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Matthew 7:15-20: Receiving and Bearing Fruitapple-tree-300x224

Friday, May 13, 2022

Pagan gods demand to be carried while Yahweh carries his people. When we do the Lord’s work we are carried by God. We need not struggle for our daily shelter and bread. They will appear as a tent in the desert and as manna on trees’ branches and the ground. These are the fruits of God’s love for us. What fruits do we bear to God?

God says: I do not ask for holocausts or burnt offerings. I do not want to punish or frighten you. Rather, I want nothing more than your peaceful days and serene nights. My goodness and kindness will carry you if you make your heart open to me. My strength and persistence will sustain you if you allow me to wash your feet. My hope and love will heal you if you come to me with willing hands and mind. I give you the gift of life each day when you rise. All I ask is that you share that gift with others. The pruning you experience at my hand may dishearten you but when you trust the wisdom of my Way this discouragement will vanish. The pruning you undergo only brings forth more abundant and more beautiful fruit than you will have imagined. Trust me. Do not be afraid. Rise and receive the gifts I bring you. Then turn and share them as best you are able.


Enter the word pruning into the blog search bar and consider how and why life prunes us each day.

Image from: http://gccmadison.org/2013/bearing-fruit/

From a reflection written on June 27, 2007.

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Deuteronomy 26: 16-19: The Covenantthe-new-covenant

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Celebrating the Beatitudes, striving to fully take in Jesus’ teachings, we remind ourselves of our heritage and our commitment. Our relationship with God is one we entered into at our creation; and it is a connection and support that will hold us forever.

Today the Lord is making this agreement with you . . .

These are such simple and beautiful words coming from the book of Deuteronomy, or “second law”. Here we find a kind of re-hashing of the historical events which brought the Hebrews to the Moab desert where they waited for forty days before crossing the Jordan to enter their promised land.

You are a people peculiarly God’s own . . . as God promised you . . .

Jesus uses words from this book in his interchanges with Satan when he goes to the desert for forty days just before the beginning of his public ministry (Matthew 4). Jesus again quotes Deuteronomy when he explains the first and greatest commandment of love to a young man (Matthew 22). Matthew, who was writing for a Jewish audience to help his reader understand the implications of these Deuteronomy citations by Jesus, stirred up the corrupt Jewish leadership who had tended to the letter of the law while neglecting its spirit.

God will raise you high in praise and renown and glory . . .

Just so might these words stir up contention today; yet just so will these words bring consolation to those who live a just and authentic life.

God will make you a people sacred to the Lord . . .

Jesus becomes the fulfillment of this Old Covenant because he is the New Covenant. As this new agreement and promise, he is also hope. In this season when we continue to celebrate the miracle of Easter, let us be careful to observe Jesus’ statute of loving one another – even our enemies – with our whole heart and our whole soul. Let us continue to walk in his ways, and hearken to his voice. And let us continue to be a people sacred to God . . . as he has promised.


Image from: http://imgkid.com/covenant-with-god-through-jesus.shtml

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Matthew 6:25-34: Dependence on Godmy child I have this

Friday, May 6, 2022

This is the most basic lesson we have to learn as followers of Christ; and it is the lesson with which we struggle most frequently: Do not worry about your life . . . Are you not more important than [the birds in the sky]?  Yet we allow our fears about our survival to color what we do rather than allowing God to be the ultimate guide of our actions.

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life span? We are powerless when it comes to time and space and yet we allow magical thinking to convince us that we can control the clock, that we can control our physical space.

If God so clothes the grass of the fields . . . will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? Yet we store up and hoard our resources without sharing, thinking that this will keep us safe from disaster.

All of these things [worry about food and clothes] the pagans seek . . . But seek first the kingdom [of God] . . . and all of these things will be given you besides. We delude ourselves when we give credit to ourselves for the home in which we live, the clothes we wear and the vehicle we drive.  We forget that if we did not have the brain power and sense of aesthetics given us by God, our redemption given us by Christ and the good counsel given us by the Spirit . . . our circumstances would certainly be different.  Too much stress keeps us from seeing that we are already given more than what we seek.

living in god's care - handsDo not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. We lend ourselves to prideful thinking when we take credit for all we have and do.  We must allow God to be our sole guide in all matters of the heart, mind and soul.

Sufficient for a day is its own evil. Allowing anxiety to take us over is a sign that we do not believe that God will care for us . . . and this self-sufficiency can separate us from God.

Just yesterday evening at a gathering of friends, as an acquaintance was voicing her fears for the present and future, another member of the group said: Well, now you have the opportunity to learn the most important lesson of all . . . trusting God. The first woman replied:  I thought I had already learned that one.  Several of us – those who have been guided by the suffering we have experienced – smiled and nodded.

matthew_6_25_34_by_hopedreamer17-d2yj65tAnd so we reflect . . . We want to avoid suffering at all cost – not realizing that it is the suffering that brings us best to God. 

And so we pray . . . These are hard sayings . . . these are the lessons of Christ’s disciples . . . these are the gifts of a life lived hard and well . . . a life lived in Christ.  Amen. 


Images from: https://melissafrancois.wordpress.com/tag/gospel-of-matthew/ and http://pixgood.com/matthew-6-25-34.html and http://hopedreamer17.deviantart.com/art/Matthew-6-25-34-178933745

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Matthew 5:21-26: Teaching on Anger

Carl Heinrich Bloch: The Sermon on the Mount

Carl Heinrich Bloch: The Sermon on the Mount

Second Sunday of Easter, April 24, 2022

A Favorite from August 10, 2009. 

Anger is a universal, human emotion which each of us handles in our particular way.  In today’s citation we hear Jesus tell us how important it is that we learn to identify our anger, to name its origin and to manage its effects immediately and completely. Verse 24 tells us that nothing engendering anger may be allowed to take root and live in us; nothing can be allowed to separate us from God.

From Julian of Norwich in ALL WILL BE WELL: “In his merciful way, our good Lord always leads us as long as we inhabit this impermanent life.  I saw no anger other than humanity’s, and God forgives us that, for anger is no more than perverse opposition to peace and love. It arises from a lack of strength, or wisdom, or goodness.  And this failure lies in ourselves rather than in God. Our sin and desperation generate in us a wrath and a continual opposition to peace and love”.

The best antidote to anger is mercy, Julian tells us, for “the ground of mercy is love, and the ministry of mercy is to preserve us in love.  For mercy works in love, with generosity, compassion, and sweetness. And mercy labors within us, preserving us, and conveying everything to the good”.

In his sermon on the mount, Christ tells us: Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Jesus understands well how the entry of a third party into a conflict can either quell or stir the flames of anger. A quiet mediator who empowers those in conflict to listen to one another is invaluable. Any person outside the conflict who delights in adding to that roiling emotions that often accompany a rift nearly always spell death for the relationship. It is for this reason that Jesus urges us to seek settlement before appearing before a judge. Not all third parties have the best interests of those in conflict in their hearts.

Julian concludes her comments with a thought about the effects of anger and a possible sure: “Our failure is frightful, our falling inglorious, our dying wretched. Yet never does love’s compassionate eye turn from us, nor does the operation of mercy cease”.

Mercy and goodness when applied to anger bring about change that transforms. When carrying our gift of self back to God, we must first put anger away. We must first seek and give mercy. We must remember that our travels here are temporary and that the next world, where there is no place for anger to fester and take over, is permanent and eternal. This anger we experience here must be left behind. We must convert it to compassion . . . for in so doing, we enter into Christ’s love and body.

Tomorrow, Jesus’ teaching about adultery.


Julian of Norwich. ALL WILL BE WELL. Ave Maria Press, 1995, 2008. Print. 

Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bloch-SermonOnTheMount.jpg

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Psalm 103: Two Sons and Their Fatherprodigal-son-11

Monday, March 21, 2022

Psalm 103 is one we might pray when we jealousy begins to creep into our lives. Psalm 103 reminds us that we are not the generators or creators of the goodness that blesses us. In Luke 15:1-32 we read the story of the prodigal son or, as some call it, the parable of the forgiving father. Today we consider the envy that rises up in the forgotten son.

The jealousy experienced by the straying son draws him away from the father and toward a life of dissipation. The jealousy felt by the son who stays home, leads him away from understanding the infinite mercy and generosity of his father. It seems that no matter which course we take in life, we are susceptible to wanting that which is not meant to be ours.

When we feel jealousy and turn to thank God for what we have rather than becoming sad or finding a way to have what it is not ours, we enter the plan of conversion that God has in mind for us. We enter into God’s grace. We also enter into God’s conversion of harm to goodness.

Today as we thank God for what is ours and give back to God what is not ours, we pray the intercessions from last evening’s prayer.

Seeking the generosity of God our Father, we pray to him:  Deliver us from jealousy. 

When we see the good fortune of others, let us rejoice in their happiness. Deliver us from jealousy. 

When we see our own shortcomings, let us not despise those who excel in areas where we are lacking.  Deliver us from jealousy. 

When we feel jealous, let us be happy with the gifts God has given us and not covet that which is not rightfully ours.  Deliver us from jealousy. 

Amen.


For a Lenten activity, use a search engine to find image of the prodigal son story and reflect on these two siblings and their generous father. Let us imagine that we were present in this drama and then consider what role we would play. And when evening arrives, let us again read Psalm 103 and thank God for the blessings so generously bestowed on all of creation.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 14.4 (2009). Print.  

Adapted from a reflection written on March 14, 2009.

Image from: http://rationalfaiths.com/prodigal-son/

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Psalm 103: What is Oursenvy

Third Sunday of Lent

March 20, 2022

“It is easy to look on the gifts of others as a threat.  We often want what we don’t have and in doing so forget the good that God has given us. But wanting what is not rightfully ours is the root of many serious sins. Let us instead look how generous God has been to us and rejoice in his generosity to others. For this is the way to justice and happiness”. (MAGNIFICAT Evening Prayer for Friday, March 13, 2009).

Psalm 103, often given the name Praise of Divine Goodness, brings us an opportunity to consider how willing we are to consider what is ours and what is not. It asks us to reflect on who has given us all that we have. It is an opening into our own psyche to think about who and what we covet, and why.

Today’s readings bring us new windows on our own lives.

It was out of envy that they handed Christ over. Matthew 27:18

Love is patient.  Love is kind.  It is not jealous. 1 Corinthians 13:4

It is now the hour for you to awake from sleep . . . The night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness [and] put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ . . . Romans 13:11-14

Wanting what is not ours only brings pain to ourselves and others. This we know and we are quick to realize the damage we suffer when we covet the possessions of others; but how often do we unknowingly covet the intangibles of life? We may wish we possessed others’ friends, others’ jobs, others’ good looks and easy manner. Do we wish we had the closeness others have with God? Are there relationships others might have in work and in play that we wish were ours?

When we want what is not ours, we open ourselves to that which grows in the dark. When we give thanks for the gifts freely given us by God, we open ourselves to the light. When we use our feelings of jealousy as opportunities to thank God, we regard each sensation of envy as an opportunity to rejoice in God’s merciful kindness.

Bless the Lord, oh my soul, do not forget all the gifts of God . . . he delivers your life from the pit, surrounds you with love and compassion, fills your days with good things . . .

Tomorrow, The Forgotten Son.


To read about women and envy at the PSYCHOLOGY TODAY site, click on the image above or visit: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-couch/201307/why-women-fear-envy-and-why-we-dont-need

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 14.4 (2009). Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on March 14, 2009.

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Psalm 59: Complaint


Psalm 59: Complaintcomplaint

Saturday, March 19, 2022

The image of bloodthirsty foes is a frightening one; yet one to which we can relate. Here the psalmist petitions God to slay the evildoers; the New Testament Christ – God’s presence among us – requires that we pray for these enemy foes rather than ask for their annihilation. We are to pray for those who harm us, for we are the victims of their misdeeds. Our petitions will be heard by God.

Jesus reminds his followers: Who among us cannot pray for our friends? This is easily done. It is for our enemies that we must petition renewal and rescue. These are the people who truly need our prayers. Sometimes we feel too vulnerable to allow ourselves to be left open to the cruelty and violence of our enemies – – – this is often my own complaint – – – but God will always present us with the tools for any part of our journey. We may be unaware that we possess these tools because we have limited strength in comparison to God’s awesome and infinite strength; nevertheless, we must look for the small gifts of fortitude that come our way daily. These are the little responses we receive from God each day. In Revelation 3:7 we hear the voice of God: You have limited strength, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. This is the kind of fidelity that God seeks, our constant, imperfect, human response to his call. We are made by God, God knows our weaknesses. God knows our strengths and God is waiting to convert our complaints into Easter joy.

The Apostle Peter tells us in his first letter 5:5b-14 that the devil prowls around us to surprise us at any opportunity. We are to resist him, be steadfast in faith, and know that our brothers and sisters throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.

And so we lift our Lenten prayer: When bloodthirsty enemies approach: Remind us of your strength, O Lord.

When we find ourselves ambushed by life, remind us that the powerful are nothing when compared to you:  Remind us of your strength, O Lord.

When we find ourselves overtaken by the growling dogs, remind us that you dwell within us:  Remind us of your strength, O Lord.

When sharp words wound us, and mouths pour out insults, remind us that you want to laugh with us: Remind us of your strength, O Lord.

When lies told under oath bring us sorrow, remind us that these sinful words will destroy liars in their own untruths: Remind us of your strength, O Lord.

May God go before us and show us our fallen foes: Remind us of your strength, O Lord.

We shall sing of your strength, your praise we will sing: Remind us of your strength, O Lord.

You are our strength, our fortress, our loving God: Remind us of your strength, O Lord.

You will answer our complaint when we call: Remind us of your strength, O Lord.

Amen.


Adapted from a post written on April 26, 2009.

Image from: http://imgkid.com/complaint-handling.shtml

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Psalm 38: Afflictionrescue

Friday, March 18, 2022

These are beautiful words that we might pray when we feel overwhelmed . . . which for some of us is often.  It is a hymn of trust and hope to the God who knows all, who sees all. The St Joseph edition of the Psalter names this psalm, Prayer of a Sinner in Great Peril and the name is apt. When we pray this song, we can be honest and open with God. We can bring our most intense infliction to him . . . and be rewarded with a new sense of meaning, new hope in our petitions, and a new trust in God’s creation. In this Lenten season, we might enter into this prayer often as we make our pilgrimage to Easter and Restoration and as we do . . . we might keep in mind the difference between sometimes and always . . .

Lord, punish me no more . . .

Sometimes the craziness is too much to bear . . .

Your arrows have sunk deep in me . . .

Sometimes the rumors are too piercing to withstand . . .

My iniquities overwhelm me, a burden beyond my strength . . .

Sometimes I stray so far from my potential I cannot find my way back to you . . .

I am numb and utterly crushed . . .

Sometimes I do not know how I have gotten out of bed in the morning . . .

Friends and companions shun my pain . . .

Sometimes I have no place left to vent my anger or to express my fears . . .

Those who seek my life lay snares for me . . .

Sometimes I have no energy left to fight the good fight . . .

I am like the deaf, hearing nothing . . .

Sometimes I believe I am completely detached from my lifeline to you . . .

Lord, I wait for you . . .

Always I remember you, morning, noon and night . . .

Forsake me not, O Lord . . .

Always I will follow you, no matter how difficult the path . . .

My God, be not far from me . . .

Always I will turn to your presence, even when I cannot feel it . . .  

Come quickly to help me . . .

Always I will speak of the many times you have saved me before . . .

My Lord and my salvation . . .

Always I will recall that you who cares for even the tiniest sparrow, will not allow the waters to rise over me . . .

Lord, my deepest yearning is before you; my groaning is not hidden from you . . .

Always I will be honest with you . . .

Forsake me not, O Lord; I wait for you . . . Always.

Amen.


A Favorite first written on Monday, March 16, 2009.

Image from: http://imgkid.com/spiritual-restoration.shtml

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Psalm 51: Contritioncontrite-heart

March 14, 2022

The most famous of the lament psalms, this prayer is said often during the Lenten season; it is also called Prayer of Repentance.  It was written after David sinned with Bathsheba and their child was lost (2 Samuel 11 and 12).

“The first part (3-10) asks deliverance from sin, which is not just a past act but its emotional, physical, and social consequences.  The second part (11-19) seeks something more profound than wiping the slate clean: nearness to God, living by the spirit of God (12-13), like the relation between God and people described in Jer. 21, 33-34.  Nearness to God brings joy and the authority to teach sinners (15-16).  Such proclamation is better than offering sacrifice (17-19).  The last two verses ask for the rebuilding of Jerusalem (20-21) . . . Most scholars think that these verses were added to the psalm some time after the destruction of the temple in 587 B.C.  The verses assume that the rebuilt temple will be the ideal site for national reconciliation”.  (Senior 680-681)

The elements that help to bring us to reconciliation in this prayer are the call to be cleansed and purified with the sprinkling of the hyssop – a woody bush whose small branches were used in ceremonial sprinkling as prescribed by Mosaic Law – the acknowledgment that our wrongdoings effect every part of us – even our inmost heart – and the understanding that true reconciliation comes only through God’s healing hand.  The writer of this psalm knows and expresses the idea that we of ourselves are nothing and can do nothing . . . other than act in and of God.

Let us offer up this prayer today as we continue to pray for the people of Ukraine.

Tomorrow, miserere.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.680-681. Print.

Image from: https://scripturestudyjournal.wordpress.com/category/repentance/

Adapted from a reflection written on February 11, 2010.

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