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Archive for October, 2019


1 Chronicles 14: Competing Well

Thursday, October 31, 2019

David and Nathan

We see in today’s reading that David has conversations with God in which he receives specific information and we wish that our questions of survival might be reduced to such simple inquiries: Do I move or wait; do I confront my enemy head on or go through the back door?  We might wish for clear signs such as David’s: a king sends him timber to build his own royal house, his battles are all won, he suffers few losses if any.  When we read the whole of David’s story we realize that he rises and falls like the rest of us, and this might bring us comfort.  David has learned how to work with God rather than pray at God.  David has learned that religion is not a means to a gain; neither is it something to be purchased.  It is something to be lived.  It is something to share.

Today we spend time with David when all is going well, when demons and adversaries are driven away and the faithful are protected.  Part of the Morning Prayer is from Zephaniah 3: Fear not . . . be not discouraged!  The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.  I will remove disaster from among you, so that none may recount your disgrace. 

The God of David and the God of Zephaniah is our God, even when we feel alone or abandoned.  He is Jesus Christ who sees, as Paul reminds Timothy, that: Whoever teaches something different and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the religious teaching is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid disposition for arguments and verbal disputes.  From these come envy, rivalry, insults, evil suspicions, and mutual friction among people with corrupted minds, who are deprived of the truth, supporting religion to be a means of gain . . . Avoid all this.  Instead pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.  Compete well with faith.  Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called . . . (1 Timothy 6)

And so this is the lesson we see David learning today: How to compete well.

This is the lesson David knows, sometimes forgets, but to which he always returns: supporting religion is not a means of gain.

It is a lesson we can also know: Compete well with faith. 

It is a lesson to be lived each day no matter our circumstances: Lay hold of eternal life . . .

It is a lesson which will carry us from this world into the next: Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called . . .

It is the lesson of how to compete well.


Written on September 18, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite. 

Image from: http://lynnaustin.org/2014/03/editing-and-life/david-and-nathan/

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Amos 1: Stepping into Newness

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Prophet Amos

Having had a bumpy week-end, I decided to spend extra reflection time with the bridge I felt rising from Leviticus.  I asked myself: To where does all of this conversion take us?  We know to whom we go . . . and usually how and why.  It is often the where that confounds us.  Today’s Noontime is from Amos, a prophecy of the first of the eighth century prophets (Amos is followed by Hosea, Isaiah and Micah).  This prophet comes away from his worldly work to follow God’s call to service and then returns to his fields, sycamore trees and herds to step back into his life.  Commentary points out that these words are direct and uncompromising” (Meeks 1356).  There is no doubting what we are to do – we are to tend to the laziness, avarice and corruption into which society always seems to sink.  There is no doubt about why we are to do this – it is the sanctity to which God calls each of us.  When we ask when we are to begin our conversion – the answer is always now; not later, not “when I have the time, energy or opportunity”.

God calls to us through Amos just as he called to the faithful millennia ago.  So what is the message we hear today?  Where are we to go to do this great work of self-conversion and kingdom building?  Amos tells us simply: We are to look to our own homes, communities, work, worship and play places . . . we are to begin . . . and then we are to take this newness in which we find ourselves into all we do, think and say.  Social injustice and religious arrogance: these are the two devils we are to combat.  We must invert these two ideas (as Jesus always does when he stands us on our heads – calling us to the margins rather than to the comfortable middle) to social justice and to religious humility.  They are the standard bearers we are to carry each day as we step out of our homes and into the world.  They are the same standards we carry into our evenings as we return home to rest and rebuild.

The words of Amos in this first chapter are frightening; he can see the approaching whirlwind and so he sends out the watchman’s alert to tend to that which is dragging us down.

The images of Amos in this first chapter are full of violent pictures; he understands that the people have built thick walls behind which they can linger in comfort and so he urges us to change our ways.

The foreshadowed events which Amos shares in this first chapter are full of ugly pictures; he feels the coming maelstrom and so he calls us to conversion . . . to sanctity.

After spending time with the laws of Leviticus, we turn to Amos to find that these rules have been twisted and manipulated until they are nearly unrecognizable.  Amos calls the people to social justice and to religious humility.  We can see the need to tend to his message; we can see the places in our lives where we can be more just and humble.

When the earth quakes, when clouds roil, when the wind blows more stiffly and brings a different scent so that we know that change is coming . . . what do we do?  Do we retreat into old habits and easy answers?  Or do we step into the difficult newness that God offers?  This is something to spend time with today.  Looking forward, when we see difficult work ahead we can become easily exhausted and ask to have the cup of sacrifice pass away from us . . . or we can allow our weary selves to sink into the constant healing hands of Christ . . . and we can greet the storm with confidence in this . . . that we are loved by an awesome and fearless God . . . who will not let us fail.


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

Image from: http://calbyz.blogspot.com/2010_06_01_archive.html

Written on October 5, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Matthew 18:6-9: The Little Ones

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Scholars will tell us if Jesus here (and in Mark 9:42-48) is referring only to children when he speaks of the little ones or if he means those who have faith as a child does.  In either case the warning is clear: We must beware of ever leading the innocent and trusting astray for the consequences are great.

In speaking with friends recently I have shared my thought that God is so generous and so magnanimous and so loving that he gives us an infinite number of opportunities to come to him and to behave as the very children he seeks to protect in this reading.  Hell, in this scenario then, is the endless returning to conversion for those who refuse to enter God’s plan.  It seems a just consequence to me that those who abuse others might finally submit to the infinite kindness and mercy they have so often thrown off and this is surely their Gehenna.

The Wedding Banquet

We have also spoken about the language of heaven that is spoken by those who understand and enact the words of love that God lavishes on us.  For those who will not enact the plan of discipleship  God has given us, there will be no way of communicating with others when we pass into the next life.  Hell, in this scenario, is being present – but completely invisible – at a marvelous party.  In this case those who refuse to prepare for The Wedding Feast as Jesus warns in his parables of the Ten Virgins and The Wedding Garment will not have the tools needed to be visible in this new world of joy, compassion, and loss of self in the service to others.  And this is surely a version of Gehenna.

In both of these cases, those who deceive, deny, manipulate, defraud, slander, steal and reject life in this world will have no calculus to understand the celebration they see in the next.  They will have only honed their own dark instruments of death and so they will have no mechanism to understand or to enter into God’s joy.  This then is Gehenna.  It is a shadow world that they, and we, hope to avoid.

How difficult is it then, to prepare our own wedding garment?  What does it cost us to be good stewards of the oil in our lamps so that we are ready for the bridegroom when he arrives? What is the true price of neglecting Jesus’ charge to treat the little ones well?

We will want to spend time with these questions today.


A re-post from October 8, 2012.

Images from: http://endtimepilgrim.org/tenvirg.htm and https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/dont-be-a-wedding-crasher 

To read more about Gehennago to: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/6558-gehenna

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Genesis 26: Settling in Gerar

Monday, October 28, 2019

We might take time today to pause and reflect on the marvelous stories we find in this first Book of the Bible; we see humanity with all foibles and glories.  Today’s Noontime is no exception to this for today we read about Isaac, the precious son of Abraham and Sarah, and we anticipate that we will hear only good of him then we will have miscalculated God and his plan for us.  We will have missed the valuable lesson that the patriarchs and their families who established and passed on the covenant with the Living God are to be seen as ordinary people who make ordinary mistakes in their ordinary lives.  These people about whom we read are us.

When we allow ourselves to spend time with a commentary as we sift through the details of this story, we will see that the players in this drama behave much as we do today when faced with moral, physical and political dilemmas.  They weigh odds and consequences.  They make decisions. They have regrets, experience deep suffering and great joy.  They find that life holds no guarantees as they duplicate the labor of previous generations by re-digging Abraham’s wells.  They plan and execute deceptions and endanger their tribe.  They work toward and achieve success and so become objects of envy; and they are eventually sent away from the place they have made their home.  They are persecuted, separated and marginalized, and they watch all that they have gained through labor move into the hands of others. Their prosperity has become their curse.  Isaac, Rebekah, Abimelech and the others live out their lives struggling against their shifting circumstances and as they do they teach us much.

There was a famine . . . We too, suffer from famines and dry times in our lives, asking God what we are to do and how we are to do it.

So Isaac settled in Gerar . . . We too, make decisions about our families, our health, our jobs, hoping that we have not missed an important detail.

Isaac was afraid that if the men of the place would kill him on account of Rebekah because she was very beautiful . . . We too, enter into deception impelled by our fears.

Isaac sowed a crop and reaped a hundredfold that same year and the Philistines became envious of him . . . We too, experience prosperity that can bring problems of its own.

Isaac went up to Beer-sheba . . .We too, move house, change jobs, enter into and leave relationships as life pushes and pulls at the details of our living.

And all the while, as we are re-digging the wells first begun by our ancestors and as we call and count on God, others watch us to see what holds us up through struggling, what brings us peace in turmoil, what sustains us in desperate times.  And we might pray that despite our deceptions, and despite our fears we will have lived a life worth watching.  We may pray that our own Abimelech will come to us to ask: We are convinced that the Lord is with you, so we propose that there be a sworn agreement between our two sides – between you and us. Let us make a pact with you.

And when Abimelech offers this tangible sign of peace, let us also pray that we will be generous in our reply as Isaac is.  And let us hope that we too, prepare a feast of celebration that God has been with us and that despite our weaknesses . . . we have witnessed to the goodness of God.


A re-post from October 7, 2012.

Image from: http://www.pastorsebastiaan.com/2011/01/revitalization-before-church-planting/

Enter names and places into the blog search bar to explore. And to learn more about Gerar go to: http://bibleatlas.org/gerar.htm or http://www.bibleplaces.com/gerar.htm or http://bibleencyclopedia.com/places/Gerar_wheatfield.htm

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Luke 10:1-24: Serpents and Scorpions

Sunday, October 27, 2019

In the past few days at daily Mass we have been reading from the tenth Chapter of Luke’s Gospel; we have witnessed the sending forth of disciples by Jesus, and we have heard his words of counsel to these followers of The Way.  These words are not only for those who accompanied Christ in his journey; they are words for Christ’s twenty-first century followers.  They are words for us.

“I rely on you,” Jesus says to them . . . and to us: The harvest is abundant but the workers are few . . .

“The work will be dangerous,” Jesus tells them . . . and us: I am sending you like lambs among wolves . . .

“My followers must rely on the message of freedom and hope that I have given them to carry into the world,” Jesus reminds them . . . and us:  Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals . . .

“You must not be deterred,” he says . . . and neither must we: Greet no one along the way . . .

“It is imperative to always operate from a perspective of peace,” Jesus reminds them . . . and us: Into whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this household”.

“You are to remain focused on your work,” he says to them . . . and to us: Do not move around from one house to another . . .

“You will not be able to convert all who hear the message of salvation which you carry,” . . . and neither will we: Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, “The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shale off against you”.

Jesus warns his followers, “The rejection you will surely experience is your badge of honor,” . . . and it is to be ours: Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.

Jesus tells them, “You carry the Living Word with you” . . . and Jesus tells us: Whoever listens to you listens to me.

Jesus reminds his disciples, “I will protect you as you move about in this most dangerous of worlds,” . . . and Jesus also reminds us: Behold I have given you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you.

We humans worry about our physical safety more than we do our spiritual welfare.  We have this backwards.

We creatures of God spend great amounts of time and talent and energy amassing power and wealth rather than storing up treasures that are impervious to rot and decay.  We have this upside down.

We children of God turn to false, exterior gods too often rather than to the Living God who has given us life and who dwells within. We have this inside out.

As we read the work that Jesus has outlined we see that it is not a complicated plan he has in mind; but it is the reversal of that we have come to understand as powerful and lasting.  It is the inversion of the world as we experience it. And it is the only way to live cheek by jowl with the evil that we know exists.  Jesus does not promise to remove all obstacles from our path; rather he promises that our journey is the one that leads to honest happiness. He does not swear that he will make the way easy and smooth; rather, he swears that he will accompany us through the narrow gates of our passage.  Christ does not guarantee that we will find peace once we complete a prescribed checklist of tasks; rather, he guarantees that when we follow him we will experience a serenity that is everlasting.

We must not fear the snakes and scorpions we encounter as we step into our journey; rather, we must trust God’s message that even snakes and scorpions are subject to our will . . . when we follow this simple plan.


A re-post from October 6, 2012.

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Job 3: Job’s Plaint

Saturday, October 26, 2019

If you have time over the week-end, spend some of it with this most important book of wisdom and a commentary.  These are words we may all write from time to time in our pilgrim journey home.

Job, innocent of wrong-doing, has all taken from him – family – friends – wealth – health.  There is nothing left and he is in turmoil because his friends advise him that all he need do to regain his former security and status is to repent of his wrong-doing.  They chide him, assuring him that once he confesses his suffering will cease.  In the OT, suffering is often sent as a form of punishment for straying from God, so even though Job might look for sins to confess in order to gain peace, he is helpless in his situation because . . .  Job has done nothing wrong.  He suffers because Satan plays a game with God.  There is no reparation he can make.  There is no problem to solve.  No forgiveness to ask or receive.  However, there is one thing which Job has – and perhaps his wife and friends do not – he has an enduring and persevering faith in his Maker.  And so this is where he turns.  And as he turns to this wondrous, awesome God, Job speaks from a broken heart.

Once when I was working through something deeply personal, I was lovingly haunted by a song by a Christian artist named Steven Curtis Chapman.  The words are below, as is a link for the music.  May they bring you peace when you find yourself writing your own plaint to God.  And may you rest in the certain knowledge that we are never alone, we are never abandoned.  We are constantly held, constantly loved.

Be Still and Know

Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is holy
Be still, O restless soul of mine
Bow before the Prince of peace
Let the noise and clamor cease
Be still

Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is faithful
Consider all that he has done
Stand in awe and be amazed
And know that He will never change
Be still

Be Still, and know that He is God
Be Still, and know that He is God
Be Still, and know that He is God

Be Still; Be speechless

Be still and know that he is God
Be still and know he is our Father
Come rest your head upon his breast
Listen to the rhythm of his unfailing heart of love
Beating for His little ones
Calling each of us to come
Be still, Be still . . .

You may also want to read Psalms 37 and 46 and . . . Be still . . .

Hoping you enjoy a long and peaceful week-end.


For the music that accompanies these words, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHlbnNUHQGI&noredirect=1

First written on October 10, 2008. Edited and posted today as a Favorite. 

For more on Being Still, enter those words into the blog search bar and explore.

Image from: http://angelaambroise.blogspot.com/2011/05/stillness-brings-forth-births.html

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Luke 9:51-56: Being Resolute

Friday, October 25, 2019

James Tissot: Jesus Goes Up to Jerusalem

Today’s citation is also the morning’s Gospel reading.  It gives us a great deal to think about beginning with the words he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.  Jesus knew what lay before him . . . and still he went.  So must we all.

We know that life of the body ends.  There is no avoiding it.  We cannot purchase immortality with our money or our wits.  We cannot out-fox death.  No amount of money can divert its advent.  We may delay or cheat death, but we cannot master it . . . except . . . unless we are willing to go to Jerusalem with Christ.

Another phrase strikes me: they would not welcome him because they knew his destination.  Being moved out of our comfort zones is a scary proposition.  Moving into an unknown land, into territory charted by only a few is a dangerous way in which to live.  Yet it is what Jesus did.  It is what he does each day when he knocks at the door of a stubborn heart.  We are all on our way to Jerusalem, but some of us are too fearful, or we do not understand what this means . . . and we do not welcome him.

A third idea moves me as I read.  Jesus rebukes his own disciples when they want to call down fire from heaven to consume [the Samaritans].  Anger is not the Christian way of life, but rebuking is.  We are to be merciful with one another but not lenient.  Honest but not strident.  Open rather than shrill.  We are to be just with one another and avoid insisting on our own agenda.  We are to discipline one another, but not at the expense of the Gospel.

We know our destination if we let ourselves believe and hope and love in Christ.

We must welcome Christ as he stops at our door each day in the guise of fellow travelers.

We discipline one another even as Christ disciplines us, this is the Way of Apostleship.

We must be resolute, we must welcome all who call, we must rebuke one another gently and mercifully as we move along the road of the way up to Jerusalem for that is our destination.  And it is in living in this way that we encounter our immortal selves.


Written on September 30, 2008. Edited and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://twoagespilgrims.com/pasigucrc/index.html/the-servant-sets-his-face-like-a-flint/

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Luke 16:1-8: Prudent Stewardship

Thursday, October 24, 2019

I stumble with this parable each time I hear it because I must remember the context of this story.  From the NAB footnotes: The parable . . . has to be understood in the light of the Palestinian custom of agents acting on behalf of their masters and the usurious practices common to such agents.  The dishonesty of the steward consisted in the squandering of his master’s property and not in any subsequent graft.  The master commends the steward who has forgone his own usurious commission . . . by having the debtors write new notes that reflected the real amount owed the master . . . The . . . steward acts in this way in order to ingratiate himself with the debtors because he knows he will be dismissed from the position . . . The parable, then, teaches the prudent use of one’s material goods in light of the imminent crisis. 

I am reflecting on if and how I have been a good steward of all I have been given.  Have I used my brains well?  Have I abused my physical, psychological or spiritual self in any way?  Do I struggle away from addiction rather than fall into it?  Have I done well with the fiscal gifts I have been given by God?  Have I shared my spiritual journey with others in a manner reflecting good stewardship?  Do I run my own tank too close to empty and then become upset or angry when tired?  Am I afraid to be countercultural?  Do I encourage myself and others to rise to the high bar set by the Gospel Values Jesus brings us through his Story?  Do I care for the poor, the marginalized, those without resources?  Do I conserve the gifts of nature?  Do I encourage others to do so as well?  Do I practice a good work ethic and do I advocate for myself and others in the work place?  Do I open my heart and my home to those needing physical and spiritual shelter?

This is a great deal to ponder and can be overwhelming.  So I take it in chunks so as not to discourage myself and further ill spend what I have been given.  For in the end, we all yearn to be good and faithful stewards.  Taking stock from time to time is a good thing.  Amending breaks where we can is commendable.  Turning away from an easy life of living from others’ work is the call we here today.  Owning up to our own deficits, making changes as we can, these are the mark of one who strives to live a life of prudent stewardship.

We might all ask ourselves these two questions . . . Am I living off of the fruits of someone else’s fiscal, emotional, psychological or spiritual work?  . . . Or do I stretch and strive and reach for the best self that God intended at my creation?

We can only know this if we take stock . . . make amends . . . and grow in God’s grace to be God’s hope to the world.


Written on October 8, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://saintraymond.net/stewardship/

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Leviticus 10:1-3: Closing the Distance

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

When I read the Book of Leviticus I marvel at how closely these early people monitored their physical, moral and spiritual lives.  I try to imagine living at a time when there was no FDA, no FDIC, no AMA, no Magisterium, and I begin to feel the need to formulate rules for everything.  Of course, once the rules are set we will want to enforce them.  And once we enforce them we will need to judge them.  This thinking, in spite of the fact that it seems liberating, has the effect of closing us down.  In today’s reading we see what happens when two people get too close to Yahweh in an unauthorized rite.  This is not the God of the New Testament who invites us in, who yearns to live in the temple of our souls.

Jesus arrived in the world to set us free.  He loosens the bonds of captives.  He releases us from addictions, ailments, anxieties and fears.  He invites us to open ourselves and to be as vulnerable to the world as he is himself.  He invites us to incorporate with him as Light to the world, Hope to the world, Love to the world.

In the chapters following today’s citation we might read about the early Hebrew thinking regarding childbirth, leprosy, personal un-cleanliness, atonement and scapegoating.  In the chapters previous we can find all we need to know about what foods to eat and not to eat.  Out of necessity for survival, this early Hebrew nation was regulated to the smallest detail – inviting narrowness and judgment.  Today, we who live in the Messianic times are free to explore God and to join in the constant renewal of creation.  We cannot forget that we have been freed from all that frightens us, and we must act as if we believe the Jesus who stood in Nazareth and read from the scroll of Isaiah saying:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

Because he has anointed me

To bring glad tidings to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives

And recovery of sight to the blind,

To let the oppressed go free,

And to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. 

(Luke 4:18-19)

As twenty-first century Christians, we might proclaim the same to one another in Christ’s name.  Let us bring glad tidings to the poor, including those among us who are poor in spirit.  Let us abide with one another as we free those among us who are held captive by our fears.  Let us be light so that others who are blinded might have sight.  Let us witness to all kinds of oppression, whatever and wherever it may be.  And let us proclaim a time acceptable to the Lord.  Amen.


Written on October 7, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite. 

Image from: http://www.danielharrell.com

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