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Archive for December, 2019


Psalm 90: God’s Eternity, Our Frailty

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

As we close another year and look forward to the new, let us reflect on the promise of Christmas, and all that it holds for us. 

joy[1]Some of the images in this psalm may be ones we do not like to think about.  Who among us likes to be reminded of our shortcomings?  And who likes the imagery of such a wrath-filled God?  I heard a sermon once about God’s jealousy about us.  The speaker referred to this psalm and likened God to a lover who has just found out about the partner’s infidelity.

In the old Latin liturgical calendar, we celebrate Gaudete Sunday, a time when joy leaps out of the readings in anticipation of the coming of Christ.  Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10, Psalm 146, James 5:7-20 and Matthew 11:2-11, in each of these citations we find reason to rejoice.  The true king is arriving soon.  This king heals, protects, guides and secures.  This king loves in a way we do not see in the Old Testament.  This king fulfills the promises of old.  This king is devoted to his people, this king is Christ.

I am always amazed when I see human beings lust after immortality when they have this gift in their hands constantly yet do not see it.  I have watched people destroy others as they scramble to the top of an illusory mountain to grab earth-bound fame.  What matters a name on a concrete wall when our very being may instead be part of God’s own fabric?  What is it we miss about ourselves that lures away from the promise we already hold and that has already been fulfilled, to turn to the emptiness of a plaque, a statue, or a commemorative dinner?  What holds us so spellbound may be our belief in ourselves rather than a belief in God.  Only each of us can judge what makes us so frail in this way.

Matthew 11:11 may startle us.  We may not have understood just how much God really loves us unless we allow the full impact of these words rest in us.  Do we have the potential to be greater even than John the Baptist?  If our answer is no, then we may not have fully understood how much a gift each of us is to God’s creation and God’s plan.  We may not have fully understood just how much we are loved.  If our answer is yes, then we understand the passion expressed in today’s Noontime for when we read this psalm, we see how much God seethes with emotion when we turn away.  And we can also see just how much we are loved.   So let us make a conscious decision today, on this Sunday of Joy, to put aside our frailty and return this divine love.  Return it with full, unwavering and never-dying passion.

And we may be surprised to find what we receive in return; yet, if we have been watching we already know what this gift is.  It is the gift announced by John the Baptist. It is God’s full, passionate, unwavering and never-dying love . . . and with this comes the gift that wipes out our human frailty forever.  The gift to us is the gift of God’s eternity.


First written on December 12, 2010. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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

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Psalm 28: http://www.ehow.com/info_8087024_deserts-drive-through.htmlThe Rock

Monday, December 30, 2019

In today’s Gospel John the Baptist tells us that he went out to the desert and there he encountered God; we are reminded that we must go apart, from time to time, as Jesus did to recoup, to re-focus, to re-listen.  Even the one who heals all wounds and mends all brokenness goes off to pray for a little while.

Today’s Noontime focuses us on the origin of our strength.

To you, My Lord, I call; my Rock, do not be deaf to me.  It is in the heat of desert days that we find an unyielding foundation on which to put our feet.  Our foundation is the Rock, the Lord.

The Lord is my strength and my shield, in whom my heart trusted and found help.  It is in the chill of the desert nights that we discover we need constant protection from the buffets of the world. We find this protection in the Rock, the Lord.

If you fail to answer me, I will join those who go down to the pit.  It is in the desert extremes that we realize we are nothing, our puny resources are for naught without the Rock, the Lord.

So my heart rejoices; with my song I praise my God.  It is in the harsh, desert reality, with all resources stripped away, that we come to understand the value of our relationship with the Rock, the Lord.

Lord, you are the strength of your people, the saving refuge of your anointed king.  It is in the beauty of the desert simplicity that we come to believe that the Rock, our Lord, loves us more than we have imagined.

Rather than fear loss we must be open to its message, for although God is our constant companion we do not feel God’s true presence because we have filled our days with our own activity.

Rather than lament a world that is woefully off course, we might instead turn to the Rock, the Lord, for sustenance and hope.

Rather than funnel our energy into petty arguments and the useless struggle over power we do not even possess, we might rely instead on the Rock, the Lord, for clarity of vision and purity of intent.

Rather than hide our envy and resentment over the good fortune of others, we might look to the Rock, the Lord, for a steadfast spirit and a constant heart.

Picture1Prepare the way of the Lord, The Baptist calls out the words of the prophet Isaiah.  Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill made low.  When we journey into the desert to better hear the Lord, our way will be smoothed out for us by the Lord.  No more will we skitter down steep slopes as we travel. No more will we exhaust ourselves as we climb over the huge problems that appear before us.  The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth.  No more will we worry which way to turn and which way to go.  And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.  The Lord, our Rock, assures us of our rescue.

As we reflect and pray in this Christmastide, let us return with The Baptist to the desert, let us listen again to the familiar words of Isaiah, and let us build our permanent home on the only Rock that both rescues and sustains.  Let us wait on the Lord.

 


Adapted from a reflection first posted on December 9, 2012.

Image from: http://www.ehow.com/info_8087024_deserts-drive-through.html

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Isaiah 36-39: Crucial Link

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Climbing Snap Link

Climbing Snap Link

Commentary informs us that although these few chapters may appear to be a tangential appendix to the prophecy of Isaiah, they in fact turn out to be “a crucial link for the survival of the Isaiah tradition and its extraordinary development”.  This portion of Isaiah binds the prophecy to the original Deuteronomic Tradition – an interpretation developed in the north rather than in Jerusalem – and it focuses more on the Mosaic covenant than the Davidic dynasty and promise.  We can see how this split in thinking might have accompanied the physical rift between the northern and southern tribes.  Judah and Israel had their differences; they focused on separate symbols, developed divergent theories, and went their separate ways.  This small, apparently insignificant addition to Isaiah, which at first glance might be overlooked, does in fact give us a message we will want to hear: Salvation is universal, salvation pertains to the Gentile peoples as well as to the Jews, salvation is ours.  (Senior RG 294)

We have centuries of theory, worship and belief to mine when we open scripture and today is no exception.  In today’s Noontime we are called to look at not just a crucial link in tradition but in ourselves as well.  We are asked: What do we know?  How do we know it?  What do we believe?  Why do we believe it? What do we do to enact our belief?  How do we retain our own crucial link?

Once we begin to examine our traditions and the relationships we value, we will need to further examine what feeds and sustains us.  How do we nourish our spiritual selves?  Where do we look for sturdy places to attach our hearts to something safe and secure?  Whom do we trust as we develop our value set? 

Inevitably in each human life we come to a point of self-recognition.  Some of us manage to stay away from the bright mirror of ourselves as we journey.  Others of us seem to beat ourselves with every small flaw we glimpse in our reflection from the sharp glass of life. Inescapably – sooner or later – we are confronted with what we have forged.  We see what we have done with the gifts we have been given.  We understand that we are us and God is God . . . and that our link to God is crucial.  Our attachment to God must be full and final.  Our love of God must supersede all else . . . just as Christ’s love for us overcomes and overpowers all that would draw us into our narcissistic staring at our imagined self-image.

And so we make this our Christmas prayer today . . .

As New Testament people we believe that our salvation comes to us through Christ.  Isaiah predicts this guarantee.  Jesus fulfills this prediction.

As New Testament followers we understand that the darkness will always be pierced by the light.  Isaiah foretells this.  Christ fulfills this foretelling.

As New Testament disciples we know that the work of those who carry a belief in Jesus as savior will never be easy.  Isaiah forewarns us of this.  Jesus explains this to us.

As New Testament Children of God we cling to this crucial link who is Christ, God Among Us, Emmanuel, the Light in the Darkness, the Promise of all for all.  Isaiah tells us of the immense love which forms this crucial link.  Jesus comes to assure us of God’s love for each of his children.  Jesus binds us to himself and to the Father forever . . . so let us take hold of this crucial bond and clasp it to our hearts forever.  Amen.


Adapted from a reflection written on December 8, 2012. 

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1 Corinthians 1:18-25: Wisdom’s Paradox

Saturday, December 28, 2019

At that time Jesus said in reply: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.  Matthew 11:25

The Tree of Knowledge

The Tree of Knowledge

The paradox of creation is that the weak are strong and the strong are weak.  This Theology of the Cross, then is present in all suffering and opposes the norms usually associated with power and wisdom.   From La Biblia de América: This foolishness of the cross becomes present in all debility, anguish and the profundity of God’s love.  This is the surprising path of salvation opened to all humans by Christ.

We look for signs yet the only sign relevant to us, Jesus tells us, is the sign of Jonah – – – the prophet who finally did as God asked to save the city of Nineveh, after spending three days in the belly of a whale.  God does not exact the punishment he had meant to carry out, because all of the inhabitants repent – – – inspired by the reluctant prophet.  Jonah then complains about his surprising success.  We are so often determined to be disappointed!

Notes will tell us that God’s ways are inscrutable because we insist on having things “our way” rather than in God’s way in God’s time.  The wisdom and mercy we experience with God is incomprehensible to us because we have not yet learned to trust that this paradox about which Jesus speaks is real.  Our viewpoint is too narrow, our perspective too self-centered to fathom the kind of acceptance and love the creator has for his creatures.

From the NAB comments on Jonah:  The prophecy, which is both instructive and entertaining, strikes directly at this viewpoint [of forgiving wicked enemies].  It is a parable of mercy, showing that God’s threatened punishments are but the expression of a merciful will which moves all men to repent and seek forgiveness.  The universality of the story contrasts sharply with the particularistic spirit of many in the post-exilic community.  The book has also prepared the way for the gospel with its message of redemption for all, both Jew and Gentile.  (Page 961)

These are God’s ways.  This is God’s wisdom.  We live the paradox that when we are weakest we are strongest . . . because we are nearest to God.  In this Christmastide, let us celebrate God’s coming to us as an infant, defenseless and small.  And let us remember that in a few short months we will journey through the Lenten time when we flourish in God’s forgiveness and mercy.  Let us take time today to reflect on the lesson we might learn as we watch this tiny child grow into a man who offers both his humanity and divinity so that we might be free from fear, so that we might be saved.  And let us bask in the wonder of this gift so freely given.  Let us grant forgiveness, as we are forgiven.  Let us bless with mercy, as we are blessed.  Let us cradle and heal those who are broken . . . just as we are cradled and healed by God in his immense love.

When we suffer at the hands of others – – – either intentionally or unintentionally – – – let us gather up our wounded-ness, and our broken-ness.  Let us make of ourselves wounded healers in God’s great plan, in God’s great love, in the paradox of God’s great wisdom.


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

Image from: http://stirringthedeep.com/2011/04/15/sister-wisdom-part-ii/

First written on April 20, 2009. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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John 19:1-7: Pontius Pilate

Friday, December 27, 2019

pontius-pilate-slice[1]

Antonio Ciseri: Ecce Homo – Behold the Man

We revel in the arrival of a babe among us who saves each of us if we but ask.

We enter into Christmastide in joyful hope that the promise we have heard is indeed true.

We struggle with this mystery of a child who knowingly puts himself in danger for the good of all.

We lean forward in anticipation that if we might look closely enough we will better understand this mystery. 

Today we spend time with the Gospel of John and we watch as Pontius Pilate searches for a better understanding of who Jesus is.  We see him struggle to understand who and what stands before him.  We witness his attempt to satisfy his heart and his head.  And so we watch and learn . . .

Throughout this portion of John’s Gospel we observe Pontius Pilate as he tries to make sense of the mystery that Jesus presents to him.  He wants to make sense of a man who might save himself in an instant but who instead puts himself in the hands of an invisible force.  Pilate struggles to understand a man who allows himself to suffer for others – even others who despise him.  Pilate cannot use human logic to follow this thinking; and this is because salvific suffering is of the divine.

The mockery of something beautiful makes us cringe and each time we read this story we might try to imagine where we might be standing on this day: with the persecutors or the believers.  And then we must transfer that imagining to reality to look at our own life and actions.  What we believe we might do must connect somehow with what we actually do each day.  If we want to see if we would have been standing with the guards who persecuted Jesus or the followers who cried along the Way of the Cross, we need only look to how we treat the marginalized today.  What do we do for the poor and disenfranchised?  When do we speak up for those who have no voice?  How do we demonstrate our alliance with this one obeys an unseen God?  Where do we exert our influence?  Who matters most to us? When do we act on the part of those who have few possessions and little power?

From time to time in our lives we will be the Pontius Pilate figure, making decisions that will affect a life in a significant way.  In those times, it must be our intent to act in accord with the Law of Love which Jesus taught.  We hope to be successful.  Sometimes we are not.

We might allow ourselves to be saddened by today’s story or by our own failures, but I do not believe that this is what Jesus asks of us . . . our sadness.  I believe that Jesus asks that we act as a result of this story for he has come to save and not to condemn.  Jesus asks that we make known the Gospel to any and all who will listen.  Jesus asks that we remember who actually holds power and who actually merits glory.  He asks that we consider whose is the true kingdom . . . and I believe that Jesus watches us carefully as we make our own decisions sand take our own actions.

The marvelous irony is that Jesus comes to us not as a superior, not as a ruler, not as a priest.  He comes as a vulnerable child among us.  He comes to an average family.  He arrives in difficult circumstances in a difficult time.  He is barely noticed except by the lowly and by those who seek him.

This Advent, let us consider both ends of the human Christ’s story – his birth and his death – and then let us reflect on our own journey of faith, our life and its cumulative acts.


First written on Tuesday, May 11, 2010.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://collider.com/pontius-pilate-vera-blasi/190526/

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Joel 3: Pouring Out


Joel 3: Pouring Out

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Joel[1]

Sistine Chapel – Michelangelo: The Prophet Joel

We have seen this little book a number of times and Joel always has the same message for us: the end days will be arriving – Yahweh will be just and merciful – compassion will reign but he will also pass judgment.  Joel calls us to get our spiritual house in order so that we do not suffer, so that we are rescued, so that we might live with God and all of creation in joyful harmony.  In this Christmastide, as we begin anew, we might want to consider Joel’s call.

God loves the faithful remnant so dearly that God wants to pour out the spirit upon each one.  God loves God’s children so well that God rescues them from the darkest corner and farthest place.   God loves all of creation so intensely that God leaves no door closed, no word unsaid, no gesture undone in order to bring the children home.  Let us listen to the word of this loving God as given to us by the prophet Joel.

I will pour out my spirit upon all mankind . . . imagine what we might accomplish if  we allow God’s Spirit to pour into us.

I will work wonders in the heavens and upon the earth . . . imagine what wonders we might experience if we allow God to work in us.

Everyone shall be rescued who calls upon the name of the Lord . . . imagine how we might free ourselves from old worries and anxieties if we might allow God to lead us.

There shall be a remnant as the Lord has said . . . imagine what we might experience if we come together as God’s faithful remnant.

And so we pray . . .

Grant us fresh hope at the beginning of this day: that we may live it for your glory and our neighbor’s good.

Relieve us of the burden of old worries and stored grievances: that we may pass through the narrow gate that leads to the kingdom.

Protect us from recurring fears: that we may serve you in freedom and in peace.

Heal all those who labor under the pain of depression, scrupulosity, and anxiety: that all may know the joy of your love.

Lord Jesus Christ, you have brought us safely to this new day and this new liturgical year as you promised to bring us safely to dwell with you one day in your kingdom of light.  Defend us against all that would weigh us down and slow our steps, so that we may run with delight in the way of our Gospel.   Amen.


A re-post from December 5, 2012.

Image from: http://fathermarkcollins.blogspot.com/2012/11/between-fear-plenty-lies-gods.html

Cameron, Peter John. MAGNIFICAT. 4.9 (2007). Print.  

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1 Peter 2: The Hostile World

Wednesday, Christmas Day, December 25, 2019

imagesGod’s house is built with the lives of those who are rejected.  The world is hostile to those who frequent this house.  The theme of the rejected cornerstone is a familiar one, particularly at this time of year when we journey toward a celebration of Christ’s entrance into a hostile world.  Advent is a time when we await the one who frees all who are enslaved by a hostile world. On Christmas Day we celebrate our freedom in Christ.

In today’s Noontime, Peter speaks to slaves and women from his own culture, encouraging them to abide in their enslaved state, fulfilling their role as well as they might in their current culture.  In reading these passages, we are not to suppose that we need to return to this way of living; rather, we might focus on the fact that Peter speaks to these marginalized people and does not exclude them – just as we are to work to include those on the margins today.  Peter, like the other apostles, believed that Christ was returning soon to gather up the faithful to take them home to the Father.  Peter, like the other apostles, and we today are called to further the kingdom in the expectation that it exists and now and will always exist.  Through Peter, Christ calls us to live a life which demonstrates our constancy, our fidelity, our perseverance and our patience even in hostile surroundings.    He asks that we live as Christ . . . as Christians in a world which sees as alien and in congruent the idea that all are truly free

We will need to have compassion and forgiveness if we hope to be in the world but not of it.  We must do more than accept, we must intercede on behalf of those who do us harm . . . just as Jesus does.   Perhaps as a sign that we understand Jesus’ message of liberation, we might step forward this Advent and bring the presence of Christ to a hostile world.


First written on March 9, 2010. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://www.ingodsimage.com/?p=626

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Psalm 145: Trust in God Alone

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Open%20gate%20at%20Bayou%20Bend[1]Grace us this week with your presence, O Lord, that we may focus our hopes and our work in you.  Amen.

We sometimes wander aimlessly in search of happiness or peace . . . when all the while we do not notice that God has gifted us with a beautiful Eden in which to live.

We sometimes are so intent on completing tasks and chores that we miss the beauty surrounding us . . . when all the while we rush past opportunities to build relationships that will bring us joy.

We sometimes see all windows and doors as closed or obstructed pathways . . . when all the while Christ waits on the other side for us to knock and seek.

Let us spend some time with Psalm 145 today . . . and let us learn to trust in God alone.

The Lord sets captives free . . . let us ask for our own freedom from fear.

The Lord gives sight to the blind . . . let us ask to be healed of our own blindness.

The Lord is good to all . . . let us put away our childish envy and see that God has enough for all.

The Lord is just in all his ways . . . let us strive to act in justice each day.

The Lord is gracious and merciful . . . let us forgive all those who have harmed us.

The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in love . . . let us put aside all anger and anxiety.

The Lord is trustworthy in every word . . . let us treat all whom we meet with openness and honesty.

The Lord is worthy of high praise . . . let us praise God joyfully and without ceasing.

The Lord is near to all those who call upon him in truth . . . Come Lord Jesus, come!

When we trust in God we find new strength to open old doors. When we trust in God we find transformation. When we trust in God we are restored in newness.


A re-post from December 3, 2019.

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Romans 7:1-6: Freedom from the Law, An Invitation

Monday, December 23, 2019

Garden-Gate21[1]

We read and hear much these beginning days of the Advent season that reminds us of the importance of the rejected cornerstone.  It is a perfect time of year to allow ourselves to reflect on and in the Spirit; it is a hallowed season in which we might take the opportunity to step aside, to stand down, to relax into a sacred place where we might hear the Word of God fully.  Let us give ourselves this gift of time and grace and peace.  Let us allow ourselves to be free from the old laws that bind us.

In today’s Noontime, Paul explains that Christ followers have a different understanding of the law than their brethren the Jewish people because of the presence of Christ in their lives. “Law binds the living, not the dead, as exemplified in marriage, which binds in life but is dissolved through death.  Similarly, Christians who through baptism have died with Christ to sin [see Chapter 6 Romans] are freed from the law that occasioned transgressions, which in turn were productive of death.  Now that Christians are joined in Christ, the power of Christ’s resurrection makes it possible for them to bear the fruit of newness of life for God”.  (Senior 238)

It is easy to become lost in Paul’s logic but the essence of his message today is this: When we no longer cling to the limiting oldness in which we may find ourselves, we not only gain freedom . . . we also find resurrection.  When we move into Christ, as the widow does in Paul’s example, we are offered more than a new liberation; we are given the very gift of transformation itself.  When we dare to open the closed gates in our lives we discover an invitation to conversion. Let us step forward in acceptance of Christ’s gift.

Picture1We might take on a spiritual project this Advent.  We might challenge ourselves to see and hear some new layer in the old, precious stories that present themselves to us each year. Let us invite God to plumb our depths and challenge our resting in a place for too long.  Let us put on our pilgrim garb to set out for a well-known destination but in hopes that the journey will bring a new invitation for transformation.   And so let us pray . . .

Grace us this week with your presence, O Lord, that we may focus our hopes and our work in you. 

May these opening days of the Advent season bring us a renewed hope in Christ.

May our journey bring us a newly found freedom in the Spirit.

May we learn from the rejected cornerstone, Jesus, that our new liberation is also an invitation to transformation.

And may we await in joy the Christ’s coming as we await the fulfillment of the promises whispered to us by our maker.  

Amen.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.238. Print.   

Image from: http://www.pbgarden.com/garden-gate/

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