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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Jeremiah 10

shepherd-in-wilderness1Christ the King

The pagan gods and cult idols must be carried about, for they cannot walk . . . but Jesus walks among us.

Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, they cannot speak . . . but our God speaks to us constantly.

Fear them not, they can do no harm, neither is it in their power to do good . . . the Holy Spirit comforts and abides with us always. 

No one is like you, O Lord, great are you, great and mighty is your name.  Who would not love you . . . for it is your due!

Today we hear a message from Jeremiah affirming all that we know to be true. False shepherds will fall away; the One True Shepherd will gather the lost to bring them home. This King of all carries us on his shoulders – rather than asking us to carry him about. This King of all accompanies us everywhere – even when we feel alone or betrayed, not only when we are happy or joy-filled. This King protects, guides, guards, and loves us – even though we stray, complain and stumble.

This King will never falter, never err, never abandon even one of the flock. This King directs our every step if we only allow it. In his Old Testament frame of mind, Jeremiah asks Yahweh to punish Israel’s enemies. In our New Testament perspective, we pray for those who harm us, we intercede and ask forgiveness. Just as Jesus does. It is when we feel the most alone that we might also most feel God’s presence. If we wish to feel in control of our lives, we must abandon ourselves to Christ. If we wish to feel inspired and passionate about all we do, we must first welcome the Spirit into our hearts to accompany our prayer. If we wish to be treasured, we must first care for those whom no one loves. If we wish to be one with our brother, Christ the King, we must first be sister and brother to our enemies. And we must ask that God show them – and us – mercy.

You know, O Lord, that man is not master of his way; man’s course is not within his choice, nor is it for him to direct his step.

Love us, O Lord, and call those who have wandered far from you.  Pour out your grace upon us, so that we might hear you and respond to your call.  We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Christ and King, together with the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 


Adapted from a reflection written on November 21, 2010, the Feast of Christ the King.

Image from: http://agapegeek.com/2011/06/26/understanding-how-to-be-led-by-the-spirit-of-god-your-introduction-to-the-good-shepherd-part-1/ 

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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Unidentified Flemish painter: Rich and Poor, or War and Peace

Unidentified Flemish painter: Rich and Poor, or War and Peace

Jeremiah 8

Incomprehensible Conduct

When someone falls, does he not rise again? If he goes astray, does he not turn back? Why do these people rebel with obstinate persistence?

Jeremiah sees the coming calamity: the stubborn Israelites refuse to cease worshiping idols. The prophet knows that these are a stubborn, persistent people . . . and the prophet sees their conduct as incomprehensible.

We frequently hear and use the word persistence to indicate our perseverance in following Christ. Here the prophet Jeremiah reminds the people of Judah – and us today – that God grieves for us when we are persistent in our lack of repentance and our shameless conduct. Yet we know it is equally true that God’s loving Spirit will heal and cure us when we decide to turn away from our idols. We understand that the persistent love Christ lives out for us will redeem our unbelievable behavior. We live in the hope that God’s compassion for us will abide . . . even when our conduct is beyond comprehension.

In his letter to the Romans (12:14-21), Paul reminds the faithful of the depth, the breadth and the intensity of God’s love for us – and the persistence of this love in the face of our inexplicable reluctance to return God’s love. Bless your persecutors; never curse them, bless them. Rejoice with others when they rejoice and be sad with those in sorrow. Give the same consideration to all others alike. Pay no regard to social standing, but meet humble people on their own terms. Do not congratulate yourself on your own wisdom. Never try to get revenge: leave that, my dear friends, to the Retribution. As scripture says: “Vengeance is mine – I will pay them back”, the Lord promises. And more: If your enemy is hungry, give him something to eat, if thirsty, something to drink. By this you will be heaping red-hot coals on his head”. Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good.

When human conduct is incomprehensible in its darkness and evil, rather than attempting to convert these souls on our own, we must turn to God, the source of healing and redemption. We must intercede for these lost ones and ask that God call them into the light from their shadowy places. And we must ask that the Light of the world, the Christ, enter into them to cure and redeem them. In this way their conduct may become comprehensible. In this way we demonstrate our eagerness to seek the perfection of Christ in all we say and think and do.


Adapted from a reflection written on June 26, 2010.

For a reflection on Jeremiah 8, click on the image above or go to: https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1771

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creedSunday, July 25, 2021

Jeremiah 6

The Tester

The prophet Jeremiah warns his own people and he warns us that a time of examination will come upon us.  This is a certainty.  The uncertainty is this: Will we endure?  We may question, we may wonder and we may seek and we will be tested.  The many trials we undergo comprise our suffering and for this we must not be angry.  Nor ought we to test the Lord ourselves, as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:9: We should not test the Lord.

Jeremiah 6:27 – A tester among my people I have appointed you, to search and test their way.

Romans 12:2 – Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve of what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

1 Corinthians 3:13 – The fire [of the Day of Christ’s coming] will test the quality of each man’s work. 

2 Corinthians 13:5-6 – Examine yourselves to see whether you are in faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust you will discover that we have not failed the test.

Galatians 6:4 – Each one should test his own actions.  Then he can take pride in himself without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 – Test everything.  Hold on to the good.  Avoid every kind of evil.

James 1:12 – Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 

1 John 4:1 – Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 

Revelation 3:10 – Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on earth. 

The Tester is coming so we will want to test ourselves and we will want to determine our personal creed so that we know it by heart. We will want to adhere to what is good and to avoid evil. We will beware of false teachers. We will examine the quality of our own work to see where it is wanting and we will refrain from judging the work of others. We will be persistent and patient as we endeavor to be perfect in our persistence to model Jesus. We will pray for ourselves and others, especially our enemies. We will love what is good. We will spend time with the prophets and the word to see what we might learn for in this is wisdom. In this is our own salvation and the salvation of many.


A Favorite from June 6, 2010.

Image from: http://www.powerpointapologist.org/series_creed.html and http://gloria-deo.blogspot.com/2013/05/need-creed.html

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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Jeremiah 5

belief_quotes_6Universal Corruption

We are all human. None of us is immune from our tendency to stray from truth. Each of us is from time to time fascinated by the darkness that ebbs beyond the circle of light in which we stand. Physically, we press the limits of the body to find our weak spots and our strengths. Psychologically, we tinker with the places in life which lure us into wrong-doing – all the better to know what we might become if we allow ourselves to grow. Spiritually, we wander into the places where doubt blossoms – for as much as we doubt, so also do we believe.

Miguel de Unamuno, a 20th Century Spanish existentialist, wrote a sonnet entitled Prayer of an Atheist in which he explores the pendulum swing of faith and doubt, hope and despair. He also wrote a beautiful poem, In the Hand of God, in which he juxtaposes images to create the gentle rocking back and forth we feel of our movement between God’s two hands, our movement to and from God’s breast. We are well-loved. We are constantly tended. We consistently stray. We are always offered the opportunity for reconciliation and restoration by a loving and giving God. We may always open our hearts to those who wound us.

In his book The Sacred Heart of the World: Restoring Mystical Devotion to Our Spiritual Life, David Richo describes a four-fold devotion to the Sacred Heart with which we may join others in healing the world. Today we pause to think about the impossibility that God may make possible . . . if we but ask.

  • First, we extend our prayer life to include others in anything we ask for ourselves, and thus we seek the Christ in each human being.
  • Second, we pray for those who persecute us, and thus we convert insult to prayer.
  • Third, we commit to ceasing engagement in retaliation, and thus we return blessing for hurt. This does not mean that we ask to be humiliated; rather, we protect ourselves and our personal boundaries while in the meantime we . . .
  • Fourth, pray for the universe, for we are all corrupt in one way or another.

Richo includes prayers of mystics which we might use, and here is one from Saint Teresa of Ávila: I shape my heart like that of others that I meet and theirs like mine.

Imagine what goodness we might bring about if we might only pray earnestly in this way.

An interesting read is The Isaiah Effect: Decoding the Lost Science of Prayer and Prophecy by Gregg Braden. In this book, Braden encourages us to examine what happens when we come together in petition, what takes place when we agree to gather through prayer to ask God’s healing for the world.

Imagine what beauty we might bring about if only we might see our universal corruption . . . if only we might pray earnestly in unison . . . if only we might join in bringing about the kingdom . . . if only we might believe that the impossible is possible . . . if only we might act in our hope for the world.


For a 30 day online retreat with references to Teilhard de Chardin, Karl Rahner, and practicing the art of spiritual imagination, visit Richo’s site at :http://davericho.com/sacred-heart-retreat-html/

For more quotes about belief, click on the image above or visit: https://quotesgram.com/quotes-about-belief-systems/

Adapted from a reflection written on June 9, 2008.

Image from: https://quotesgram.com/quotes-about-belief-systems/ 

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Friday, July 23, 2021

Jeremiah 4

ReconciledbannerSincere Repentance – A Reprise

Just when we believe that hope is lost, a door opens. Just when we think that we will not be forgiven, word arrives. Just when we feel the end is near, life begins again. Psalm 133 celebrates the goodness to be found when adversaries determine to reconcile differences.

Assurance

How very good and pleasant it is when we see God in one another despite narrow hearts and tightened minds.

These quick moments delight as surely as a loved one’s gaze renews  . . . as ever a child’s breath blesses her mother’s cheek.

The Lord’s happily granted gift of forgiveness heals all . . . despite our reluctance to respond to God’s love.

The Lord’s freely given gift of life affirms divinity in each . . . despite our reluctance to believe in God’s promise.


Visit the Spiritual Courage post on this blog by entering the words into the blog search bar, and consider the consequence of a severe repentance. What consequences await us when we gather courage to do what we know must be done?

Image from: http://www.everydaychurch.com/cpt_news/reconciled-amaris/

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sincerityThursday, July 22, 2021

Jeremiah 3

Sincere and Insincere Conversion

In chapters 3 and 4 of Jeremiah we see how the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah turned from the Lord their God to a life of idol worship and harlotry. Let us consider some thoughts from The Dilemma of Narcissus by Louis Lavelle (W.T Gairdner, Tr. Larson Publications, Burdett, N.Y. 1993), a portion of which was published in the May 2007 issue of MAGNIFICAT. His words ask us to think of sincerity as a continual growth process rather than a character trait or a commodity to be gained.

To be sincere is to show oneself, but at the same time . . . one is making oneself.

Sincerity must reach out, beyond all speech, to an invisible inner life.

Sincerity appears only when the inner life begins to be incarnated in acts which determine both our true being and our destiny.

True sincerity is an accomplishment. And it is quite conceivable that one should miss it, whether through laziness or through fear, or because one finds it easier, or more expedient to yield to public opinion and to renounce oneself, letting oneself be dragged unremittingly down the slope of social conformity.

In sincerity, the act by which we find ourselves and the act by which we make ourselves are one and the same. Sincerity is at once the attention which arouses our potentialities, and the courage which gives them form, without which they would be nothing.

Sincerity challenges all the voices which call to me from without, and commands me to descend into my heart’s heart. It is always a return to the source. It makes me a being perpetually being born.

Sincerity liberates us from every preoccupation with public opinion or with the effect we are producing. It brings us back to our own origin, showing us to ourselves as we were when we left the Creator’s hands, when life first flashed forth, and before outer appearances had begun to seduce us, or we had learned the art of pretending.

It is rectitude of a will which admits no duplicity, no evasion, and no dissembling, between man and other men.

Sincerity is spiritual nobility. For the sincere man seeks to live under the open sky; he alone has enough self-respect to hide nothing from himself, and to expect nothing except from the truth; he alone is not content merely to appear, but establishes himself so firmly in being that for him being is indistinguishable from appearance.

Sincerity is the act by which I put myself under the eye of God; there is no other sincerity.

In today’s reading, Jeremiah calls the wayward Israel and Judah to sincerity. He warns Judah that her sin is more grave than that of Israel who first strayed. Why? Because the traitor sister did not return to me wholeheartedly, but insincerely.

We often lament the lack of sincerity in others, but this week we might take time to examine our inner self for the presence or lack of sincerity, and to return to the paths we know are just and merciful. We might spend a few minutes reflecting on our own spiritual nobility. How do we reflect God to others? What social slopes are we willing to slide down? To what social conformities do we bow? Do we have the courage to rise to our potentialities? What inner life do we incarnate with our speech and actions? With what duplicities are we content? Do we challenge the voices without and descend to our heart’s heart?

In God’s Eyes

God in Heaven, God on Earth, call to us . . . we want to return to your hands.

God Incarnate, God Abiding, remain in us . . . we want to follow your feet.

God Consoling, God of Wisdom, bring us strength . . . we know what we must do.

God of Freedom, God of Truth, we feel your presence . . . we come back to your heart.

God of All, God of Each, our hearts sing praise . . . we seek to live sincerely . . . in your eyes.


Adapted from a reflection written on February 2, 2008. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 21.5 (2007): 298-300. Print.

Image from: http://www.tiptopsigns.com/Chinese-Symbol-Decals-p-1-c-96.html 

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An Almond Tree

An Almond Tree

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Jeremiah 1 & 2

The Watching Tree

Footnotes tell us that the watching tree in verse 11 refers to the almond tree; “the first to bloom in the springtime as though it had not slept. The Hebrew name contains a play on words with ‘I am watching’.” The opening lines here tell us of Jeremiah’s office as prophet. We are given his credentials, so that we might hear and heed the words here offered, so that we might not be afraid, so that we might remember to turn to God in times of turmoil, and so that we might shun the false idols that offer themselves in place of God.

Jeremiah protests that he is too young to serve God as prophet but the Lord says to him: Have no fear . . . because I am with you to deliver you . . . It is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass . . . they will fight against you, but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you.

These are words of warning to a people who had turned away from Yahweh and back to the Baal gods. They are also words of encouragement to us. History tells us that the oracles predicted here by Jeremiah unfolded as truth; therefore, the opening words of this prophecy can serve to comfort us as we struggle to understand our role as followers of Christ. God’s words through Jeremiah are meant to console us while we remain the watching trees that remind others of the hope Christ brings, of the trust we must place in God, and of the danger in worshiping false and feeble gods.

I remember the devotion of your youth, the Lord tells us, Sacred to the Lord was Israel, the first fruits of the harvest; should anyone presume to partake of them, evil would befall him, says the Lord. As watching trees, we must have our eyes and hearts open to those who would deceive us, we must announce with a flurry of white blossoming the advent of a time of renewal and rebirth so those who have strayed may yet return. And we need not have any fear about our work of watching, for with God all things are possible. God always delivers the faithful.

When storms destroy all that we hold sacred, there is yet hope.

When trials sap our courage, there is yet strength.

When betrayals blind us to the possibility of a love that knows no bounds, there is yet God.

When suffering swallows our days, there is a place to go and there is something to be done. We are called to be watching trees that announce the hope of the human race. We are created to be watching trees that trust only their maker. We come to fruition as watching trees that offer first fruits back to God and produce good fruit in due season.

We are called by our creator to witness as we watch and wait. When pain and sorrow take over, or in gladness and celebration, let us keep watch as if we have not slept, let us be the first to burst into flower and witness to the hint of spring. And while we wait on the Lord, let us offer our work to the God who made us, God who delivers us, and God who loves us.

No matter our circumstances, sorrow or joy, let us take up our task as watching trees and announce the goodness of God.


Adapted from a reflection written on June 12, 2010.

Image from: http://www.carrollcrossroads.com/blog/the-almond-tree

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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

jeremiah 15Jeremiah 1

Persecution

Jeremiah’s prophecy is complex; it consists of judgment oracles, narratives about his life, and sermons. Throughout all of this his voice brings not only a constant warning but also a certain consolation to those who are willing to suffer. To the faithful remnant he says what we long to hear: that we are loved, that God’s name is written on our hearts, and that we are called. He speaks to anyone eager to find the truth embedded in each of us, the truth that is God.

Jeremiah speaks to the experience of persecution and this is a theme that resonates with all human beings for all of us at one time or at many times – either justly or unjustly – are persecuted. We all know what it feels like to be left out, over looked, betrayed, and even punished for what we believe is truth. Ultimately, only God can let us know if we are living an honest life; and God does this frequently. Only God can indicate to us that our suffering has been either self-pitying and pointless or redemptive and fruitful. We all suffer. But do we suffer well? God tells us about the truth of our suffering by pointing out to us the fruits of our labor. And God does this gently by telling us that we are wonderfully made, and that we need not fear. God tells us that there is hope.

From the HARPERCOLLINS NRSV STUDY BIBLE (Meeks 1113): Here indeed was a prophet who combined elegance of form with the ethical and redemptive content of the “word of the Lord”. And perhaps more than anyone in his time, Jeremiah provided the means by which a despairing people could hope for a new future.

Reading the first chapter of this profound prophecy is an invitation to new life and to hope, an invitation to join Christ in the kind of suffering that saves souls and that transforms itself and us into a joy-filled gift. We are invited into this redemptive mystery that is God’s love.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you . . .

You are mine. You are special. I have a particular job in mind for you.

And before you were born I consecrated you . . .

Because you are mine you are holy. You are my temple. I want to dwell within you.

I appointed you a prophet to the nations . . .

You have words to say and gestures to make in my Name.

Then I said – Ah Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a child . . .

We reply in fear to this awesome task, believing falsely that we are not up to the journey that lies before us.

But the Lord said to me – Do not say “I am only a child’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you . . .

You are my gift to the world . . . my gift of joy. I see a wonderful potential in you . . . for you are designed in love by me . . . to love me in all places and times and peoples . . . you are made to put away fear . . . in yourself and in others . . .

Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you . . .

Until the end of time . . . Amen.


Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. 1113. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on Friday, January 16, 2009.

Image from: http://maryhess.com/and-mary-pondered-jeremiah-15/

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Cana-Wedding-Village-ancient-Holy-Land-pictureSaturday, July 17, 2021

Ruth 1:19-22

Return to Bethlehem

As we have mentioned earlier this week, the people in this story are part of Jesus’ family tree, and as always with Scripture, we see God in the daily living of these ordinary lives lived in an extraordinary way. The message is clear if we might only look and listen: if something is bound to happen, no one can intervene, and if something is not going to take place, no one can cause it to take place . . . except God. God is in charge.

I like this story because it shows the proper covenant relationship between God the creator and us, God’s creatures. God is always present; it is we who struggle to perceive this presence. When we pause to reflect and to look more closely, we might watch God take action through people who respond to God’s call. In this way then, we can say that we mediate God’s actions.

This story shows how tragedy can be transformed by allowing God’s love to move through us, and allowing God’s love to be actualized through us. Are we not constantly surprised by the inverted way in which God works in our lives?

Jeff Cavins writes, “The story of Ruth is almost a story of Judges in reverse: she is a woman from a pagan nation whose people were hostile to Israel (it was Moabite women who seduced Israel to worship Baal at Peor, and Moab’s king Balak who summoned Baalam to curse Israel back in Numbers 22-25). But Ruth forsakes the gods of Moab to faithfully serve Yahweh. That chapter 4 recognizes Ruth as an ancestress of David, and that Matthew includes her in the genealogy of Jesus helps us remember that God’s ultimate plan was to include all nations in His family. Ruth is in many ways what Israel was called to be.”

Today’s citation is early in Ruth’s story and follows the famous “Whither thou goest” line in verses 16 and 17. The women return to Bethlehem at the start of the barley harvest, a harvest which plays an important part in the story that is unfolding. The town celebrates this return as do we.

Recalling that women without men held little value in these ancient times, we can only stand in awe of Ruth and Naomi’s courage in the face of tragedy. We can only hope to see these ordinary lives as extraordinary models for us to follow. We can only believe that God works with us through our own tragedies and joys . . . so let us be open to God’s word in us today.


Jeff Cavins, Sarah Christmeyer and Tim Gray, THE GREAT ADVENTURE: A JOURNEY THROUGH THE BIBLE. Ascension Press, 2007.

Adapted from a Favorite written on August 14, 2007.

Image from: http://www.christianholyland.com/ancient-holyland-photos/cana-wedding-village-ancient-holy-land-picture-2

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