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Psalm 106Grafting to the Vine

grafting vines

Grafting vines in Napa Valley, USA

Friday, May 26, 2017

A Favorite from May 13, 2009.

We can always count on God’s fidelity despite anything we think, say or do.  God’s love is that immense.  All generations experience the collective sin of turning away.  All generations have the opportunity to return.  How do we show God that we desire this goodness?  We thank and praise God when God visits the many small miracles of each day upon us.  We credit God with what is God’s; we credit God with all that is true and honest; and we allow this truth and honesty and love – this God – to become manifest in us.

From today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation by Sister Lucia, one of the three children who spoke with the Blessed Mother in Fatima, Portugal on this day in 1917.  To love is to possess the greatest gift of God, himself . . . It is to possess God and be ourselves immersed in God; it is the true love of God in us . . . The materialistic world does not know God, does not understand the spiritual life of the indwelling of the most high Trinity . . . And not only does it not understand it.  It actually despises it and even persecutes it; but it persecutes it because it does not know it, and is unaware of the countless treasures and intimate riches which are contained in it . . . The world seduces and deceives, and Christ cannot reveal himself to those who allow themselves to be caught in the deceitful illusions of the world.  Hence, those who abandon themselves to materialism do not understand the language used by Jesus Christ who is the Word of God; they have been called, since we were all called to follow the divine law, but they have not been chosen, because they do not wish to hear the voice of God, . . . the teaching of Christ . . . They have blocked off their own entrance to eternal life.

Being a language teacher, and thinking about these words, I want to rush about setting up environments and laying out lesson plans to be certain that all of us learn the language of God so that we might fear less and love more.  Then I pull myself up short and realize that each day as I go through my thousand little jobs and works, I have the opportunity to create these plans by the way I move through the many scenarios of my day.  The words I say and the gestures I enact are my lesson plans.  And more than this, the time I spend with God in reflection prepares me to enter into these scenarios.  It empowers me to try to live these scenes with truth and light.  And lastly, it brings me the tools I need to discern the fruits of each day.  Have my thoughts, words and deeds borne fruit?  Has this been good fruit or bad?

Today’s Gospel is from John 15 when Jesus explains that we might remain in him just as he remains in the Father.  We become the branches of his vine.

From a mini reflection in MAGNIFICAT: Branches severed, branches hanging tenuously from Christ the vine, wither.  Branches firmly grafted into Christ the vine continue to be refreshed and renewed by the water of life, the Spirit of God, for whom all human beings thirst, knowingly or unknowingly.

When we graft ourselves firmly to the vine, we find grace in every situation – both the bad and the good.

When we graft ourselves firmly to the vine, we become renewed in the Spirit – even when we have reached the bottom of our resources.

When we graft ourselves firmly to the vine, we can acknowledge freely our turning away from God – whether the turning is individual or collective.

When we graft ourselves firmly to the vine, we need not fear the materialistic world – whether it despises or loves us.

When we graft ourselves firmly to the vine, we can join the psalmist who writes: Give thanks to the Lord, who is good, whose love endures forever . . . Let all the people say, Amen!  Hallelujah!

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 13.5 (2009). Print.  

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Ezekiel 43: God’s Glory Returns

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National Geographic: Ruins of Roman Archway in Tyre, Lebanon

Thursday, May 25, 2017

As a counterbalance to the description of the downfall of Tyre on which we have reflected before, today we have a description of the temple in the New Jerusalem. What we see described here is God living with all of the Israelites forever. The man leading the prophet through this beautiful scenario says: Describe the temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins. Let them consider the plan, and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple – its arrangements, its exits and entrances – its whole design and all its regulations and laws. Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations. This portion of Ezekiel’s prophecy is full of detailed descriptions of the place and the people who make up this new city where God dwells forever with his people. It was meant to both instruct and to bring comfort to those who lived in exile with this prophet. The footnotes in the NAB point out that in the new Israel the temple is free, even physically, from civil jurisdiction – moving away from the habit of corrupt kings like Ahaz and Manasseh who treated it as a private chapel for pagan rites.

Jerusalem _ Old City Walls _ Noam Chen_IMOT

Noam Chen: Old City of  Jerusalem

When Jesus arrived on the scene hundreds of years later as the true Messiah, he upset much of this separatist and purist thinking. It was for his openness and universality that he was hunted down, condemned and put to death.  Because his new Law of Love fulfilled and superseded the old Law of Moses, he and his apostles were hounded out of towns and executed. Even in the early Christian church we see the struggle with this idea of openness and universality with the first Council which convened in Jerusalem to determine the importance of circumcision as a requirement for church membership. After discussion, and when the dust settles, we read in Acts that circumcision was not determined necessary.  God’s church is open to Gentile and Jew, slave or free, woman or man – to all those who will be faithful to the Covenant first established with Adam and Eve.

This is how we see the New Temple and the New Jerusalem as revealed by Ezekiel millennia ago. This place of worship where God dwells is where we live even today . . . if we might only choose to open our eyes and ears to it. This prophet was painting a picture of radiance for his exiled peope, and they must have taken heart at the memories these words stirred of how it is to gather together as Yahweh’s faithful to repent, to petition, to give thanks, to worship.

As Easter people who believe in the Resurrected Jesus, we too, can relax into these images and make them our own. We can carry them into the world with us each day as we encounter and then counter the darkness that wishes to prevail. We can arm ourselves with these pictures of the universal gathering of all of God’s People . . . the Faithful to the Covenant . . . the Hopeful in all things hopeless . . . the Truthful in all relationships . . . the Struggling with the cares of this world . . . the Freed who have escaped the chains of doubt and anxiety. For we are Easter people who live the Resurrection even now. For God’s Glory has returned in us . . . in our willingness to serve . . . our willingness to be vulnerable . . . our willingness to witness . . . our willingness to be Christ and Light and Truth to a world struggling to be free of the darkness.

This is God’s Plan. This is God’s Design. This is God’s Law.

Amen.  Alleluia!

A Favorite from April 13, 2008.

For a Noontime reflection on Tyre, visit: https://thenoontimes.com/2012/09/18/tyre/ 

For more National Geographic images of Lebanon, click on the image above. 

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2 Samuel 18: Recklessness

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

kingdavidpalace02_m_0722

King David in Grief

When we examine the story of David and his son Absalom, and see that sometimes we cling to outmoded ideas or dangerous people.  We humans seem to prefer the devil we know to the one we do not.  We make a way to survive with the horror we experience rather than set boundaries against the craziness of the world.  This is the fine line we walk between forgiving transgression and accepting abuse.  This is the difference between pardon and leniency.  It is the distinction we draw between recklessness and prudence.

Absalom is the favored child who does as he likes; he is coddled and feels entitled.  We see many examples of this in our current world – men and women who take what they like from whomever they like, pitted against the innocent who are open and trusting.  It is an uneven match and we wonder why God does not protect the naïve and unknowing more.

In today’s reading we see the dreadful end of Absalom, the favored child who abused his father who had given him so much.  We also watch the mourning of the father who believes he has recently lost a child without understanding that he had lost him years before.

As Jesus reminds us, we cannot put new wine into old skins.  (Matthew 9:14-17, Mark 2:21-22 and Luke 5:33-39) We cannot sew new patches on old sleeves.  We are called by our maker to transform ourselves, to move beyond our old form and style, to become new in Christ.  For just as the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New, as the old Covenant is re-written on the new heart, so are we called to make a place for a clean spirit, so are we called to sit at the city gate to indicate that we have returned – but in a new form.

In this Easter season, let us be determined that when we are fuddled by the line between compassion and acceptance of violence against one’s self, we will examine our lives in light of the Gospel to see if our suffering bears fruit or draws us down.  In recent days at Mass we have been reminded that we are the fruit bearing branches of the vine that is Christ.  We are nothing and do nothing except through the Creator.  There is no secret thought; we keep no actions from the Spirit.  We belong to God and our lives are transformed when we understand this.

From the mini-reflection in today’s MAGNIFICAT we read in reference to Acts 16:1-10: “Day after day the churches grew stronger in faith and increased in number”.  This was due in large part to Paul and Timothy’s attentive docility and obedience to the Holy Spirit.  They had been chosen “out of the world” by Jesus.  When we act out of belonging, conscious that we do not “belong to the world”, we change the world”.

And this is how we address the recklessness and violence we see around us.  We take on Christ, we go to the Creator, and we allow our transformation in the Spirit.  In this way, we pray that we do not come to harm when the violence of the world threatens us.  And we pray that when the violence of the world does invade our lives – as it surely will – we will have the courage, strength and clarity to witness with attentive docility and obedience to the Holy Spirit.  We pray that we remind ourselves of our true belonging.  And we pray for the lost souls of those who have been sucked into the cycle of danger and fear.   In this way we change the world.  Amen.

A Favorite from May 8, 2010.

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 8 May 2010. Print.

 

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Acts 13:44-52: Wild with Jealousy

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Johann Heisse: Paul and Barnabas in Lystra

We have visited this reading before and we do well to visit it again. The themes are vitally important to us.

Some of the Jews, seeing the crowds, went wild with jealousy and tore into Paul, contradicting everything he was saying, making an ugly scene.

Whether we are the Jews, the Christians or the Gentiles . . . we must guard against jealousy and the ugly scenes this negative emotion brings.

But Paul and Barnabas didn’t back down. Standing their ground they spoke.

Like Paul and Barnabas . . . we must remain in Christ, trust God, and live in the Spirit so that we might share the healing message of the Good News.

All who were marked out for real life put their trust in God—they honored God’s Word by receiving that life. 

Like those who heard the good news of salvation . . . we must open our hearts and minds to God’s movement in our lives.

Some of the Jews convinced the most respected women and leading men of the town that their precious way of life was about to be destroyed. Alarmed, they turned on Paul and Barnabas and forced them to leave.

Like the most respected women and leading men in our town . . . we must remain in Christ and the surety of Christ’s promise.

Paul and Barnabas shrugged their shoulders and went on to the next town, Iconium, brimming with joy and the Holy Spirit, two happy disciples.

Like Paul and Barnabas . . . we must shrug our shoulders, move on to the next town, allowing the joy of the Spirit to overflow our hearts.

For other reflections on Paul and Barnabas, enter the apostles’ names in the blog search bar and explore.

For more on Iconium, visit: http://bibleatlas.org/iconium.htm

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2 Corinthians 6:14-18: Call to Holiness

Monday, May 22, 2017

Yesterday we reflected on Christ’s call to us as Living Stones in the New Temple we find in the unity of Christ’s corporate body. Today we remember Paul’s words to the Corinthians – and to us – about the importance of our answering that call. Today’s Noontime is a Favorite from April 18, 2008 in which we considered how we might replace the old Temple of stone in Jerusalem, with the New Temple of Christ’s heart that we see and we become . . . when we come together in Christ with all of creation.

Paul wrote this message to the people in Corinth where this fledgling church was dealing with a series of crises.  This letter is a call to reflect on how we interact in community.  At first glance, today’s selection may appear to call us to a life of separation and apartness; but when we look further, we see that Paul was calling the readers of this letter away from paganism, idol worship, and self-serving behaviors that lead to temporary satisfaction and eventual destruction.  Footnotes point out that Paul speaks to the fact that God alone can lay claim to us.  We are created by God, we live in God through Christ, we come together in peace – even with our enemies – in the Spirit. And in so living, we return to God to find union with all of God’s creation. These verses assure us that God will always be among us, and that together we maintain a covenant with God as God’s faithful.

As we have reflected often in our Noontimes, Jesus wades among the unwashed, those afflicted with leprosy, the outcast and the marginalized.  As Christ’s apostles, we are called to continue this mission; we are called to become one in Christ so that we might follow Christ as we take this New Temple of our collective selves into the world.  We are called to bring Christ’s Hope to the World.  We are called to bring the Spirit’s Love to the World.

From today’s MAGNIFICAT morning intercessions.

God dwells among us in the Church.  Let us turn to him and pray: Remember your people, Lord.

You are in our midst; your name we bear: make us a fit dwelling-place for your love.  Remember your people, Lord.

You have made us temples of your Spirit: cleanse our hearts and make of them a house of prayer. Remember your people, Lord.

You have chosen us as your resting-place forever: grant us peace in your presence.  Remember your people, Lord.

God of Glory, you dwell in our midst through Jesus Christ, the new and eternal temple of your Presence.  Turn our hearts to worship you in the midst of our daily lives, that we may come one day to dwell with you in light, through the same Christ our Lord.  Amen. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 22.5(2008). Print.  

 

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1 Peter 2:4-9: A Living Stone

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 21, 2017

Today Peter says to us,

Come to the Lord, the living stone rejected by people as worthless but chosen by God as valuable.

We reflect on the times we have rejected the Word that has come to us through the voices and actions of others; and we remember the times we are rejected when we struggle to bring light to darkness.

God says,

I chose a valuable stone,
    which I am placing as the cornerstone in Zion;
    and whoever believes in him will never be disappointed.

We examine the strength of our faith in Christ as the Living Stone, the foundation of the new temple in which each of us is invited to join Christ as living stones raising thanks to God.

Isaiah foretells and Peter repeats,

This is the stone that will make people stumble,
    the rock that will make them fall.

We explore the depth of our hope, the strength of our love, the authenticity of our trust and the clarity of our minds as we give our hearts over as Living Stones for Christ.

Peter reminds us,

They stumbled because they did not believe in the word; such was God’s will for them.

As we reflect, we open ourselves to the reality that our stumblings are tumbles into Christ’s arms. Our shortcomings are windows into the New Temple of Living Stones. And our failings are invitations to join Christ as the cornerstone in our new lives of peace.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore thee verses, we recognize the Word and we become more willing to tumble into Christ’s ample, healing and loving heart.

For  better understanding of the city of Zion and what it might represent, visit: http://biblehub.com/topical/z/zion.htm 

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1 Peter 3:8-22: Salvific Suffering – Part III

The Sadducees

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What do we fear . . . and why?

We reflect on the story of the early apostles (Acts 5) as they remain faithful to Christ while suffering and rejoicing with equal energy and passion. When we open ourselves to God’s generosity, we come away refreshed and encouraged with the news that when we respond to the call to do God’s work, we know that we quickly find God in the obstacles that surround us.  We know that we are Rocks in company with Peter; we know that we can serve as foundations of the living temple; we see that we are able confront corrupt authority; we can rejoice in our suffering to bringing truth and light to the world.

When we reflect on this story, we understand that a small group of the faithful, through the power and love of the risen Christ, successfully challenges the old guard. We realize that the Sadducees are afraid to order a sentence of death on these Jesus-followers because they fear the people will revolt. They fear the power of the Spirit.

There is irony in this story. Those who inflict fear on others eventually experience fear themselves. This we see the power of the Spirit unfold, rising from fear to bring us peace. This,we begin to understand, is the gift of salvific suffering.

And so today we ask ourselves, what do we fear, and why?

Tomorrow, how do we suffer with Christ?

Adapted from a Favorite written in November 10, 2007.

 

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1 Peter 3:8-22: Salvific Suffering – Part II

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Antonio de Bellis: The Liberation of Saint Peter

How can we celebrate our mourning?

When we spend time opening Acts 5, and when we watch and listen to Peter, we discover how we might apply The Word to our lives.

We watch the apostles slip unseen from their prison, moving through locked gates and past watchful guards.

Do we ask Christ to open doors and safeguard us? Do we trust the Spirit who calls us?

The apostles go immediately to the Temple to proclaim the wonderful news that they were able to heal in Jesus’ name, the name of the man whom they taunted a few short weeks before as he hung on the cross.

Do we share with others the Good News of Christ’s movement in our lives? Do we celebrate our small victories and rejoice in the Spirit’s healing?

We follow the apostles as they brilliantly and boldly – and in every way like Christ – reply to the Sadducees that they cannot still their tongues or cease healing.  We hear them defy this wealthy group of men who collaborate with the Romans and supervise the rebuilding of the stone Temple.

Do we react with courage when others accuse us unjustly? Do we trust the Spirit to send us her wisdom and grace?

We hear the apostles as they witness to Christ when they say – as we all are called to say: Whether it is right in the sight of God, you be the judges.  It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard. 

Do we speak as these apostles speak? Do we listen as these apostles listen? Do we act as these apostles act?

Today we spend time with The Word as we learn how to celebrate our mourning.

Tomorrow, what do we fear . . . and why?

Adapted from a Favorite written in November 10, 2007.

 

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1 Peter 3:8-22: Salvific Suffering – Part I

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

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Esteban Murillo: San Pedro en lágrimas

Why must we suffer?

This is a beautiful idea that reminds us that we are called to be living stones in the living temple of Christ.  The letters of Peter are full of wonderfully good advice about how to build a Christian community and this is no surprise. Peter is The Rock on whom Christ builds his church. Peter denied Christ three times during the Passion, as Christ himself predicted, but he bridges any gap he had created by following Christ so ardently. Today we examine Peter’s suffering to learn how we might also learn to suffer well.

Studying The Acts of the Apostles slowly is refreshing if we can give ourselves the space and time to reflect deliberately and carefully on the story of the passion with which the first Christians feel Christ’s presence after his death.  When we believe ourselves to be in dire straits, we really only need turn to this story.  It reveals so much about the hope we called to live joyfully.

In Chapter 5, Ananais and Sapphira are struck dead by the Lord for withholding the gifts given to them. We hear about the second trial and imprisonment of the apostles, their mystical release by the angel of God, and rabbi Gamaliel’s wise argument to let the apostles go with a flogging – rather than execution – because if their work comes from God, you will be able to destroy them; you may even find yourself fighting against God. 

At the end of this chapter we see the apostles return to their community and we find them rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.  And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Messiah, Jesus . . . even though the authorities warn them to cease healing in Jesus’ name.

Today we reflect on our opportunities to suffer as early church members did. We examine the zeal with which we carry out our own story of Christ’s hope and resurrection. We explore the choices we see in Acts 5 as we consider the words of Peter. And we begin to understand that we are each free to choose if and how we will suffer well.

Tomorrow, celebrating as we mourn.

Adapted from a Favorite written in November 10, 2007.

 

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