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2 Samuel 18: Recklessness

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

kingdavidpalace02_m_0722

King David in Grief

When we examine the story of David and his son Absalom, and see that sometimes we cling to outmoded ideas or dangerous people.  We humans seem to prefer the devil we know to the one we do not.  We make a way to survive with the horror we experience rather than set boundaries against the craziness of the world.  This is the fine line we walk between forgiving transgression and accepting abuse.  This is the difference between pardon and leniency.  It is the distinction we draw between recklessness and prudence.

Absalom is the favored child who does as he likes; he is coddled and feels entitled.  We see many examples of this in our current world – men and women who take what they like from whomever they like, pitted against the innocent who are open and trusting.  It is an uneven match and we wonder why God does not protect the naïve and unknowing more.

In today’s reading we see the dreadful end of Absalom, the favored child who abused his father who had given him so much.  We also watch the mourning of the father who believes he has recently lost a child without understanding that he had lost him years before.

As Jesus reminds us, we cannot put new wine into old skins.  (Matthew 9:14-17, Mark 2:21-22 and Luke 5:33-39) We cannot sew new patches on old sleeves.  We are called by our maker to transform ourselves, to move beyond our old form and style, to become new in Christ.  For just as the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New, as the old Covenant is re-written on the new heart, so are we called to make a place for a clean spirit, so are we called to sit at the city gate to indicate that we have returned – but in a new form.

In this Easter season, let us be determined that when we are fuddled by the line between compassion and acceptance of violence against one’s self, we will examine our lives in light of the Gospel to see if our suffering bears fruit or draws us down.  In recent days at Mass we have been reminded that we are the fruit bearing branches of the vine that is Christ.  We are nothing and do nothing except through the Creator.  There is no secret thought; we keep no actions from the Spirit.  We belong to God and our lives are transformed when we understand this.

From the mini-reflection in today’s MAGNIFICAT we read in reference to Acts 16:1-10: “Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number”.  This was due in large part to Paul and Timothy’s attentive docility and obedience to the Holy Spirit.  They had been chosen “out of the world” by Jesus.  When we act out of belonging, conscious that we do not “belong to the world”, we change the world”.

And this is how we address the recklessness and violence we see around us.  We take on Christ, we go to the Creator, and we allow our transformation in the Spirit.  In this way, we pray that we do not come to harm when the violence of the world threatens us.  And we pray that when the violence of the world does invade our lives – as it surely will – we will have the courage, strength and clarity to witness with attentive docility and obedience to the Holy Spirit.  We pray that we remind ourselves of our true belonging.  And we pray for the lost souls of those who have been sucked into the cycle of danger and fear.   In this way we change the world.  Amen.

A Favorite from May 8, 2010.

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 8 May 2010. Print.

 

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2 Corinthians 6:14-18: Call to Holiness

Monday, May 22, 2017

Yesterday we reflected on Christ’s call to us as Living Stones in the New Temple we find in the unity of Christ’s corporate body. Today we remember Paul’s words to the Corinthians – and to us – about the importance of our answering that call. Today’s Noontime is a Favorite from April 18, 2008 in which we considered how we might replace the old Temple of stone in Jerusalem, with the New Temple of Christ’s heart that we see and we become . . . when we come together in Christ with all of creation.

Paul wrote this message to the people in Corinth where this fledgling church was dealing with a series of crises.  This letter is a call to reflect on how we interact in community.  At first glance, today’s selection may appear to call us to a life of separation and apartness; but when we look further, we see that Paul was calling the readers of this letter away from paganism, idol worship, and self-serving behaviors that lead to temporary satisfaction and eventual destruction.  Footnotes point out that Paul speaks to the fact that God alone can lay claim to us.  We are created by God, we live in God through Christ, we come together in peace – even with our enemies – in the Spirit. And in so living, we return to God to find union with all of God’s creation. These verses assure us that God will always be among us, and that together we maintain a covenant with God as God’s faithful.

As we have reflected often in our Noontimes, Jesus wades among the unwashed, those afflicted with leprosy, the outcast and the marginalized.  As Christ’s apostles, we are called to continue this mission; we are called to become one in Christ so that we might follow Christ as we take this New Temple of our collective selves into the world.  We are called to bring Christ’s Hope to the World.  We are called to bring the Spirit’s Love to the World.

From today’s MAGNIFICAT morning intercessions.

God dwells among us in the Church.  Let us turn to him and pray: Remember your people, Lord.

You are in our midst; your name we bear: make us a fit dwelling-place for your love.  Remember your people, Lord.

You have made us temples of your Spirit: cleanse our hearts and make of them a house of prayer. Remember your people, Lord.

You have chosen us as your resting-place forever: grant us peace in your presence.  Remember your people, Lord.

God of Glory, you dwell in our midst through Jesus Christ, the new and eternal temple of your Presence.  Turn our hearts to worship you in the midst of our daily lives, that we may come one day to dwell with you in light, through the same Christ our Lord.  Amen. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 22.5(2008). Print.  

 

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Deuteronomy 23: Fruit that will Remain

Friday, May 19, 2017

This Favorite from May 29, 2011 reminds us that just as Peter decides to remain faithful to Christ the shepherd, so might we. Just as Peter works to plant himself in Christ so might we. And just as Peter becomes fruit that remains in Christ . . . so do we. 

When we read these many rules that try to cover all the permutations of a concept, we can understand how societies become top-heavy and stray too far from the hope that originally brought them together.  If we need legions of lawyers to tell us what we believe, we know that tyranny has taken hold and that power has become more important than people.  When control is the driving force in our lives rather than understanding or discernment, someone or something has gone too far; and this is why the simple elegance of The Word that Jesus brings to us – Love one another as I have loved youcannot be outdone.  There is no greater Law, no greater authority on earth or in heaven.  Love is all there is.  Love is everything that is.

I am always startled to hear people describe the connection they have with God as if it were some sort of membership in some kind of club.  Jesus is not looking to have the greatest number of fans or friends.  He is not trying to beat Satan by some specific amount in the tally of souls won or lost.  He is not trying to best his last year’s soul-count by a certain margin.  Jesus looks to redeem all those whom the Father has sent to him.  Jesus asks us to bear fruit just as he bears fruit.  Jesus is not issuing passports or validating passes.  Jesus calls; we are to respond.  And when we do, we must know that this is difficult work.

From Friday’s Gospel (John 15:12-17): I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.  It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.  This I command you: love one another.

From yesterday’s Gospel (John 15:18-21): Jesus said to his disciples: If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world that hates you.

And today’s Gospel (John 14:15-21) begins with this same message in the event we did not hear it the first time: If you love me, you will keep my commandments . . . you know him because he remains with you, and will be in you.

We who believe in Jesus do not belong to an elite organization.  There are no dues to pay, no membership to renew.  All that is asked of us is that we be open to the Spirit and that we allow that Spirit to find a dwelling place in us.  And we do this so that we might bear much fruit . . . fruit that will remain.

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Isaiah 33: A Prophecy of Deliverance

Thursday, May 18, 2017

There is good news to celebrate . . . we are delivered from bondage.  We live in the Messianic age; the promised deliverer has arrived to live among us.   We are no longer chained.  We are not abandoned. We are not alone.

Yesterday’s Mass readings called us to reflect on the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep well . . . and whose sheep know him.  I know mine and mine know me.  Today we continue that theme.  The readings from Acts (Chapters 2 and 11) tell us the story of Peter who witnesses to the presence of the Resurrected Christ.  Psalms 23, 42 and 43 describe how God takes care of us and how we thirst after this Living God.  We learn how to shepherd well.   A Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  We hear about false shepherds.  A hired man runs away and leaves his sheep because they are not his own . . . the sheep scatter and run . . . the wolf catches them. 

In today’s Noontime reading, Isaiah describes for us what happens when the true shepherd arrives to call his sheep back to the fold.  Those who attacked and scattered the innocent sheep are now themselves assaulted.  The spoils of the conflict disappear in the jaws of the locusts; they are gathered up like the crops taken up by caterpillars.  Just when the land is deserted and hushed, just when treaties are broken and fire devours the land . . . this is when deliverance happens.  The counters of treasures, the insolent, the corrupt, all of these will be gone while those faithful who have been scattered will now live on the heights.  Their refuge will be the fortresses of rocks; their food will be supplied, their water assured.  And Christ’s Rock, Peter, witnesses today, telling those gathered to listen to his story of how a vision came to him with an assignment as God’s Shepherd.  I was at prayer when in a trance I had a vision . . . The Spirit told me to accompany three men without discriminating against them.  Peter goes on to explain how God has called him to Shepherd the gentiles along with the Jewish people who have come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah.

And so today we pray.

Good and faithful God,

You have promised that you will not abandon us . . . teach us how to not abandon others.

You have brought us the gift of hope and renewal . . . teach us to be open to the restoration you have in mind for us.

You have promised us peace and prosperity . . . teach us how to live in peace despite the turmoil we cause.

You have been the Good Shepherd . . . never abandoning us . . . never betraying us . . . teach us to live in fidelity to you.

We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

A Favorite from May 16, 2011.

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John 10: Coming In and Going Out

Monday, May 15, 2017

Because we hear this story each Eastertide, we know this image well; yet do we listen fully to the description of the relationship between the shepherd and his sheep? And do we notice that once the shepherd leads his sheep into the fold, he then leads them out again?

When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. (Verse 4)

In Jesus’ day, it was the habit of a good rabbi to explore familiar scripture to listen for new juxtapositions and orientations. This re-working of a familiar message asks the faithful to remain awake, to sustain fidelity, to live a hope-filled and loving life that will grow in Christ. We return to Jesus’ words.

 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. (Verse 9)

The Winnowing Fork

We do not know the hour or day of the winnowing fork and so we are to stand ready like those who exited slavery in the great exodus with Moses (Exodus). We are to take unleavened bread and remember that we are marked with the sign of thau (Ezekiel 9:4) and respond to the shepherd’s call each time we hear his voice. In this way, we prepare to recognize the shepherd to follow him into the safety of the sheepfold . . . so that we may also follow him back through the gate and into the world.

When we compare different translations of John 10, we have a better understanding of our unique relationship with Christ as the leader who calls us into the sheepfold, so that he might lead us out into the world.

For an interesting article on the Exodus story, visit: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/moses-exodus.html

For more information on the sign of thau, visit the Biblehub at: http://biblehub.com/commentaries/ezekiel/9-4.htm

For more on the connection between the sign of thau and the sign of the cross, visit: http://catholicexchange.com/biblical-roots-sign-cross

Adapted from a reflection written on August 30, 2007.

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John 10: The Good Shepherd

Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 14, 2017 

Last week we studied and reflected upon the message from Peter – both his words and actions – and his message is clear. When Christ touches us to follow him, he also calls us to touch and lead others, even as we follow him. Jesus calls Peter as his good shepherd, and both Peter and Jesus call us as well. When we spend time with John 10, our baptism in Christ’s love becomes clear. Our response to this love is up to each of us.

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. (Verse 1)

Scholars tells us that in Jesus’ day, the repetition of words or phrases was a technique to bring attention to the words of the speaker. And so we ask: Amen, amen, where is the sheepfold we long to enter? Amen, amen, why do some of us clamber over the fence rather than look for the gate? Amen, amen, what shortcut do we seek? Amen, amen, what do we steal when we avoid the gate of Christ?

The gatekeeper opens the gate for the one who wants to enter the fold, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (Verse 3)

Christ’s love is described here in intimate detail. A loving guide and protector casts a constant eye on his children to provide continual care and love. Jesus repeats his image for us so that we might better hear it and feel its impact.

I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. (Verses 9 and 10)

False teachers and false idolaters will not see the shepherd. Those with hard hearts and stiff shoulders will not see the gate. Those who embrace endurance and perseverance, those who suffer well to bear all things in Christ, those who hope and rejoice in truth, those who live in the Spirit and who believe that with God all things are possible . . . those will not need to sneak into the fold like a thief or robber. Those are already there, preparing to go back out into the world with and in Christ.

And so we pray . . .

Good and gracious Lord, keep us always mindful of your love for us.  We know that the voices of this world are a loud distraction; yet we also know that you are The Gate and The Way.  You are the only true Good Shepherd.  Keep us mindful of your own patience and persistence. Continue to speak to us in that sacred place that only you and we know.  Protect us from those who would bend and break the spirit of you in us.  Keep us ever close to you in mind and body and soul.  Amen.

Adapted from a reflection written on August 30, 2007.

 

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1 Peter 3:8-22: Salvific Suffering – Part V

Saturday, May 13, 2017

How are we baptized in Christ’s love?

The rite of Baptism signifies our immersion into Christ’s death so that we might rise again with him. Peter writes that this baptism is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to God.

As we reflect on salvific suffering, we come to understand that suffering with and through and in Christ is not a punishment; rather, it is a gift to be lived out, a gift undergone not alone but with Christ – who accompanies us on every step of our daily journey toward him.  In this light, we can share joyfully with Peter when he writes: Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.  For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.

Always be ready to give an explanation of your joy, always reply to your accusers with gentleness and a clear conscience, for it is better to suffer for doing good than to do evil.

Be joyfully filled with hope . . . for you suffer not alone . . .

Take up your personal cross and follow . . .

For by doing so . . . you add your little particle of redemption . . .

To the redemption of the world . . .

There can be no greater calling . . . no greater work . . .

No greater God than our God . . .

Who is an awesome God . . .

Who cradles us each day and all through the night . . .

And shares this gift of treasure with us . . .

Watching . . . waiting . . . smiling . . . abiding . . .

Calling us constantly home.

Amen.

Baptism is defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1214 at: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c1a1.htm

Adapted from a Favorite written in November 10, 2007.

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1 Peter 3:8-22: Salvific Suffering – Part III

The Sadducees

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What do we fear . . . and why?

We reflect on the story of the early apostles (Acts 5) as they remain faithful to Christ while suffering and rejoicing with equal energy and passion. When we open ourselves to God’s generosity, we come away refreshed and encouraged with the news that when we respond to the call to do God’s work, we know that we quickly find God in the obstacles that surround us.  We know that we are Rocks in company with Peter; we know that we can serve as foundations of the living temple; we see that we are able confront corrupt authority; we can rejoice in our suffering to bringing truth and light to the world.

When we reflect on this story, we understand that a small group of the faithful, through the power and love of the risen Christ, successfully challenges the old guard. We realize that the Sadducees are afraid to order a sentence of death on these Jesus-followers because they fear the people will revolt. They fear the power of the Spirit.

There is irony in this story. Those who inflict fear on others eventually experience fear themselves. This we see the power of the Spirit unfold, rising from fear to bring us peace. This,we begin to understand, is the gift of salvific suffering.

And so today we ask ourselves, what do we fear, and why?

Tomorrow, how do we suffer with Christ?

Adapted from a Favorite written in November 10, 2007.

 

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1 Peter 3:8-22: Salvific Suffering – Part IV

Friday, May 12, 2017

Paolo Veronese: Christ Healing a Woman with an Issue of Blood

How do we suffer with Christ?

In light of the suffering the early followers of Christ underwent, we read an excerpt from John Paul II’s Salvifici Doloris, in which he writes that Christ raises human suffering to the level of redemption and answers the question “Why must I suffer?”  John Paul writes: “Christ does not explain in the abstract the reason for suffering, but before all else he says ‘Follow me!’ Come!  Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering!’  . . .  Gradually, as the individual takes up his cross, spiritually uniting himself to the Cross of Christ, the salvific meaning of suffering is revealed before him.  He does not discover this meaning at his own human level, but at the level of the suffering Christ.  At the same time . . . the salvific meaning of suffering descends to man’s level and becomes, in a sense, the individual’s personal responseIt is then that man finds in his suffering interior peace and even spiritual joy.  A source of joy is found in the overcoming of the sense of the uselessness of suffering, a feeling that is sometimes very strongly rooted in human suffering . . . Those who share in the sufferings of Christ preserve in their own suffering a very special particle of the infinite treasure of the world’s redemption . . .”

As we read from a letter written either by Peter or by someone in his name, we hear this faithful follower say that suffering brings us to a cross that not only symbolizes pain, but that also emanates love and grace.  We hear Pater tell us that salvific suffering is holy when we allow ourselves to suffer with and in Christ, when we allow our experience to become Christ’s gift to us.  And once we live out this deep, transforming love, we will want to return this gift to Christ, and hence to the world. This is how we best understand sorrow. This is how we best offer our pain to the world.

Tomorrow, the baptism of Christ’s love.

To read Salvifici Doloris, go to: https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/1984/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_11021984_salvifici-doloris.html

Adapted from a Favorite written in November 10, 2007.

 

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