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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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Sunday, February 2, 2020

Psalm 37: Humility and Patience – Part I

From Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation for February 2, 2013: “When you truly know, the giveaway is that you know that you do not know! Truly holy people are always humble. If you are not humble, you have not experienced the Holy One. If you don’t see humility and patience in religion, you know it’s not on the right course”.

Adapted from CAC Foundation Set: Gospel Call to Compassionate Action
(Bias from the Bottom) and Contemplative Prayer
(CD, DVD, MP3)

psalm-37-4[1]I have been thinking about this all morning and today at noon scripture fell open at Psalm 37, a song that “responds to the problem of evil, which the Old Testament often expresses as a question: Why do the wicked and the good suffer? The psalm answers that the situation is only temporary.  God will reverse things, rewarding the good and punishing the wicked here on earth.  The perspective is concrete and earthbound: people’s very actions place them among the ranks of the good or wicked.  Each group or ‘way’ has its own inherent dynamism – eventual frustration for the wicked, eventual reward for the just”.  (Senior cf. 670)

The word EVENTUAL leaps out at us.  We want all solutions immediately.  We want to bend time and space to our will as we believe God does.  Our humanity brings us limitation and may spur us to lust after power and prestige.  Our divinity offers us infinity and calls us to humility and patience.  With this hymn of answers God invites us this weekend to explore the puzzle of human suffering.  Let us examine the images and logic of this acrostic psalm to see what it says to us about patience and humility.

The first stanza, ALEPH, leaps into a suggestion for how to handle evil: Do not be provoked by evildoers; do not envy those who do wrong.

The second, BETH, describes how to do away with our anger or anxiety: Find your delight in the Lord who will give you your heart’s desire.

The third, GIMEL, tells us what to aim for: Make your integrity shine like the dawn.

The fourth, DALETH, is specific: Be still before the Lord; wait for God.

The fifth, HE, tells us the consequence of anger: Give up your anger, abandon your wrath; do not be provoked; it brings only harm.

The sixth, WAW, leaves no doubt about outcomes: Wait a little, and the wicked will be no more; look for them and they will not be there.  But the poor will possess the land, will delight in great prosperity.

The seventh, ZAYIN, tells us that it is really the wicked who are envious: The wicked plot against the just and grind their teeth at them.

The eighth, HETH, describes how the plots turn back on the plotters: Their swords will pierce their own hearts; their bows will be broken.

The ninth, TETH, keeps us focused: The Lord will sustain the just.

The tenth, YODH, tells us that suffering can lead to everlasting peace: The Lord watches over the days of the blameless; their heritage lasts forever.

The eleventh, KAPH, reminds us that those who impose suffering fade away: Like the beauty of meadows the wicked perish; like smoke they disappear. 

Spend some time with this psalm today and open the acrostic.  The message within is a letter of love from God to us.  In humility . . . let us accept it.  With patience . . . let us live it.


Image from: http://ingridschlueter.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/gods-counsel-in-the-midst-of-trouble/

Tomorrow, more reflection on Psalm 37.  Find a good commentary and explore.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.670. Print.

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Monday, January 27, 2020

Ezekiel 5: Our Image of God – Part II

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Yesterday we reflected on an image of God that we may derive from the words of Ezekiel and we saw how easy it was to focus more on what frightens us rather than on what saves and heals us.  We came to understand that when we isolate these images of God we see only the spectacle of God’s supreme power and the inevitability and absoluteness of God’s decisions.  We leave no room for Jesus who said . . .

Judge not lest you yourself be judged.  (Matthew 7:1, Luke 6:37)

I tell you to forgive [your brother] not seven but seventy-seven times.  (Matthew 18:22)

If [your brother] sins against you seven times in a day and seven times comes back to you and says, “I repent,” forgive him.  (Luke 17:4)

Everything is possible for him who believes.  (Mark 9:23)

A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you so must you love one another.  (John 13:34)

With Jesus’ words – and with Jesus’ actions – we begin to see the possibility that there is a Christ-like way to perceive this prophecy.  When the world is viewed through the values Jesus brings to us – and the lessons Jesus teaches us – we see plainly that in our attempt to avoid pain, suffering and eternal damnation we avoid self-examination.  This evasion of suffering at any price and the search for happiness at all cost will tempt us to engage in vigorous judgment and even condemnation of others for when we respond to interior panic we ignore the call to empathy.   In our headlong rush to please and appease the angry God we see on the surface of Ezekiel’s prophecy, we do not examine the prophet’s words closely.  We take flight and trample our neighbors in our feeble attempt to save ourselves . . . and we fly away past the shepherd who stands before us, waiting to save.

Picture1It is possible that Jesus drew his imagery of the Good Shepherd from Ezekiel.  Once we spend time with these verses we begin to see connections.

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.  I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.  (John 10: 14-16)

I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land.  . . . I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land . . .  I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. (Ezekiel 34:13-15)  

This is the image of God that Jesus brings to us from Ezekiel.  This is an image of God we do well to consider today.


A re-post from January 27, 2013. 

Image from: http://sermonreflections.blogspot.com/2012_01_01_archive.html

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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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