Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Web site included’ Category


Mark 3: Unhardened Hearts

Monday, February 18, 2019

Chapter 3 of Mark’s Gospel opens with Jesus healing a man with a withered hand and he is immediately criticized for working on the sabbath.  The Pharisees have, in fact, been watching Jesus; they are waiting for him to slip up, to break one of the many rules the old law has laid upon the people.  They watched him closely to see if he would cure [the man] on the sabbath so that they might accuse him.  Jesus not only heals the man, he delivers a quick homily with both his actions and words: Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save the life rather than to destroy it?”  But they remained silent.  Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand”.  Jesus does not allow his fear or anger to overtake him.  He chooses instead to speak and act with compassion.  He does what is good despite the evil that would prevent him.

When we read this story carefully we understand why Jesus then withdrew toward the sea with his disciples.  We live in a world of easily hardened hearts and for that reason we understand why a large number of people [followed Jesus] from Galilee and from Judea.  We also understand why Jesus warns those he has healed not to make him known.  He knows that he has come to soften hardened hearts.  He understands the Father’s plan and bows to it.  He heals, he counsels, he goes about his work knowing that he embodies a loving God . . . and knowing that his presence stirs up envy and hate.  He knows that his actions ripple into the darkness and disturb those whose hearts are stony.

Jesus appoints the Twelve and charges them with delivering the story of good news and in so doing he sends a wave of his own love into the world to soften the hardness he sees.  He appoints each of us as well.  He returns home where the streets are so crowded that his relatives are so fearful of the hardened Pharisees and scribes that they proclaim: He is out of his mind.   But Jesus moves forward and calls out those who accuse him of drawing his power from the devil himself.  He presents a simple yet effective response and then he warns all that they are in danger of committing a most egregious offense against the Spirit.  His accusers blunder on, hardening their hearts still more; Jesus moves forward as well, calling them to redemption.

When we place ourselves in the thick of these intense stories from Mark’s Gospel, we see that our own lives echo the events on the written page.  We too have been accused unjustly.  We too have been the unjust accusers.   We have both hardened our own hearts and watched with sadness as others harden themselves against us.

In our search for comfort and joy we fall prey to darkness from time to time on our journey.  We succumb to anxiety, impatience, anger, fear and sorrow.  We may let these experiences harden our hearts . . . or we may expect God’s ransom and healing.  We may look for desolation . . . or we may anticipate God’s love.  Psalm 95 is the perfect prayer for us when we feel a certain coldness begin to settle into our hearts.  And for that reason we pray . . .

Just and gentle God, send us the patience we need to hear your word and act in it.  Fortify us in your love.

Good and gracious God, guide us with the wisdom we seek and hope for in you.  Counsel us in your fidelity.

Compassionate and wonderful God, forgive us our endless errors and wanderings.  Call us back to you.


A re-post from February 18, 2012.

For a beautiful music video of Psalm 95 click here, or go to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7IryEV4F2c&feature=related

Images of hearts in nature are from: http://www.funzug.com/index.php/nature/awesome-hearts-by-the-nature.html

Read Full Post »


TitusSlaves for Christ

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Today’s Noontime offering is a personal reflection on Paul’s Letter to Titus, a brief epistle in which we find valuable advice on bringing disparate voices together.  It was this letter that united many in the formation of churches for Christ in the first century.  If we savor the wisdom we find here, we may still find unity through this short letter two thousand years after its writing.

El Greco: Christ Cleansing the Temple

Paul speaks of rebuking fellow Christians and I believe that when Jesus cleared the temple of the money changers (Matthew 21, Mark 11 and John 2) he was acting in this way of rebuking those who refuse to hear.  Jesus extends that advice to his apostles whom he sends like sheep among wolves in Matthew 10, Mark 6 and Luke 9 when he says that when they enter a town where the people do not return the peace they are offered, these disciples are to shake the very dust of the town from their feet.  We also hear Jesus lament the fact that he is rejected by his hometown of Capernaum in Matthew 11 and in Luke 10 he laments the lack of faith displayed by the inhabitants Bethsaida and Chorazin, saying that the Sodomites will fare better than these people in God’s eye.  Scary stuff . . . and for this reason I am reluctant to separate myself from those who demonstrate a lack of faith . . . with me, hope dies slowly.

And so we pray that our acts of hope and our endless intercessory prayers for these reluctant travelers will reach God’s ears.  We must constantly communicate with God – and always with a smile – that a plan that does not allow for the conversion of sinners will be a plan with holes in it.  We must be as persistent as the widow in Luke 18 who rails against the unfair judge when it comes to those who distort God’s love in a perverse homage to self rather than to the will of God.  We understand that we must keep ourselves safe from this kind of corruption . . . but we do not give up . . . we continue to ask for transformation . . . our own as well as that of those who choose to do harm to us, ourselves and others.  We cannot abandon someone with whom we have spent a portion of our journey . . . even though that person demonstrates clearly that they wish to take a fork in the road that puts distance between us.  So these people we will continue to hold in prayer . . . in the expectation that God’s will – and not ours – be done.

The Persistent Widow

How do we maintain this kind of dichotomy?  We turn back to Paul who offers Titus . . . and us . . . the solution.  He says that we are to tell the people that . . . They are to slander no one, to be peaceable, considerate, exercising all graciousness toward everyone.  For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deluded, slaves to various desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful of ourselves and hating one another.  Eventually we will all put aside this hateful world to choose the peaceable kingdom which God offers so patiently each day.

Like Paul, let us all be slaves to Christ, slaves to this Law of Love which keeps vigil, which hopes for good, and which sends endless petitions rising to God like incense for the transformation of the world, the transformation of others as well as for ourselves . . . that we all may one day find union with one another and with Christ.


Images from: http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20060313JJ.shtml and http://www.free-stories.net/children-bible-stories/new-testament-stories/parable-of-the-persistent-widow.html

For more on Paul’s Letter to Titus, see the Titus – Church as Community page on this blog.

For a wonderful way to experience the cities Jesus and Paul knew, visit:  www.bibleplaces.com

A re-post from February 16, 2019. 

Read Full Post »


Deuteronomy 28How Big is God?

Friday, February 8, 2019

Written on February 10, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

“So we go to our religious services and make sure we read the latest popular inspirational books and attend all kinds of psychological wellness retreats and conferences.  And we come away feeling good.  But without the willingness to be spiritually challenged, we cannot and will not change.  Without the will to give up whatever is asked of us in order to meet a bigger God, we find that our understanding and experience of the Divine cannot and will not grow.  Try taking that to your prayer and meditation time, and see what happens”.

This citation is from a book that I am reading by Paul Coutinho, S.J. entitled HOW BIG IS YOUR GOD?  It is challenging and humorous at the same time and I highly recommend it.  I am smiling as often as I frown.

Today’s Noontime is about the black and white consequences of our obedience.  We may pretend that we follow God . . . or we may truly follow God.  The Old Testament view is that when we do what we are called to do we will prosper physically; when we fail to do what God asks, we suffer.  The Book of Job, however, tells us that this black and white view of the world does not fully serve us because our reality tells us that too frequently the innocent suffer through no fault of their own.  This is a challenge that Coutinho opens to us today: Is it not a very small God who punishes people for misdeeds?  Is it not a very large God who forgives, calls and is infinitely patient?

In the prologue of his book Coutinho writes: “I invite you now to ask yourself: Am I looking to meet a big God, a God without limits?  Do I have the will to experience the Divine – in all its wondrous and infinite possibilities?  He explains that we might begin where Ignatius Loyola began: “by questioning our lives, questioning the world around us, questioning our relationships, questioning our family life, questioning our work, and questioning our passions.  Let’s also question our relationship with God”. 

This is what the Hebrew people confront in today’s Noontime reading:  Everything they do, everything they are has been thrown into question.  At first reading we see this to be a bad thing – they suffer and question.  On second thought we might see this as a good thing . . . they have been given the opportunity to know their God better.  They have the chance to see . . . how big is their God?


A re-post from February 8, 2012.

Image from: http://storagenerve.com/2009/09/17/cloud-the-quest-for-standards/cloud-question-mark-cloud-computing/

Paul Coutinho, S.J., HOW BIG IS YOUR GOD? Loyola Press.  Watch Paul Coutinho at: http://www.mycatholicvoice.com/media/i8icLh   and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozevDJf9q9U

Read Full Post »


Titus 2:1 to 3:7In Conflict with Reality

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Titus was one of Paul’s companions during the evangelization of the island of Crete, and Paul left his young follower to administer to the churches they established there.  In this letter, Paul encourages Titus and gives him an outline for 1) how to best minister to these new communities, and 2) how to maintain the truths brought to them by Christ in the Gospel story1.  This would have been a huge task for anyone but we can guess that it was particularly tricky for Titus who would find that every action he took and every word he spoke would be in direct conflict with the reality of the times.  We might identify with this conflict between doctrines and philosophies we know to be correct, and the accepted practices and activities in our own families, communities and workplaces.  We might want to use Paul’s words to Titus as our own manual for Christian behavior.

In a reflection posted on his website for Sunday, February 05, 2012, Fr. Richard Rohr describes living life fully while at the same time accepting reality In part he writes: “Living and accepting our own reality will not feel very spiritual. It will feel like we are on the edges rather than dealing with the essence.  Thus most [human beings] run toward more esoteric and dramatic postures instead of bearing the mystery of God’s suffering and joy inside themselves. But the edges of our lives—fully experienced, suffered, and enjoyed—lead us back to the center and the essence”.

Rohr continues to explain how we must open ourselves in order to allow God to move into us, in order to allow God to act in and through us.  He makes his point clear that we do not make our own lives but rather it is our lives that form us . . . once we allow ourselves to suffer in Christ.  He writes that as we search for God, God finds us:  “We do not find our own center; it finds us. Our own mind will not be able to figure it out. Our journeys around and through our realities, or ‘circumferences,’ lead us to the core reality, where we meet both our truest self and our truest God. We do not really know what it means to be human unless we know God. And, in turn, we do not really know God except through our broken and rejoicing humanity”.  (Adapted from Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, pp. 17-19 by Richard Rohr)

As we read Paul’s message to Titus today, we hear the encouraging words that we need as well for as we move through our own reality we will want to know how to find the courage to stand tall against the thinking of the day when we know this thinking is defective.  We will want to have the hope that God will convert false realities into kingdom promises.  We will want to know where to find the faith and patience we will need, when to act with the love and justice that we will require, and how to work with others in charity . . . even those who put obstacles in our way.

Paul describes for Titus how he might guide others as they transform their own lives and their world.  Rohr reminds us that the work is difficult and that we must stand with one foot in the reality of this world and the other in the reality of God’s Kingdom . . . just as Jesus does.

We cannot allow ourselves to be discouraged from this kingdom work for it is the only work that matters.  We must rely on God, follow Christ’s model, and live in the Spirit.  So let us bear the mystery of God’s suffering and joy inside ourselves . . .for this is the only way we will be successful when we find ourselves in conflict with the reality we see around us.


1 We will want to remember that the prescription for Christian living that Paul sends to Titus was written two thousand years ago when the treatment of women and slaves as possessions was a philosophy woven through the thinking of their times.  Slaves were seen as natural possessions of their masters; women were subject to the men in their lives.  For more on slavery and Paul, see the Philemon – The Challenge  and the Titus – Church as Community pages on this blog.

A re-post from February 6, 2012.

Image from: http://travel.ninemsn.com.au/world/655272/off-the-beach-in-crete

Read Full Post »


Psalm 119:9-16With All Our Heart

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Imagine the love we will spawn when each of us is able to honestly say to God . . . I love you with all my heart . . .

Imagine the fortitude we will engender when each of us is able to truthfully say to God . . . I have sought you with all my heart . . .

Imagine the humility we will experience when each of us is able to openly say to God . . . let me not stray from your commands . . .

Imagine the trust we will feel when each of us is able to solemnly say to God . . . I treasure your promise in my heart . . .

Imagine the joy we will sense when each of us will enthusiastically say to God . . .  I rejoiced to do your will . . .

Imagine the goodness we will produce when each of us is able to earnestly say to God . . . I will ponder all your precepts and consider your paths . . .

Imagine the patience we will personify when each of us is able to sincerely say to God . . . I take delight in your statutes . . .

Imagine the fidelity we will embody when each of us is able to fully say to God . . . I will not forget your word . . .

Jesus teaches with authority and the crowds are amazed at his wisdom. Matthew 7:28-29. 

Jesus does not seek to control those who follow him.  Indeed, he is moved with compassion for them.  Mark 6:34.

Those who know Jesus do not stray far from him.  Crowds of people come to him, and as is his custom, he teaches them.  Mark 10:1

He teaches in their synagogues and everyone praises him. Luke 4:15

He enters Nazareth where he is well-known yet the people are furious.  They drive him out of their town.  Luke 4:29

Jesus tells us that he does nothing on his own but does all through the Father who has sent him; he teaches what the Father has taught him.  John 8:28 

Jesus heals many; he transforms the harsh circumstances of life.  Those who wish Jesus gone plot against him.  Matthew 12:14

When Jesus stands before the High Priest on the night he is accused he reminds all of us that he does nothing in secret but comes to us openly.  John 18:20

We are never given the guarantee that life will be without suffering.  We are never told that each day will end in happiness.  We are never fed with lies or pampered with pretense.

We are always protected by God who turns all harm directed against us into good.  We are always lead by Jesus who brings the love of the Father into flesh.  We are always accompanied by the Spirit who celebrates our very existence.

God surrounds us continually and constantly with heart images to remind us of how much he loves us.  Once we rely on God alone for our internal peace and the will to do as he asks, we will experience true security, honesty and openness not only with God but with all those with whom we interact.  God shows us his kingdom each day, yet we are so occupied saving ourselves that we do not see.  God sends us his love each day, yet we are so overwhelmed with the minutiae of the life we have created for ourselves that we do not hear.  God’s love is planted in us each day, yet our worry and anxiety is so intense that we do not feel.  Imagine if we could put the world aside for a time each day . . . to say the simple words to God that we often say to others . . .

Imagine the kingdom we will build with God when each of us is able to boldly say to our creator . . . I love you with all my heart . . .


 To read more about the human heart and hearts we find in nature, click on the images and follow the links. 

Images from: http://muslima61.hubpages.com/hub/The-Beautiful-Heart-Appearances-Can-Be-Deceiving

A re-post from February 5, 2012.

Read Full Post »


Micah 7Teachability

Monday, February 4, 2019

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

Tanner: The Savior

Today we read about a people who find themselves in such dire straits that no one is to be trusted but God – not even a dear friend or a family member.  I am thinking of the times in my life when I have allowed myself to be wrongly steered by companions and relatives – and this kind of miss-steering usually comes out of both their fears and my own.  At times like these, Micah tells us, we are to turn to God for this all-knowing, all-seeing justice, mercy, and wisdom are the only tools we will need.  They are the sole valid markers in circumstances where the culture of the day reigns rather than the spirit of God. The eternal serenity that comes from acting in humility and meekness – and by this I mean teachability – is the only remedy for extreme or grim conditions.

It is painful to realize that a loved one has been lenient with us and even pampered us in fear of losing our friendship.  It is humiliating to know that while we have been in a relationship of trust, a friend or kinsman has been less than truthful out of their own fear of conflict.  Yet it is precisely these conditions which always offer us the opportunity to draw nearer and closer to the one source that understands us better than any person in our present life.  It is only God who knows what is best to do.  And we can only hear the teaching we will need for these circumstances when we allow ourselves to be teachable.

Henry Ossawa Tanner: Christ and his Mother Studying Scriptures

We do not often think of Christ as a child but I like to remember a painting I saw in a Baltimore exhibit of paintings by Henry Tanner.  This site will show you some of his work but it does not contain my favorite . . . a sun drenched yet shady scene of the Blessed Mother with the child Jesus at her side.  The scroll she is using to teach has unfurled at their feet, and they bend to their work.  This is the image of Christ I hold before me when I am trying to learn from difficulties in my life.  Christ looking on as his mother points to figures and pronounces their sounds.

Joseph taught Jesus the craft of carpentry.  This is inferred from scripture and taught by tradition.  In the garden at Gethsemane Christ allowed himself to be taught by the father in heaven.  As he moved toward his crucifixion he kept his mind open to the messages the humanity in him needed to hear in order to perform the tasks required of his divinity.  We too, share this task of using all that is human in us to reach out for what is divine.  This is difficult work and yet we must not think that we are alone in this.  For the one who made us and saved us and comforts us is with us still.  In all circumstances, on all days, throughout all nights, at all times.

And so we pray . . . Sweet and gentle God, when we are confused and feeling lost, teach us just as your mother and father taught you.  When we are exhausted and knowing not which way to turn, bring us to you, wrap us in your gentle arms, tell us how to pray, teach us what we are to do and how we are to act.  We place all trust in you.  Keep us ever with you.  Amen. 


A re-post from February 4, 2012.

Images from: http://negroartist.com/negro%20artist/Henry%20Ossawa%20Tanner/index.htm and http://negroartist.com/negro%20artist/Henry%20Ossawa%20Tanner/index.htm 

Read Full Post »


Jeremiah 45Weary from Groaning

Monday, January 21, 2019

From Psalm 6, we hear a plaint from one who is weary from groaning, whose life has become a living hell.

A scribe

Do not reprove me in your anger, Lord, nor punish me in your wrath.  Have pity on me for I am weak; heal me, Lord, for my bones are trembling.  In utter terror is my soul – and you, Lord, how long . . . ?  Turn, Lord, save my life; in your mercy rescue me.  For who among the dead remembers you? Who praises you in Sheol? I am weary from sighing; all night long my tears drench my bed; my couch is soaked with weeping.  My eyes are dimmed with sorrow, worn out because all of my foes.  (Psalm 6:1-7)

In the HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE DICTIONARY Sheol is described as a biblical term for the netherworld and even, in Isaiah 5:14, a reference to a power that can destroy the living.  Sheol is another word for Hades; it is a place where departed spirits live (Proverbs 9:18).  It may also be the deepest depths of the earth (Deuteronomy 32:22 and Amos 9:2) where there is no light, no joy, and no hope.  (Achetemeier 1011)  In Sheol there is only darkness and terror; and some of us have been there . . . and back.

How do we humans climb out of the miry cistern in which we sometimes find ourselves?  What do we do to calm inner terror even though we manage to dry outward tears?  How is it possible for us to experience the happiness and warmth of a life lived in faith when all possibility of rescue seems gone?  What do we do to stop the chattering of trembling bones and chase away our too many foes?  How do we sleep on a bed that is drenched from our weeping?

Jeremiah is a Book we will want to open when we find ourselves overcome with grief.  His prophecy is one that speaks to those who have visited the depths of despair or who are even beyond the place where all hope is abandoned.  Today we are told that Jeremiah’s words were recorded by his secretary Baruch and we might wonder why the prophet wishes to terrify us.  When we reflect further we know that Jeremiah’s real message is not fear; rather, it is this: with God there is hope for the hopeless, there is gain for those who have lost all, there is rescue for the weary, and there is planting where before there was only uprooting  . . .

Jeremiah’s life and prophecy, we are told, require “us to face up more directly to the impediments and barriers along the way than to bask in the complete light at the end of the way . . . God intends prophecy to guide us through the path of human, emotional reactions, not round about them.  If we transfer this approach into New Testament thought, Jesus is ‘the way and the truth and the life’ (Jn 14,6) – therefore, as much the way through human life as its destination, as much the truth that gradually emerges along the way forward as its definitive statement, as much life in its stages of growth as it is life bearing fruit t harvest (Mt 4,26-29) . . . Jeremiah does not allow us to detour round a difficulty.  Persons gifted with keen, sensitive emotions, and thoroughly involved in their work and message, do not normally avoid the excesses of these virtues!  They plunge straight ahead”.  (Senior RG 305-306)

Jeremiah speaks his words to us today through his faithful secretary Baruch.  When we feel ourselves sinking into the profundity of his muddy cistern, when our bed is drenched from our weeping, when we are weary from all of our groaning . . . let us plunge straight ahead and move toward God, singing as the psalmist sings:

Away from me, all who do evil!  The Lord has heard my weeping.  The Lord has heard my prayer; the Lord takes up my plea.  My foes will be terrified and disgraced; all will fall back in sudden shame.  (Psalm 6:8-10)


A re-post from Monday, January 21, 2012.

Images from: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm+6%3A8-10&version=GNT;NRSV;CJB;MSG and http://www.alljewishlinks.com/steps-to-becoming-a-jewish-scribe/

Achetemeier, Paul J. HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE DICTIONARY. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996. 1011. Print.  

For more on the Book of Jeremiah see the page on this blog: Jeremiah – Person and Mesage

For more information on Jewish scribes, click the images above or go to: http://www.mmiweb.org.uk/gcsere/revision/judaism/people/importantpeople.html or http://www.alljewishlinks.com/steps-to-becoming-a-jewish-scribe/

Read Full Post »


Jeremiah 38The Miry Cistern

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Written on January 21, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

This chapter describes the place we often find ourselves – up to our knees in mud for speaking truth.  The prophet is delivered from his miry cistern to be kept in the guardhouse, but still he is persecuted.  King Zedekiah asks his advice, and then chooses to not listen to the prophet out of fear.  How does Zedekiah find himself in such a predicament?  What happens to him in the end?

Read article # 3 at http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=73&letter=Z  for some quick details.  It is an unhappy and gruesome story.

Zedekiah relies on his ability to finagle diplomatic alliances with two giant nations which are growing in power just as Judah finds itself in decline.  The Judahite king becomes a vassal first to the Babylonians; later he bargains with the Egyptians.  In the end, he is caught in the pincers of the struggle for supremacy between two super powers.  Zedekiah loses all and is blinded by the conquerors.  His life ends in an unknown prison; his legacy becomes the story of a king who lost a nation because he will not listen to his own prophet.

We have reflected on other occasions about the strangeness of God telling his faithful to save their lives by submitted to the Babylonian princes.

We have also reflected on Jeremiah’s dilemma of knowing that the truth he is asked to speak will bring pain to himself and others.

The lives of these two men are intertwined with the theme of a choice which presents truth as imprisonment and freedom as fear.  What are our dungeons today?  What miry cisterns suck us into their muddy depths?  What unnamed prisons await us?  When we are full of fear, do we – like Zedekiah, – hear the voice of the psalmist and not understand that the words of this twenty seventh psalm speak to us today?

There is one thing I ask of the Lord, for this I long, to live in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life, to savor the sweetness of the Lord, to behold his temple. 

We know that God provides safe harbor in all circumstances.  Even when we find ourselves in greatest danger.  Yet how do we act?

For there he keeps me safe in his tent in the day of evil.  He hides me in the shelter of his tent, on a rock he sets me safe.  O Lord, hear my voice when I call; have mercy and answer.  Of you my heart has spoken: “Seek his face”.

And when the word of the Lord comes to us, do we look past this face to hear different words?  Words that suit our wants rather than our needs?  Words that suit us rather than God?

It is your face, O Lord, that I seek; hide not your face.

We always know when we have heard good counsel . . . because it bears good fruit despite any pain.

I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.

And this is the land of the living when we act to make it so.

Hope in him, hold firm and take heart.  Hope in the Lord!

When we find ourselves at the bottom of the miry cistern up to our knees in mud, rather than rely on our own resources, let us long for God, let us seek God, let us be open to his words . . . and when we hear them amid the clamor and din . . . let us believe the message.


A re-post from January 20, 2019.

Image from: http://www.biblesearchers.com/yahshua/davidian/dynasty8.shtml

For more on Jeremiah the Prophet see the page on this blog: Jeremiah – Person and Message

Read Full Post »


Matthew 18:21-35The Unforgiving Servant

Thursay, January 17, 2019

Rembrandt: The Unforgiving Servant

It is so very difficult to forgive those who have wronged us grievously; and it is also difficult to curb the pressing urge to seek revenge against our enemies.  Jesus tells us today that we must endlessly forgive those who harm us . . . otherwise we are like the unforgiving servant in today’s parable.  And the frightening outcome of his life is not one we want for ourselves or our loved ones.

Seventy-seven times, we are told by scholars and experts, represents a number of completion.  By forgiving endlessly we near the perfection or completion we yearn for.  The irony here is that when we become the unforgiving servant we distance ourselves from the very fullness we seek.  We label ourselves as partial and lacking.  Jesus warns us of this today.

Luke also records that Jesus tells his followers they must forgive endlessly (17:4).  This is something they and we struggle to understand.  Our instincts tell us to attack, defend, justify and explain.  We want to come out of any dispute or confrontation as the clear and evident winner.  We want to survive.  For most of us it is difficult to walk away from an argument or to allow another to have the last word; yet Jesus tells us that our first step toward wholeness is to forgive.  Reconciliation will follow if we remain open.  Isolation, anger and fear become more distant and even impossible when we turn our backs on revenge and seek union instead.  Jesus calls us to this today.

St. Paul reminds the Ephesians (4:32) to be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.  Which one of us, he implies, is so perfect that we cannot forgive?  And how do we hold a grudge when Jesus – God among us – does not?  St. Paul points this out to us today.

Immaculée Ilibagiza

Following the horrific genocide in Rwanda, the warring Hutus and the Tutsis were brought together in a journey from fighting to forgiveness.  We follow events as they unfold; we want this reconciliation to work because this coming together of bitter enemies tells us that we are worth redeeming.  It shows us what God sees in us.  It reminds us of God’s covenant promise to us.  Powerful testimonials to our capacity to forgive can be found in both print and video media and here are only a few examples.  http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/8564297/ns/today/t/fighting-forgiveness-rwanda/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mK0W4jx2OZY  and http://articles.cnn.com/2008-05-15/world/amanpour.rwanda_1_hutu-gitarama-tutsis?_s=PM:WORLDWhen we read, hear or view these stories, we take heart.  We once again bolster ourselves for the difficult yet redeeming task of forgiving others.  We once more feel the stirrings of hope in our tired hearts.  We again pull ourselves away from our fear to love our enemies into goodness.

Kill them with kindness, my mother always advised, taking her example from Jesus.  Let God worry about the other guy, Dad always told us, knowing that evil is too enormous and too dangerous for us to conquer on our own.  In her book entitled Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Genocide, Immaculée Ilibagiza tells her story that echoes those of so many other holocaust survivors that God resides even in the center of hell itself if that is where he has to be in order to save us.  This is how much God loves us.  This is how much we can love one another.

When we feel ourselves drawn into this story as the master or the servants, we know that it holds something for us.  When we find ourselves giving over to the anger within us and fear that it will control our thoughts, words and actions, we will want to turn to this story.  When someone who has wronged us approaches us in humble fear of our retaliation, let us reach out a warm and welcoming hand and remember the words that Jesus taught us to pray . . .  Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And let us remember the story of the unforgiving servant.


A re-post from January 17, 2012.

Images from: http://australiaincognita.blogspot.com/2008_10_01_archive.html and https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/thumblg_immaculee1.jpg

To read more about Immaculée Ilibagiza, see: http://www.beliefnet.com/Inspiration/Most-Inspiring-Person-Of-The-Year/2006/Immacule-Ilibagiza.aspx

For more on Rwando, go to: http://www.unitedhumanrights.org/genocide/genocide_in_rwanda.htm

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: