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Wisdom 11:2-5: Special Providence in Exodus

First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2022exodus-gods-and-kings-review-biblical-epic-plagued-with-flaws-jpeg-198729

The Book of Wisdom prepares us for Advent, our time of Exodus from darkness into the light of truth, hope and love. God is always with us, guiding and protecting; yet in a special way God accompanies us closely when we move out of a place of comfort where our unhealthy behaviors are enabled into a place of health, where we work on our rough edges. When we make this kind of transition from being prisoners of a habit to being free to hear the surprising new behavior God has in mind for us, we place ourselves at risk. We take a leap of faith, believing that as we shed our old safety net, God will place an even better one beneath us. When we journey from a state of slavery to a state of freedom, we are accompanied by the pillar of smoke by day, the column of fire by night. God provides for his faithful in a very special way as they make themselves vulnerable for his sake.

And so we pray . . .

They journeyed through the uninhabited desert, and in solitude they pitched their tents . . .

When we feel most alone we are most attended. When we suffer we walk in the company of God’s angels . . . for we are especially loved and kept by God.

They withstood enemies and took vengeance on their foes . . .

The faithful do not need to fight; rather we need only witness to the story of God’s coming among us. The rest we leave in the hands of God who turns all harm to good.

When they thirsted, they called upon you . . .

When we are in misery, anxiety, fear of any kind there is only one place to turn. To God.

And water was given them from sheer rock . . .

Then we are to expect the unexpected, the inverse, the surprising, the paradox.

Assuagement for their thirst from the hard stone . . .

gods providenceWe are precious in God’s eyes, made in God’s image.  We are stones of a living temple to be rejected by those who build upon the sand, but placed upon a strong foundation by the one who endures.

For by the things through which their foes were punished they in their need were benefited. 

We will know how to interact with our foes when we look to their suffering rather than our own. We can expect God’s guidance and protection as we work to become God’s disciples. And so we pray.

Good and watchful God, 

We enter into our exodus journey to you. We know that you will not allow a foot to be dashed upon a stone. We believe that you will not desert us. We trust that you sustain us from your goodness. We believe that you teach us through our many trials. We ask your continued patience with us when we doubt, your continued love for us when we err, your continued hope for us when we falter. We who are made in your image strike out from a foreign land of enslavement to move homeward in freedom. Call us constantly back to you when we stray. Keep us close by you. Always. Amen.


Images from: https://www.perfectbrilliantstillness.org/what-is-page-3/hand-holding-planet-earth-crop-and-darken/ and https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/exodus-understanding-one-of-the-bibles-major-themes

A favorite from December 2, 2008.

Isaiah 54: Vindication


Isaiah 54Vindication

Saturday, November 26, 2022The-Tent

Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left. And your descendants will possess nations and will resettle the desolate cities.

With this beautiful image of a heart that is willing to expand as it meets its creator, Isaiah asks us to contemplate the enormity, eternity, and healing power of God’s love for us.

We can define vindication using the Oxford languages dictionary: 1) the action of clearing someone of blame or suspicion, 2) proof that someone or something is right, reasonable, or justified.

We read these words and realize that we may not have allowed ourselves to be defended by God when we see those who work against us fail at their unhealthy schemes.  In our effort to wipe any thought of revenge from our minds, we have missed out on the gift of God’s affirming action. This is something to think about.

We are always hearing words of comfort from our God. Fear not, you shall not be put to shame.  (Verse 4) In justice shall you be established, far from the fear of oppression, where destruction cannot come near you.  (Verse 14) No weapon fashioned against you shall prevail; every tongue you shall prove false that launches an accusation against you.  This is the lot of the servant of the Lord.  (Verse 17) 

We pause over verses 7 & 8: For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back.  In a burst of wrath, for a moment I hid my face from you; but with enduring love I take pity on you, says the Lord your redeemer. We reflect on how Yahweh is so often described as a jealous God, wanting our full and total dedication to his truth. We also recall the prophecy of Hosea when he cries in anguish over his wife’s infidelity and lack of respect for herself and others. We understand the burst of wrath, the hidden face and also the tenderness of true love which endures all things without accepting abuse.

isaiah 54We spend time meditating on verse 10: Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, my love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken, says the Lord who has mercy on you.

God is good. God keeps promises even when we do not. When we have stood to affirm God’s goodness with full-throated song we must allow ourselves to be vindicated. For this vindication is a hymn of praise to God and his wondrous, awesome power.

 


Adapted from a reflection written on November 27, 2008.

Images from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/332210909983710869/


Job 19Suffering and Rejoicing Well

Eberhar Waechter: Grieving Job and his friends

Eberhar Waechter: Grieving Job and his friends

Friday, November 25, 2022

The Book of Job is the first in the wisdom portion of scripture and it may be one of our favorites for its honesty and persistence with which this innocent man speaks. Job has been wronged by Satan, yet retains faith and hope in God. He asks the questions we all ask; he makes the observations we all make: why do the wicked seem to skate through life without suffering, and why do the innocent suffer? Each of us has endured hardship as Job does at one time or another; and for this reason his words are so valuable. Job sinks into the lowest of depths with his despair . . . yet he soars with great hope and divine love. This is the gift of his story . . . that he both suffers and rejoices well.

How long will you vex my soul? At times the suffering is too great, too heavy.

I cry for help; there is no redress. In our own lives, and in the lives of others, there are moments that ask too much of human strength and endurance.

My brethren have withdrawn from me, and my friends are wholly estranged. At times we are utterly alone, with no sheltering place, no healing balm.

All my intimate friends hold me in horror; those whom I love have turned against me! In the human experience, there is no greater punishment than isolation.

Why do you hound me as though you were divine, and insatiably prey on me? At times we are so low that we descend into pits we did not know existed . . . and this is when we know that something new is arriving.

But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives, and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust; whom I myself shall see: my own eyes, not another’s shall behold him. Job understands that it is impossible for us to comprehend the depth, the width, the height or the timelessness of God. Job – although not content with the mystery of his innocent suffering – accepts that from where he stands he cannot see or know the limitlessness of God or the complexity of his plan. Job reminds us that each of us suffers.  Each of us stands accused at times when we are innocent. Since this is so, the rest of his story is also true. We will be vindicated.

From today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation about the Blessed Mother and her willingness to suffer as an innocent for the good of God’s economy: She neither regretted the past nor wished for the future – she accepted wholeheartedly the magnificent present.  She had found one beautiful pearl, and all she had she gave in order to buy it.  (Mother Marie des Douleurs)

So let us follow the example of Job and the example of Mary. They understood that they, by entering into the mystery of suffering, were sharing in a sacred gift offered by the God who loves us so much that God offers us God’s own divinity.

Let us enter into this story today without looking back in anger or looking forward in despair.

Let us gather all that we have and all that we are to make this one purchase . . . the gift of transformative union where . . . through suffering, we enter into the world of God’s joy.


Image from: http://global.oup.com/obso/focus/focus_on_happiness/

A favorite from March 25, 2009. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 25.3 (2009). Print.  


Baruch 2: The Road to Destruction or Redemption – Part II

Thursday, November 24, 2022IMG_4553_20081019_fm3005_destruction

In Isaiah 24 we read about the devastation of all but the faithful remnant. In Nehemiah 2 we see a heart wrenching return to the destroyed Jerusalem. In Revelation 18 we witness the fall of Babylon at her own hands and the destruction of those who followed the unholy trinity of beast, harlot and false prophet and their attendant demon spirits. With the forces of darkness there is always a final end. With the forces of light there is always ultimate and infinite jubilation.

Baruch reminds us that there are many ways to visit Babylon and drink of her waters poisoned with the blood of the innocent. Baruch also reminds us that the door to the New Jerusalem is standing open to us. There will be a new heaven and a new earth as a counterpoint to the closed, dark, silent void.

God knows that he has created a stiff-necked people; but he has also invited us to convert this stubbornness to an intentional devotion to Christ. In so doing we decide to walk from darkness to light where we will recall the words of the Lord to us: I will bring them back to the land which with my oath I promised to their fathers . . . and they shall rule it.  I will make them increase; they shall not diminish.  And I will establish for them an eternal covenant, that I will be their God and they shall be my people; and I will not again remove my people Israel from the land I give them.

Minolta DSC

Jesus came into the world to release us from darkness and destruction. Permanently and eternally. Do we choose to reject this covenant offer of love? Or do we, the chosen bride, decide to follow the groom where he leads us? As we rise each day, the decision lies before us. Perdition or redemption, destruction or salvation. The clear choice lies before us and it is time for us to act. So let us invite others to join us in combating dense and heavy darkness with the light and truth of Christ.


Adapted from a favorite from November 8, 2008.

Images from: http://www.flickriver.com/photos/algo/71139361/ and https://www.fox35orlando.com/news/flagler-county-road-crumbles-into-atlantic-ocean-due-to-tropical-storm-nicole-waves


Baruch 2: The Road to Destruction or Redemption – Part I

Wednesday, November 23, 2022road to destruction

The apocryphal book of Baruch tells us how to live in exile; and in particular Chapter 2 gives us an important, two-fold message. It reminds us that God always fulfills promises, and it also gives us an outline of how we might make our way back to the covenant we have chosen to abandon.

In Chapters 16 to 18 of Revelation we come upon something that reminds us of the infinite forgiveness and mercy of God. We see once again that in God all things are possible. We have understood the importance of being faithful in small ways to God.  We have understood that closed, exclusive groups which stultify possibility and potential, darkness which hides and subsumes potential, and silence which conceals and enables deceit . . . will never conquer openness which spawns universal communion, light which calls forth authentic life lead in integrity, and praise of God which magnifies truth and joy.

Light_at_the_End_of_the_RoadIn the end, God’s will of universal openness and light leads to jubilation.  The dark world which opposes this truth germinates in envy and ends in destruction.  And those who work so hard at building up a closed empire of self rather than an open kingdom of all, bring about their own  destruction at their own hands. We see this countless times. What is the allure of the darkness and deceit that is so tempting? It is the same siren call of Satan to Adam and Eve in Eden, You will be like gods . . .

There is something about the road to perdition that answers our human need to control.  There is something about this broad highway leading to the wide gate that brings comfort to those who travel it in their closed special groups. The aching longing to be the bride who is rescued and loved by the steadfast, powerful groom is universal. Yet we insist on filling this yearning with superficial, finite relationships which ironically do not satisfy, and which ultimately destroy. We must respond to the summons of the road and choose redemption rather than perdition.

Tomorrow, Part II.


Adapted from a favorite from November 8, 2008.

Images from: https://www.redbull.com/int-en/mysterious-places-part-5 and https://fineartamerica.com/featured/country-road-sunlight-streaming-through-trees-elaine-plesser.html


Wisdom 13:1-9: The Wisdom of God’s Creation

Monday, November 21, 2022Gods-creation

Anyone who does not know God is simply foolish.

When we look at the beauty of the planet, we see God’s goodness.

Such people look at the good things around them and still fail to see the living God.

When we share earth’s resources, we experience God’s generosity.

They have studied the things God made, but they have not recognized the one who made them.

When we bring together science, reason and spirituality, we experience God’s wisdom.

Instead, they suppose that the gods who rule the world are fire or wind or storm or the circling stars or rushing water or the heavenly bodies.

When we see the elements as God’s gifts to us, we see God’s trust in us.

tree in handsPeople were so delighted with the beauty of these things that they thought they must be gods, but they should have realized that these things have a master and that the master is much greater than all of them, for God is the creator of beauty, and God created them.

When we pause to reflect on the beauty of God’s creation, we see God’s hope for us.

Since people are amazed at the power of these things, and how they behave, they ought to learn from them that their maker is far more powerful.

When we witness to the resiliency in God’s creation, we begin to understand God’s strength.

When we realize how vast and beautiful the creation is, we are learning about the Creator at the same time.

creationWhen we witness to the complexity of God’s creation, we begin to understand God.

If the foolish had enough intelligence to speculate about the nature of the universe, why did they never find the Lord of all things?

Today we have the opportunity to discover if we are wise or foolish about God’s creation. We can read about the United Nations COP29 conference at: https://cop27.eg/#/ 


Images from: https://blog.greatnonprofits.org/save-the-planet-for-earth-day-with-nonprofits-that-care/ and https://newscenter.baruch.cuny.edu/news/baruchs-climate-scholars-program-expands-to-four-cuny-schools/ and https://www.nasa.gov/content/sunrise-from-the-international-space-station


John 12:37-41: Incredulity

Sunday, November 20, 2022heart-of-leaf-with-roses

It is always about the conversion of the heart, the transformation of the mind. Seeing with our eyes and hearing with our ears does not bring us closer to God. Experiencing the world with our hearts . . . this is what calls us into a state of permanent discipleship. 

Human nature being what it is, we find countless excuses and reasons for not doing the work of discipleship. The eye and the ear bring us sight and sound which we are accustomed to reasoning away with lines of thought we are practiced in using. What good can one person do? This is what people in my neighborhood do and I do not want to offend them. This way is more convenient for me. That has no effect upon me. I like to shop there. It’s none of my business. It’s not hurting anybody. These are the phrases that trip off our lips easily.

Even Jesus with the fullness of the presence of God was not able to turn all hearts and minds to himself and The Way. He lived and worked and played among an incredulous people hardened by the tortures of the world. Even some of those among whom he prayed did not believe , and this was after seeing with the eye and hearing with the ear. In John 20:29 Jesus tells his disciples that those who believe without seeing or hearing are blessed indeed.
eye has not seenPaul reminds the Corinthians and he also reminds us that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9We depend on our human resources far too much and far too often, and these eyes and ears and hearts are often incredulous when we begin to consider all that God has in store for us.

And so we have this to ponder. As Jesus passes among us each day, how do we respond? Are we the incredulous comfortable crowd? Or are we the restless, open listeners waiting for The Word?


Images from: and  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/342484746634361032/ https://designpress.com/design/romantic-heart-pictures/

Adapted from a favorite written on September 1, 2008.

Matthew 23: Denunciation


Matthew 23Denunciation

Saturday, November 19, 2022tassels

How many of us like to widen our phylacteries and lengthen our tassels? The footnotes for this chapter are extensive in the NAB and they are worth reading. This is the list of Christ’s woes as recorded by Matthew and these words have the feel of prophecy. Hypocrisy, lack of integrity when our words and actions do not match. This is what Jesus warns us about.

What do we do when the ugly green monster rears its head? When jealousy strikes, as it always does, what is our reflex? Do we allow ourselves to succumb to the temptation of taking credit even when it is due? Do we put the emotion which overtakes us in its proper place and convert it to humility?

Verses 37 to 39 are Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem, the city which ought to serve as a beacon to all, now drags her skirts in the mire as the prophets foretold. Jesus himself cannot sway these leaders. God’s own word cannot get their attention. The final woe defines Jesus’ audience as murderers of prophets, of the holy ones. This is scary stuff.  Chapter 24 follows with the foretelling of the destruction of the temple which actually occurred in 70 C.E. This event was on the horizon and yet they did not listen. Do we? How far do we have to go until God finally gets our attention? Are we this dense? We pray not.

And so we go to Jesus, hoping to learn how to avoid our own denunciation.

phylacteriesGenerous and faithful Jesus, may we narrow our phylacteries and shorten the tassels on our shawls. May we learn humility from your stories, and mercy from your actions. We ask this in your name. Amen.


To learn more about tassels and phylacteries, click on the lower image.

A favorite from January 28, 2008.

Images from: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/tzitzit/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uh6hLqP-QPY


Matthew 18:1-5The Greatest in the Kingdom

first shall be last

James Tissot: The First Shall Be Last

Friday, November 18, 2022

Once more we read the stupefying mystery that the greatest will be least and the least, greatest. For humans this is a difficult saying. It runs counter to our sense of logic; it runs against our tendency to self-preserve, to survive. Yet it is what we must hear. Our proper relationship with God is to be child-like, not childish. We are to go to our creator with our problems and our woes. God, being merciful and just, will see to our needs and is open to discussing our wants. We are to be humble. We are to be trusting children.

In Psalm 45 The Mighty One rides out to justify truth, humility and righteousness. It was very likely composed as a song for a royal wedding because the imagery speaks to a proper, joyful and humble relationship. We might pray this Psalm when we seek humility. It reminds us that the faithful need not fight; they only need to stand and witness. It reminds us that we must leave our accustomed comfort zone to seek another, better place. Today we spend time with this psalm and these verses from Matthew as we reflect on our relationship with God, our relationships with those we love, and our attitude about those we fear.


A favorite from January 8, 2008. 

Image from: https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/4518

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