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Thursday, February 25, 2021

imagesCAVPF65IRomans 2:12-16

Our Interior Law – Part I

Knowing the Law and living the Law are not equal. Can a man or a woman be a preacher of the Good News and still sin greatly? Yes.  Can one who does not even know about the Law live a life according to that Law? Yes. The privilege of having been schooled in the Law does not bring with it an automatic membership into an exclusive club. One must demonstrate by outward actions that this knowledge has transformed one’s life; and this knowledge is available to all of us, even if we have not received it as a birthright.

Possessing the Law. Acting the Law. Being justified in and by the Law. Paul writes of justification often and when does he means to remind us that is our measure of holiness.  We become justified – or redeemed and transformed – when we act in and through and for God.

Paul is writing about integrity here. He asks us to take a look to ourselves to see if what we say matches what we do Beyond this simple statement is the further thinking that it is not enough to carry out in our action what we say we believe, we must also be sincere in these outward signs of our inward selves; because it is the interior that has worth as opposed to the exterior. It is the interior as portrayed by the exterior that speaks to the world who we are and who we believe God to be. Body and soul ought not operate in two different worlds; for when they do our transformation and justification are impossible.

Paul calls out his fellow Jews for their hypocrisy in not recognizing the Word in the person of the Risen Christ; but he also calls out all people of all times and places to engage with the Risen Christ ourselves rather than rely on the words of an exterior, written Law that keep us safe but that do not redeem or transform us. Paul encourages each of us to see the separation between saying and doing as our measure of self that matters most for it mirrors our separation from Christ who is our vital guide and support. And it is this separation from Christ that makes our own transformation and redemption so difficult to realize.

So how do we avoid this splitting of self and this separation from Christ? We examine both our words and actions to see that they align and that they are sincere; and we assure that the interior law we carry in our hearts . . . can be plainly seen by ourselves and others in all that we think . . . in all that we say . . . and in all that we do.


Adapted from a reflection written on January 26, 2009.

Image from: http://ipowerproject.com/profiles/blog/show?id=2057690%3ABlogPost%3A1054496&commentId=2057690%3AComment%3A1076358&xg_source=activity 

To learn more about what The Law means in a scriptural context, go to: http://biblehub.com/dictionary/l/law.htm

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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

oasisEzekiel 37

The Valley of Dry Bones – Part III

The second half of the “Dry Bones” chapter brings us the Oracle of the Two Sticks through which we understand that the splintered kingdoms will be re-united – an event thought totally unbelievable – and that the exile the people suffered was not God’s rejection of them. The chapters following this one describe the battle against Gog and the end-of-time feast in the restored Jerusalem. Thus does this portion of Ezekiel’s prophecy tell the reader that what is thought impossible is possible for God; it tells us that God never abandons us even when we abandon God. And it tells us that God loves us even when we believe ourselves to be rejected.

What does all of this mean for us? Ezekiel reminds us that the most hopeless cases have hope in them somewhere, that God acts out of great love to resuscitate what has been lost, and that we are called to do for one another what God does for each of  us. All things are possible, mirages become real, and sustenance revives us in the desert of our lives when we move toward conversion rather than away from it, when we move through the brittleness of the dry bones and the desert, toward the refreshing, renewing waters of the oasis God provides for us against all human odds.

There is a line in day eight of a St. Jude novena I used to pray: When the difficult was too great to bear, Saint Jude somehow managed to see that it was lifted. It was almost as if he had set the pattern for one of the branches of the armed services:“The difficult I shall take care of immediately; the impossible (in terms of human power) may take a little longer.” Faith found that humility means power in the eyes of God.

ww_pada01[1]

Parry Dalea: This flower blooms in the Tucson desert in Southwestern USA from August to May

And so we humbly turn to God and ask that dry bones be resuscitated, that lost faith be restored, and that stifled hope be returned. When we stagger under burdens and find ourselves in trackless sands, we must petition God in the knowledge that the impossible is possible knowing that God will always answer, dry bones will always rise, the desert will always bloom and the oasis will always appear.

As we rise to step into a new morning, perhaps still worried with a burden we could not shake, as we tumble into our beds at night, perhaps still weary at the end of a dry day full of impossibility, we must remember to pray for the impossible . . . for God always finds a way.

From Psalm 63: O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you, like a dry, weary, land without water . . . For your love is better than life, my lips speak your praise . . . On my bed I remember you . . . On you I muse through the night for you have been my help . . . My soul clings to you . . . your right hand holds me fast.  Amen.

Tomorrow, a prayer from the valley of dry bones.


Adapted from a reflection written on February 18, 2008.

To understand more about the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, why they represent hopes lost, and why it was thought impossible for them to unite, go to: http://biblehub.com/dictionary/k/kingdom_of_israel.htm and http://biblehub.com/dictionary/k/kingdom_of_judah.htm

For more images of beautiful desert and mountain oases in unexpected places, click on the image above or go to: http://scribol.com/featured/desert-oasis/2257/9

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Monday, February 22, 2021

Ezekiel 37

The Crescent Oasis: Gobi Desert, China

Along the old Silk Road
The Crescent Oasis: Gobi Desert, China

The Valley of Dry Bones – Part II

Lifeless bones clamber together to form full figures. This dramatic imagery came to the Jewish people when they were well into their exile, well into the desert, without much hope or recourse to salvation . . . or so they thought. When the prophet is asked if he thinks it possible that the desiccated bones might rise to take on flesh and function again, he wisely replies that only God can answer that question. What follows is an interesting interplay in which Ezekiel is invited to take a part in a rebirth that occurs quite dramatically. What was thought as lost is found and restored. The people who had no temple, no visible home for Yahweh, had never been abandoned by their God as they had thought. The dry bones rise, take on flesh, and live.

What might we do to rise when we believe there is no hope? We call on God who makes all things possible. What might we do when we have stumbled into an oasis we thought was merely a mirage? We continue to follow Christ who carries our burden. How might we validate our new life in the Spirit? We give thanks to God for affirming and claiming our potential.

Ezekiel has much to teach us about the bone-strewn valleys where we see only mirages on the horizon. When we place all hope in God we are not disappointed. When we lean on faith in Christ we are always redeemed. And when we are willing to move forward in the love of the Spirit, we are renewed, restored and rewarded. Let us not shrink from dry bones or the desert wastes in our lives . . . for we may be missing a deep and eternal experience that only the desert oasis can provide.

Tomorrow, the Oracle of Two Sticks.  


Adapted from a reflection written on February 17, 2008.

To visit other desert oases, click on the image above or go to: http://cristinabarkerjones.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/9-most-beautiful-oases-in-the-world/

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First Sunday in Lent, February 21, 2021

Ezekiel 37

The Liwa Desert

The Liwa Desert

The Valley of Dry Bones – Part I

Today’s verses for reflection describe the famous “Dry Bones” of Ezekiel, a metaphor for the reunion of our own body and soul at our resurrection. Ezekiel brings us a panoply of images that help us to understand that the oasis mirages of the desert are possible. Ezekiel tells us that restoration after great downfall can happen – not because of our own good works, but because of God’s infinite and ever-abiding compassion.

A falaj in Qasr al Sarab, Liwa Oasis

In the desert there is a quiet but sudden blooming that takes place after a rain. Tiny, delicate yet sturdy flowers pop up over night after a scattering of dew but they disappear with the heavy noon sun. The constant cycle of arrival and departure reflects our own comings and goings with God. We receive the morning dew and rise hopeful. The heat of the day beats us down and we retreat in disappointment. Yet, through God’s loving care we return to bloom again with the next morning’s new scattering of condensation.  The cold night has brought sustenance that we did not expect.

And so it is with us.  Each day we are offered the gift of God’s loving, patient care. Each day, despite the dryness of our bones, we rise to respond. Each day we sink in weariness and yet . . . even in the most vast of deserts God provides oases to sustain us.

Tomorrow, we consider our own dry bones . . . and our own restoration.


Images from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/396739048398927764/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liwa_Oasis

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Saturday, February 20, 2021

Daniel 9:13-19

Prayer of Penitence – In the Desert

Eugene Alexis Girardet: Prayer in the Desert

Eugene Alexis Girardet: Prayer in the Desert

In today’s Noontime we ponder Daniels’s famous penitential prayer on behalf of the community. On the Eve of the first Sunday in Lent, we might reflect on three passages that complement today’s from Daniel. Ezra 9:6-15 and Nehemiah 1:5-11 and 9:6-37.  In this story, both priest and administrator rebuild the Jerusalem temple after Cyrus allows the Jewish people to return from exile. They have been told that their exile will last not 70 weeks or 70 years as was foretold by the prophet Jeremiah. No, they receive word that their captivity will end in seven times seventy or in 490 years. This is gloomy news until we begin to understand that this is precisely the amount of time until the arrival of Jesus.

The HARPER COLLINS COMMENTARY tells us that this prayer we read today is not seen so much as a petition from the people which God obeys but rather as an appropriate act of piety from a people who have erred and disobeyed. It is for this reason that it is best to find others who will pray this together with us as an admission of our collective willfulness, waywardness and disobedience. (Mays 631)

And let us pray Daniel’s prayer much as the Jewish community prayed with Ezra and Nehemiah when they returned to their ruined city.

woman-kneeling[1]God of Heaven, God of Earth, Spirit Dwelling Among Us,

Guide us . . . and grant us the faith to follow,

Be glad in us . . . and grant us the hope to rejoice in you,

Love us . . . and grant us the grace to grow in you.

We wish to turn . . . we wish to return to you.

For you are the beginning, the end, the all.

We are your servants.

May we serve you well.

Amen. 


Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 631. Print.

Images from: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/tent-in-the-desert-the-prayer-detail-eugene-alexis-girardet.html and http://annebender.blogspot.com/2013/07/three-things-i-love-about-catholicism.html

Adapted from a reflection written on February 17, 2008.

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Friday, February 19, 2021

 Judean desert in bloom


Judean desert in bloom

Joel 2:18-27

Blessings In the Desert

There has been a lot said about “the desert of love”. Love seeks the desert because the desert is where man is handed over to God, stripped bare of his country, his friends, his fields, his home. In the desert, a person neither possesses what he loves, nor is he possessed by those who love him; he is totally submitted to God in an immense and intimate encounter. That is why in every age the Holy Spirit has compelled all lovers to seek the desert.  (MAGNIFICAT Meditation, December 6, 2009 – Madeleine Delbrêl)

The desert is a place for us to confront our fears – knowing that we are alone and that no one but God is watching. It is difficult to see these many blessings until we have been in the desert. When catastrophe strikes, we are given the opportunity to reap bounty from the crisis.

The prophet Joel reminds us that we need not fear anything or anyone. He reminds us that there are mountains of blessings lifting us up daily, rivers of blessings cleansing us each day. The scourge of locusts is healed. Our storehouses overflow. Everything we were lacking has been fulfilled . . . and more. The Lord walks among us . . . as one of us.

When we go to the desert, we are alone with God and those God sends to minister to us. This is where God finally has our total attention. So rather than fear the arid places and times of dryness, let us listen for the messengers who harbinger good news. Let us allow ourselves to rest fully and totally in God’s great arms.  nd let us remember that it is in the desert that find our greatest, deepest and most abundant blessings.

May God’s peace and blessings be upon each of you.\


To learn more about Madeleine Delbrêl, often called the French Dorothy Day, go to: http://cjd.org/2001/04/01/madeleine-delbrel-a-french-dorothy-day-writes-we-the-ordinary-people-of-the-streets/

Image from: https://www.israel21c.org/top-10-places-to-see-israels-spring-flowers/

Adapted from a reflection written on December 8, 2009.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 6.12 (209). Print.

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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Psalm 119: 9-16

Robin Anderson: Mary Holding Baby Jesus Looking Up Towards the Light

Robin Anderson: Mary Holding Baby Jesus Looking Up Towards the Light

Treasuring God’s Promise

Mary kept the Word of God in her body as the pre-natal Jesus grew in strength. She also kept the Word in her heart with reflection and prayer. We are told that she pondered the verbal and physical message she was brought. She knew that she was to bear light to the nations. She also knew that she need only allow God’s Word to transform her life in order for her to bear fruit. She knew that trust in God alone was enough . . . and in this way she treasured God’s promise.

As we explore God’s word, let us also treasure the promise we know it holds. Today, let us reflect on the first three letters of the Hebrew alphabet as the psalmist shares them with us. And let us consider what lessons and promises they unfold.

Aleph: The Paradox of God and Humans – God calls humans into creation.  How do we respond?

Beth: God’s Dwelling Place Below – Mary agrees to serve as the ark for God’s New Covenant.  How does she find the courage to say yes?

Gimel: Reward and Punishment – The duality we find in this letter reminds us that we are created with a free will.  We are free to choose a world of either/or, a choice that divides.  We are also free to choose a world of “and,” a choice that includes.  Which world do we choose?

Tomorrow, a prayer to fulfill God’s promise in us.


Adapted from a reflection written on the Feast of the Immaculate heart of Mary on June 16, 2007.

For more information on the painting above, click on the image or go to: http://robinandersonfineart.blogspot.com/2011/02/mary-holding-baby-jesus-looking-up.html 

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Wednesday, December 22, 2020

Titus 3 

Prepare

El Greco: The Apostle Paul

El Greco: The Apostle Paul

This brief letter has something to say to us about forming community.  Today we reflect on its third and last chapter. Titus was an assistant to Paul mentioned in some of his other letters and also in Acts. He began a Christian community on the island of Crete, and Paul counsels him about how he might advise these early Christians to live among deceivers and heretics. These are words we might use today.

Be under the control of magistrates and authorities . . . be obedient . . . open to every good enterprise . . . slander no one . . . be peaceable, considerate, exercising all graciousness toward everyone. 

Paul reminds Titus and us that we have all been foolish, disobedient, deluded, slaves to various desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful ourselves and hating one another. No one but a saint escapes the downside of humanity.

The upside, the good news is that the Christ has come to walk among us, to be one of us, to take on our burdens which overwhelm us because God is goodness and mercy in their most perfect form.

What are we to do to reach for such heights? Avoid foolish arguments, genealogies, rivalries and quarrels about the law . . . After a first and second warning, break off contact with a heretic.  We are to devote ourselves to good works to supply urgent needs. 

The message is clear. While we strive to follow Christ we cannot expect perfection in or of ourselves. This perfection can be obtained only in and through Christ because of God’s mercy and compassion and love for each of us.

In this Advent season, as we near the celebration of the day when the child comes to live among us, we might pause to consider our arguments and our foolish enterprises. We might consider how we are to cast off anything that does not lead us to Christ. We might consider how we best devote ourselves to good works that address urgent needs when all else fails us. We might consider how we will be best prepare. For now is that time.


Adapted from a reflection written on December 18, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://rclnotes.blogspot.com/2011_02_01_archive.html

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The Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 20, 2020

Hebrews-6-19[1]

Hebrews 5:11-14 & 6

Resting in the Promise

You have become sluggish in hearing . . .

Notes from the NAB, page 1328: Rather than allow the slow to become content in their slowness, Paul exhorts them to even higher levels of spirituality.  He is not lenient. And as for those who have fallen away completely, he does not even address these apostates. If all we need is energy to progress in our spiritual journey, we can turn to Christ for he tells us through Matthew (10:28-30), my yoke is easy, my burden light.  Christ himself exhorts us Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Sometimes we are not so much sluggish as afraid. We know that the task lying before us is laden with tricky passages, dark corners, deceitful paving stones that look firm and yet sink into quicksand. On these occasions we must also turn to Christ, trusting him when he says take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart. Disobedience is not an option for an apostle.

Paul tells us that Christ’s promise is immutable, and he uses the long story of the covenant promise between Yahweh and Abraham as ample proof. Did not the elderly couple – Sarah and Abraham –   begin a kingdom of millions? Did this new way of seeking God not travel to all peoples of all nations? Do we not know even today the story of this Abraham, Sarah, and the high priest Melchizedek? Paul reminds us that it is impossible for God to lie; his very goodness and honesty force him to keep his covenant with his people.

So when we feel weary or afraid, we might turn to Paul for a reminder of the words of hope we can never hear too often. This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil [into the Holy of Holies], where Jesus has entered as forerunner . . .

In this Advent season when we anticipate the arrival of Emmanuel, God among us, let us rest in this promise. Let us acknowledge that when all is dark and appears to be lost, when all is more difficult or more terrifying than we can bear we must be still  . . . so that we might hear again . . .

Come to me . . . and you will find rest for your souls . . .


Image from: http://society6.com/PocketFuel/Hebrews-619_Print#1=45

Adapted from a reflection written on December 11, 2008.

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