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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


Friday, May 22, 2020hamikdash21[1]Haggai 2:15-19

Promise of Immediate Blessings

This is good news!  Commentary tells us that we should read this citation along with Chapter 1: The Exhortation to Rebuild the Temple. After the destruction and capture and exile by the Babylonians, the Jewish people were finally allowed to return in groups to Judah, but they had a good deal of trouble in rebuilding their temple and themselves. We can read about this in Ezra and Nehemiah.

The Samaritans in the northern part of the former Jewish territory who had intermingled with non-Jews have become the enemies of Jews returning to their home in the southern region of Judah.  These Samaritans now block the way home for the returning exiles.  In a time of return from deportation when we might imagine a new joy rising from the hearts of the Israelites, it is instead corruption and idol worship that they experience.  In a time when physical and emotional fatigue from the return journey sap the strength of God’s people, they are called to dig deep into their inner selves to find the energy to rebuild.  Yet despite the energy they expend in their struggle to return to their Jerusalem home, the faithful find the wherewithal to rebuild.  They rely on their custom of maintaining contact with Yahweh through exile. They are an exhausted people who return from the north and yet here the prophet Haggai entreats the people to rebuild what was lost and he promises that there will be immediate joy.  We might feel tired just thinking of the turmoil, disappointment and suffering they experience.  We also might feel their hope, animation and sense of fulfillment.

This is a story that inspires.

Some of this prophecy (in particular the portion of chapter 2 just before today’s reading) takes the form of a “torah” or instruction given by a priest and so it carries particular significance. We are reminded that we are nothing if not first thought and then created by God. We are exhorted to re-build the old temple and to rebuild ourselves.  We are reminded that God will fill us with the persistence and fortitude to answer this call.  We are told that there is one to come who will shepherd his sheep in their return to an old home in a new spirit.

As we near the end of this Eastertide in the midst of pandemic, we have journeyed for two months of celebration in the most unusual of ways. We experience both the death of a hope and the birth of a new way of living, and throughout these weeks, we have always had the intimate presence of the resurrected Christ who arrives as fulfillment of all the prophets have predicted.  Jesus is the new temple, and we are the building blocks.  He is the promise, and we are the beneficiaries.  He is the blessing, and we are the blessed.  As we return from our own personal exiles, may we live up to this promise.  And so we pray . . .

Dear and gracious Lord, you have called us back from our time of exile.  You have offered us transformation and new life.  You have filled us with new energy and new strength.  May we live up to the potential we embody.  May we learn to be true, living stones in your temple.  And may we experience the joy of your immediate blessing.  Amen. 


Adapted from a Noontime first written on May 17, 2007.

Image from http://www.israelvideonetwork.com/rebuilding-the-temple-in-jerusalem


Thursday, May 21, 2020

universe[1]Galatians 5:7-12

Be Not Mislead

This Pauline citation is perfect for us to read when we come up against an obstacle that looks unmovable. It reminds us that with God, all things are possible. Paul is writing in reference to the split which nearly happens in the early church between two factions: those who want to require circumcision of men before entrance into the church and those who do not. A lively conversation takes place but the miracle of unification occurs and the church as Christ begins it remains intact and flourishes. We can read the details in ACTS.

I once heard miracles defined as the possibilities we dream that already exist but that cannot be seen with human eyes, cannot be heard with human ears, cannot be touched with human hands. In the documentary/fictional story What the Bleep Do We Know?, we are reminded to hope for our impossible petitions in a daily litany.  The creators of this film examine how we might adjust our perspective just slightly so that we might see as God sees because – as we know – with God all things are possible.

It is worth our while to sit with a good study Bible and a concordance to examine the many times we are told in scripture . . . With God, all things are possible.  The effects of these five simple words are healing.  The reality of this short sentence is more real than the world we imagine we live in.

Each time we repeat these words and believe them a layer of anxiety slips away.  Each time we witness to God’s impossible possibilities a new strength and boldness lifts our spirit.  Each time we admit to the quiet miracles that pepper our lives, a new patience and serenity infuse our bones.

We must give ourselves the gift of allowing the Easter reality of impossible possibilities to be our reality.  We must petition God each day with our list of impossible requests and ask that God consider them as our realityAnd we must not allow ourselves to be misled by the pessimism of the world for as we so well know from our daily Noontime with scripture . . . with God, all things are possible.

May all of our miracles that we ask of God come to fullness in our new impossible reality.


If you have two hours, click on this link and watch: What the Bleep Do We Know? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6G3-Zc9mtM  Critics comment that it misrepresents science and makes awkward connections between quantum physics and spirituality.  Others say that is an invitation to think in a new way.  In either case, this thinking is worth our reflection. 

To read about the surprising links scientists are finding in the universe, click on the image or visit: https://www.express.co.uk/news/science/1203420/space-universe-discovery-news-galaxy-astronomy-physics-lightyears 

Adapted from a Noontime written on May 2, 2007.


Wednesday, May 20, 2020 – 2 Corinthians

file[1]Chapter 12, verses 7 to 10 and Chapter 13, verses 5 to 13

“By a barrage of questions, by challenges both serious and ironic, by paradox heaped upon paradox, even by insults hurled at his opponents, [Paul] strives to awaken in his hearers a true sense of values and an appropriate response.” (Senior 275). Sometimes in community we need to do the same. We need to challenge, and we also need to use uncomfortable means to save souls. Yet we do this from a stance of weakness, as Paul says, and not from a position which overpowers. We call, we do not force. Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in faith. Test yourselves. . . For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we rejoice when we are weak but you are strong.

Paul and the Jesus community of Corinth struggled within a long, faithful, combative covenant, the one never giving up on the other. Scholars believe that this letter may be a cobbling together of several smaller letters and for that reason may seem disjointed; but it is evident that the people in the community of Corinth kept these missives and read them aloud at their gatherings, even though there are passages that are critical of the Corinthians themselves. These people are a solid example of those who are willing to remain in relationship with one another through trial, beyond criticism, straining toward unity and the formation of community.  Paul says in these verses that his own amazing strength comes from his weakness, and that he relies on this mystery of strength through weakness as it was taught by the risen Jesus.  And it is Jesus who continues to teach this lesson to us each day.

We have been celebrating Eastertide and we have examined the gifts we receive through discipleship.  We move toward the Pentecost event when the Spirit comes to live in intimacy with us.  As we witness the mystery of Christ’s passion and resurrection, and our own redemption and restoration, it is good to look at the closing words of this letter. We recognize some of them as the prayer we hear at Mass just before the kiss of peace.

Rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the holy ones greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

And may the peace of Christ be with each of you. Amen.


Image from: http://strengththroughweakness.forumer.com/index.php

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.275. Print.

Adapted from a Noontime written on April 5, 2007


Wednesday, May 19, 2020

In this time of pandemic, we welcome the Holy Spirit into our midst as we gather in families who shelter in place. In this time of pandemic, we remember that when we follow The Way Christ shows us, every day is Pentecost.

Jean Restout: Pentecost

Matthew 10:41-42

A Prayer in Celebration

Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes an upright person because he is upright will have the reward of an upright person.  If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then in all truth I tell you, he will most certainly not go without his reward.

We think of prophets as people who hear God’s word easily and who are dedicated to speaking God’s word no matter how it threatens their lives or livelihood.  We see prophets as living in ancient times to lead God’s faithful through troubling times.  If this is our thinking we miss Matthew’s message to us today . . . for prophets dwell and work and play among us today, sharing God’s word with us, urging us to stay close to God.  Yet how many prophets speak to us each day and we ignore them?  How many of us are prophets and fear speaking out the words God asks us to speak?

We think of upright people as those who have a strong moral compass, as those ethical, decent few who remain in God’s Way despite all the temptations and lures that might draw them away from following God closely.  We see upright people as that small percentage of somber and serious faithful who eschew fun because it threatens their serenity.  If this is our thinking we miss Matthew’s message to us today . . . for the upright live and labor and enjoy human company as much as the divine.  Yet how many upright people do we avoid as too pious or too starry-eyed?  How many of us avoid showing our uprightness and fear sharing our thoughts about God because we do not want to be perceived as odd or strangely different?

We think of disciples as people who follow God so closely that they rely on God for every decision they make despite the tug of social, political or religious influences.  We see disciples as those marked with a special sign or those given special courage or graced with exceptional perseverance.  We somehow believe that they are scarce in any given group of people and that they were born with unique perception and power.  If this is our thinking we miss Matthew’s message to us today . . . for disciples walk and talk and co-mingle with us each day all day.  How many of us avoid God’s disciples because they seem a bit off and are not influenced by sports figures, by politicians or church leaders?  How many of us are clearly disciples but are leery of identifying ourselves as one who follows Christ?

Today Matthew tells us that the miracle of Pentecost is timeless, that its power is endless, and that its space is unlimited.  Today Matthew invites us to be those upright, prophetic disciples whom Christ has called.  Today Matthew urges us to be our best selves.  Today Matthew calls us to be one with Christ . . . to be divine.  And so we pray . . .

Dear God: We hear your voice and yet for some reason we falter; give us the courage and strength to look nowhere but at you. 

Dear Jesus: We know your command to put our feet in your footsteps and yet somehow we stumble; give us the fortitude and fidelity to never give up to any threat and never give in to any voice that calls us away from you. 

Dear Spirit: We gather ourselves to step forward in acceptance of your gift of discipleship. In this Eastertide, as we rejoice in your in-dwelling, remind us of the holy privilege we share with your upright prophets and disciples as we follow Christ, and shelter in your presence. 

Bless and keep us always as we celebrate with you and all your holy ones.  Amen.


Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jean_II_Restout_-_Pentecost_-_WGA19318.jpg

A re-post from May 19, 2013.


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.


Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 17, 2020

Sandro Botticelli: Judith Leaving the Tent of Holofernes

Judith 15:9-15

A Celebration of Deliverance

Today we reflect on joyful celebration after deliverance from disaster, and we pause to consider the sudden and surprising gifts of discipleship.

The book of Judith is a wonderful story about a woman who puts aside her widow’s weeds to save her nation. Her ability is doubted by the elders of her own community, and her enemy underestimates her by a wide margin. Judith succeeds in accomplishing the impossible. We watch her follow a dangerously treacherous and narrow path, listening for and then obeying God’s voice.  We see her unfold in beautiful discipleship.  During this Eastertide we have re-discovered the gifts of discipleship that bloom in our lives when we see our vulnerability to God as privilege; and we watch Judith as she trusts in God alone to deliver her people and herself from a deadly enemy.

Judith’s meekness brings her humility . . . an ability to listen for God’s word and to heed it.

Judith’s brokenheartedness brings her vulnerability . . . an ability to petition God for help.

Judith’s constancy brings her fidelity . . . an ability to rely on God alone.

Judith’s honesty brings her truth . . . an ability to see reality as God sees it.

Judith’s willingness brings her integrity . . . an ability to perceive and respond to God’s call authentically.

Judith’s steadfastness brings her persistence . . . an ability to follow God without flagging.

These are the gifts of discipleship with which God graced Judith . . . and these are the same gifts of discipleship that God gives to each of us today.

As we near Pentecost, let us consider these gifts that God freely gives.  And let us celebrate our own deliverance.


Image from: https://www.wikiart.org/en/sandro-botticelli/judith-leaving-the-tent-of-holofernes-1500

For more reflections about this amazing woman, type the word Judith in the blog search bar and explore.

Adapted from a Noontime reflection written on April 10, 2007.


Saturday, May 16, 2020 – Acts 1:6-26: The Assembly

As we refrain from gathering to ward off the virus that drives us apart,

we return to a post written when we were free to assemble. 

paper-church[1]I have just walked in to my classroom after having spent the morning with my grandson at his school for Grandparents and Special Friends Day and I see these words written on the whiteboard which were not there yesterday afternoon when I left:

I

small_red_heart[1]Liturgy

I do not know what moved this student to write these two words and this symbol in my room . . . but I can safely believe that the Holy Spirit moves among us today in a special way.  When we strive for discipleship we must make room for the Holy Spirit. When we experience discipleship we will want to gather in assembly.  When we rest in discipleship . . . we also celebrate.

Today’s Noontime is about a special time when the early Christian church we know today was beginning to form.  Yesterday evening we finished our study of 1 Corinthians in which Paul addresses the confusing issues of his day which are many of the same ones that confound us today: immorality, worship of things other than God, lack of love among church members, and full participation in pagan society to the detriment of full participation in the Christian community.  Paul reminds us that how and what we commemorate say more about us than what we wear or where we work and live.  When we celebrate personal happiness and self-fulfillment we miss the bigger offer – membership in a universal, eternal body, the body of Christ.

In today’s reading we see Jesus take leave of his followers, promising to send his holy emissary to accompany them until his return.  They return to Jerusalem – the holiest city they know – and they go to the Upper Room – the last place they celebrated before Jesus’ crucifixion.  They gather, and they turn to God and to one another to commemorate in thanksgiving the gift of new life they now understand.  They pray, and they make plans for the future as they imagine it to be.

When we assemble for any occasion, we might take a look at who and what surround us.  The physical places we go to celebrate as well as the people with whom we mingle indicate the spiritual choices we make.  When we feel happiest, where do we want to go to share the Good News?  When we feel alone, on whose shoulder do we want to lean?  When we have something to praise and give thanks for, how do we want to remember it? When we shelter during pandemic, how do we assemble and gather, and what are the choices we make?

When we assemble, we will want to give thanks, to pray, and to remember who has saved us.  And we will want to remember to celebrate.

Tomorrow, the celebration of deliverance . . .


Image from: http://lifeincolour.com/?p=629

Adapted from a reflection first written on November 20, 2009.


Friday, May 15, 2020

SF_LOGO1[1]Sirach 21

A Prayer for Steadfastness

In our Easter journey we have been exploring the idea that discipleship brings hidden gifts along with its difficulties and suffering.  We have been examining figures in the Old and New Testaments to see what we can learn from well know stories.  And we have been praying together to discern how we might better see the cross of discipleship as gift rather than burden.  Today we pray for steadfastness.

When we ask for God’s wisdom in understanding how we have found ourselves in discomfort . . . we ask for steadfastness.

When we open ourselves to hear what we may learn from our uneasiness . . . we ask for steadfastness.

When we are humble enough to learn something about God and ourselves through our suffering . . . we ask for steadfastness.

When we step forward to volunteer our lives in service of Christ in his kingdom-building . . . we ask for steadfastness.

When we resolve to learn from the anxiety and pain we have experienced . . . we ask for steadfastness.

Jesus ben Sirach tells us that when we allow this steadfastness to permeate our lives, we will find ourselves among wise women and men rather than a troop of fools; and these wise ones will bolster us when we falter.  When we allow steadfastness to govern our lives, we will experience the joy of knowing that we are one with Christ.  This is the joy and gift of walking with Christ.  It is the gift of better knowing ourselves.  It is the gift of looking in a mirror openly and honestly without having to deceive ourselves about what we actually see.   It is the gift of our divinity in and through Christ.  And so for this gift of steadfastness we pray . . .

Dear Lord, you have planted in each of us our own gifts to share.  Help us to ready the soil of our lives, make us open to the life-giving rain of your wisdom.  Help us to be builders of your kingdom rather than hearers only of your Word.  Help us to listen, reflect and pray for your presence. Bring us the steadfastness and humility that we will need to nurture the growth of your Word in us so that we may offer these gifts back to you.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

Tomorrow, as we move toward Pentecost . . . Celebration in Assembly . . .


Image from: http://www.bgumc.net/?page_id=147

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