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Ezekiel 1Cherubim

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Written on March 4, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

More than a year ago we looked at the Cherubim in one of our Noontimes in connection with the opening nine chapters of the Book of Wisdom.

When I think of Wisdom I often think of the description we have read of the winged Cherubim that arch over the Ark in the Holy of Holies (1 Kings 6-8), that place in the deepest interior of the Jerusalem temple, that place reserved for men only, that place to which Wisdom drew her priests.  Scripture describes these creatures as guarding the eastern gate of Eden (Genesis 3:24).  The Hebrews fashion Cherubim that watch over the desert Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25, 26, 36, 37 and Numbers 7), and later in the New Testament the writer of the letter to the Hebrews (9) recalls this image to his audience.  The Cherubim remain with the Ark and with these desert people through David’s time (1 Samuel 4) until a permanent kingdom is established when we see them in Solomon’s temple as glorious guardians and companions of the place where God takes up residence.  In Psalms and prayers, the Lord is often seen as seated among or between Cherubim; and in these songs when we place ourselves “beneath the wing” or “in the shadow of the wing” of God, this is the place we find ourselves.  I like to think of these Cherubim as Wisdom, living close by God but calling to us to sit in praise of God . . . for this is where Wisdom finds her most comfortable nest. 

When we look at this opening chapter of Ezekiel, we see that God sits on a throne carried by winged Cherubim.  To read more about the mythological and physical origin of these creatures we can go to: http://www.pantheon.org/articles/c/cherubim.html  or to http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03646c.htm .

Creatures that live this close to God must be special indeed; yet these beings are no more important to God than each of us.  If we might think about being as close to God as the Cherubim, if we might create an image of the power needed to pull any chariot large enough to encompass our God, if we can imagine the magnitude of wisdom that these creatures symbolize . . . we are well on our way to comprehending the love that God has for us.

As the NEW ADVENT website points out, to Catholics these creatures are more than symbolic.  They are ministers who have an intimate and intense understanding of who God is and how he moves in our lives.  In the fullness of this knowledge they have become “sublime hosts” to God’s presence.

We see these creatures again in Revelation and still they have their fantastic and unique place in God’s kingdom, they are the wheels of God, the wisdom with which and through which God operates.  They are in constant praise of God, and they continually glory in his being and presence.

We might put ourselves in the place of these creatures for a few moments this afternoon and we might contemplate our own imagery of wisdom.  What is it exactly?  How does it operate?  Where does it take us?  To what does it call us?  Why do we seek it?

And then we might sit with these verses for awhile to meditate on them and on what drives our own lives: Wherever the spirit wished to go, there the wheels went . . . such was the vision of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. 


A re-post from August 22, 2011.

Image from: http://www.bibleorigins.net/CherubimColossalinHolyofHolies.html

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Genesis 3God Has a Plan

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Written on March 5 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Yesterday we reflected on the idea that God sets a sign before us; he comes to live among us in the person of Jesus.  Today we reflect on the reality that God has a plan in mind; he does not come to humanity as an afterthought.  It has always been his idea to be born of woman as a redeemer of his own creation.  God’s plan is to create us and to give us a choice of eternal life or death in the world.  God’s plan is to come to us as a saver and protector who will lead us out of the physical and into the spiritual world.  God’s plan is to abide with us as a comforter and lover who brings us wisdom, forgiveness and compassion.  God’s plan is to lay before us life and death.  God’s plan is that we choose life . . . but he allows us to choose death.

Amazingly, even though we may make poor choices, God is still willing to allow us to atone and in fact God rejoices when we reverse course to turn back to him.  God knows that Satan patrols the world as we have examined in Job 1:7.  God knows it is Satan who has tempted Adam and Eve to think that he holds the mystery of eternal life when it is God who actually does.   And God knows how and why we will choose between self-serving pride and life-sustaining humility at the hinge points of our lives.  And through all of this, God abides.  This is God’s plan.

Satan tempts Jesus in the desert and when he does, these are Jesus’ responses.

Scripture says: Human beings live not on bread alone.

You must do homage to the Lord your God, him alone must you serve.

Do not put your Lord your God to the test. 

At the end of this passage, the Gospel remarks: Having exhausted every way of putting [Jesus] to the test, the devil left him, until the opportune moment. 

And so when Satan approaches to test us and to draw us away from God, as he does so often, let us stick to God’s plan and let us pray the words Jesus uses when tempted by Satan in the desert – the words of God come to walk among us on earth.

Dear Lord, deliver us and remind us that we do not live on bread alone.

Dear Lord, protect us and remind us that it is you alone we serve.

Dear Lord, love us and deliver us from this test. 

Dear Lord, do not allow us to become blind by the light of adversaries who seek to dazzle us with their moments of opportunity

Dear Lord, abide with us always. 

We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.


A re-post from August 19, 2011.

Image from: http://www.i-church.org/gatehouse/index.php?page=25 

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Isaiah 66:18-24God Sets a Sign

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Witten on March 4 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

For I know their works and their thoughts . . .

Isaiah reminds us that God sees all; there are no secrets.  Just a few days ago we heard the words of Jesus as recorded by Luke telling us that what is whispered in the dark will come to light.  It is impossible to hide from God for God is omniscient and all-knowing.

And I am coming to gather all the nations and tongues . . .

Isaiah reminds us that God is all powerful; he can do all things.  Nothing is impossible for God.  Jesus tells us that what is impossible with men is possible for God.  (Luke 18:27, Mark 10:27, Matthew 19:26)  It is impossible to conquer God who is omnipotent and eternal.

And they shall come and shall see my glory . . .

Isaiah reminds us that God is awesome; in the Old Testament we are told to fear, or to stand in awe of God for this reason.  Jesus tells us that once we walk in God’s way, nothing will be impossible for us (Matthew 17:20) that his glory is our glory. This is the measure of God’s might and love. It is impossible for God to be or do evil for our compassionate God is goodness itself.

And I will set a sign among them.

Isaiah reminds us that God knows the faithful just as the faithful know God.  Jesus tells the Father that he has come to gather in those faithful.  When we bear witness to evil, we also bear the sign of God on our foreheads.  It is impossible for God to forget or neglect us for God is love itself.

Isaiah lived at a time of deep and corrosive corruption and he understood the damage this kind of erosion has on people.  He warned against the decay and fire that envelops those who neglect God’s way.  His words continue to instruct us today.  Jesus too, teaches us the lessons we need to know in order to be numbered in those who know and recognize God with ease.

St. Paul writes to the people of Philippi (4:8) one of the simplest yet truest and most beautiful descriptions of Christian living.  Once we take these words in and own them, we have no need to fear the dire consequences we see in Isaiah today.  Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  If we can say that we seek truth, purity, and beauty, if we act in honor and justice, if we live grace-filled days . . . we need not fear the harvester’s sword.

God has set a sign among us.  That sign is Christ.  We need not fear Isaiah’s predictions when we respond to God’s call as St. Paul urges.  Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious . . . this is excellence . . . this is worthy of praise . . . this is worthy of our time . . . this is God among us . . . this is Christ.  Amen.


A re-post from August 18, 2011.

Image from: http://omgzi.blogspot.com/2010/10/ichthys-sign-of-fish.html

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Sirach 33:16-19: Gleaning

Monday, September 17, 2018

Written on March 3 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Francois Millet: The Gleaners

We keep our sorrows to ourselves, thinking that no one wants to hear what has gone wrong for us.  This is a mistake.  We are called to share sorrow and to accompany one another in this journey of discerning how to best word in God’s vineyard.  It does not matter how or when we come to this realization.  It only matters that we eventually arrive there.

Now I was last to keep vigil; I was like a gleaner following the grape-pickers; by the blessing of the Lord I arrived first, and like grape-pickers I filled my wine press.

By dwelling on our sorrows or by thinking that our lives are more pain-filled than anyone else’s we rob ourselves – and our companions in life’s journey – of the opportunity to experience Christ’s healing presence.  It does not matter if we feel we have little to offer, it only matters that we offer who we are to others in need.

Consider that I have not labored for myself alone, but for all who seek instruction. Hear me, you who are great among the people, and you leaders of the congregation, pay heed!

Patience, fidelity, generosity, trust in God . . . when I think of those who have taught me to climb out of sorrow and into joy, these are the qualities that make these teachers greater than any titled leader with power.  If we turn to the beginning of Sirach (2:1-6), we find more instruction.

My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for testing.  Set your heart right and be steadfast, and do not be impetuous in time of calamity.  Cling to him and do not depart, so that your last days may be prosperous.  Accept what befalls you, and in times of humiliations be patient.  For gold is tested in fire, and those found acceptable in the furnace of humiliation.  Trust in him, and he will help you; make your ways straight and hope in him. 

We have frequently reflected in our Noontimes that the silversmith’s fire is essential to smelt out the detritus that makes us less bright and pure.  The prophet Malachi (3:1-3) reminds us that the refiner must remain constantly by the fire in order that it burn just hot enough to do its work without destroying the ore.  The life of those who choose to respond to God’s call is laden with many burdens . . . but these burdens convert to sweet justice when we lay all our complaints and pains before God.   We who come to God’s fields to glean what is left after the harvester passes by, engage in holy work for we lift up lost souls to God.  When we enter fully into this work to place the world’s sorrows in God’s capable hands, we – like the sadness we bear to God – are transformed by the smelter’s fire into bright, lovely and holy offerings . . .  and we become the delight we imagine.  So as we glean, let us imagine God’s joy well.


A re-post from August 17, 2011.

Image from: http://www.smithinet.com/Louvre/Louvre_art.html#gleaners 

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Mark 8:22-26: Adjusting Our Vision

Monday, September 10, 2018

Written on January 11 and posted today as a favorite . . .

The January 10 Noontime struck a chord with a number of people; today the theme continues: We look at how we must give ourselves time to adjust to the newness of something.   Before we leap into action, clutching our new gift of sight, we must first allow Jesus to verify that what we are seeing . . . is what is actually before us to be seen.  We must calibrate our vision with God’s reality.

I love to watch Jesus heal; and I try to learn from his gentle, three-part triptych of interchange.  Jesus moves us forward through a process of deep and significant change . . . if we remain open to possibility.

Jesus often enters into dialog with us by asking, “What is it you want from me?”  He is humble enough to give us think-time and to genuinely ask about our own perception of who we are and what we believe we need from him.

He regularly makes certain that the newness of his healing is not overwhelming, that it does not throw us out of balance.  He is loving enough to know that we are easily knocked off center and confused when there is a change in our surroundings or in our method of interacting with the world.

And finally, Jesus makes certain that we know where to go and what to do next with our newness.  He is wise enough to know that we are most vulnerable when we are taking our first steps at anything.  Sometimes he warns us to say nothing to anyone.  At other times he recommends a visit to the priests for a final blessing.  Most often, there is the request that we allow the newness in us to change our lives and the lives around us for the better.

Today we see Jesus heal a blind man.  Being God, he knows that the miracle has taken place yet . . . he asks for the man’s impression:  Do you see anything?  When the man replies that people look like trees walking, Jesus lays his hands on him again.  This time the sight is true.  He could see everything distinctly. 

I am thinking about all of the times Jesus has brought me through a kind of blindness to see what is obvious.  What was once walking trees becomes people.  A fuzzy uncertainty becomes crystalline reality . . . God’s reality.  I must remember to always allow God to adjust my vision . . . for I do not want to mistake people for trees.


A re-post from August 10, 2011.

Image from: http://horizonproject2008.wikispaces.com/CWeb+Science_Health

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Daniel 9:1-12Ultimate Fulfillment

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Written on January 9 and posted today as a favorite . . .

Tilda Swinton as Gabriel in “Constantine”

What we see today is Daniel’s interaction with God’s messenger Gabriel who is mentioned here for the first time in scripture.  We know that scripture is not history – it is not an accurate telling of events in a sequential manner in order to set facts in place; rather, it is an inspired record of our interactions with God over thousands of years.  This is the gift of the Torah, prophets, and wisdom literature.  It is the gift of the accounts of Jesus, the Apostles and the Holy Spirit as a manifestation of God among us.

In today’s Noontime, footnotes tell us that the Darius the Mede whom we see in this prophecy is “unknown in profane history.  The Median kingdom had already been conquered by Cyrus the Persian, and it was Cyrus who captured Babylon.  Evidently the author of Daniel has deliberately adopted an apocalyptic view of history, derived from prophecy . . . according to which the Medes form the second of four world kingdoms preceding the messianic times . . . The character of Darius the Mede has probably been modeled on that of the Persian King Darius the Great (522-486 B.C.), the second successor of Cyrus”.   (Senior 1096)

Further commentary tells us that “the prophet Jeremiah (25,11; 29,10) prophesied a Babylonian captivity of seventy years, a round number signifying the complete passing away of the existing generation, Jeremiah’s prophesy was fulfilled in the capture of Babylon by Cyrus and the subsequent return of the Jews to Palestine.  However, the author of Daniel, living during the persecution of Antiochus, sees the conditions of the exile still existing; therefore in his mediation he extends Jeremiah’s number to seventy weeks of years (v 24), i.e., seven times seventy years, to characterize the Jewish victory over the Seleucids as the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy”.  (Senior 1100-1101)

What we see today is not a story about people or places we know in history.  Nor is it a story about a particular time in our human record that has little to do with us in 2011.  What we have before us is the story of how we – like Daniel – might interact with God’s messenger and with God himself.  It is the story about the ultimate fulfillment of prophecy.  It is the story of how God visits us constantly, how God interacts with us, and how God always keeps his promises.

When we flag or lose faith, when we are exhausted from the effort of our journey, when we are at the point of feeling that our exile will never end, we might – like Daniel – turn to God, acknowledge our humanity, and enter into a dialog with the divine.  For it is through our trials, when we drop our defenses against God’s presence in our lives, that we are most intimate with God.  And it is through our anguish and suffering that we encounter our divinity within.  This is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises to us – to live freely and wholly in the Spirit.


A re-post from August 9, 2011.

Image from: http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2005/02/06/arts/06devr_CA0ready.html 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1096,1100-1101. Print.   

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Joel 2:25-27Love Born of Freedom 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

A repost from July 31, 2011. 

In today’s Gospel from Mark 6:53-56 we hear the message that we recognize Jesus’ goodness immediately when we are suffering or in need.  [P]eople immediately recognized him.  They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever he was.  Jesus, moved by compassion, acts out of his love for humanity; he turns no one away.   We must remember to invite Jesus to heal our wounds each day.  We must ask God to guide us as we try to solve our small and big problems.  And we must turn over our fears and anxieties to the Holy Spirit constantly.

Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, a Cistercian monk, writes in today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation (108-109): We have to invite Jesus continually to become Lord of our life.  He never imposes himself by force because, being Love, he wants to be loved in return, and love is born only from freedom and never from force or obligation.  What is true of the natural level is also true of the supernatural.  God cannot force us to love him.  Yet instead of loving God unconditionally, we spend most of our time piously trying to manipulate his power to suit our own desires: we want to have God at our beck and call . . . we have to place ourselves, voluntarily and gratefully, in the hands of the Physician of the bodies and souls, confidently manifesting to him our every illness and complaint. 

In this portion of Joel’s prophecy we are reminded just how much God wants to care for us that even after we have turned away and have done things that would erase any human relationship, God is still waiting patiently to heal.

From the MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer Mini-Reflection (102): God in his power is refuge and strength; God in his mercy is the river that refreshes the soul; God in his beauty stills all our useless struggles and gather us into his peace. 

The Lord himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still.  (Exodus 14:14)

We already have all that we need . . . we may not feel it.

We already have all that we want . . . we may be blind to it.

We already have all the love we require . . . God is allowing us to come to this understanding.

He never imposes himself by force because, being Love, he wants to be loved in return, and love is born only from freedom and never from force or obligation.

Let us live our lives in total trust of the saving power of God’s love for us.

Let us free ourselves of all doubt, all coercion, and all lusting after control for all of these are alien to God’s love.

Let us instead allow ourselves to be born of God’s endless compassion and love.


Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 21 July 2011. Print.

Image from: https://www.maxpixel.net/Sky-Stars-Night-Constellation-Nature-Galaxy-2609647

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Job 40-41Conversations

Saturday, August 25, 2018

This is the portion of the Book of Job where God finally speaks from out of the maelstrom.  Job thirsts for the answers to his poignant questions about his pain.  He asks the question we all ask: Why do the innocent so often suffer?  God’s answer is mysterious.  God enumerates the number of ways that we cannot possibly understand the plan, even if God were to communicate the divine economy to us.  This is why it is important to have constant conversations with God.  We need directions for every step of the road.

What I like most about chapter 40 is that God appears to have a sense of humor.  This makes me smile because I hope that in an eternal life there is much laughter.  It also reminds us that while we cannot discount or diminish suffering, we may want to try to smile throughout our passage as much as possible.

When we think about the size of behemoths, the strength of oxen, and the protection of a double corset, we realize that God deals in the maximum.  The thought that follows for me is this:  If God can create and handle all of these enormities . . . God can certainly handle with ease the problems I lay at God’s feet each day. 

We know that Job is restored in all that he was, and all that he had; he receives the reward of the faithful.

Paul asks the rhetorical question in Romans 11:34Who has known the mind of the Lord?  Who has been its counselor?  He reminds us in 1 Corinthians 1:10 that through Christ we might become perfectly united thought and  mind.  In the second chapter, verses 9-16, he reminds us that Eye has not seen and ear has not heard the goodness God has prepared for those who love him, and that we are to join one another so that we might have the mind of Christ.

When we love someone, we come together.  We communicate with those we care about; we invest time in understanding them and in listening to them.  This is what God seeks in relationship with us.  It is what we seek in relationship with God.

We have said this frequently in our Noontime reflections: Let us find time several times a day to put all else aside – even if for only five minutes – to reserve time for just GodWe send him our petitions constantly and we ask for answers.  Perhaps he is speaking but we cannot hear.  If we shut out the world to listen with our heart and mind and soul . . . we may be happily surprised to hear that our deepest questions have complex answers . . . which God provides to us a bit at a time.  Let us make time just for God.   

A Favorite from May 4, 2009.


Image from http://rickconlow.com/communicate-difficult-conversations/ 

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Job 40:1-5: Arguing with the Almighty

Friday, August 24, 2018

Answers

In today’s reading Job agrees to put his hand over his mouth so that he might finally listen to Yahweh . . . and he says this after having made a full and cogent argument to his maker.  I believe that we are meant to wrestle with God.  We are created to think, reflect and re-think.  We are created to be in relationship with God, and to do this well we must ask questions.  So many times we receive an enigmatic answer which requires not intelligence to understand but patience and fidelity.  This is how we acquire wisdom: through lengthy days of listening, reflecting and praying.

Ought we to argue with God?  Absolutely.  Will we receive unusual and even vague answers?  Precisely.  Is this the path to wisdom and eventual serenity?  Without a doubt.  And this brings us to the point of this reading:  when we assume a proper relationship with God, all else falls into place.  When we turn to God only, when we believe in God only, when we act through God only, then we find the peace which is promised to us.  In the scope of the universe we are quite small; but even in our smallness, each of us is important to God.  We never once hear the Maker say to Job, “I will get back to you in a minute after I finish dealing with a world war, genocide in a number of places, two hurricanes and an earthquake, along with an outbreak of a dread disease and thirteen governments gone bad with corruption”.  God does not put us aside or put us on hold.  God is attentive and present all through this story.  And what we see is God’s constancy, fidelity, and willingness to listen to Job’s complaint.  We can be assured that as with Job, when we send our petitions and our cry upward, God will hear, because God is always abiding, and God will answer from the whirlwind.  We must summon the courage and the openness to hear what God has to say. Then we must forbear, hope, and be faithful to the promise we and God hold together . . . the promise of rescue, healing and restoration.

Looking forward to the end of Job’s story we have the choice of thinking that Job’s happy ending is the result of fantasy, or we may choose to believe that God abides, and that his promises are kept.  This choice is entirely up to us . . . and I choose to believe that the story is not a fairy tale.  I choose to believe that God abides.


Adapted from a reflection written on January 27, 2008.

Image from: http://tracychurch.com/answers-club/ 

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