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Matthew 7:13-28: Duality Two

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Bartolome Esteban Murillo: Return of the Prodigal Son – National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.

Yesterday we shared concepts from Hispanic life and culture as we explored the paradox of Jesus’ death and rising. Examining the dichotomy of humanity and divinity shared in one person, we invite visitors to share their own experience of duality in the comment bar. Today, part two of our post brings us more resources to search for clues to our own duality.

Golden Age mystics bring us liminal prose and poetry: Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross, and the trances of Teresa of Avila. One of Europe’s earliest and oldest universities with Fray Luis de Leon in Salamanca, moves education forward while horrific wars with the French, the Turks, the British, and the Americas give birth to an endless list of bifurcations.  Existentialism moves forward through the works of Miguel de Unamuno and his Atheist’s Prayer. If we ever want to meditate on choosing between two roads or living in multiple realities, we only need to dip into Hispanic culture.

In today’s citation we have just finished hearing Jesus speak about beatitude, and the fulfillment of the Mosaic Law with the new Law of Love.  We have just heard him say that he abides with the broken in spirit, heart and body rather than the wealthy, famous and powerful. We have heard him urge us to knock, ask and seek rather than to comply, give up, or remain silent.  Now, he points out to us the dualities that always lie before us. There are always at least two roads; false and true prophets either lure or teach us; real and unreal disciples urge to follow someone or something; evil and good shepherds kill or give life; and we might choose two types of homes to build in a kingdom we are invited to form.  We have choices to make, roads to travel, spirits to test and deeds to perform in Christ’s name.

When Christ calls, we will recognize his voice. Let us answer with courage and love.

When we call, Christ will recognize our voices. Let us persist in hope and fidelity as we share Christ’s Easter joy.

Francisco de Zurbaran: Saint Francis in Meditation – The National Gallery, London, U.K.

We must practice listening in the here and now for the shepherd’s voice.  We must practice calling out Christ’s name to ask for help.  We must rehearse how we will both receive and grapple with answers.  We must practice dialog with God. We must ask the Spirit’s help to suffer well so that others and we may live forever. For there is no other redemption, no other saving grace, no other blessing than following the Voice of the Shepherd. There is no other Way but to make a single harmony of the dual song of God’s Call and The Faithful’s Response.  Let us practice this duet with our God each day.

Today we are on the eve of the Fourth Sunday of Easter when we will revisit the parable of the Good Shepherd. Let us prepare to knock on the doors the world closes to us. Let us ask the difficult questions the world throws at us. And let us forever seek the merciful justice Christ shows us in the duality of his being.

We invite you to share dualities you find in your own lives in the comment bar. 


Adapted from a reflection written on January 12, 2009.

To find a definition of the word liminal, go to: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liminal

Visit John 10:1-18 for the parable of the Good Shepherd.

More information about the University of Salamanca is at: https://www.britannica.com/topic/University-of-Salamanca

Follow links here to learn more about how others lived their experience of duality.

To dive into the world of  Spanish artists in the Golden Age of abundance and scarcity, spend time with the art of three outstanding painters: Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Zurbarán and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.

Spain boasted five playwrights who equaled the style, power, and influence of William Shakespeare: Juan del Encina, Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, Calderón de la Barca, and Lope de Rueda. Choose one link and explore. Or learn more about Spain’s Golden Age of Literature in the Britannica online at: https://www.britannica.com/art/Golden-Age-Spanish-literature

The mystic poetry of Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila is in the same moment challenging and consoling. Explore here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/st-john-of-the-cross and https://www.poetseers.org/spiritual-and-devotional-poets/christian/teresa-of-avila/prayers-and-works/index.html 

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Matthew 7:13-28: Duality One

Friday, April 20, 2018

Las siete partidas

We are about to close the third week of Eastertide, a time of dichotomy, paradox and challenge. How is it that Jesus the human lived and walked among us, was born of a woman, suffered, died and was buried, yet rose in divine form to show us his wounds and to remain with us forever? How do make sense of this seeming contradiction? How do we allow this incongruity to shape our lives? How do we share this surprising and healing conflict bring harmony to our lives? Today and tomorrow we reflect on these thoughts in a double post.

I am accustomed to using the word duality in my AP Literature class with students since it is the over-arching theme and technique of Spain’s Golden Age – a time of great abundance and great depravity, great discovery and great abuse, great hope and great corruption.  The Inquisition was winding down, mystics seemed to come out of the walls, with Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila are prominent, while conquistadores wrote fantastical chronicles about the New World.  Art, music and drama made Spain the center of the universe. A baroque dance of intertwining, opposing, harmonizing threads counterpoint and imbue one another with a newness not seen in single lines of music, simple poems, or lonely themes. Golden Age Spain understood how to straddle the worlds of excess and scarcity, how to live in liminal space and thought.

Diego Velazquez: Las meninas – The Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain

We might name Spain the Crossroads of the World where northern Europe encounters Africa, the Middle East and the Orient, where the New World meets the Old.  It is a peninsula and a people in the habit of welcoming invading hoards: Celts, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Germanic tribes, the Moors.  Dramatic binary opponents are at work: the first democracy among the noble class with Fernando II is a counterpoint to the harsh Inquisition and the Counter-Reformation.  The noble and gracious ideas of Carlos I/V Holy Roman Emperor are nearly annihilated by the fascism of Franco in the 20th century.  The Jarchas are sung and written – beautiful love poems by women who yearn for their men at war.  Science and philosophy are both welcome guests to this peninsular people who encourage the study of medicine, astronomy. In the XIII Century, Alfonso el Sabio (X) calls all known experts to Toledo to record what they know to form an early encyclopedias (Las Siete Partidas). They recorded rules for the games of chess, checkers and other strategic games; and the stories we treasure as children from the Grimm brothers to Scheherazade make their way to the Western World through this gathering of knowledge. In the modern era, Raúl Pateras Pescara invents the first truly flyable helicopter.

In a further dichotomy of reason and faith, this culture spawns scientists, rulers, theologians and philosophers. Both the Roman philosopher Seneca and the emperor Trajan are born in southern Spain. Miguel de Cervantes writes the first modern European novel, Don Quixote. In the new world, Sor Juan Inéz de la Cruz eschews domestic life to enter the Order of St. Jerome and became one of the century’s most known and most loved poet/playwrights. Latin American writers present the world with groundwork for the Magical Realism movement, literature of deep fatalism and deep faith.

We invite you to share dualities you find in your own lives in the comment bar. 

Tomorrow, living a life of duality. 


Adapted from a reflection written on January 12, 2009.

To find a definition of the word liminal, go to: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/liminal

Follow links here to learn more about how others lived their experience of duality.

To dive into the world of  Spanish artists in the Golden Age of abundance and scarcity, spend time with the art of three outstanding painters: Diego Velázquez, Francisco de Zurbarán and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.

Spain boasted five playwrights who equaled the style, power, and influence of William Shakespeare: Juan del Encina, Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, Calderón de la Barca, and Lope de Rueda. Choose one link and explore. Or learn more about Spain’s Golden Age of Literature in the Britannica online at: https://www.britannica.com/art/Golden-Age-Spanish-literature

The mystic poetry of Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila is in the same moment challenging and consoling. Explore here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/st-john-of-the-cross and https://www.poetseers.org/spiritual-and-devotional-poets/christian/teresa-of-avila/prayers-and-works/index.html 

Images from: https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/las-meninas/9fdc7800-9ade-48b0-ab8b-edee94ea877f and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siete_Partidas

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Philippians 3:12-16Forward in Christ

Via Egnatia in Philippi

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

I do not claim that I have already succeeded or have already become perfect. I keep striving to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has already won me to himself. 

These verses refer to our spiritual maturity, our willingness to empty our selves in order to allow Christ to enter. It is a common theme in Paul’s writings: being a slave for Christ.

Of course, my friends, I really do not think that I have already won [the prize]; the one thing I do, however, is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead. So I run straight toward the goal in order to win the prize, which is God’s call through Christ Jesus to the life above.

So many times we look at ourselves, at people and at situations and we see only the defects, the weaknesses, the lacks, the wants. We will feel less frustrated and anxious if we accept what is before us, and pray for those impossible potentialities that we perceive. I believe that is what God does with each of us. God creates us with a maximum and minimum. When we fall, God stoops to raise us up, still dreaming of our best self. We need to dream of our best selves as well, and leave God’s work to God.

All of us who are spiritually mature should have this same attitude. But if some of you have a different attitude, God will make this clear to you. However that may be, let us go forward according to the same rules we have followed until now.

In Eastertide, we celebrate God’s presence in a special way. Today we have the opportunity to explore our response to Christ. When we are unable to rise to our potential, we call upon God for strength and renewal. When we find joy in our lives, we thank God the creator who has made us, Christ the Redeemer who saves us, and God the Spirit who heals us. When we consider our strengths and weaknesses as children of this loving God, we realize that God wants nothing more than for us to run with joy toward the goal of great union in Christ.

Today and all days, let us run straight toward the goal to win the prize. Let us run forward in Christ.


Adapted from a favorite written on May 1, 2007.

When we explore the story of Philippi, we learn that many retired military lived in the city. Perhaps it is for this reason that it was seen as a small version of Rome. Knowing this, we begin to see why Paul writes this letter in the context of competition and prize-winning. How might we put ourselves in this place, with these people, to hear the Word as spoken through Paul? How might we take in these verses to strength our resolve to run the good race? 

When we compare translations of these verses, we are patient with our weaknesses and we bolster our resolve. 

Click on the image to learn more about this ancient city. Image from: https://www.ancient.eu/Philippi/ 

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Matthew 28:8-15: Fake News

Monday, April 9, 2018

In this second week of Eastertide, we continue to relive the Easter miracle of our resurrection. We re-visit the Gospel readings for the Easter Octave, and today we reflect on the false news that abounded in Jesus’ time just as it does with us today.

While [Mary Magdalene and the other Mary] went on their way, some of the soldiers guarding the tomb went back to the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. 

Wherever there is darkness, the light of Christ will pierce deceit and lies.

The chief priests met with the elders and made their plan; they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers and said, “You are to say that his disciples came during the night and stole his body while you were asleep.

Wherever there is secrecy, the power of God will overcome plots and schemes.

And if the Governor should hear of this, we will convince him that you are innocent, and you will have nothing to worry about.”

Wherever there is hatred, the consolation of the Spirit will heal with justice and mercy.

The guards took the money and did what they were told to do. And so that is the report spread around by the Jews to this very day.

Wherever there is false news, we rely on the authority of God to lead us to the truth. We trust the model of Christ to ask with compassion. And we believe in the support of the Spirit to reconcile the world.


Click on the image to read about a case study of fake news by Shelly Palmer or visit: https://www.shellypalmer.com/2018/01/fake-news-case-study/

We learn how to spot fake news at the following sites: https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/10/31/559571970/learning-to-spot-fake-news-start-with-a-gut-check and http://www.readbrightly.com/critical-reading-teaching-kids-discern-real-information-fake-news/ and https://history.howstuffworks.com/history-vs-myth/10-ways-to-spot-fake-news-story.htm

Enter the words false teachers, false leaders or false prophets into the blog search bar for how to discern good fruits from bad.

 

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Psalm 22: Spiritual Warfare – Abandoned by God 

Francisco de Zurbarán: Agnus Dei

Easter Friday, April 6, 2018

Adapted from a reflection, entitled Spiritual Warfare, written on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2008.

On Veteran’s Day in the U.S., we celebrate the end of war. Today we reflect on Jesus’ death last Friday, and the silence that reigned in the Christian world last Saturday as Jesus transitioned from healing prophet to the Messiah Christ. If we are able to take the time to pause, we think a bit about the spiritual warfare in which we are all daily engaged. We consider the constant question of whether or not God has deserted a planet created for and in love. We reflect on the many times the world asks Christians . . . where is your God? And so we pray.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

While still on the cross, Christ appealed to the father with this prayer that generations of his people have used while addressing God in times of stress.  In the NABRE the psalm bears the title Prayer of an Innocent Person.  Jesus, the unblemished lamb, dies in innocence, in the act of bringing healing to peoples crying for relief.  But Christ knew, as Paul tells us in Ephesians, Our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.  Paul describes the armor of God we must wear as we enter into the warfare each day: the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Our feet must be shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.  (Ephesians 6)

Many bulls surround me; fierce bulls of Bashan encircle me.

Bashan – a land east of the Jordan noted for the size of its animals – provides fierce opposition to the life of a Christian.  Again, Paul reminds us in his letter to Titus how to be consistent with sound doctrine, namely, that . . . [we] be temperate, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, love and endurance, reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to drink, teaching what is good, so that they may train [others].  (Titus 2Paul also calls women to a role subordinate to men which was appropriate for the day – and which we now recognize as outmoded in its effect.  The point here is that combat as we witness need not be fierce.  It need only be faithful, prayer-filled, and consistent with the Gospel.

If we might find the minutes to pray this psalm today, we find not only the dark fear of abandonment, but also the burning hope of resurrection.

Tomorrow, proclaiming God’s name.


For more on the meaning of Bashan, visit: https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/bashan/http://biblehub.com/topical/b/bashan.htm , http://www.historyfiles.co.uk/KingListsMiddEast/SyriaBashan.htm, and https://www.britannica.com/place/Bashan 

Image from: https://www.wikiart.org/en/francisco-de-zurbaran/agnus-dei-1640 

For more on Zurbarán’s work Agnus Dei, visit The Prado site at: https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/agnus-dei/795b841a-ec81-4d10-bd8b-0c7a870e327b 

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Psalm 116: Making a Return

Easter Thursday, April 5, 2018

In the NRSV translation, this psalm carries the title Thanksgiving for Recovery from Illnessbut what sort of illness might this be? Is our gratitude for a physical, psychological or spiritual restoration? Are we able to step forward into the healing grace of God?

I love the Lord, because he hears me;
    he listens to my prayers.
He listens to me
    every time I call to him.

Now that we have re-lived the story of Easter promise, do we continue to believe in our covenant with God when life challenges us? Are we able to remain steadfast in our beliefs when family or friends test us? How do we love our enemies when they plot and scheme against us?

And so I walk in the presence of the Lord
    in the world of the living.
I kept on believing, even when I said,
    “I am completely crushed,”
even when I was afraid and said,
    “No one can be trusted.”

As we journey through this week of EASTER celebration, are we willing to put aside our wilfulness of ego to reclaim our vow of willingness as servants of the Spirit? Do we step forward as builders of the kingdom of God? Do we shrink from the call to leave our comfort zones?

I am your servant, Lord;
    I serve you just as my mother did.
You have saved me from death.
I will give you a sacrifice of thanksgiving
    and offer my prayer to you.

Remembering the generous love of the Creator, living in the company of the risen Christ, and resting in the consoling mercy of the Spirit, we ask one another to give thanks to God.

In the assembly of all your people,
    in the sanctuary of your Temple in Jerusalem,
    I will give you what I have promised.

We ask our family, friends and foes to make a return for God’s unbounding courage, generous wisdom, and nourishing love.

Praise the Lord!


When we compare varying translations of these verses, we welcome the opportunity to make a return of God’s great love.

Images from: https://yoogozi.com/simple-secret-to-life-serving-others/ and 

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Isaiah 28 and 29: The Fate of Samaria – Part I

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Samaria from the Minaret of Mosque

Samaria is located in the northern kingdom of Israel, not in the southern kingdom of Judah.  In Jesus’ day, the Samaritans were considered unclean because they intermarried with the northern tribes who invaded to cart away the Jewish nation. They worshipped the pagan gods of these northern people, and so they were no longer true worshipers of Yahweh.  Jesus turned the “purist, separatist” convention on its head. He spoke and interacted with Samaritans, and one of his parables compared a Samaritan with a Levite priest who was on his way to the temple and so wanted to remain clean, and so did not stop to help his neighbor who lay gravely wounded in a ditch.  This action and these words confounded the people who loyally followed the Mosaic Law.  They might confound us today if we are not watchful.

Samaria is the capital of Ephraim, a tribal area in the northern kingdom.  According to the notes in the NAB it was “built upon a hill, suggestive of a majestic garland adorning the head of the drunken kingdom”.  An interesting image, as are the ones that follow in this chapter.  We might be the people who have made a covenant with death, who have made lies their refuge, thinking that “in falsehood we have found a hiding place” (verse 15). Or we might turn to the image of life that Isaiah offers, and Jesus proclaims.

Tomorrow, the siege.

A reflection written on January 30, 2008. 

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samaria 

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Esther 5: Building the Gallows

Queen Esther

Thursday, February 15, 2018

We must take care to observe what schemes we enter, knowingly or unknowingly. In today’s reflection, a parade of characters brings us an invitation to explore our own motivations and actions.

Queen Esther waits beyond the throne room, knowing that entrance without permission results in death. Does she know that she will need more courage than she believes she possesses?

King Xerxes offers half his kingdom in a magnanimous gesture. Does he know what price he will actually pay for this promise?

Haman wells over with envy and anger. Does he understand what happens to plotters and schemers?

Haman’s wife Zeresh urges her husband to build an execution scaffold. Does she understand who will eventually stand on its trapdoor?

Mordecai insists on worshipping no other god before Yahweh. Does he know that the LORD will protect him?

Haman, Zeresh, and Friends

These characters invite us to explore what gallows we build for ourselves and others. They call us to examine our goals and incentives. They ask us to open ourselves to the possibility of conversion and mercy.

We use the scripture link and the drop down menus to compare varying translations of these verses. We explore more about the lives of the characters in this story today.

For a film representation of Esther’s story, click on her image, or visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYOaP2rf–Q 

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Esther 1: Susa

Jacopo del Sellaio: The Banquet of Ahasuerus

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Over the next few days, we will explore the story of Esther, a recounting of how a brave young woman saves a nation of people by mustering the courage to respond to God’s call. Polar forces place her in grave danger; yet Esther survives to rejoice in God’s guidance and protection. As we accompany her on this journey from fear to joy, we move from ordinary time through Ash Wednesday to Lent to discover the potential for transformation. Esther invites us to move away from typical days of activity into a more quiet life of introspection. Like Esther, we examine our relationship with God to see how fear manipulates us. And like Esther, we arrive at a new level of understanding of God’s love.

This is the story of something that happened in the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled from India to Ethiopia – 127 provinces in all. King Xerxes ruled from his royal throne in the palace complex of Susa. 

UNESCO has declared Susa a World Heritage Site as one of the oldest cities in the world. Rebuilt by the Persian King Darius, inhabited by the monarch Xerxes in the Book of Esther, and later conquered by Alexander the Great, Susa represented a city where many cultures and peoples came together.

In this opening chapter of Esther’s story, we learn about Xerxes’ court. As a soldier and builder, he made his mark in the ancient world, and his famous Tukta banquets were reknown. It is at one of these feasts that our story begins.

The king gave for all the people present in the citadel of Susa, both great and small, a banquet lasting for seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. There were white cotton curtains and blue hangings tied with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and colored stones. Drinks were served in golden goblets, goblets of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king. Drinking was by flagons, without restraint; for the king had given orders to all the officials of his palace to do as each one desired. Furthermore, Queen Vashti gave a banquet for the women in the palace of King Ahasuerus.

Queen Vashti refuses to do as King Xerxes asks and so is banished from court. Into this scenario steps the innocent, beautiful young Jewish woman, Esther. We observe the wealthy and famous in this ancient world and we reflect on our world today. Celebrities and sports figures hold our interest, while the lower classes serve as the invisible support to a lavish life. The powerful command while the powerless live on the margins of society.  What questions come to us as we reflect on this opening chapter of Esther’s story?

Tomorrow, Esther becomes queen.

For another reflection on Esther 1, visit The Race of the Just post on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2011/10/19/the-race-of-the-just/ 

King Xerxes is also known as Ahasuerus or Achashverosh. For more information on the people in this story, visit http://www.iranchamber.com/history/susa/susa.php, http://www.livius.org/articles/place/susa/, https://www.britannica.com/place/Susa, https://www.ancient.eu/Xerxes_I/, https://amazingbibletimeline.com/blog/esther-and-mordecai-under-xerxes-of-persia/,or http://www.womeninthebible.net/women-bible-old-new-testaments/queen-vashti/

 

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