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Archive for September, 2018


Judith 4Prayer, Penance, and Action

Carlo Francesco Nuvolone: Judith with the head of Holofernes

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The story of Judith is one of my favorites and it seems that we visit it about once a year.  Perhaps I like it so much because a woman takes matters into her own hands and is able to not only defeat a nation but to also bring Judah to atonement.  And she does this through prayer, penance, and action.  You may want to fast forward through these chapters to discover Holofernes’ fate at the hands this Jewish widow and her handmaiden; or you may want to rest in this part of the story before you move on.  In any case, the story is a wonderful one.

The ritual performed by the inhabitants of Jerusalem is a rite of entreaty.  The recommended precautions in the mountain passes were typical of a people making a defensive stance.  The generals and priests prepare for war; the woman prepares to listen to God’s instructions.

In my mother’s Douay version, the high priest reminds the people that it was through holy prayer that Moses overcame Amalek – a man who trusted in his own power and army, his shields, chariots, horsemen, and swords.  So that all of the people might hear, he intones: So shall all the enemies of Israel be, if you persevere in this work which you have begun. The people follow the priest’s advice.  And they all begged of God with all their heart, that he would visit his people Israel.

God visits us daily and constantly – whether we realize it or not.

God hears our cries of joy and distress – whether we feel it or not.

God answers prayers and brings miracles – whether we see it or not.

Let Judith be an example of faithful and faith-filled perseverance.

Let Judith remind us that prayer and penance will open clear communication with God so that our actions will be – like Judith’s – an answer to God’s call.


A Favorite from December 2, 2010.

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Judith 

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2 Kings 4:1-7Deep Trust

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Written on March 20 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

A reflection I read recently pointed out that genuine faith is not blind obedience; rather it is a deep trust in the revealed Christ.  When we receive the Gospel story as coming from God – and not just as a narrative from one of Jesus’ followers – we will naturally raise our limbs to the light to welcome the Spirit into our hearts, and we will put down deep roots in the conviction that God can neither deceive nor be deceived.  Once we allow ourselves to risk believing that God’s love precludes deceit, overcomes all pain, and converts all suffering, we begin to feel the growth of an enduring and unshakable trust deep within.

The widow who complains to Elisha in today’s Noontime acts in faith – not blindly in obedience, but actively trusting, certain that God will fulfill her needs through the prophet.  “Bring me another vessel,” she says to her son; yet when none arrives and when the oil stops, there is enough oil for her to eliminate her debt and feed her children.  God provides.

From Jeremiah 17:7-8: Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord.  He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit. 

From Psalm 1:1-3: Happy those who do not follow the counsel of the wicked, nor go the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers.  Rather, the law of the Lord is their joy; God’s law they study day and night. They are like a tree planted near streams of water that yields its fruit in season; its leaves never wither; whatever they do prospers.

Job 18:16 describes the wicked man as one whose roots dry up below and branches wither above.

Maxfield Parrish: Riverbank in Autumn

Ezekiel 47:12 describes the fruit trees that will grow by the banks of the river that flows from the new, restored temple: Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail.  Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them.  Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing. 

Sirach 11:20-21: Hold fast to your duty, busy yourself with it, grow old while doing your task.  Admire not how sinners live, but trust in the Lord and wait for his light.

The desert is a dry and barren place yet even in the arid terrain there is life – for God is everywhere.   The widow in today’s story understands this fact.  She has so little that she and her children will perish.  Elisha speaks to her and through this prophet God works a miracle that rescues her not only for that one day, but for all of her days.  The widow allows her life and the lives of her children to be transformed, not merely changed.  She stays close to God, the living water.  She puts down deep, trusting roots.  She shelters her children beneath the leaves that spring forth in a dry season.

God provides . . . even, and especially, in the desert.  God transforms . . . even, and especially, when we feel that all is lost.   God reveals himself . . . even, and especially, when we are at our lowest point.

From yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT Evening Prayer Mini-reflection: God is very present in the deserts of our lives.  It is in the desert that God revealed himself to Abraham.  It is in our dryness and desolation that God is often working the most marvelous transformations.  Let us rejoice in this blessed desert of Lent where Christ reveals himself. 


A re-post from August 28, 2011.

Images from: http://frankordaz.blogspot.com/2011/04/on-easter.html

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 19 March 2011. Print.

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Ezekiel 11:14-21God’s Great Love

Friday, September 28, 2018

Written on March 18 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

We can never hear too many times the message that what has been scattered and lost will be gathered and brought to life.  This is likely the message that most of us recall when we think of the prophet Ezekiel.  From the footnotes: Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel knows that no reform is to be expected from the men of Judah who remained in Palestine; but the exiles will be the ones to form the new Israel.  The new, spiritual covenant will replace the former covenant.  (Senior 1043)

From Jeremiah 24:7: I will give them a new heart with which to understand that I am the Lord.  They shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart. 

From today’s first Mass reading, Ezekiel 18:21: Thus says the Lord God: If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed, if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just, he shall surely live, he shall not die. 

From Philippians 4:6-7: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  Then the peace that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

The message is clear – and it is a message we can never hear too often.  We are loved.  We have the opportunity to turn to God in love.  We can expect restoration.  We are to ask the God who loves us so dearly for the desires of our heart.  We are redeemed and made whole by God alone.

I will gather you from the nations and assemble you from the countries over which you have been scattered, and I will restore you . . .

What greater gift can we expect?  What greater love is there than God’s?


A re-post from August 27, 2011.

Image from: http://rectorymusings.blogspot.com/2010/09/parable-of-lost-sheep-lost-coin-lost.html

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1043. Print.

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2 Samuel 16Making Mistakes

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Michelangelo: David

Written on January 30 and posted today as a Favorite . . . 

Today we see a part of the story of David that might be difficult to understand if we view life as a series of good decisions.  When we view life as it really is, however – as series of decisions we make both bad and good – we have less anxiety and fear, we experience more hope and serenity.  I heard a radio preacher recently say: When you live your life in the Spirit, you can’t make a mistake.  “This is incorrect”, we might say to ourselves.  “How can a good life have bad decisions in it?  How can a life of flawed decisions be good?”  If this is our thinking, we have forgotten something and it is this : If we are living in the Spirit, we will have arrived at understanding how God operates; we will fully comprehend that God turns all harm to good.  So whether we err accidentally or whether we mean to inflict harm in any way, God will use these flawed acts to work in his favor for – God turns all harm to good.  And this is part of the story we see today.

David has been a good leader and faithful to God, but he has also sinned and erred.  What sets David apart is the way in which he reacts when others urge him to take revenge.  When he was younger, his soldiers encouraged him to murder the sleeping Saul when he had the opportunity.  David instead makes it obvious that he has breached the enemy’s lines and yet has not taken a life where he could.  David lives in the Spirit.  David later becomes infatuated with Bathsheba and plots her husband’s death; he confesses this sin when confronted by Nathan and sings a beautiful lament of repentance that we still sing today during the Lenten season (Psalm 51).  Even though he has erred, David lives in the Spirit.

David does not use his good standing with God to ignore what he has done; instead he confesses and atones.  He lives his life in the Spirit and does not try to avoid culpability for his actions or gain immunity so that he might do whatever he likes.  Rather, David praises and obeys God.  Living in the Spirit has become part of who he is and what he does.

Today we read of some of the intrigue that mounted as David aged and the time came for one of his sons to rule Israel.  The sibling rivalry, the palace intrigue, and the political plotting are fascinating to see but what is most interesting is the way we see David living in the Spirit.  In verse 10 he speaks the wisdom we can all use today: What business is it of mine or of yours, sons of Zeruiah, that he curses?  Suppose the Lord has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, “Why are you doing this?” 

We can read commentary to sort through who is aligned with whom, who is against whom, but today we have the opportunity to see another way to step away from revenge, anger and violence and move toward hope and serenity.  We see another opportunity to step away from fear and anxiety and move toward peace and unity.

When we live our lives in the Spirit, we cannot make a mistake.  Do we believe this?  If not, we must study, we must seek, we must be patient, and we must be persistent in living lives directed fully for, in, and to God.

When we live our lives in the Spirit, we cannot make a mistake.  Do we believe this?  If not, we must witness, we must watch, we must wait, and we must insist on living lives governed fully for, in, and to God.

When we live our lives in the Spirit, we cannot make a mistake.  When we believe this, the fretfulness and panic drop away . . . for we have focused our lives on God, we have learned to trust in God, we have begun to love like God . . . and we know that God will turn all harm to good.  We will not worry or fret for we, like David, will reply to a challenge . . . Suppose the Lord has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, “Why are you doing this?”  We will be truly living in and of the Spirit.


A re-post from August 26, 2011.

Images from: http://ambassadorsforthekingdom.net/2011/07/23/gratitude-verses/ and http://ambassadorsforthekingdom.net/2011/07/23/gratitude-verses/

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Proverbs 31:10-32The Ideal Wife

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Cassatt: Young Woman Sewing in a Garden

Written on March 14 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

In the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible The Ideal Wife becomes The Capable Wife.  I am wondering why the translators have made this subtle change.  Notes will tell us why one word can be taken into different contexts – our hearts will tell us how it ultimately impacts on us.  What one context reveals as ideal or excellent is seen in another as merely capable or sufficient.  No matter the title, this portion of Proverbs hearkens back to the opening chapter about Woman Wisdom, the feminine force that seeks to repair injustice, counsel the lost, and minister to the downtrodden.

The woman we see today – whether she be capable or ideal – symbolizes the work of the Gospel for New Testament people.  She is a good steward in her household, she is creative and enterprising, she is compassionate and empathetic, she is kind, strong, thoughtful, dignified, and she looks to God as the center of all things.

In ancient days a woman’s success would be linked to her husband’s and we see this in the last verses.  Today women in some cultures do not need to be married in order to be respected while marriage is still a requisite in some parts of the world.  I am thinking of the many women who serve as models as this woman does today, and I am wondering what they would think about these verses.

It is likely that as we read we compare ourselves to see how we stack up against this high standard.  We all fall short of this paradigm in one verse or another, and we must not be too harsh with ourselves.  Putting aside any thought of imperfection, let us spend some time reflecting on what this passage means for us as we move through our first week of Lent.

The woman we read about today serves . . . there are countless times in a day when we serve others.  And this is easiest to do when we keep God as the center of our lives.

The woman we read about today is prudent and generous in her dealings . . . each time we interact with others we have the opportunity to treat them with compassion while still shepherding resources.   She tends to the present with God at the center of her life.

The woman we read about today looks forward and plans ahead . . . and we can also look into the future rather than stare back into events which are over and past.  She hopes in the future with God at the center of her life.

The woman we read about today does not fear winter storms . . . we also put our faith into action as we move through the tempests in our lives.  She remains constant in her fidelity to God who is at the center of her life.

The woman we read about today performs her work willingly . . . knowing that God is the best judge of all.  She is courageous and is determined to keep God at the center of her life.

The woman we read about today, this ideal woman, lives her life through and with and in God.  When we work to keep God at the center of our lives, we need not worry about how we measure up to the ideal . . . for with God at the center of all things . . . we become our ideal selves.


A re-post from August 25, 2011.

Images from: http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/arts/artwork/paintings-by-mary-cassatt4.htm 

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Proverbs 1-9Wisdom

Tuesday, September, 25, 2018

Written on July 26, 2008 and posted as a Favorite today . . .

Raphael: The Cherubim Putti Angels of the Madonna

Wisdom is patience, and the honing of the interior ear . . . the ear that listens to the Voice of God.  There is nothing more, really.  In these first nine chapters of Proverbs, we find a beautiful yet practical guide of where Wisdom is to be found, how we are to remain open to Wisdom, and how important it is to pass Wisdom along to others.  We cannot pass on this Wisdom per se – for she chooses where she harbors – but rather, we pass on the knowledge of where she is found, how she may be wooed, and how she loves those who love her.  These are simple ideas that unlock the mysteries of a complex world.

Wisdom saves us from fear.  She brings us to understanding.  She soothes, she scolds, she hugs, she warms, she enfolds us in her protecting wings.

Several days ago, we remembered the description of the winged Cherubim that arch over the Ark in the Holy of Holies (1 Kings), that guard the eastern gate of Eden (Genesis), and watch over the desert Ark of the Covenant. (Exodus and Numbers). The Cherubim remain with the Ark and the desert people through David’s time (1 Samuel) until a permanent kingdom is established when we see them in Solomon’s temple. In Psalms and prayers, the Lord is often seen as seated among or between Cherubim; and in the New Testament the writer of the letter to the Hebrews (9) recalls this image to his audience. The Cherubim guard the wisdom God wants to extend to us.

Wisdom also goes out along the byways, looking for those who seek her, calling into her house those who want to be close to God.  She sets up tables, lays out banquets, sends her maidens to accompany us to her place of Understanding.  Wisdom seeks to bring us Completion and Fullness . . .  not perfection, for she knows that it is impossible for us to be perfect.  Wisdom resides in God’s glory, and it is this she wishes to teach us.  Wisdom takes in and returns God’s love, and it is this she wishes to open to us.  Wisdom wishes us to be fully alive . . . just as Jesus is fully alive.  It is this opening, this blessing, this gift she offers us on open hands . . . this gift from God . . . this gift of God.

If you can find time in this busy, busy life . . . spend it with Wisdom today.


Adapted from a August 24, 2011 post.

Image from: http://www.amazon.com/Cherubim-Angels-Sistine-Madonna-Raphael/dp/B0044P7XDO

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Ezekiel 10The Seed in the Darkness

Monday, September 24, 2018

Written on January 26 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

We return to the Cherubim, those “sublime hosts” to God’s presence.  (Noontime, March 4, 2010 http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03646c.htm)

These special beings that guard the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies are described in 1 Kings, chapters 6 through 8.  It seems that once a year we visit with them and we might find them fascinating since they share a life of intimacy with God.  Today we see them reappear with the divine chariot.  “The coals may represent either the city’s destruction following the death of its inhabitants or the beginning of purification . . . The details of this second chariot vision [after the introduction in Ezekiel 1] are confusing, making it impossible to follow precisely where the glory is . . . The overall effect of the vision is clear: the glory leaves its great seat within the holy of holies and mounts the living chariot, departing in stages from the temple.  By the chapter’s end the glory of YHWH is mounted over the cherubim, stationed at the door of the temple’s east gate, and poised to depart”.  (Barton, and Muddiman 542)

Ezekiel’s imagery is sometimes difficult to decipher and often dark and scary; and so we turn to commentary and to our own inner place where God dwells to hear what wisdom comes from these verses today.  In this vision we see the cleansing and refining effect that God’s presence has on his creatures.  This distillation takes place as the soil is readied for the good seed to be planted and flourish.  We sometimes forget that seeds sprout and take root in the dark, and then they rise to the light.

From today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation of the Day by Caryll Houselander, a British mystic, poet, and spiritual teacher:  Christ is that good seed with which our humanity is sown.  Just as he chose to be subject to his own law of nature in his own life on earth, he chooses to be subject to the same law in his life in our souls.  That is the condition of the growth of the Christ-life in us, from the seed to the flower, from the flower to the fruit: “Believe in me when I tell you this: a grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die, or else it remains nothing more than a grain of wheat; but if it dies, then it yields rich fruit”.  The grain of wheat, which is our Christ-life, is subject to the same law.  It must be buried in the earth.  It must be in darkness.  Its growing must be in rest . . . We are the soil of the divine seed; there is no other.  The flowering of Christ in us does not depend upon pious exercises, on good works outside our daily life, on an amateur practice of religion in our leisure time.  It is in the marrow of our bones, in the experience of our daily life.  The seed is in darkness; the darkness of sorrow, the darkness of faith.

When we some across troublesome images like the ones today, or when we hear disturbing and unsettling news; rather than flee from the darkness, let us center ourselves and go within where God speaks patiently.  Let us remember that we are soil for Christ and that this special life is often born out of sadness and darkness.  It is born out of a deep and abiding faith that is witness to God’s glory.

In faith we trust in God, and we praise God.

In faith we await restoration through Christ, and we praise God.

In faith we place our hope in the Spirit, and we praise God.

In faith we seek God’s word, we listen for God’s voice, and we act in God’s ways . . . and we praise God. 

In faith we grow in wisdom and we ready the soil of our lives for the Christ-life to be planted there . . . so that we might know God in the marrow of our bones . . . and praise God. 


A re-post from August 13, 2011.

Images from: http://www.mishkanministries.org/ark_of_the_covenant.htm 

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 542. Print.

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 26 January 2011: 361-362. Print.

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John 12: This is Why

Sunday, September 23, 2018

That was why the crowd met him—because they heard that he had performed this miracle. 

What do we do when we hear of God’s goodness? Do we dismiss it as coincidence or synchronicity? Do we praise God and give thanks for God’s goodness? Our world discounts the mystical and marvelous when a scientific basis cannot be found for the miracles with which God blesses us every day. If we are in the crowd, do we follow Jesus or turn away to continue with the work and play we have already planned for the day?

Jesus says: A grain of wheat remains no more than a single grain unless it is dropped into the ground and dies. 

What do we do when we hear these words? Do we shrink from the understanding that each of us must die so that we are born for eternity? Do we welcome the unknown and follow Jesus in faith and deed? Our contemporary societies struggle with creating unity as we focus on our differences rather than our common substance and goal. If we are in the crowd, are we willing to follow Jesus when we know that our world we control must become the world God envisions for us?

Then a voice spoke from heaven, “I have brought glory to it, and I will do so again.” The crowd standing there heard the voice, and some of them said it was thunder, while others said, “An angel spoke to him!”

What do we do when we witness God’s presence in our lives? Do we hold this wondrous gift to ourselves? Do we share this good news for all the world to hear? Do we maintain our spirituality in esoteric, cerebral rites full of rules and limitations? Do we allow Christ’s passion for the poor, suffering, and marginalized to possess us fully and open us to amazing possibility? If we are in the crowd, can we say why we follow Christ? Can we say why we ask for transformation? Can we say why we turn to God in both crisis and joy? If we cannot, let us spend time with this reading today.

When we compare varying translations of John 12, we open the door to God’s voice, and heart to God’s creation.


Image from: http://www.gregorydickowonline.com/the-promises-of-god/

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Ezekiel 1Cherubim

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Written on March 4, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

More than a year ago we looked at the Cherubim in one of our Noontimes in connection with the opening nine chapters of the Book of Wisdom.

When I think of Wisdom I often think of the description we have read of the winged Cherubim that arch over the Ark in the Holy of Holies (1 Kings 6-8), that place in the deepest interior of the Jerusalem temple, that place reserved for men only, that place to which Wisdom drew her priests.  Scripture describes these creatures as guarding the eastern gate of Eden (Genesis 3:24).  The Hebrews fashion Cherubim that watch over the desert Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25, 26, 36, 37 and Numbers 7), and later in the New Testament the writer of the letter to the Hebrews (9) recalls this image to his audience.  The Cherubim remain with the Ark and with these desert people through David’s time (1 Samuel 4) until a permanent kingdom is established when we see them in Solomon’s temple as glorious guardians and companions of the place where God takes up residence.  In Psalms and prayers, the Lord is often seen as seated among or between Cherubim; and in these songs when we place ourselves “beneath the wing” or “in the shadow of the wing” of God, this is the place we find ourselves.  I like to think of these Cherubim as Wisdom, living close by God but calling to us to sit in praise of God . . . for this is where Wisdom finds her most comfortable nest. 

When we look at this opening chapter of Ezekiel, we see that God sits on a throne carried by winged Cherubim.  To read more about the mythological and physical origin of these creatures we can go to: http://www.pantheon.org/articles/c/cherubim.html  or to http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03646c.htm .

Creatures that live this close to God must be special indeed; yet these beings are no more important to God than each of us.  If we might think about being as close to God as the Cherubim, if we might create an image of the power needed to pull any chariot large enough to encompass our God, if we can imagine the magnitude of wisdom that these creatures symbolize . . . we are well on our way to comprehending the love that God has for us.

As the NEW ADVENT website points out, to Catholics these creatures are more than symbolic.  They are ministers who have an intimate and intense understanding of who God is and how he moves in our lives.  In the fullness of this knowledge they have become “sublime hosts” to God’s presence.

We see these creatures again in Revelation and still they have their fantastic and unique place in God’s kingdom, they are the wheels of God, the wisdom with which and through which God operates.  They are in constant praise of God, and they continually glory in his being and presence.

We might put ourselves in the place of these creatures for a few moments this afternoon and we might contemplate our own imagery of wisdom.  What is it exactly?  How does it operate?  Where does it take us?  To what does it call us?  Why do we seek it?

And then we might sit with these verses for awhile to meditate on them and on what drives our own lives: Wherever the spirit wished to go, there the wheels went . . . such was the vision of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. 


A re-post from August 22, 2011.

Image from: http://www.bibleorigins.net/CherubimColossalinHolyofHolies.html

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