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Archive for the ‘Lent’ Category


Acts 20:7-12: Absolute Claim
Easter Monday, April 22, 2019

Paul raises Eutychus

On Saturday we reflected on Christ making an absolute claim on his audience at the synagogue of Capernaum on the Sabbath as he combined teaching and miraculous actions of exorcism and healing.  Today we see the Apostle Paul give over to this absolute claim that Christ places on him when we read about the energy, the passion and determination with which Paul preaches the good news of liberation.  He is so much in the Spirit that he goes on for hours about The Word, and then is able to revive Eutychus from death.

I love this story.  We can picture Paul talking well into the night.  All the lamps are lit; everyone has shown up and packed into the upstairs room.  The crowd is so dense that Eutychus perches on a window sill, all the better to see and hear.  But as midnight approaches, this young man dozes off and tumbles to the ground three stories below.  This young man who fallen asleep while listening to Paul speak!

We can continue to imagine how everyone must have hurdled down the stairs to find Eutychus dead on the ground.  But just as Christ has made absolute claim on Paul to ask him to speak fully the Gospel, so too does he make this claim of Eutychus . . . whom he returns to life through the Apostle Paul.

And they took the boy away alive and were immeasurably comforted. 

I have always thought that Eutychus was changed irreparably from that day onward.  I like to think that he told and retold the story continually, each time realizing with more depth the importance of the event: Christ has absolute claim on each of us.  Christ calls . . . Eutychus answers this call to return to life to tell the wonderful story of the good news he has experienced.

This is a truth.  We are made.  We are loved.  We are sent forth to bear fruit, no matter our circumstances.  We are always the children of God, the sisters and brothers of Christ.

Have we dozed off listening to the Word being preached well into the night?  Have we perched ourselves dangerously on the windowsill where we tell ourselves we will be better able to see and hear?  When we tumble to hit the hard ground, will we respond to the absolute claim Christ has on us?  When we hear his Voice, will we answer the Call?  Will we gather round those who live again in the life to move back into this world immeasurably comforted . . . and immeasurably changed?

Lent is a time for tumbling, recovering and reviving.  It is a time for measuring, asking and hoping.  As we move through these last cold days of winter in anticipation of a warm breeze and clear skies, let us stand again as Eutychus did, and give over to Christ’s absolute claim on us.  Let us allow our friends to gather us up, let us allow ourselves to be touched by the healing hand of Christ, and let us give ourselves over to the one who has the only legitimate absolute claim on our body, mind and soul.

Let us be immeasurably comforted by the Christ.


A re-post written on March 4, 2009 and posted on March 7, 2012 as a Favorite . . .

Image from: http://www.mythfolklore.net/lahaye/239/index.html

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Mark 2: Paralysis

Holy Saturday, April 20, 2019

Saint Anne de Beauprés church in Quebec, Canada: Wall of discarded crutches

It is in this second chapter of Mark that we see the power of freedom against the power of restraint.  Jesus arrives in the world as an expression of God’s love for us to transform our paralysis into movement and even action.  This is no easy model for us to follow as we see him in constant collision with the nearly overpowering influence of the Jewish church and social framework.  Jesus speaks truth and mercy to corruption, jealousy and greed every day.  He does not relent. In the end, he is crucified and thought dead and out of the way in what appears to be a bitter irony.  Yet the beautiful inversion and paradox of the story of Christ is that he triumphs over his enemies by dying for them, by loving them more than they love themselves.

It is easy to read these stories of a man who lived two thousand years ago and smile at the authority and courage with which he moved through the world in a brilliant flash of compassion and simplicity: Love one another as I have loved you . . . child, your sins are forgiven.

It is another matter to follow this man and repeat his actions endlessly knowing that obstacles will be thrown in our path which will be impossible to circumvent: Follow me.

The secret to following Christ is to give ourselves over to him and accept his offer of newness:  No one sews a piece of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak . . . no one pours new wine into an old wine skin.

We so often allow the familiar to govern our lives, even when it paralyzes us and prevents us from accepting what can be new about us.  We would rather dance with the devil we know than with the God we do not.  We prefer the dirge of a sadness known to us and reject the hope that the news we have heard from this God Among Us is true.  It is so strange to me that we would prefer our paralyzing fear and reject the freedom offered by the one who comes to forgive and heal: I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.

When we are paralyzed by life, we must choose freedom offered by the Spirit.  When we are overcome by fear or sadness, we must give ourselves over to joy as we take the hand of the groom who comes to bring us to the feast: As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.

During Lent we are accustomed to giving alms, making reparation and examining our motives and actions.  Perhaps this Lent we might begin to allow ourselves to dream of what we might do with the freedom we already possess . . . the freedom to allow ourselves to be healed of our paralysis and to follow Christ when he invites us into true and eternal union with God.

Imagine if we only had the courage and strength to . . . how do we want to finish this thought?  What chains do we yearn to throw off?

The possibilities are endless when we drop our crutches, when we put away our paralysis.


A re-post from March 6, 2012.

Image from: http://grandforet.blogspot.com/2009_05_01_archive.html 

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Luke 16: Citizenship in the Kingdom

Good Friday, April 19, 2019

This a chapter in the story of Christ as told by Luke where we hear and see Jesus explaining mysteries; we also hear and see his followers trying to understand and to follow his instruction.  The chapter is book-ended by two parables: the Dishonest Servant – followed by an explication – and the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus – which is so clear it needs no further comment.  It only must be believed.

Sandwiched between these stories, Jesus speaks to the sneering Pharisees who are ardent followers of the Mosaic Law and the Prophets yet do not understand the concept of Jesus’ New Kingdom which the Prophet Isaiah has so clearly predicted.  In the heart of the chapter is are brief verses regarding marriage and divorce which are often held against those who must – for one reason or another – seek civil and church sanction to annul a bond thought to have been made in reverence.  We read these two simple verses in the context of Paul’s instruction on marriage in his letter to the Ephesians 5:21-32.  These words follow Paul’s thinking on our duty to live in the light in God’s kingdom.  They speak of mutual respect, mutual holiness, and mutual love.  They give us a view on reciprocated union as read differently in Colossians 3:18-25 where Paul writes about The Christian Family and Slaves and Masters.Here he speaks about the significance of obedience to one’s vocation; and they reflect the thinking found in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-17 where he writes about holiness in sexual conduct, mutual charity, and hope for the Christian dead.  To the people of Colossae and of Thessalonica he speaks of the reciprocal character of all holy relationships, and the honor we bring to others, ourselves and our creator when we consider all relationships with the gravity they are due.  Jesus reiterates this idea.

When Moses gave permission for husbands to divorce their wives, he did so in order to prevent the murders which happened regularly when men grew tired of the women they had taken into homes and beds.  This sort of casual disregard for life and the lack of a mutually nurturing relationship is what Jesus addresses here in Luke and again in Matthew 5 and 19, and Mark 10.  He warns that flitting across the surface of our relationships will not prepare us properly for the life we are to live in this New Kingdom of which he speaks.

As we read this chapter, we might consider two thoughts here that will bring us to something new: perhaps the divorce which ends an abusive relationship is a saving moment of blessed grace, and perhaps each relationship into which we enter is as holy as a marriage in that it is meant to be nurtured in order to glorify God when the two parties strive to imitate God’s love rather than a superficial, self-serving demand on one another.

The lessons brought to us in this chapter of Luke remind us that kingdom work is constant; and it is present in every breath we take, every gesture we offer to one another.

During this time of introspection we might want to consider the times we have been called to be stewards of not only money but of our emotional and spiritual resources.  Have we allowed our physical, spiritual and psychological assets to drain dangerously low?

During this time of examination we might also want to consider the many divorces we have entered into in our lives.  Have we walked away from organizations, communities, families and friends without following every avenue open to us at the time for remediation in ourselves and others?

During this time of Lent, we might want to spend time reflecting on the Laws we obey, the Kingdoms for which we seek citizenship.  What do our gestures tell us about what we hold important?  What air do we long to breath?  What prophets do we read?  What master do we follow?

Are we people who are trustworthy in small things so that we might enter into great ones?  We will find the answers to these questions by examining the fruit we bear back to the one who created us.


A re-post from March 5, 2012.

Image from: http://www.lifemessenger.org/html/Ministries/

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1 Maccabees 4:1-35: Living and Dying Nobly

Holy Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Do not fear their numbers or be afraid . . .

Judas Maccabeus and his Jewish followers were steeped in the scripture and so the idea of placing one’s fear in God’s hands in order to live and die nobly was a familiar message to them.

God speaks to Abram in Genesis 15:1 saying: Do not be afraid. I am your shield, your very great reward. 

In Joel 2:21 the prophet exhorts all of creation to take heart.

Nearly a dozen times the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel we are told that we need not be afraid because God is with us.

Zechariah tells us: Do not be afraid but let your hands be strong. (8:13)

In Psalm 21 the psalmist asks why we fear when we have the Lord as our rock and protector.

In Psalms 56 and 118 the writer reminds all of us to trust in God when we become fearful.

In Proverbs 3:24 we are encouraged to rest in God alone so that we do not fear.

When we allow assurance in our relationship with God to become part of our fiber, fear oozes away in the warmth of God’s light.  The soldiers in today’s reading do this and their enemy is amazed when they see their courage.

Lysias saw how ready they were to either live or die nobly . . .

Judas Maccabeus

We too, might be ready to live or die nobly if we only allow the Spirit to saturate us.  Perhaps we can make this a Lenten pledge: When fear threatens to overtake us, we will turn to Christ who will remind us . . . Do not fear their numbers or be afraid . . . I am with you. 


A re-post from March 2, 2012.

Images from: http://apoloblogology.blogspot.com/2008_11_01_archive.html and http://phillchida.blogspot.com/2011/06/love-letter-to-my-heavenly-father.html and 

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2 Maccabees 13: The Fire Tower

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Ruins at Shiraz: a city in ancient Persia

Upheaval in the Middle East seems to be a human curse.  It is a land over which many civilizations – both ancient and modern – have fought, and continue to fight.  Today’s Noontime reading is as brutal as any modern headline.  Intrigue, slaughter, deception, parlay, betrayal, treaty, treason, murder, truce, assault, skirmish, daring, withdrawal, indignation, victory, defeat, and death – we find all of these in today’s story.  We find persuasion but we do not find peace.  We see wrangling but we do not see union.  We read about standoffs and stand-downs but we do not find true coming together.  In this ancient story we might change a few details and find ourselves reading a press release from our favored news source about the conflagration that is the Middle East.

Old tribal fears and alliances govern the lives of those we read about today.  Compromise is often seen as a weakness.  Honesty is employed only by the foolish.  Integrity is not valued.  And love of enemy is regarded as idiotic.  We also find these clannish tendencies in our own culture despite the fact that we may define ourselves as a mosaic or melting pot or amalgam of ethnicity and customs.  Even in our own modern political arena we have the smoking infernos that resemble the fire towers of ancient Persia that we read about here.  We will want to study this story in the hope that when we recognize it as our own . . . we will know to turn back to the God who calls us forward together . . . rather than follow the little gods who doom us to our own fiery tower and smoldering pit of ash.

Ahura Mazda

Commentary tells us that the tower we see in verse 5 resembles those erected to Ahura Mazda, or the Wise Lord, who “was the supreme deity of Persian mythology. The Zoroastrians identified him with purifying fire and tended fires on towers as part of their worship”.  (“Myth Encyclopedia”)  And this leads us to our examination of conscience today as we continue our Lenten journey.  What fiery towers to self do we erect?  Into what smoldering ash pits do we lead ourselves and others?  How do we react to tribalism and the worship of false deities?  Do we hate or love our enemies?  Do we prefer the fire of self destruction to the salvific love of Christ?  Do we seek comfort in our hope to avoid suffering rather than willingly follow the living God whose only focus is our salvation?Today’s narrative is so violent that we might pass it off as an episode in ancient history that deserves only a moment of our time.  We might also see it as sectarian violence that takes place only in far off places on the other side of the ocean.  We might fool ourselves into thinking that there is nothing here for us to learn.  And in this thinking we evade God’s word to us today for when we look closely we can find ourselves.  As we enter into interactions with family, friends, colleagues, neighbors and strangers we see all the characters of our intimate and public lives: the invader versus the defender, charioteers who ride swiftly through our days swinging swords and mahouts who seat unmoving elephants in our path, foot soldiers who obey and distant leaders who reign over the lowly, Jews and Gentiles, pagans and believers, rebels and loyalists.  We brush against these people each day as we move from sun up to sun down, and through it all we have only one question to ask ourselves.Do we throw ourselves from the fiery tower we have built to the gods that have become so important to us that we foolishly take part in daily scenarios that we read about today . . . or do we love our enemies despite the ash pits they build . . . do we ask for peace through our own actions and not just our words . . . and do we love the Living God who saves us more than the tumult of war? 


A re-post from February 25, 2012.

Images from: http://www.infohub.com/vacation_packages/26382.html and and http://history.factoidz.com/mysteries-of-the-persian-empire-the-faith-of-zarathustra/

Read more: Persian Mythology – Myth Encyclopedia – Greek, god, legend, names, ancient, war, world, Roman, creation http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Pa-Pr/Persian-Mythology.html#ixzz1nPJV2ALp  “Persian Mythology.” Myth Encyclopedia. Advameg, Inc., n.d. Web. 25 Feb 2012. 

http://www.usccb.org/bible/2maccabees/13/

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The Shepherd and the Lost Sheep

Luke 15: The Lost

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

“God is not withdrawn, waiting for humans to come begging, but is actively seeking those who are lost”.  (Senior Reading Guide 431)

Today we read three parables that speak to us about how deeply God loves us; it is important for us to hear them often.

The parable of the shepherd who leaves the flock to search for the lost sheep is also told by Matthew (18:12-14) and it presents for us a perfect image of God as we begin our Lenten journey.  He sets [the sheep] on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, “Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep”.  In this season of repentance we must remain faithful to God, calling on God for help when we realize that we can go no further alone down the road of life.

Luke tells us that God will call out continually for the lost.

The Woman and the Lost Coin

The parable of the lost coin describes the persistent search the housewife makes, searching carefully until she finds it.  And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, “Rejoice with me because I have found the coin I had lost”.  In this season of hope we must continue to trust that God will abide, trusting that God will answer our cries for help when the buffets of life overcome us.

Luke tells us that God will search endlessly for the lost.

Rembrandt: The Prodigal Son (detail)

The parable of the lost son is one we know well and we revel in verse 20: So he got up and went home to his father.  While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight if him, and was filled with compassion.  He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.  In this season of repentance we must continue to confide in God, telling God all that troubles us and all that blocks our successful completion of our journey.

Luke tells us that God will always welcome home all those who were once lost.

We draw strength from Isaiah 40:28-31 in which we are told that God always persists, God never fades, God never gives up. Do you not know or have you not heard?  The Lord is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not grow faint or grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny.  He gives strength to the fainting; for the weak he makes vigor abound.  Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, they that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. 

And so we pray . . .

Good and gracious God, how is it that you never lose patience with us when we believe we do not need you in our lives?  Why is it that you love us despite all our turnings away from you?  When will we begin to understand the depth and the breadth of your love? 

Great and loving God, we know that for you we are pearls of great price.  We understand that because of you we are temples in which you hope to dwell.  We believe that you will ceaselessly call us back to you so that like the sheep, the coin and the erring child . . . we are never truly lost. 

Amen.


A re-post from February 23, 2012.

Images from: http://www.hansgruener.de/docs_e/krippen/e_strassenkrippe.htm and http://saints.sqpn.com/parable-of-the-lost-coin/ and http://transformingordinary2extraordinary.blogspot.com/2010/04/school-paper-prodigal-son.html

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Lectio Divina

“God spots” in the human brain

Monday, March 25, 2019

Spiritual reading is often seen as a desperate last step in a series of pleas to God. Many of us see the contemplation of the sacred word as a last resort or a last worried petition for God’s attention.  The reality is that we constantly have God’s attention and need do nothing special for God to “notice” us.  We are well-loved and well-attended although there are times when we feel this may not be so.

Contemplative prayer is often seen as something we do when we can find the time.  It is seen as the work of the consecrated religious or the spiritually gifted. The truth is that each of us has the capacity to consider and reflect on God’s goodness.  We need no special talent and no special tools.  We each have a God spot that scientists have identified and in fact there are likely “several areas of the brain that form the biological foundations of religious belief”.  (“Independent”)  We are well-equipped and well-blessed with this gift from God.

Today is the Fifth Sunday of Lent, a time when we approach Holy Week and the miracle of Easter.  Let us spend some time today with just a bit of scripture if we do not have time for a chapter or a book.  Let us spend some time today with the process of lectio divina even if for only twenty minutes or so.  Let us spend some time today with the Creator who loves us and tends to us.  This Creator longs to commune with us, yearns to touch is in special ways, wants to bless us and grace with all manner of gifts.  Let us give a bit of time today to God in a bit of reading, a bit of meditation, and a bit of communication.  We will find that the time we spend will come back to us in the form of patience, wisdom, and a newly-found peace.


Image from: http://ymiblogging.org/2010/01/god-spot/

“Belief and the brain’s ‘God spot’ .” Independent. 10 March 2009: n. page. Web. 25 Mar. 2012. <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/belief-and-the-brains-god-spot-1641022.html&gt;.

If you do not know how to begin, go to the Scripture as Prayer page on this blog, of go to:

For more information on God spots, go to: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/belief-and-the-brains-god-spot-1641022.html, or http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=2886, or http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/10/brains-god-spot-discovere_n_173705.html, or http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104291534, or http://ymiblogging.org/2010/01/god-spot/

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Daniel 2:9: A False and Deceitful Interpretation

Third Sunday of Lent, March 24, 2019

When I am troubled about a relationship, when there seems to be a cloud of confusion about a particular topic, I go to scripture . . . and I always receive an answer.  Today has brought me clarity to another thorny problem, and I thank God for his quick and clear answer to my question.

Yesterday we spent some time with the second chapter of Daniel in which we discussed how our little gods insist on being carried and served while the Living God carries and serves us.  We reminded ourselves of how faithfully God turns all harm into goodness.  And we wondered if we might – like Daniel – have the courage to take a public stand on thorny issues.  We concluded our thoughts knowing that humility and fidelity will always bring us to mercy and truth.  Today we look at one verse from Daniel’s story: You have framed a false and deceitful interpretation to present me with till the crisis is past.

Too frequently we humans are tempted to throw blame for error on others.  We are too quick to fog the truth.  We are too willing to stand silent while others are persecuted; too happy to shy away from responsibility; to eager to avoid conflict.  This may be a good time to pause in our Lenten journey to evaluate ourselves and our relationship with others in order to assess how well – or how poorly – we speak for truth; and often – or how seldom – we stand for clarity and authenticity.  An examination of our relationship with God and others must be candid and deep . . . and so we ask ourselves this basic question: When or how have we framed a false and deceitful interpretation of a conversation in order to avoid accepting responsibility? 

Further questions flow from an honest evaluation.

  • What have been the consequences of stalling for time while others suffer?
  • Why have we participated in plots of lies and deception?
  • How have we contributed to crises and neglected to act in peace?
  • Who have been our companions in life’s journey: those who act in fear or those act in love?

We learn about ourselves when we take this sort of journey; and we come to know why we sleep in peace or are rattled by doubt.  When we respond honestly to this kind of inquiry we begin to reach into our best selves, and we draw nearer to God.

If our answers to these difficult questions are positive and good then we can take heart and continue to move forward.  If our answers embarrass or shame us, if we are unhappy with the way in which we rely on ourselves more than we trust God, we might take this opportunity to turn away from the little gods that insist on sapping our energy and diluting our will.  We can give all that we are and all that we do to The Living God who loves us so well and so much.

It may be a new experience for us to go to someone we have wronged to ask forgiveness, but this is how we show repentance.

It may be complicated to sort out the truth from the lies in our relationships, but is the first step toward honesty and authenticity.

It may be a difficult journey inward as we strip away pretense to arrive at our true selves, but it essential if we wish to truly know peace.

You have framed a false and deceitful interpretation to present me with till the crisis is past.

Let us pray that if or when these words are spoken about us we will have the spiritual energy to resist the lure of a life lived without blame, that we will turn away from a life lived in shadow, and that we will continue to turn to The Living God when we find ourselves among the thorns.


A re-post from March 24, 2012.

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Sirach 31:1-11: Wealth

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

From the notes in the New American Bible: Solicitude for acquiring wealth and anxiety over preserving it disturb repose and easily lead to sin and ruin.  See Matthew 6:26-34.  A rich man who has not sinned or been seduced by wealth is worthy of praise (8-11).

At first glance we will read this advice from Jesus ben Sirach along with this story from the Book of Matthew and we will check it off as one of the ways we are confident that we do not allow ourselves to become separate from God.  We have kept money in its proper place in life.  We are careful to render both to Caesar and to God.  But now I go a step further.  Where in my life do I amass wealth . . . and do I let it color my decisions in any way?

Lent, as we have been observing over the past weeks, is the perfect time to take an interior pilgrimage to examine dusty corners and cabinets full of things we have forgotten.  As I unlock files of memories I thought were well-sorted and archived, I discover some old injuries and wounds.  Perhaps I have hoarded these, thinking that by keeping them from the light I have prevented them from maintaining safe harbor in my dreams.  Have they taken on a life which seduces me?  Do I spend time keeping watch over them to keep them from escaping my control, or do I trust God enough to release them into the present winds?

Anything which we store up is where our heart lies (Luke 12:34) so this causes me to wonder . . . Where have I put my energies and talents?  What do I lose sleep over?  What do I protect from moths and thieves?  What do I take to the granary to keep?  What do I measure out with care?

If when we open the storehouse doors we find the silos are full of petitions answered and hopes fulfilled, this is a sign of God’s blessing on us and this is good news indeed.  If the stores are meager, that is fine . . . we only need to begin today to bring the harvest of our lives.  God is so loving that he pays all workers in the vineyard equally . . . no matter the number of hours spent at the vines.

And once we begin to see the balance sheet rise to numbers higher than we might have imagined, what do we do then?  Do we seal up the bins and vats to put them away for another quick glance on another day?  Do we cover over the chinks to keep every grain inside the tower . . . or do we fling open the doors as our father does with his own bounty, to share what has been given?  What kind of harvester is he or she who has much but who is not seduced?

Who is he that we may praise him?  He, of all his kindred, has done wonders, for he has been tested by gold and come off safe, and this remains his glory; he could have sinned but did not, could have done evil but would not, so that his possessions are secure, and the assembly recounts his praises.

The wealth we store is the wealth we have to share.  What we have been freely given, we must freely give (Matthew 10:8).

When we go to the storeroom today . . . what will we find . . . and what will we share?


A re-post written on March 19, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Image from: http://www.nri.org/projects/wrs/publications.htm

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