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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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Mark 16:9-15: A Prayer for Unbelief 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

José de Ribera: The Penitent Magdalene or Vanitas

In this second week of Eastertide, as we conclude our exploration of Easter Week Gospel readings, we challenge ourselves to decide where we stand in the Easter story. How many times does Christ approach us to share the good news that our freedom is won? How often do we panic because we have forgotten the Easter miracle of restoration? How frequently do we give thanks to God for the goodness in our lives and then turn to go out to share this good news?

Now after [Jesus] rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. 

We may be the mourning Mary who experiences rejection when she shares her hope-filled story with others, or we may be those who scoff at her joy.

After this [Jesus] appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

We may be the Emmaus disciples who spend a day and share a meal with the risen Christ, or we may be those who are content in their skepticism.

Later [Jesus] appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.

We may be one of the eleven who huddle in the upper room, afraid to leave and afraid to stay, persisting in our unbelief. Or we may take in Christ’s rebuke, and then go out to join all of creation in praising God.

And [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.”

We may be one of those who persists in the bitterness of disappointment, or one who neither doubts nor believes but who chooses to stand in some in-between world of detachment.

Today, as we consider that Christ leaves not one of his sheep behind, let us choose to believe the Easter miracle and take up Christ’s gift of new-born joy rising from pain. Let us admit that we have the freedom to choose to ignore or to react to Christ’s presence in our lives. And let us put aside our unbelief to join all of creation in praise of God’s persistent love. And so we pray.

Good and gentle Jesus, you know what to say to us so that we might believe. We thank you for your hope. 

Gracious and generous God, you meet our fears with your mighty persistence. We thank you for your fidelity.

Giving and merciful Spirit, you calm our fears and soothe our anxieties. We thank you for your love.

Amen.


Today’s verses are from the NRSV translation of Mark’s Gospel. When we open other translations, we also open ourselves to Easter belief.

Images from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/ , http://www.jesusplusnothing.com/studies/online/roadtoemmaus.htm and http://www.beliefnet.com/espanol/20-asombrosas-palabras-de-jesus-para-ti.aspx?p=9

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Isaiah 43Promises of Redemption and Restoration

Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Favorite from February 21, 2008. 

We sing this hymn so often that these words of Isaiah are familiar to us . . . and they are so beautiful.

I have called you by name; you are mine.

Dear God in Heaven, we so many times feel so alone or abandoned.  We think we have done what you have asked, but somehow things just are not working out.  We feel as though we are sinking to the bottom of the sea.

When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown.

Dear God on Earth, we so many times know that we are called and, wanting to be good servants, we want to obey but we are frightened or anxious.  We feel as though we are burning alive.

When you walk through fire, you will not be burned; the flames shall not consume you.

Dear God who dwells within, we so many times feel so apart from you as we do the work you have asked of us.  We feel isolated and misunderstood.  We want to come home to you.

I give . . . your ransom because you are precious in my eyes and glorious, and because I love you.

Dear God who made us, we wander here on earth and long for the serenity and beauty of your Holy City on a Hill.  We want to hear you clearly, we want to see you distinctly.  We long to be with you.

I will say to the north; Give them up! and to the south: Hold not back!  Bring back my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth: Everyone who is named as mine, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.  Lead out the people who are blind though they have eyes, who are deaf though they have ears.

Dear God who is tender, kind and loving, we are many times afraid to stand when you say stand, to sit when you say sit, to be still when you say be still, to speak when you say speak.  We want to trust.  We want to be authentic.  We want to embody integrity.

Let them produce witnesses to prove themselves right, that one may hear and say, “It is true!”  You are my witnesses, says the Lord, my servants whom I have chosen to know and believe in me and understand that it is I. 

Dear God who is glorious, awesome, and all-knowing, we do not know how to begin, we do not know where to go.

Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!  Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland rivers.  Wild beasts honor me, jackals and ostriches, for I put water in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink, the people who I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise.

Dear God who walks among us, you have shown us The Way, the Truth and the Light.  We will follow you.  We will enter the desert to meet you . . . for we know that is where you are.  We will sojourn among the jackals and the ostriches . . . for we know that is where you are.  We will walk beside the humble . . . for we know that is where you are.

Fear not, I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.

Amen.

Find the hymn “Be Not Afraid” by John Michael Talbot, with video clips from the 1998 film The Prince of Egypt, at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MI49peWG2d0 

David Haas’ hymn “You Are Mine” is at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sgm9lkTNQmc 

Image from: https://rickandlindareed.com/2014/12/12/do-not-be-afraid/ 

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Exodus 2: To Know . . . and to Act

James Tissot: Moses

Tuesday, March 13, 2016

God saw the people and knew . . .  

What do we chose to bring to God?  What do we hold back?  When God answers our prayer, are we ready to act upon the result of our petition? When we hesitate to act in God’s name and good will, what is it we fear? Has not God given us the desire of our hearts? Are we afraid that now suddenly God will abandon us? Knowing that God knows all and accompanies us always, what actions do we fear taking as we move forward? And

As we continue our Lenten journey of examination and questions, we look at the story of Moses’ birth, and we reflect upon the answers to prayer that God enacted through this one man’s life.

God saw the people and knew . . .  

In DAILY REFLECTIONS FOR LENT: NOT BY BREAD ALONE for Tuesday, February 23, Jay Cormier asks: What prayer are you willing to work for?  His question is this: When we perceive an unjust situation – whether it be our own or someone else’s – do we ask for God’s help for the remediation of the injustice?  And when we do, are we willing to take the action God will ask us to take?

God sees the people and God knows . . .  

We have spent time with the Exodus story in our Noontimes and so may appear to hold nothing new.  But what may be new to us is the connection between asking for help and having to act as a consequence of receiving this help.  God has many ways of knowing the people, and with this full knowledge, God chooses to act.  Once God does, the people are called to respond to a new summons for a different kind of faith journey, a journey that requires their fidelity and perseverance.  The people cry out, a hero is born, salvation arrives, yet there is work to be done as a result of this salvation.

God sees the people and God knows . . .  

We might meditate on the following today.  We cry out, a solution arrives.  We rejoice in our salvation.  We enter into the work that will transform us.

God sees the people and God knows . . .  

Jay Cormier offers the following prayer:  Father in heaven, do not let us confine our prayer to words and rituals alone.  Open our hearts and inspire our spirits to work and sacrifice for the hopes and dreams we ask of you, you who are the Giver and Sustainer of all life. 

And the people say . . . Amen.

God sees us and God knows . . .

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. Print.  (Meeks)

Adapted from a reflection written on February 24, 2010.

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2 Maccabees 12:38-46: Battle – Part VI

Ernest William Tristram: Reconstruction of Medieval Mural Painting, Battle of Judas Maccabeus with Timotheus and the Fall of Maspha – Parliamentary Art Collection, UK

Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 11, 2018

It is the endurance of the Maccabees we seek through our intense hope in the promises of God.  It is the fidelity of the Maccabees we seek through our deep faith in the goodness of God.  It is the devotion of the Maccabees we seek through our passionate love for the ways of God. 

We engage in battle with the world; we struggle with circumstances beyond our control. We look for peace where there is only strife. Anxiety builds as we look for serenity; and fear overtakes us too often. When we examine our journey from Ash Wednesday to Easter, we know that we cannot escape our battles. When we remember the story of the Maccabeus family, we also know that it is our battles that transform us. And so we continue to search.

The way of the Seeker has been demonstrated to us by Christ for if God so loved the world that he sent his only son (John 3:16), and if this son dies in expiation for the sins of all, how can we not forgive all and ask to be forgiven in all?  How can we not enter into this sacrifice and petition to God to redeem all those who have fallen away? How can we refuse to move forward trusting in God and exercising compassion for ourselves and others?

In our Lenten journey as we anticipate the promise of Easter when we celebrate the resurrection of the dead, we find ourselves called to the sheepfold by the love of the Great Shepherd.  If we seek to know this shepherd most intimately, we will imitate Christ in all ways possible, and we will offer all that we suffer for the saving of those who struggle to enter the fold. And so we pray.

Good and strong and gentle God, entering into Christ’s sacrifice with our fellow seekers, we offer our pain willingly.  We lift joyful hearts and songs of praise because by the mercy and surrender of Christ, we are released from the fear and pain that enslaves us.  We ask that our hearts of stone be made warm by the Holy Spirit’s love, that our necks stiffened in pride be made humble in God’s mercy, and that our straying from the sheepfold be redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice. Amen.    

Adapted from a Favorite written on April 25, 2009.

Find image at http://www.artuk.org/artworks/reconstruction-of-medieval-mural-painting-battle-of-judas-maccabeus-with-timotheus-and-the-fall-of-maspha-214242

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Isaiah 28 and 29: The Fate of Samaria – Part III

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Samarian Ruins

When we experience the bleakness Isaiah described, we will want to remember that light will follow this darkness. Isaiah tells us of the coming cornerstone that will lie in Zion, in Jerusalem, the city he describes as destroyed in Chapter 29.  This prophet cautions, warns, exhorts, and pleads with the people to avoid pacts with foreign, pagan tribes.  He cries out against overconfidence in human help – either the help of others or our own over-valued talents.  He foretells thunder, the whirlwind, the storm and the consuming flame.  He describes blindness and perversity, fear and terror. When our circumstances are the most dire, we must remember that our lives in Christ promise a redemption that always accompanies suffering.

And so, we pray with Isaiah.

But a very little while, and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard, and the orchard shall be regarded as a forest!

Make of us forests of your love, O Lord of hosts.

The deaf shall hear the words of a book; and out of the gloom the eyes of the blind shall see.

Make of us light to shine in all the dark corners, O Lord of hosts.

Those who err in spirit shall acquire understanding, and those who find fault shall receive instruction.

Make of us your wisdom, O Lord of hosts.

For the tyrant will be no more and the arrogant will have gone; all who are alert to do evil will be cut off . . .

Make of us your justice, O Lord of hosts.

When [Jacob’s] . . . children see the work of my hands in his midst . . .

Make of us your Holy Ones, O Lord of hosts.

They shall keep my name holy . . .

Make of us your mystical body, O Lord of Hosts.

Amen.

A reflection written on January 30, 2008.

Getty image from: https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/the-ruins-of-the-samaria-ancient-city-palestine-circa-1960-news-photo/545281899#/the-ruins-of-the-samaria-ancient-city-palestine-circa-1960-picture-id545281899 

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Psalm 89: A Hymn in Time of National Struggle – Part VII

Monday, January 29, 2018

Paolo Veronese: The Anointing of David

Finding the Servant

God finds a faithful servant in the youngest son of Jesse, David, a simple shepherd. This servant is not perfect, and this is good news for nor are we. Yet, this servant is faithful in his determination to follow God, no matter the obstacles or circumstances. Today we pray with the young king.

Then King David went into the Tent of the Lord‘s presence, sat down and prayed, “Sovereign Lord, I am not worthy of what you have already done for me, nor is my family. Yet now you are doing even more . . . we have always known that you alone are God.

Dearest Lord, you know our sorrows and our joys; these we bring to you in the hope that your presence transforms us.

“And now, Lord God, fulfill for all time the promise you made about me and my descendants, and do what you said you would. Your fame will be great, and people will forever say, ‘The Lord Almighty is God over Israel.’

Dearest Christ, you know our family and our friends; these we dedicate to you in fidelity and trust.

“And now, Sovereign Lord, you are God; you always keep your promises, and you have made this wonderful promise to me. I ask you to bless my descendants so that they will continue to enjoy your favor. You, Sovereign Lord, have promised this, and your blessing will rest on my descendants forever.”

Holy Spirit, you know our shortcoming and our gifts; these we offer up to you in confidence and love.

We hear this prayer. . . we take it in . . . and then we reply with the psalmist and King David . . . O Lord, I will always sing of your constant love; I will proclaim your faithfulness forever.

When we compare other translations of this prayer, we come to the full knowledge that God seeks servants among us, and we begin to understand the gentle yet persistent power of God’s call.  

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Luke 6:1-11Debates 

A Wedding Feast

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Today’s reading may be familiar to us – the announcement that the Bridegroom is among us. We hear this and yet so many of us forget or deny that he is here because the work to witness, watch and wait is difficult.  The witnessing takes its toll, the watching drains us, the wait seems interminable. And so we retreat to take refuge in the Lord.

Throughout the Gospel stories Jesus is questioned, and often with the aim of entrapping him in an inaccurate statement. We learn much from the consistent way Jesus responds: he 1) asks questions, and he 2) refers to Scripture – and his questioners are all familiar with Scripture.  Jesus is engaged in a constant vaivén (Spanish for a “coming and going”) as he wades into conflict and then retreats to recoup and to return to his source – the Father. Jesus is also aware of the fact that many of his questioners are not interested in redemption; but want to persecute and eliminate him.  How did he maintain his equanimity?  By a constant cycle of witnessing and retreating.

When questioned about why his followers pick grain on the holy resting day, Jesus responds by healing a man with a withered hand.  When the Pharisees focus on a narrow point of the Law, Jesus offers a wider, more merciful and loving horizon.  When Jesus heals and restores, his enemies become enraged and plot Jesus’ end. And what is Jesus’ response?  Does he retaliate with greater might?  Does he use harsh words?  Does he lecture?  No, he heals, he asks questions, he retreats to pray and restore.

Dearest God, remind us every day that you have sent us someone who will show us how to heal, to question, to retreat back to you for restoration.  You know our depths.  You know our faults.  You know our gifts.  Remind us that we are yours, that you love us, that you hold us without letting go.  Remind us that the constant irritants that prick our eyes and sting our ears are nothing.  Remind us that at any moment, in any space, we may withdraw and depart to the mountain to pray and to even spend the night in prayer with you as Jesus did. And, dearest God, thank you . . . Amen.

To learn about wedding customs in Jesus’ time, and about putting new wine in new skins, click on the image above or visit: http://www.emmanuelenid.org/archive/component/k2/item/1047-new-wine-in-old-skins-the-impossibility-of-mixing-religious-traditions-and-christ-s-grace 

Adapted from a reflection written on October 15, 2007.

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Jeremiah 31:35-37: The Certainty of God’s Covenant

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Shepherd and Flock

A Favorite from January 3, 2008.

We have seen this chapter of Jeremiah before – the beautiful promise of the New Covenant – the gift of God’s eternal and all-saving love for us, God’s bride.  We have only to invoke God’s name to think of this covenant.

Today is the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus and the Meditation in MAGNIFICAT is apropos.  Here is a piece of the citation from Fr. Raneiro Cantalmessa, O.F.M.CAP., the preacher to the papal household.

The invocation of the name Jesus helps, above all, to crush at the onset thoughts of pride, self-gratification, anger or impure thoughts.  All we have to do is observe our own thoughts as if they weren’t ours and follow their development. . .  What really spoils our heart is our self-seeking and the search for our own glory.  Those who contemplate God turn away from themselves: they are obliged to forget themselves and lose sight of themselves.  Those who contemplate God do not contemplate themselves!

Of course, we can swing too far in this direction as well . . . refusing to think about what needs sorting out about ourselves.  We can choose to ignore the things we need to work on and we can use the contemplation of God as an excuse.  Balance.  Spiritual and personal maturity always has balance.

Jesus himself spent days in the desert balanced by days wading among the people as he cured and healed them both physically and spiritually.  We can follow his example.  We can set aside a time during our activity-packed day to – as Jeremiah urges – contemplate the evil and good we see around us . . . and to meditate on the goodness of our God whom we call Lord of Hosts.

Dearest, abiding Lord, 

You who are greater than the natural laws, the foundations of the earth and the people . . .

You who are more immense than skies which contain the sun, the moon and the stars . . .

You who stir the waves of the sea to roar, who protects forever his people . . .

You who promise to hold us forever, who forgives us when we turn to you . . .

You maintain the balance of your immense universe yet you remember each one of us each day.

Fortify us in the certainty of your promise . . .

Bless us with the light of your love . . .

Answer us when we invoke your holy name . . .

Bring us the fire of your spirit. Amen.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 3.1 (2008). Print.  

Click on the shepherd and flock image to find more about God’s covenant with the people.

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