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paths 17Easter Saturday, April 10, 2021

John 13:24-30

A Prayer for the Journey

We have examined a number of different pathways our lives might take as we journey with God.  Some offer no options and seem to have little hope. Others are open and give us a variety of choices.  As we move through these last weeks of Lent, let us pause to consider the Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat.

A man sowed good seed in his field . . .

Good and gentle God, you sow your word in our hearts and minds. May we come to fully hear your word.

While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off . . .

Good and wise God, you offer us the grace of your love. May we come to completely see you in others.

When the crop grew and bore fruit then the weeds appeared as well . . .

Good and gracious God, you plant a desire in each of us to know you intimately. May we arrive at seeing you in all of creation.

paths 20The slaves of the householder came to him and said, “Master, did you not sow good wheat in your field? Where did all these weeds come from?

Dear and humble Jesus, you accompany us when we need you most. May we respond to your quiet and healing touch.

He answered, “An enemy has done this”.

Dear and practical Jesus, you see each of us entirely and totally. May we seek to love you as you love us.

His slaves said to him, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?

Dear and loving Jesus, you give us your full and total attention. May we learn to spend time with you each day.

He replied, “No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them . . .

Loving and serene Spirit, you see both eagerness and reluctance in each of us. Help us to find unity within sunset-barn-and-wheat-field-steptoe-craig-tuttleourselves and with one another.

“Let them grow together until harvest; then I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning . . .

Loving and compassionate Spirit, you provide endless time and limitless space for us to grow in you. Help us to forgive ourselves and one another without reservation as you forgive us.

‘But gather the wheat into my barn’.”

Loving and providential Spirit, you persist against all odds. Help us to move forward on the path of our life . . . even when we are wearied by the trials of the journey.

God the Creator, God the Redeemer, and God the Healer, abide with us this day and every day. We know that the obstacles along our way are stepping stones to encounter ourselves.  We know that you are with us even when we cannot see or hear you. And we live in the expectation that the harvesters will bundle us in to your enormous and generous barn. Amen.


Images from: https://www.joe-ks.com/2012/amazing-paths

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paths 15Easter Friday, April 9, 2021

Matthew 13:17-23

So Many Paths – Part IV

Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.

The Parable of the Sower is a familiar one and yet . . . we resist changing so that our journey might be a little lighter. We refuse adjustment from our present position even though modification in our living might offer and opportunity for conversion. When we find ourselves traveling a road that seems immutable and absolute we need not fear, for we are graced with the Word that combats all Woe. How do we tune our ears so that we might honestly listen to God’s word? How do we un-muddy our eyes so that might rightly see God’s presence in our lives?

Life gives us surprising obstacles and we lose heart. We lament and complain. We recoil and mourn. Life treats us well and we take credit for all that we have and are. We act with hubris. We become pompous and self-righteous. Once we have set out on a path, do we have any recourse to change? Once we are well on our way, are we doomed to a single outcome?

paths 16The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.

When we hear the Torah, the Prophets and the Gospel we are as free to heed God’s Word as we are to ignore it.

The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.

When we hear Jesus’ parables we are as free to search for meaning as we are to treat these stories as children’s tales that hold no meaning for adult lives.

The seed sown among thorns in the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit.

paths 18When we witness injustice we also witness the presence of the Spirit in a hostile and frightening world. We are as free to respond to that Spirit to unit ourselves in God’s grace with Christ’s mystical body as we are to squelch it.

But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.

When we find ourselves on a difficult path fraught with danger and friction . . . we are as free to ask for, to receive and to respond to God’s grace as we are to remain implacably set in our own rigid way. As we near the end of the Lenten season and prepare to open ourselves to Christ’s Easter joy, let us determine to receive Christ with gratitude, to celebrate God’s presence with delight, and to rest in the serenity of the Spirit.

Tomorrow, a prayer for the journey.


Images from: https://www.joe-ks.com/2012/amazing-paths

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paths 12Easter Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Matthew 13:1-11

So Many Paths – Part II

How many ways are there to live a life? How many paths of wisdom lead to God? How many times are we called to modify, change or persevere in our chosen journey? Only a close and intimate conversation with God will bring us the answers we seek.

Some journeys look impossible. They are full of traps, and barren of sustenance. We become exhausted just thinking of how we might prepare to travel such a pathway. The heights are dizzying. The precipices terrifying. We begin our journey with downcast eyes and laden heart. We are too frightened to think about the future. When this happens, let us consider that the stony way may be more difficult but that Christ will be all the more present for God knows the treacheries that lurk along the way. The Spirit knows full well that we will tire, that we will seek refuge in a hostile land. And let us consider that when we journey with God, there are always tools available – although we may not see them.

Some seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil . . . it withered for lack of roots.

path 14Some of us travel with blessings abundant. We have few fears, light hearts, and a song in our soul. Yet there is a danger hiding here that we begin to think that we alone are responsible for our good fortune. When this happens, let us be certain to spend time with God each day. Let us give thanks for the abundance of God’s grace. And let us celebrate and share the blessings God has bestowed on us.

Some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.

paths 7

Sometimes our journey is a déjà vu of experiences. We know the subtle changes before they take place. We anticipate the loops and curls and we struggle to untangle a series of events that feel all too familiar. We fight to orient ourselves. We wonder how we might move forward rather than spend endless time moving back and forth. When this happens, let us remember to turn to Christ with our questions and fears. Let us consider that God always provides refuge in any storm. And let us celebrate the goodness and love of God.

The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to us in parables?”

 

paths 10

Some journeys are shrouded in mystery; we find it impossible to see ahead. Even when we plan well, when we spend time with God, when we do all that God asks of us . . . nothing seems to work until . . . we finally realize that trust is the only necessary commodity we need take on our journey. When this happens, we understand how and where to find peace. We begin to understand that serenity cannot be earned. We see the wisdom of allowing ourselves to fall into Christ’s arms rather than flail against our journey for a lifetime.

Jesus said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted”.

And so we pray: Good and gracious God, we trust you with all that we have and all that we are.

Kind and gentle Jesus, we follow you when we cannot see and cannot hear.

Abiding and faithful Spirit, we lean on you, we rely on you, we look to you for all that we need. Amen.


Tomorrow, So Many Paths – Part III

Images from: https://www.joe-ks.com/2012/amazing-paths

 

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Easter Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Matthew 13:1-9

So Many Paths – Part I

Amos has called us to consider what path we take as we live and work and play and pray throughout our life journey. As we reflect on our celebration of Easter resurrection and joy, let us consider the parable Jesus tells those who follow him. But let us begin with an examination of the journey we ourselves are making.

paths 1Some journeys offer too many choices. We become confused and anxious. We make excuses for never stepping into the world. We shrink from taking responsibility for ourselves. We refuse to see that we have a purpose, or we decide that we do not want to use the gift planted in us. When this happens, let us consider the number of times we have been saved by an unknown force in an extraordinary way. Let us take into account the fact that God knows every detail about us – even details we have not discovered ourselves. And let us determine to trust the force that loves us more than any other that has ever – or will ever – exist.

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. 

paths 2Some journeys terrify us and we shrink from leaving our comfortable place in which have insured that we will never run any risk that endangers anything we stand for. When this happens, let us consider that Amos calls us to step away from a life in which we cling to power and wealth. Jesus shows us that we are not always shunned when we live a life that is out of the ordinary.

Such crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore.

paths 3Some paths are familiar and famous.  They look pleasant and easy. They lure us into a false sense of safety and sometimes pride. When this happens we are tempted to forget who made us and why we are here in this time and space. Jesus tells us that he comes from the Father who created us to unite us with him as precious Children of Light.

And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow”.

paths 4Some journeys are undulating and seem as though they never end. They look penned-in and boring. We think of them as predictable and un-exciting. When this happens, we must consider that we have no way of understanding the plan God has in mind for us. We forget that God has placed a potential and a hope in each of us that will heal the woes of the world. We do not remember that we carry God’s word and that no matter the path, God is with us to guide and protect us. What looks like a long and uneventful road may become instead an unforgettable journey.

“As he sowed, some seed fell on the path and birds came and ate it up”.


Tomorrow, So Many Paths – Part II

Images from: https://www.joe-ks.com/2012/amazing-paths

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Easter Monday, April 5, 2021

Bernardino Mei: Christ Cleansing the Temple

Bernardino Mei: Christ Cleansing the Temple

John 2:13-22

Clearing Out

Lent is a time for introspection, examination and evaluation. Lent is a time for starting over, beginning again, for clearing out. Lent is a time for deep preparation, intense consideration and profound joy.

Easter is a time of celebration, regeneration, and commitment. Easter is a time for union, inclusion, and invitation. Easter Is a feast of eight days that rejoice in the journey we have made with Christ to Jerusalem. During this Easter Week we will explore our journey of hope and joy, and the commitment we make to continue our journey beyond the holiday.

Jesus travels to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover and when he enters the Temple area he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables.

Jesus does not delude himself about who and what he sees. He does not explain away or excuse the corruption he finds.

He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and he poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves he said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.

Jesus brings salvation to any who welcome their own redemption. He speaks in terms his listeners do not understand.

Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body.

Christ calls to each of us that we might follow. The Spirit guides each of us that we might go. God protects each if us so that we might clear out, renew and begin again.

So when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.

As we continue our Easter journey, let us consider the many paths we might take to achieve our own clearing out and redemption.


For another Noontime reflection on these verses, enter the words Clearing Out the Temple into the blog search bar and explore, and use the Amazing Paths link to a Microsoft Word ® document on that post or the link here amazing-paths to reflect on the many ways of return that God offers us in in our lifetime journey. 

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Holy Wednesday, March 31, 2021

good and faithful servantAmos 7-9

A Prayer for Faithful Servants

The prophet Amos has accompanied us on our Lenten journey over these past several weeks to bring us the Words of God, to force us to look at the Woes of the world, and to show us stark warnings through his Visions for the future.

Amos is often described as the angry prophet with no tolerance for the corrupt rich who subjugate the poor. This will also be our impression of him if we do not linger with the last images of his prophecy. We will miss the gift Amos brings to us if we do not stay for a while with these ending verses in which we see the beauty of Amos unfold, for it is in these final chapters that we experience his Messianic perspective and promise. It is here in the last pages of Amos’ prophecy that we understand the stories in the New Testament, and fully come to terms with what it means to be faithful servants of God.

And so we pray.

When we feel unimportant and are dwarfed by the colossal forces around us, we petition God as we say with Amos: How can we stand? We are so small!

And God replies: What do you see?

We remember the many times God has rescued us from sure destruction, and we reply: Evil will not reach or overtake us.

And God replies: I will raise you up!

We recall the occasions when only God was able to pull us together after we have been so battered that we can not imagine how we will ever be whole again, and together we ask: Will you wall up our breaches?

And God replies: I will raise your ruins!

We feel frustration and fear when we see all the good that we have built begin to crumble, and so together we ask: Will you rebuild us as in days of old?

And God replies: I will bring about your restoration!

We remember all the work we have done to build your Kingdom. We look into the future and fear for the work yet to be completed, and so together we ask: Who will rebuild and inhabit our ruined cities? Who will plant vineyards and drink the wine? Who will set out gardens and eat the fruits?

And God replies: I will plant you upon your own ground; never again shall you be plucked from the land I have given you. This is my promise. I have spoken. I am the Lord, your God.

And we reply: We who struggle to be your faithful servants thank you. We who strive to follow in the steps of Jesus rely on you alone. We who long to always live in the Spirit look to you for guidance as we say, Amen!

And God replies: Well done, my good and faithful servant.  (Matthew 25:21)


To purchase the plaque above, click on the image.

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Holy Monday, March 29, 2021

promisesAmos 9:13-15

Keeping Promises

The prophet Amos was particularly insistent about the Covenant promises the Jewish people did not keep, especially regarding issues of social injustice. We have spent a number of days reflecting on this prophecy and we have seen the conciseness and force with which this fiercely independent prophet calls us to observing the importance of keeping our Covenant Promise with God. Amos reminds us of what is most important in life: the return to out true nature as loving children who trust in God alone when we find ourselves suffering acutely. We are accustomed to thinking of Social Injustice in the wide and sweeping scale of one people against another; but injustice also takes place on a personal level of an individual against another, or one small group against another. There are many times in our lives when we have been involved in unjust relationships – either as an aggressor or as the innocent – and this calls us re-evaluate the promises we keep, with whom, and why. So as we walk through Holy Week with Christ, let us pause to evaluate.

God always keeps promises. Do we keep our promises to God, to others, and to ourselves?  What do we do with the Gift of Promise God places in us?


Adapted from a reflection written on March 27, 2008.

To view a trailer with an interesting presentation of God’s promises produced by Worship House Media, go to: http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/mini-movies/18865/Promises

Image from: http://productivelifeconcepts.com/how-to-keep-your-promises-especially-the-ones-you-make-to-yourself/

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Palm Sunday, March 28, 2021

Curacin_del_paraltico_Murillo_1670

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo: Curing of the Paralytic

Amos 5:1-2

Fallen

She is fallen, to rise no more . . . she lies abandoned upon her land, with no one to raise her up.

These are sad lines which are somehow appropriate in this Lenten season as we consider our relationship with God. We all fall; none of us is exempt. And we all have opportunities to rise, to change and to transform. Amos’ prophecy tells of a fierce God who exacts punishment for crimes committed and if we only read this far we might never read scripture again. The next part of Israel’s story, the best part, is about this Word Fulfilled through the Messiah, the Christ.

In John’s Gospel we read the story of Jesus curing a man at the Jerusalem Sheep Gate pool of Bethesda.  This man has been crippled for thirty-eight years (John 5:1-16) and as Jesus enters the area, he sees a large number of ill, blind, lame and crippled people; yet Jesus moves toward this one man and asks: “Do you want to be well?”

Jesus comes to us in this same way every day, singling us out of the crowd, asking us this question about our personal journey. Jesus does not worry about the fact that because of his actions some in the crowd tried all the more to kill him. Jesus risks all for each of us. And so might we risk a bit for Jesus.

Amos’ list of words and woes could well be our own. We can complain and cast guilt; we can be willful and ego-centric. We can operate from a foundation of envy, fear and pride, or we can be willing to change. We can listen for the Word, we can put our Woes into perspective, and we can answer yes to Jesus’ question. Sir, I have no one to put me into the healing pool; while I am on my way someone else gets there before me.  And Jesus will say to each of us: Rise, take up your mat, and walk. 

Then we must begin the work of healing, of nurturing our willingness to take on the challenge to look both inward and outward. Once we take up our mat that represents all we have known and put it beneath our arm, we take up the opportunity offered by Christ to rise and transform. Once “healed”, we will have to carry our mat. And we will, from time to time, be called to witness to others as to why we have the mat still beneath our arm. We will be called to witness to why we behave differently from our former selves. We will be called to tell our story of transformation. We will have to explain that once we were fallen, and that now we have risen.

And so, we petition God in this way. Good and generous God, we do not want to lie near a healing pool going over our list of words and woes; we want to rise and carry our mat that has become a symbol of all that holds us back. Help us to better understand how to step away from all that keeps us from transforming through you. Lead us to put our feet on the proper path in the proper way at the proper time. And remind us often of how it is that we now are strong enough, and brave enough, to rise and carry our mat. Amen.

On this Palm Sunday, we gather all those in our prayers who are fallen, and we offer our prayer in hope that we all will rise again.


Adapted from a reflection first written on March 20, 2007.

Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Curacion_del_paralitico_Murillo_1670.jpg

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Friday, March 26, 2021

Museum of Biblical Art, NY: The Return of the Prodigal Son - Artist unknown

Museum of Biblical Art, NY: The Return of the Prodigal Son – Artist unknown

Amos 9:8-15

Messianic Perspective

Amos brings us God’s Words; he shows us the world’s Woes; he paints for us his intense Visions. If we give in to despair we miss God’s message. If we walk away in pride we miss God’s promise. If we become impatient or irritable we miss God’s grace. If we practice greed we miss feeling God’s love. Today we have the opportunity to count ourselves among the pebbles God sifts from the debris of our selfishness. We are given another chance to rise up out of the ashes of our willfulness.  We are given another season to mend breaches and to rebuild foundations on the days of old.

Jesus tells us this story of the lost son who returns home to his father after having squandered all his father had given to him. So [the son] got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son”. But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again, he lost and now is found”.  So they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:20-24)

Let us also return to the creator who is running toward us with open arms, who is waiting for our word to begin the celebration.


For an interesting article from the National Catholic Reporter in June 2011, on how theologians re-visit the famous parable of the forgiving father,, and how we may be called to forgive church structures, click on the image above or go to: http://ncronline.org/news/peace-justice/theologians-revisit-prodigal-son 

For more on the image of God’s Sieve, go to the Mini-Noontime posted on September 26, 2013 at: https://thenoontimes.com/2020/09/23/the-sieve/ 

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