Archive for October, 2018

Isaiah 2More than Sparrows

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The futility of believing in silver and gold is a theme that has popped up over the past few weeks in the several study/reflection groups to which I belong.  When using a concordance, we can find many references to one or both of these precious metals; the attraction of valuable gems and ores is a universal lure to humans.  They sparkle.  They appear to be timeless and everlasting.  In today’s Noontime, Isaiah’s words take me to the Gospel reading for the day: Luke 12:1-7.  Jesus explains to us that we are worth more than many sparrows.

Last evening in Scripture study we came to the verse from 1 Corinthians 6:20 in which Paul reminds us that we were bought out of slavery for a great price.  We are reminded by this letter that our bodies are temples where the Holy Spirit dwells within, that we are branches growing on the great vine of Christ, that we are adored and beloved children of God

Why, we are asked, do we worry over much?  Why do we not turn to the one who loves us best to be consoled?  Why do we seek consolation in empty places?

Isaiah speaks of God in awesome and majestic Old Testament terms: a god who exacts justice and who loves jealously.  The New Testament translates this fearsome God into Jesus, one who obeys the will of the Father, who loves even those who murder him, who calls, awaits and abides with each of us.  The punishing God arrives in our midst as the forgiving God who values us more than many sparrows.

When we read this chapter of Isaiah we can see where pride takes us . . . away from the one who purchased our freedom at a great price.  We can see what our idols of silver and gold can do for us.  These gods stand silent when we are in pain.  These deities offer nothing but their continual demand that we become less human.  These false champions fear our own divinity and they are incapable of salvific transformation.  They do not rescue and they do not save.  And they would sell us for less than a sparrow if it suited their whim.

Isaiah reminds us that in this world there are lands filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures . . . yet all of this is as nothing before the gift of life God gives to us freely and with love.

We are worth more than we can imagine.  Let us value this gift just as our maker does . . . and let us remember that we are worth more than silver or gold . . . more than many sparrows.

A re-post from September 28, 2011.

Image from: http://thepurposeofspecies.org/2010/10/sparrows/

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Daniel 8The King’s Business

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Written on Wednesday, October 7, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite . . . Even when – and perhaps especially when we are in the midst of darkness, we  must arise to be about the King’s business . . .

In the vision I was looking and saw myself . . . I looked up and saw . . .  

The symbols in this oracle were understood by the ancient people; we will need a bit of explanation.  Scholars tell us that the two-horned ram is the combined kingdoms of Medes and Persia, and these were destroyed by Alexander the Great.  The swiftly advancing goat is the Macedonian army; the horn between its eyes is Alexander.  The little horn in verse 9 represents Palestine.  The host of the heaven is either God’s people or angels, and the prince is God himself.  The sin here is the placement of the statue of Antiochus – the abomination – in the Jerusalem temple; the end time is the day when God will judge the nations.  The beautiful land is Judea.  It is clear that the pagan ruler Antiochus is seen as challenging heaven itself.  Daniel is to keep this vision secret for a time; further emphasizing the mystery already engendered by the many symbols.

As I was watching . . .

In the book of Daniel we have a series of oracles and stories along with the appearance of the Son of Man, the one who prefigures Christ and whose title is used to describe Jesus.  This particular oracle is laden with symbolism and foretells without equivocation the future of Daniel’s people.  It foretells our own future as well.

When I had seen the vision I tried to understand it . . .

When we dream, either in our sleep or in our waking, we envision the life we wish to have, the person we wish to be.  Sometimes our imaginings are close to reality and other times not so much.

I was overcome . . .

We carry the vision of our possibilities within, expecting that the goodness comes to fruition, hoping that the darkness does not overcome the small aura of light we manage to engender.  Conserving our energy and working from the synergy created by our solidarity with other faithful we arise.  We unite with one another in Christ to go about the business of building the kingdom . . . knowing that the king has taken us all well in hand.

And then I arose and went about the king’s business. 

A re-post from September 27, 2011.

Image from: http://www.rajeshsetty.com/2008/10/27/diwali-wishes-and-a-related-thought/ 

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A re-post from September 26, 2011. 

Our baby granddaughter arrived yesterday.  She fluttered into life . . . and then as quickly as she was with us, she was gone.  Holding her lifeless body, the shell she occupied in pre-natal months for a too short passage on this earth, I knew she was no longer there.  But just as surely, I felt her hovering over our shoulders, telling us that all was well . . . even as we struggled to feel her presence.  Even as we struggled to find shelter in the storm.

Psalm 91Finding Shelter

Monday, October 29, 2018

This psalm has been set to music and is often sung at funerals.  We can see why.

This prayer is intoned by pilgrims who travel to spiritual places.  We can read why.

The psalmist tells us that our journey is never smooth; it wends its way among disasters and calamities.  We have experienced this.

The psalmist reminds us that there is only one shelter from these storms.  This we believe when we find shelter after we have been left alone, been abandoned or betrayed.

The Lord commands his angels about you to guard you in your way . . .

Today is the Feast Day of Guardian Angels and the Mass readings recount to us the first time angels are mentioned in scripture: Thus says the Lord: “See, I am sending an angel before you to guard you on the way and bring you to place I have prepared.  (Exodus 23:20Today God speaks to us to say: Look, I have sent my special messenger to you to assure that you do not lose your way, to protect you from the terrors you will live, to bring you to the sheltered place beneath my wings – these wings that raise you up above the cauldron of life. 

We have reflected before about God’s messengers who come to us when we most need help.  We might spend some time today meditating again on the way these miraculous creatures work in and with us.  They may be evanescent beings who inhabit another plane and who spend their existence doing God’s biding.  They may be friends who abide with us during trials.  They may be strangers who flicker through our lives to heal and save.  And they are there even though we may be totally unaware of them; but they accompany us everywhere at all times.

When we feel as though we are falling into a bottomless chasm, when we want to celebrate a new joy that arrives, when we move through an ordinary day in an ordinary way . . . we will always be accompanied by our angels.  And let us remind one another to take the hand of the guardian angel God has sent to accompany us on our journey.  This angel knows us best of all.  This angel guides and protects.  This angel leads us to the one shelter that is never shaken, that lasts for all time . . . the shelter of our God.

A postscript to Sophie, whom I held for a little while . . .

Your name means wisdom . . . visit us often;

Your little face is beautiful . . .  smile on us daily;

Your grace is eternal . . . come running to meet us when we see you again in the fullness of God’s time;

You are our special messenger . . . may we always remember your significance. 

We love you . . . and we know that you love us, too.  Amen.

This reflection was written on  October 2, 2009 and is posted as a Favorite. 

Image from: http://babymichaelsjourney.blogspot.com/2010/04/michaelss-sand-angels.html 

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Luke 18:18-23Being Rich

Sunday, October 28,2018

Written on September 13, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

When he heard this, he became quite sad, for he was very rich . . .

When we understand what it is we are to do as part of our work in God’s vineyard, it is easy to say that we do not have the strength necessary for this work; and yet St. Paul reminds Timothy that . . .

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather of power and love and self-control.  So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.  (2 Timothy 1:7-8)

Our own strength is nothing and true strength comes from God alone.

When he heard this, he became quite sad, for he was very rich . . .

When we understand what it is we are to do as part of our work in God’s vineyard, it is easy to say that we do not have the grace necessary for this work; and yet St. Paul reminds Timothy that . . .

He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began. (2 Timothy 1:9)

Grace is given to us in the proportion we need to match the work we are to do.

When he heard this, he became quite sad, for he was very rich . . .

When we understand what it is we are to do as part of our work in God’s vineyard, it is easy to say that we do not have the wisdom necessary for this work; and yet St. Paul reminds Timothy that . . .

In a large household there are vessels not only of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for lofty and other for humble use.  (2 Timothy 2:20)

Wisdom comes to us as we need it when we maintain constant contact with God, if we allow Jesus to show us the way, and if we open ourselves to the Spirit.

When he heard this, he became quite sad, for he was very rich . . .

We have the choice to be one who becomes sad, thinking that we cannot do as God has asked . . . or one who rejoices, knowing that God always presents us with the tools we will need to do as he has asked.  When we are rich in God’s gifts we have nothing to fear, and sadness cannot possibly overcome us.

A re-post from September 25, 2011.

Image from http://www.shell.com/home/content/investor/financial_information/

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Mark 15:6-15“What evil has he done?”

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The scene of the crowd crying out to save Barabbas rather than Jesus has always been a difficult one for me to hear.  Troy Anthony Davis lost his life this week while crowds called for commutation of the sentence and others called for death.  Have we changed much in two millennia?

I remained baffled by human nature that calls for the sanctity of human before birth . . . while at the same time insisting on early death once life has begun.  We are a strange species.


The Davis case is one of many that continue to confuse us.  We can eliminate this confusion if we remember the scene that Mark paints for us today.


“What evil has he done?” asked Pilate.  But the crowd only shouted louder . . . and so Pilate washes his hands . . . and hands him over to be crucified.  We do not know if Davis was the person who murdered MacPhail, a Georgia policeman.  What we do know is that there is doubt . . . and still the crowds clamor.

The words of Isaiah are comforting in the face of rabid anger that insists on death without proof beyond doubt.  They are consoling when we are up against obtuse intransigence.  They are a balm that soothes the deep and ugly wounds left by those who insist on eradicating all that does not conform to their specific and particular ideas.

He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; there was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him.  He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem.  Yet it is our suffering that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted.  But he was pierced by our offenses, crushed for our sins, upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we are healed. 

It is not too difficult or too late to allow ourselves to be healed by Christ’s own death at the hands of those who wished to silence him.  We see by his example that the very action meant to end his influence only increased it many-fold.  As Laura Moye of Amnesty International is quoted in the Post link above, the execution of Davis may be “the best argument for abolishing the death penalty”.

And so we pray . . .

Good and Gentle God, you cure us of our smallest and greatest wounds . . . repair our emotional and physical scars and grant us the gift of healing that we may in turn heal others as you do.

Patient and Compassionate God, you soften hearts that are hardened in fear . . . make our hearts yielding and call them together to make them as great as yours.

Merciful and Clement God, you unbend necks that are stiffened in rage . . . unbend our necks and open our eyes that we may see as you do.

We ask this in the name of the one who was crucified for all, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

A re-post from September 24, 2011. 

Find information about Troy Anthony Davis at: http://www.clarkprosecutor.org/html/death/US/davis1269.htm

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Luke 7:11-17Do Not Cry

Friday, October 26, 2018

Mario Minniti: Miracle at Nain (Detail)

A series of miracles unfolds for us when we read this portion of Luke’s Gospel.  It is also an unfolding of God’s hand, a hand that calls us.  It is an opening of God’s presence among us, a presence that settles into us.  We need to expect miracles in our lives.  We need open ourselves to their possibility.  We need to ask God for them.  We need to believe that they can and do happen every hour of every day.  Miracles are not mere stories we read or wishes we hope for when we see a shooting star or blow out the dancing flames of birthday candles.  Miracles are the hand of God wiping away tears.  Miracles are the voice of God saying to us, Do not cry . . . And they take place every hour of every day.

In God’s hand is the soul of every living thing . . .  Job 12:10

God does not leave us to wonder about his existence, he comes to walk among us in the person of Christ.

God does not visit with us when he is bored or forget us entirely when another interest calls him away.

God does not play with us to see how we react; he does not find joy in our sorrow.

The Lord takes delight in his people . . .  Psalm 149:4

God is constantly with us, never leaving our side.

God suffers with us and feels our torment.

God celebrates with us when we find joy.

Each of us has been the Widow of Nain at some time in our lives; we have each suffered deep and damaging sorrow.  We may also have been the deceased son, dead to everything that formerly had meaning in our lives.  Seeing that the Widow of Nain would be destitute without the protection and support of her son, Jesus does not hesitate to call the young man back to life.  In doing this, he saves not only this small family but he also converts hundreds more who witness the miracle.  He calls the people of Nain– and us – to his message of love, telling all who will listen that we are free to act as God acts, free to love as God loves.

Do not cry . . . God is constantly whispering to us in little ways each day.  God calls us back to life and restores what we have lost.

Do not cry . . . God is constantly shouting to us in big ways each day.  God shepherds us past catastrophes and saves us from our worst choices.

Do not cry . . . God is constantly putting up warning signs.  God runs after us when we are too blind to see or hear his message.

Do not cry . . . God is constantly forgiving and loving us.  God runs out to greet us when we return to him.

Do not cry . . . Jesus says to the Widow of Nain . . . and to us.

Come back to me . . . God says to the Widow’s son . . . and to us.

We are all children of Nain.  Let us rejoice in the miracles we are granted.

Mario Minniti: Miracle at Nain (1620)

A re-post from September 23, 2011.

To learn more about the town of Nain in today’s Noontime, visit: https://www.seetheholyland.net/nain/

Images from: https://364sicilianrolemodels.wordpress.com/2016/02/20/mario-minniti/ 

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John 3:16-21Working in the Light, Living in the Name

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Written on September 29, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

John 3:16 is a verse often quoted and equally often misunderstood; the verses that follow help us to unfold the message more.  We often see the bearing of a cross or the enduring of pain as a punishment when it is not.  As disciples of the New Testament, we anticipate difficulty in our work; we foresee obstacles and recognize them as familiar markers along our roadway.  Each stone over which we stumble, each river we ford, each gap in the path is a recognizable road sign that reminds we are free to turn back or to journey forward.  Each hurdle is another opportunity to express our belief that Jesus walks among us, heals us and restores us.  Every problem is another chance for us to elect the light over darkness.  Each crisis is a new occasion to draw nearer to God and to nestle into the great arching altar of God’s embrace.  Christ who has gone before us has direct knowledge of our pain and has both the capability and desire to repair, to make well, and to restore.  This Christ has come to set each one free from individual burdens, and to call the collective into oneness with him.

Paul also reminds us of this in Ephesians 5:11 when he writes: Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.  Job tells us: There are those who rebel against the light, who are not acquainted with its ways.  (24:13). 

In order to make progress and to move through life rather than stagnate, we must look for the truth when we are confronted with something that is so insurmountable that it blocks out the light.  And when we find the truth we must step into that shaft of goodness and ask the difficult questions of ourselves and of others that bring still more clarity and even less deception.

When we feel that we are surrounded by shadowy beings that refuse to announce their origin or their goal, we must search for the light, call on God, look for authentic goodness, and abide in constant companionship with those whose labor also bears good fruit.

When the darkness arrives – as it always will – it is a signal for us to take up our sacrifices . . . to bring them into the light . . . and to offer our pain to one who will heal and restore us.

It is time to live and work in the light . . . and to call on Jesus’ name.

A re-post from September 22, 2011.

Image from: http://www.city-data.com/picfilesc/picc32424.php 

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Matthew 10:26-33Courage Under Persecution

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Do not be afraid . . . Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.

When we are filled with fear that a loved will abandon us when we speak truth, we must not be afraid.  God is with us to guide us.

When we are anxious that a colleague at work or a community friend has set us up to fail, we must not be afraid.  God is with us to guide us.

What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.

God speaks to us in the quiet of our hearts and counsels us.  We must say the words he urges us to say.

God speaks to us through the companions who journey beside us.  We must witness to the injustices God urges us to uncover.

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.

Our mortal life is worth nothing if it houses a hollow soul.  God knows all that is within us.

Our spirit cannot be stifled when our soul has invited God to dwell within.  God knows all that takes place around us.

Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.

There is no doubt that evil exists and those who doubt its existence invite the darkness into their hearts.

There is no doubt that God exists and those who nestle into God’s goodness know that God’s compassion and desire to forgive knows no limit.

Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?  Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.

God is all-present and all-knowing and has the power to do as he likes and yet . . . God is incredibly patient, allowing us time to decide to turn to him.

God is all-loving and all-powerful.  God rescues us from our craziest follies.

Even all the hairs on your head are counted.

God knows us inside and out.   It is impossible for God to not think about us.

God’s love for us is unimaginable, all-encompassing, everlasting.  It is impossible for God to not love us.

So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrow.

When we are tempted to succumb to the demands of a loved one in order to keep peace, we must not be afraid.  God will show us a marvelous way for us to extract ourselves that will leave a wake of healing rather than a trail of shame.

When we are tempted to give way to the unscrupulous request of a colleague at work or a community friend, we must not be afraid.  God will guide us through the intricate plans of deceit that have been plotted against us.

Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.

God wants us to be with him for all eternity . . . this is something we cannot change.

God wants to number each of us as his loyal and faithful servants . . . this is something we can choose.

But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.

God does not hide his goodness and light under a bushel basket . . . and neither must we.

God does not leave any stone unturned in his effort to gather even the last of his sheep . . . and neither must we.

Do not be afraid . . . have courage . . . and know that even under persecution . . . especially under persecution for Jesus’ sake . . . you are well-guided, you are well-protected, you are well-loved.

When we are persecuted, we must stand on the knowledge that God holds the faithful in his hands.  And we must trust these hands to see us through any danger, any pain, any sorrow, any loss.

And so we pray with a canticle from Wisdom 3:1-6 . . .

The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.

They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us utter destruction.  But they are in peace.

For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. 



A re-post from September 21, 2011.

Images from: http://freebesthealth.com/page/7/

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Acts 14Tenacity

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Iconium, Lystra, Antioch.  Jews, Gentiles.  Healings, beatings, curses, cures.  Zeus, Hermes, the Living God.  Hardships, celebrations.  Mythology, mysticism, illusion, reality.  In all of these places, with all of these people, in all of these philosophies and approaches, Paul and Barnabas journey together to deliver the good news that we are loved by the Living God.  I am exhausted just reading about their missionary journey as we watch these two faithful disciples of Christ persuade and teach, heal and call.  Despite the fact that they see much of their work undone, they continue to rejoice in the work they do as God’s servants asks of them.  They are an amazing – and successful – pair.  They bring many into the church.

Paul and Barnabas have much to teach us who are discouraged when small details of the day become looming obstacles.  They might show us that when we growl and complain about interrupted plans and schedules that we add to our own burden.  We see that they do not fall into the trap of thinking that the world is an unjust, corrupt and unfair place.  Rather than focus on the problems they navigate, they remain centered on doing God’s will.  These two friends have discovered that tenacity and companionship are antidotes for anger and dejection.  And they have learned that success comes most often and stays longest when they defer to God’s plan rather than their own.

Paul is a familiar figure to us but perhaps we can learn something more about Barnabas as he and Paul model how to best react when we see others dismantle the work we have lovingly delivered to God.  http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02300a.htm

Misunderstood by many, these two place their faith in God.  Rejected by the tradition in which they had been raised, they place their hope in Christ.  Quickly forgotten by the fledgling churches they have founded, they allow the forgiveness and healing of the Spirit to work through them.  Barnabas and Paul refuse to allow any failure to deter them.  They follow Christ . . . and they hold on.

And so we pray . . .

Faithful and abiding God,

We remember that you were the cornerstone that the builders rejected.

We believe that you walk with us in our journey just as you walked with the apostles in theirs.

We ask that you abide with us when the night grows darkest.

We know that you rejoice with us as we celebrate our little successes.

Lead us so that we remain faithful to you.

Guide us so that we remain hopeful in you.

Help us so that we react in love and not in anger when we see our work taken apart by others.

Grant us the gift of tenacity that you gave to Paul and Barnabas, on the days when we find our journey long, and our resources low. 

We ask all of this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.   

A re-post from September 20, 2011.

Image from: http://100reasonswhyilovemylord.blogspot.com/2011/05/reason-8-he-walks-with-me.html 

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