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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Tissot: Exhortation to the Apostles

James Tissot: Exhortation to the Apostles

Luke 5:16

Come Apart With Me Awhile

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.  (Luke 5:16)

Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (John 6:15)

And after leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. (Mark 6:46)

The Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.  Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place.  (Matthew 12:14-15)

Jesus withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village named Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. (John 11:54)

When Jesus heard what had happened [to John the Baptist], he withdrew privately by boat to a solitary place.  (Matthew 14:13)

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. (Mark 3:7)

Tissot: Jesus Commands his Disciples to Rest

James Tissot: Jesus Commands his Disciples to Rest

Recently in our Noontime journey we have examined how to best survive the ups and downs of a life lived in discipleship.  We have reflected on how to best withstand the plots and schemes devised by the discontented.  We have focused on how to best respond to God’s call. And through all of this we may find ourselves exhausted.  If this is so, we must do as Jesus and his companions did . . . we must go apart for a time.

If you are able, make the intentional effort of leaving one day a week to re-connect with the treasure of yourself.  If you have spent much time with chores and tasks, put them aside and go out into the world to experience the gift of connecting with others.  If you need time on your own, set yourself apart for a time either alone or with someone with whom you need to re-connect.  Put away anything that takes you away from restoring your soul and re-filling your well.  Our world draws us into or out of ourselves in such alluring ways that before we notice, we have either detached ourselves from human community or we have thrown ourselves entirely into it without listening to our hearts.  What we seek today is a bit of balance for with balance comes wisdom and peace.

To help us reflect, let us look at some of the images created by James Tissot, and let us remind ourselves that we are in each of these scenes.  Let us thank Christ for walking with us each day even when we forget his presence.  And let us carry Christ to others as we have been asked to do.

Tissot: Jesus Teaching by the Seashore

James Tissot: Jesus Teaching by the Seashore

If you have a favorite citation from scripture in which Jesus withdraws for a time either alone or with his disciples, insert it in the comment box below.  If you are more visual, search the net for another of Tissot’s scenes from The Life of Christ and share that link in the comment box.

May each of us come away with Christ for a time, may each of us restore the soul and settle the heart, and may each of us enjoy a day of peace and balance.


James Tissot (1833-1902) was “a nineteenth-century French painter who for the first part of his career had a reputation as a ‘French society painter [whose subjects were] the costumes and manners, occupations and pleasures of the French capital’s elegantes.’ This all changed in the early 1890s when Tissot renewed his ties to the Catholicism of his youth after experiencing a vision during a Mass when the priest raised the host. For the rest of his life, he devoted himself to the series of religious paintings numbering in the hundreds given here. Tissot’s lasting reputation rests on this series The Life of Christ on all periods of Jesus Christ’s life from the Annunciation to the Resurrection”.   (Berry)

For more of Berry’s review and others, go to: www.amazon.com/James-Tissot-The-Life-Christ/product-reviews/1858944961

Berry, Henry. “James Tissot: The Life of Christ.” Amazon Reviews. 9 Dec 2009: n. page. Web. 21 Jun. 2013. <http://www.amazon.com/James-Tissot-The-Life-Christ/product-reviews/1858944961&gt;.

Images from: https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/tags/tissot

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Sunday, June 21, 2020

TS_scroll2[1]Isaiah 25:1

God’s Wonderful Plan

O Lord, you are my God, I will extol you and praise your name; for you have fulfilled your wonderful plans of old, faithful and true.

When life takes a sour turn we have a number of paths from which to choose and even though we might not see them clearly, these opportunities to journey with God are always present.  Over the last several weeks we have examined how to deal with calamity, dark plots, loss and schemes and we have seen that the bread of life, our new manna, always appears when we find ourselves in exodus.  As we move away from the enslavement of paralyzing fear we know that we must take our small footsteps toward our well-deserved freedom; yet each of these small step is an agony when we believe we are traveling alone.  Too often crisis comes upon us with overwhelming anxiety and fear.  Too often this fear becomes doubt.  And too often this doubt convinces us that we are best to travel without companions of any kind.  If this is our thinking . . . we know that we must make an adjustment to allow God’s wonderful plan for us to unfold.

We may be tempted to turn away from people, places or events that bring us happiness thinking that we somehow “jinx” ourselves by anticipating joy and goodness.  And when we do this we avoid God’s wonderful plan for us.

path[1]We may shrink back from the offer of a traveling companion thinking that we can “go it alone” or that “we are better off not weighing anyone else down.”  And when we do this we reject the opportunity for God to visit us with a healing, itinerant angel.

We may avoid sharing our sorrow and grief with others, or we may believe that we are not deserving of a traveling partner who will accompany us through the sticky patches of life.  And when we do this we shut ourselves away from the small miracles that God works as we share our pain with our traveling companions.

We may punish ourselves believing that we have been fooled as does Jeremiah when he cries out: You duped me, O Lord and I let myself be duped (Jeremiah 20:7).  For this reason we may shut ourselves away, we may “tough it out” or we may even try to pretend that all is well.  And when we do this we deprive ourselves of the gift of sharing our yoke with one who bears all burdens well.

I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope.  (Jeremiah 29:11)

When we refuse all offer of alliance we refuse God’s wonderful plans and perhaps we are thinking that we are too exhausted or too inept to fight the battle that looms ahead.  And when we think this we forget that . . . The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst.  No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher while from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: “This is the way; walk in it,: when you would turn to the right or to the left”. (Isaiah 30:20-21)

Walking-path[1]God turns all harm to good.  God is faithful and true.  God is compassionate and just.  God is good and gentle.  God is powerful and tender. God is our rock that does not move and upon which we build a strong foundation.  And God is also a shield we carry into any battle that looms ahead.

So let us acknowledge the gift of God’s presence, let us open our hearts to the one who created us, and let us willingly receive the gift of God’s wonderful plan.

If we want to begin a journey but still do not see where or how to take the first step, we can click on the Journeys of Transformation tab on this blog and choose a path.


Images from: http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2010/09/sunday-school-lesson-36-isaiah-1-6/ and http://calebcompany.org/gods-path-to-success/ and http://miriadna.com/preview/walking-path

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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Psalm 64

The Perfect Plot

“The psalmist shows that the righteous are often defenseless before the cynicism of the machinations and calumnies to which they are prey.  Those who weave their intrigues act in shadows and believe they are hidden from view.  However, God sees everything, even secret human actions and designs.  His judgment overtakes those who evade justice . . . God will turn their evil against the wicked while publicly acquitting the righteous.  Each life will be brought before the judgment of God; the righteous will find their joy in the Lord”.  (The Psalms 161)

I suspect that every one of us has been the victim of a perfect plot at one time or another in our lives.  Perhaps it was an adolescent bullying that set us apart and taught us a lesson.  Maybe there is jealousy in our workplace and we have become the object of someone’s campaign to see that we find the office too ugly a place to stay.  Or it is possible that within the sanctity of our family or prayer circle – the very refuge where we take shelter from the storms of life – we have been the object of a perfect plot.  If this is so, we feel the angst and sorrow in this psalm.

We have visited this theme before. If we type the word couches or Susana, or plot into the blog search bar we will find other reflections in which we have struggled with the apparent immunity of those who lie on their dark couches and willfully plot to inflict harm on the faithful.  The psalmist today rails against this seeming imperviousness to consequences but he also reminds us that God is in charge . . . that this kind of suffering is part of our human condition . . . and that although we may not see the consequence exacted from these evil ones, still God holds them to an accounting.  It is best to let the matter lie there and avoid thoughts of revenge or payback of any kind.  It is best to allow God to tend to these perfect, secret plots as only God can . . . with deep wisdom, with unblemished justice, with transparent grace, and with a full and burgeoning love of humanity.

I was taught as a child to pray for my enemies and today, as I read this psalm, I come to understand that only God can handle real evil. Only God can create a plan that saves all. And only God has the wisdom, beauty, and power to convert into goodness our dark and devious conspiracies.

If only we might remember that Jesus died as a result of an evil intent that took hold of those who laid out their perfect plot against him.  If only we might follow Jesus’ example as he prays for his killers.  If only we too might intervene on behalf of those who construct perfect plots against us . . . and if only we might ask our compassionate and patient God for forgiveness and renewal for all.

Tomorrow, the mystery of God’s reversal . . .  


A re-post from June 9, 2013.

THE PSALMS, NEW CATHOLIC VERSION. Saint Joseph Edition. New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 2004. 161. Print.

Image from: https://theencouragingword.co/2016/03/03/sheep-in-wolfs-clothing/

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tornado[1]

Ascension Sunday, May 24, 2020

Matthew 24

Calamities – Part II

When calamity strikes . . . what do we do?  How do we behave?  Where do we go?  To whom do we turn?

This chapter contains the last of Jesus’ speeches in Matthew and as we read we can feel the Messiah’s urgency to gather in his sheep before the coming storm.   From a MAGNIFICAT essay by Peter John Cameron, O.P. when he quotes Aquinas, “Goodness is diffusive of itself” (Summa Theologiae).  He goes on to describe God: When something is truly good, it cannot remain self-contained.  It wants to go out of itself, share itself . . . Goodness implies a self-gift.  And this is why intercessory prayer is the mark of a good and holy person.  This is how we share divinity with Jesus, by cautioning, warning, advising, seeking, and asking . . . just as the Shepherd does with his sheep.

What do we do when calamity strikes . . . ?

Disciples will behave as Jesus does in Matthew 24.

The faithful will call constantly to one another and they will gather to intercede for those who have strayed from The Way.

This giving of self rather than preservation of self can create great difficulty and calamity for ourselves and others, but it is the work we are asked to do.

We are called to be persistent, to persevere, to endure, to walk through the fire.

Yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT MEDITATION is written by Sr. Jean-Marie Howe, O.C.S.O. who cites Simone Weil: There is no fire in a cooked dish, but one knows it has been on a fire.  On the other hand, even though one may think to have seen the flames under them, if the potatoes are raw it is certain they have not been on the fire.  It is not by the way a man talks about God, but by the way he talks about the things of the world that best shows whether his soul has passed through the fire of the love of God. 

We can hear the urgency in Christ’s voice and that urgency is this:  He knows that destruction, calamities and great tribulation are upon the world . . . and he does not want to lose even one of his lambs.  That is why he has chosen us as disciples and our work is this: to go out and bring into the feast those on the highways, to be fishers of men and women, to distribute the fish and loaves and then to gather up the baskets of crumbs.  And as these disciples we will walk through the fire of this world, and we will suffer in ways we had not thought possible.  Yet beyond the flames, there is always the goal: the sanctuary of Christ with open arms, calling the sheep to the fold . . . the sanctuary against all calamity.


Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 12 and 13.5 (2008). Print.  

Adapted from the May 13, 2008 Noontime.

Image from https://www.climatecentral.org/blogs/tornadoes-rake-oklahoma-kansas-as-storm-threat-continues-16014

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Tornado in Oklahoma, USA

Tornado in Oklahoma, USA

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Matthew 24

Calamities – Part I

This is the first of three reflections on Matthew 24 that school us on how to follow Christ who shows us the way through calamity. This weekend, as we begin to step back out into the world of pandemic, we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus. Next weekend brings us the Pentecost and the promise of Christ as universal shepherd. In the turmoil of our present catastrophe, we look for and find the steadily beating heart of God. 

Chapter 24 of Matthew is full of images and predictions from Jesus himself, the prophet, priest, son, Messiah.  The Destruction, Calamities and Great Tribulation are followed by the Coming of the Son of Man predicted by the prophet Daniel centuries before.  The footnotes are longer than the text in the New American Bible and if you ever have time to sit with this chapter, you will find many gems to collect and carry with you for remembrance.  Here are a few of these treasures.  Try to find time today to sit with them.

  •  Vigilant waiting does not mean the cessation of daily work to wait in stillness for the restoration and healing; rather, it is the faithful continuing of our daily routine with an awareness that Christ can and does come at any moment to cure, to heal, and to free us.
  • Disciples must always be ready for the coming of the Teacher; and it is this awareness of the disciples that will be their measure.
  • The faithful need not ask for signs, but the one we might mark will be that of Jonah (see Matthew tells us in 12:39-40) . . . restoration after living in the belly of the beast for three days.
  • Faithful completion of an assigned duty is paramount among disciples.

When we meet calamity, rather than see the destruction around us as a sign of God’s abandonment . . . we must consider how closely God always abides with those who suffer.

When we find ourselves against insurmountable barriers, rather than despair that all is lost . . . we must consider that with God all gain is loss and all loss is gain.

When we struggle with the difficulties of discipleship, rather than consider that the work is too hard . . . we must consider that we are privileged to serve one who rides out calamities with compassion and justice, one who restores and heals and transforms.

Tomorrow, Jesus’ words to us . . . his disciples . . . when we meet calamities . . .


 Adapted from the May 13, 2008 Noontime.

Image from: https://www.livescience.com/17004-oklahoma-struck-biggest-november-tornado-record.html

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Monday, May 18, 2020

Sandys: Judith

Frederick Sandys: Judith

Judith 16

Praise in Celebration

During the shelter-in-place practiced in much of the world during the Covid 19 pandemic, we know that domestic abuse, and abuse against women in particular, will rise sharply. Let us remember that although we “turn the other cheek” to offense, we never promote the idea that anyone remain with an abuser. Wherever we are, whenever we find violence in the home, we look for help for ourselves or others. A helpful resource and hotline in the U.S. can be found at https://www.thehotline.org/help/ 

Imagine the consternation that would stir in hard hearts if instead of subjugating women we celebrated them as this canticle does: The Lord Almighty thwarted them, by the hand of a female!

Imagine the change that might take place in the world if we allowed our love of God to shine from our eyes and go forth from our mouths: Judith, the daughter of Merari, by the beauty of her face brought him down.

Imagine the world as a place where we helped those who have few or no resources rather than took advantage of the vulnerable: When my lowly ones shouted, and my weak ones cried out the enemy was terrified, screamed and took to flight.

Imagine the impact our lives might make on the world if this could be sung about each of us when we have died: During the lifetime of Judith and for a long time after her death, no one ever again spread terror among the Israelites.

The Canticle of Judith holds dreadful, vengeful, Old Testament imagery that celebrates retaliation against our enemies.  It also reveals the coming of the New Testament when Christ tells us that a new Way has come to dwell in us.  We are to turn the other cheek and pray for those who brutalize others; we are to heal the wounded with soft words and gentle gestures; we must take risks with Christ and trust in the guidance of the Spirit; and we are called to witness to the coming of this newness. We are called to be one of the powerless, one of the vulnerable, one of the abused disciples of this New Way.  And we are called to witness and celebrate God’s gift of discipleship to us.

Judith 16 is a famous canticle of praise for the woman who dares to do God’s will against all advice, against all odds. Her tools are not power and influence that she has gleaned for herself; rather, they are her beauty and her fidelity to God, both gifts from her creator.

Let us pause today to thank God for all we are given.  Let us sing a canticle of praise, and let us imagine how the world would be if we all believed that we can do the impossible by following God’s voice . . . just as Judith does. And let us imagine the impact our lives might make on the world if this could be sung about each of us: During her lifetime, and for a long time after her death, no one ever again spread terror among the Israelites.

Tomorrow . . . a prayer in celebration . . . Pentecost . . .


Image from: http://preraphaelitepaintings.blogspot.com/2009/06/frederick-sandys-judith.html

A re-post from May 18, 2013.

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Thursday, May 14, 2020

wisdom2-300x198[1]Sirach 21

Wisdom and Foolhardiness

James is considered to be the Wisdom Book of the New Testament, and we find ourselves in a place today where God’s word comes to us from different directions to bring us a valuable lesson: Steadfastness and humility are needed if we wish to avoid foolishness, and if we wish to live in peace and wisdom.

Jesus ben Sirach, the recorder of these wonderful sayings, gives us the tenets on which the wisdom of the New Testament stands.  In this chapter Sirach gives us some wonderful sayings.  Each of us will have our favorites but here today are a few about the power of speech to hurt or heal.

Fools’ thoughts are in their mouths, wise men’s words are in their hearts . . . When an intelligent man hears words of wisdom, he approves them and adds to them; the wanton hears them with scorn and casts them behind his back . . . A fool’s chatter is like a load on a journey, but there is charm to be found upon the lips of the wise . . . The lips of the impious talk of what is not their concern, but the words of the imprudent are carefully weighed . . . When a man curses his adversary he really curses himself . . . A slanderer besmirches himself, and is hated by his neighbors.

We find these same beliefs in the opening of James’ letter to the universal church in which he reminds us in 3:1-12 that the tongue is a small member [of the body] but has great pretensions.  James further amplifies all of this wisdom and warns of the power of our own words to deceive our own selves about who we are and what we are doing.  He reminds us that humility before God and steadfastness in following God are needed if we wish to move through life adhering to the wisdom principles.  He writes: Know this, my dear brothers: everyone should be quick to hear, slow to wrath . . . Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in the mirror.  He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like.  The one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does. 

When we find ourselves in a quandary about what action to take, when we are uncomfortable but know not why, when we cannot understand the reason for our suffering, we have two roads always open to us:  The Wisdom Road, or the Road of Foolhardiness.  How do we discern which is which?  Both Sirach and James tell us.  We ask for clarity from God about his wisdom in our personal lives and while we wait for its coming, we prepare the ground to receive its holy presence in our hearts.  We prepare to hear and act on something we may not like.   We stop talking so much . . . and we listen more . . . and we do.

Tomorrow, a prayer for steadfastness . . .


Adapted from the January 23, 2010 Noontime.

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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Hosea 5:1-15: Affliction

Hear this, O priests, pay attention, O house of Israel . . . 

This is a sad picture – a people turned away from God in such a way that they have eliminated any possibility of return.  In today’s Noontime, the leaders in particular are held to judgment since they have been given the gift of office – yet they abuse it.  The priests celebrate their own harlotry.  Arrogance bears witness against itself.  There is political upheaval and insincere conversion.  All appears to be lost.

O household of the king, give ear . . . 

Hosea predicts an all-consuming whirlwind later in his prophecy, a coming storm that the prophet Ezekiel also predicts.  It is fascinating that no matter how much we are warned of our own coming fall, and no matter how much we learn about ourselves, we continue to walk toward and even tumble over the precipice that is clearly labeled with warnings.  There is something about us that wants to self-destruct.

And yet there is more to this story. We are graced to be New Testament people who know that God forgives us when we return to God’s call – even when this turning comes at the last moment. And so we look for salvation from our affliction. Do we know that what we truly seek is our own transformation? And do we know that we hold the key to this redemption and rebirth within?

As we move through our Lenten journey, we are called to return to God. Called to turn back to a time when we accepted God’s love with childlike glee. With this turning, we find an openness to change and possibility for healing from our own afflictions. We find a newness of change in Christ.

So although our leaders may have fallen into deep affliction, we need not follow. God’s persistent love – if only we open ourselves to its healing power – brings with it an invitation to wisdom, an offer of grace, a measure of humility, a taste of fidelity and strength, and the enduring gift of un-imagined freedom. Today we ask that God’s persistent love convert our deep affliction to the abiding hope and love that Hosea foretells.


Adapted from a Favorite written on September 8, 2010.

To find prayers for those who suffer during the Easter season, click on the image above or visit: https://newtonpresbytery.org/2019/04/25/prayers-for-those-suffering-in-this-season-of-easter/ 

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Monday, February 3, 2020

Psalm 37: Humility and Patience – Part II

psalm-37-28-lord-loves[1]

Psalm 37:28

Continued from yesterday’s Noontime . . .

LAMEDH, we see the contrast between generosity and greed:  The wicked borrow but so not repay; the just are generous in giving.

MEM, we are told that failure is not to be feared: Those guided by the Lord may stumble, but they will never fall, for the Lord holds their hand.

NUN, we remember that we are an important part of God’s plan and that we are more than ourselves: The just always lend generously, and their children become a blessing. 

SAMEKH, we are asked to opt for the road less traveled: Turn from evil and do good.

AYIN, we are reminded of God’s gift to us of infinite serenity: The just will possess the land and live in it forever.

PE, we recall that wisdom and justice are inextricably intertwined: The mouths of the just utter wisdom.

SADHE, we know that schemes cannot replace good works: The wicked spy on the just and seek to kill them.  But the Lord does not leave the just in their power.

OOPH, we return to the message of humility and patience: Wait eagerly for the Lord, and keep to the way.

RESH, we remember the fleeting power of the wicked: I have seen ruthless scoundrels, strong as flourishing cedars.  When I passed by again, they were gone; though I searched, they could not be found.

SHIN, we are given direct examples that leave no doubt: Observe the honest, mark the upright’ those at peace with God have a future.

TAW, we remember that God alone is a refuge that lasts, a shelter that does not crumble: The salvation of the just is from the Lord, their refuge in time of distress.  The Lord helps and rescues them, rescues and saves them from the wicked, because in God they take refuge.

Humility: the opposite of arrogance, a lack of pretension, the state of deference to another . . . in this case, the spirit of reverence, esteem and respect for the Lord.

Patience: the bearing of trials calmly and without complaint, a lack of hastiness or impetuosity, the state of steadfastness despite opposition or obstacles . . . in this case, the spirit of persistence, loyalty and fidelity to the Lord.

Humility: If we put aside our competitive weapons that bruise those who journey with us we will find humility.

Patience: If we can manage to remember that God has a plan the fear and anxiety ebb away.

This past week we journeyed through the emotions that accompany betrayal.  Anger roils or fear takes over.  Deep disappointment or a sense of abandonment cripples us and brings us a sense of separation and loss.  All of this can be washed away if we practice humility and patience.  All our grief might transform our anguish when humility and patience become our way of being.  All our sorrow and all our pain vanish . . . when we delight in the Lord . . . when we wait on the Lord . . . when we stand humbly before our God.

Let us spend time today with Psalm 37.


Image from: http://loveforliana.com/i-am-surrounded-by-his-amazing-grace-and-love/psalm-37-28-lord-loves/

A re-post from February 3, 2013. 

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