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Archive for the ‘Lent’ Category


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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Isaiah 46: Little Gods

Monday, March 18, 2019

Baal

Today we read about the effects of living a life of enslavement to the many little gods that appear in our lives.  These tiny dieties may appear suddenly and either announce their arrival or enter our lives to take hold of our habits stealthily.  They come with no warning and have little or no overt manifestation.  If we take a moment to review commentary for Isaiah 46 we understand that this is a familiar theme to Old Testament people who lived among the many tribes of Baal worshipers.  Looking at cross references to the New Testament we see that it is a well-known theme in Jesus’ day.   Even today we daily come upon incidents of little gods holding sway over us and hijacking our decisions.  Many of us carry Bel and Nebo on our shoulders allowing them to govern our spiritual, political, social and family life.  Today we ponder these little gods who demand much of our time . . . and bring us no enduring consolation or lasting hope.

Who are these demons who haunt us and how do we recognize the fact that they govern our lives?

They must be borne up on shoulders, carried as burdens by the weary.  When we find ourselves enslaved to a custom or habit that exhausts and does not edify us, it is time to call out these little gods.

They stoop and bow down together; unable to save those who bear them, they go into captivity.  When we realize that we are drained of energy and that the structure we believed in has abandoned us, it is time to put an end to the demands of the little gods.

Although they cry out it does not answer; it delivers no one from distress.  When all that we relied upon has taken our life force and has disappeared into nothingness, it is time to amend our ways and turn our allegiance to the Living God who saves.

Remember this and be firm, bear it well in mind, you rebels; remember the former things, those long ago . . . And so as we continue in our Lenten journey, what do we do to shed our faith in these little idols?

I am God, there is no other; I am God, there is none like me.  We turn to God who has loved us despite our folly in abandoning him, and we see that God has always been beside us . . . even when we were blind to him. We hear the voice of God calling to us and we know that this voice has been guiding us . . . even when we could not hear him.  We see the works of God in the many little graces and in the enormous saving actions he has granted us, and we realize God has loved us all through our comings and goings . . . even when we have ignored and even reviled him.

I am bringing on my justice, it is not far off, my salvation will not tarry . . .

We have a clear choice before us today.  We can muddle along with our little gods or we can choose to follow the Living God.  St. Paul writes to the Romans: Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; 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.  (Romans 13:11-13)  

Psalm 27 is one of my favorites and it reminds us simply of this: The Lord is my light and my help; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; before whom shall I shrink?

If we are too afraid of our little gods to turn them out of the temple of our lives, we turn to God for strength.  If we fear that the Living God has tired of our constant wandering and will not welcome us home, we need only remember the many promises the Living God has kept, and the savior he has sent to redeem us all.


A re-post from March 19, 2012. 

Image from: http://willcookson.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/review-bibles-buried-secrets-did-god-have-a-wife/

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Deuteronomy 32: The Song of Moses

Second Sunday of Lent, March 17, 2019

Moses

Yesterday we considered our Lenten Journey and how we might create for ourselves and our loved ones a physical sign of this promise of fidelity to the Living God who is Alive Among Us. Today we spend time with Moses’ words as he calls the Israelites to conversion and urges them to consider a change of heart and habit.  Moses calls his people, and he calls us, to a love that will endure forever. He calls us to love as God loves.

From commentary: In the style of the great prophets, the speaker is often God himself.  The whole song is a poetic sermon, having for its theme God’s benefits to Israel (vv 1-14) and Israel’s ingratitude and idolatry in turning to the gods of the pagans, which sins will be punished by the pagans themselves (vv 15-29); in turn, the foolish pride of the pagans will be punished, and the Lord’s honor will be vindicated (vv 30-43).  (Senior 222)

Who are these gods of the pagans to whom we turn?  Our obsession with immediate and empty gratification?  Our desire to put ourselves first and others last?

Jesus reminds us that in the Kingdom the world is turned on its head. The meek will inherit, the first will be last, what is empty will be full.

Where do we see our own foolish pride?   In the pumping up of self?  In the building of self rather than the building of Kingdom?

Jesus lays out for us the life and work of his disciples so that we might see that we are to act in servant leadership with salvific love. 

How is this foolish life punished?  The unwise are destined to become enslaved by the chains they put on others.  The reckless eventually find themselves enveloped in the same dangerous plots they weave for others.

Jesus shows us that forgiveness and compassion are the tools he uses to engender a love that endures forever and cannot be outdone. 

Moses makes a final appeal to the people, asking that they take to heart all the warning.  Let us too, take up the counsel to root out our foolish pride and banish false gods.  Let us climb our own Mount Hor to see the Promised Land from a distance . . . and then let us ask the Living God for safe passage in this journey of conversion of the heart.


A re-post from March 19, 2012. Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.222. Print.   

For more on The Song of Moses click on the image above or go to: http://www.revelation-today.com/song1.htm

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Deuteronomy 31:24-30: Alive Among You

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Ark of the Covenant

We have spent the past few days looking at how the Israelites struggle to remain faithful to Yahweh, the Living God who led them from slavery to freedom, from the desert to a land of promise.  We can see ourselves in these stiff-necked people as we turn to and away from God as the season suits us.  We read the story of how an unassailable enemy eventually falls once the Israelites turn themselves over to Yahweh’s ways.  And we can see ourselves being delivered from adversaries we once thought unbeatable.  The Israelites are such simple and predictable people that Moses knows they will fall away from the covenant they have entered into; and so he tries to prepare them for the days when they will yield to temptation. We too, know that we will be lured by the many attractions the world holds for us . . . and so in our Lenten journey we may want to spend a bit of time reflecting on how to best cleave to the promises we make to this amazing God who persists in loving us into goodness.

Take this scroll of the law and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord, your God, that there it may be a witness against you.  The Law of the New Covenant, the New Testament, is not complicated.  It is brief, universal and compelling: Love one another as I have loved you.  Perhaps this weekend we can write out a simple promise to love God by loving others – even and especially our enemies – and put it in a special place that we will see each day as a reminder . . . a witness to ourselves.  A new ark of a new promise made in a new hope of conversion.

I already know how rebellious and stiff-necked you will beAnd the Living God loves us despite these faults.

Even now, while I am alive among you, you have been rebels against the LordAnd the Living God who loves us so fiercely has returned as the Christ to save us.

Assemble all your tribal elders and your officials before me, that I may speak these words for them to hear, and so may call heaven and earth to witness against you.  Perhaps we can gather our family or a group of trusted friends and agree together to turn ourselves toward the goal of living the law of love.  Perhaps we can support one another in our hope of softening our stiff necks, in our Lenten journey of conversion.

We are blessed to have the Lord always among us each day, all day.  As New Testament people we experience Eucharist with Christ, the indwelling of the Spirit, and the abiding protection and love of the Living God.  Let us take a moment today to think about the passage we make from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, the passage that we call Lent.  And let us pause to give thanks to the God who loves us so well . . . and who is always alive among us.


A re-post from March 16, 2012. 

If you are able, spend some time today with the  A Journey of Return – Repentance reflection on this blog.  Tomorrow we will ponder the words of Moses’ prayer: The Song of Moses

For more on The Ark of the Covenant click the image above or go to: http://bible-blog.org/what-is-the-significance-of-the-ark-of-the-covenant.php

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Numbers 14:39-45: This Cannot Succeed

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Near the Biblical site of Hormah

God always gives us plenty of warning.  Yet somehow we blunder forward, believing ourselves more knowledgeable than the one who invented and then brought into being all of creation.  God sends us teachers, prophets and even the Messiah; still, we put down our head, shove our shoulders forward and stubbornly insist on moving a boulder that we are meant to climb over.  In this portion of Numbers we see the Israelites suffer great remorse yet still they persist in going up against great odds without God.  Why are we such a stiff-necked people?  It seems we are adamant about suffering defeat, unyielding in wanting to live life our own way; we are resolute in being beaten back as far as HormahWe must learn to discern God’s voice.   We must listen when the wise one cries out: This cannot succeed!  And when we are beaten back to the limit of our own endurance, we must pick ourselves up, ask forgiveness, and journey home from Hormah where we have sent ourselves.

Lent is a time for re-thinking and re-aligning.  It is a time of sorting and organizing.  It is a time of turning and returning.  God awaits each of us with open arms and full heart; we can always expect a welcome from God.  The first steps of the going home again are ours to take; but first we must heed God’s voice when it says to us: This cannot succeed. 

And so we pray Psalm 51: The Miserere.  It is believed that this psalm was written by David when his illicit relationship with Bathsheba was brought to light.  (2 Samuel 11 and 12)  We pray today, asking forgiveness for the most recent time that we have gone astray.

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.

It is not our intention to go against your suggestions – we just have a way of thinking that we know our lives better than you do.

Wash away my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.

We do not set out to wander away from your guiding hand – the circumstances of our lives influence us more than you do. 

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.

It is not our aim to put ourselves above you or to pretend that we have better judgment than you – rather it is that we find the influence of our friends to be greater than our awareness of you. 

Wash away my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.

It is not that we disbelieve you so much as we succomb to our own fear.

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.

It is not that we do not love you enough – rather it is just that we have difficulty trusting your wisdom.

Wash away my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.

When we are calm and away from anything that might threaten us we are able to have a clear understanding of how much you love us.

Have mercy on me, God, in your goodness; in your abundant compassion blot out my offense.

Help us to remain in you, guide us in hoping in you, bring us back from Hormah.  Bring us back to loving you. 

Wash away my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.

We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 


A re-post from March 14, 2012.

For more photos taken near Hormah, click the image above or go to: http://www.openbible.info/geo/photos/hormah 

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John 2:13-25: Clearing the Temple

Monday, March 11, 2019

El Greco: Christ Cleansing the Temple

Today’s Gospel from John tells us that: Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there.  He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace” Jesus clears out the holy precinct and turns it over to the one who creates all.  This is an apt reading for the Lenten season because these words call us to the work of our Easter journey.  They call us to clear out the temple of our interior, to make all ready for the indwelling of the Spirit, to prepare for the Word to take up residence within.

Spend some time today with The Jesus Bridge reflection on this blog and examine how we prepare our own temple to receive the Word.  Do some of our relationships need mending?  Do we know someone who looks for companionship as they struggle to put a first foot on the path to reconciliation?  Have we really begun our journey to wholeness?

We remind ourselves that we are all traveling up to Jerusalem with Jesus.  How do we prepare?  What is our attitude as we step off into the morning mist?  And when we reach our destination, are we willing to clear out the temple and rid ourselves of old addictions?  We will only know once we spend some time with God today.

This is a season of journeys and paths. As you reflect, enjoy the photos at this link . . . and begin to clear out the Temple.


You may want to explore amazing paths in: amazing-paths 2019-march 11 images received from a friend earlier this month.

A re-post from March 11, 2012.

Image from: http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20090309JJ.shtml 

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Isaiah 59: Turning from Sin

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

We look for light, and lo, darkness; for rightness, but we walk in gloom!

In the Northern Hemisphere we are moving from winter to spring when our days are longer and the nights shorter.  As we pull away from winter depths, we are reminded that darkness can easily overcome us and wear us down.

We stumble in midday as at dusk . . . we all growl like bears, like doves we moan without ceasing.

All of this darkness makes us tired and short-tempered; we complain and sink low . . .

We look for right, but it is not there; for salvation, and it is far from us.

We wonder, “Where is our God who has promised to abide with us?  Who is powerful enough to save us?”

The Lord saw this and was aggrieved that right does not exist.

Despite the calamity and ruin there is right among us because God takes pity on us, his loved creatures.  God brings us goodness and rightness in the form of a human child, Jesus.

He saw that there was no one and was appalled that there was no one to intervene . . .

God knows that we struggle to overcome the darkness.  God comes to dwell with us as our brother, Emmanuel.

So his own arm brought about the victory, and his justice lent him his support.

St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesians that we are no longer strangers and sojourners but fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. (2:19-20)

He put on justice as his breastplate, salvation as the helmet on his head; he clothed himself with garments of vengeance, wrapped himself in a mantle of zeal.

As we approach the season of Lent, we remember Paul’s admonition to put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil, so that you may be able to resist and hold your ground.  Stand firm with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and you feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances hold faith as a shield, to quench all flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (6:11, 13-17)

He shall come as a redeemer to those who turn from sin . . .

Knowing that we are powerless in and of ourselves, our God moves to guide and to guard us.

This is the covenant with them which I have made myself, says the Lord . . .

God keeps his promises because he is good.

The Lord says, My spirit is upon you and my words that I have put into your mouth shall never leave your mouth . . .

And so we will celebrate God’s goodness and tell others of God’s great love.

Nor will my words leave the mouths of your children nor the mouths of your children’s children from now on and forever, says the Lord. 

We find ourselves alone and in darkness.  God sees and hears our plight.  God gives us the chance to reunite with goodness and rightness.  God helps us up out of the darkness when we wear Christ as our armor and when we seek God’s love.  This is predicted by Isaiah.  This is witnessed to us by Paul.  This we can believe.  This we must pass along to our children . . . and to our children’s children.  For this is how we turn away from sin to turn toward what is good and right and just.   This is how we turn to God.

Amen.


Adapted from a reflection posted during Advent on December 5, 2011.

Images from: http://a-christ-followers-musings.blogspot.com/2011/01/fruit-of-spirit-goodness.html and http://soithappens.com/page/3/

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Numbers 21Worn Out

Monday, February 25, 2019

Several years ago we focused on verses 4 through 9 of this chapter in a Noontime reflection about The Bronze Serpent and at that time we noted that this story is often read during the Lenten season when we are called to repent and make reparations.  We reflected on the thought that God in great wisdom and mystery sends a cure to the people that is similar to their disease; and we saw the Hebrews succumb to the temptation to complain when their patience is worn out by the journey.  Just as we travel toward Easter during Lent, and move Advent waiting for the light.  When we have so much invested in our waiting it is easy to give in to the kind of impatience we see today; and we know the feeling of despair that replaces hope when the expected outcome is so long in coming.  We zero in on our disappointment and forget to look at the many victories in our lives.

The episode of the bronze serpent is sandwiched between stories of victory over Arad, Moab, Sihon and Og.  God has accompanied the Hebrews and seen to their welfare; yet the travail of the journey has worn their patience thin and they turn against God.  Although they experience a series of triumphs, they complain about their food and drink.  They want to control the smallest details of their lives and rather than rest in the triumphs they have lived they obsess about the minutiae.  This is a story in which we can place ourselves.

Whether we find ourselves in Advent or Lent, or find ourselves in an ordinary time of extraordinary waiting, we can look at the Hebrews to see ourselves in their impatience; and we can make our own journey through the lands of Arad, Moab, Sihon and Og.   We can examine what motivates us, what leads us, what stops us.  And we can pray . . .

Do I too often steer clear from something when the cure lies in my willingness to enter God’s plan?

Am I too stiff-necked or too impatient?

Do I fear too much and trust too little?

Am I too controlling or too impatient?

Do I complain too much and give thanks too little?

Am I too unwilling or too impatient?

Do I take the victories for granted and throw temper tantrums when my own plans come up short?

Am I focused on self and not on God?

In the hardship of the journey it is easy to concentrate on our fears and wishes; it is difficult to keep our eyes on the prize.  So when we feel this impatience welling up, let us look to God for strength; let us ask God for the stamina we need to see the journey through.  Let us look at the many victories that line the pathways of our lives; and let us remember that when we rely on God rather than self . . . our patience will never wear through.


A re-post from December 3, 2011.

For more reflections on traveling the road of life, see the Journeys of Transformation page on this blog.

Images from: http://jewlistic.com/2010/06/ive-had-it-with-these-snakes-in-this-portion/ and http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx303.htm

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Mark 1 -3A Reason to Believe

Tuesday, February 20, 2019

Today we return to the Gospel of Mark and when we study these opening Chapters we discover that they provide the perfect resource for us when we have had a bad day, an awful week, a cataclysmic month, or a horrendous span in our lives.  In these simple stories we will find the courage to continue an arduous journey; we will find hope that will impel us forward through tragedy.  We will even find the strength to help others who journey alongside us. Mark shows us a typical series of days in the life of Jesus in such a way that we might see ourselves putting aside our worldly worries to follow him.  Mark, with his quick-moving, thriller Gospel, gives us a reason to believe.

John the Baptist serves as a precursor or herald for the Messiah who follows him.  Our troubles and woes often announce themselves as well.  We feel a frisson of fear, a foreshadowing of something not fully revealed.  When we follow Jesus we will know that these forebodings are not our ultimate end.  Our end is rescue and redemption.  John baptizes the one who saves us all and Jesus unites with us in our own baptism.

The Spirit drives Jesus into the desert for forty days where he lives among wild beasts, is tempted by Satan and is ministered to by angels.  We too are driven into the barren wastes where we also met with devils and angels.  When we follow Jesus we will know that these dead places are not our last stop – even though they may seem to be at the time.  Jesus relies on the Father and unites with us in our own sufferings and temptations.

Jesus begins his ministry.  He cures many.  He gathers a following.  He chooses steadfast friends from the countless who follow him.  He is hounded by those who envy his relationship with God and the people.  We too step into the world to reveal our gifts and to allow God to act through us.  We too encounter obstacles to the Call we feel.  We too are harassed by those who cannot abide our closeness with God.  When we follow Jesus we know that there is no one, no idea, no thought, no thing that can separate us from God.  God never strays; it is we who have the choice to abandon or to abide.  Just as Jesus turns always to the Father so do we.  Jesus unites with us in the struggle.

Jesus steps into dangerous territory and his family and friends caution him, they even question his work.  We have seen the look of disappointment on the faces of others who misunderstand our steadfastness, who feel betrayed by our fidelity to the Gospel.  We know the sensation of rejection when those we love can no longer abide with us in the Spirit.  Jesus invites us to be one with him in the sacrifice we make in our own Gospel journey.  Jesus bonds with us as his sisters and brothers; he holds us close.  Jesus becomes one with us and takes up our too-heavy cross.

These opening stories in the Gospel of Mark draw us into Jesus’ story just as a good cinematographer hooks us in the opening shots of a film.  Jesus moves from friend to foe, from those who love him to those to hate him; and he always keeps his eye on the Father.  Jesus accompanies us in our own story; and he helps us to be mindful of the Spirit.

As we prepare to enter the Lenten season, we do well to read these opening Chapters of the Gospel of Mark for he tells us all and he tells us quickly.  Mark celebrates Jesus even as he foretells his awful end.  Mark holds no punches, sweetens no madness, and obscures no ugliness.  Mark shows us all.  Mark’s story gives us hope when tragedy strikes.  Mark’s story gives us courage when cataclysm hits.  Mark’s story helps us to prepare for the journey.  Mark’s story gives us a reason to believe this amazing Christ.


A re-post from February 20, 2012.

Image from: http://www.atotheword.com/2011/04/05/jesus-man-born-blind-for-works-of-god-to-manifest-in-him/

For more on the Gospel of Mark, see the Mark – “I Am” page on this blog. 

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