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Acts 26:24-32: Madness

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Flemish Tapestry: Saint Paul Before Porcius Festus, King Agrippa and his sister Bernice

While Paul was speaking in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, “You are mad, Paul; much learning is driving you mad”.  But Paul replied, “I am not mad, most excellent Festus; I am speaking words of truth and reason”.

For a number of days we have been examining the life of Paul and how he responds to God’s call.  In many ways he appears mad or crazy for Christ Jesus in that he puts aside all fear for himself in order that he do as God asks.  Paul trusts the guidance of the Spirit and for this reason he has turned himself over to the plan God has in mind for him and for all humanity.  Paul trusts God’s motives, God’s perceptions, and God’s wisdom, and in this way Paul leaves nothing to chance.  He places his fire-forged faith, his outrageous hope and his generous love in the one place that will always increase and never diminish him . . . Paul places all he has and is in God.   For this, many call him mad . . . even though Paul speaks words of truth and reason. 

Those who witness God’s goodness at work among them are amazed by what they see; yet they fear they do not have this same strength or courage.  Rather than join Paul they scoff at him, and call him mad. They do not understand that Paul has opened himself to God’s in-dwelling and has left behind his reliance on money, power and fame.  It is impossible for Paul to return to his old ways and so Festus and the world call Paul mad.  So will we be called once we step into the world of discipleship.

We have looked before at this portion of Acts but today we focus on the last lines of this chapter to think about Paul’s decision to petition an audience in Rome.  What we learn here is that it is impossible to be a stealth Christian.  Paul knows he must go to the center of the empire to speak aloud God’s truth and reason so that all may hear his testimony.

When we respond to God’s truth and reason we will meet derision.  When we become the light with Christ we must expect opposition . . . and we must not shrink from speaking out to Caesar.  When we live in the light we must expect to go to Rome.

We have thought about this often: the high price of apostleship, the heavy burden of discipleship, the cauldron of life we step into when we agree to bring Christ to others.  We see Paul move forward, asking to be counted rather than dismissed.  We watch as he brings Christianity to the world . . . and to us.

Paul does not shy away from notoriety as a follower of Christ.  How do we follow his example in the work lunch room, at family gatherings, in intimate conversations with friends?  Do we ask to go to Rome so that we might speak before Caesar?  Do we readily step into the light to own our madness?

As we move through Eastertide, let us consider our madness which is not the tragic madness of Shakespeare, nor the clinical madness diagnosed and recognized by the medical world.  Let us ponder madness that leads to eternal joy and so allows itself to be seen.  Let us meditate on this madness that is the sensation of resurrection, of rapture, of sublime love.  Let us wonder if we might share in the kind of madness that asks to go to Rome to stand before Caesar and declare itself.

Ruins of Rome

And let us pray . . .

The cost of our madness has already been paid: the high price has been set forward by Christ – he has purchased us, his pearl of great price.

The weight of our madness has already been lifted: the yoke has been taken up by Christ – he has redeemed us, his sheep.

The intensity of our madness has already been counterpointed: the profound strength has been provided by Christ – he has entered hell and risen to restore us, his beloved.


A re-post from May 6, 2012.

First written on April 6, 2009.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

To see detail of the Flemish tapestry above click on the image or go to: http://www.dia.org/object-info/89a92d3c-260b-4ceb-b37b-baa8a1b5e7e3.aspx

For another reflection on madness for Christ read the Agrippa Hears Paul post on the blog. 

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Acts 26:1-23: Agrippa Hears Paul

Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 19, 2019

Nikolai Bodarevsky: Paul’s Trial before King Agrippa

One of the things we notice about Paul is that he is so intelligent he customizes his words for his particular audience.  We see him in Greek cities where there are few Jews but where the people are open to new thoughts and new ideas.  He appeals to their affinity to mythology by relating to their willingness to have a shrine to an unknown God.  He tells these people that there is such a god, and his name is Jesus.  He captures many in his apostolic net.  When he travels to towns populated by people accustomed to reading scripture (towns more heavily populated with Jews) he bases his oratory on Hebrew Scripture.  Both Paul and the Holy Spirit work mightily to bring all into the church, into Christ’s mystical body.

Last year when we read about the reaction to Paul’s speech we reflected and concluded the following: Having people believe that we are crazy is often the cost of discipleship.

We read his words today and see that he has given them a layman’s version of the Creed, this is what Paul believes, it is what we believe.  And like Paul, when we speak truth and light to power, corruption and darkness . . . we can rest in the understanding that people will think we are crazy!

There are so many places in our lives when this happens.  My parents would always say that you know you are doing God’s work when the establishment gets a bit uncomfortable . . . when the status quo resists change . . . not just any change . . . change that comes from the Spirit.  They would emphasis, as we hear so many times in scripture, if God speaks to you . . . and you do not speak, you do not move, you will have to answer for your omission of action and voice.

This labeling of disciples as crazy numbers us among the brokenhearted, so let us pray the morning intercessions from MAGNIFICAT.

You sent your Son to bring glad tidings to the lowly: may the lowly in our midst read the Gospel in your peoples’ acts of love.

            Make your Church a living sign of your love.

You sent your Son to heal the brokenhearted: may the brokenhearted of our world find relief in your peoples’ compassion.

            Make your Church a living sign of your love.

You sent your Son to proclaim liberty to captives: may those imprisoned in addiction, loneliness, and despair find hope in your peoples’ active concern.

            Make your Church a living sign of your love.

We are Church.  We are Jesus’ Mystical Body.  We are adopted sisters and brothers of the Christ.  We are disciples.  Let us read the words which Paul spoke to power.  Let us take them in.  Let us be The Word that moves into the world.  Let us remember and hold close . . . the knowledge that we are the brokenhearted, but we are not alone.  Amen.


A re-post from May 4, 2012.

Tomorrow we will see how Paul gives a succinct accounting of his work as a disciple to Agrippa.

For more on Paul’s speech before Agrippa including a video clip, click on the image above or go to: http://tyotb.blogspot.com/2012/03/pauls-trial-before-king-agrippa-acts-26.html

Written on March 11, 2008  and posted today as a Favorite.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 3.11 (2008). Print.  

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Acts 27: Shipwreck

Thursday, May 16, 2019

This week we spend time reflecting on St. Paul and his role in kingdom building.  We take this opportunity to think about the number of times Paul came up against overwhelming odds . . . and was rescued by God.  We take confidence in this knowledge for we too, are rescued from the shipwrecks of life.

We have all been tossed onto the shoals of an island, sometimes with friends, sometimes with captors, and sometimes with both . . . rarely do we find ourselves alone in shipwreck.

If you can find the time, spend a dedicated portion of your day or evening with this chapter because it reveals much to us.  In my view, the most significant lines are the last . . . [The centurion] ordered those on board who could swim to jump overboard first and get to the shore, and then the rest, some on planks, others on debris from the ship.  In this way, they all arrived safely to the shore.

Sometimes we are ordered to go to Rome, to the center of the universe, to the place where all things and all people go – to the place where all roads meet, where all communications converge.  Sometimes we go willingly; sometimes we are taken in shackles.  Life is at times a forced march, and at other times it is freedom which can be more frightening than captivity.  Paul and his companions find themselves en route to the capital city of the empire – Paul wants to have his say before the highest court in order to bring Christ to his largest audience yet.

When we read the description of the storm and its effect upon the travelers, we can liken it to the voyage of our lives – an unpredictable passage through uncertain and open waters.  As the ship takes on water and threatens to disintegrate beneath these travelers with their Roman guards, the sailors want to kill the prisoners before they jump to escape the break-up of the foundering boat.  I am fascinated by Paul’s calm amidst the chaos of his physical and spiritual life.  He has – as a willing servant of the Lord – been thrust into difficult waters and into dangerous arguments . . . yet he continues the journey.  He does as he is asked.

The Roman centurion, who had beforehand paid more attention to the pilot and the owner of the ship than to Paul, now re-assesses the situation and does not choose to kill the prisoners; rather he orders those who can swim to go overboard first, the rest to follow.  Before this part of the story, Paul exhorts all aboard to take heart; and he relates the dream he had the night before – an angel has told him that all will be well.  He outwits the sailors who would abandon ship to leave them adrift to die.  He encourages everyone to eat in order to keep up their strength.  He offers them the communion of bread to share.  Paul ministers to both his captors and his would-be executioners.  This is the role of a true apostle.

As my Dad used to say, “If we are taking on water and we are all in the same boat, why are we all not bailing?”

When we find the ship breaking beneath us, as followers of Christ we do not fend for ourselves, we do not accuse or abandon.  We are to bring Christ to one another.  We are to rebuke those who need rebuking, listen to any admonition a fellow Christian might offer us, tend to those who are weakest, bring all together in Christ and for Christ . . . for Christ knows what lies ahead.  Then surely, as loyal and faith-filled servants, we will jump into the surging waters and grab hold of the flotsam of the wreck . . . and riding the roller coaster of the waves of life . . . all will arrive safely to the shore.

Amen.


A re-post from May 1, 2012.

Images from: http://twistedsifter.com/2011/04/25-haunting-shipwrecks-around-the-world/

Written on September 16, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

For 25 haunting images of shipwrecks around the world, click on the images above or go to: http://twistedsifter.com/2011/04/25-haunting-shipwrecks-around-the-world/

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2 Corinthians 10: A Prayer for Boasting in the Lord

Monday, May 13, 2019

Yesterday we spent time with the 10th Chapter of 2 Corinthians, today we pray as we reflect . . .

St. Paul shows us his determination to work and be and live in Christ.  I have always liked his phrasing which describes a manner of living in such a way that all we do and are is a reflection of the Christ in us.  I must remember this:  all that I do and all that I say creates the image of my relationship with God.

Whoever boasts should boast in the Lord.

Make us an instrument of your work, O God.

Through gentleness and clemency . . .

Remind us that our ways are not your ways.

For although we are in the flesh, we do not battle according to the flesh . . .

The world around us is such cacophony.

May I not seem as one who frightens you through letters.

Teach us your merciful justice.

We will not boast beyond measure but will keep to the limits God has apportioned us . . .

We want to bear ample fruit in your name according to our gifts.

Whoever boasts should boast in the Lord.

Remind us always that all begins and ends in you.

Amen.


A re-post from April 28, 2012.

Image from: http://covenant-love.org/blog/?p=3

Written on January 29, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Jeremiah 18:18-23: A Prayer for Revenge

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Yesterday we considered the words of Jeremiah and how a marvelous inversion takes place when we allow God to move in our lives.  The sorrow of the Good Friday grace becomes the Easter joy of new life.  Today we share with you a reflection written on February 16, 2008.  It is Jesus’ call to a new kind of life, a life of turning the other cheek, a life of intercession for our enemies.

My mother was so wise.  Her mantra was: Kill your enemies with prayer.  Kill them with kindness.  Her words have always served me so well.  Today as we let the poetry of these lines filter through us, we can also look at the words of the one who fulfilled this prophecy of Jeremiah.  The words of Christ brought to us in Matthew’s Gospel . . . which happens to be the Gospel reading for today’s Mass.

Jeremiah: Heed me, O Lord, and listen to what my adversaries say. 

Jesus: You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 

Jeremiah: Must good be repaid with evil that they should dig a pit to take my life?

Jesus: But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

Jeremiah: Forgive not their crime, blot not out their sin in your sight!

Jesus: For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?  . . .  And if you greet your brothers and sisters only, what is unusual about that?  Do not the pagans do the same?

Jeremiah: For they have dug a pit to capture me, they have hid snares at my feet; but you, O Lord, know all their plans to slay me. 

Jesus: So be perfect, just as your heavenly father is perfect.

This perfection which Jesus speaks of is the New Law which fulfills the old Mosaic Law.  It is the perfection which Paul describes in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 . . . it is Love . . . patient, kind, enduring, bearing all things, longing for unity and not separation.

Today’s Morning Prayer in MAGNIFICAT gives us more to reflect on from Romans 12: Bless those who persecute [you], bless and do not curse them.  Do not repay anyone with evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.

The MAGNIFICAT Morning Intercessions lead us to intercede for those who hurt us most . . .

Let us pray for those with whom we do not live in peace; asking God through the intercession of Mary:

Grant them every blessing, Lord.

For those who have hurt or harmed us. Grant them every blessing, Lord.

For those who dislike us. Grant them every blessing, Lord.

For those who look down on us. Grant them every blessing, Lord.

For those who refuse to speak to us. Grant them every blessing, Lord.

Amen.


A re-post from April 23, 2012 .

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 2.16(2008). Print.

For more insight about killing our enemies with insight, click on the image above or visit The Daily Awe.com at: http://www.thedailyawe.com/2010/10/kill-them-with-kindness/

For more on the book of Jeremiah, go to the Jeremiah – Person and Message page on this blog.

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Jeremiah 50 & 51: Against Babylon

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A re-post from the Third Sunday of Easter, April 22, 2012

Eastertide is the traditional time in the liturgical year when we rejoice that we are loved and rescued by God, that we are redeemed and saved by Jesus, that we are consoled and nurtured by the Holy Spirit.  We celebrate our new life; we give thanks that we are not forgotten.  Our Noontime Easter journey has taken us, however, in a different direction: we have re-visited the Tales of the Diaspora; we have gone into exile and remained remnant; and we have heard the news that even when we feel abandoned and defeated.  We hear that especially at these times God abides with us in our sorrow and pain.  Rather than be downcast when we are held captive, we have every reason to experience Easter joy because we know that Christ’s love for us pierces the darkness of addiction and obsession.

Babylon appears to be the winner as she conquers little Israel; but as always we see that God abides with the little and the oppressed, the sorrowing and the broken-hearted.  We have been swept away into captivity and exile; but God has remained with us.  The tiny remnant becomes the messenger of good news.  The rejected lover becomes the cornerstone of the new kingdom.  Let us join our voices with Jeremiah’s as we watch mighty Babylon fall . . . as we come to understand that God resides with the homeless; God heals the grieving and wounded; God loves us infinitely . . . and calls us to witness to this amazing love.  Jeremiah predicts the fall of the empire that has deported and held captive the people of Israel.  He also predicts the coming of the one who will release all nations on earth.

In today’s Gospel Luke (24:35-48) tells the story of Jesus’ appearance on Easter Sunday night when the two disciples who had met the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus joined the apostles to describe their experience with the risen Christ that day.  While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you”.  But they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost.  Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? 

We too often tremble in hidden places hoping to escape the notice of oppressors.  Jesus comes to us to ask us as he asked the disciples, Why do questions arise in your hearts? 

We too suddenly accept gloom and refuse to find hope when all is dark.  Jesus comes to us to show us his wounds as he showed them to the disciples as he says, Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have. 

We too quickly accept the last words of a bully or tyrant as the ultimate outcome in a conflict or as a final decision that will last forever. Jesus comes to us as he came to his apostles and he says, It is written that Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations . . . You are witnesses of these things

And so we pray with the words of Jeremiah as we retell the story of the risen Jesus.

Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord with covenant everlasting, never to be forgotten . . .  and let us turn to Christ who comes to us through the locked doors of our hearts.

Lost sheep were my people, their shepherds mislead them, straggling on the mountains . . . let us follow Christ who gathers us up to lead us to our peaceful home with him.

For Israel and Judah are not widowed of their God, the Lord of hosts . . . we have not been left behind by Christ.

You are my hammer, my weapon for war . . . you are Christ’s faithful ones, you are witnesses to the goodness he has done . . . go and tell what you have seen.  Amen.


Image from: http://rosemaryl.blogspot.com/2010/09/light-in-darkness-blog-carnival-round-2.html

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Daniel 1-6: Tales from the Diaspora (Part II)

Friday, May 3, 2019

Early Christian Martyrs

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .

The verses in chapter 3 will reveal something special for us.  Nebuchadnezzar asks, “Who is the God who can deliver you from my hand?”  Hanaiah, Mishael, and Azariah reply so simply: If the God whom we serve is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your hand, O king, he will do so; but [even] if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods.  

This demonstration of dying to self in love for the Creator is so simple yet so eternal.  Why do we find it difficult to give ourselves over to God when we know that we are here to serve, know and love this God who so loves us that he dies to self for us in the person of Jesus Christ all day every day?  Why do we serve the pagan gods of fame, fashion, fortune, power and control?  Why do we succumb to the gods of addictions to behaviors that are so damaging to self and others?  Why do we preserve self and neglect those to whom we are sent?  These young men speak to us down through the years in both their words and actions when they make their bold statement and step forward to witness to their vocation: Even if their God sees best that they be consumed in the fires of this furnace which is meant to reduce bodies to ash they will not abandon this God.  They will not refuse to witness to this God . . . for they know and understand that this God is greater than all else.

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .

We find further examples of human fidelity to God from the days of the early Christian Church when we explore the PBS FRONTLINE site at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/why/pliny.html   Here we see how Christ’s early followers gain strength from the adversity they experience.  Pliny the Younger and the Emperor Trajan exchange correspondence and agree that some of the Christ followers must be punished yet they are cautious, knowing that this Jesus movement will likely outlast them all.

The fidelity of these early Christians and other martyrs on the site is impressive.  Nothing can make them turn away from God.   As we read we wonder at the human capacity to endure such pain, the human ability to refuse the temptation to seek revenge, and the human spirit that exalts what is good in the face of wickedness.   And so we pray . . .

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .

We are God’s works, faithful and true.  Let us act as though we believe in this truth.  Praise and exalt God above all forever.

We are God’s art, varied and vibrant.  Let us speak as though we believe this is so.  Praise and exalt God above all forever.

We are God’s children, frightened and small.  Let us love one another as the father loves us.  Praise and exalt God above all forever.

Amen. 


A re-post from April 18, 2012.

Image from: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lostgospel/timeline_09.html

For more information on Diaspora, click the image to the right and explore the PBS FRONTLINE site: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/maps/jewish.html

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Jeremiah 45: Living as Remnant

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

During Easter Week we have celebrated our return from Captivity, our release from all that holds us back.  Today we return to Jeremiah to take a last look at what it means to live as remnant either when we are left behind as others are taken from us, or when we live in exile from all that we love.   Written on December 15, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

In today’s Noontime reading we can see clearly that God is in charge.  He can, and will, break down what he has built and pluck up what he has planted.  Baruch, the man who wrote down Jeremiah’s oracles in about the year 605 B.C.E., is promised here that his own life will be spared.  Baruch will be a part of the remnant who will receive life as a prize of war in every place to which he may go. 

Being remnant is difficult work which calls for perseverance and patience with both the world and self.  Today’s first reading at Mass is from the prophet Zephaniah (3:1-2, 9-13) who also cries out woe is me!  He, like Baruch, is overwhelmed by the madness and corruption he sees around him and he writes of the rebellious and the polluted who hear no voice and accept no correction.  They have not trusted in the Lord and to them God has not drawn near.  They leave behind them, in the wake of their churning lives, many who are brokenhearted, many who see great possibility, many who are ignored by those in power.

From today’s MAGNIFICAT mini-reflection: The prophet Zephaniah makes clear that the world is in sore need of the redeeming presence of Christ who will be revealed not among the powerful who use their power for evil but among the poor and powerless who seek the Lord in poverty of heart.  These are the remnant who remain faithful through all hardships. 

As we have already said, being remnant is difficult work and just this morning I was thinking of how many times in our lives we are called to share a vision we have . . . only to be ignored by those who have it in their power to do good . . . but who have something else in mind.

How do we live as remnant in the face of so much ignorance and willful neglect of the spirit?  We empty ourselves of our own goals and agendas.  We open ourselves to the Word of God who longs to dwell within each of us.  And we take this presence with us in every place to which we may go. 

This is the only certain way to live as remnant because to live with our own agendas means that we are one of those who oppress . . . and it also means that we are lost.

This is imperative: That if we wish to conduct a life worth living, we must remain always in . . . for . . . and with Christ.  For this is the only way to live as remnant.


A re-post from April 16, 2012.

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 15 DECEMBER 2009. Print.

Image from: http://catherinewhite.com/rough-ideas/2008/12/5—remnant—winter-solstice.html 

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Baruch 4:30-5:9: Captivity Ended

Monday, April 29, 2019

We continue with the theme of Captivity today – but here we see the epiphany of understanding.  We experience the surprise which always springs upon the faithful when they are low.  We live the promise of our God who loves us relentlessly, persistently yet gently.  God loves us to the extent that he is willing to wait and abide infinitely . . . while we find our way to his mercy, justice and joy.

5:7 –  God makes all things level.  He straightens all paths.  He awaits us at every turning of the road.

5:2 – God creates us, names us, calls us his own.  He yearns for the intimacy he has foreseen with us.

5:5 – God sends out the universal call.  He will not leave a single sheep unbidden.

5:7 – God has in mind for us a place of beauty.  He has brought forth life from the desert.  He also brings forth life from the desert of our lives.

Look to the east, Jerusalem!  Behold the joy that comes to you from God.

God has not forgotten a single hair on our heads.

God has felt each agonizing and joyful step of our journey.

And when we arrive . . . it is God who welcomes us home.

Even with its times of Captivity . . . the journey is joy.  The journey is our most intimate encounter with God.

May Christ’s presence and peace dwell within you.

May God’s Spirit and love abide with you forever.

And may you continue to celebrate your return from Captivity as one of God’s own, as one of God’s called, as one of God’s well-loved Easter Children.

Amen.


A re-post from April 14, 2012.

Image from: http://kneverkneverland.com/tag/destruction/

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