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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category


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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Ezekiel 34: A Prayer to the Shepherd – A Reprise

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A flock traversing a narrow path in the Caucasus Mountains

God is the first and the last of the Good Shepherds, and we are made in this image. Called by the shepherd, we know what we must do.  We who may be tempted to push with side and shoulder, and butt all the weak sheep with . . . horns until they [are] . . . driven out, must instead follow the voice of the Master Shepherd who guides, heals, unites, brings home, restores, and rejoices with the arrival of each straying sheep.  We are called to follow God’s example as we grow in our skills of shepherding. When we help Christ in the guidance of others, we become a guiding light to others. When we rely on the comfort of the Spirit, we find our way along narrow and dangerous pathways, through ponderous obstacles, and into the one true fold.

And so we pray.

Oh Master Shepherd,

Gather us up,

Gather us in. 

We wander in barren and hostile lands. 

We hear your voice,

We see your face,

We know your touch.

Gather us up.

Gather us in.

We wander in search of something we have lost.

We hear your voice,

We see your face,

We know your love.

 Gather us up,

Gather us in.

We wander seeking your broad shoulders, your strong arms.

 We know your voice,

We know your face,

We know your embrace.

 Gather us up,

Gather us in.

Amen.

To read more about the shepherds of the Tusheti Mountains in the Caucasus Range, click the image or visit: https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2017/10/the-shepherds-of-the-tusheti-mountains/544514/

 

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Psalm 62: Seek Trust – God Alone

Monday, December 11, 2017

In earlier posts we have spent time with Psalm 62; today we pray as we reflect . . .

Trust God at all times, my people!   Pour out your hearts to God our refuge!

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to voice all that we are as creatures of God.

God alone is my rock and salvation, my secure height; I shall never fall.

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to recall the temptations that lead us away from God.

They delight in lies; they bless with their mouths, and inwardly they curse. 

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to remember where we must focus our energies.

Though wealth increase, do not set your heart upon it.

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to think about how power and kindness relate to one another.

Power belongs to God; so too, Lord does kindness,

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to see where we might find full and lasting peace.

My soul, be at rest in God alone, from whom comes my hope.

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to acknowledge the difficulty life presents to us.

How long will you set upon people, all of you beating them down, as though they were a sagging fence or a battering wall?

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to recognize our proper relationship with God and others.

Mortals are a mere breath, the powerful but an illusion; on a balance they rise; together they are lighter than air.

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to tell God all that troubles us.

Pour out your hearts to God our refuge!

When we pray this psalm aloud we have the opportunity to call on God . . . and to hear God’s words to us . . . Trust God at all times, my people!   Amen!

A Reprise from Monday, December 29, 2011.

For 21 verses that calm the heart and tell us of God’s love, click on the verse image above, or visit: https://christianpf.com/bible-verses-about-gods-love/ 

 

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Psalm 120Prayer for a Returned Exile

Soldiers marshaling people for a march

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Today we consider this prayer by those who returned from captivity and exile to find their holy Temple and city in ruins. Today we also consider our own response to the challenge of rebuilding, and the gift of transformation. Adapted from a reflection written on May 18, 2009.

There is a cycle of Psalms that pilgrims began to sing when they made their journey to Jerusalem each spring.  This is the first of the fifteen Songs of AscentPilgrims to this day still refer to this journey as an ascent – a going up – to Jerusalem.  The holy city was God’s dwelling place, the new Sinai, the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept in the temple’s Holy of Holies guarded by huge gold statues of cherubim – fierce and loyal winged celestial creatures.

Not only is this psalm an anthem of thanksgiving for having been rescued, it is also a petition for protection against the bands of attackers who lurked along the Jerusalem route to waylay and rob the innocent.  The victim who is helped in the Good Samaritan parable is on the road to Jerusalem.  The priest and the Levite pass by the wounded man and do not help him.  If they are on their way up to Jerusalem, they will not want to break their fast or become impure in any way before entering the Temple.  They leave the man in the ditch to be helped by the Samaritan.  Joseph and Mary leave the protection of their clan to travel alone back to Jerusalem in search of the lost child Jesus.  He is found with the elders of the temple discussing scripture.

Several years ago we reflected on this prayer during one of our Noontimes, and we spent some time with the following citation from the St Joseph Edition of Psalms.  “Human beings are born to be pilgrims in search of the Absolute, on a journey to God.  We advance by way of stages, from the difficulties of life to the certainties of hope, from the dispersion of cares to the joyous encounter with God, from daily diversions to inner recollection”. 

When we make our Easter journey toward Pentecost, we feel a certain vulnerability.  We have experienced friendship with Christ, and we have witnessed his death.  He has returned and we are joyful; yet he speaks of going away to send us the Advocate.  He reminds us that his love can never leave us.  We hear his words and experience this love; yet we feel that there is something more . . . there is something missing.  We lack an ingredient to an important lesson.

We have returned from exile with Christ’s resurrection.  His act of humility and love has set us free.  Let us thank him for our deliverance.  Let us ask him to protect us against the bands of marauders that assault our days and nights as we journey home.  In joy, we make our Prayer of Ascent.

From the MAGNIFICAT evening prayer last night, we pray: Make our love a sign of your presence in the world!

For all who live lives of loveless loneliness: may we embrace them in our communities of love.  Make our love a sign of your presence in the world!

For all who have mistaken power and possession for love: may they discover the truth through the witness of Christian believers: Make our love a sign of your presence in the world!

For all who have died: may they live forever in the kingdom of God’s love: Make our love a sign of your presence in the world!

Amen.

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

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 17.5 (2009). Print.  

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

6648f45035a47efdafeee4d3f3f056e4_XL[1]Nehemiah 13

A Prayer for Willingness

True hope differs from waiting in that it expects the impossible to become possible through our petition and in God’s action.  Today we might reflect on a mirror image to hope and conversion that we pondered yesterday: the juxtaposition of willingness and desire.  It is this willingness – rather than our desire – that refines us as faithful.  It is this willingness – and not mere desire – that marks us as God’s disciples.

But what might we gain, we ask ourselves, from being willing rather than willful?

Perhaps it is our willingness that God nurtures patiently, waiting for our readiness to participate fully in God through Christ.  Perhaps it is this measure of willingness that indicates our full and ready understanding of who God is and why we are created in God’s image.   Perhaps is it our willingness to withstand any difficulty, our determination to be disciples of Christ that signals our preparedness to believe that God can truly make all things possible.  Do we desire to be with God but try to avoid all obstacles in our journey?  Or are we willing to travel the road, despite its roadblocks, in full willingness?

As we read about Nehemiah warning against stepping into alien and pagan territory and relationships, we might remember the Good Samaritan parable told by Jesus.  A man from Samaria, considered to be an outcast by the Jewish community, helps an injured traveler on the road to Jerusalem while the Levite, one who has special status in the Jewish community, keeps himself separate and pure.  As we mature from our Old Testament self who seeks to merely understand God and enter into our New Testament self to seek union with God we leave our desire behind . . . and we enter into willingness

We fully experience God’s presence when we give over our human desire of wishing for the end result through expedient or easy means, when we surrender our willfulness in order to become willing. But for this we need courage.

We genuinely live as God’s disciples when we cease asking for the easy route that has no brambles or pitfalls, when we take on the divine mantle of succumbing to the arduous journey of true willingness.  But for this we need strength.

And so we pray . . .

Dear and gracious God,

We hope to rest constantly in you; grant us your readiness.

We desire to follow faithfully the way of Christ; grant us your eagerness.

We expect to hurdle all obstacles that would keep us from you; grant us your strength.

We hope to respond willingly to your call no matter how difficult the journey; grant us your courage.

We ask that you hold us close to you. 

We ask that you keep us forever with you. 

We ask that you grace us with your willingness.

We ask this in Christ’s name, in unity with the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

For more information about the contrast of willingness and willfulness, click on the image above or go to the 21 February 2013 Brookhaven Retreat blog post at:  http://www.brookhavenretreat.com/cms/blog-22/item/845-willful-or-willing

Adapted from a reflection written on July 21, 2009, and posted on May 9, 2013. 

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Nehemiah 1 and 2: Arrival in Jerusalem

Friday, October 13, 2017

Jerusalem wall today

Yesterday we reflected on Nehemiah’s exit from captivity and his arrival in Jerusalem. Today we pause to explore how Nehemiah begins the Lord’s restoration.

  • When Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem, he rests three days before he set[s] out at night with only a few other men. Three days . . . a few other men . . . apparent ruin, death and destruction . . . three days . . . restoration. Jesus fulfills the promise of restoration three days after his death.
  • Nehemiah had not spoken to anyone of his total plan for Jerusalem. He goes at night to investigate and when he does, the ruin is so complete that he has to dismount and continue on foot because there is too much rubble for his horse to traverse. He speaks to the magistrates and others of his plan and they reply: Let us be up and building!  Those who have been left behind amid the bleak destruction respond to God’s call of hope which arrives with the administrator, Nehemiah.  This is our season of Hope.
  • The hopeful are ridiculed and mocked by the aggressors; yet they maintain their newly found energy to rebuild. Nehemiah responds to the jeering: It is the God of Heaven who will grant us success. We, his servants, shall set about the rebuilding.  They put their trust where it belongs . . . in God.

In a season that anticipates a time of Light and Hope, Restoration and Rebuilding, Turning and Returning to God, we have the opportunity to practice boldness in Christ Jesus. Let us respond to our Call together with the love of the Holy Spirit; and let us place our Trust in the one who most deserves that confidence, in God alone.

For with God all things are possible . . . even the gathering of the dispersed remnant from the farthest corners of the earth . . . to be gathered into the promised dwelling place . . . the place of God’s name.  For with God all things are possible . . . even resurrection after devastating and annihilating ruin . . . to be gathered into the promised dwelling place . . . the place of God’s name. 

For with God all things are possible . . . even the fulfillment of all of those dreams which seem so crazily and utterly hopeless . . . to be gathered into the promised dwelling place . . . the place of God’s name. 

For with God all things are possible . . . for this is the season of Hope.  Amen.

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Ezra 9Inbetween-ness – A Reprise

Monday, October 9, 2017

Written on February 2, 2010 and posted on February 3, 2012 as a Favorite . . .

About six months ago we looked at both Chapters 8 and 10 of Ezra to see what happened as the scattered nations drew themselves back together for their long and dangerous journey home.  Today we look at what takes place between those book ends.  Word has arrived that the hoped-for journey will be taken and the people realize that there is an obstacle to that return: they have intermarried with non-believers and, according to their explicit laws, they must rectify this situation.  The measure taken by the Hebrew people seems harsh by our standards today; yet we can take this story as an opportunity to evaluate our own actions when we find ourselves in a state in inbetween-ness.  When we are neither here nor there we are in a vulnerable position, we are in danger of losing ourselves . . . or our way to God.

The Jewish people established a regimen in order that they not forget Yahweh in their passage from life to death.  Sometimes these rules were too difficult to follow.  Sometimes the rules took on a life of their own.  Coming from this tradition, we who are Christians have the need to investigate the rules we live by – in order that we not throw away something that is precious – in order that the rule not become more important than God.  As Christians, we must be aware that as we make transitions from one point to another, we are in danger of focusing too much on the past or too much on the future . . . at the expense of not knowing who or why we exist, at the cost of fouling the relationships that are so important to how we live and behave.

And so we pray . . . Good and gracious God, we are never quite certain of how to shift from one track to another as we shift and move with life.  Our judgment may become fogged by our concern for legacy.  Our vision may become blurred as we search for new alliances.  When we are adrift as we swing from one stage to the next, we question once again.  Is this path too broad that we travel and too easy?  Is it too narrow and too stifling?  Help us to see more clearly which way we are to go, why we are to proceed, how we are to decide.  Keep the people in our lives more important than the rules.  And keep the rules as simple as your one supreme commandment: Love your God above all gods, and love one another as I have loved you. Keep us ever in mind we pray.  Amen. 

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