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Matthew 9:35-38Epiphany – A Reprise

Saturday, January 6, 2018

James Tissot: The Magi Journeying

Today’s post is a reprise from January 6, 2012.

E-piph-an-y: A Christian festival, the manifestation of a deity, a sudden intuitive perception or insight, a piece of literature presenting a revelation.  These definitions define the holiday or the emotion, the state of being surprised by something we already know but have not yet acknowledged.  This word may also define our relationship with Christ.  Today we encounter Jesus in the midst of his work and this is what we find.

Jesus teaches.  Jesus proclaims the Good News that we are free to choose life over death.  Jesus heals. Jesus is moved with compassion at the sight of the crowds.  All of this goodness is what God has in mind for us.  All of this kindness is what God has in store for us.  All of this love is what God intends for us.  And this is what the Magi come to honor and worship.

In our Western tradition we have come to know these three men as Melchior, a scholar from Babylon, the place of Israel’s exile about six centuries before Christ’s birth, Caspar, another scholar from Persia, the civilization that overran the Babylonians, and Balthazar, an Arab scholar.  These learned men bring gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold that serve as symbols for our own worship of the Son of Man.  Frankincense, aromatic incense, is brought to purify the Lord; myrrh, perfumed oil often used in embalming, is offered to anoint the Lord; and gold, the symbol of power, is presented to honor the Lord.  Some commentary suggests that the Magi bring forward these gifts for medicinal purposes; others propose that they are meant as tribute to this new kind of high priest, savior and king.  Still others say that these gifts stand in stark contrast to the sacrificial gifts of birds, lambs and oxen that the Jewish people proffered to God.  In any interpretation the story holds importance for us for these men have spent their lifetime studying the heavens and their search leads them to a small place in a small town where this small Jewish family shelters for a time.  Who is more surprised?  The Magi themselves?  Mary and Joseph?  The shepherds who tend their flocks and follow the Magi who follow the star?  Or are we perhaps the most surprised?

All of this is tradition as we have said earlier but we hold and cherish this belief in the story of the Magi for a purpose.  We love to hear the names read out rhythmically.  We want to listen to the details of this story again.  We want the mystery and surprise of this holy night to roll over us and wrap us in the warm and holy mystery of the Christ.  We want to be children for a little time again.

When I was small my Eastern European grandmother made doughnuts and inside them she had hidden shiny, bright coins.  Who would find the pennies, the dimes?  Who would be lucky enough to encounter the rare quarter?  Children understand how important it was to nibble the edges of the pastry carefully.  Children know the importance of joyful anticipation.  Children understand wonder and surprise. As adults we want the confirmation from these intelligent students of the heavens and stars.  As adults we want to be affirmed that the Good News we have heard is true.  As adults we want someone to stun us with a vivid and beautiful truth.  We want the verification that wonderful surprises lie ahead of us.  We want to see and hear and touch the reality of the Christ Child.

Velázquez: The Adoration of the Magi

On this Epiphany let us resolve to believe more and doubt less.  Let us decide to act on our beliefs and turn away from a cynical view of the world.  Let us announce to the world that we will love our enemies into goodness.  Let us bow in homage to the Christ child.  Let us lay at his feet the incense of our own suffering and the joy of our hearts.  Let us come and worship the Lord.  And let us allow ourselves to experience the surprise and enchantment of the Epiphany . . . just as God has intended.

For more on the identity of three Magi, visit: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+9%3A35-38&version=GNT;NRSV;CJB;MSG

For more on the gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh, visit: https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/jesus-historical-jesus/why-did-the-magi-bring-gold-frankincense-and-myrrh/ 

For another reflection on the Epiphany, go to the post for January 2, 2012: Reminders

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Matthew 19:13-14: People Like These

Carl Bloch: Christ with Children

Carl Bloch: Christ with Children

Thursday, December 8, 2016

This week we explore how to put our love on the line just as the Creator does by abiding with us, just as Jesus does as he shows us The Way, and just as the Spirit does as she comforts and remains in us.

One day children were brought to Jesus in the hope that he would lay hands on them and pray over them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus intervened: “Let the children alone, don’t prevent them from coming to me. God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.” After laying hands on them, he left. (MSG)

Can we imagine a world that is full of people who are as innocent as the children we read about today? If not, we might ask the Creator to unharden our hearts so that we might be people like these.

Some people brought children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and to pray for them, but the disciples scolded the people. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (GNT)

Can we imagine a world that is full of people who are as trusting as the children we read about today? If not, we might ask Jesus to inspire us with his own example of trust in the Creator so that we might be people like these.

Then children were brought to him so that he might lay his hands on them and pray for them, but the talmidim rebuked the people bringing them. However, Yeshua said, “Let the children come to me, don’t stop them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” (CJB)

Can we imagine a world that is full of people who are as loving as the children we read about today? If not, we might ask the Spirit to fill us with the hope and love of Advent so that we might be people like these.

When we explore various translations of these verses, we discover God’s that in God’s plan there is an absolute necessity for each of us to rely on the Creator, Christ and Spirit just as these children we see today.

 

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Matthew 11:25-30: Drawing Us Gently

Saturday, December 12, 2015outstretche-hand

In my mother’s Bible which I read when I am home at Noontime, the Douay version of these well-known verses has a nostalgic ring.  At that time, Jesus spoke and said, “I praise thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and prudent, and didst reveal them to the little ones.  For such was thy good pleasure”.  And later those famous lines: 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 your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light”.

And you will find rest for your souls . . .

Is this not what we all seek?  Rest for the soul?  Are we not troubled as we wend our way through our day, as we hear the morning and evening news?  Whether we struggle with or for family, friends or strangers, does not the weight of the day so often feel ponderous by nightfall?

For I am meek and humble of heart . . .

Here is Jesus, the very expression of God to us, saying that he who is mighty and all-powerful and all-knowing and all-creating values most . . . meekness and humility . . . not power and glory.  Do we not so often get this wrong?    Do we not look for news of those who have million dollar sports or screen contracts?  Do we not look for news of those who battle for political and social prominence?

find_rest_in_my_soul_aloneFor my yoke is heavy and my burden is light.

If we might only truly believe these words we would be less anxious, less worried, less controlling, less self-seeking.  We have the power to act our belief.  We are given the free will to choose to follow the wide road with its many deceits and traps . . . or the narrow road of meekness and humility.  The irony is that when we choose what looks like the easy road . . . we become more burdened; and meanwhile the choice of the apparent difficult road frees us more than we can ever imagine possible.  With God, all things are possible . . . and all things work by inversion.  When we think we are winning we are actually losing; and when we think we are losing we are actually winning.

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened . . .

Can we not hear our Lord calling?  Can we not see the smiling face and feel the outstretched hands?  Are we too wise and too prudent to experience Christ’s presence?  Or can we become his little ones?  For this is the pleasure of God, that we become as little children who trust.  It is through our child-like expectation that all good things are possible through God that God chooses to reveal himself to us, his children . . . and it is in this way God draws all of us to himself.

And you will find rest for your souls.

A favorite from November 30, 2007.

 

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parentsFriday

December 19, 2014

Joy and Sirach 3

Honor

Continuing with wisdom recorded by Jesus ben Sirach, we find more words that surprise us with joy. If today’s Noontime calls you to search for more ways to encounter joy, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, enter the word Joy in the blog search bar, or visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com. Today we consider the great joy that is found when we honor wisdom.

In this Chapter, Ben Sirach writes about family relationships, humility, docility, and the giving of alms to the poor. In all of this lies the quiet theme of honor.

Verse 3:5: Those who honor their parents will have joy in their own children, and when they pray they are heard.

joyGod says: Some of you have no children born from your union with another; yet you provide the wisdom of elders to many. Some of you have never known your parents; yet you honor those who have served you well as mentors and guides. Many of you have siblings who love your parents as you do and siblings who are jealous of your relationship with your parents. There is not a singular model for family life in the many cultures that blossom around the world, but there is a singular path to follow in finding joy. Through your humble service to others you honor me and bring honor to your family. Through your quiet, docile care of the poor you gladden others and bring joy to me.  

Choose more of these verses and reflect on them, considering how often honor and wisdom are present in your own family. Compare the different versions of Sirach 3 at the scripture link above and reflect on Jesus Ben Sirach’s words.

For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

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Friday, January 6, 2012 – Matthew 9:35-38 – Epiphany

E-piph-an-y: A Christian festival, the manifestation of a deity, a sudden intuitive perception or insight, a piece of literature presenting a revelation.  These definitions define the holiday or the emotion, the state of being surprised by something we already know but have not yet acknowledged.  This word may also define our relationship with Christ.  Today we encounter Jesus in the midst of his work and this is what we find.

Jesus teaches.  Jesus proclaims the Good News that we are free to choose life over death.  Jesus heals. Jesus is moved with compassion at the sight of the crowds.  All of this goodness is what God has in mind for us.  All of this kindness is what God has in store for us.  All of this love is what God intends for us.  And this is what the Magi come to honor and worship.

In our Western tradition we have come to know these three men as Melchior, a scholar from Babylon, the place of Israel’s exile about six centuries before Christ’s birth, Caspar, another scholar from Persia, the civilization that overran the Babylonians, and Balthazar, an Arab scholar.  These learned men bring gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold that serve as symbols for our own worship of the Son of Man.  Frankincense, aromatic incense, is brought to purify the Lord; myrrh, perfumed oil often used in embalming, is offered to anoint the Lord; and gold, the symbol of power, is presented to honor the Lord.  Some commentary suggests that the Magi bring forward these gifts for medicinal purposes; others propose that they are meant as tribute to this new kind of high priest, savior and king.  Still others say that these gifts stand in stark contrast to the sacrificial gifts of birds, lambs and oxen that the Jewish people proffered to God.  In any interpretation the story holds importance for us for these men have spent their lifetime studying the heavens and their search leads them to a small place in a small town where this small Jewish family shelters for a time.  Who is more surprised?  The Magi themselves?  Mary and Joseph?  The shepherds who tend their flocks and follow the Magi who follow the star?  Or are we perhaps the most surprised?

All of this is tradition as we have said earlier but we hold and cherish this belief in the story of the Magi for a purpose.  We love to hear the names read out rhythmically.  We want to listen to the details of this story again.  We want the mystery and surprise of this holy night to roll over us and wrap us in the warm and holy mystery of the Christ.  We want to be children for a little time again. 

When I was small my Eastern European grandmother made doughnuts and inside them she had hidden shiny, bright coins.  Who would find the pennies, the dimes?  Who would be lucky enough to encounter the rare quarter?  Children understand how important it was to nibble the edges of the pastry carefully.  Children know the importance of joyful anticipation.  Children understand wonder and surprise. As adults we want the confirmation from these intelligent students of the heavens and stars.  As adults we want to be affirmed that the Good News we have heard is true.  As adults we want someone to stun us with a vivid and beautiful truth.  We want the verification that wonderful surprises lie ahead of us.  We want to see and hear and touch the reality of the Christ Child.

Velázquez: The Adoration of the Magi

On this Epiphany let us resolve to believe more and doubt less.  Let us decide to act on our beliefs and turn away from a cynical view of the world.  Let us announce to the world that we will love our enemies into goodness.  Let us bow in homage to the Christ child.  Let us lay at his feet the incense of our own suffering and the joy of our hearts.  Let us come and worship the Lord.  And let us allow ourselves to experience the surprise and enchantment of the Epiphany . . . just as God has intended.

For another reflection on the Epiphany, go to the post for January 2, 2012: Reminders

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011 – Numbers 5:22-27 – The Departure Blessing

Written on February 27 and posted today as a favorite . . .

“The placement of this benediction seems unusual; it may be another item that prepares the people for the journey through the wilderness.  This is the blessing for the time of departure, and [said] daily throughout their journey.  Each line, with God as subject, is progressively longer (three, five, seven Hebrew words); besides the name YHWH, twelve Hebrew words signify the twelve tribes.  The benediction in some form was used in ancient Israel, especially at the conclusion of worship . . . Putting the name of God on the people may have been understood literally, given the inscription on two cigarette-sized silver plaques found near Jerusalem, dating from the seventh-sixth centuries BCE . . . One probably should not see a climatic arrangement in the clauses; so, for example, blessing would include peace. Perhaps the second verb in each case defines the first more specifically, but together the six verbs cove God’s benevolent activity from various angles and state God’s gracious will for the people.

“Blessing has a wide ranging meaning, touching every sphere of life.  It testifies most basically to the work of God the Creator, both within the community of faith and without.  No conditions are attached.  It signifies any divine gift that serves the life, health, and well-being of individuals and communities.  Keeping is a specific blessing to those with concerns for safety, focusing on God’s protection from all forms of evil (Ps. 121:7-8), pertinent for wilderness wandering”.  (Barton, and Muddiman 116)

We are all wandering through the wilderness, departing each morning for the many destinations of the day, and returning to home each evening to rest before the cycle begins anew.  Each of the days is a testimony to the trust we place in God, the hope we place in Christ, and the comfort we take from the Spirit.  We maneuver our daily obstacles – some small and some gigantic – hoping for sustenance and safety, keeping faith that it is God who guides us rather than some self-serving whim, and witnessing to the message of liberation by loving our enemies into goodness.  I am thinking that I will print this small prayer and put it on the back of my front door above the handle I touch each day to exit.  I need these words as I step into the wilderness each day; I want to put the name of God on my children and their children as they also step into the wilderness.  I also want these words to bless and transform those who do me harm as I pray for the softening of their hearts and the unbending of their stiff necks.  I want all tribes to come together as the twelve tribes of Jacob have done to help one another in their journey through strange and hostile land to the land of peace and security.  This is the departure we can best wish for one another as we step over our thresholds each day to embark on a new and exciting journey filled with pain and promise.  This is the blessing that can touch us as we leave each morning, can keep us in God’s care throughout the day, and can bring us back home to God each evening. This is a pray that blesses us with the name of God and brings us peace. 

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them: This is how you shall address the Israelites.

Say to them:

The Lord bless you and keep you!

The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!

The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!

So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them!”

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 116. Print.

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