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Posts Tagged ‘Advent’


Romans 1A Slave for Christ

Friday, February 22, 2019

Paul ruffled feathers as he moved about the Empire delivering the message of Christ.  As apostles we too can expect adversity.

Paul traveled approximately 10,000 miles in his journeys for Jesus.  As followers of Jesus cannot be timid about sharing our own story of Jesus as we too travel many miles.

Paul aggravated his political and spiritual leaders yet he helped a burgeoning Jewish sect establish a religion that would overtake the empire itself.  As Christians we too contribute to the flowering of Jesus’ message.

Membership in the early church was often more a liability than a boon since Christians were viewed as cannibals and participants in incestuous relationships. It is not until the beginning of the 4th Century (323 C.E.) that Christianity becomes an accepted form of worship.  As modern Christians we too may be viewed with skepticism, we too may wait long years before we are seen as the faithful.

Cult worship favored by most Romans was a very different spirituality from Christianity.  In the former, mortals serve whimsical gods; in the latter, a constant and faithful Living God dedicates himself to the care and protection of his creatures.  This Living God comes among his creatures to live as one with them while the Olympian gods tormented mortals.  Our petty gods continue to lure us from our true journey; they taunt us with the false promise of fame, fortune and power.

While we today may be haunted by the many small demons of status and superficiality, Romans believed in spirits who guarded rivers, woods, homes, and families.  Early Christians were consoled and counseled by the Holy Spirit of the Living God, the Spirit that brought unity out of God’ great variety . . . as the Spirit still does today.

Early Christians gather in Rome

Rome reaches out to connect England to Egypt, Spain to Syria; and this Roman world in which Paul lives and moves is a world of slaves and masters, poor and rich.  When Paul goes to Rome he enters the epicenter of the Mediterranean world . . . and all that he says and all he does speaks of Christ Jesus . . . as must we today.

Do we have the strength to stand up against the tide of the times?  Paul becomes a slave for Christ to do so. So must we.

Do we have the tenacity to persist in delivering a message the world does not want to hear? Paul suffers beatings, stoning, imprisonment and all forms of derision to do so.  So must we.

Do we trust enough in God to await the words of the Holy Spirit when we find ourselves confronted by overwhelming odds?  Paul becomes the ultimate apostle who sets self aside to live out the mission Christ gives him.  So must we.

Do we love God enough to see others as images of God?  Paul moves among the “unclean” gentiles as God asks of him to bring the Gospel story of freedom to all.  So must we.

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, writes Paul.  Are we willing to confront gossip and lies; do we invite others to allow Jesus to enter their lives; do we pray for our enemies willingly?  Can we also say that we are not ashamed of the Gospel?  Are we willing to reject our petty gods of sleek cars, stock options, extravagant clothing, excess food, influence with power structures, and our dependence on ultra conveniences in order to share what we have with the poor? Are we willing to be slaves for the marginalized as Paul is?  Are we willing to decrease to nothing so that Christ might increase?

This is what Paul calls out to us today.  What is our reply?


For wonderful information on Christians in the Roman Empire, go to the public television site below.    We will find it well worth the time we invest; and we may learn something we did not know about St. Paul and his missionary journeys.   

A re-post from November 30, 2011. 

http://www.pbs.org/empires/romans/empire/christians.html

Images from: http://savingparadise.net/about/ and http://www.mitchellteachers.org/WorldHistory/AncientRome/BeginningsofChristianity.htm and http://hudsonfla.com/artchristian.htm and http://www.nationalgeographic.com/lostgospel/timeline_09.html 

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Isaiah 9Peculiarly God’s Own

Friday, July 1, 2018

We are accustomed to hearing this beautiful anthem at Advent and so these words feel odd to us in the northern hemisphere who experience Christmas in the cold and dark.  We are accustomed to frosty, long nights rather than warm, short ones when we think about God’s coming to live among us.   The people who walked in darkness cry out for light.  Isaiah’s people are lonely and afraid as they try to ride out the terms of their exile.  Today’s words must have felt astonishing to them, yet welcome.  These people who were accustomed to neglect and abuse must have felt a fluttering image come into focus of the life they had been promised.  The words we read in Isaiah today may even have taken them back to earlier words of promise in Deuteronomy that we heard in the first reading at Mass today (Deuteronomy 7:6-11): Moses said to the people: “You are a people sacred to the Lord, your God; he has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be a people peculiarly his own.  It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, for you are really the smallest of all nations.  It was because the Lord loved you and because of his fidelity to the oath he had sworn to your fathers, that he brought you out with his strong hand from the place of slavery, and ransomed you . . .”    This small nation, these insignificant people are lifted up and redeemed by a God-hero.  Amazing words and deeds . . .

These words from today’s second reading (1 John 4:7-16) confirm our best hope: In this way the love of God was revealed to us: he sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.  In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his son as expiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God loves us, so we also must love one another.   We who are oppressed or lost, we who are abandoned are redeemed  and brought back by a Wonder-Counselor.  Amazing words and deeds . . .

We hear welcome words from Jesus in today’s Gospel (Matthew 11:25-30): Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy and my burden light”.   This oppressed people, these burdened people are healed and transformed by a Prince of Peace.  Amazing words and deeds . . .

Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Prince of Peace . . . and yet this one is meek and humble and willing to take on so much that is not his to take.  This is the God who walks among us as one of us.  This is the one who can exert all power over all things and all people yet he stoops to us in humility and meekness . . . because this is how much he loves us.  Amazing . . . and wonderful . . . that we are peculiarly God’s own. 


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 1, 2011.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011 – Numbers 9:15-23 – The Bidding of the Lord

In Numbers 9 we see the Hebrews put all of their trust in God.  May we learn to be faithful to the Lord in our daily wandering rather than be lured by little gods.

In the Exodus story we know that the Hebrews stumbled in their journey of fidelity.  May we turn back to God in all of our drifting and forgive others as God forgives us.

In Numbers 9 we see the Hebrews do the Lord’s bidding when the Fiery Cloud settles into the desert sand to rest; we see them rise to follow the pillar of smoke and flame when it is time to journey.  May we place all trust in the Lord rather than resort to our own schemes and small plans.

In the Exodus story we know that the Hebrews grumbled about God’s care of them in their journey of transformation.  May we always seek counsel in the Lord and share the Word we hear with fellow pilgrims.

In Numbers 9 the Cloud tarries for days or rises after only one evening’s rest so the Hebrews are unable to predict God’s movement in their lives; yet they know that the Lord is with them in the Fiery Cloud.  May we learn patience in the Lord and give thanks for the many surprises that await us.

In the Exodus story we know that the Hebrews grew impatient with God’s timeline and grumbled about God’s provisions.  May we keep in mind how great is God’s generosity and share God’s love with others.

As a child, I loved to hear my Mother read out the chronicle of the people who wandered in darkness for generations, doing God’s bidding despite their frustration.  Somehow I knew that there were great lessons to be learned in this long story of turnings.  Mother’s calm and steady voice would rise up to give emphasis to the peril the Hebrews endured; it would fall to a low and gentle register to underscore God’s constant presence and encouragement to the people.  Closing my eyes, I stored those reassuring sounds and images for unknown times in my future.  As I grew I began to encounter my first overwhelming obstacles and remembering the comfort and safety of those drowsy evenings with Mother reading about the Fiery Cloud that served as guide and guard, I drew on those stored images.  When fear threatened to paralyze me or lead me in the wrong direction, I allowed that pillar of fire and smoke to draw me toward God.  Even today when I meet with an obstacle that threatens my physical, mental or spiritual life, I move toward the Fiery Cloud to step inside.  And there I find a sanctuary that none can penetrate.  I find a peace that none can rattle.  I find a floating solidness that both sustains and carries me toward God.  And in God all problems both great and petty melt away.

In a few short days we celebrate Christmas, the feast of God’s arrival among us as one of us.  It is a celebration of Light against Darkness, of Hope against Desperation, of surety in a world that offers only turmoil.  Let us turn to the story of the people who once walked in darkness (Isaiah 9), let us follow the Fiery Cloud as we wander through the dangers of the desert, and let us step into the pillar of smoke and light when the chaos of life menaces.  For there is no better sanctuary than God.  There is no better hope than Christ.  And there is no better peace than the serenity we find in the Spirit.  

And so we pray . . .

Let us rise as the Hebrews rise to do the bidding of the Lord.  Let us rest as the Hebrews rest to await the wisdom of the Lord.  Let us follow as the Hebrews follow . . . to do the bidding of the Lord.  Amen. 

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