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Job 3: Job’s Plaint

Saturday, October 26, 2019

If you have time over the week-end, spend some of it with this most important book of wisdom and a commentary.  These are words we may all write from time to time in our pilgrim journey home.

Job, innocent of wrong-doing, has all taken from him – family – friends – wealth – health.  There is nothing left and he is in turmoil because his friends advise him that all he need do to regain his former security and status is to repent of his wrong-doing.  They chide him, assuring him that once he confesses his suffering will cease.  In the OT, suffering is often sent as a form of punishment for straying from God, so even though Job might look for sins to confess in order to gain peace, he is helpless in his situation because . . .  Job has done nothing wrong.  He suffers because Satan plays a game with God.  There is no reparation he can make.  There is no problem to solve.  No forgiveness to ask or receive.  However, there is one thing which Job has – and perhaps his wife and friends do not – he has an enduring and persevering faith in his Maker.  And so this is where he turns.  And as he turns to this wondrous, awesome God, Job speaks from a broken heart.

Once when I was working through something deeply personal, I was lovingly haunted by a song by a Christian artist named Steven Curtis Chapman.  The words are below, as is a link for the music.  May they bring you peace when you find yourself writing your own plaint to God.  And may you rest in the certain knowledge that we are never alone, we are never abandoned.  We are constantly held, constantly loved.

Be Still and Know

Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is holy
Be still, O restless soul of mine
Bow before the Prince of peace
Let the noise and clamor cease
Be still

Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is faithful
Consider all that he has done
Stand in awe and be amazed
And know that He will never change
Be still

Be Still, and know that He is God
Be Still, and know that He is God
Be Still, and know that He is God

Be Still; Be speechless

Be still and know that he is God
Be still and know he is our Father
Come rest your head upon his breast
Listen to the rhythm of his unfailing heart of love
Beating for His little ones
Calling each of us to come
Be still, Be still . . .

You may also want to read Psalms 37 and 46 and . . . Be still . . .

Hoping you enjoy a long and peaceful week-end.


For the music that accompanies these words, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHlbnNUHQGI&noredirect=1

First written on October 10, 2008. Edited and posted today as a Favorite. 

For more on Being Still, enter those words into the blog search bar and explore.

Image from: http://angelaambroise.blogspot.com/2011/05/stillness-brings-forth-births.html

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Psalm 4: Joyful Confidence in God

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

This cannot be more simple, nor can it be more complicated.

As humans, there is only one thing required of us – that we trust God and allow God to move in our lives.

As humans, there is only one thing we wish to have for ourselves – control of all we and others say and do.

If only we might be as ardent in our following God as we are in our building up of our self defenses.

From the St. Joseph Psalter footnotes: Those who are well established in life delude themselves by seeking happiness in riches and worldly vanities.  The psalmist, rich in divine trust and joy, invites them to discover the price of God’s friendship: “the light of God’s face”.  This is an evening prayer (see verses 5 and 9), filled with desire for God; Christians move beyond its earthly perspectives.  Prayer brings openness of heart, assurance of God’s help, faith, divine approval, joy, and peace. 

The poor often have more confidence in God than the wealthy . . . because when there is no earthly place to fall back . . . we realize that there is only God.  The things of this world upon which we depend are only illusions.  We live in the dream that this world is real . . . even when we are told so often that this world is passing away.  Thinking in this way, we realize that our comfort may well get in the way of our spiritual development.

From the week-end intercessions in MAGNIFICAT.

When we waver, make us firm.

When we refuse to do your will, soften our hearts.

When we forget we are your children, bring us back to you.

Amen.


For some links to music which celebrates our joyful confidence, click on the image above or go to: https://todaysworship.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/todays-worship-dailyseptember-10-2012/

THE PSALMS, NEW CATHOLIC VERSION. Saint Joseph Edition. New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 2004. 30. Print.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 9.25 (2008). Print.

First written on September 29, 2008. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Psalm 46:11: Be still . . . 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Psalm 46:11Be still, then, and know that I am God.

God is everything.  God is all.  God is one.  God is whole.

God says: In the clamor of your days it is difficult for you to hear my voice; yet still I speak.  In the blur of daily activity it is difficult for you to feel my presence, yet still I am.  In the haze of uncertain relationships and unsteady events it is difficult for you to know my love, yet still I wait for you. I will never leave you.  I will never betray you.  I will never change.  If you seek something immovable, constant and true, seek me.  I wait for you still.

Wishing you a peaceful evening on this day which may have been filled with much activity.


Image from: http://itisbygrace.blogspot.com/2011/01/you-need-only-be-still.html

A re-post from July 4, 2012. 

To listen to the Steven Curtis Chapman song Be Still and Know click on the verse cited above or go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHlbnNUHQGI

For more on this verse go to: http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1245-be-still-and-know-that-i-am-god

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Isaiah 55: An Invitation to Grace

Saturday, June 8, 2019

All you who are thirsty, come to the waters . . .

We are told in the story of the Revelation (7:16) that those who thirst will find true water which quenches forever.

I will renew you with the everlasting covenant . . .

We are told by the prophets Jeremiah (23:4) and Ezekiel (34:16) that the true Shepherd has promised to bring all of his sheep home from all the places to which the false shepherds have scattered them so that none of them shall be missing.

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near . . .

We are told in the Gospels to knock, ask, and seek (Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9) while the bridegroom lives among us (Matthew 9:15, Mark 2:19, Luke 5:34, John 3:29).

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord . . .

We are told in the first letter to the Corinthians (13:1) that our childish ways are not the childlike ways in which God asks us to walk; and in Ephesians (2:2) that the ways of the world are not God’s ways.

For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to him who sows and bread to him who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

We are told in Ezekiel (37:27) that God will dwell among his people; and we are told by Jesus in the Gospel of John (10:34-38) that he was sent among us to call his faithful home, and that these faithful live in him just as he lives in the father.

Yes, in joy you shall depart, in peace you shall be brought back . . .

We are told in Jeremiah (29:11) and throughout the Psalms, but especially in 126, that God has plans in mind for us which are plans for joy rather than sorrow.

This shall be the Lord’s renown, an everlasting imperishable sign . . .

We are told in the Gospel of John (4:10) that God offers us the gift of everlasting life, of true water which quenches forever.

All of scripture is Christ, is God’s word to us, God’s expression of love to us.  And all of this scripture cries out to us that we are invited to the feast of the bridegroom as the beloved bride.  In the album Speechless by Steven Curtis Chapman there is a song entitled The Invitation which tells us all we need to hear about the love the father holds for us. It reminds us that we are bride to a constant, faithful, ardent lover, the true prince of peace who leaves nothing lacking, who will not rest until he holds us closely.  This is our invitation to blessing.  This is our invitation to beatitude.  This is our invitation to grace.  This is our invitation to love.


A re-post from May 25, 2012.

Images from: http://www.parisianevents.com/parisianparty/what-to-wear-to-a-wedding-in-france/ and http://matttullos.com/grace-is-on-a-family-tree/

To listen to Steven Curtis Chapman sing “The Invitation” click here.   

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John 17:11-12: Unfolding Our Story

Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2019

When Jesus prays for his disciples, he speaks to a loving parent as if reporting in on a project.

I spelled out your character in detail
To the men and women you gave me.
They were yours in the first place;
Then you gave them to me,
And they have now done what you said.

Jesus speaks not only to this loving parent but to us today as he says,

They know now, beyond the shadow of a doubt,
That everything you gave me is firsthand from you,
For the message you gave me, I gave them;
And they took it, and were convinced
That I came from you.
They believed that you sent me.
I pray for them.

Jesus continues to speak to his loving parent,

I’m not praying for the God-rejecting world
But for those you gave me,
For they are yours by right.
Everything mine is yours, and yours mine,
And my life is on display in them.
For I’m no longer going to be visible in the world;
They’ll continue in the world
While I return to you.

Jesus prepares for his exodus to the resurrected life and as he does, he prepares us for our own exodus.

Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life
That you conferred as a gift through me,
So they can be one heart and mind
As we are one heart and mind.
As long as I was with them, I guarded them
In the pursuit of the life you gave through me;
I even posted a night watch.
And not one of them got away,
Except for the rebel bent on destruction
(the exception that proved the rule of Scripture).

On this Ash Wednesday, when we consider that we are beautiful dust from a great star collision millennia ago, we remember that Jesus takes us with him on his great exodus to new life.

On this day when we remember that God is an ever-patient, always giving parent, we remember that the Spirit abides with us every step of our journey.

On this day when we remember that we are dust, we also remember that this glorious ash unfolds our hearts to pull us together in one great union with Christ.

On this day, we remember, and we celebrate this great blossoming gift of eternal love.


Listen to Steven Curtis Chapman’s Glorious Unfolding at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKMjEvF2Fkw

Images from: https://www.stpaulsf.org/96 and http://stevencurtischapman.com/

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Mark 3: Unhardened Hearts

Monday, February 18, 2019

Chapter 3 of Mark’s Gospel opens with Jesus healing a man with a withered hand and he is immediately criticized for working on the sabbath.  The Pharisees have, in fact, been watching Jesus; they are waiting for him to slip up, to break one of the many rules the old law has laid upon the people.  They watched him closely to see if he would cure [the man] on the sabbath so that they might accuse him.  Jesus not only heals the man, he delivers a quick homily with both his actions and words: Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save the life rather than to destroy it?”  But they remained silent.  Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand”.  Jesus does not allow his fear or anger to overtake him.  He chooses instead to speak and act with compassion.  He does what is good despite the evil that would prevent him.

When we read this story carefully we understand why Jesus then withdrew toward the sea with his disciples.  We live in a world of easily hardened hearts and for that reason we understand why a large number of people [followed Jesus] from Galilee and from Judea.  We also understand why Jesus warns those he has healed not to make him known.  He knows that he has come to soften hardened hearts.  He understands the Father’s plan and bows to it.  He heals, he counsels, he goes about his work knowing that he embodies a loving God . . . and knowing that his presence stirs up envy and hate.  He knows that his actions ripple into the darkness and disturb those whose hearts are stony.

Jesus appoints the Twelve and charges them with delivering the story of good news and in so doing he sends a wave of his own love into the world to soften the hardness he sees.  He appoints each of us as well.  He returns home where the streets are so crowded that his relatives are so fearful of the hardened Pharisees and scribes that they proclaim: He is out of his mind.   But Jesus moves forward and calls out those who accuse him of drawing his power from the devil himself.  He presents a simple yet effective response and then he warns all that they are in danger of committing a most egregious offense against the Spirit.  His accusers blunder on, hardening their hearts still more; Jesus moves forward as well, calling them to redemption.

When we place ourselves in the thick of these intense stories from Mark’s Gospel, we see that our own lives echo the events on the written page.  We too have been accused unjustly.  We too have been the unjust accusers.   We have both hardened our own hearts and watched with sadness as others harden themselves against us.

In our search for comfort and joy we fall prey to darkness from time to time on our journey.  We succumb to anxiety, impatience, anger, fear and sorrow.  We may let these experiences harden our hearts . . . or we may expect God’s ransom and healing.  We may look for desolation . . . or we may anticipate God’s love.  Psalm 95 is the perfect prayer for us when we feel a certain coldness begin to settle into our hearts.  And for that reason we pray . . .

Just and gentle God, send us the patience we need to hear your word and act in it.  Fortify us in your love.

Good and gracious God, guide us with the wisdom we seek and hope for in you.  Counsel us in your fidelity.

Compassionate and wonderful God, forgive us our endless errors and wanderings.  Call us back to you.


A re-post from February 18, 2012.

For a beautiful music video of Psalm 95 click here, or go to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7IryEV4F2c&feature=related

Images of hearts in nature are from: http://www.funzug.com/index.php/nature/awesome-hearts-by-the-nature.html

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Matthew 7:13-28: A Prayer in Duality

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo: Jesus Walks on Water

Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 22, 2018

Given that Jesus asks us to be in the world with him, acting as his witnesses and ministers, but not of this world, we reflect on the evidence of duality that surrounds us. In the last two days, we examined elements of duality we find in the Hispanic culture, and we have opened ourselves to an invitation to share our own examples of duality. As we consider that apparent contradictions that color and shape our lives, we meditate on the words of Jesus, Paul and John.

We see that great love can rise out of great hatred.

I have given [those you gave me] your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world — just as I myself do not belong to the world. I don’t ask you to take them out of the world, but to protect them from the Evil One. (John 17:14-15)

We see that perfection can rise out of imperfection.

Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect. (Romans 12:2)

We see that divinity can rise out of humanity.

Do not love the world or anything that belongs to the world. If you love the world, you do not love the Father. Everything that belongs to the world—what the sinful self desires, what people see and want, and everything in this world that people are so proud of—none of this comes from the Father; it all comes from the world. The world and everything in it that people desire is passing away; but those who do the will of God live forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

And so we pray.

James Tissot: Christ Walks on the Sea of Galilee

Divine yet human Jesus, you guide us like an older brother, asking us to be like little children in the hands of the Creator.

Powerful yet gentle God, you protect us like a devoted, merciful father, guarding your little ones against the cataclysms that haunt a beautiful world.

Challenging yet heartening Spirit, you remain with your little ones like a loving mother, healing our wounds, nurturing and sustaining our hope.

Good and gracious God, lead us, protect us, and transform us as we navigate the turbulent waters of a world that presents us with so much destruction together with so much promise.

Just and merciful God, reconcile us, open us, and teach us how to straddle two worlds, how to be divine and human, just and merciful, honest and loving.

Giving and receiving God, embolden us, test us, and become one with us as we live in duality, as we remain in your world to build your kingdom with you.

Amen.

Fear and trust, doubt and faith, when oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace, for I am Yours and You are mine. We reflect on the duality of our existence as we listen to the song OCEANS (Where Feet May Fail) by Hillsong United at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBJJJkiRukY&list=RDFBJJJkiRukY&t=207 

Tomorrow, the gift of duality.


What does it mean to be in the world but not of it? Visit this site: https://412teens.org/qna/what-does-in-the-world-not-of-the-world-mean.php

Images from: http://imaginemdei.blogspot.com/2014/08/walking-on-water.html and https://www.pinterest.com/pin/67342956905003354/

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Tobit: Prayers for Death . . . and Birth

Juan de Valdés Leal: The Archangel Rafael

Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 24, 2017

God hears the pleas of two desperate people in two distant places, and he sends his special messenger Raphael to guide Tobiah in the healing of Sarah and Tobit.  Tobiah is first the faithful son and later the courageous and abiding spouse.  Sarah sees no reason for her existence based on a series of marriages that fail because a demon has become enamored of her. She becomes separate from everyone in her intense and desperate grief.  Tobit, a good main who is faithful to his Jewish beliefs, has also become separate his blindness. Yearning for the light, he seeks death rather than continue in the darkness.  He, like Sarah, feels alone; they both search for the reason that God has visited punishment upon them when they know themselves to be innocent of doing wrong.  They stand judged by others because Old Testament thinking saw misfortune as a punishment for sin.  Some of us may from time to time feel like this man and woman.

Yesterday in chapter three, we read that Tobit and Sarah’s desperation has reached such depths that each, in distant privacy, prays for release from this world.  As they pray for death, their prayers rise to God intertwining like spirals of incense.  God hears these petitions and sends Raphael to accompany the faithful Tobiah in his journey to knit together these wounded souls.  God intervenes when we sometimes least expect it . . . and in very surprising and confounding ways.

Rembrandt: The Angel Rafael Leaving Tobit and his Family

The journey that Tobiah takes is a long and complicated one.  Yet he accepts his father’s request, finds a traveling companion (Raphael in disguise) and perseveres faithfully without fully understanding how his actions will result in anything good.  He continues, he obeys, he listens for and answers the call.  This is how we must live.  It is how we must act.  This is how we find consolation and healing. It is how we encounter God.  This is how we become wounded healers.  This is God’s plan.

So after reflection with the story of Tobit, we pray.

Sometimes we must reach the point of desperation in order to know what we truly hold sacred . . . and that we are sacred healers.

Sometimes we must fall into the abyss in order to find God’s abiding presence . . . and our own divinity.

Sometimes we must cry out from our aloneness in order to understand that true and deep hope is also bold and outrageous . . . and that God’s best hope lies in us.

Sometimes we must be victim to our darkest fears in order to lay aside our anxieties . . . for then we see them as prison bars that separate us from God.

Sometimes we must be blind in order to see.

Sometimes we must feel unloved in order to be loved and to love truly and deeply.

Sometimes we must reach the point of desperation in order to know what we truly hold sacred. And in that spot, in that distant place that is actually dep within, we will find our consolation, our birth in Christ.  Amen.

For a beautiful rendition of Angels We Have Heard on High, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5mdybeyLVc

Adapted from a reflection written during Advent 2007. Tomorrow, on Christmas Day, the Messiah arrives.

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Eustache Le Sueur: Christ Healing a Blind Man

Isaiah 40: Seek Consolation

Third Sunday of Advent, December 17, 2017

The End of the Exile

Be comforted, be comforted, my people, saith your God.  Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem, and call to her, for her evil is come to an end, her iniquity is forgiven; she hath received of the hand of the Lord double for all her sins.  The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God.  Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain.  And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken . . .  Behold the Lord God shall come with strength, and his arm shall rule.  Behold his reward is with him and his work is before him.  He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and shall take them up on his bosom, and he himself shall carry them that are young . . .

From time to time we reflect on the ideas of exile and doom . . .  today’s dawn brings consolation.

Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and weighed the heavens in his palm?  Who has poised with three fingers the bulk of the earth, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? 

After the darkness . . . comes the light . . . more revealing and more wonderful than we have ever imagined.

Do you not know?  Hath it not been heard?  Hath it not been told you from the beginning?  Have you not understood the foundations of the earth?  . . .  And to whom have ye likened me, or made me equal?  saith the Holy One.  Lift up your eyes on high, and see the one who has created these things . . . not one of them was missing.

The holy ones who wait and watch and witness . . . will receive their comfort . . . a consolation more intense and enduring than they have ever dreamed.

Youths shall faint and labor, and young men shall fall by infirmity.  But they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall take wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. 

Last Christmas Day we read and reflected upon the beginning of Romans 11 in which St. Paul brings to us, God’s Remnant, the message of our creator’s Providence and Fidelity.  He reminds us that God understands the human condition and that he sends us his grace to overcome our fears and the darkness.  God also understands rupture and the deepest places of the heart that suffer from the pain of disconnection and separation . . . and God wants to heal this . . . to call us back . . . to gather us in his arms.  God wants to give us his Consolation.  God is the Forgiving Father of the Prodigal Son story.  We may be either the Straying Child who has spent his gifts carelessly, or the Remaining Child who is jealous and bitter at the Father’s generosity toward those who return.  Or perhaps we have found a place where we can numb ourselves . . . remain aloof . . . protect ourselves from the suffering and undergoing of life that we are meant to experience.  Or maybe we are Children of the Light . . . who struggle with self . . . who rise to the undergoing . . . who falter and stumble but who turn to God always as the first and last source and sustenance.  Most likely we are all of these . . . and we do well when we reflect that our true Consolation rests in openness to reconciliation with God and with others.  We do well to rely on God’s Providence and Fidelity and meditate on this idea, as we do on Christmas Day each year, that we are to be God to one another.

So on this Sunday of joy amidst darkness and waiting we, like God, are to abide with those who have broken faith with us.  We are to remain faithful, remain present but without participating in any dysfunction.  We are to be hopeful, to be open to the potential of something greater which God sends through his grace rather than our works.  We are to abide without fear, because God is with us, especially in our moments of deepest terror.  And we are to remain merciful, imitating Christ, because God always comes to his remnant, to those who wait, and hope and seek.

For a musical version of Isaiah 40, visit James Block’s recording at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgsdhQzVfSQ 

From a reflection written on Christmas Day 2007.

 

 

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