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Psalm 62: Seek Trust – God Alone

Monday, December 11, 2017

In earlier posts we have spent time with Psalm 62; today we pray as we reflect . . .

Trust God at all times, my people!   Pour out your hearts to God our refuge!

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to voice all that we are as creatures of God.

God alone is my rock and salvation, my secure height; I shall never fall.

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to recall the temptations that lead us away from God.

They delight in lies; they bless with their mouths, and inwardly they curse. 

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to remember where we must focus our energies.

Though wealth increase, do not set your heart upon it.

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to think about how power and kindness relate to one another.

Power belongs to God; so too, Lord does kindness,

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to see where we might find full and lasting peace.

My soul, be at rest in God alone, from whom comes my hope.

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to acknowledge the difficulty life presents to us.

How long will you set upon people, all of you beating them down, as though they were a sagging fence or a battering wall?

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to recognize our proper relationship with God and others.

Mortals are a mere breath, the powerful but an illusion; on a balance they rise; together they are lighter than air.

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to tell God all that troubles us.

Pour out your hearts to God our refuge!

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to call on God . . . and to hear God’s words to us . . . Trust God at all times, my people!   Amen!

A Reprise from Monday, December 29, 2011.

For 21 verses that calm the heart and tell us of God’s love, click on the verse image above, or visit: https://christianpf.com/bible-verses-about-gods-love/ 

 

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Ecclesiastes 1: Seek Trust

Blaise Nicolas Le Sueur: Solomon Before the Ark of the Covenant

Second Sunday of Advent, December 10, 2017

Vanity

This book was written not by Solomon as claimed, but by a writer who actually identifies himself “as a subject (4:13, 8:2, 9:14-16, 10:16-17 and 20), noting conditions of oppression (4:13), injustice (4:8, 5:8), and social upheaval (10:6-7).  The language . . . is a late form of biblical Hebrew, coming closest of any Old Testament book to post-biblical Mishnaic Hebrew.  The presence of Persian loan-words requires a date well after Israel’s release from exile in 539 B.C.E.  Fragments of the book found among the Dead Sea Scrolls of the Qumran community date to the mid-second century B.C.E.  Most scholars date the book’s composition between 300 and 200 B.C.E.”  (Meeks 986)  The Mishnah is a collection of oral literature of the early Hebrew people who appear to us as the first portion of the Torah.

We find the theme of this book laid out clearly in the first chapter: All is vanity that does not come from God.  It does not take any time at all for us to put this reading into the context of our own lives.  What does take some time is to determine what to do with this self-knowledge.

We have entered the season of Advent – an exciting, mysterious time in the liturgical calendar that we associate with a feeling of expectation – a time of promises and fulfillment.  We in the northern hemisphere also associate this time of year with the coming on of darkness and cold; while in the southern hemisphere, Advent is experienced as a time of lengthening days and rising temperatures.  I often think that the later is more apt.  Warmth, light, ease of days, promise . . . Christ.  The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that all else besides a life that acts in this promise is futile.  As followers of Christ, our example of living in hope is paramount for ourselves, for our community, and for the greater world.  We enact Christ when we put aside the vanity that we are all, and take on the understanding that The Promise is all.

As we move through this day and begin this week after spending a day or days of Thanksgiving for the bounty of the earth, we will want to pause to examine our spiritual bounty as well.  Just as we examine our relationships with family and friends, we will also want to examine our relationship with the Creator, the Redeemer and the Comforter.  We will want to unfold the miracle of this love so great that it overcomes all trials and injustices.  We will want to allow ourselves to step into that which is not in vain.  We will want to remember, we will want to trust, we will want to believe, we will want to hope.

We already know that there is nothing new under the sun . . . and so what we hope to experience is that which is new . . . that which is not in vain . . . and that which is worthy of every ounce of strength we have in body, mind and soul.

Like the audience of Ecclesiastes, we who have returned from exile will want to reunite in intimacy with our God and so we might try to spend more time this season with this book of wisdom, parsing out its verses to complement our days.  In this way, we might hope to be full of God’s wisdom rather than our own, we might hope to live in God’s love rather than our own, and we might hope to be Christ rather than an empty vanity of vanities.

To celebrate this Second Sunday of Advent, we join voices with this traditional hymn, O Come, O come, Emmanuel at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xtpJ4Q_Q-4 

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

A Favorite from November 30, 2009.

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Amos 5:18-20: Seek Impoverishment

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Being Open in Mourning

The prophet Amos left his sheep and fig trees to speak God’s word to the faithful and unfaithful alike.  These words came at a time of prosperity, when his prognostications were easily and readily jeered by those who enjoyed luxury at the expense of the poor.  From our 21st century perspective, we can see that his audience would have done well to listen better to this simple yet eloquent man.  His sober, ardent proclamation is concise, pointed and brief . . . but carrying a deeply important message for the part of the Gospel which is eagerly forgotten by many.  It is not enough to be kind, in the New Kingdom.  We are called to be just as well.

It is easy to look at foreign countries in civil war, at the poor in our own city streets and point to the places where justice cannot flourish or even get a foothold.  What is more difficult is to look to our own lives to find the pockets of impoverishment and injustice there.  When have we walked away from a situation in which we should have given voice to God’s word?  When have we reacted in an anger that stirs the pot rather than in patience which opens doors for communication?  When have we avoided?  When have we harassed?  When have we neglected?  When have we manipulated?

Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.  Psalm 72 calls on God to make his justice clear to those who yearn for it.

Justice shall flower . . .

May God rule . . . 

God shall rescue the poor . . .

God shall have pity on the lowly . . .

The lives of the poor God shall save . . .

We ought not to shrink from God in our poverty of spirit, for it is the poor in spirit whom God touches quickly, heals surely, abides with eternally.  We ought not shrink from confessing our lacks, from asking for our needs, for expressing our heart’s desire.  Let us offer up our impoverishment daily.

May God remember your every offering, graciously accept your holocaust, grant what is in your heart, fulfill your every plan.  (Psalm 20:4-5)

Amos reminds us when he speaks of the woes that God knows the content of our hearts.  There is nowhere we can hide our secrets.  So when we mourn, let us open our hearts fully to the God who created us.  It is with this small action that we will be healed.  It is with this openness that we best love God.  It is through this honesty that we bring about the justice that the prophet Amos yearns to witness.  Let us take our offerings of our own accord, let us seek impoverishment, and let us place them on the altar of our life.

To learn more about the prophet and his prophecy, click on the image of the shepherd above or visit: http://www.catholiclane.com/amos-the-lion-of-gods-salvation/ 

Adapted from a reflection written on December 3, 2008.

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St. Gertrude the Great 1256-1302

1 Maccabees 16: Seek Kindness

Monday, November 27, 2017

Adapted from a reflection written on November 15, 2009. In memoria for my mother who always preached Killing with Kindness

The name Maccabees means the hammer and as we read through these books in scripture we experience a great deal of violence in the name of God.  These books are stories about “the attempted suppression of Judaism in Palestine in the second century B.C.  . . . [The author’s] purpose in writing is to record the salvation of Israel which God worked through the family of Matthias . . . Implicitly the writer compares their virtues and their exploits with those of the ancient heroes, the Judges, Samuel, and David”.  (Senior 550)  Portions of this book may be used when dedicating an altar . . . or when praying for persecuted Christians.  The lesson here is that living the life of an apostle of Christ will inevitably include bloodshed – whether it be spiritual, mental or physical.  Each time I pray to my Mother for a special intercession, I find myself in this story.  She, the gentlest of shepherds, realized real battles in her life.  Her slogan was: Kill them with kindness. 

St. Gertrude of Nivelles (626-659)

There is no avoiding the central message of Jesus’ life: When in doubt, exercise kindness and compassion . . . and listen for the word of God to tell us which way to turn, when to pause, when to proceed.  Tomorrow is the Feast Day of St. Gertrude.  My mother and my sister – both deceased – are named for this saint.  Both of these women had a plodding, patient persistence when confronted with evil, and they were formidable and unmoved when it came to right and wrong.  The Morning Prayer for tomorrow begins with a verse from Isaiah (30:15): By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust your strength lies.  I reflect on the betrayal and carnage we witness when we read Maccabees.  The deception of the son of Abubus who gives the faithful a deceitful welcome shakes me to the core.  There is nothing more wicked than luring in the innocent to later spring up, weapons in hand, to rush upon the loyal servant of God – thus repaying good with evil.

What do we do when we are witness to this?  We are utterly astounded as is John in today’s reading.  We go to God who tells us to shake the dust of the unfaithful from our feet and move on.  And we do as my mother always recommended: Kill them with kindness.

Gertrude the Great was a German Benedictine mystic with a special dedication to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A number of her writings are still in publication today. Gertrude of Nivelles founded an abbey with her mother, Itta, in present day Belgium. She is the patron saint of gardens and cats. 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.550. Print.   

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 16.11 (2009). Print.  

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Matthew 3: Seek Newness

Sunday, November 26, 2017

As we prepare for the Advent season . . .

In becoming human, Jesus shows us that our humanity is not an obstacle to our communion with God, but rather the only path to our divine destiny . . . If my heart is not begging, “Come, Lord Jesus” in my ordinary life today, then I cannot pretend I would have recognized him when he first came, and I cannot expect truly to welcome him at is glorious return.  That is why the church gives us this season of Advent, to recognize the longing in our hearts for a salvation which we cannot give ourselves, but for which we can beg today and for ever, “Come, Lord Jesus”.  Fr. Richard Veras, November 28, 2010, THE MAGNIFICAT ADVENT COMPANION (17)

What is this newness that is ours in our humanity?

What is this divinity we have been gifted as part of our destiny?

What is this fulfillment of salvation that we cannot give ourselves?

Today our Noontime takes us to the proclamation of the new kingdom, the baptism of Jesus, and God’s announcement that he is well pleased with the beloved son.

Today we have the opportunity to think about our own place in the divine plan as a human creature.

We have the opportunity to open ourselves to the newness of the season and the cyclic beginning again of a calendar year.

We have the opportunity to make ourselves ready – as Jesus made himself ready – for the days ahead.

Let us heed the words we hear in today’s Gospel . . . So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come (Matthew 24:44) .

We will want to receive this newness that brings hope – Come, Lord Jesus.

We will want to be open to this healing that mends mortal wounds – Come, Lord Jesus.

We will want to experience this divinity that manifests in the obstacles of our humanity Come, Lord Jesus. 

And we will want to be awake and ready for the salvation with which we have been graced, the peace and serenity that are our heritage – Come, Lord Jesus . . . and fulfill this longing in our hearts . . .

Written on November 28, 2010.

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1 Timothy 2: Seek Equality

Annibale Carracci: The Samaritan Woman at the Well

 Wednesday, November 22, 2017

This letter contains some clear restrictions for women – they are to be silent and not speak out.  Men are put in charge of prayer and liturgy.  Women are meant to be on the sidelines in this ancient world.  Some men today wish women to remain so – as unequal partners.  Other men today are wise enough to understand that women have equal worth before God and it is indeed a woman who brings Christ into the world.  We can allow ourselves to be contained by these sentiments or we can rise above them.  Modern commentary points out that these injunctions against women are a sign that the Holy Spirit was clearly in motion, encouraging the oppressed half of humankind to speak up and speak out.  The oppressing half of humanity responds in the way it knows best – it calls for silence.  Equality, in the end, will be gained.  Women, as the oppressed gender, have the opportunity to understand and to know that as a part of the marginalized in society they hold a special place.

John Martin Borg: Woman Caught in Adultery

In the Gospels, Jesus pays attention to women – the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), the woman (and we notice that the man is not brought forward) whom the men wish to stone for adultery (John 8), women suffering, women grieving, and his own mother at the time of his crucifixion (John 19).  Jesus makes wine of water at his Mother’s request.  Jesus includes women as his apostles.  Jesus values women as equal to men.

In Thursday’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation, Father Bede Jarrett writes: When we say God is everywhere, we mean that he is in all things because he made all things.  Not only does the whole world lie outstretched before his eye and is governed by his power, but he himself lurks at the heart of everything.  By him things have come into existence . . . Wholly is God everywhere, not as some immense being that with its hugeness fills the world, but as something that is within every creature he has made.

Rogier Van Der Weyden: Deposition or Descent from the Cross

We believe this to be so . . . and when we do, we believe that women and men are created as equals in a glorious, mysterious dance of opposites that resist and yet attract.  This marvelous tension draws us in to ponder the inscrutability of life.  This equality that is rejected by many is actually the foundation of life itself.  This union of contrasts is stronger than the binds which hold together like beings.

When the age-old conflicts of gender and sexuality surface, we might remember this: Wholly is God everywhere, not as some immense being that with its hugeness fills the world, but as something that is within every creature he has made.

Do we reject this different-ness from ourselves?  Or do we take it in and in so doing . . . welcome a Jesus we have yet to meet?

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 13.11 (2009). Print.  

Adapted from a reflection written on November 13, 2009.

 

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Joshua 11-12: Seek Integrity

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

James J. Tissot: The Seven Trumpets of Jericho

Survey

Today we have the opportunity to read about a promise review.  God has promised territory to a people who were enslaved.  God promises a place in which they might live, work, play, celebrate and worship.  God promises to remain with them, to guide them and to protect them.  They, in turn, promise to reverence this God only, to follow the Lord’s commandments only, and to teach their children and their children’s children to do the same.  We might take this opportunity to pause and to survey our own promises . . . the ones we make willingly, the ones we perhaps make grudgingly, the ones we keep and the ones we forget.  How and why do we make promises?  When and why do we keep them . . . or disregard them?  Do we ever pause to remember what promises we have made . . . and why?

We do not only receive the gifts of our talents and souls, we also are given the gift of time and space each morning when we rise.  What do we chose to do with these presents from our creator?  When we examine our lives – as we do frequently during our Lenten journey – what new territories do we find that we now occupy?  Which harassing and recalcitrant tyrants have we conquered through God’s grace and hand?  What have we taken in that is new to us?  How has this newness affected the other parts of our lives?  What can we expect from ourselves?  Do we see others differently than we saw them before as a result of our newness?

Jericho

It is always good to evaluate and assess because from this kind of exercise can come a deeper and better understanding of who we are – why we are – where we are going – and who we are meant to be.  When we take a scan of our actions we have to be honest and sometimes this can be brutal; but it is the only method of integrating what we say with what we do.  The act of self-scrutiny, when done in a healthy and open manner, is the only real method of determining if and how we have kept the promises we have made.  It is also the only real way to discovering if we are making the proper kinds of promises.  This kind of examination is the only real path to integration.  It is the only true response to the God who creates us lovingly and tends to us unceasingly.

What are the promises we have already made?  What promises are we about to enter into?  What promises do we dream about?

What promises have we kept?  What promises do we intend to keep?  What promises do we hope to take into the future?

Only an honest survey will tell us what we will need to know. Only an honesty survey will tell us if and how we value integrity.

For an interesting perspective of the story of Rahab and Joshua, click on the image of the Jericho street above, or visit: http://www.lizcurtishiggs.com/bad-girls-of-the-bible-rahab/

Adapted from a Favorite written on February 25, 2010.

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Romans 6:1-11: Seek Freedom from Sin: Seek Life in God

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Today’s reading is Paul’s defense against the idea that to live as Jesus lived is to live without regard for the Law of Moses or without regard for Jesus’ own act of fulfilling that Law.  This new covenant does not promote moral laxity; rather it brings the opportunity to live a full life of union with the law, with the spirit of the law more than the letter.  Paul also goes on to remind us that we all receive the gift of resurrection through Christ.  He delineates ably an argument to those who say that life in Christ and in the Spirit lacks morality because it forgives . . . he shows us that life in Christ is the exemplar of morality . . . if being lived well.

So many times we forget that we ought to tend to our spiritual health as assiduously as we do our physical, emotional or mental health.  We practice yoga, eat organic food, look for advice, and forget to make a stillness in our lives where we can best listen to the voice which speaks within.

Humans so often seek to separate and divide.  God always seeks to unify.  God brings us freedom from a life of division.  He brings us life in Christ and union in the Spirit.  Jesus came to live with us as God’s Word.  Christ remains among us as God’s Spirit.  Christ lives in us, in spite of us, always with us, ever keeping us in God’s love.  Life in God is freedom, freedom to become our best potential, freedom to fulfill God’s best dream for us.  Let us seek freedom to live in God.

Adapted from a Favorite written on November 6, 2017.

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Zephaniah 3:18-20: Seek Restoration

Nubian Museum: Shebitku’s Statue

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The prophet Zephaniah wrote sometime between the years of 635 to 630 B.C.E.  His is a brief prophecy and its message is succinct: there is a day if universal judgment which will arrive surely . . .  and this judgment will be followed by restoration.  Earlier in this chapter he refers to the town of Cush saying that beyond the rivers of this town the scattered peoples will bring offerings.  Cush was located south of the upper cataracts of the Nile in the area referred to as Nubia.  It was a land of great wealth with commerce routes which brought to the Mediterranean materials such as gold and silver, cosmetics, balsam, incense, myrrh, ostrich eggs, and other wild animal products.  Jeremiah also refers to this place as a source of topaz.  Further, these people were from to time a powerful political force: the Nubian pharaoh Shebitku defeats the Assyrian Sennacherib in Israel in 701 B.C.E. – an astounding account recorded in 2 Kings.  (Zondervan 1519.)  Their power, however, seems to have collapsed after 671 B.C.E.

What does all of this signify?  The restoration this prophet foretells is universal.  It will be bestowed on even those who have been scattered as far off as Cush – even those who have been held captive by her alluring power and cosmopolitan life.

Sing, O Daughter Zion; shout aloud, O Israel!  Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem!  . . .  I will give you honor and praise among all the people of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your eyes.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1519. Print. For more about Cush, click on the map image, or visit: https://ancientpatriarchs.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/who-was-cush/ 

A Favorite from November 23, 2007.

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