Archive for the ‘Favorite’ Category

Matthew 23:1-12Condemnation or Love

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Any time I begin to become a little full of myself, I try to remember Jesus’ words about wide phylacteries and long tassels.   In Jesus’ day, a Jewish man’s status might be shown by the width of the small leather boxes worn on the forehead and left arm containing scripture verses, and by the length of the tassels on his outer garments.  The word rabbi was reserved for honored teachers.

Jesus cautions his followers – and he cautions us – to be wary of flamboyant leaders who do little or nothing to be certain that their own actions match their words.  Jesus calls us to integrity away from hypocrisy.  He calls us to sincerity, constancy, and honesty.  He reminds us of the inversion that governs his kingdom . . . those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.   

We condemn ourselves . . . or save ourselves . . . by the choices we make.  Today Jesus condemns false leaders who burden the little people.  Today Jesus calls us to love.

A re-post from October 11, 2011.

Images from: http://devotionalonjesus.blogspot.com/2010_02_01_archive.html

Read Full Post »

Matthew 27:1-2Standing before Pilate

Monday, November 12, 2018

Antonio Ciseri: Ecce homo

Today’s Gospel (Luke 24:35-48) is the second half of the Emmaus story.  The disciples who fled Jerusalem in order to escape chaos return to share their story of the Risen Christ.  They want to tell their beleaguered friends that the one who stood accused before Pilate had returned anew.  The plot of Judas and the church leaders that had once looked so successful now seemed a failure.  The world had turned upside down – just as Jesus had predicted – and the grief they had felt had now turned to joy.  As they tell their story, Jesus enters their midst as if to verify their incredible words: The one who stood before Pilate not only lives but he eats and breathes and wants to calm their fears.  His first words to them are: Peace be with you.  And then the story continues: But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?  And why do questions arise in your hearts?  Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”  And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.

This was no ghost.  Jesus was not conjured up from their hysteria or imagination.  This was real.  The one who appeared to fail had overcome.  He still bore the marks of his terrible death; yet this death had no effect upon him.  The builder’s stone that had been rejected was now a strong foundation.  And this same conversion and redemption are offered to each of us . . . Jesus’ sisters and brothers.

I am thinking of how difficult it must have been to stand before Pilate as Jesus did to suffer and die for someone else’s sake.  I am thinking of how joyful it must have been a few short days later to enter into a room of dear friends to assure them that all was well.

When we are faced with difficult decisions we do not want to make, we must remember Jesus standing before Pilate.

When we are the lone witness to injustice and violence, we must remember Jesus standing before Pilate.

When we feel abandoned by family and friends, we must remember Jesus standing before Pilate.

When everything in us wants to run, wants to defend, wants to go to any means to survive, we must remember Jesus standing before Pilate.

On this Easter Thursday if we ask: Are we willing to stand before Pilate as Jesus does?  What will be our response?

A favorite from Easter Thursday, April 28, 2011, re-posted on October 10, 2011.

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecce_homo 

Read Full Post »

Ezekiel 45Sacred Ways

Thursday, November 8, 2018

When we read this chapter of Ezekiel we might pause to remember that in each of our days we must set aside a place for God, an attitude for God, and gifts for God.  When we do this, we have a wonderful attitude shift, we have an attitude for God.

Verses 1 through 8 describe how we might create a physical space in which we pause from our work to reflect and to listen for God’s word to come to us.  Verses 9 through 12 remind us that when we parse out our resources we are to use a just and merciful measure rather than a set of standards that exacts punishment and looks for revenge.  Verses 13 to 17 remind us that when we return the best portion of our goods to God we also return all that is good about ourselves and all that we wish to change.  Verses 18 through 25 remind us to set aside specific and certain times to celebrate the goodness of God.  All of this is about the temple Ezekiel describes in previous chapters . . . but it is also about each of us.  It is about the temple within, that place where the Spirit of God dwells.

We can become caught up in the busy-ness of the details of our lives and when this happens we must take time to return to God often and regularly – – – that he might instruct us on how we are to go and what we are to do.

We can become caught up in the many places we must go in our lives and when this happens we must – wherever we are – create a space to visit with God often and regularly – – – that we might remove our sandals and dwell on this holy ground for a while.

We can become caught up in the cultivation of the gifts we recognize as ours rather than the giving of these gifts as we move through our lives and when this happens we must remember to return these gifts to their proper place, to God, often and regularly – – – that he might use them for good. 

We can become caught up in the mercurial and ever-changing attitudes of ourselves and others as we number the days of our lives and when this happens we must remember that God never changes his attitude of loving forgiveness and that God has saved us from ourselves and others often and regularly – – – that we might dwell with him forever in peace. 

Maes: Old Woman Praying

When we make the effort to create sacred space, to return sacred gifts and to preserve sacred time no matter where we are, we become holy ground, holy gift, holy and eternal moments.  Our human, punitive and self-centered attitude morphs into the attitude of God; and we become one with the divine as our new and sacred way of being transforms us into temples for holy dwelling.

A re-post from October 6, 2011.

Images from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:An_Old_Woman_Praying_-_Nicolaes_Maes.png

Read Full Post »

Job 2:11-13Great Suffering

Monday, November 5, 2018

Written on June 14 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

At first glance, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar seem to be Job’s intimate friends.  When they arrive and see that Job is greatly changed and greatly affected by his new circumstances, they do not accuse Job or offer him platitudes; rather, they join him in grief and abide with him in his great suffering.  Once we begin to read the speeches these three offer, we change our thinking.  They urge Job to confess the hidden sin which they believe is the root cause of his pain . . . even though Job has nothing to confess.  This is when we realize that these three acquaintances are not able to think much beyond their immediate world and code.  They cannot really accompany Job in his great pain.

This week, the first Mass readings have been taken from Second Corinthians and Paul has been reminding his sisters and brothers in Christ that for your sake [Christ] became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich (8:9) We are rich enough, according to this thinking, that we can afford to love even our enemies . . . and it is our willingness to enter into suffering with Christ that brings us this wealth.

In the Gospels this week, we have been reading a similar message from Matthew 5: Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.  Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn you back on one who wants to borrow . . . You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’.  But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father.  These are difficult reversals to understand, thorny inversions to believe . . . these are hard lessons to model and to live.  Yet they are the fabric of Christian life.

Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar do their best to comprehend and even help Job but they cannot really abide with him because they do not understand the underpinning creed that suffering through and with and in Christ brings about true and lasting serenity.  They do not realize that suffering is not always a curse . . . and that great suffering may even be a blessing from God.

A re-post from October 3, 2011.

Image from: http://calvarybiblefellowshipmass.org/2011/08/27/1-year-bible-reading-08-28-09-03-11/

Read Full Post »

Romans 11Broken Branches

Sunday, November 4, 2018

God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew . . .

Paul puts the issue to us quite simply.  We cannot justify abandoning God by saying that God has first abandoned us.  Paul reminds the Romans – and us – that God is incapable of abandoning any part of creation, even when we turn away in separation.  God waits for us infinitely and perfectly because – as we know – God is love . . . and love does not abandon, love does not disappear.

There may be times when we must separate ourselves from those we love for any number of reasons – I am thinking of addictions or other toxic behaviors – but in these cases we must always maintain an openness to the possibility that God’s love supersedes any dark force we humans can muster against the overpowering presence of God’s love.  Paul explains how even a wild shoot may be grafted onto the living vine to become one in unity with the goodness that God is.  Each of us is a broken branch of one sort or another.  And each of us is subject to “God’s irrevocable call”.   Even those – and we may say especially those – who disobey and misbehave are welcomed home always.  This is the lesson of the Lost Son in Luke 15; and it is remembering this lesson that may save us and call us back when we have wandered off into the wasteland of darkness.

Perhaps we think of abandoning God because God does not do as we like; yet this week we have been hearing the message that despite the pain, the change of our daily pruning is good for us.  This is how much God loves us – that he looks for the best in us and waits wisely and patiently while we thrash through our lives wondering all the while where God is . . . when God has been abiding all the time.

We are broken branches but God, the ever faithful gardener, goes about seeking, picking up small limbs from the ground where we have been trampled, cleaning, trimming . . . and grafting us back on to the vine to draw strength from the root . . . so that we might rise up in praise of this constant, loving God.

We may feel as though God has hidden himself when in fact . . . it is we who have hidden.  And it is we who are the remnant grafted back into place for our own good and for the good of the Kingdom where we are needed and awaited.  Each of us reaches a point of low resources when we feel as though we must give up . . . and so we might.  But God never gives up on us.

Here is the bookmark that fell out of my Bible today.  I had written down these words some time ago from Isaiah 30:20-21: The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst.  No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher, while from behind a voice shall sound in your ears, “This is the way; walk in it”, when you would turn to the right or to the left.  This Teacher is the Christ who shows us always which way to go when we are lost.

From that same chapter, verse 18: The Lord is waiting to show you favor, and he rises to show you compassion; for the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all who wait for him!  This God is the God who walks behind us as a protector, beside us as a brother, before as a leader and with us as his Spirit; and this God is with us even when we have forgotten him.  This is how much we are loved.

We are broken branches, fallen from the main vine with no recourse but to die.  This God who protects us, heals us, saves us and loves us, comes to us always.  Even when we do not know that we may need him.  Even when we may not have had the strength or will to call out to him.  Even when we have forgotten that he is always there . . . gathering us in as remnant . . . with the rest of the broken branches.

A re-post from October 2, 2011. 

Images from: http://www.my-grape-vine.com/ and http://www.zeng-han.com/cs_southmountain/index.html

Read Full Post »

Psalm 16Song of Trust and Security in God

From the mini-reflection in today’s MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer (Cameron 369): “When seen in the light of Easter joy, our sins can weigh us down with discouragement.  Yet God’s love does not deal in punishment as human vengeance does.  God’s love disciplines and prunes us in order to free us – sometimes a painful process – so that we might not die like a withered branch but live and bear much fruit in the risen Christ”. 

And from today’s Gospel which is John 15:12-17: It was not you who chose me I but 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.

We know how difficult change is yet we cannot avoid it for it is inevitable.  We know how difficult life is; in one way or another we experience pain and sorrow daily.  Because life is never free of suffering we might use this kind of pruning to find our best selves.  We know that we exist for a purpose and that purpose is to find our skill set as kingdom builders.  Perhaps we have the idea that we wish to design the architecture in this new kingdom when what God needs from us is that we serve as caretakers of the needy.  Or maybe we hope to serve in some significant organizational role when instead God needs us as harvesters.   Rather than focus on the specifics of our work or on the obstacles to attaining what we wish to attain, we might best focus on God alone instead, for only in God do we find a sheltering place that is secure, permanent and healing.

We do not chose God, God chooses us.  In this we can be secure; this we can trust.  God loves us through the pain of life and not in spite of it.  Let us look beyond our immediate sorrows and desires to see where the boundary lines have fallen.  Let us examine our circumstances to find that we are in pleasant places with a goodly heritage. 

If we are troubled about the pruning that is taking place in our lives today, we may want to turn to God to ask him for the strength to trust God as we ought.  Let us turn to this Psalm to pray . . .

I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.  Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure.  Amen.

A re-post from October 1, 2011.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 27.5 (2011): 369. Print. 

Images from: http://christians-in-recovery.org/wp/2011/06/14/general-recovery/never-forsaken/

Read Full Post »

Isaiah 2More than Sparrows

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The futility of believing in silver and gold is a theme that has popped up over the past few weeks in the several study/reflection groups to which I belong.  When using a concordance, we can find many references to one or both of these precious metals; the attraction of valuable gems and ores is a universal lure to humans.  They sparkle.  They appear to be timeless and everlasting.  In today’s Noontime, Isaiah’s words take me to the Gospel reading for the day: Luke 12:1-7.  Jesus explains to us that we are worth more than many sparrows.

Last evening in Scripture study we came to the verse from 1 Corinthians 6:20 in which Paul reminds us that we were bought out of slavery for a great price.  We are reminded by this letter that our bodies are temples where the Holy Spirit dwells within, that we are branches growing on the great vine of Christ, that we are adored and beloved children of God

Why, we are asked, do we worry over much?  Why do we not turn to the one who loves us best to be consoled?  Why do we seek consolation in empty places?

Isaiah speaks of God in awesome and majestic Old Testament terms: a god who exacts justice and who loves jealously.  The New Testament translates this fearsome God into Jesus, one who obeys the will of the Father, who loves even those who murder him, who calls, awaits and abides with each of us.  The punishing God arrives in our midst as the forgiving God who values us more than many sparrows.

When we read this chapter of Isaiah we can see where pride takes us . . . away from the one who purchased our freedom at a great price.  We can see what our idols of silver and gold can do for us.  These gods stand silent when we are in pain.  These deities offer nothing but their continual demand that we become less human.  These false champions fear our own divinity and they are incapable of salvific transformation.  They do not rescue and they do not save.  And they would sell us for less than a sparrow if it suited their whim.

Isaiah reminds us that in this world there are lands filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures . . . yet all of this is as nothing before the gift of life God gives to us freely and with love.

We are worth more than we can imagine.  Let us value this gift just as our maker does . . . and let us remember that we are worth more than silver or gold . . . more than many sparrows.

A re-post from September 28, 2011.

Image from: http://thepurposeofspecies.org/2010/10/sparrows/

Read Full Post »

Daniel 8The King’s Business

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Written on Wednesday, October 7, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite . . . Even when – and perhaps especially when we are in the midst of darkness, we  must arise to be about the King’s business . . .

In the vision I was looking and saw myself . . . I looked up and saw . . .  

The symbols in this oracle were understood by the ancient people; we will need a bit of explanation.  Scholars tell us that the two-horned ram is the combined kingdoms of Medes and Persia, and these were destroyed by Alexander the Great.  The swiftly advancing goat is the Macedonian army; the horn between its eyes is Alexander.  The little horn in verse 9 represents Palestine.  The host of the heaven is either God’s people or angels, and the prince is God himself.  The sin here is the placement of the statue of Antiochus – the abomination – in the Jerusalem temple; the end time is the day when God will judge the nations.  The beautiful land is Judea.  It is clear that the pagan ruler Antiochus is seen as challenging heaven itself.  Daniel is to keep this vision secret for a time; further emphasizing the mystery already engendered by the many symbols.

As I was watching . . .

In the book of Daniel we have a series of oracles and stories along with the appearance of the Son of Man, the one who prefigures Christ and whose title is used to describe Jesus.  This particular oracle is laden with symbolism and foretells without equivocation the future of Daniel’s people.  It foretells our own future as well.

When I had seen the vision I tried to understand it . . .

When we dream, either in our sleep or in our waking, we envision the life we wish to have, the person we wish to be.  Sometimes our imaginings are close to reality and other times not so much.

I was overcome . . .

We carry the vision of our possibilities within, expecting that the goodness comes to fruition, hoping that the darkness does not overcome the small aura of light we manage to engender.  Conserving our energy and working from the synergy created by our solidarity with other faithful we arise.  We unite with one another in Christ to go about the business of building the kingdom . . . knowing that the king has taken us all well in hand.

And then I arose and went about the king’s business. 

A re-post from September 27, 2011.

Image from: http://www.rajeshsetty.com/2008/10/27/diwali-wishes-and-a-related-thought/ 

Read Full Post »

A re-post from September 26, 2011. 

Our baby granddaughter arrived yesterday.  She fluttered into life . . . and then as quickly as she was with us, she was gone.  Holding her lifeless body, the shell she occupied in pre-natal months for a too short passage on this earth, I knew she was no longer there.  But just as surely, I felt her hovering over our shoulders, telling us that all was well . . . even as we struggled to feel her presence.  Even as we struggled to find shelter in the storm.

Psalm 91Finding Shelter

Monday, October 29, 2018

This psalm has been set to music and is often sung at funerals.  We can see why.

This prayer is intoned by pilgrims who travel to spiritual places.  We can read why.

The psalmist tells us that our journey is never smooth; it wends its way among disasters and calamities.  We have experienced this.

The psalmist reminds us that there is only one shelter from these storms.  This we believe when we find shelter after we have been left alone, been abandoned or betrayed.

The Lord commands his angels about you to guard you in your way . . .

Today is the Feast Day of Guardian Angels and the Mass readings recount to us the first time angels are mentioned in scripture: Thus says the Lord: “See, I am sending an angel before you to guard you on the way and bring you to place I have prepared.  (Exodus 23:20Today God speaks to us to say: Look, I have sent my special messenger to you to assure that you do not lose your way, to protect you from the terrors you will live, to bring you to the sheltered place beneath my wings – these wings that raise you up above the cauldron of life. 

We have reflected before about God’s messengers who come to us when we most need help.  We might spend some time today meditating again on the way these miraculous creatures work in and with us.  They may be evanescent beings who inhabit another plane and who spend their existence doing God’s biding.  They may be friends who abide with us during trials.  They may be strangers who flicker through our lives to heal and save.  And they are there even though we may be totally unaware of them; but they accompany us everywhere at all times.

When we feel as though we are falling into a bottomless chasm, when we want to celebrate a new joy that arrives, when we move through an ordinary day in an ordinary way . . . we will always be accompanied by our angels.  And let us remind one another to take the hand of the guardian angel God has sent to accompany us on our journey.  This angel knows us best of all.  This angel guides and protects.  This angel leads us to the one shelter that is never shaken, that lasts for all time . . . the shelter of our God.

A postscript to Sophie, whom I held for a little while . . .

Your name means wisdom . . . visit us often;

Your little face is beautiful . . .  smile on us daily;

Your grace is eternal . . . come running to meet us when we see you again in the fullness of God’s time;

You are our special messenger . . . may we always remember your significance. 

We love you . . . and we know that you love us, too.  Amen.

This reflection was written on  October 2, 2009 and is posted as a Favorite. 

Image from: http://babymichaelsjourney.blogspot.com/2010/04/michaelss-sand-angels.html 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: