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Posts Tagged ‘conversion’


Deuteronomy 31:24-30: Alive Among You

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Ark of the Covenant

We have spent the past few days looking at how the Israelites struggle to remain faithful to Yahweh, the Living God who led them from slavery to freedom, from the desert to a land of promise.  We can see ourselves in these stiff-necked people as we turn to and away from God as the season suits us.  We read the story of how an unassailable enemy eventually falls once the Israelites turn themselves over to Yahweh’s ways.  And we can see ourselves being delivered from adversaries we once thought unbeatable.  The Israelites are such simple and predictable people that Moses knows they will fall away from the covenant they have entered into; and so he tries to prepare them for the days when they will yield to temptation. We too, know that we will be lured by the many attractions the world holds for us . . . and so in our Lenten journey we may want to spend a bit of time reflecting on how to best cleave to the promises we make to this amazing God who persists in loving us into goodness.

Take this scroll of the law and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord, your God, that there it may be a witness against you.  The Law of the New Covenant, the New Testament, is not complicated.  It is brief, universal and compelling: Love one another as I have loved you.  Perhaps this weekend we can write out a simple promise to love God by loving others – even and especially our enemies – and put it in a special place that we will see each day as a reminder . . . a witness to ourselves.  A new ark of a new promise made in a new hope of conversion.

I already know how rebellious and stiff-necked you will beAnd the Living God loves us despite these faults.

Even now, while I am alive among you, you have been rebels against the LordAnd the Living God who loves us so fiercely has returned as the Christ to save us.

Assemble all your tribal elders and your officials before me, that I may speak these words for them to hear, and so may call heaven and earth to witness against you.  Perhaps we can gather our family or a group of trusted friends and agree together to turn ourselves toward the goal of living the law of love.  Perhaps we can support one another in our hope of softening our stiff necks, in our Lenten journey of conversion.

We are blessed to have the Lord always among us each day, all day.  As New Testament people we experience Eucharist with Christ, the indwelling of the Spirit, and the abiding protection and love of the Living God.  Let us take a moment today to think about the passage we make from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, the passage that we call Lent.  And let us pause to give thanks to the God who loves us so well . . . and who is always alive among us.


A re-post from March 16, 2012. 

If you are able, spend some time today with the  A Journey of Return – Repentance reflection on this blog.  Tomorrow we will ponder the words of Moses’ prayer: The Song of Moses

For more on The Ark of the Covenant click the image above or go to: http://bible-blog.org/what-is-the-significance-of-the-ark-of-the-covenant.php

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Mark 14:66-72A False and Dangerous Road

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Paraphrasing from the commentary in the BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA: Ssimultaneously, Master and disciple move through a process.  With an intentional gradation, the story presents us with Peter’s triple denial as he completes Jesus’ prediction to the letter (Mark 14:30).  Mark reminds us that when we rely on self alone we journey down a false and dangerous road.  (LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA 1537) I am wondering . . . why we insist on being so willful when God stands ready to help us at every turn.

This very night, before the cock crows three times, you will betray me. It still amazes me that Jesus is such a constant companion to us who do worse than ignore him, to us who contradict and even reject him.  I am still surprised at the enormity of Jesus’ patience that he abides with us beyond our disagreement with him; he remains to suffer the buffeting blows we deliver with our lack of faith, love and understanding.  It still startles me each time I read this passage to know that the patient and persevering Christ suffers intensely for us while all the while we cannot summon the courage to allow him to protect us and to take us in.

Even though I should have to die with you I would not deny you.

Tissot: Second Denial of St. Peter

Human fear is a powerful motivator.  Fear of starving keeps us working.  Fear of being alone keeps us seeking.  Fear of failure keeps us struggling.  Our hubris somehow blots out all reality; our envy blinds us to the outcomes that are easy predictions to others.  This is a dark and dangerous road on which to journey, this path we take when we deny, refute and reject salvation.

You too were with the Nazarene, Jesus.

How many times in a day are we asked to stand on principle, to tell truth, to fill an omission that another intentionally commits?  How many times do we step up, come forward, stand in solidarity to witness in humility and love?

I neither know nor understand what you are talking about. 

Rembrandt: The Apostle Peter Denies Christ

This story should always be told in complement with the ending from John 21 when the resurrected Jesus thrice asks Peter if he loves him and Peter replies: You know all things.  You know that I do.  This joyful ending to a horrible story reminds us that the Master and disciple move in tandem toward an inevitable end.  This wonderful turning at the end of John’s Gospel shows what we yearn to know.  God brings goodness out of harm, God keeps promises, God always offers multiple opportunities of conversion, God wants to lead us away from the false and dangerous road of deceit, subterfuge, and lies.  God wants us to choose life over death, light over dark, goodness over evil, service over power, humility over fame, the marginalized over the in-crowd.

Do you love me more than these?

Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.

Feed my lambs.

Do you love me?

Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.

Tend my sheep.

Do you love me?

Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.

Feed my sheep . . . Follow me.


LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. Print.

A re-post from December 2, 2011. 

Images from: http://www.fineartprintsondemand.com/artists/rembrandt/apostle_peter_denies_christ.htm and http://devotionalonjesus.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html and http://www.eons.com/photos/group/catholics-50-3/photo/709583-Peter-Denies-Jesus-three-times/jesus—lent-passion-easter

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John 4: The Samaritan Woman and the Official with the Ailing Son

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Henry Siemiradski: Christ and the Samaritan Woman

There is so much about these stories to interest us.  There is so much here that Jesus teaches us.  There is so much for us to experience and pass on . . . if we only take the time to look.

The Samaritan Woman in today’s Noontime comes alone at mid-day to Jacob’s Well in the town of Sychar.  Her delayed arrival indicates that she is a late riser and therefore does not live like other women in the community.  Perhaps she is shunned by the other orthodox, early rising women.  We do not know.

What we do know is that this woman approaches a man, Jesus, resting by the well and they speak.  Jesus tells her more than anyone passing through town can know. The woman recognizes that he is special, she believes him to be a prophet, and she slips easily into a redemptive conversation.  After Jesus reveals himself as the Messiah – something he rarely does in the Gospels – and sends her back to her life as a changed woman, she converts others to such an extent that at the town’s request he remains with them for two days.  The result is that far more believed because of his word.

Jan Vermeyen: Wedding Feast at Cana

This second part of this chapter is the story of the official whose son who is cured without Jesus physically touching him. The miracle takes place in Cana, the town where, according to this Gospel, Jesus began his public ministry at the wedding feast where he changed jars of water for ritual cleansing into jars of superb wine. Perhaps this official knew about Jesus from the stories circulating after the miracle at the wedding feast.  Perhaps this is why the official sought out this healing man in search of a cure for his ailing son.  Again, we do not know.

But here is something that we do know . . . in one long elliptical circling journey of physical and spiritual healing, Jesus shows us two stories that speak of the good news of the Messiah’s coming.  Through his words and actions Jesus retells the story of creation, and foreshadows the cycle of redemption and healing in our own lives. In one powerful, long, sweeping arc Jesus moves from north to south to north again; and in his path he leaves a wake of people whose spirits and bodies are touched, healed and transformed. The central episode of the calling and conversion of the Samaritan woman takes place at a well, not a cistern of stagnant water. It happens in the full light of day rather than in the crepuscular light of dawn or dusk, so that all can be revealed to her – and to us – through Christ. All is healed when she commits an act of faith and returns to her people to tell them of this unusual man. This outcast and unorthodox woman becomes an immediate apostle for Christ as she calls the townspeople to this well of now living water, Jesus himself.  And together they create an immediate temple around him, a place of nourishment, cleansing, healing and redemption.

Detail: Christ and the Samaritan Woman

Like the woman at the well, the official realizes that his son was healed at the exact moment Jesus spoke the curing words: So he and all his household believed. The official makes an act of faith in the moment he realizes that he and his son have been touched by something wonderfully special and different, and so he too, becomes an apostle for Christ.

These stories tell us about how Jesus brings both the powerful official and the outcast woman into the temple.  These stories offer us a window into our own lives.  These stories are our own story of call and answer, conversion and healing, rescue and ransom.  They are stories of our own resurrection.

We watch Jesus in this chapter reap these unbelieving souls, convert them, and send them back into the world to continue the harvest. For there is much to gather and the workers are scarce. And just as these diverse followers of Christ make huge, risky changes in their lives, just as they go abroad to tell the good news, so too can we reap the message from our lives and then use it to bring life to others . . . if we only take the time to look.


A re-post from February 15, 2012. 

Images from: http://www.catholicjournal.us/monsignorialmusings/tag/reconciliation and http://www.womeninthebible.net/2.1.Mary_of_Nazareth.htm

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Genesis 47Willingness

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Konstantin Flavitsky: Brothers Sell Joseph into Slavery

In Genesis 45:5-8 we hear the beautiful words of forgiveness which Joseph speaks to his brothers who colluded to exterminate him . . . do not be distressed, and do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here.  It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me ahead of you . . . for you are a remnant on earth and to save your lives is an extraordinary deliverance.  So it was not really you but God who had me come here . . . Joseph understands how God’s plan arrives at benefit for all through the suffering of some.  He believes – because he has witnessed it in his own life – that God turns harm to good, envy to love.  Today we reflect on his action of interceding with Pharaoh on behalf of his brothers who sold him into slavery.  This is a message of willing obedience . . . open readiness . . . faith in goodness . . . hope in the outrageous . . . and love for the unlovable.  It is a story of fidelity in its truest sense.  Fidelity to God, to the remnant people, to self.  Joseph lives up to his true potential, to God’s best hope for and in him.

I love this story of a joy-filled child who invokes envy in his siblings, of a handsome youth who innocently stirs lust in his mistress, of a young man who continues to believe in his God despite his apparent ill luck.  I am moved by the willingness in which he lives.  I am encouraged by the honesty with which he treats not only others but himself.  I am inspired by the magnitude of his gestures, the purity of his thinking.  Joseph carries no rancor.  He is not bitter.  He refuses to be discouraged.  He rejects complicity and deception.  He is cautious and prudent; yet giving and tender.  Joseph is one of my favorite figures of Scripture.  His story is a good one; and it is one to which we ought to refer when we find ourselves in endless turmoil or deep grief.

Joseph knows how to mourn.  He knows that when he waits in God, goodness will follow on the heels of evil.  He knows how to sacrifice in honest willingness.

Joseph knows how to keep his word.  He knows how to abide in patient loving, just as God has abided with him.  He knows how to wait for fruition and fulfillment.

Joseph Bourgeois: Joseph Recognized by his Brothers

Joseph knows how to share.  He knows with a keen understanding that his success is sweetest when given back to God.  He knows that God is the source and summit of all that is good and that to hoard this goodness for himself is counter to the action of God’s mercy which he himself has experienced.

Joseph knows how to celebrate.  He knows that he cannot take credit for the goodness he experiences.  He knows that humility conquers pride and that littleness is greatness, for he sees this in the actions of God in his own life.

Joseph knows how to praise God.  He knows that even when success finally arrives, he must continue to follow God’s lead.  He knows that all that he has and all that he is belong to God alone.

Joseph waits, he witnesses, and then he acts out of his own salvation.  He allows his own conversion in God to convert others . . . and so in this way he allows his willingness to save more than himself.  He helps to save the very people who would have seen his destruction.

We might want to sit with the story of Joseph for a bit today to ponder our own willingness to enter into God’s plan . . . to examine our own willingness to intercede with Pharaoh for those who would have eliminated us, but who have begun their own conversion.


A re-post from February 14, 2012.

Images from: http://freechristimages.org/biblestories/josephs_dreams.htm and http://www.biblical-art.com/biblicalsubject.asp?id_biblicalsubject=92&pagenum=1

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Jeremiah 16The Source of Life

Monday, December 10, 2018

Michaelangelo: The Prophet Jeremiah – The Sistine Chapel

Here we have the explanation for Jeremiah’s celibacy: this state has divine origin, and it announces Israel’s fate that life as they have known it has ended.  With no family, Jeremiah’s social isolation is complete; there is no future.  “The world has become utterly silent.  There will be no mourning rituals, no feasting . . . Jeremiah’s celibacy signifies the total obliteration of daily domestic life.  Vv. 10-13 ask the questions that lie at the heart of the book and belong to the experience of exile: why has God done this to us?  What is our sin?” They have abandoned God, worshiped other gods and have broken the law.  They may think that compromise and bartering will win them a reprieve but in the end there is nothing without God.  (Barton and Muddiman 503)

All is bleak . . . until we come to the end of the chapter with a liturgical song of conversion in verses 19 to 21 that serves as a model for repentance and a roadmap back to safety for the faithful who remain.  Through Jeremiah’s suffering, a remnant of the people may be saved.  Seen in this light, the chapter defends Yahweh from charges of injustice.  Seen in this way, celibacy is seen as a source of life.   Scripture is full of irony . . . what is lost is gained, what is empty is full, what is childless bears fruit.

Bernard Potthast: Woman and Children beside a Window

Genesis 11:30: Now Sarai was barren; she had no children . . .

Psalm 113:9: He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children . . .

Isaiah 54:1: Sing, O barren woman,you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy,you who were never in labor;because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord.

When we find ourselves cut off from our dreams, when we feel as though there are few options open to us, when we believe that we have nowhere to turn . . . we may want to consider our offering of suffering.  It may be the source of life for others . . . and thereby the source of life for ourselves.


A re-post from November 7, 2011.

Images from: http://inskirtsandwellies.wordpress.com/category/biblical-verses/ and http://www.artbible.info/art/large/74.html

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 503. Print.

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Proverbs 16: Plans of the Heart – A Reprise 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Today, as we journey through Proverbs, we reprise a post from several years ago in which we see that . . . Everything Belongs.

Man may make plans in his heart, but what the tongue utters is from the Lord.  All the ways of man may be pure in his own eyes, but it is the Lord who proves the spirit.  Entrust your works to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.  The Lord has made everything for his own ends, even the wicked for the evil day . . . In his mind a man plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps.

Humans have a fertile imagination; and weaving a story about ourselves is part of what we do as we form our self-concept.  We are often anxious about the future:  What am I to do?  Where am I to go?  What am I to say?  How am I to act?  We may worry about the past:  Why was I so blind?  How did I miss what they were saying?  And all the time we worry . . . we are missing the blessed present . . . with its opportunity to open our hearts to God’s economy.  The writer of Proverbs reminds us that the best plans are those guided by God.  Trusting in divine providence is so very difficult . . . yet so essential to serene living.

Better a little with virtue, than a large income with injustice . . . How much better to acquire wisdom than gold!  To acquire understanding is more desirable than silver . . . A patient man is better than a warrior, and he who rules his temper, than he who takes a city.

Wisdom is our best instructor.  Living a life characterized by prudence and temperance is difficult in a society which values the supersize in everything.  It is easy to overdo: too much food, too much drink, too much money spent on heat or air conditioning, too much television, too many movies, too many books, too many people making claims on our time, too much aloneness, too much neglect, too much fuss.  Is there such a thing as too much justice?  Too much hope?  Too much faith or hope?  Too much love?  Finding moderation and balance is a challenge; but our model is the Christ, who interchanged periods of heavy activity with times of prayer and retreat . . . leaving his sacred heart open to God’s plan.

By kindness and piety guilt is expiated, and by fear [love] of the Lord man avoids evil.

It is never too late to be open to a conversion of the heart.  There is always time to enter through the narrow gate, to step onto the narrow road, to sow peace rather than discord.  It is never too late to open the door and windows of the mind . . . to allow the master planner to enter the heart . . .  to move us through our days . . . to guide us in our thoughts . . . to thaw our stiffened necks . . . to melt our hardened hearts.

Let us vow today to open ourselves . . . to the mind of God . . . that we might receive our plans from God’s own sacred heart.

 

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Lamentations 1:14-22: The Inverted Kingdom – Part X

Friday, January 20, 2017

Amy Bradley: Out of Darkness Came Light

Amy Bradley: Out of Darkness Came Light

Give Heed

This Favorite was written during Eastertide on May 3, 2011. We post it today as a reflection on Christ’s inverted transformation of the world, as an offering of peace in a time of trouble. 

These are such sad verses; the images of the inconsolable one suffering intensely are so very difficult to sit with.  We want to rush past them as we sometimes rush past those who are in pain or those who bear the visible scars of their suffering.  Yet this is where Christ dwells, with the dispossessed, the broken, and those in the captivity of their addictions.  We want our world to be a beautiful and ordered place.  We want happy endings and bright, new beginnings.  We want perfection and comfort. The odd thing is . . . this is what we have and we look quickly away from it because it comes to us through the cross of pain and suffering.  We do not want to be the least discomfited.  We want all things in neat rows and nice packages.  Life is not as tidy as we wish.   And yet it is . . .

When we allow the pain to convert us, as it will, when we allow God’s hands to heal us, as they will, we see that life is about reversal, inversion, irony and paradox.  What appears to be lost is actually found; what we think has gone yet resides within.

Give heed to my groaning . . . 

Matthew 19:30: Many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first.

There is no one to console me . . .

Psalm 126:5: Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy. 

All my enemies rejoice at my misfortune . . .

Psalm 126:6: Those who go forth weeping, carrying sacks of seed, will return with cries of joy, carrying their bundles of sheaves. 

My groans are many, I am sick at heart . . .

We are called today to give heed to the message of lamentations, to our own cries and to the cries of the bereft.  We are called to take courage in the face of opposition, to the obstacles we put in front of ourselves and to those placed there by others.  We are called to give heed to the sadness we experience ourselves and to the sadness we see in others . . . for all lamentation will be transformed into happiness.  Of this we can be certain, for this is the Easter message delivered by Christ.

Psalm 30:11-12: You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.

These are such beautiful verses; the images of a God so loving that all is forgiven, all are blessed. They are so wonderful to sit with.  We want to rush toward them as we rush toward the Living God.

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John 12:37-41: Incredulity

Saturday, November 21, 2015heart-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?

 

Adapted from a favorite written on September 1, 2008.

 

 

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James the Lesser – Sunday, September 27, 2015

El Greco: James the Lesser

El Greco: James the LesserSunday, September 27, 2015

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 the 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 put 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 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.

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.

Tomorrow, James’ message. 

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

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