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Archive for November, 2019


Exodus 23:1-9: We are God’s Dwelling Place

Saturday, November 30, 2019

You shall not repeat a false report.

Do not join the wicked in putting your hand, as an unjust witness, to anyone.  Neither shall you allege the example of the many for an excuse for doing wrong.

Nor shall you  . . . side with the many in perverting justice.

When you come upon your enemy’s ox or ass going astray, see to it that it is returned to him.

When you notice the ass of one who hates you lying prostrate under its burden . . . help him to raise it.

You shall not deny one of your needy fellow-men his rights in a lawsuit.

You shall keep away from anything dishonest.

You shall not put the innocent or just to death . . . You shall not acquit a guilty man.

Never take a bribe.  Bribes blind even the most clear-sighted and twist the words even of the just.

You shall not oppress an alien . . . since you were once aliens yourselves.

If we might only heed these oh so old words . . . there would be oh so much less strife among us!

Paul reminds us that Christ fulfills this old Mosaic Law, telling us that he even comes to supersede it. He also reminds us that we are significant members of God’s family.

You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the capstone.  Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you are also being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.  (Ephesians 2:19-22)

John of Patmos has a vision of the New Earth and the New Jerusalem in which he reports a loud voice from the throne saying: Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.  He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God].  (Revelation 21:3)

Jesus is not God’s Plan B.  He does not arrive to live among us as an afterthought or as a fixative for something that has gone wrong.  He has always been and will always be the thought and action of God among us . . . The Word.  It was always intended that we live peaceably side by side, helping one another with our troubles, lifting one another to new levels of spiritual maturity, coaxing, exhorting and encouraging one another over the hurdles we encounter in our journey.  Yet even as we are a collective, we also have the individual responsibility to see to our own growth, to gather around us friends who live by the Mosaic and Christian codes, to rebuke one another, to listen to one another, and to love one another.  We might look back from our twenty-first century vantage point to see the pieces fall into place.  We can see that from the earliest stages of our development as peoples, God was abiding with us.  We can also see that he abides with us still.  Let us praise God!  Let us sweep the floors clean . . . renew the old and new rules . . . and welcome him into the dwelling place of our hearts.


Written on November 9, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://wau.org/resources/article/re_gods_dwelling_place/ and http://life-in-a-jiffy.blogspot.com/2011/06/nature-hearts.html

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Mark 4:26-29: God’s Harvest of Love

Friday, November 29, 2019

The Gospel of Mark is beautiful in its simplicity.  Because of its brevity, we may think of it as less weighty; yet here today we have an example of the depth of Mark.  His is the only Gospel which holds this simple parable.

In the Biblia de América, the footnotes tell us that the purpose of this allegory is to give emphasis to the important work of humanity, the grains of wheat.  The faithful are to proclaim the Word of God . . . while the success of this work depends solely on God.

This gives fresh importance to our mission.  We are seed.  We are planted.  To the best of our ability and as best we are able in our environment, we are to draw from our roots in order that we might send forth a blade . . . which in turn yields a grain.  In due season, this grain will ripen for the harvest.

This cannot be more simple.  It cannot be more clear.  It cannot be more important.

This mode of living – of becoming what we are meant to become while living closely with other blades that give forth grain in their own due season – requires obedience, perseverance and patience.  It also requires close communion with our creator, the master harvester.

We must exercise faith – in trusting that we will survive life among a variety of blades until the harvest time.

We must engender hope – in believing that we will produce grain in abundance.

We must enact love – in making room for all to reach the sun and to soak up whatever rain may fall.

Perhaps what makes this Gospel so intense is that it is likely the first written after the Resurrection, when the flame of the Pentecost and the inspiration of the Ascension were still fresh.  Perhaps its concise language and simplicity render its meaning unmistakable.  Mark delivers five parables in rapid succession in this chapter, and he succinctly describes the important work of the faithful sandwiched between other stories which are more familiar.  We might miss it unless we look for it; and yet here it is.  Millennia after they are written, these straightforward words have the power to fill us with wonder at how the direct message of love might change the human experience.  We are loved.  We are love.  All we need do is proclaim this story.

Harvesting in the Himalayas

In reading Mark, we are drawn into his passion.  It is the same passion with which we are created.  It is a simple, clear, uncomplicated story.  God yearns for companionship and he creates a race of people in his image.  These people are wooed, forgiven, blessed, sustained, forgiven again, and loved powerfully.  What are we asked to do in return?  To proclaim this love abroad, to transform the sunshine and the rain into a grain of wheat which the master will harvest, and to render to the creator his harvest of love.


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

Written on November 7, 2008, re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

Images from: http://www.frankossen.com/Barefoot%20amid%20the%20Himalayas.htm and http://jp.123rf.com/photo_14000685_wheat-blade-on-wooden-table.html and http://www.foodsubs.com/GrainWheat.html

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Sirach 11:29-34: Guests and Strangers – Care in Choosing Friends

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Biblia de América which I have been using as a resource lately, names this citation differently from our NAB as we can see from the title above.  In addition, it has references to Proverbs 1:10-16, 5:10 and 6:1 for this citation which, if you have time to look at them, will add some depth to today’s reading.  The footnotes in this same Biblia remind us that sowers of discord are to be avoided at all cost, as their deceits create structures of illusion – they are the people of the darkness, people of deception and lies . . . with a spark he sets many coals afire.

I am thinking of a counterpoint to this image.  I am remembering the description of the souls of the just from this past Sunday’s first reading.  These souls 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 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.  As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.  In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble; they shall judge the nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord shall be their king forever.  Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect.  (Wisdom 3:1-9)  [My bold font.]

This is not a call to exclusivity; rather, it is a call to universality.  It is a universal invitation to openness, to mercy, to fidelity, to love.  We are each invited to lead lives worthy of the creator – honest and compassionate lives, faithful and constant lives, forgiving and loving lives.  Ardent lives which burn with the fire of Christ’s love.

It is also a call which carries with it a degree of heat – the fire of the gold smith’s forge – but we ought not fear this furnace.  It is the crucible of life with which God prunes and disciplines us . . . for when we are tried and tested, so then are we proved.  And when we are proved we are graced.  When we are graced we are holy.

There is a clear choice before us:  we may become like the sparks which set many tongues wagging and many hearts gossiping.  Or we may be the spark which sets souls ablaze with the fire and love of Christ.

We must take care in choosing our associates and friends for they are either strangers, sowers of discord who are to be avoided; or they are guests who are soul mates to be welcomed into our hearts.

St. Paul tells us (Romans 12:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:1, Galatians 6:4, 2 Corinthians 13:5) that we are to test the spirit for this is how we will find if travelers are either the tinder of deceit . . . or the kindling of the Pentecost.


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

Written on November 6, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Sirach 20: The Wise and Foolish

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Jan Adam Kruseman: The Wise and Foolish Virgins

This chapter of Sirach is too good to be missed.  Every verse is a nugget to be held and valued.  Jesus ben Sirach draws us away from stereotyping . . . toward universality. . . and the understanding that there is no one member of Christ’s mystical body who has a lock on the mystery of God . . . other than Jesus himself.

The Lamb is the one who opens the sealed scroll in Revelation.  The Lamb is the one who appears slain . . . but who saves . . . by the giving over of himself.  We who answer his call to form the mystical body do well to seek and study, to ask and search.  This is the only true path to life in Christ.  When we knock, he will answer.  When we search, he will find.

Admonitions, comparisons, similes, metaphors, ironies, paradoxes . . . words moving into concepts that guide our lives.

The proper time for speech and silence.

True and false wisdom.

Double entendres that hide and reveal.

Seeing stereotypes for what they are . . . a division of the whole . . . an anti-universe.

Wisdom seems to always be accompanied by foolishness and Matthew’s story of the Ten Virgins comes to mind.  Therefore keep watch because you do not know the day or time.  There is hidden treasure in these refrains and sayings.

Proverbs that lend us so much wisdom . . . these are nuggets to be valued and taken to heart.  These are the wise sayings that lead to life in Christ.  These are the refrains our parents used and that we echo to our children and grandchildren.  Read these words . . . and pass them on . . . for this is the stuff that leads to salvation, to unity, to universality.  This is Christ.

Hidden wisdom and unseen treasure – of what use is either?  Better the man who hides his folly than the one who hides his wisdom.


Written on November 20, 2008, re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

http://www.wijermars.com/Collection/Jan_Adam_Kruseman-De_Wijze_en_de_Dwaze_Maagden.html

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Luke 14:34-35: Salt

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

El Greco: St. Martin and the Beggar

The simile of salt follows the sayings of Jesus that demanded of the disciple total dedication and detachment from family and possessions and illustrates the condition of one who does not display total commitment.  The half-hearted disciple is like salt that cannot serve its intended purpose.  (NAB footnote, page 1119)

This reminds us of the letter to the people of Laodicea; being a lukewarm disciple is not an option.  We may be tempted to allow others to witness, but we cannot give in to this temptation.  Nor can we feign passion or pretend interest.  Our response to God’s call – in order that it be a true and authentic response – must be genuine and ardent.  Our lives must demonstrate that we understand this call, that we willingly and eagerly respond, and that we behave with integrity as we live our response.  We are salt which magnifies goodness.  We are salt that does not lose itself when added to the banquet meal.

November 11 is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, a soldier born to non-Christian parents in 316.  He gave up his military life, converted to Christianity and became the ardent bishop of Tours.  He founded monasteries, educated clergy and preached to the poor.  He died in 397.  As we consider our own lives as salt that flavors and enhances a meal that will sustain us, we might pause to reflect on the life of one so eager to respond to an inner call.  Like salt, St. Martins’ example adds to life’s flavor . . . and calls forth the best in what life has to offer us.


First written on November 12, 2008. Re-written and posted today.

To better understand the mediocrity of Laodicea, enter either of these words into the blog search box and explore. 

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Martin_and_the_Beggar_(El_Greco)

To learn more about Martin of Tours and how his life was salt for humanity, go to: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09732b.htm

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Jeremiah 16: Candor and Hope

Monday, November 25, 2019

We seek better things to come . . .

What are we to think of the words recorded here by the prophet Jeremiah?  A paraphrasing from the HARPERCOLLINS COMMENTARY, page 559, tells us:  This section contains reports of three symbolic actions, followed by an interpretation that puts them in the context of the Exile.  The prophet is to remain unmarried and childless since the upcoming warfare will be utterly destructive of families.  He is told not to participate in mourning rites because Yahweh intends to remove peace from the land that will undermine the normal mourning customs.  A third requirement of the prophet is that he not participate in festivities of any kind as all celebration will cease.  Following these admonitions is a justification for the punishment they are to receive, the cause is their apostasy.  So we see the domination of two concerns of the community in exile: to identify the cause of its present situation and to contemplate a more favorable future.

Suffering, as we know, is not necessarily castigation; sometimes the innocent suffer through no fault of their own because of circumstances beyond anyone’s control.  What we can take away from today’s reading is the underlined thought above.  When we feel ourselves suffering in exile, two exercises are useful: first, reflecting on our behavior prior to exile to investigate the need to change as appropriate and second, anticipating a better future in active hope.  These are hallmark characteristics of the Christian.  Candid self assessments, the search for improvement, and petitioning God for better things to come.  Even . . . and especially . . . when things seem darkest . . . and without hope of any kind.

When we find ourselves in pain or in exile, suffering either innocently or as a consequence of our own actions, we may choose to become bitter, angry, resentful, and intent on making others suffer.  This does not align with the Law of Love as described by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 when he writes that love does not brood over injury or rejoice over wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 

When we find ourselves in exile, it is best to regard the time as a period of retreat and reflection, going inward to hear the voice of truth, looking outward in expectation of the good news which will arrive.  As children of God, we benefit from knowing this good news even before it reaches us.  It is the news of our release.  The news of our freedom.  The news that we are created and held by one who loves us more than we can imagine.


Written on November 26, 2008, re-written and posted today.   To see how one community contemplates and moves toward a more favorable future, click on the image above or go to: http://www.hopeinspiredministries.org/

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 559. Print.

Image from: http://www.hopeinspiredministries.org/

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Sirach 30:14-25: Health of Body and Soul

Saturday, November 23, 2019

There are so many ways to be joyful, and the list which Jesus Ben Sirach imparts to us today is worthy of our time.  I like the way the writer juxtaposes bitterness with joy, cheerfulness with brooding, courage with resentment, good health with a wasted frame.  Verse 20 is particularly interesting as we may know people who are determined to be sad.  Verse 25 is also fun – especially when we look ahead at 31:12-31 and 32:1-13, table etiquette.

Cheerful hospitality is a hallmark of Gospel living.  Offering of hearth and family are a sign of our willingness to be open and vulnerable to God through those whom he sends to enter our homes and our sacred places of the heart.  For the hearth of the family and the heart of the individual – these are the places where God dwells, where the Holy Spirit abides . . . and it is for this reason that we must seek composure of the heart.

Contentment of spirit, writes Sirach, better this than precious coral.

God wants us to be happy and to revel in our happiness.  God wishes us well, urges us to live cheerfully, to let him take on our worries and anxieties.  Through discipline, through doing well and doing right, through acting with mercy and justice . . . this is how we reach true contentment, true softening . . . and composure of the heart. 

The words of Sirach remind us well of this.


Written on January 23, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://moochuk.com/index.php?showimage=328

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Job 9 and 10: Questions

Friday, November 22, 2019

We enter this part of Job’s story at the point where he has suffered greater losses than can be imagined – loss of family, health, possessions and friends.  Job is accused of hiding his sin . . . which he has obviously committed because in this culture suffering is seen as a payment from Yahweh for misdeeds – by Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar.  Job replies to their accusations in words that resonate with anyone who has suffered greatly and unjustly.  I like Job’s tenacity and his unrelenting will in both remaining faithful to and questioning of God.  If you have the time, spend some of it this afternoon with these chapters and you will uncover the nuggets left there for us to mine.

Verse 9:13: He is God and he does not relent . . .

Verse 10:2: I will say to God, do not put me in the wrong!  Let me know why you oppose me!

We can remain faithful to God and still question.  When we silence our need and desire to inquire, we begin the slippery slide into passive aggression.  If we do not allow our doubts and fears to percolate to the surface where we can deal with them honestly, we open ourselves to anxiety and self-recrimination.  We allow the darkness to take over.

Job questions his maker: Your hands have formed me and fashioned me; will you then turn and destroy me?  Oh remember that you fashioned me from clay!  Will you then bring me down to dust again?

When we read the closing verses of this book, we hear God’s reply.  He answers Job’s questions with questions of his own.  Were we present at creation?  Did we see the parting of the seas?  Did we establish the movement of the sun and stars?  No.  We are creatures . . . not the creator; yet we are a valuable and integral part of this great mystery we call Creation.  We demonstrate fidelity by trusting the goodness of this mystery.   Questions that lead to truth and honesty, light and openness are not acts of betrayal, they are acts of integrity.

We are dearly loved by God.  Jesus himself tells us to ask, seek and knock.  God awaits our questions . . . with questions of his own . . . questions which lead us to uncover hidden truths and mysteries.

And so we pray . . .

Good and patient God, we are happy that you do not relent, do not give up, do not yield.  It gladdens the soul to know that you pursue us as does an ardent lover.  It reassures us to know that you abide.  We attempt to return this deep and intense love, yet we stumble as we move toward you.  Reach out your hand, heal our wounded hearts, dry our tears, mend the brokenness of our lives.  Be ever present . . . for without you we are lost.  We remain your faithful and faltering servants.  Amen.


Written on May 22, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.   For more thoughts on Job and his questions, enter the name Job and his Plaint, enter the name “Job” in the blog search box, or go to the Wisdom portion of  The Book of Our Life on this blog.

To see what questions are being asked on Survey Monkey, click on the image above or go to: http://blog.surveymonkey.com/blog/2011/12/05/what-survey-questions-are-asked-most-often/

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Amos 9:11-15: Restoration

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Worker’s tools used in the restoration of the wall at the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem

We have reflected on surprise.  We have reflected on The New Order of the Word who is Alpha and Omega – beginning and end.  Today we read about Restoration. . . the return from exile . . . the state we all seek.

I love reading this book by the prophet who left his work as a shepherd in Judah to denounce the empty wealth of the northern tribes.  His words rankled the power structure and so he was expelled from Bethel . . . to return to his pastoral work.  He brought a message of destruction . . . but a destruction which carries within the promise of restoration for the faithful.  This may be a surprise to many.  It is certainly the message of The Word.  It is The New Order of things.  It is Restoration of the Remnant.  Do we have the fortitude, the perseverance, the hope, the love . . . to be remnant?

When our own fallen hut is raised up . . .  do we recognize the voice of the shepherd enough to follow it?

When the breaches have been healed . . . do we allow our wounds to cure so that we might hear the new words of the shepherd?

When the plowman and the vintner overtake the reaper and the sower . . . will we know the way to the celebration with the shepherd?

When the ruined cities are rebuilt . . . will we recognize our new homes?

When we arrive to drink the new wine and eat the new fruits . . . will we possess the white garment to wear at the marriage feast?  Will we recognize Christ as the groom . . . and ourselves as the Bride?


Written on October 31, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

To learn more about the restoration of Jerusalem’s walls, click on the image above or go to: http://www.allartnews.com/jerusalems-five-century-old-walls-restored-at-cost-of-5-million-idiosyncracies-and-all/

To learn more about Bethel, go to: http://bibleatlas.org/bethel.htm

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