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Friday, January 17, 2013

Deuteronomy 5: Speaking with God

We have heard his voice from the midst of the fire and we have found out today that a man can still live after God has spoken with him.

Reubens: Teresa of Ávila

Reubens: Teresa of Ávila

Moses acts as mediator for the Chosen People because they believe that anyone who sees the face of God and hears his voice must live no more. This thinking changes when Jesus acts and moves among his people to heal their wounds and cure their anxieties.  This thinking is altered with Jesus’ death and resurrection.  This new idea of a God among us transforms our human fear if we only allow it.  Christ becomes our new arbiter with God, interceding for us with our petitions before the Father.

Like the Hebrews, we also have the opportunity to hear the voice of God.  We might see his face in those who live as Christ asks; but perhaps like the Hebrews, we are a bit afraid to approach the Holy Presence to petition favor.  What we read today tells us that we need not dread God’s presence, and we need not hesitate to ask Jesus for his help . . . this is what he awaits – our realization that he loves us more than we can imagine.

Prayer is the best way to hear the voice of the Creator, Redeemer, and Consoler, and God has advice for us that is better than any offered by any human.   We may not have time for formal, liturgical prayer.  We may not feel comfortable in communal prayer.  We may find that individual prayer lacks direction and intensity.  However, whatever our condition or opinion regarding prayer, we must address all obstacles to it . . . for this is the only way to reach the serenity that God promises, the peace that Christ purchases, and the love that the Holy Spirit offers.

Today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation is taken from words of Teresa of Ávila regarding prayer.  The good that one who practices prayer possesses . . . is that in spite of any wrong they who practice prayer do, they must not abandon prayer since it is the means by which they remedy the situation; and to remedy it without prayer would be much more difficult.

This does not mean to say that those who pray each day have a magical entrée to God’s presence and favor; but what it does say to us is that people who pray daily have a place to take the stresses that come to bear on them as they maneuver their daily obstacle course . . . and that place is God.

We might wish that God would show us a physical smoking presence with a loud booming voice as the Lord does with the Hebrews in today’s reading . . . but would this be more helpful than that quiet voice which speaks to us from behind to which Isaiah refers in 30:21?

We might wish we had stone tablets on which are written God’s words clearly . . . but is this more loving than God’s writing on our hearts as Jeremiah predicts in 31:33?

Teresa of Ávila tells us that she trusts in God’s mercy and love; she perseveres in prayer through the dry times in order to maintain contact with this God of compassion and peace.  When we struggle with our own desire to know God intimately and to commune with him daily, we will know that we are not unique . . . for holy and saintly people have their doubts, their fears and their anxiety when they speak with God.  We can do no worse and no better than this then, to listen for the voice of God . . . a God who loves us in spite of any wrong we commit.


Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 28.5(2010): 385-386. Print.

Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teresa_of_%C3%81vila

Written on May 28, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Genesis 42: The First Journey

West: Jacob Blesses His Sons

Benjamin West: Jacob Blesses His Sons

Everyone in this story is tested.

Jacob’s sons are reluctant to go to Egypt for rations of grain even though they starve.  Jacob speaks to them in this way: Why do you keep gaping at one another?  I hear that rations of grain are available in Egypt.  Go down there and buy some for us, that we may stay alive rather than die of hunger.  Later he must allow the precious smallest son, Benjamin, to return to Egypt with his brothers; this is the condition laid upon them by Joseph.  If some disaster should befall him on the journey you must make, you would send my white head down to the nether world in grief. 

Joseph suffers greatly when he sees his ten brothers who once discussed murdering him before selling him into slavery.  He speaks to them through an interpreter so as to retain his anonymity; his reaction to their conversation is one of deep sadness: Turning away from them, he wept.

As Joseph’s brothers argue over how to proceed, Reuben reminds them that they ought not to have rid themselves of Joseph years earlier: Didn’t I tell you not to do wrong to the boy?  But you wouldn’t listen!  Now comes a reckoning for his blood.

Everyone in this story suffers.

Our culture encourages us to avoid pain at all cost.  We are too often taught that failure is a negative to be circumvented . . . not an opportunity to learn something about ourselves and others.  We regard tests as ordeals . . . we do not see them as opportunities to examine our minds and hearts.  We look upon obstacles as objects to be overcome . . . we do not see constricting circumstances as a lesson plan from God.  We too often see adversity as punishment . . . and we miss the fact that hardship and strife give us an occasion to draw nearer to God.

We are all tested.  We all suffer.  This is an inherent condition of the human experience.  Later in this story (50:20) Joseph will say to his brothers: Even though you meant to harm me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people.  Joseph sees his trials for what they are . . . God’s providence and love converting all harm to good.  Joseph makes this journey first, his brothers and father follow later, completing a passage they had never imagined possible.  They experience loss and sorrow, joy and surprise yet they move forward inexorably . . . hoping to traverse their pain.

What does all our suffering and testing mean?

We might take time today with this part of the Genesis story to contemplate the sons of Jacob and the many lessons their story contains.  Let us make our own first journey to discover the gift of our misfortune.


For a reflection on Genesis 43 – The Second Journey, the journey of return, enter the words in the blog search bar and explore. 

Image from: http://www.oneyearbibleblog.com/2011/01/january-24th-one-year-bible-readings.html

 

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Friday, January 3, 2020

1 John 5: Victory

reclaiming_gods_hope[1]For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.  And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.  Who [indeed] is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

We are so often told – and we so often forget – that once we place ourselves in God’s hands we need not struggle.  From the first books of the Torah to the final words of Revelation we hear this message and yet we fight with and against the world.

Sometimes we fear one another.  We hoard money, goods, guns, plots and any object or idea we believe keeps us special . . . and this is sad because we are already special.

Sometimes we fear the past or the future.  We look over our shoulders constantly or peer into the coming days looking for clues about how we should act and decide . . . and this is so senseless because these preoccupations takes us away from the holy present.

Sometimes we fear God.  We look for full comprehension or we want total control; we deny, cajole, and make bargains . . . and this is so little of us because as John tells us today: The surest victory over the world comes not from our actions or thoughts but through our faith in God.

I write these things to you so that you may know you have eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God.  And we have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything in accordance with his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked of him is ours. 

John cannot speak more plainly to us.  In his Gospel he tells us quite clearly that Jesus is the unique Son of God.  He reminds us that salvation comes through our belief in the Son.  He explains that “Jesus is not the victim of human injustice even though those who killed him were evil people.  Jesus chose to offer his life for others so that they could see God’s love revealed on the cross.  When we see God’s love on the cross, we are reminded that God identifies with the lowly, suffering people of the world by joining with them”. And finally, John’s Gospel describes for us how mutual love and unity express God’s love.  (Senior RG 450-451)   All of this is explained to us and yet our fears overcome our faith; we allow the turmoil of the world to overcome us; we forget that victory comes through our faith in the story that we witness through John and the other apostles.

John tells in his writings that he has witnessed all that he recounts – we are not reading a second, third or fourth-hand accounting.  In his first letter, John intertwines the very real with the ideal and we may become confused with this fusion of two perspectives; yet in is this dance between two opposites and the synthesis they present, John describes a world of universal acceptance and love that we seek.

Jesus tells us endlessly that God’s simple commandment to us is his call to love.  We struggle with this for we do not see it in the world we occupy.

John tells us endlessly that Jesus’ simple commandment to love comes directly from God the creator.  We struggle with this and we let doubt and fear and a desire to control our world to take us over.

As we begin a new year in our western calendar, let us decide to put aside our anxieties about the world.  Let us spend time reflecting with John, a man who accompanied Christ – God Among Us.  And let us place all our fears and hopes in the hands of a God who loves us deeply and always . . . for it is in that place alone that we experience victory that conquers the world.


A re-post from December 31, 2012.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 450-451. Print.   

For more on the First Letter of John, visit the 1 John – Testimony page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-new-testament-revising-our-suffering/1-john-testimony/

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Thursday, January 2, 2020

Acts 4:23-31: With Boldness  

aaa[2]There is something for each of us to learn as we watch this fledgling spiritual community find a way to maneuver the overt threats to the community’s existence.  There is something for each of us to learn as we struggle to speak the word of God in a culture that does not want to hear truth about itself.  In today’s Noontime we see – if we look – a road map for traversing a tricky patch of the path we call life.  When brambles arise, when authorities menace, when we are filled with doubt . . . we must pluck up our courage and move forward with boldness. 

They went back to their own people . . . we must always surround ourselves with spiritual pilgrims who seek truth and authenticity.

They raised their voices to God with one accord . . . we must always petition God in solidarity with others who seek justice and mercy.

They were all filled with the Holy Spirit . . . we must always keep ready our dwelling place so that it is realizes the presence of God.

They continued to speak the word of God with boldness . . . we must always move forward in God rather than at God.

It is easy to look back over the difficult parts of our lives to assess our actions and non-actions and yet when we do, we find reward.  We see that when we cannot muster strength, God provides it.  When we cannot summon courage, Jesus brings it.  And we find that when we look for love, the Spirit instills it.

They continued to speak the word of God with boldness . . . The apostles moved forward through their fear by gathering together with boldness.  They decided that the fear of negative consequences would be outweighed by the boldness they brought together.  When we cower before a menacing threat let us remember the lesson we learn today: Return to what you know to be truth, find solidarity with those of like mind, be receptive to the in-dwelling of the Spirit . . . and continue to speak with boldness,

There is nothing to fear.  There is nothing to lose.  There is everything to gain.


For another blogger’s perspective on Boldness, click on the image above or go to: http://ladycougs.blogspot.com/2012/01/boldness-acts-1342-52.html

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Psalm 118:19-29: Open the Gates

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Open the gates of victory; I will enter and thank the Lord.

locked_gates[1]Today we are reminded that we labor in vain if the Lord himself does not build the house in which we shelter.  (Psalm 127:1) If our relationships – personal and professional – are based on fear rather than truth, all our efforts are futile. If our goals – individual and collective – aim at preservation of self rather than the common good, all of our secrets hide nothing.  If our strategies – emotional and spiritual – rely on anything but God, we are doomed.  We have failed to open the gates; we have failed to thank the Lord; our house is built in vain.

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

Catherine of Siena knows about the building of houses and the strength it takes to endure tribulation while we work.  She reminds us that as we allow God to build with us, we will be ridiculed and even scorned.  In today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation of the Day Catherine gives us a view of how the divine builder operates; she gives us a window to open that pierces our own darkness with the light of GodI give and permit everything out of love, and they are constantly scandalized in me.  Yet I patiently endure and put up with them because I loved them without their having loved me.  They are always harassing me with impatience, hatred, complaints, and with all sorts of infidelity.  They want to set themselves up to investigate with their own blind sight and opinion of my hidden judgments, which are all made justly and lovingly.  They don’t yet know themselves, and so they see falsely.  For those who do not know themselves cannot know me or my judgments in truth.  (Cameron 33)

We are often frustrated by the idiocy of ourselves and others. We do not understand why or how God allows falsehood and deception to take hold in our hearts.  We see God’s world as an imperfect place and we watch as cornerstones are rebuffed; doors and windows close tightly; hidden judgments and injustice overpower goodness and right.  We become discouraged when we believe that we have labored in vain and yet it is precisely when the obstacles are the greatest that we best see God at work.

142799-bigthumbnail[1]If we become disheartened by our tribulations we have forgotten what God has told us – that we die to be born, that the lowly are exalted, that the meek reign and the humble rise.  We become perfect in our efforts to love eternally as God loves.  We build strong houses when we build them through and in the Lord.  We let in God’s mercy and justice when we open the gates of our hearts.

Open the gates of victory; I will enter and thank the Lord.


Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 1.12 (2012): 33. Print. 

Images from http://nature.desktopnexus.com/wallpaper/142799/ and http://www.proactivesafetytraining.co.uk/Key-Holding-and-Alarm-Response(2006254).htm

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James 3:13-18: Authentic Wisdom

Friday, December 6, 2019

I love this letter.  We do not visit it often enough.  Today’s reading is particularly interesting to me as I notice that in my Spanish Biblia verse 16 the Spanish is envidia (envy) rather than celos (jealousy).  Thus in the Spanish version of James, we are called to put aside our envy – our wanting others to suffer loss – rather than mere jealousy – our wanting what others have.  James is the patron saint of Spain – I wonder if they know him better than we English speakers do.

The reason I enjoy reading James is that he is so plain.  There is no wondering about his words.  He goes to the root causes of division and he makes strong suggestions for a positive change.  He sees our obstacles as: pride, presumption, loose tongues, ambition, material goods.  He recommends patience, forbearance, firmness of heart, perseverance, humility, confession, union with God.

From yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation by Jean Vanier: Many of us live in delusion about ourselves, unable to see ourselves as we really are.  The veil [that prevents our encounter with Jesus] has to be broken somewhere in our deep inner being . . . Jesus is the healer, the One who comes to bring me life and liberate me from myself.  He comes to heal me from my egoism, from aggressiveness.  He comes to heal me from my anguish . . . It is a beautiful thing to meet people in deep anguish, who are able to say . . . that they are beginning to find peace . . . They know what it is to find pass from death to life.  They know the quiet experience of the healing power of the Spirit. 

James brings us the opportunity to take a long, hard look at ourselves.  James lays out the parameters for living of life of Christ rather than a life outside of  Christ.  It is not difficult to discern our path once we take off our blinders.

It is the removal of the blinders that is difficult.

It is the taking down of the illusion that we resist.

It is the deconstructing all the ramparts of our fear that we have built up so earnestly that we reject.  It is the disassembling of our false god that we have woven so meticulously that we fear.

What brings us healing?  What brings us peace?

It is the coming to Christ with nothing but our actions.

It is the rising to the true challenge and purpose of our lives.

It is the revelation of ourselves unashamedly to our God.

It is the humbling of ourselves.

It is the asking of God for the strength to do his will.

This is what brings healing.  This is what brings peace.

This baring of naked self leads to authenticity . . . This authenticity invites wisdom.

This wisdom engenders a life into which Christ easily steps.


For more on Authenticity, click on the image above or go to: http://elementsofyourlife.blogspot.com/2012/05/live-your-life-with-authenticity.html

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Meditation for the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 4 November 2008. Print.

LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. Print.

Written on November 4, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Hebrews 7: Melchizedek

Monday, December 2, 2019

Reubens: The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek

The writer of this letter tells us today that with the arrival of one such as Jesus the old way of living in doubt and fear is ended.  From the resurrection forward we live by a new order, a new covenant, a new intercession.  Jesus has arrived to liberate all – no matter creed or race or origin.  Jesus supersedes all – no matter nationality or ethnicity or orientation.  Jesus fulfills all – no matter doubt or rejection or fear.  This is wonderful news for us for it means that all that is good that we might possibly hope for is now guaranteed to each of us – and this promise is foreshadowed in humanity’s earliest stories.

From the CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE: “Why is so much attention paid to a figure who appears only twice in Scripture?  Because both appearances point toward Christ.  In Genesis 14,7-20, Melchizedek is named a priest of God [although he was a Gentile!], whom even Abraham acknowledged.  Logically, then, a priest descended from him would be superior to one descended from Abraham!  And Melchizedek’s second scriptural appearance is in verse 4 of that very Psalm 110 which Christians regarded as a literal prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection.  Melchizedek’s being ‘without beginning or end’ (because Scripture records neither his birth nor his death) is therefore an anticipation of the Son of God whose priesthood is eternally valid; conversely, Jesus is a priest ‘according to the order (rank) of Melchizedek’ (Ps 110,4).  In his resurrection, Jesus became priest “by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed” (7,16).  He ‘remains forever’ (7,24).  His sacrifice is ‘once for all’ (7,27). He ‘lives forever to make intercession’ (7,25).  The Jewish priesthood descended from Abraham cannot compete.  God’s revelation in Jesus does not merely continue the former story, it raises it to a new plane.  Jesus’ death and resurrection mark an absolute beginning”. (Senior RG 545)

Melchizedek comes to us as a unique figure; we know so little about him and yet he holds so much importance.  In a way, he mirrors many of us.  History will record little about us and yet we each make an important contribution to the collective human story.  Many will argue that we are far different from Melchizedek in that he was a priest and we are not.  Yet others will reply that each of us – as followers of Christ – has the potential to sanctify, to bless and anoint.

This reflection does not present a theological argument but rather it posits a thought for us to mull and turn over.  What do we know about Melchizedek?  What does his relationship with Abraham and Jesus have to say to us today?  How will our lives – and the lives of those we touch each day – improve as a result of our reflection on this mysterious man from the distant past?  What and whom do we sanctify with our belief in the Living God?  Why and when do we make our relationships holy – even with our enemies?  How and why do we bless and anoint others with our words and actions?

What does the man Melchizedek mean to us today?  And how do we show the world what we have learned from him?


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. RG 545. Print.   

A re-post from November 11, 2012.

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Hebrews 1:5-14: They will perish but you will remain . . .

Sunday, December 1, 2019

These are welcome words; they bring us union when we feel disconnected from all that surrounds us.

This is a heartening verse; it tells of our salvation when we feel that all is lost or useless.

This is an important message; it assures us of our own divinity when the world tells us that we are mere humans.

The message of this letter is the Good News that we are free from the petty chains we believe bind us, and that we are divine.  When we read this letter we realize that we have much to be grateful for . . . if only we might open our eyes to see and our ears to hear.

Rather than seeing Christ as a distant perfection we cannot attain, let us instead see ourselves as God does . . . as sisters and brothers of Christ, God’s adopted children.

Rather than bowing to slander, innuendo or social pressure, let us instead revere The Law of Love . . . as sisters and brothers of Christ, Jesus’ adopted siblings.

Rather than spend our energy wishing to be angels and gods, let us instead focus on refining our relationship with God . . .  as sisters and brothers of Jesus, one in the Spirit.

The opening portion of this letter holds reminders we read today but will want to hold forever . . .

To which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my son; this day I have begotten you”?

The angels are made wind and ministers a fiery flame . . .

They will perish, but you will remain . . .

God loves justice and scorns wickedness . . .

The wicked will perish, but you will remain . . .

God anoints Christ with the oil of gladness . . .

They will perish, but you will remain . . .

The earth and the heavens are works of God’s hands . . .

They will perish, but you will remain . . .

To which of the angels has God said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool”?

They will perish, but you will remain . . .

There are seasons in our lives when we doubt and stumble.  There are times when our grief overwhelms us and overshadows all happiness.  There are people and events that challenge us beyond our strength.  There are obstacle courses that call us to the last ounce of our stamina. Yet, the trials and sorrow will perish . . . and we will remain for we are Children of God. The roadblocks and turmoil will come to nothing . . . and we will remain for we are the Beloved of God.  The storms and turmoil of our days will evaporate . . . and we will remain . . . for we are called to inherit salvation.

We have much to be grateful for . . . if only we might open our eyes to see and our ears to hear.


A re-post from November 10, 2012.

For more about this letter, read the Hebrews – Motivation page on this blog.

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2 Samuel 6: Part I: Uzzah

Monday, November 4, 2019

In several places, this chapter calls us to pause for reflection: We watch as Uzzah is struck down by the Lord, and we witness the turning of Michal’s love for her husband David turn to hatred.  Commentary will guide us through these puzzles but we are left with the lingering thought that there are always many ways to read the story of David.

We know that David’s life is full of ups and downs – just like our own.  We know that David feels the call of God and the call of the world – just like our own.  And we know that David is both strong and vulnerable – just as are we.  We might learn something about ourselves once we spend time with this story today.

Scholars explain the punishment of Uzzah saying that he had become too familiar with the ark since it had remained in his father’s house for some time.  Others say that he did not trust the Lord to rescue his own dwelling place, the Ark.  Some say that we must learn from this incident that we are to never question the clear authority of God.  And yet others say that we are to learn that we must practice acting in due time, listening for God’s call, and living in God’s plan.

I remember hearing this story as a child and thinking that it may have been possible that Uzzah had misunderstood God.  Perhaps he thought God asked him to reach out to steady the ark when in fact he had said that Uzzah ought not touch the cart.  In my child’s mind the world was black and white: we do what our elders tell us and all goes well.  In my adult life I know that life is much more complicated than this.  As we grown in God we learn that obeying rules does not keep us safe.  We discover that life does not follow guidelines and that it defies logic.  We understand that we must be grateful for all that goes well; we know that there are no guarantees; and we see that the innocent will often suffer unjustly.  We come to understand that rules and laws do not save us . . . that God is the only safety net we can trust.

David and Uzzah teach us all of this today when we allow this story to speak to us.


A re-post from October 14, 2012.

For more on Uzzah, click on the image above or go to: http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/death-and-the-dance-david-uzzah-and-the-ark-robert-leroe-sermon-on-gods-holiness-48196.asp and http://www.lookingfortigger.com/2012/06/12/the-uzzah-incident/

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