Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Family’ Category


Acts 26:1-23: Agrippa Hears Paul

Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 19, 2019

Nikolai Bodarevsky: Paul’s Trial before King Agrippa

One of the things we notice about Paul is that he is so intelligent he customizes his words for his particular audience.  We see him in Greek cities where there are few Jews but where the people are open to new thoughts and new ideas.  He appeals to their affinity to mythology by relating to their willingness to have a shrine to an unknown God.  He tells these people that there is such a god, and his name is Jesus.  He captures many in his apostolic net.  When he travels to towns populated by people accustomed to reading scripture (towns more heavily populated with Jews) he bases his oratory on Hebrew Scripture.  Both Paul and the Holy Spirit work mightily to bring all into the church, into Christ’s mystical body.

Last year when we read about the reaction to Paul’s speech we reflected and concluded the following: Having people believe that we are crazy is often the cost of discipleship.

We read his words today and see that he has given them a layman’s version of the Creed, this is what Paul believes, it is what we believe.  And like Paul, when we speak truth and light to power, corruption and darkness . . . we can rest in the understanding that people will think we are crazy!

There are so many places in our lives when this happens.  My parents would always say that you know you are doing God’s work when the establishment gets a bit uncomfortable . . . when the status quo resists change . . . not just any change . . . change that comes from the Spirit.  They would emphasis, as we hear so many times in scripture, if God speaks to you . . . and you do not speak, you do not move, you will have to answer for your omission of action and voice.

This labeling of disciples as crazy numbers us among the brokenhearted, so let us pray the morning intercessions from MAGNIFICAT.

You sent your Son to bring glad tidings to the lowly: may the lowly in our midst read the Gospel in your peoples’ acts of love.

            Make your Church a living sign of your love.

You sent your Son to heal the brokenhearted: may the brokenhearted of our world find relief in your peoples’ compassion.

            Make your Church a living sign of your love.

You sent your Son to proclaim liberty to captives: may those imprisoned in addiction, loneliness, and despair find hope in your peoples’ active concern.

            Make your Church a living sign of your love.

We are Church.  We are Jesus’ Mystical Body.  We are adopted sisters and brothers of the Christ.  We are disciples.  Let us read the words which Paul spoke to power.  Let us take them in.  Let us be The Word that moves into the world.  Let us remember and hold close . . . the knowledge that we are the brokenhearted, but we are not alone.  Amen.


A re-post from May 4, 2012.

Tomorrow we will see how Paul gives a succinct accounting of his work as a disciple to Agrippa.

For more on Paul’s speech before Agrippa including a video clip, click on the image above or go to: http://tyotb.blogspot.com/2012/03/pauls-trial-before-king-agrippa-acts-26.html

Written on March 11, 2008  and posted today as a Favorite.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 3.11 (2008). Print.  

Read Full Post »


Acts 27: Shipwreck

Thursday, May 16, 2019

This week we spend time reflecting on St. Paul and his role in kingdom building.  We take this opportunity to think about the number of times Paul came up against overwhelming odds . . . and was rescued by God.  We take confidence in this knowledge for we too, are rescued from the shipwrecks of life.

We have all been tossed onto the shoals of an island, sometimes with friends, sometimes with captors, and sometimes with both . . . rarely do we find ourselves alone in shipwreck.

If you can find the time, spend a dedicated portion of your day or evening with this chapter because it reveals much to us.  In my view, the most significant lines are the last . . . [The centurion] ordered those on board who could swim to jump overboard first and get to the shore, and then the rest, some on planks, others on debris from the ship.  In this way, they all arrived safely to the shore.

Sometimes we are ordered to go to Rome, to the center of the universe, to the place where all things and all people go – to the place where all roads meet, where all communications converge.  Sometimes we go willingly; sometimes we are taken in shackles.  Life is at times a forced march, and at other times it is freedom which can be more frightening than captivity.  Paul and his companions find themselves en route to the capital city of the empire – Paul wants to have his say before the highest court in order to bring Christ to his largest audience yet.

When we read the description of the storm and its effect upon the travelers, we can liken it to the voyage of our lives – an unpredictable passage through uncertain and open waters.  As the ship takes on water and threatens to disintegrate beneath these travelers with their Roman guards, the sailors want to kill the prisoners before they jump to escape the break-up of the foundering boat.  I am fascinated by Paul’s calm amidst the chaos of his physical and spiritual life.  He has – as a willing servant of the Lord – been thrust into difficult waters and into dangerous arguments . . . yet he continues the journey.  He does as he is asked.

The Roman centurion, who had beforehand paid more attention to the pilot and the owner of the ship than to Paul, now re-assesses the situation and does not choose to kill the prisoners; rather he orders those who can swim to go overboard first, the rest to follow.  Before this part of the story, Paul exhorts all aboard to take heart; and he relates the dream he had the night before – an angel has told him that all will be well.  He outwits the sailors who would abandon ship to leave them adrift to die.  He encourages everyone to eat in order to keep up their strength.  He offers them the communion of bread to share.  Paul ministers to both his captors and his would-be executioners.  This is the role of a true apostle.

As my Dad used to say, “If we are taking on water and we are all in the same boat, why are we all not bailing?”

When we find the ship breaking beneath us, as followers of Christ we do not fend for ourselves, we do not accuse or abandon.  We are to bring Christ to one another.  We are to rebuke those who need rebuking, listen to any admonition a fellow Christian might offer us, tend to those who are weakest, bring all together in Christ and for Christ . . . for Christ knows what lies ahead.  Then surely, as loyal and faith-filled servants, we will jump into the surging waters and grab hold of the flotsam of the wreck . . . and riding the roller coaster of the waves of life . . . all will arrive safely to the shore.

Amen.


A re-post from May 1, 2012.

Images from: http://twistedsifter.com/2011/04/25-haunting-shipwrecks-around-the-world/

Written on September 16, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

For 25 haunting images of shipwrecks around the world, click on the images above or go to: http://twistedsifter.com/2011/04/25-haunting-shipwrecks-around-the-world/

Read Full Post »


Sirach 14:20-27, 15:1-10: Terror and Wisdom

Holy Thursday, April 18, 2019

Happiness is found in the pursuit of our vocation as an integral part of God’s plan in God’s time.  Today’s reading tells us that we are to take individual responsibility for our actions, or lack of them.  We remind ourselves that so frequently we become targets of anger when we work in God’s vineyard.  We also remind ourselves that Wisdom serves a double function: it helps us in our search for our place in God’s plan, and she is also our bulwark in times of fear.

From today’s MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer: John 15:18,20: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.  No slave is greater than his master”.  Disciples who follow Jesus faithfully must expect to follow him into dislike, ridicule, even persecution from those who find the Gospel threatening to their ways of thinking and acting.

Psalm 31 tells us that sometimes In the face of all my foes I am a reproach, an object of scorn to my neighbors and of fear to my friends.  As my Dad used to say, You know who your friends are when it’s “stand up” time. 

Wisdom 2:12-14 Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.  He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord.  To us he is censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us. 

Jeremiah 6:25: Do not go out to the fields or walk on the roads, for the enemy has a sword, and there is terror on every side. 

As we know, so often when we are doing the work we are called to do we encounter huge opposition.  When we stand to witness, a wave of resistance greets us.  This is when we need to rest in Wisdom.

Mother-like she meets and embraces us.  She shelters us from the heat and dwells in our home.  We can lean upon her and not fall.  We can put our trust in her and not be shamed.  We will find joy and gladness and everlasting name in her. 

Where do we find Wisdom?

We pursue her like a scout, peep through her windows and listen at her doorways.  We encamp near her house and fasten our tent pegs near her walls.  We build nests in her leafage and lodge in her branches.

We learn from scripture that Wisdom comes from patient and active waiting on the word of God.  When we meditate on this word, we receive the answers we seek.  These answers will come in God’s time and in God’s way . . . but they will arrive.

So let us pray for those who would terrorize us.  Let us forgive those who wish us ill and bring them with us as we ask Wisdom to open her doors to us.

And let us pray.

Psalm 31As for me, I trust in you, Lord, I say: “You are my God.  My life is in your hands, deliver me from the hands of those who hate me”.

And grant us the Wisdom to see goodness in all things and all people, just as you see goodness in each of us.  Amen.


A re-post from March 4, 2012.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 11.3 (2009). Print.  

Image from: http://akshatrathi.wordpress.com/2012/02/11/the-happiness-paradox/

Read Full Post »


John 8:1-11Letting God Worry

Thursday, January 30, 2019

Guercino: Christ with the Woman Taken in Adultery

Our pastor once began his sermon on the Sunday we heard this story by saying, “So where is the man?” He allowed silence to settle over us and then he continued, “If a woman is committing adultery, a man has been with her.   So where is he?  And why have the scribes and Pharisees not brought him along with this woman to confront Jesus?”  I remember this sermon well because it surprised me.  I had settled into my seat to listen to the familiar lesson about not making accusations quickly lest we find ourselves melting away in embarrassment with the crowd; and instead of the usual line I heard . . . So where is he? 

As I listened to the homily I thought about the times I have stepped forward when I ought to – as we were taught to do by our parents – and I knew why people do not come forward then they should.  We fear retribution; we are afraid we may be cast out or punished; we are ashamed; we lack the strength.  I remembered when I was in the first grade and a friend of mine and I broke a classroom rule together.  It was innocuous but we intended to break the rule; in fact, I think we found it to be silly.  During recess one day, we took new chalk from the box on the teacher’s desk to write on the board instead of using the short stubby pieces on the chalk tray.  When the question came – as we knew it would – I stepped forward as we had agreed – we were going to show the teacher how senseless this rule was – but my friend did not.  I was stunned but suffered the punishment alone.  No afternoon recess.

When I arrived home I told my Mother what had happened.  She first reprimanded me softly but with certainty, telling me that the teachers often bought their own supplies and that I had no right to decide how to use the donated chalk.  After listening to my insistence that my friend had let me take the punishment alone, my mother said patiently, “I guess she just couldn’t fess up . . . but that doesn’t mean she didn’t want to.  Maybe she just didn’t have the strength.  She probably wanted to admit she had broken a classroom rule and just couldn’t.  Instead of fussing about what she did or didn’t do, just be glad that you did the right thing”.  She was right.

When I told my Dad that I had been punished for breaking a class rule but that my friend had not admitted her own guilt and had gotten off with no consequence, he replied as I thought he would, “Let God worry about her.  You have to let people come along in their own time and way”.  I could not let go of the thought that the circumstances were not fair and when I insisted that things weren’t equal my Dad answered, “Maybe not, but you will have to leave the equality part of this to God.  What does or does not happen to her is really none of your business.  I think you need to let God take care of this one.  This is something you can’t fix by force.  You’ll have to use kindness”.  And then Dad added, “Now don’t snub her when you see her tomorrow.  She knows she’s done wrong and she knows she should have taken her punishment just like you did.  You have to get over this and smile at her.  She’ll come around if you do.  You’ll see”.  And of course, he was right.

As I listened to the homily that day about the man who did not come forward to admit his guilt, knowing that the Law focused on the act of the woman and not her partner, I thanked my deceased parents for their wisdom and patience.  I thanked God in heaven that we are created by such a kind, patient and gentle God.  And I thanked Mother and Dad for teaching us how important it is . . . to act in kindness, and to let God do the worrying.


A re-post from January 30, 2012. 

Image from: http://emsworth.wordpress.com/2009/03/30/an-audacious-five-picture-exhibit-at-the-frick-collection/

Read Full Post »


Matthew 18:21-35The Unforgiving Servant

Thursay, January 17, 2019

Rembrandt: The Unforgiving Servant

It is so very difficult to forgive those who have wronged us grievously; and it is also difficult to curb the pressing urge to seek revenge against our enemies.  Jesus tells us today that we must endlessly forgive those who harm us . . . otherwise we are like the unforgiving servant in today’s parable.  And the frightening outcome of his life is not one we want for ourselves or our loved ones.

Seventy-seven times, we are told by scholars and experts, represents a number of completion.  By forgiving endlessly we near the perfection or completion we yearn for.  The irony here is that when we become the unforgiving servant we distance ourselves from the very fullness we seek.  We label ourselves as partial and lacking.  Jesus warns us of this today.

Luke also records that Jesus tells his followers they must forgive endlessly (17:4).  This is something they and we struggle to understand.  Our instincts tell us to attack, defend, justify and explain.  We want to come out of any dispute or confrontation as the clear and evident winner.  We want to survive.  For most of us it is difficult to walk away from an argument or to allow another to have the last word; yet Jesus tells us that our first step toward wholeness is to forgive.  Reconciliation will follow if we remain open.  Isolation, anger and fear become more distant and even impossible when we turn our backs on revenge and seek union instead.  Jesus calls us to this today.

St. Paul reminds the Ephesians (4:32) to be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.  Which one of us, he implies, is so perfect that we cannot forgive?  And how do we hold a grudge when Jesus – God among us – does not?  St. Paul points this out to us today.

Immaculée Ilibagiza

Following the horrific genocide in Rwanda, the warring Hutus and the Tutsis were brought together in a journey from fighting to forgiveness.  We follow events as they unfold; we want this reconciliation to work because this coming together of bitter enemies tells us that we are worth redeeming.  It shows us what God sees in us.  It reminds us of God’s covenant promise to us.  Powerful testimonials to our capacity to forgive can be found in both print and video media and here are only a few examples.  http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/8564297/ns/today/t/fighting-forgiveness-rwanda/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mK0W4jx2OZY  and http://articles.cnn.com/2008-05-15/world/amanpour.rwanda_1_hutu-gitarama-tutsis?_s=PM:WORLDWhen we read, hear or view these stories, we take heart.  We once again bolster ourselves for the difficult yet redeeming task of forgiving others.  We once more feel the stirrings of hope in our tired hearts.  We again pull ourselves away from our fear to love our enemies into goodness.

Kill them with kindness, my mother always advised, taking her example from Jesus.  Let God worry about the other guy, Dad always told us, knowing that evil is too enormous and too dangerous for us to conquer on our own.  In her book entitled Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Genocide, Immaculée Ilibagiza tells her story that echoes those of so many other holocaust survivors that God resides even in the center of hell itself if that is where he has to be in order to save us.  This is how much God loves us.  This is how much we can love one another.

When we feel ourselves drawn into this story as the master or the servants, we know that it holds something for us.  When we find ourselves giving over to the anger within us and fear that it will control our thoughts, words and actions, we will want to turn to this story.  When someone who has wronged us approaches us in humble fear of our retaliation, let us reach out a warm and welcoming hand and remember the words that Jesus taught us to pray . . .  Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And let us remember the story of the unforgiving servant.


A re-post from January 17, 2012.

Images from: http://australiaincognita.blogspot.com/2008_10_01_archive.html and https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/thumblg_immaculee1.jpg

To read more about Immaculée Ilibagiza, see: http://www.beliefnet.com/Inspiration/Most-Inspiring-Person-Of-The-Year/2006/Immacule-Ilibagiza.aspx

For more on Rwando, go to: http://www.unitedhumanrights.org/genocide/genocide_in_rwanda.htm

Read Full Post »


Obadiah 1:10-14Gentleness

Friday, January 11, 2019

Written on January 10, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Growing up in a family of five with parents who came from families of more than 10 children each, and having lived and learned with siblings who tumbled over one another as puppies in a litter, I have always been fascinated by the stories in scripture of rivalry in families.  Indeed, just last evening I had dinner with a friend and we spent lots of time sharing and laughing about the “one-upping” that goes on in all families.  We so often forget that God is in charge.

Today’s reading is from Obadiah, a prophet who wrote about five centuries before Christ at a time when the Edomites were forced west out of their own territory near the gulf of Aqaba, and moved into Judah to take up Jewish land.  The Edomites and Israelites had been separated as a result of the division which occurred between brothers at the time of Jacob and Esau.  We can read about the beginning of this division in Genesis, but today we are looking at and reflecting on the long-standing feud which existed between these tribes.  Obadiah warns that we are to be gentle to our enemies, especially when they suffer.  This is an idea which fully blooms when Jesus arrives: intercession for those who do us harm is the first work of the disciple.  And it is difficult work.  Demanding, soul-searching, transforming and glorious work.  There is no other way to love.

Today’s first reading at Mass is 1 John 4:19-5:4.  It is well worth reading in light of Obadiah.  I am particularly struck by these verses:  Whoever does not love a brother whom he sees cannot love God whom he has not seen . . . His commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.  And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.

When we are up against someone or some group doing us damage, we are to “kill them with kindness” as my mother always instructed us.  We are to “let God worry about the other guy” as my Dad always told us.  When we release the anguish and anxiety about how to handle someone difficult, when we give the task over to God who converts harm to good, the pain eases, goes away, and even begins to convert to something glorious and joyful.  We begin to transform.  We may be called to rebuke our neighbor, but when we are . . . we must be gentle.  We may be called to reprove . . . and when we are we must be gentle.  We ourselves may be rebuked by a friend or an enemy . . . and when we are . . . we must listen.  For in these words may be the voice of God.  This is what Obadiah and John are both telling us.  Joy awaits those who seek healing for their brothers and sisters . . . all brothers and sisters . . . those we love . . . and those we find difficult to love.  In this way we heal not only others but ourselves.  This is the work of a disciple.

From Leviticus and Romans as cited in MAGNIFICAT in the Morning Prayer: You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart.  Though you may have to reprove your fellow-man, do not incur sin because of him.  Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the Lord.  (Leviticus 19:17-18)  Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.  (Romans 13:10)

And so we pray . . .

Awesome yet Gentle God,

Teach us your Ways.

Teach us your Precepts.

Teach us your Mercy.

Teach us your Law.

Teach us your Gentleness.

Teach us your Justice.

Teach us your Love.

Amen.


A re-post from January 11, 2012.

Image from: http://developingyourspirit.blogspot.com/2010/05/gentleness.html

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 10.1 (2008). Print.  

Read Full Post »


2 Chronicles 26Pride and Fall

Tuesday, Christmas Day, December 25, 2018

On the day we celebrate the humble entry of the Christ in a world yearning for healing, we remember the re-post from November 22, 2011. We remember the lesson of  pride that Uzziah teaches us.

Rembrandt: King Uzziah

My mother warned us often: Pride goeth before a fall; she was likely referring to Proverbs 16:18: Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.   Today we are presented with a detailed story of how Uzziah takes so much that God has given to him – wealth, power and fame – and quickly loses it: But after he had become strong, he became proud of his own destruction and broke faith with the Lord, his God.  Was it the flocks and vineyards he owned, the soldiers he commanded or the city fortifications he built that fogged his vision?  We will never know what urged him to take over the office of the temple priest, but we do know his fate: leprosy broke out on his forehead . . . [and the priests] expelled him from the temple.  He fled unwillingly, for the Lord had afflicted him. King Uzziah remained a leper until the day of his death. He lived in exile, in a segregated house, excluded from the Lord.  We can imagine how difficult it must have been for Uzziah to process what had happened to him; and we can appreciate how difficult it must have been for him to deal with his heavy loss: a man who has all suddenly is separated from all that makes him powerful, rich and famous.

David: The Coronation of Napoleon

I remember an historical novel my Mother gave me to read; it was by Annemarie Selinko and was later made into the film Désirée.  It is the intriguing and convoluted story of Napoleon Bonaparte told from the point of view of a young woman he met, wooed and left behind.  It was valuable to me as a young girl and it is valuable to me today as I recall its latent message of pride going before a fall, and I also recall a conversation I had with Mother about humility and gratitude being the antidotes that will inoculate us against the insidious, deadly workings of pride.

Pride can make us ugly.  It can warp and distort our vision and hearing.  It makes us the people we have pledged to never be.  Gratitude puts us in proper relationship with self, God and others.  It reminds us gently that we are not the alpha and omega.  It whispers to us quietly that we have much to learn and that we cannot foresee or control the future.  Humility reminds us to take the last seat at the table rather than the first.  It gives us time to think, restrains us from making fools of ourselves and saves us from impulsivity.  Together, gratitude and humility can steer us away from the fall of pride but ultimately we must be the ones who save ourselves from the hubris that stalks any successful man or woman.

Napoleon crowns himself king, I learned in high school, and when I saw the painting by David in our textbook I remembered the story of the young girl who found out that the disaster of her inconstant suitor was salvation in disguise.  Uzziah is king and enters the temple to act as a priest and make an offering on the altar.  These are stories worth remembering.  They are lessons worth learning.  As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, let us call upon the twin angels of gratitude and humility . . . and keep them close at hand.


More details about Uzziah can be found at the following sites: http://www.christianlibrary.org/authors/John_L_Kachelman_Jr/kings-ot/uzziah.html and http://bibleencyclopedia.com/uzziah.htm

Images from: http://badgercatholic.blogspot.com/2011/05/mary-help-of-christians-ora-pro-nobis.html and http://biblicalgenealogy.kavonrueter.com/Pictures-Ozias.htm

Read Full Post »


Matthew 17:24-27The Temple Tax

Christmas Eve, Monday, December 24, 2018

Today we celebrate the coming of the One who teaches us how to pay the Temple tax, how to live in this world while not being part of it. 

L.L.Effler: Paying the Temple Tax

When we throw ourselves into understanding and living the Gospel we run the risk of becoming fanatic about its meaning and implications.  Ultimately, God speaks to each of us in our hearts to answer questions and to clear up ambiguities.  In due course, God makes the meaning of his Word known . . . and it is for each of us to learn how to best live out this Word.

The story of Jesus paying the temple tax with a coin found in a fish is one that appears simple but is, in fact, complex.  It calls us to examine our relationship with the society’s civil and religious structures.  It asks us to evaluate our own concept of personal freedom.

 “The point [here] is not that Jesus rejects the temple cult.  He rather rejects the idea that theocratic taxation is the appropriate means of maintaining that cult.  But with the miracle – not actually narrated – of the coin in the fish (which sounds like a piece of folklore), Jesus makes arrangements for payment.  He thereby avoids offending the devout people who, in collecting the money, think themselves to be serving God.  Personal freedom must be delimited because it must be frequently exercised, which means it must take into account the effect upon others (cf. 1 Cor. 8:13).  At the same time, by not giving his own money but by giving a lost coin, Jesus does not acknowledge the legitimacy of a mandatory tax”.  (Barton and Muddiman 866)

As a youngster I was fascinated by the idea that my personal liberty ends where others’ liberty begins.  I remember the animated discussions my middle school teachers sparked with their blanket statements; these generalities were blatant syllogisms of reason used poorly and we young people responded enthusiastically.  We honed our systems of well-ordered logic and practiced the art of zeroing in a specious argument with respect and courtesy.

As a young woman the realities of life asked me to draw lines and determine boundaries; and I began to learn how to effectively and politely use the phrase that is not my problem while still taking responsibility for my actions.  It was a time of separation from the old with an exciting entrance into to new.  I tried to fully comprehend my Dad’s warning that it’s not so bad to be ignorant of the facts but it is unforgivable to be stupid!  Dad encouraged us to learn as much as possible in order to keep our risk of being ignorant low; and he was clear that there was no excuse for a lack of common sense.  Stupidity, in his view, was a willful neglecting of the facts that blocked our own liberty or the liberty of others.  Dad worked hard at being open and he encouraged that openness in us.

In today’s Noontime Jesus teaches by his example.  As happens so many times in the Gospel accounts Jesus lays open reality for us to examine.  He gives us an opportunity to educate ourselves.  He encourages us to hone our sense of fair play.  He asks us to think about others while at the same time we refine our sense of fair play and propriety.  Jesus asks us to think for ourselves, to use divine logic and in brief . . . Jesus asks us to grow up.

It is clear from his actions and words that Jesus places prime importance on taking care of others even to the point of sacrifice.  But it is also clear that we are responsible for observing spiritual and actual parameters.  We are not encouraged to enable or pretend but rather, we are asked to serve others before self, act in kindness, hold true to the commandment of love we have been given, and to exercise our own freedom while not trampling of the right of others to likewise be free.

Many of us have difficulty with this lesson and yet once learned it is not forgotten because the sweet joy of personal liberty has a value beyond price.  The boundary between self and others is clearly delineated by courtesy and kindness.  The rule of generosity and compassion pertains to each and to all of us.  The temple tax is to be paid out of respect for others . . . but the legitimacy of our own relationship with God is never to be forfeited.


A re-post from November 21, 2011.

Image from: http://www.revelationart.org/Gallery1.html

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001.866. Print.

Read Full Post »


Matthew 2:13-15Flight

Monday, November 26, 2018

Each year my students and I study the topic of immigration and one of the questions I ask – in Spanish, of course, since theirs is a Spanish class – is what year their families immigrated to the U.S.  Each time I ask there is a student or two whose family has an ancestor from a North American indigenous tribe.  Each year there are first generation Americans, and sometimes there are even students whose families have recently arrived in the U.S.  We discuss who and what it means to be “American” and we open our horizon to understand that anyone born in the Americas is actually AmericanThis is always something the girls have to chew on for a bit.  We remind ourselves that in Spanish there is an adjective that describes someone from the U.S.  . . . estadounidenseThis causes some frowns along with knowing nods.

As we wrap up this annual discussion, I ask the girls to return the next day with the name of a famous refugee or immigrant without whom the course of human history would be less light and more dark.  They like this task.  When they return to class we hear the typical names and some students even go back to ancient narratives to name the Hebrews and their struggles in foreign lands; but they rarely name the Holy Family.  When I refer to the “angel’s warning to Joseph” that we read in today’s Noontime, students think I refer to the dream in which Gabriel appears to encourage Joseph to take Mary as a wife even though she is with child.  I always think it sad that we somehow stop the Christmas story before we arrive at a most important point . . . Jesus and his family flee persecution and move to another land where they speak another language, learn about new customs, and earn and spend different currency.  This is such a good lesson for a language classroom, particularly in today’s climate.

This discussion often engenders a good conversation about borders, frontiers, empire, colonization, passports and identity documents.  We talk about how St. Paul made his famous evangelization journeys without having to apply for visas or travel papers or check in at border crossings.  We also discuss the influence of families in the colony of Costa Rica and speculate about how the presence – or absence – of women and children in the formative stages of nation building shapes and forms a national psyche.   We discuss human conduct, human tribalism and the treatment of those within and outside of our own tribe.  These discussions are always rewarding for the students and for me.  I never fail to learn something new.

Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night . . .

I am reminded of my own family history of Europeans who rose to depart from familiar places to arrive at foreign shores in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.  My mother was a first-generation American while my dad’s family was here to fight in the Revolutionary War.  My mother’s family taught their offspring the value of personal freedom, they all registered and voted, and they remembered their roots in a South Philadelphia polyglot neighborhood where English was spoken with many heavy, foreign accents.  My father’s family was a mixture of old world lineage with newcomer spunk.  Both families raised feisty, independent, community building youngsters who cared about family, church and home.  They knew the heartache of uprooting and leavings.  They all left loved ones behind knowing that they would never embrace or kiss again.  They understood the importance of the cover of darkness and the promise of daylight at the end of an arduous journey.

Rise, take the child and his mother, flee . . .

We live in a world of 7 billion people who are on the move yet long for stability.  Many of us encounter hostility and violence even as we look for security and dependability.  We are all God’s people yet some of us want clear boundaries that close us into protective enclaves while others of us look to open up locked doors to let in fresh air.  But the commonality we hold – whether we want to admit this or not – is this . . . in God’s kingdom we are all refugees arriving at God’s open gate in various states of disarray and need.  In God’s kingdom we have all taken flight to jostle into a newness that we hope for yet dread.  In God’s kingdom we are sisters and brothers trailing along dragging the suitcases we will not be needing.  In God’s kingdom . . . we have all taken flight together . . . to arrive at the newness of God’s sure promise.


A re-post from October 24, 2011.

Image from: http://www.joyfulheart.com/christmas/christmas_artwork.htm

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: