity that cannot be shaken.  Lamentations gives us an opportunity to examine our attitude toward pain and God’s deep and abiding love for us.

Today’s Mass readings provide a road map for healing through pain: Wisdom 12:13, 16-19, Psalm 86, Romans 8:26-27 and Matthew 13:24-43 all outline the same lesson: God has infinite patience, compassion, mercy and love . . . enough to heal any breach or restore any loss.  From today’s MAGNIFICAT mini-reflection: “God in his providence will use even the apparent evil that attends us in life to some perfecting purpose; out of our littleness, our emptiness, our nothingness Gods greatness will flower in an astonishing way”.  (Cameron, 251)  Rather than curse our loss as punishment or the end of an era, when we rely on God we learn to celebrate each shattering experience as the beginning of something new.  And so we pray . . .

Good and patient God,

For all the times we forget to call on you when we suffer and for those times we lose patience with ourselves and others . . . continue to be patient with us.

For all the times we show anger instead of compassion and for those times we commit acts of vengeance rather than love . . . continue to be merciful with us.

For all those times we are anxious about evil in the world and for those times we forget that you always pull goodness out of wickedness . . . continue to abide in us.

For all those times we grow weary of the daily struggles and for those times we waver in our trust . . . continue to be with us.  Amen. 


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1017. Print. 

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 17 July 2011: 251. Print.

Image from: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/ancient/isis-hasnt-destroyed-ancient-palmyra-ruins-yet/

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Joel 2:25-27Love Born of Freedom 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

A repost from July 31, 2011. 

In today’s Gospel from Mark 6:53-56 we hear the message that we recognize Jesus’ goodness immediately when we are suffering or in need.  [P]eople immediately recognized him.  They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever he was.  Jesus, moved by compassion, acts out of his love for humanity; he turns no one away.   We must remember to invite Jesus to heal our wounds each day.  We must ask God to guide us as we try to solve our small and big problems.  And we must turn over our fears and anxieties to the Holy Spirit constantly.

Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, a Cistercian monk, writes in today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation (108-109): We have to invite Jesus continually to become Lord of our life.  He never imposes himself by force because, being Love, he wants to be loved in return, and love is born only from freedom and never from force or obligation.  What is true of the natural level is also true of the supernatural.  God cannot force us to love him.  Yet instead of loving God unconditionally, we spend most of our time piously trying to manipulate his power to suit our own desires: we want to have God at our beck and call . . . we have to place ourselves, voluntarily and gratefully, in the hands of the Physician of the bodies and souls, confidently manifesting to him our every illness and complaint. 

In this portion of Joel’s prophecy we are reminded just how much God wants to care for us that even after we have turned away and have done things that would erase any human relationship, God is still waiting patiently to heal.

From the MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer Mini-Reflection (102): God in his power is refuge and strength; God in his mercy is the river that refreshes the soul; God in his beauty stills all our useless struggles and gather us into his peace. 

The Lord himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still.  (Exodus 14:14)

We already have all that we need . . . we may not feel it.

We already have all that we want . . . we may be blind to it.

We already have all the love we require . . . God is allowing us to come to this understanding.

He never imposes himself by force because, being Love, he wants to be loved in return, and love is born only from freedom and never from force or obligation.

Let us live our lives in total trust of the saving power of God’s love for us.

Let us free ourselves of all doubt, all coercion, and all lusting after control for all of these are alien to God’s love.

Let us instead allow ourselves to be born of God’s endless compassion and love.


Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 21 July 2011. Print.

Image from: https://www.maxpixel.net/Sky-Stars-Night-Constellation-Nature-Galaxy-2609647

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Job: In Praise of Wisdom and Hope

Thursday, August 29, 2018

Before we leave the story of Job, we give ourselves the gift of time with this innocent sufferer who foreshadows the hope of the Messiah. Today we look at the story of “the hero . . . subjected to a divine test as a means of ascertaining whether or not he serves the deity without thinking about profiting from it.” (Barton and Muddiman 331) Just as Job enters into debate with his friends and the Lord, so do we have the invitation to deliberate with the Almighty the existential questions that plague us as humans.

Stylistically, this book presents us with a combination of poetry and prose. Does this signal our dual human yet divine essence? Does this tell us that we are called to live in the world but be not of it? Does this remind us that although we are mortal, we also live forever in Christ? The style certainly communicates the ideas that the innocent suffer. The beauty of the poetry may indicate our hope in the Spirit against the backdrop prose of our separation.

From the ARCHEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE, “[T]he reader knows from the outset that Job is suffering because of his righteousness (Job 1). Thus, when Job rails against his pain and contends that he has not deserved it (eg., ch. 31), the early reader – who had insider knowledge from the prelude – recognized that he spoke the truth. Unable to fall back on pat answers that were almost universally accepted at the time, readers were forced to wrestle with the question along with Job as they worked their way through the text to God’s final answer. The resultant new understanding of the meaning of suffering and the justice of God, contrary as it was to the conventional wisdom of the day, must have astonished them.” (Zondervan 732)

Wisdom and hope are the gifts Job brings us through his suffering, questioning, persistence and fidelity. Wisdom and hope are gifts of the Spirit of God. Wisdom and hope are embodied in the life of Christ who abides with us still. Today we give thanks for these matchless gifts. Today we share the good news that are recipients of such generous mercy. Today we praise God for the healing wisdom of the Spirit, and the lessons Job brings us of hope.


Images from https://chicago.suntimes.com/health/mind-over-body-new-book-tells-how-to-tap-into-wisdom-and-grow-with-age/

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 732. Print.

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 331. Print.

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Job 42: In Praise of Wisdom and Hope

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

We consider the gifts of humility and satisfaction that God grants Job – and us – for offering the Lord a life of fidelity, honesty and humility. And we are grateful. Today we celebrate the wisdom and hope this story engenders. We acknowledge the choice that God puts before us . . . the choice to live doubtfully or hopefully, dishonestly or faithfully, deceitfully or lovingly. And we affirm the choice we take to live in God’s wisdom as best we are able.

My Choice

Like a leaf windmilling in the

Quick current of life,

I tumble, waiting for the words,

All is well.

 

Like a flake of hoarfrost clinging to thin glass,

I lean on the hope of my choice that

God alone is enough. 

 

I am a thought of God

sent into the wind,

Pinned to this fragile life I am gifted by

One so great.

 

I extend myself beyond my own imagining.

I give myself over to the only choice before me.

I bend all into the Spirit of the Lord, to rest in God’s healing wisdom.


Image from: https://www.godisreal.today/hope/ 

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Job 42: Humbled and Satisfied

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

If we sit patiently with Job to read his story, we are rewarded . . . just as Job is rewarded for sitting with the Lord through suffering.

If we take in the ideas Job exchanged with his friends, we are healed . . . just as Job is healed when he remains in God.

If we live in fidelity to God as Job does, we experience humility . . . just as Job does when he hears the Lord speak.

If we seek wisdom as Job does, we find satisfaction . . . just as Job does when he hears the Lord address his friends. After God had finished addressing Job, he turned to Eliphaz the Temanite and said, “I’ve had it with you and your two friends. I’m fed up! You haven’t been honest either with me or about me—not the way my friend Job has.”

Honesty, authenticity, perseverance, courage, fidelity. These are the signposts we might follow as we move through life. They are antecedents of the meekness and fulfilment we see in Christ nearly a thousand years later. They are the presence of the consolation and healing we encounter in the Holy Spirit we experience in our own lives. They are the wisdom and peace we seek today.


Image from: https://lamountaincoaching.com/humility/can-promote-humility/

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Job 42: Babbling On

Monday, August 27, 2018

Again, today we look at THE MESSAGE translation in which this chapter is entitled, Job Worships God: I Babbled On About Things Beyond Me.

Having come through his grief and pain, Job says to the LORD: I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.   Nothing and no one can upset your plans.

We might smile as we read and pray these words, or we might grimace. How do we understand God’s control of the universe? Does is bring us comfort, anxiety, peace or fear? How do we react to Job’s final response to God?

We are rewarded if we spend time with this last portion of the Job story for it is in the unfolding of the action that we find our own intimacy with God. It is in the patient fidelity of the innocent sufferer, that we find a premonition of the Christ story. And it is in the hope-filled abiding of God’s faithful servant that we see a glimpse of the Spirit that heals and transforms. Just as the Lord restores Job, so does God restore us; and this happy ending to a tale of difficulty and expectation brings us affirmation of our confidence in God. We have a person we can model, an attitude we can take on. We have God’s wisdom teaching us The Way of peace that Jesus brings to all.

Today, despite our babbling about a plan we struggle to understand when life goes against us, we determine to rely more on God and less on ourselves. We decide to trust the economy of the Lord rather than our own. And we confirm God’s love in choosing us, power in protecting us, and wisdom in teaching us . . . in the face of our incoherent words.


Tomorrow, celebrating with the Lord.

When we compare translations of this chapter, we begin to see why we cannot understand things beyond our comprehension. 

For a reflection of the power of our words, click on the image or visit; https://restoredministriesblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/30/power-of-the-tongue/

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Job 40-41: God Runs the Universe

Sunday, August 26, 2018

We have accompanied Job as he questioned the wisdom of God’s plan and defended his innocence against his friends. We have entered into our own intimate dialogs with God as we thirst, complain, seek, defend and question. Today we spend a bit more time with these two chapters as we compare THE MESSAGE translation of these verses with other versions. Today we experience the full impact of the dialog Job has with God. Today we understand not the why or how, but the reality of the fact that God runs the universe.

Chapter 40: Verses 1-2: God then confronted Job directly:

“Now what do you have to say for yourself?
    Are you going to haul me, the Mighty One, into court and press charges?”

What charges do we press against God? What human acts do we blame on the LORD? What do we have to ask and to say?

Chapter 40: Verses 3-5: Job answered:

“I’m speechless, in awe—words fail me.
    I should never have opened my mouth!
I’ve talked too much, way too much.
    I’m ready to shut up and listen.”

Are we in awe of God? Do we believe we may have said too much or too little? Are we ready to spend time with God each day so that we might listen?

Chapter 40: Verses 6-7: God addressed Job next from the eye of the storm, and this is what he said:

“I have some more questions for you,
    and I want straight answers.

Are we prepared to give God straight answers? Do we have the courage to answer God truthfully? Are we able to willingly and freely admit that God runs the universe?

When we spend time with these chapters and verses today and ask questions as we look through the lens of multiple translations. As we ask honest questions and listen to hard answers, we come to a deeper appreciation of God’s economy and plan.


Images from: https://hanswidener.com/2017/02/09/relinquishing-control-lesson-1/  and https://becomingchristians.com/2013/07/09/scripture-of-the-day-will-you-deny-gods-existence/

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Job 40-41Conversations

Saturday, August 25, 2018

This is the portion of the Book of Job where God finally speaks from out of the maelstrom.  Job thirsts for the answers to his poignant questions about his pain.  He asks the question we all ask: Why do the innocent so often suffer?  God’s answer is mysterious.  God enumerates the number of ways that we cannot possibly understand the plan, even if God were to communicate the divine economy to us.  This is why it is important to have constant conversations with God.  We need directions for every step of the road.

What I like most about chapter 40 is that God appears to have a sense of humor.  This makes me smile because I hope that in an eternal life there is much laughter.  It also reminds us that while we cannot discount or diminish suffering, we may want to try to smile throughout our passage as much as possible.

When we think about the size of behemoths, the strength of oxen, and the protection of a double corset, we realize that God deals in the maximum.  The thought that follows for me is this:  If God can create and handle all of these enormities . . . God can certainly handle with ease the problems I lay at God’s feet each day. 

We know that Job is restored in all that he was, and all that he had; he receives the reward of the faithful.

Paul asks the rhetorical question in Romans 11:34Who has known the mind of the Lord?  Who has been its counselor?  He reminds us in 1 Corinthians 1:10 that through Christ we might become perfectly united thought and  mind.  In the second chapter, verses 9-16, he reminds us that Eye has not seen and ear has not heard the goodness God has prepared for those who love him, and that we are to join one another so that we might have the mind of Christ.

When we love someone, we come together.  We communicate with those we care about; we invest time in understanding them and in listening to them.  This is what God seeks in relationship with us.  It is what we seek in relationship with God.

We have said this frequently in our Noontime reflections: Let us find time several times a day to put all else aside – even if for only five minutes – to reserve time for just GodWe send him our petitions constantly and we ask for answers.  Perhaps he is speaking but we cannot hear.  If we shut out the world to listen with our heart and mind and soul . . . we may be happily surprised to hear that our deepest questions have complex answers . . . which God provides to us a bit at a time.  Let us make time just for God.   

A Favorite from May 4, 2009.


Image from http://rickconlow.com/communicate-difficult-conversations/ 

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Job 40:1-5: Arguing with the Almighty

Friday, August 24, 2018

Answers

In today’s reading Job agrees to put his hand over his mouth so that he might finally listen to Yahweh . . . and he says this after having made a full and cogent argument to his maker.  I believe that we are meant to wrestle with God.  We are created to think, reflect and re-think.  We are created to be in relationship with God, and to do this well we must ask questions.  So many times we receive an enigmatic answer which requires not intelligence to understand but patience and fidelity.  This is how we acquire wisdom: through lengthy days of listening, reflecting and praying.

Ought we to argue with God?  Absolutely.  Will we receive unusual and even vague answers?  Precisely.  Is this the path to wisdom and eventual serenity?  Without a doubt.  And this brings us to the point of this reading:  when we assume a proper relationship with God, all else falls into place.  When we turn to God only, when we believe in God only, when we act through God only, then we find the peace which is promised to us.  In the scope of the universe we are quite small; but even in our smallness, each of us is important to God.  We never once hear the Maker say to Job, “I will get back to you in a minute after I finish dealing with a world war, genocide in a number of places, two hurricanes and an earthquake, along with an outbreak of a dread disease and thirteen governments gone bad with corruption”.  God does not put us aside or put us on hold.  God is attentive and present all through this story.  And what we see is God’s constancy, fidelity, and willingness to listen to Job’s complaint.  We can be assured that as with Job, when we send our petitions and our cry upward, God will hear, because God is always abiding, and God will answer from the whirlwind.  We must summon the courage and the openness to hear what God has to say. Then we must forbear, hope, and be faithful to the promise we and God hold together . . . the promise of rescue, healing and restoration.

Looking forward to the end of Job’s story we have the choice of thinking that Job’s happy ending is the result of fantasy, or we may choose to believe that God abides, and that his promises are kept.  This choice is entirely up to us . . . and I choose to believe that the story is not a fairy tale.  I choose to believe that God abides.


Adapted from a reflection written on January 27, 2008.

Image from: http://tracychurch.com/answers-club/ 

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