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Archive for April, 2020


Thursday, April 30, 2020

1 Chronicles 17: Dialog

Today as we continue to live in this extraordinary shelter-in-place, we need dialog with God more than ever, and so we continue to consider the story of David.

What I like most about the story of David – amid the ups and downs, the triumphs and failures – is the fact that we see this man in constant dialog with God.  Today’s reading is no exception.  David has brought the Ark from Shiloh to Jerusalem, has been established as king, and now wants to build a house for Yahweh.  Nathan, the prophet, brings him word that Yahweh will have a permanent temple at another time – once the lineage has been established through an heir and son.  David acquiesces and gives thanks for the blessings he and his house have already received . . . and will receive in the future.

Turn my Mourning into Dancing: Finding Hope in Hard Times is a small but valuable book published from the works of Henri Nouwen by his estate after his death.  It teaches us to be grateful at all times . . . even and especially when days are dark.  “I am gradually learning”, Nouwen writes, “that the call to gratitude asks us to say, ‘Everything is grace’ . . . We can learn to see our remembered experience of our past as an ongoing conversion of the heart.  We let what we remember remind us of whose we are – not our own, but God’s.  If we are not truly ready for a new life in the service of God, truly joyful at the prospect of God’s unfolding vocation for our lives, truly free to be sent wherever God guides, our entire past, gathered into spaciousness of a converted heart, must become the source of energy that moves us onward”.  (Pages 19 and 20)  Nouwen calls us to let go and to leave our compulsions behind, to move out of the house of fear, to convert our illusions through prayer and to open ourselves to a surprising God.  He cautions us about being lured in by fatalism or our craving for approval.  He reminds us that God is in all people and all things, even in suffering.  “There is no human suffering that has not in some way been a part of God’s experience.  That is the great and powerful mystery of God becoming flesh to live among us.  God becomes a part of our mourning, and invites us to learn to dance – not alone, but with others, sharing in God’s compassion, as we both give it and receive it”.  (Pages 69 and 70)  Nouwen tells us that “In the most significant relationships of our lives, God is not an afterthought.  We discover one another as living reminders of God’s presence”.  (Page 72)  And this is what David knows . . . he knows that only though God is his mourning turned into joy.  And he knows that he must thank God for all that he has and will have.

We hear this message over and over again in Esther 9:22, Isaiah 61:3, Jeremiah 31:13, Amos 8:10, James 4:9 and Revelation 21:4, that our mourning will turn into dancing, sadness into joy.

David is not a perfect human; yet through his humility and his constant dialog with his creator, he sees life through God’s plan rather than his own.  David does not treat God as an afterthought and for that reason we see him in constant communication – asking advice, petitioning help . . . and thanking God for the blessings he and his house enjoy.  Despite the downturns and the missteps, David keeps his body, mind and soul centered on God, his heart in open readiness for the surprises of his maker.

Tomorrow, all our works belong to God and are a sign of our constancy . . .


Image from: https://www.ancient.eu/King_David/Written on January 4, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Moretto: King David

Moretto da Brescia: King David

1 Chronicles 16

Ministry

If we remain constant and in constant dialog with God we are continually surprised by God’s goodness.  When God’s is the first advice we seek, we cannot go wrong; our daily battles will be upheld, and we will stand in awe of God’s generosity.

The Levite hymn of praise that appears in this chapter is thought, by some scholars, to have been added later; other experts believe that it so reflects The Chronicler’s style that it must have always been included in this part of David’s story.  That discussion aside, we can see that David, at this point in his life, makes no decisions without God’s input.  The years he spent on the run avoiding Saul’s troops and making his little guerrilla strikes, have prepared him well for this.  We see here someone who understands that even those close to us, those to whom we have pledged our loyalty and love, can and will betray us, someone who understands the importance of fidelity, perseverance and thanksgiving.  The David we see today has come through fire and understands his place in God’s plan, and he understands and accepts his ministry as his vocation.

When we read David’s entire story, we also see that David slips into separation from God.  He is never, nor are we, a finished product.  He is in process with God and his faith journey will take him many places before it ends in old age.  Even at his death, David is embroiled in the argument of which son will rule after him and the death of his beloved Absalom will bring him deep sadness in his final days; yet David continues to commune with God, to listen and to daily dialog, and to live out his ministry as a faithful servant.

Each of us has a ministry we hope to fulfill.  I admit to struggling with my own vocation.  It would be so much easier, I say to God regularly, if I did not have to do all that God asks, if I might pick and choose my own works as I see them suiting my talents.  The reply always returns with an accompanying chuckle: God knows that the path is full of obstacles, and God knows how we tire.  It is for this reason that God abides constantly, never leaving our side.  God knows well the plans God has in mind for us, as the prophet Jeremiah tells us (29:11), and God desires to surprise us at every turn with an encouraging smile, a loving caress, a kiss that does not betray.  God’s constancy and goodness and wisdom are tools lent to us in order that we perform our ministry.  God also provides us with little respites at oases that suddenly and surprisingly appear.  Those are the moments in which we might raise our own hymns of praise just as the Levites do in today’s reading.

As we remain constant, we remain close to God.  As we remain close, we commune with God.  As we commune, we worship.  Let us lift our voices together in a paean of praise.

Tomorrow, the constancy of dialog with God . . .


Image from: https://www.pubhist.com/w4727

Written on June 20, 2009. Revised and posted today as a Favorite. 

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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Cristofano Allori: Judith With the Head of Holofernes

Cristofano Allori: Judith With the Head of Holofernes

Judith 13: Slaying Holofernes

Judith teaches us about courage, fidelity, and divine providence.  She shows us clearly the strength of women, the power of faithfulness through duress, the results of steady, enduring, immutability . . . and the gift of God’s abiding presence.  Judith instructs us on the results of constancy and the privilege of discipleship.

In this particular chapter, we see Judith carry out the final stages of her plan . . . and I am always intrigued by the fact that none of Holofernes’ soldiers see anything suspicious about two women leaving the camp and the reason for this is that from the first night of her stay Judith makes it clear that she and her maid will go out to pray each evening.  For this reason their escape route is made through their accustomed daily commitment to God (12:5-9).

It is also clear that Holofernes’ principle error is seeing women as sexual objects.  The heart of Holofernes was in rapture over her, and his spirit was shaken.  He was burning with the desire to possess her, for he had been biding his time to seduce her from the day he saw her.  (12:16) Neither this man – nor anyone in his inner circle – sees the true significance of the presence of this quiet, beautiful, spiritual woman in their midst.  And they pay for this blindness with the loss of life and the loss of the campaign they have planned against the people of Bethulia.

What can we learn from this today?  How can we take this lesson into our own lives and honor it?  What is it about Judith’s conduct that speaks of her so well?

This story – when read from beginning to end – is full of unexpected twists.  And so is life.  This story – when we take the time to examine it more fully – can startle us and even repel us with its stark reality and violence.  And so can life.  This story – when reflected upon in the context of the coming of Christ – brings us the expectation of restoration, justice and joy.  And so does life.  This story brings us the gift of constancy, a gift we receive through our own discipleship.

Tower of David Museum, Jerusalem: Reconstruction Model of Ancient Jerusalem

Tower of David Museum, Jerusalem: Reconstruction Model of Ancient Jerusalem

What do we do against life’s twists and turns and ironies?  We remain constant, we abide with God, we fear less and we pray endlessly.  We empty ourselves of ego and pride . . . and we allow God to complete and fill us.  We act – just as Judith did – from a custom of constantly walking and praying with God.

Good, merciful and just Creator, we place ourselves in your hands each day at our rising.  We carry you with us throughout each day.  We return to you each evening just as we return to family, home and hearth.  Abide with us this day and all days, just as you accompanied Judith and her maid into the enemy’s camp.  Abide with us each evening as we walk out to the ravine to pray with you, just as Judith and her maid were accustomed to doing.  We seek you, just as Judith sought you.  We bring to you our worries and fears, just as these women did.  May we too remain constant to you in our prayers and in our actions.  May we too know the triumph and the peace which comes from abiding with you.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 


If you have time to read more about Judith’s story and reflect on her importance in our lives today, enter her name in the search box on this blog and spend time with her.  Or open your Bible to this book and begin her story in Judith 8.  For background, and to better understand the context, begin reading from Chapter 1.   For an online commentary, click on the model of ancient Jerusalem above.

Images from: https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/220px-cristofano_allori_0021.jpg and https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/reconstruction_model_of_ancient_jerusalem_in_museum_of_david_castle1.jpg

First written on July 27, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Monday, April 27, 2020

faithful[1]1 Thessalonians 2: Constancy

During this Eastertide we have spent time reflecting on the hard work of discipleship and how we recognize it in ourselves and others.  We have focused on the qualities of meekness and broken-heartedness and how they bring us strength despite our fear that they might sap our enthusiasm and energy.  Today we begin to examine the quality of constancy, how we see it, where we find it, and why it is so important.

Constancy is more than fidelity; it is steadfastness under duress.  Constancy is more than accuracy and exactness; it is a steady, changeless immutability.  Constancy is not capricious, it is not fickle.  It is stable, consistent and predictable.

Today’s Noontime is a lesson on being constant in our mission here on earth no matter how pleasant or how dire the circumstances.  These verses describe God’s

We look at Paul’s words and phrases and we examine how constant we are in our relationship with God . . .

We drew courage through our God  . . .

Not as trying to please human beings, but rather God, who judges our hearts.

Nor did we seek praise from human beings . . .

We were able to impose our weight as apostles of Christ  . . .

We were gentle among you . . .

We are determined . . .

We proclaimed to you the Gospel of God . . .

You are witnesses and so is God . . .

We too give thanks to God unceasingly . . .

We were all the more eager . . .

For you are our glory and our joy.

In his letters to the people of Thessalonica, Paul addresses the problems that arise when diverse people come together in community, and although these words were written so long ago, we might still use them as a daily guide as we struggle to live a common life from uncommon directions.  How do we remain constant when all we know is taken from us?  How do we maintain steadfast under the duress of betrayal by one who avowed their love?  How do we move on steadily through tumultuous days and dark nights when we have lost our way and see no hope for recovery?

When we read Paul’s epistle to the people of Thessalonica, we discover new wisdom for old problems.  When we offer our suffering with others who have also struggled with loss and fear, we find new courage in old circumstances.  And when we raise our voices with Paul’s closing words in a chorus of gratitude we come upon new strength against old enemies.

So we intone Paul’s words and offer them to heaven in our evening prayer:

Brethren, pray for us.  Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.  I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the holy brethren.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.  Amen.  (1 Thessalonians 5:25-28)


Image from: http://dailyexplorationgodis.blogspot.com/

First written on October 13, 2008.  Revised and posted today.

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Third Sunday of Easter. April 26, 2020

Sacred-Breath_Humanity-Healing[1]Matthew 9:27-34: Healing

In this passage Jesus cures three people.  This compassion brings him into confrontation with the authorities who question the source of his power to heal.  Despite the accusation from the Pharisees that his energy comes from the dark world of the prince of demons Jesus persists, knowing that his actions rise from the goodness of God within.  We also have the opportunity to enter into this goodness, into this God-ness, when we enter into Christ.

From ALL WILL BE WELL by Julian of Norwich: “Because of God’s great love for humanity, he does not make a distinction in love between Christ and the least creature.  It is easy enough to believe that the blessed spirit of Christ is high in the glorious Godhead; but, as I have seen, where the blessed spirit of Christ dwells, there dwell in him the spirits of all who will be saved.  So let us rejoice greatly that God dwells within us.  Let us rejoice even further that we dwell within God.  For our spirits are made to be God’s resting place, and our spirits’ rest is in God who is unmade.  Great it is to know in our hearts that God, who is our Maker, rests in our spirits.  But far greater is it to know in our hearts, our spirits, which are made, rest in God.  Buy that substance, we are who we are!  I beheld no difference between God and our substance.  All was God, as it were.  Yet, I knew that our substance is in God.  In other words, God is God, and we are creatures in God”.

Teilhard de Chardin, a 20th century French paleontologist, priest and philosopher wrote frequently that we human beings persist in thinking that we are bodies walking around with a spirit when really we are spirits moving around in bodies.  The physical world we see and move in is unreal, it is an illusion; it is the mysterious, intangible, spiritual world that is real and eternal.  Perhaps this is why we find the story of Christ so baffling and sometimes unbelievable.  We have things upside down.

Our spirit is made to be God’s resting place.  It is for this reason that Jesus has the power to dispose of any illness or affliction that assails us.  God is the creator of all.

Our spirit is made to be God’s resting place.  It is for this reason that God tends to us and calls us constantly to goodness.  We are made in God’s image.

Our spirit is made to be God’s resting place.  It is for this reason that the Holy Spirit abides within to comfort our anxious minds.  We are precious in the eyes of God.

Our spirit is made to be God’s resting place.  God makes no distinction between Christ and the least soul.  Imagine the good we might do, the sorrow we might heal, the transformation we might find, when we live with this mantra in mind.

Our spirit is made to be God’s resting place.  So let us open our thoughts, our hearts, and our souls to Christ . . . and to the work he has in mind for us today.  To whom might we restore sight?  To whom might we give voice?  When we find ourselves confronting the Pharisees of our day, let us remember our mantra so that we might step forward untroubled to pick up the work of God’s hands.


Kirvan, John. All Will Be Well: Julian of Norwich. 2008. Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 2005. Print.

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

Image from: http://humanityhealing.net/2011/09/sacred-breath/

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Saturday, April 25, 2020

cr_julianSirach 10:19-30: Possibilities

Again from Julian of Norwich: “God intends our prayer and trust to be magnanimous.  If we do not trust as much as we pray, we do not honor God fully, and we place obstacles in our path.  This happens because we do not realize that God himself is in the ground of our praying.  Our very ability to pray is a gift of his loving grace.  We cannot ask for mercy and grace unless they have first been extended to us.  Sometimes, it seems after praying a long time that we have received no answer.  We should not let this disturb us.  God simply wishes us to wait for a more suitable time, or for more grace, or for a better gift.  Furthermore, just as we experience God drawing us to him, so should we pray that we will be drawn toward him.  It is not sufficient to do one without the other.  If we pray, but do not see that God is at work, we become dejected and downcast and so do him no honor.  And if after we see him at work, but do not pray, we do less than our duty.  But to see that he works, and to pray that he works, gives God worship and benefits us.  When we pray thus, we will think we have done nothing.  But if we do what we can, seeking mercy and grace, we shall discover in him all that is deficient in us”.

Today’s Noontime calls us to think about how we honor and glorify God in our lives, and how we honor and glorify one another.  Julian of Norwich reminds us that all will be well when all rests in God and when we take everything to God in prayer; for it is out of this meditation and prayer that our actions rise.  Today’s reading and the words from Julian of Norwich above ask that we go a step beyond our normal comfortable zone of thinking and doing. They ask us to risk, to trust, to believe, to hope and to love as Jesus loves.  They ask us to dream and imagine all the possibilities which are open to us . . . because once we enter into union with God all things are possible. Once we become meek as Jesus is meek, all things are possible.  Once we bring our weariness and brokenness to God all things are possible . . . and all will be well.

Tomorrow, healing . . .


First written on August 10, 2009.  Revised and posted today. 

Kirvan, John. All Will Be Well: Julian of Norwich. 2008. Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 2005. Print.

For more information about Julian of Norwich, click on the image above or go to the following links: http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/the-constant-seeker-julian-of-norwich or http://aquariumofvulcan.blogspot.com/2012/05/julian-of-norwich.html or  http://campusministry.georgetown.edu/119652.html

To reflect on how God’s promises are always greater than our hopes, go to: http://www.discerninghearts.com/?p=1714

 

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Friday, April 24, 2020

Blessed Julian of Norwich

Van der Weyden: Portrait of a Young Woman Wearing a Coif

Psalm 73: The Trial of the Just

This psalm speaks to a state of mind that each of us has likely experienced once or even more than once, at a time when we lost our balance and our feet all but slipped.

As we have spent time this week reflecting on the traits of a disciple and the work that discipleship entails.  We have re-affirmed that following Christ requires not only love but also intense labor.  Disciples suffer.  They lose heart.  They become enmeshed in a world they do not welcome.   Yet they also experience great joy.

As we read this psalm today we find that each of us is Israel, wondering why the arrogant . . . suffer no pain; their bodies healthy and sleek . . . violence adorns them like a robe Some of us may say to ourselves, as the psalmist does: It is in vain that I have kept my heart clean . . . I was stupid and did not understand.   Discipleship calls for meekness.  Discipleship delivers heart-break.  The ancillary experience of discipleship is suffering . . . and yet great joy.

What is the solution to handling our angst and jealousy so that our mourning might become dancing?  We must dialog with the Lord and offer our questions along with our petitions for those who are far from [God] perish.  We must declare all [God’s] works, remembering that despite our feeling that we are lost and alone we always will be accompanied.

I have taken up again a little book of reflections on the writings of Julian of Norwich, a medieval English mystic and spiritual writer to whom God spoke in a series of revelations.  (Kirvan)  This woman lived a hermetic life in a worldly way, juxtaposing solitude and community in a manner that gives her words a universal resonance.  She speaks of the humility we learn when we bring God our sufferings and failings.  And it is through this humility, this meekness, that we find God.  She writes that we run the danger of carrying our faults so heavily that we consider ourselves “suited only to hell” and that this would be an egregious error for no matter what we do or where we go, God wants to “raise us high in grace”.  She also writes that when we allow our pain to bring compassion to ourselves and others, we will be better prepared to receive God.  This compassion heals any shame or brokenness and transforms all suffering into joy.  She tells us that our failure does not prevent God from loving us.  Peace and love are always present within us, living and laboring, but we unfortunately do not always abide in peace and love.

When we find ourselves deep into our work as disciples we are certain to be worn down and worn out; we will find that our hearts have been broken.  So rather than fight against our pain and suffering, let us offer our brokenness to God as we withstand the trial of the just.  Let us cease comparing ourselves with the wicked and instead open ourselves to God’s grace and compassion.   And let us no longer rail against our imperfections . . . for we must allow ourselves to remember that God is always close to the broken-hearted.

And so the psalmist writes:  How good God is to the upright, the Lord, to those who are clean of heart!

Tomorrow, with God . . . possibilities . . .

Although often attributed as a portrait of Julian of Norwich – the first woman to write and publish a book in the English language – there is no evidence that she sat for the artist, Roger Van der Weyden.  It is lovely, however, to imagine a meeting between the two.


Kirvan, John. All Will Be Well: Julian of Norwich. 2008. Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 2005. Print.

First written on August 9, 2009. Revised and posted today.

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Thursday, April 23, 2020

imagine9085[1]Job 15 and 16: Peace of Heart

Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of God . . . blessed are the pure of heart, they will see heaven. 

Discipleship asks much of us as we well know.  And discipleship brings much to us . . . as we also well know.  Any obstacles we encounter as we follow Christ become honing stones for us to use as we smooth our rough edges and heal our broken hearts.  We say that we seek serenity and if this is so, let God heal our brokenness and let us be open to God’s peace of heart.  Let us begin by seeking the Wisdom of God.

The first of the wisdom books is valuable because it shows us how to react when confronted with evil.  It teaches us how to suffer innocently and well.  It instructs us how to stand in God’s light and give thanks for God’s abiding Spirit.  And even though Job’s words were set down well before the arrival of the Messiah, it opens to us the universal hope Christ brings that each of is free.  It brings to us the healing balm of Christ’s hand. It describes for us the importance of enduring in and with Christ.  It is a simple plan to find a certain peace of heart . . . despite the insurmountable impediments that loom before us.

And so when we feel unsettled, discouraged, lacking in confidence, agitated or disgruntled . . .

When it seems that our friends and family do not understand, that we are alone and abandoned . . .

When peace has gone and gentleness disappears in fear and anxiety . . .

We turn to Job and see how he reacts when he is ill, alone, and wrongly accused by friends.

When turbulent days and long nights invade and unsettle the heart, we might reply to our own tempters as does Job: I have heard this sort of thing many times.  Wearisome comforters are you all! 

And then we might turn to the one who alone brings us tranquility of the spirit and heals our brokenness.  Let us take our troubles to the Lord, to ask that he grant us a certain peace of the heart.

Tomorrow, the trial of the just . . .


First written on September 4, 2009. Revised and posted today.  

For a blog that explores how to heal broken hearts, click on the image above or go to: http://blog.relationshiprewind.com/healing-a-broken-heart-secret-steps

 

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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

1 Corinthians 10:14-22

humility-word[1]The Importance of Meekness . . . Rejecting Idols

Paul warns that small, easy temptations lead to a great, cataclysmic fall.  What begins at first quietly and even innocently, will later lead to ruin.  We can never hear this lesson too much.

What helps us to maintain the meekness of Christ that we work so much to find and maintain?  It is the Eucharist of thanksgiving in the living Christ that is the antidote against the temptation to serve our personal idols.  It is this gift of self from Christ that redeems and transforms us.  We become too full of ourselves when we believe that we do not need Christ’s protection as we move through our days.  We lose our humility in God when we believe that we can handle our personal obstacles alone.  Pride is perhaps the first sign to ourselves that we are beginning to tread in dangerous territory.

From today’s MAGNIFICAT Mini-Reflection (335).  Pride sets subtle snares.  Whenever we imagine that we are in control of life – our own or someone else’s – we have fallen prey to the ancient whisper in the Garden: “You shall be like gods”.  Mortality is the enduring reminder that we become like God not by our own power but by the power of the cross. 

From Sirach 10 in the Morning Prayer and intercessions today: Odious to the Lord and to men is arrogance, and the sin of oppression they both hate.  The beginning of pride is man’s stubbornness in withdrawing his heart from his Maker; for pride is the reservoir of sin, a source which runs over with vice.  The roots of the proud God plucks up, to plant the humble in their place: he breaks down their stem to the level of the ground, then digs their roots from the earth. 

This from Matthew 23:12: Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; whoever humbles himself will be exalted. 

Temptations come to us on little cat feet, becoming part of our daily self and routine without our noticing, disassembling our humble relationship with God.  St. Paul warns his listeners that the first little steps into our addictions are the beginning of idolatry.  Whatever we do to excess that excludes God from our living and from our decision-making . . . these minuscule openings into idolatry must be investigated and put away.  These little wooings, these seemingly insignificant acts that we believe have no effect upon us are . . . after all is considered . . . our first steps away from God, away from the Garden . . . and into the arms of one who delights in our fall.

Humility keeps us close by the creator. Meekness reminds us to reject our idols. Quiet obedience in the Spirit brings us home to Christ. Today we spend time reflecting on our meekness . . . and how this gift of discipleship binds us forever to God.

Tomorrow, discipleship and the gift of broken-heartedness . . .


Image from: http://www.understandfasting.com/the-answer-to-pride/

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 2.24 (2011): 335. Print. 

First written on February 24, 2011.  Revised and posted today as a Favorite. 

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