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Posts Tagged ‘conversion’


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.

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James the Lesser – Monday, September 26, 2022

El Greco: James the Lesser

El Greco: James the Lesser

We have reflected on our restoration from dry bones, placed memorial stones to mark the importance of our relationship with God; we have entered in to the apostolic Spirit and marked the wisdom and prudence we want to govern our lives. And we have given over our interior temple to the transformation God has in mind for us, knowing that from our strife comes our great reward. For the next few weeks we will spend time with the letter of James, examining his message.

This letter is likely written by “a relative of Jesus who is usually called brother of the Lord” (see Mt 13, 55; Mark 6, 3). He is the leader of the Jewish Christian community in Jerusalem whom Paul acknowledged as one of the “pillars” (Gal 2, 9). In Acts he appears as an authorized spokesman for the Jewish Christian position in the early Church (Acts 12, 17; 15, 13-21)”. (Senior 368)

The letter, written in Greek despite the fact it is penned by a Jew, is considered one of the best of the New Testament and many believe that it was actually written down by a secretary. Some also regard these verses as some the earliest written after the Christ’s death and, quite likely, before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. (Senior 369)

James’ message is universal and timeless, emphasizing “sound teaching and responsible moral behavior. Ethical norms are derived not primarily from christology, as in Paul, but form a concept of salvation that involves conversion, baptism, forgiveness of sin, and expectation of judgment. (1, 17; 4, 12).” (Senior 369)

When we spend time with this short letter today, we find that its structure is neat and concise, focusing on the value of trials and temptation, the importance of heeding warnings, and the power of prayer. Using the scripture link in this post, we can skim differing versions of the letter to examine the themes and structure ourselves as we prepare to hear the message James wants to bring to us.

Tomorrow, James’ message. 


To learn more about James the Less, as he is often called to distinguish him from the Apostle James (James the Greater), follow the scripture links above in Matthew, Mark and Acts, click on the image above, or use a reference that you find helpful.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.368-369. Print. 

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_James_the_Less_%28El_Greco%29

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Thursday, February 17, 2022

Psalm 35

Betrayed by Friends

BiblicalLaw-and-Justice[1]“A lament of a person betrayed by friends.  The psalmist prays that the evildoers be publicly exposed as unjust (1-8) and gives thanks in anticipation of vindication (9-10).  Old friends are the enemies (11-16).  May their punishment come quickly (17-21)!  The last part (22-26) echoes the opening in praying for the destruction of the psalmist’s persecutors.  This psalm may appear vindictive, but one must keep in mind that the psalmist is praying for public redress now of a public injustice.  There is at this time no belief in an afterlife in which justice will be redressed.  35, 1-6: The mixture of judicial, martial, and hunting images shows that the language is figurative.  The actual injustice is false accusation of serious crimes (11, 15, 20-21).  The psalmist seeks lost honor through a trial before God”. (Senior 668)

Defend me because you are just, Lord; my God, do not let them gloat over me.

It has been my experience that when enemies gloat over their opponents’ pain and loss, they later suffer the same pain and loss.

I have seen so often the trap dug by one to catch another ends up as the death-bed of the one who dug it.

I know in my bones that God defends those who are his faithful.  I have seen too many examples of God’s fidelity to think otherwise.

I believe that God’s plan for conversion of my enemies is far better than any punishment I might ask . . . and so I send intercessory prayers for those who do me harm – whether they are friends from long ago or friends who are newly arrived.

With today’s psalm, we might be tempted to ask God to pull down fire on those who betray us, but this is not what Jesus does.  We have the gift of knowing what Jesus has told us: That we are to witness, watch, and wait.  Only this way of life will bring us the peace we seek.

So we ask ourselves . . . how much better is it to pray for those who betray us rather than ask for their fiery end?  Is it not so that God punishes with the punishment we lay out for others?  What then do we fear?  Do we believe God incapable of making a just decision that brings about transformation of the soul?

And we also ask . . . now that we know of this precious gift of eternal life . . . why do we jeopardize it for a fleeting, ugly satisfaction that might come when we see our enemies suffer?  Can we not intercede for those who are hateful while we await our trial before God?  How much more effective it is for God to call each one to him as we move through his plan for our good than it is for us to plot someone else’s downfall?

We find a place for Christ-like thinking when we read this psalm and pray for those who wrong us unfairly.  In this season of Lent, let us approach the day of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf with the joy that comes from leaving our worries with him in willing obedience to The Word . . . as we look forward to the day of vindication in Jesus’ name, in Jesus’ Way, in Jesus’ hope for all of humanity.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.668. Print.   

Image from: http://www.peacemakersinstitute.com/institute/?p=2004

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Monday, March 8, 2021

imagesCAIS5TV1baby feet in handsAmos 3

First Word

In 3:6, Amos states an important belief of ancient theologians, that God causes all events, even disasters. (Mays 650) In the light of the New Testament, we see God as a forgiving parent, a source of infinite compassion, a God who delivers justice, who pulls good out of harm, who loves us so dearly that he allows us to make decisions . . . even though they may have disastrous results.

God says: When humans first began to believe in my existence, they saw the world as a dual entity in which people, places, ideas and dreams were either good or bad. There was very little room for fringe thinking because life was so fragile and survival so difficult. Methods, practices and customs that helped the species to survive were regarded as sacrosanct. Your ancestors often shunned or even executed innovators and those who understood the wide and long view. You have evolved and now some of you understand what Jesus means when he speaks of the common good. You comprehend the importance of forgiving enemies.  And some of you live the life he models for you. I know that some among you still live with the words from ancient days. You scramble to make your world safe by performing practices with no heart. You believe that a checklist of good deeds saves you when it is really my loving care that restores what you have lost. Rather than lose patience with yourself or with any of these lost children, come to me. Call the fearful ones to me through your actions and words. Resist the temptation to believe that I bring about disaster for those who do not follow The Way. Believe that my heart is big enough to love the cruelest among you, persistent enough to convert the most heinous among you, and durable enough to outwait the most cruel and stubborn among you. The ivory apartments will be ruined through the actions of those who build them. The horns of the altar will break through the corruption the church leaders allow. And the many rooms of the wicked will be no more through the actions or inactions of their own lives. The wicked may escape with the corner of a couch or a piece of cot . . . but they will flee into my relentless, loving arms. This is my First Word that comes to you through my prophet Amos.

When we become inpatient with God’s plan as it unfolds before our eyes and into our lives, we must remember this First Word that Amos brings to us today.

Tomorrow, Second Word.


Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 650. Print.

For an interesting post about being still to hear God’s word at www.hisinfinitegrace.com, click on the image above, or go to: http://hisinfinitegrace.com/2012/10/30/be-still-and-know-that-i-am-god-2/

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Saturday, March 6, 2021

ash-wednesday-usa[1]Amos 1

Receptive

Today we stand on the threshold of a great opportunity, an opportunity to shed all that we dislike about ourselves, an opportunity to return fully to the promise God sends to the world through us. We have taken up the prophecy of Amos as our first Lenten lesson plan and today we re-visit an old theme: we ask for the courage to open our hearts and minds and souls to the possibility of newness, we ask for the strength to be receptive to God’s announced gift of regeneration.

God calls to us through Amos just as he called to the faithful millennia ago.  nd what is the message we hear today? Where are we to go to do the work of self-conversion and kingdom building? Amos tells us simply: We are to look to our own homes, communities, work, worship and play places . . . we are to begin . . . and then we are to take this newness in which we find ourselves into all we do, think and say. Social injustice and religious arrogance: these are the two devils we are to combat. We must invert these two ideas (as Jesus always does when he stands us on our heads – calling us to the margins rather than to the comfortable middle) to social justice and to religious humility. They are the standard bearers we are to carry each day as we step out of our homes and into the world.  hey are the same standards we carry into our evenings as we return home to rest and rebuild.


To learn more about the places named in Amos 1, click on the following words and consider . . . Do we live in these places?  If so, what do we do to change ourselves . . . so that the world might also change? Aram, Philistia, Tyre, Edom and Ammon.

mage from: http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/ash-wednesday

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Monday, January 25, 2021

In these days when we continue to recover from social, political, medical, and emotional turmoil, we look to this longest chapter in Scripture for guidance. Today, joy follows mourning.

9-teth[1]Psalm 119:65-72

Teth

Teach me your wisdom and knowledge . . . It was good for me to be afflicted, in order to learn your laws . . .

In this ninth strophe we near the middle of Psalm 119 and here the psalmist reaches out to God, asking for wisdom and knowledge specifically, promising to adhere to the Law of loving one another that Yahweh has written on our hearts. The psalmist expresses a truth we all know but often do not want to admit: we learn life’s lessons best when we are under siege or overwhelmed, and it is from this suffering that God calls forth joy.

God says: I tell you frequently so of this you may be certain: I am with you always, I see your joys and sorrows, and I bring all manner of goodness out of the great harm that some of you plot. So put away any plans of deception and come to the truth. Honesty, authenticity, integrity and love will heal any rift. In my plan and in my time, my love transforms even the darkest of hearts. You may believe my goodness to be hidden . . . but it lives forever in your hearts.

Rather than curse our painful circumstances, let us enter into God’s plan of inversion and allow our sorrow to lead us to the one who can heal the deepest of wounds. Let us allow God to love us infinitely and unconditionally.

When the Lord restored our fortunes we thought we were dreaming. Our mouths were filled with laughter; our tongues sang for joy . . . Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy. Those who go forth weeping, carrying sacks of seed, with return with cries of joy, carrying their bundled sheaves.  (Psalm 126)

Tomorrow, the letter Yodh.


For more information on the letter Teth and how it represents inversion and concealed good, go to: http://www.inner.org/hebleter/tet.htm or http://www.hebrewtoday.com/content/hebrew-alphabet-letter-tet-%D7%98

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Acts 16:5: Growth


First Sunday of Advent

068[1]November 29, 2020

Acts 16:5

Growth

So the church grew stronger and stronger in the faith and increased in numbers daily.

We continue our journey through a world-wide pandemic. We continue our struggle with inequity and fear. We continue our search for justice and peace. Today we rejoice despite our struggle because we know that light and truth are with us. We know that once we place our anxiety in God’s hands, the way is clear. 

The beginning of a new year brings an obvious opportunity to begin again. We have rituals that help us to remember this: a crystal ball slides down a pole as millions watch in a digital world, old calendars are replaced with new in countless homes and offices, toasts are drunk, benchmarks are celebrated; yet do we empower change and growth in our lives or do we enable destructive, predictable and unchanging behaviors?

The cycle of nature in which we experience disintegration followed by the possibility of regeneration models for us a way in which to live. After the falling apart there is always the chance to come together. The keys are to remain open to the possibility, to encourage growth, and to look for the newness with open minds rather than heavy hearts.

After the storm there is the calm.

After the winter there is the spring.

After the destruction there is the rebuilding.

After the night there is the dawn.

After the exile there is restoration.

Our wounded-ness becomes healing when we grow with newness. Our closed-ness becomes resurrection when we believe with determination. Our humanity becomes divine when we love with vulnerability. As we stand on the threshold of a new liturgical year, we have again the opportunity to experience conversion of the heart, to turn our stubborn pride into endurance, our anger into healing passion, and our anxiety into enduring love. Let us welcome this invitation to new growth as warmly as we welcome the Christ Child, Jesus.

We remember that the fledgling church began in smallness and insignificance. If there is time today, read more about the origen of Christianity in Acts.


Image from: http://frontierdreams.blogspot.com/2011/11/rhythm-in-our-home-first-sunday-in.html

Adapted from a reflection written on January 2, 2009.

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Friday, March 6, 2020

Hosea 10:11-15: Time to Seek the Lord

morning-dew-fresh-christ-manna-1024x768[1]Ephraim . . . Judah . . . sons of Jacob . . . tribes of Israel . . . northern and southern kingdoms.  Paganism . . . a Covenant relationship with the one true God . . . Infidelity . . . Constancy . . . Pleasure . . . Joy.  Exile . . . Return . . . Repentance . . . Restoration . . . Turmoil . . . Order . . . Chaos . . . Light.

We have seen these words . . . heard these themes . . . so many times . . . yet eye has not seen . . . ear has not heard . . . what God has in mind for us. (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Hosea follows the will of God and marries the harlot Gomer.  His hope is that she will reform.  She does not.  He calls her to love . . . she turns away.  He persists . . . she will return . . . one day . . .

The offenses of Israel are grave and great, almost too much to bear.  And so we look to the end of the story to peek at the outcome.  Looking at the last lines of Hosea’s prophecy:  I will heal their defection; I will love them freely; for my wrath is turned away from them.  I will be like the dew of Israel: he shall blossom like the lily; He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots.  His splendor shall be like the olive tree, and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar.  Again they shall dwell in the shade and raise grain; they shall blossom like the vine, and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.  Ephraim!  What more has he to do with idols?  I have humbled him, but I will prosper him.  “I am like a verdant cypress tree” – Because of me you bear fruit!  Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them.  Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them.  (14:5-10)

Lily Five[1]Dear Jesus,

We stumble so frequently yet we turn and return.

We seek your path,

We call on your wisdom, we ask for prudence, courage, fortitude, patience.

We know your ways and your statutes.  We know that you await us.

We see these things, we hear these words, we rely on your constancy and your promise.

We look for the harvest, we look for the shade in the noonday sun.

We seek conversion and transformation.

We seek the Lord.

 Amen.


1 Corinthians 2:9: Eye has not seen, ear has not heard by Marty Haugen video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRyOS0nZr7s

For more thoughts on seeking, go to the God Time page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/god-time/

Images from: http://www.agodman.com/blog/enjoying-the-dew-and-the-manna-from-the-lord-to-be-revived-every-morning/ and http://theverticall.blogspot.com/2010/06/dew-to-israel.html

Written on January 31, 2008  and posted today as a Favorite.

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Hosea 6: The Broken-Hearted

Thursday, June 6, 2019

We frequently look at this prophecy written by one betrayed in the most intimate of ways.  We will need this lesson because in our lives we will often find suffering at the hands of those we trust.  This prophet speaks to us from the depths of sorrow in authenticity about his own intense suffering as a result of the infidelity of his wife, the harlot Gomer.

Chapter 6 begins with a verse that stands out to us because it speaks to our broken-ness as people: broken covenants, broken vows, broken oaths, broken words, broken spirits, broken hearts.  But the beauty of this prophecy and of this first verse is this: for as much as we are broken, we might heal others . . . and in so carrying and living out Christ’s message, we might ourselves be healed.

In the morning reading in Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime, we find an important reading: Mark 3:13-19.  Jesus has cured many people of their physical broken-ness and now the throngs are pressing in upon him in such a way that He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him.  This is where we come into the story.  Jesus ascends a mountain – usually a sign of moving toward God in scripture – and then he calls forth those whom he wanted.  And these came to him.  He appoints them as apostles that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.  Among these twelve is the Iscariot . . . Judas.  Even God allows betrayers to enter his camp, knowing that they will break his heart.

What an amazing God is this who comes to live among us to suffer as we do; yet this is exactly the good news that we have yearned to hear.  How will our broken hearts be mended?  How will broken oaths be healed and broken friendships fixed?  We step forward, called out of the crowd as apostles, to be sent into the world with God’s authority to drive out demons and to heal.  And how do we obtain this authority?  By participating – with Christ – in his suffering and death upon the cross.  This is what Hosea comes to understand through his own agony as he watches his wife dangle herself before any man who will take her.  This is what we can understand as we suffer at the hands of those we thought we knew . . . those in whom we trusted . . . those with whom we shared our inmost thoughts, desires and fears.

When we look at some of the images in Hosea 6 we see the depth of betrayal.  Verse 4: Your piety is like a morning cloud, like the dew that early passes away.  Verse 9: As brigands ambush a man, so do bands of priests slay on the way to Shechem, committing monstrous crimes. 

And so we pray that broken hearts be healed, that we become messengers of the good news that Christ has come to heal.  We ask for the gift of willingness to enter God’s vineyard, that we allow our suffering to be converted into the authority of an apostle . . . so that we might in turn drive out demons in Christ’s name.

Good and gracious God the Creator, God the Saver, God the Holy Spirit that lives within us:  Keep us close to you in all we suffer that we might be with you as your apostles.  Teach us your way of love that we might go forth as your apostles.  Continue to speak to us of your story that we might preach it as your apostles.  Grant us the patience to rest in your word that it might give us authority as your apostles.  Give us the power to drive out and away all the demons that settle into us without our knowing.  We ask this in Christ’s name.  Amen.


A re-post from May 23, 2012.

Image from: http://www.officialpsds.com/Glass-Shatered-From-A-Broken-Heart-PSD59964.html

Tickle, Phyllis.  THE DIVINE HOURS: PRAYERS FOR SPRINGTIME. New York: Doubleday, 2001. Print.

Rewritten from May 3, 2009 Noontime Reflection. 

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