Archive for November, 2018

Ezekiel 45:13-17Offerings

Friday, November 30, 2018

We have spent time with Ezekiel 45 before but today we focus on the offerings portion – what it is we offer back to God.  I am thinking about how much more meaning our lives might have if we were to each day give something back to God that we have produced.  What would it be?  In our ultra modern, techno-savvy, global, sophisticated way of living . . . what do we actually make with our hands, hearts and minds?  We have come so far from the primitive beings who first inhabited Africa and the Tigris-Euphrates areas of the prehistoric world that . . . I am wondering if we have not tricked ourselves into thinking that we do not need to trust God.

When early tribes were hunters and gatherers, it was clear who and what provided for them.  As they followed herds and crops they dealt with drought, deluge, scarcity and plenty.  They had to learn how to conserve and share.  They had to learn both the basics and complexities of survival, and then they passed these lessons on to their offspring.  I am wondering if we have not fooled ourselves into thinking that we have mastered nature . . . and so do not need to rely on God.

Our Western life is worlds away from the poor of the second and third worlds.  We may forget that only a small portion of the those of us living on the globe today have running water, enough food for our children, decent clothing and housing, and basic medical care.  Now that humanity has made so many advances in the fields of medicine, nutrition, and technology, I am wondering if some of us have made these our gods and have kept ourselves safe while not thinking about others . . . and I am wondering if we have not deluded ourselves into thinking that we do not need to love God as God exists in each and all of us.

Nicolaes Maes: Prayer Without End

I am wondering if we could each evening bring forth the products of our day in order to place them on the kitchen table as we sit to eat our evening meal if we would recognize what it is we have made.  And I am wondering what it is we would offer back to God . . . in gratitude for his care for us that day.  I am wondering if these offerings would come from our best.  I am wondering if these gifts would be found gracious in the eyes of God.

I am wondering . . .

A re-post from October 28, 2011.

Images from: http://thealderwoodtriptych.blogspot.com/ and http://locallocale.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/cro-magnon-education-open-letter-to-president-obama-on-education-reform-homeschool-unschool-cro-magnon-parenting/

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Matthew 9:14-17Attitude and Perspective

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Written on May 19 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Paraphrasing from Biblia de América: The comparisons with which Jesus responds underline the beginning of a new kingdom that is incompatible with the old way and laws.  The new breaks the strict molds of the old.  The kingdom that arrives with Jesus cannot be received with superficial reform; rather, it requires a radical change of attitude and perspective.

And so might we all require such a change.

Life is a journey of conversion and in order to bloom in this conversion we must first recognize what it is we need to change about ourselves.  What mind-sets do we carry around with us that we need to alter?  What attitudes carry us well and keep us on the true path?  What perspectives do we have that blind us to others?  What viewpoints do we justify with empty logic and “yes, but” statements?  Do we use these attitudes and perspectives for self-promotion, for self-defense, for control of others or for kingdom building?  This is what Jesus asks today.

We cannot hope to be kingdom-builders by making cursory changes in our lives.  We cannot think that we are opening ourselves to transformation when we hold ourselves so tightly that we stunt the burgeoning that might take place.  Our blossoming depends on our willingness to open to the new so that the old can transform us into what God dreams for us.

In Acts 13:13-25 – today’s first Mass reading – Paul connects the God who saves the Israelites from bondage with the God who releases us from the slavery of evil.  The disciples of John question Jesus in today’s Noontime; Paul reminds us that John himself knew that Jesus was the Messiah.  In order to hear this message also, we must be willing to shift our perspective so that we walk with the marginalized rather than those who live in comfort.  In order to enact the message we hear today . . . we must be willing to see the certain reality that our attitude – like that of the disciples in the Noontimeneeds daily trimming and pruning.  If our blossoming is to bear good and holy fruit, if we are to experience the newness that God has in store for us . . . we must be open to amending, regulating, adjusting and fine tuning our perspective and attitudes.  We must be willing to see the old in a new way . . . and we must be willing to do this constantly.

A re-post from October 27, 2011. 

Images from: http://www.cloudbzz.com/putting-clouds-in-perspective/ and http://www.cloudbzz.com/putting-clouds-in-perspective/

LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. Print.

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Exodus 33:7-23An Intimate Friend 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

This is the sort of relationship we look to have with God – one in which we speak to God and God replies immediately to our questions and requests as if God were a neighbor, relative or friend.  Yet this is the sort of relationship we have with God . . . we just find it difficult to see.

We have said frequently in our Noontime reflections that if we wish to hear and see God easily we must first reserve time for God each day for it is through daily petitions that we strengthen our bond with the Lord.  It is important to create a meeting tent where ever we are and where ever we go.  It is important to block out “God time” and “God place, even if they are mobile.  Because of the pressures of our schedule we may not be able to pause at precisely the same time each day, but we must find a time to sit in silence and to listen.  It is also impossible for us to be in the same place each day and so the image of a tent – a mobile structure – is apt.  We must create for ourselves, no matter where we are, a spot of stillness even in the busiest of places that we consecrate to the purpose of being in God’s presence.

Many of us have heard God distinctly in a crowded, busy city just as easily as we have on a deserted beach or hillside.  We have heard God’s voice, seen and felt God’s presence in the midst of work, as we rise from sleep, or in the silence of fervent prayer.

Where ever go, where ever we are, at any time, in any place . . . there is time and space for God.  Just so does God have time and space for us.  Just so does God descend from the heights to commune with us.  Just so is God our most intimate friend.  Let us remember to go out to meet this friend each day . . . always.

For more reflections on spending time with God as a friend . . . see the GOD TIME pages on this blog.

A re-post from October 26, 2011.

Images from: http://justkiddin.onslow.org/justkiddin/2011/03/friendship-is-a-two-sided-coin/

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Matthew 18:6-9: Stumbling Blocks

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Working with adolescents and teenagers, I take this verse of scripture seriously.  It is what calls me to stand before corruption, greed, lust for power, and self-aggrandizement.    It is what draws me to defend children within my family.  It is what calls me to speak to authority in the work place.  It is what calls me to my knees in my daily prayer before God.

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me . . .

When I am asked by others what gives me patience, it is this verse.

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me . . .

When I am asked what makes me fearless in the face of great adversity, it is this verse.

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me . . .

When I am asked how I am able to live around decay and dishonesty, it is this verse.

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me . . .

When I asked why I hold myself and others to high standards, it is this verse.

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me . . .

Jesus is clear; there is no ambiguity in his words.  Jesus is concise; Jesus does not feel the need to further explain his thinking – it ought to be obvious.  If we cannot and do not and will not defend and protect those who are the most vulnerable, what are we worth?

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me . . .

Commentary tells us that these little ones who believe in me refers to anyone who believes in Christ.  “It is not clear if they are missionaries (see 10:42), all disciples, recent converts, those of low social status, or those weak in faith”.  (Meeks, 1890)  I will keep this in mind as I struggle with adults who cast down stumbling blocks before children.  I will remember that as always with Jesus, the Gospel is about inversion.  I will remind myself that often the children are the adults and the adults are the children.  I will continue to learn at Jesus’ knee how I might remove the millstone from my neck or how it is better to enter eternal life maimed than not at all.  I will do without my eyes if I am better able to see Christ in those who do not believe.  I will live without a hand or foot if I have a clearer picture of what Jesus’ has in mind as my work.  And I will be well aware of the stumbling blocks I might be casting before others in my attempt to save “the children”.

Dear, and good, and wise Jesus, You called your dear ones to yourself.  Help us to see the frightened child in the adults who struggle with un-named alarms.  Help us to act in kindness and humility with all who suffer from anxiety.  And keep us always close to you, even as we wend our way through the stumbling blocks cast down by our own terrors and fears.  Amen.   

A re-post from October 25, 2011.

Images from: http://dkevinbrown.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/do-i-really-believe-the-bible/ and http://johncalvin09dev.blogspot.com/2009/11/devotional-using-scripture-quote-from.html and http://johncalvin09dev.blogspot.com/2009/11/devotional-using-scripture-quote-from.html

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. Print. 

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Matthew 2:13-15Flight

Monday, November 26, 2018

Each year my students and I study the topic of immigration and one of the questions I ask – in Spanish, of course, since theirs is a Spanish class – is what year their families immigrated to the U.S.  Each time I ask there is a student or two whose family has an ancestor from a North American indigenous tribe.  Each year there are first generation Americans, and sometimes there are even students whose families have recently arrived in the U.S.  We discuss who and what it means to be “American” and we open our horizon to understand that anyone born in the Americas is actually AmericanThis is always something the girls have to chew on for a bit.  We remind ourselves that in Spanish there is an adjective that describes someone from the U.S.  . . . estadounidenseThis causes some frowns along with knowing nods.

As we wrap up this annual discussion, I ask the girls to return the next day with the name of a famous refugee or immigrant without whom the course of human history would be less light and more dark.  They like this task.  When they return to class we hear the typical names and some students even go back to ancient narratives to name the Hebrews and their struggles in foreign lands; but they rarely name the Holy Family.  When I refer to the “angel’s warning to Joseph” that we read in today’s Noontime, students think I refer to the dream in which Gabriel appears to encourage Joseph to take Mary as a wife even though she is with child.  I always think it sad that we somehow stop the Christmas story before we arrive at a most important point . . . Jesus and his family flee persecution and move to another land where they speak another language, learn about new customs, and earn and spend different currency.  This is such a good lesson for a language classroom, particularly in today’s climate.

This discussion often engenders a good conversation about borders, frontiers, empire, colonization, passports and identity documents.  We talk about how St. Paul made his famous evangelization journeys without having to apply for visas or travel papers or check in at border crossings.  We also discuss the influence of families in the colony of Costa Rica and speculate about how the presence – or absence – of women and children in the formative stages of nation building shapes and forms a national psyche.   We discuss human conduct, human tribalism and the treatment of those within and outside of our own tribe.  These discussions are always rewarding for the students and for me.  I never fail to learn something new.

Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night . . .

I am reminded of my own family history of Europeans who rose to depart from familiar places to arrive at foreign shores in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.  My mother was a first-generation American while my dad’s family was here to fight in the Revolutionary War.  My mother’s family taught their offspring the value of personal freedom, they all registered and voted, and they remembered their roots in a South Philadelphia polyglot neighborhood where English was spoken with many heavy, foreign accents.  My father’s family was a mixture of old world lineage with newcomer spunk.  Both families raised feisty, independent, community building youngsters who cared about family, church and home.  They knew the heartache of uprooting and leavings.  They all left loved ones behind knowing that they would never embrace or kiss again.  They understood the importance of the cover of darkness and the promise of daylight at the end of an arduous journey.

Rise, take the child and his mother, flee . . .

We live in a world of 7 billion people who are on the move yet long for stability.  Many of us encounter hostility and violence even as we look for security and dependability.  We are all God’s people yet some of us want clear boundaries that close us into protective enclaves while others of us look to open up locked doors to let in fresh air.  But the commonality we hold – whether we want to admit this or not – is this . . . in God’s kingdom we are all refugees arriving at God’s open gate in various states of disarray and need.  In God’s kingdom we have all taken flight to jostle into a newness that we hope for yet dread.  In God’s kingdom we are sisters and brothers trailing along dragging the suitcases we will not be needing.  In God’s kingdom . . . we have all taken flight together . . . to arrive at the newness of God’s sure promise.

A re-post from October 24, 2011.

Image from: http://www.joyfulheart.com/christmas/christmas_artwork.htm

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1 ThessaloniansRejoice Always!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

As frequently happens with the Noontimes a theme is re-cycled to us; today it is the message that we are to rejoice in all circumstances – even when events indicate that we ought to be mourning.  A few weeks ago we visited the fifth chapter of this letter (Noontime September 30, 2011 – Pray Without Ceasing).  Today a portion of Chapter 1 serves as the second Mass reading in which Paul complements his followers in Thessalonica for their fidelity even through dark times, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers.  It is all too easy to turn away from God when dark events crush in on us.  And the joy we experience can be likewise all so rewarding when we turn to God when in the midst of suffering.

Recently an essay by James Martin, S.J. was published in AMERICA magazine and we may want to spend time reflecting on this oldest of books in the New Testament.  The photograph on today’s post is from that article and I encourage you to spend with it today.  We always welcome any word that shows us how to convert our mourning into dancing; we look for any guideposts that help us to Rejoice Always! http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=13046

A re-post from October 23, 2011.

Images from http://www.yourlocalweb.co.uk/cheshire/gallantry-bank/pictures/ and http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=13046

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Isaiah 43Created for Glory

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Just a few weeks ago we looked at Isaiah 44 in a Noontime we called Chasing AshesIn that reflection we spent thinking about the little gods we harbor in our lives and about the time expend on worry when we might better spend it in conversation with God.  For it is God who best knows us and who can best calm our fears.  It is God who has the power to do the impossible in the face of overwhelming odds.  It is God who love us beyond all measure and who years to bring us home.  We also pondered how odd it is that God often chooses the most unlikely of us for his work; we reminded ourselves that when we are chosen by and in God, we have no reason to think that we will not be successful.  Rather than shrink from God’s call as we focus on our inabilities, we might take the opposite approach and place all of our trust in the one who knows us and loves us best, this one who says to us: Fear not, my servant, the darling whom I have chosen . . . I will pour out my spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing upon your descendants.

In today’s Noontime we are again reminded: Fear not, for I am with you; from the east I will bring back your descendants, from the west I will gather you.  I will say to the north: Give them up! And to the south: Hold not back!  Bring back my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth: everyone who is named as mine, whom I created for glory, whom I formed and made.  When we are regarded as this valuable, why do we doubt so quickly?  When we are called this openly, why do we shrink away?  When we are treasured this dearly, what and whom do we fear?

In today’s reading we find promises of restoration, forgiveness and redemption.  See, I am doing something new!  We are even chided a bit for not calling on God enough and we are reminded that God is eager to wipe away any and all of our offenses (v. 22-26).  We have only to turn to God and ask.

Jesus also reminds us that we are created for glory; he tells us that we have but to ask forgiveness of the Father and the slate of our lives will be wiped clean in a stroke.  (Matthew 7:7-8 and Luke 11:9-10).  And so we pray . . .

Jesus tells us that when we knock, the door will be opened to us.  Everlasting Father, reveal to us the wonder and glory that is ours so that we might see that our disabilities are our assets.

Jesus tells us that when we ask, we will receive. Comforting Spirit, bring us the peace that soothes and the serenity that heals so that we might understand that our vulnerabilities bring us closer to you.

Jesus tells us that when we seek, we will find.  Brother Christ, teach us how to follow the Father and remind us that most often our weaknesses are our gift . . . for they lead us always back to you.


A re-post from October 22, 2011.

Images from: http://theonlinebibleschool.net/mod/resource/view.php?id=227 and http://newlife.id.au/worship-and-prayer/some-thoughts-on-prayer/ 

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2 Maccabees 5:10The Holy Place and the Holy People

Friday, November 23, 2018

But the Lord did not choose the nation for the sake of the holy place, but the place for the sake of the nation.

So many times we get things backwards.  We forget that we become weak in order to be made strong, that we serve in order to lead, and that we die that we may live in Christ.  We have looked at the books of Maccabees many times before and just last spring we spent time with this chapter reflecting on the stark difference between mystery and problem, impatience and trust, pride and humility, anxiety versus openness to God’s awesome power, sedition versus fidelity.  Here is some of what we were thinking.

We need to relax into the mystery of life more.  We need to adapt a humble stance with our Creator and a willingness of heart to do as we are bidden.  We need to immerse ourselves in God who is always with us . . . rather than trying to swim upstream or downstream with him.  We need to move away from sedition, death and the slandering and killing of fellow pilgrims.  We need to move toward the light, toward the mystery . . . and allow it to embrace us.

We can view the mysterious way that God moves in our lives with awe or with skepticism.  We can choose to believe or to disbelieve that Christ overcomes the barrier that death presents to the rest of us.  We can choose to be faithful to our covenant agreement and call, or we can strike out on our own to find another God to worship . . . or we can even choose to worship ourselves and our own ideas.  But none of this will satisfy because we will be making holy places where there is no holiness.  We will be creating holy communions where there are none with whom to commune, for nothing can be made holy without God’s presence.

In 1 Corinthians Paul tells us several times in the opening chapters do you not know that you are living temples of God, members of the body of the living Christ?  He echoes this on his other letters when he asks us to step away from immorality, from idolatry and to turn to the one true source of life: God the creator, God the redeemer, and God the love that exists in an inscrutable way deep within the mystery of each of us.

This is all that we are asked to do . . . yet we so often make life much more complicated than it really is.  We are a holy people who come together when God calls us and thus we make holy places in which the Spirit will abide.  And in so doing we will rise even amidst the worst of circumstances, even above the pillaging of the temple . . .  to be sheltered in God, to live eternally in the Spirit, to be renewed in hope and forged in fidelity . . . to remain of and in Christ.  For we are his holy people . . . and he is our holy place.

A re-post from October 21, 2011.

Images from: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/The_Temple.html , http://www.urbanchristiannews.com, and http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/The_Temple.html

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Jeremiah 35Taking Correction

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Jeremiah and the Rechabites

The Rechabites who remain faithful are “reactionaries who believed that the Lord could not be well served except by maintaining the original nomadic conditions of Israel’s life.  Without sharing their convictions, the prophet holds up their fidelity to their ideals as an example to put to shame his faithless countrymen”.   (Senior 994)

Will you not take correction and obey my words? 

Each day we are called to listen to God that we might hear how we might correct the course we have set for the day, the week, the month, the year . . . our lives.

Each day we are given a new opportunity to reset our markers so that they point toward God.

Each day we are invited to trust and hope in the only source and goal of true life . . . God our creator.

The Psalm in the MAGNIFICAT Evening Prayer is Psalm 49Why should I fear in evil days the malice of the foes who surround me, men who trust in their wealth, and boast of the vastness of their riches?  For no man can buy his own ransom, or pay a price to God for his life.  The ransom of his soul is beyond him.  He cannot buy life without end, nor avoid coming to the grave.  Then do not fear when a man grows rich, when the glory of his house increases, he takes nothing with him when he dies, his glory does not follow him below.  Though he flatters himself while he lived: “Men will praise me for my success,” yet he will go join his fathers, who will never see the light any more.  In his riches, man lacks wisdom: he is like the beasts that are destroyed. (Cameron 191)

Jeremiah offers to the Jewish community the opportunity to take correction.  The Rechabites, a community ignored and sometimes disparaged by the power structure, are a people who demonstrate more fidelity than those who hold positions of authority.  They are a people thought too old-fashioned, too simple, and too nomadic to be given much attention; yet the prophet uses them as an example of how to walk in God’s way.  They are faithful, obedient, and trusting.  And they stand as a stark contrast to the fattened, self-indulgent, and corrupt leadership of the time.

Living in the 21st century we try to be prudent with our resources so that we might have an income when we retire.  We try to be good stewards of our resources as we make intelligent purchases and support charities we find worthy of our time and talent.  We seek practical guidance, and we take sound advice before we invest our money and ourselves in a person or a cause.  We take correction where needed as we look to our future on earth.  Jeremiah today urges us to do the same in our spiritual life.

The MAGNIFICAT Mini-Reflection reads: Where we invest our trust and our hope, we invest our lives.  Let us choose to invest in the true source of life, Jesus Christ!  (Cameron 190)

The Israelites chose to ignore Jeremiah’s warning, and we know how the next centuries unfolded for that nation.  Let us heed his words, and the words of Matthew (6:20-21) which are part of today’s Evening Prayer: Store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.  (Cameron 190)

Let us take correction . . . so that we might trust God enough to invest all of our wealth in God’s saving power.

A re-post from October 20, 2011.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.994. Print.   

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 14.1 (2011): 190-191. Print. 

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