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Archive for the ‘Advent’ Category


Matthew 19:13-14: People Like These

Carl Bloch: Christ with Children

Carl Bloch: Christ with Children

Thursday, December 8, 2016

This week we explore how to put our love on the line just as the Creator does by abiding with us, just as Jesus does as he shows us The Way, and just as the Spirit does as she comforts and remains in us.

One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” After laying hands on them, he left. (MSG)

Can we imagine a world that is full of people who are as innocent as the children we read about today? If not, we might ask the Creator to unharden our hearts so that we might be people like these.

Some people brought children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and to pray for them, but the disciples scolded the people. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (GNT)

Can we imagine a world that is full of people who are as trusting as the children we read about today? If not, we might ask Jesus to inspire us with his own example of trust in the Creator so that we might be people like these.

Then children were brought to him so that he might lay his hands on them and pray for them, but the talmidim rebuked the people bringing them. However, Yeshua said, “Let the children come to me, don’t stop them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” (CJB)

Can we imagine a world that is full of people who are as loving as the children we read about today? If not, we might ask the Spirit to fill us with the hope and love of Advent so that we might be people like these.

When we explore various translations of these verses, we discover God’s that in God’s plan there is an absolute necessity for each of us to rely on the Creator, Christ and Spirit just as these children we see today.

 

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Esther 3 (B): Preamble – Part II

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Paul Alexander Leroy: Mordecai and Haman

Paul Alexander Leroy: Mordecai and Haman

This week we spend time with Esther 3 (B) today and consider it as preamble to a new simplicity.

God’s sign is the baby in need of help and in poverty.  Exactly the same sign has been given to us . . . God’s sign is simplicity . . . God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us.  This is how he reigns.  He does not come with power and outward splendor.  He comes as a baby – defenseless and in need of our help.  He does not want to overwhelm us with our strength.  He takes away our fear of his greatness.  He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child.  He wants nothing other from us than our love, through which we spontaneously learn to enter into his feelings, his thoughts and his will – we learn to live with him and to practice with him that humility of renunciation that belongs to the very essence of love.  God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him and love him. 

MAGNIFICAT MINI-REFLECTION December 25, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI Christmas Homily 2009

We might reflect on the life of Esther in a similar way.  God sends a sign to his people through a woman who is considered an appendage of her husband, for the queen in this kingdom is not allowed to enter into the king’s presence without his permission.  In this time and place, Esther’s intrusion on her husband’s time and person is punishable by death and so we see that God’s sign comes to his people through a woman who has been taken as part of the household of a pagan king and who fears for her life whether she remains silent or speaks.  God comes to his people through this defenseless woman who is in need of someone’s help.  When we read her story, we might imagine ourselves as equally defenseless, equally frightened.   If we allow ourselves to accompany Esther as she listens to her uncle Mordecai tell her that she has been chosen by God to speak on behalf of her people, we will watch as she opens herself to allow God into her life fully.  If we watch what happens to the man, Haman, so filled with hatred that he plots the deaths of thousands in order to have his bruised pride assuaged, we will see Ahasuerus deliver to Haman the consequence of his own plots against God’s people.

Tomorrow, grace and blessing.

To learn more about why Mordecai did not bow before Haman, click on the image above or visit: http://thetorah.com/why-did-mordecai-not-bow-down-to-haman/ 

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 25 December 2010. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on December 25, 2010.

Jean François de Troy: Triumph of Mordecai

Jean François de Troy: Triumph of Mordecai

 

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Jeremiah 44: Into the Hill Country

Christmas Eve – Thursday, December 24, 2015mary-travels-with-joseph-to-bethlehem

The Israelites who are not deported by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon escape to Egypt, taking Jeremiah with them.  Once settled in the south, rather than thanking Yahweh for delivery and turning to him in their time of trial, they begin to worship “The Queen of Heaven,” most likely the fertility goddess Astarte or Ishtar.  Jeremiah is believed to be assassinated after he warns the exiled people of Judah that their worship of this false goddess and their turning away from the one true God will spell out their doom.  These words prove to be true. Jeremiah is vindicated, but meets his end.

In this Advent season we celebrate one who is truly the Queen of Heaven, Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Today’s Gospel spells out her journey into the “hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb”.  And thus begins the story of Jesus and his cousin John the Baptist.  The words from today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation taken from the works of St. Bonaventure stand in contrast to what we find in today’s Noontime reading.  St. Bonaventure writes: Once a devout soul has been touched or moved by the hope of heavenly bliss, the fear of eternal punishment, or the weariness of living long in this vale of tears (Ps 84:7) it is visited by fresh inspirations, set alight with holy desires, and taken up with godly thoughts.  Again in contrast with the reaction of the Judahites is the reaction of the soul when it encounters God; and St. Bonaventure continues to describe how the soul will turn away from the world in order to turn to God.  The further one withdraws from the world, the closer becomes one’s friendship with good people. It follows that the more the company of ungodly people loses its attraction, the more the company f saintly and spiritual people inspires the heart with radiant delight.  St. Bonaventure advises us how to avoid falling into the trap of false worship.  Avoid the company of the wicked, go up into the hill country with Mary, seek the advice of spiritual people, strive to follow in the footsteps of the saints, reflect upon the teachings of holy people and also upon their actions and examples. 

SilhouetteThe Judahites carried Jeremiah away with them when they escaped from the Babylonians and fled to Egypt.  He continued to prophesy but they killed him for his words.

Elizabeth and her child John respond with joy when they realize they are in the presence of holiness.

What do we choose this Advent?  To hear the Word but reject it because it does not suit our schedule or plan?  Or to hear the Word and abide in it . . . whether or not it brings a message to us that we want to hear?  Do we choose to carry the prophet into exile and kill him for his counsel?  Or do we choose to go up into the hill country with Mary to surround ourselves with good and holy people?

We are not bound by any restrictions . . . for God so loves us that when he creates us he also gives us the freedom to choose our response to his call.  So as we consider our choice during this Advent season, we do well to spend a bit of time in the hill country today with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day. MAGNIFICAT.12.21 (2010). Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on December 21, 2010.

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Hosea 10False Heart, True Heart

Wednesday, December 23, 2015heart leaf on stone

A favorite from December 22, 2010.

False oaths, fake alliances, evil intrigues, any means to achieve an end: this is what Hosea sees in his community.  The kingdom of David has been divided in two.  Elijah, Elisha, and Amos have warned the people; Isaiah and Micah will add their prophetic words of warning.  Hosea finds himself seeing clearly the devastation that awaits this false-hearted people . . . but he is ignored.

Yet Hosea persists, telling us that we are people meant to worship God, we are meant to take the yoke upon fair neck, to thresh, to be harnessed by the plow of the true God with a true heart.  We are created to be workers in the vineyard, to sow justice and reap piety, we are meant to break new fields so that the rain of God’s justice might bring forth fruit.

Hosea warns that those who have sowed discord and wickedness will reap perversity and eat of the fruit of falsehood.  Turmoil will break out among those who have trusted their warriors and chariots rather than trusting God.  The fortresses carefully built against the needs of the world will be tumbled and ravaged; the false hearts who take advantage of the poor will be lost in the utter destruction.  Hosea does not surrender to the pressures around him, he endures.

Like Hosea, we might want God’s justice to be clearly visible in the present; we may want all of Hosea’s predictions about false hearts to materialize in an instant.  Those who seek a settling of scores may wish God’s integrity to rain down on those who sit on comfortable couches to contrive wicked plots.  They will want to see a world of integrity replace the world of falsehood they experience.  Yet this is the message of Advent: the one of true heart and true words, the one of promises kept and miracles revealed has come to live among us.  Advent tells us that the possibility of living a genuine life is here – now – this day.   We need only open our eyes to see.

CrossHeartLogo11-300x289If we are dissatisfied with the speed of God’s coming, or if we doubt that God is even here among us, we must look first to ourselves to begin kingdom-building.  We must examine our own hearts to see if we remain in truth no matter the social consequence.  We must cease the gossip, cease the controlling, cease the lusting after outcomes, fame, possessions, power and people.  We must amend our ability – and our willingness – to ignore reality.  We must change our hearts so that we do not succumb to the social pressure to acquire goods or supremacy.  We must nurture our desire to share, our yearning to heal, and our aspiration for peace.  We must ask God to transform the falsehood in our own hearts so that we might receive the goodness from his.  We must be open to the reality of Advent.

In this way – with endurance, with fidelity, and with honesty – the prophecy of Hosea will arrive fully.  And in this way the false hearts of the world will become the true heart of Christ.

 

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2 Kings 24 and 25: Historical Messiness

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Jeconiah from Guillaume Rouillé's Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum, 1553

Jeconiah from Guillaume Rouillé’s Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum, 1553

Today we read about the end of Judah, the end of Jerusalem, the end of the Jewish kingdom.  Jehoiachim, thinking perhaps that he might buy some time in a compromise, becomes a vassal of Nebuchadnezzar from 604 40 602 B.C.E.  But in the end, as we read today, death and destruction, ruin and exile take over.  Jehoiachin, who has been king a only few months, surrenders to overwhelming forces.  Zedekiah is named king (his name had been Mattaniah) but he also fails to return the people and himself to Yahweh.

These are sad and piercing stories in which we see all that is valued being carried off; innocent blood is shed, a way of life ends.  And yet does it?

Zedekiah from Guillaume Rouillé's Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum, 1553

Zedekiah from Guillaume Rouillé’s Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum, 1553

We are passing through a time of year which brings us the message of hope in darkness.  We are living in a time when the impossible becomes possible.  For as many times as we find ourselves carted off into exile, we will also find ourselves redeemed and even saved – saved from the treacheries that surround us, saved from the treacheries within.

We have spent time in previous Noontimes reflecting on the times of exile in our lives.  Invaders have overrun our sacred precincts.  Terror seizes us; all that we hold precious is taken away.  Yet, it is the marvel and mystery of living in relationship with God that ultimately saves us.

Bishop Robert Morneau tells us in Daily Reflections for ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS: Waiting in Joyful Hope: Here was a God of infinite compassion, taking on the human condition and plunging into our historical messiness.  Here was a God who understood our pains and joys from the inside.  Here was the Messiah, the Savior of humankind.

King Nebuchadnezzar II (634-562 BCE)

King Nebuchadnezzar II (634-562 BCE)

Today we read about the history of our ancestors and we take time to reflect . . . when we are in the midst of our own historical messiness, when our own holy vessels are carted off and melted down to adorn pagan idols, to whom do we turn for sustenance and comfort?  To whom do we cry out for help?  There is only one person, as Morneau reminds us, only one being who can truly understand our sorrows and our triumphs.  And we are about to celebrate the coming of this being into our presence.  As we move through this last week of Advent, let us carry both our grief and our joy to this one who saves, this one who redeems, this one who loves us so that he comes to us as a child, relying on our own willingness and readiness to be one with him . . . despite our historical messiness.

Adapted from a reflection written on December 16, 2009.

We can read more detail about these ancient kings by clicking on their images or at:

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?letter=J&artid=198

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=73&letter=Z&search=zedekiah 

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/11407-nebuchadnezzar 

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Ephesians 6:10-20The Armor of God

Monday, December 21, 2015roman helmet

In this last week of Advent, we revisit some favorites that remind us of God’s deep and abiding love for us. Today’s reflection is from December 2, 2009. 

Jesus comes to the world not as Plan B after Adam and Eve falter and lose Paradise; rather, he comes to save all of us from our poverty and pain.  This is why we ought not struggle against our suffering.  This is why we find Christ in our anguish and distress.  This is why our anxiety and fear can lead us to transformation once we arm ourselves with the proper armor against the battles we will surely face.

When tragedy happens, when anger grips us, when we become twisted with self-interest and delusion, the one true source of tranquility is union with all of humanity through and with and in the Mystical Corpus of Christ.

roman shieldChrist is, Christ always will be, Christ always has been.  When he arrived in human form among us in a way that we might see and touch him, many of those who followed him wished that he would take a physical sword and shield to begin reaping and avenging.  Many scholars believe that it is for this reason that in the early part of each Gospel, Jesus cautions those who are healed by his touch to keep the story quiet.  He knows that his actions will be taken and converted into human measures and values.  He knows that he come to enact a new way of being and interacting.  He knows that the kingdom is yet to be enacted.  After his death and resurrection and his reappearance in human form, his followers begin to see Christ as he truly is . . . a divinity who loves his creation so intensely that he has born all the transgressions and has redeemed us all.  Even though he has been raised to new plane and place, he still abides among us, bearing the scars of his human life, urging, comforting, encouraging, healing.  There is no condition and no status that he does not understand because he is all.  And we all are one in him.

How do we follow in Jesus steps?  What sort of armor and weapons do we use if we wish to follow him into this place of security and happiness?  Paul reminds us today.

roman swordWhen we stand before the mirror to check our hair, our clothes, our way of being in the world before we go out the door, what do we see?

A shield of anger or of faith?

A belt of lies or of truth?

A breastplate of revenge or of righteousness?

A protective helmet of thick walls and indestructible pathologies or the Word of God which is our only salvation?

Shoes that walk over old paths to harp on old grievances or sandals that take us where God calls so that we might proclaim the story of our own salvation for the praise of God?

As Paul tells us: Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication.  To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication. 

There is no other armor we need in this world than the armor of God.  Let us take it gladly and rejoice that Christ is come.  And let us lay our grievances and worries at his feet to rise with him in a new life.

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Judges 17: As We Are – Part III

Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 20, 2015

MAINO_Fray_Juan_Bautista_adoration_of_the_Shepherds

Fray Juan Bautista Maíno: Adoration of the Shepherds

In this time of Advent, as we expect the coming of light and truth, we reflect on the gift of life that comes to us in the innocence of a child.

As we are . . . We come to the crèche to adore as the lowly shepherds came. The poorest, the marginalized, the abandoned and neglected. We bring our worries and anxieties . . . just as we are.

As we are . . . We come to the stable as the Magi came. The wise, the enlightened, the privileged and comfortable. We bring our hopes and our fears . . . just as we are.

As we are . . . We come to the Christ child as people for millennia have come. The troubled, the peaceful, the miserable, the joyful. We bring our dreams and plans . . . just as we are.

MAINO_Fray_Juan_Bautista_Adoration_of_the_Kings

Fray Juan Bautista Maíno: Adoration of the Magi

As we are . . . We come to Christ as our families and colleagues, our friends and enemies come. We come to Christ’s beauty and innocence and we are either closed or open. We come to life in Christ, and Christ accepts us . . . just as we are. We give thanks for God’s great generosity today.

To listen to the Radiolab podcast on Normalcy today to consider how the norms we adopt open or close us to hear God’s voice, visit: http://www.radiolab.org/story/91693-new-normal/

To reflect on how we come to the Christ child this Advent, click on the images above and study Maíno’s paintings in detail The Adoration of the Shepherds and The Adoration of the Magior visit: https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/adoration-of-the-shepherds/103e1807-2917-4906-87ce-71a3a027f37e?searchid=f9f31297-8ba6-6a71-c8f9-8e467d5eb988 and https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/the-adoration-of-the-magi/3f1f4d63-0476-4ac0-904f-776713defe78?searchid=9245f6a4-fab5-7ba0-23b9-1181d542b32c 

 

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Judges 17: As We Are – Part II

Saturday, December 19, 2015intimacy-with-god1

In this time of Advent, as we expect the coming of light and truth, we reflect on our relationship with Gad and the intimacy we give and receive.  

As a community, the ancient Hebrews in their relationship with Yahweh were continually looking for something to excite or interest them while at the same time walking away from a profound intimacy with a God who loves them more than they can imagine.  As believers today, we are in relationship with God and frequently we look for something we already have . . . the presence within that keeps us from harm and that draws us continually to our own divine origin.  For some reason, we humans struggle with relationships that bring us to the truth of ourselves, relationships that ask us to grow, relationships that fulfill through their constancy.

There is no lack of stories – either about famous celebrities or the people in our own circles of friends and families – of men and women who cannot maintain fidelity.  What is it we fear?  Seeing ourselves in the mirror of the beloved’s eyes?  Finding that we prefer the instant, superficial image that others have of us rather than the enduring truth of who we are?

We need not succumb to the fear of who we might be.  We need not do as we think best but rather, let us do as God thinks best and as God asks of us as we hear in today’s first reading at Mass from Isaiah 30: Thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: O people . . . no more will you weep; he will be gracious to you when you cry out, as soon as he hears you he will answer you.  The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst.  No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher, while from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: “This is the way; walk it in”, when you would turn to the right or to the left.

We have an interior guide who is ever faithful to us.  Let us put aside our fears of who we think we might be to open our eyes and ears to who we really are.  And let us return this gift of self to the God who made us.  For in this one small action we find a self that is waiting to be revealed.  In this one small way . . . we remain truly faithful to the one who knows and loves us . . . precisely as we are.

Tomorrow, the gift of life and love.

A favorite from December 5, 2009.

 

 

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Judges 17: As We Are – Part I

Friday, December 18, 2015the lady with the pet dog

In this time of Advent, as we expect the coming of light and truth, we reflect on the stories of Judges. 

The stories in the Book of Judges describe the cycle the Hebrew people follow repeatedly – they sin, they fall into the servitude of another nation, they petition Yahweh for help, they are delivered by Yahweh, they fall into a silent relationship with Yahweh.  They sin again and the cycle is repeated.  In Judges, a series of leaders guide the people during times of great stress and they are: Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Hepthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon and Samson.  Following these stories there is an epilog describing the nature of religious and moral disorder; and this is where we find ourselves today.  It seems that we human beings continually forget our tendency to fall away from God and as the writer of Judges says in 17:6: In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what he thought best.  He might be writing about today.

Several months ago, a friend handed me a reflection written by Dino Gerard D’Agata, and this line continues to draw me back to re-read it many times: I would wager that anyone who has ever had difficulty remaining faithful to a community, or faithful to a spouse and children, might admit – perhaps reluctantly – that the difficulty lies, not so much in the others, but in his own inability to accept what he sees about himself that becomes irrevocably reflected to him in time that it unavoidably spent with these others.  D’Agata goes on to use the short story of Chekhov – The Lady with the Pet Dog – as an example of this line of thinking.  The protagonist enters into a series of adulterous affairs with various women, we are told, despite the difficulties with logistics and inconveniences, and he realizes that all of the women he ever loved fell in love not with him but with an image they had of him.  D’Agata continues: I suppose if they had fallen in love with who he actually was, he would have accused them of eliciting the same boredom he claimed he found in his wife.  This man cannot live with himself as he is, nor does he improve his behavior; rather, he remains in relationship long enough to see himself as these women imagine him to be . . . and then he exits.  Is he unable to maintain the false version of himself?  Is he unwilling to see his true self?  How long is he able to skim through life, dipping into the surface of relationships without actually coming to grips with who he is and what he is doing?  Endlessly, it seems, but more importantly . . . are we like or unlike this man?

Tomorrow, intimacy with God . . . as we are.

A favorite from December 5, 2009.

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