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Isaiah 45Reminders

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The wise men approach from the East, bearing gifts that will sanctify, purify and sustain.  They are yet another sign of God’s promise to us that he loves, guards and guides us.  We will want to be watching for the many reminders God gives to us as marking posts along the way of our journey.

This reflection was written on January 3, 2010 and it is posted today as a Favorite . . .

I have not spoken from hiding nor from some dark place on the earth . . . I, the Lord, promise justice, I foretell what is right.

The prophet Isaiah brings us a message today that we already know; yet we can use a frequent reminder. He announces the coming of hope, the arrival of the long-awaited one who frees us from defeat, the advent of one who helps each of us to cross our daily hurdles.

It was I who stirred up one for the triumph of justice; all his ways I make level.

If we wish to walk in the level path, we have only to follow God’s anointed one.  In today’s reading it is Cyrus, the Persian king who rises up against Babylon and releases the captive nations.  As the New Testament story tells us, God also sends a true Messiah who releases us from our bondage of sorrow and chaos.  He sends the Christ.

Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above, like gentle rain let the skies drop it down.  Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice also spring up!

Today we celebrate the idea that although political kings did not recognize the power of Christ, three wise magi from the East bring frankincense, gold and myrrh to the most unlikely of all kings, the child of Light, the child of Justice.  Isaiah reminds us that this child brings something to us which we all seek . . . true peace, eternal serenity . . . if only we might walk with him a little way, pray with him a little while.

Come and assemble, gather together, you fugitives . . .

Rather than stand alone on the rampart, Isaiah reminds us that we must gather into phalanxes with all of the faithful, that we must put aside our squabbles so that we might rise at the sound of the Shepherd’s voice to form solidarity as we witness.

Turn to me and be safe, all you ends of the earth, for I am God; there is no other!

There is no dark corner that the eye of the Lord does not see.  There is no sequestered portion of creation from which the ear of God cannot hear the plea of the weary.  There is no god who can outlast our God, none who can withstand our God, not one who will win any battle against this God.

The prophet Isaiah brings us a message today that we already know . . . yet we can use a frequent reminder.

Turn to me and be safe, all you ends of the earth, for I am God; there is no other!


As we ponder the plight of refugees around the world in 219, we visit this re-post from January 2, 2012.

Images from: http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/wise-men-ancient-text-differs-bible-tale-magi/story?id=12460820 

For an interesting new twist to the Magi story, click the image above or go to http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/wise-men-ancient-text-differs-bible-tale-magi/story?id=12460820

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Acts 20:25-38Resolutions

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

A 1915 Postcard: New Year’s Resolutions

A new day dawns, a new year begins . . . we have before us a new opportunity for reconnection and rebirth.  In today’s Noontime we examine part of Paul’s farewell speech to the Ephesian elders in Miletus in which he lays out a kind of instruction manual for those whom he has brought into Christ’s infant church . . . and for whom he has great love.

As we begin a new year, we might resolve to take Paul’s admonitions seriously; we might decide to be faithful followers of the Gospel . . . and this may be more difficult than we first think.

I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God . . . As we begin a new year, let us resolve to be fearless in proclaiming the Good News to all we know.  In our secular world it is so easy to say nothing when others rant about how the poor are lazy, about how we need to take back America from the immigrants.  It is easy to remain silent in the face of such anger.  It is convenient to forget that most of us are not descended from indigenous peoples.

I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock . . . As we begin a new year, let us resolve to be both watchful and loving, and let us determine to be in the world but not of it. In a presidential election year it will be easy to join a drumbeat of complaint.  It will be difficult to listen without judging.  It will be awkward to express a view that is contrary to the majority.

Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers . . . As we begin a new year, let us resolve to maintain healthy boundaries as we take care of ourselves even as we tend to the needs of others.  In a self-centered society we will often find ourselves alone when we advocate for the disenfranchised.  We will be at odds with conventional wisdom.  We will run counter to general opinions.  We will struggle with knowing which work is our own and which is not.

Miletus: Agora with public building

Be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day, I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears . . . As we begin a new year, let us resolve to be prudent and compassionate in all that we do in Jesus’ name.  In a time when a show of emotion is characterized as a weakness we will be against the tide.  In an era when the phrase “personal responsibility” is used to erase God’s call to heal the broken-hearted and help the marginalized, we will stand out as different and even bizarre.  We will be targets for people’s hatred.

In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” . . . As we begin a new year, let us resolve to be determined to live out the Gospel message in our support of the marginalized.  Let us acknowledge that the world will disparage who we are and what we do . . . and that Christ will be working right beside us.

When he had finished speaking he knelt down and prayed with them all . . . As we begin a new year, let us resolve to join others in prayer whenever and wherever possible to unite our voices and hearts in unison with the Creator.  Let us recognize that the work of Christ’s disciples is difficult at best . . . but amazingly rewarding and well worth our personal cost.

Paul reminds the faithful that Christ’s call will run counter to what is comfortable or popular; yet Christ’s message will be wonderfully simple and beautifully plain.  On this New Year’s Day let us remember the gift of Christmas as we resolve to both fashion and fulfill new resolutions that will ask much of us . . . but that will be well worth the sacrifice and even the pain.


A re-post from January 1, 2012.

Images from: http://www.allanbevere.com/2010/10/was-ephesians-circular-letter.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NewYearsResolution1915FirstPostcard.jpg 

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Daniel 8The King’s Business

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Written on Wednesday, October 7, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite . . . Even when – and perhaps especially when we are in the midst of darkness, we  must arise to be about the King’s business . . .

In the vision I was looking and saw myself . . . I looked up and saw . . .  

The symbols in this oracle were understood by the ancient people; we will need a bit of explanation.  Scholars tell us that the two-horned ram is the combined kingdoms of Medes and Persia, and these were destroyed by Alexander the Great.  The swiftly advancing goat is the Macedonian army; the horn between its eyes is Alexander.  The little horn in verse 9 represents Palestine.  The host of the heaven is either God’s people or angels, and the prince is God himself.  The sin here is the placement of the statue of Antiochus – the abomination – in the Jerusalem temple; the end time is the day when God will judge the nations.  The beautiful land is Judea.  It is clear that the pagan ruler Antiochus is seen as challenging heaven itself.  Daniel is to keep this vision secret for a time; further emphasizing the mystery already engendered by the many symbols.

As I was watching . . .

In the book of Daniel we have a series of oracles and stories along with the appearance of the Son of Man, the one who prefigures Christ and whose title is used to describe Jesus.  This particular oracle is laden with symbolism and foretells without equivocation the future of Daniel’s people.  It foretells our own future as well.

When I had seen the vision I tried to understand it . . .

When we dream, either in our sleep or in our waking, we envision the life we wish to have, the person we wish to be.  Sometimes our imaginings are close to reality and other times not so much.

I was overcome . . .

We carry the vision of our possibilities within, expecting that the goodness comes to fruition, hoping that the darkness does not overcome the small aura of light we manage to engender.  Conserving our energy and working from the synergy created by our solidarity with other faithful we arise.  We unite with one another in Christ to go about the business of building the kingdom . . . knowing that the king has taken us all well in hand.

And then I arose and went about the king’s business. 


A re-post from September 27, 2011.

Image from: http://www.rajeshsetty.com/2008/10/27/diwali-wishes-and-a-related-thought/ 

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Ecclesiastes 1: Seek Trust

Blaise Nicolas Le Sueur: Solomon Before the Ark of the Covenant

Second Sunday of Advent, December 10, 2017

Vanity

This book was written not by Solomon as claimed, but by a writer who actually identifies himself “as a subject (4:13, 8:2, 9:14-16, 10:16-17 and 20), noting conditions of oppression (4:13), injustice (4:8, 5:8), and social upheaval (10:6-7).  The language . . . is a late form of biblical Hebrew, coming closest of any Old Testament book to post-biblical Mishnaic Hebrew.  The presence of Persian loan-words requires a date well after Israel’s release from exile in 539 B.C.E.  Fragments of the book found among the Dead Sea Scrolls of the Qumran community date to the mid-second century B.C.E.  Most scholars date the book’s composition between 300 and 200 B.C.E.”  (Meeks 986)  The Mishnah is a collection of oral literature of the early Hebrew people who appear to us as the first portion of the Torah.

We find the theme of this book laid out clearly in the first chapter: All is vanity that does not come from God.  It does not take any time at all for us to put this reading into the context of our own lives.  What does take some time is to determine what to do with this self-knowledge.

We have entered the season of Advent – an exciting, mysterious time in the liturgical calendar that we associate with a feeling of expectation – a time of promises and fulfillment.  We in the northern hemisphere also associate this time of year with the coming on of darkness and cold; while in the southern hemisphere, Advent is experienced as a time of lengthening days and rising temperatures.  I often think that the later is more apt.  Warmth, light, ease of days, promise . . . Christ.  The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that all else besides a life that acts in this promise is futile.  As followers of Christ, our example of living in hope is paramount for ourselves, for our community, and for the greater world.  We enact Christ when we put aside the vanity that we are all, and take on the understanding that The Promise is all.

As we move through this day and begin this week after spending a day or days of Thanksgiving for the bounty of the earth, we will want to pause to examine our spiritual bounty as well.  Just as we examine our relationships with family and friends, we will also want to examine our relationship with the Creator, the Redeemer and the Comforter.  We will want to unfold the miracle of this love so great that it overcomes all trials and injustices.  We will want to allow ourselves to step into that which is not in vain.  We will want to remember, we will want to trust, we will want to believe, we will want to hope.

We already know that there is nothing new under the sun . . . and so what we hope to experience is that which is new . . . that which is not in vain . . . and that which is worthy of every ounce of strength we have in body, mind and soul.

Like the audience of Ecclesiastes, we who have returned from exile will want to reunite in intimacy with our God and so we might try to spend more time this season with this book of wisdom, parsing out its verses to complement our days.  In this way, we might hope to be full of God’s wisdom rather than our own, we might hope to live in God’s love rather than our own, and we might hope to be Christ rather than an empty vanity of vanities.

To celebrate this Second Sunday of Advent, we join voices with this traditional hymn, O Come, O come, Emmanuel at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xtpJ4Q_Q-4 

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. Print.  

A Favorite from November 30, 2009.

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Galatians: Watchful Fidelity

First Sunday of Advent, November 29, 2015galatians-mclellan

A Favorite from November 30, 2008.

This epistle, along with Romans and 2 Corinthians, was written to re-state the Gospel story which had been perverted by Pharisaic emissaries to their communities.  The Galatians were most likely descendents of Celts who had invaded western and central Asia Minor in the third century B.C.E. near modern Ankara, Turkey today.  (Senior 293)

After reading these verses, we understand the importance of fidelity . . . for it is faithfulness that gives birth to true Christian charity . . . love that is so enduring it is extended to our enemies.  It is this love that brings us true spiritual liberation . . . a freedom that makes it possible for us to be truly and totally open to Christ.  This is the invitation we all receive at our baptism, and it is this invitation that continues to be open to us.

Paul is exasperated with his friends.  Oh stupid Galatians!  Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Christ was publicly crucified?  I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you have heard?  Are you so stupid?  (3:1-2)   He may well be exasperated with us today.

steadfastness-vs-instability-5-728Paul asks these converts to remain steadfast in their belief and to turn aside from those ideas which subvert the truth.  Realize then that it is those who have faith who are the children of Abraham.  (3:7) Paul knows how easy it is for us to be turned by old customs and long-held beliefs.  He asks that we take these beliefs and magnify them in the way we have been taught by Christ.

You were running well; who hindered you from following the truth? (5:7) We might ask ourselves this question when family, friends or associates try to convince us with logic and “group think” of something we know to be counter to Christ.  We might also ask ourselves this question when formal structures refuse to listen to an idea which blooms from the heart.  We will want to read this letter when our faith in the risen Christ is challenged.  This is when we will need to hear again . . .

Fruits of the SpiritThe fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, generosity, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.  Now those who belong to Christ [Jesus] have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live in the Spirit let us allow the Spirit.  Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envious of one another.

Spiritual freedom comes when we are faithful and watchful.  As we begin the Advent season today, let us resolve to put aside behaviors that inhibit a free and open union with Christ.  Let us decide to watch for his coming.  And let us allow ourselves to be transformed by the living Christ.  The reward for all of this patience and endurance is beyond imagining.  For when we empty self to allow Christ in, when we give up all to obey . . . we do not lose ourselves, we gain something far greater.  True Life.  Eternal Life.  Life with and in Christ.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.293. Print. http://www.usccb.org/bible/scripture.cfm?bk=Galatians&ch=

For another post on the Book of Galatians, visit: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-new-testament-revising-our-suffering/galatians-magnanimity/

 

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2 Corinthians 2:14-3: The Mystery of Covenant Contract_with-_Seal_XL

Friday, June 26, 2015

Christ comes into the world not to abolish the old covenant but to fulfill it. Christ comes into the world not to erase the old agreement but to bring it to fruition. Christ comes into the world not to punish us for wrongdoing but to heal and comfort, pardon and redeem.

Paul tells the people of Corinth and he tells us that there is a contrast between the old and new covenants. And he tells us that we must caution ourselves against a smug pride in our credentials that may – or may not – match our life in the Gospel. Do we claim to be followers of Christ through our words or through our actions? Paul questions us today.

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you?

Paul also tells us that it will be our work in the world that defines us as disciples of Christ – or that shows us to be followers of false gods and idols. We find Christ’s true presence, and our “letter of recommendation,” in the fruit of our labor. What fruits do our labors bear? Paul asks us today.

You are our letter, written on our hearts . . .

Christ’s peace is eternal and universal.

You are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by all . . .

Christ’s letter of recommendation is our covenant of love.

You are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by all, shown to be a letter of Christ administered by us . . .

Christ’s covenant with God’s people lives in and through us.

You are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by all, shown to be a letter of Christ administered by us, written not in ink, but by the spirit of the living God . . .

love_of_god1Christ’s covenant of love is permanent and impermeable.

You are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by all, shown to be a letter of Christ administered by us, written not in ink, but by the spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but in tablets that are the hearts of flesh.

Christ’s covenant is a mystery written on our hearts, never to be extinguished, always to be cherished, always to be trusted, always is gift.

To better understand the concept of covenant as used in the Old Testament, click on the contract image above, or visit: http://www.setapartpeople.com/introduction-covenants-part-1

To understand the covenant written on the human heart that Paul describes, click on the heart in scripture image above or go to: http://heavenlychristianforums.com/threads/a-love-letter.294/ 

Tomorrow, moving from the old to the new covenant. 

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

John 19:38-42

descent from the crossBurial

In this time of harvest when the northern hemisphere gives up her gifts of summer to prepare us for the cold darkness of winter, I cannot quite let go of the images and sounds of last week’s memorial Mass in which we celebrated the life of a young woman who died much too early. The gift of her life still rides with me as I journey back and forth to the school where she and I smiled at one another in the hallways and classroom. The wisdom of her youth still whispers to me as I greet and teach her grieving friends. The grace of her dying still accompanies me as I prepare lessons in the quiet evenings of the gathering autumn. Looking to meet the significance of this persistent presence, I go in search of a painting that soothes grief. As always, it reminds me of the wondrous sacrificial love that descends from the cross to offer itself when all else fails. And I come across this reflection written on September 25, 2008. I share it today with you.

Descent from the Cross

Detail frm Roger van der Weyden: The Descent from the Cross

Detail from Roger van der Weyden: The Descent from the Cross

One of my favorite paintings is Van der Weyden’s “Descent from the Cross”.  It lives in the Prado museum in Madrid, and when I travel there I like to spend as much time with it as possible.  It hangs alone on a large, pale wall . . . where the downward movement from the cross moves through Jesus . . . through his fainting mother . . . past Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea and John, the Beloved Apostle to whom Jesus commends his mother . . . lingering with the brokenhearted women . . . hesitating with the grieving men . . . off of the canvas . . . and out of the room. 

Detail from Roger Van Der Weyden: The Descent From the Cross

Detail from Roger van der Weyden: The Descent from the Cross

It is as if all of the sorrow of the world falls away from us and into the pale, dead body of the Christ.  We can sense his downward journey into hell for the redemption of souls.  We can anticipate his return. 

St. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 6:16: What agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God; as God said: “I will live with them and move among them, and I will be their God and they will be my people”. 

St. John reminds us in 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

Through this Descent from the Cross we feel an abiding compassion that persists through the most difficult of circumstances.  We see an enduring passion that remains beyond all imaginings.  We experience a love that knows only intimate union through mercy and justice.  We sense that something will swing back through the red and blue and white of the canvas to leap out into us . . . to bring us in . . . to sweep us up into the arms now outstretched in death.  We gaze upon the hope that tells us we are redeemable and worth fighting for.

Detail from Roger van der Weyden: The descent from the Cross

Detail from Roger van der Weyden: The Descent from the Cross

And with faith . . . we know with certainty that this saver of souls lives.  We know that he acts in us and through us.  We know that he has returned to complete his mission of bringing fire and love to consume the world.  We only need open our hearts . . . and trust him to act in our lives. 

Amen.

For more information about this masterpiece, visit: https://www.museodelprado.es/en/visit-the-museum/15-masterpieces/work-card/obra/descent-from-the-cross/ or http://hubpages.com/hub/Rogier-Van-Der-Weyden-Descent-From-The-Cross or http://hubpages.com/hub/Rogier-Van-Der-Weyden-Descent-From-The-Cross

 

To discover who is who in this painting and to learn about the symbolism used by the artist, visit: http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/famous-paintings/descent-from-the-cross-weyden.htm

To learn about the connection with Belgian crossbowmen, visit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Descent_from_the_Cross_(van_der_Weyden) 

Tomorrow . . . Resurrection

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bible and candleTuesday, May 20, 2014

1 John 2

Ideal and Real – Part I: Treatise

Most scholars agree that this treatise on Christ’s love was not written as a letter but rather as a discourse on “certain false ideas, especially about Jesus, and to deepen the spiritual and social awareness of the Christian community”. (Senior 387)

We too, are presented with false teachings about deeply held beliefs. We too, are in need of a deepening spiritual and social awareness. We too, are called to nourish and tend to our community.

“1 John lends itself . . . readily to every time and place. For a document generated by bitter conflict, it is amazingly positive and loving in tone . . . What is stated positively is sometimes denied a short time later. The reason for this alteration of ideal and real lies in the circumstances being addressed . . . First John’s apparent indecisiveness reflects the chastened perspective caused by the trauma of division. The symbols need reshaping. The author urges his readers away from a smug sense of their own perfection, to an awareness of their need to repent. Not only ‘those who went out from us’ have sinned. All have sinned and need the expiation offered by Jesus”.   (Senior RG 563)

When we face a bitter conflict, we might follow John’s example of adopting an amazing and loving tone.

When we experience indecisiveness, we might want to find out if the wavering comes from a real or perceived trauma.

When we feel smugly superior to others because of our assumed perfection, we might repent and ask forgiveness of those whom we have slighted.

I am writing to you, children, because your sins have been forgiven for his name’s sake.

What is real? What is imagined? What is perfect? What is flawed? Spend a bit of time today with 1 John 2 to consider the challenge this loving apostle lays out before us. Reflect on what is real, on what is ideal . . . and on what we do with our own flawed and accurate perceptions.

Tomorrow – Part II: Connecting

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.387 & RG 563. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on Sunday, January 10, 2010.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

1 John 1:5-10

godislightGod as Light

God is light, and in God there is no darkness at all. Can we imagine living a life with no dark corners and no cold secrets? Each day God offers us the opportunity to be light to the world.

If we walk in the light we have fellowship with one another. Can we imagine a world that values the common good over individual comfort? Each day God calls us together in the fellowship of the Spirit.

If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves. Can we imagine love that forgives infinitely, heals endlessly, and guides faithfully? Each day God walks with us in the person of our brother the Christ.

God says: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with me, and the Word was me. Jesus was in the beginning with me. All things came into being through him and me, and apart from him and me nothing came into being that has come into being. In us was life, and the life was the Light of the human race. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

God is light and we, God’s creatures, are created in this light. Let us share this good news with all who want to hear. Let us give thanks for this gift with all who have eyes to see. And let us extend God’s gift of light to others, even those who persecute us.

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