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Luke 6:45: Fullness of Heart

RC DeWinter: The Tree of Hearts

Saturday, May 12, 2018

We have established a dwelling place where we rest in the Spirit only to find that there are times when we must flee this sanctuary. Some of us are called to remain forever outside of that refuge, and others are called to return transformed and transforming. No matter our circumstances, we might do as the words from Luke ask us.

A good person out of the store of goodness in the heart produces good; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. (NAB)

In this image of God’s kingdom as a tree bearing fruit, there is no doubt that storing up goodness is the heart of our daily mission; but today we pause to reflect on what we might do when we are weighted with a burden too heavy to carry. How are we to manage when we are overwhelmed with doubt or fear? Jesus tells us: Do not let your hearts be troubled. (John 14:1) Today we rest in these words.

A good person brings good out of the treasure of good things in his heart; a bad person brings bad out of his treasure of bad things. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (GNT)

The looming image of God measuring out the good from the bad is too terrible for us to consider for those who find themselves barely able to journey from morning to evening without losing heart. How are we to manage when our hearts are too empty to fill? Jesus reminds us: Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4) Today we rely on these words.

The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. (NRSV)

The dual image of an either/or world asks us to make too simple a choice when we know that few of us are all good or all bad, but rather a blend of both worlds. How are we to manage a dualistic world that offers only black-or-white decisions when we know that the real world we live in is mostly gray? Jesus asks us: Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast. (Matthew 22:9) Today we have hope in these words.

The good person produces good things from the store of good in his heart, while the evil person produces evil things from the store of evil in his heart. For his mouth speaks what overflows from his heart. (CJB)

The image of an intense struggle between goodness and evil rises before us as we consider this verse, giving us a deceiving reality of false choices. How are we to behave when it appears that everything and everyone align in a tribal dance of self versus other? Jesus says to us:  Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. (Luke 6:35) Today we find a challenge in these words.

You don’t get wormy apples off a healthy tree, nor good apples off a diseased tree. The health of the apple tells the health of the tree. You must begin with your own life-giving lives. It’s who you are, not what you say and do, that counts. Your true being brims over into true words and deeds. (MSG)

If the image of a worm-infested life terrifies us so that we are unable to accept our reality, we have taken this image too far. When life itself frightens us, we must find a way to pray for those who harm us, and ask that Christ show us the way to still our troubled minds and dissolve the anger, fear, hatred, and fog . . . and to fill our troubled hearts with forgiveness, patience, courage and clarity. In time, we discover that despite, or perhaps because of all we have suffered, we have a certain fullness of the heart.


When we compare translations of these verses, we open our hearts so that Christ might fill them with his generous love. 

Images from: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-tree-of-hearts-rc-dewinter.html and http://www.boiseccc.org/sermons/chouer-love-your-enemies-2/

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John 17: Two Worlds 

NASA: Spiral Galaxies in Collision

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 6, 2018

In September of 2017, Pope Francis reminded us: We are a people chosen for the truth, and our call has to be in truth. There can be no place for deceit, hypocrisy, or small-mindedness if we are . . . to bear fruit. (Cameron 422)

We have heard Christ’s message that the Creator calls each of us to live in both this world and the next. We have felt the Spirit’s urging to bear fruit in good season. Today, as we reflect on the challenge of living this dual life as if it were one, we explore words from Pope Francis as he unravels the mystery that is Christ, our human and divine brother.

“We all would like to count on a world with straightforward families and relationships, but we are part of this changing age, of this cultural crisis and, in the midst of it, in response to God’s continuing call . . . Even with [today’s] crisis, God still calls. It would be almost unrealistic to think that all of you heard the call of God in the midst of families sustained by a strong love and full of values such as generosity, compromise, fidelity, and patience; some, yes, but not all. Some families are like this, and I pray to God that there are many. But keeping our feet firmly planted on the ground means recognizing that our vocational experiences, the awakening of God’s call, brings us closer to what God’s Word already reveals”. (Cameron 422)

NASA: Space Hubble Telescope

Like Jesus, Francis asks us to cease making excuses for our unwillingness to sit at the banquet of life with those who hate or harm us. In the Spirit, Francis points out that few of us have perfect families, perfect circumstances or perfect relationships. Like the Creator, Francis calls us to something beyond our smallness, something greater than our fears. Francis urges us to maintain contact with God always so that the great vine of God’s love might sustain us through drought and nourish us through upheaval.

“Don’t think of an ideal situation, for this situation is the real one. God manifests his closeness and his election where he wills, in the land he wills, in whatever situation it is in, with its real contradictions, as he wills. He changes the course of events to call men and women in the frailty of their own personal and shared history”. (Cameron 422)

Rather than long for ideal circumstances that will likely never fall into place, Francis urges us to seize on the moment we now have. Rather than yearn for people to surround one another with a love they proscribe, Christ calls us to rest in the love of his ample arms. Rather than reason with us over the causes of contradictions that plague the world, the Spirit calls us to goodness despite our conditions. So rather than wait for the perfection of a world that does not exist, let us plant our feet firmly in our imperfect world, and ask God for the patience, courage, persistence, and clarity to live in the two worlds of our humanity and divinity.


When we use multiple translations of John 17 to study Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, we open our minds and hearts to better understanding what it means to live in two worlds.  

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 29.4 (2018): 421-423. Print. 

Explore the worlds of the universe with NASA and Hubble photographs by clicking on the images, or visiting: https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap140119.html and https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/main/index.html

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Wisdom 3: Duality in Fire

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

As we continue to spend time reflecting on our duality, we revisit the theme of trial and endurance; we ask and we pray . . . from whence comes the strength, courage, and clarity we need to discern Jesus’ Way through the fires of life?

Adapted from a Favorite written on May 29, 2010.

Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself.

Worthiness is a quality we may undervalue in our culture that relies heavily on nurturing independence with high doses of self-esteem.  As with all good things, too much of it becomes a bad thing, as my Dad used to say.  Self-knowledge and self-esteem are not that far from narcissism; and self-flagellation is not a healthy tool for us to use when we step back to look at ourselves.  Sadism and masochism are the flip side of a willingness to suffer for the sake of another.  And if we are sisters and brother in Christ, we look to God for direction rather than to our own egos.

The human existence is a constant tightrope-walking along the spectrum of desirable and undesirable qualities.

From our study of James this year: Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  (James 1:2-3)

The perfection God asks of us is not that we live a life without flaw, but that we persevere in doing God’s will, and in finding the good in the trials we undergo for the conversion and redemption of others.  The joy we know from participating in God’s economy is far greater and longer lasting than the fleeting happiness we experience resulting from contentment we feel at the end of a good day.  Suffering for show, or suffering for the sake of suffering is the flip side of the salvific suffering which Christ undergoes for the redemption of others.  And if we are sisters and brother in Christ, we are worthy through self-sacrifice of our own agendas for God’s better plan.

The human existence is a joyful one when we persevere through trials in faith, live through hope and bind with others in love.

Lives lived in Christ shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble, and the alternative is to live as the wicked who receive their punishment to match their thoughts, since they neglected justice and forsook the Lord. 

This is the wisdom offered to us today so that we might examine our motivations. In this way we discern the origin of our actions to discover if they are worthy of God’s love for us. Do we sacrifice for self? Or do we sacrifice for God?

Remembering that God does not expect perfection in all we do, we lift up our lives as sparks that fly in the dark night. Remembering that God asks us to be perfect in our perseverance through trials in love, we raise up our hearts like sparks that fly through the stubble of the winnowed field. Remembering that God asks us to remain constant in our search for truth, we rise with the flame of God’s love in us.

In the duality of fire that destroys when it goes beyond reasonable limits yet sustains when it brings light and nourishment to cold darkness, we rest in the wisdom of God.


To reflect more on the duality of fire, enter the word Sparks in the blog search bar and explore.

Image from: http://www.nhfaithfusion.com/2014/12/cultivating-warm-heart-creates-meaningful-life/ 

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Daniel 3:  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Joseph Mallord William Turner: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the Burning Fiery Furnace – Tate Museum, UK

It is Wednesday before Palm Sunday and today we choose verses from this well-known and well-loved story.

None of us is exempt from trials in the fiery furnace. Some of us suffer greatly; some only a little. Nevertheless, pain comes to each and all of us. And so we pray that in our difficult days, we will turn – as these young men do – to the one who saves. We pray that the angel of the LORD – as God promises – accompanies us in our fiery ordeals. And we pray that – as Christ calls us to do – to muster our courage to step forward into the promise of life.

Shadrach! Meshach! Abednego! Servants of the Supreme God! Come out!

Visit the Tales from the Disapora posts on this blog for more reflections. Or enter the words Furnace or Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego into the blog search bar.

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Esther: On the Fringes

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The survival of a minority is central to the story we have explored over the last two weeks; and the threats and schemes we see in Esther’s story speak to many among us today. The reality of vulnerability rises as power corrupts. Those who live in the shadows of affluence live without the security taken for granted by the privileged. We excuse discrimination. We nurse prejudices. Rather than find root causes for the demons that stalk us, we build protective walls around our comfort zone and describe “the other” as someone to fear. Esther tells us of the danger we invite when we nurture our contentment to overlook the powerful effects of envy. None of this is limited to ancient times. Indeed, too often we live this way today.

Haman was furious when he realized that Mordecai was not going to kneel and bow to him, and when he learned that Mordecai was a Jew, he decided to do more than punish Mordecai alone. He made plans to kill every Jew in the whole Persian Empire. (3:5-6)

When we re-read these verses and insert the names we see in our headlines, we bring this story into focus. Dislike for “the other” we do not know – or whom we do not understand – plants seeds of hatred. In contemporary society, a torrent of news loops waters nascent loathing, while social media filter bubbles create hothouses that spur growth of hatred. Those along the fringes of society find themselves far from any possible avenue of inclusion.

Haman hurried home, covering his face in embarrassment. He told his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then she and those wise friends of his told him, “You are beginning to lose power to Mordecai. He is a Jew, and you cannot overcome him. He will certainly defeat you.” (6:12-13)

If we hope to build the bridges God asks us to build, we must open ourselves to the fear of others to offer assurance. Only then will we find the tools to create unity.

If we hope to inspire the compassion Christ asks us to nurture, we must ask gentle questions with patience and understanding. Only then will we find the courage to respond to God’s call.

If we hope to build peace in a world longing for harmony, we must act in the Spirit to include, to heal, to love. Only then will we begin to erase the lines that create the margins on which too many live.

Tomorrow, a final word from Esther as e move through our Lenten journey.

When we compare other translations of these verses, we begin to find our way through the fog of hatred. 

To learn more about filter bubbles, visit: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2113246-how-can-facebook-and-its-users-burst-the-filter-bubble/ 

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Esther 10: Learning from Esther

Jean-François Portaels: Esther

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

It is interesting that at the close of this story, we see Xerxes and Mordecai as heroes, while Esther – for whom the book is named – slips into the background. This is, of course, indicative of the ancient world in which society regarded women as possessions rather than full persons. We might then determine that the more important message is this: God loves the faithful so well and so endlessly, that salvation arrives in a time if crisis. In our contemporary era of unease, we hear this message gladly. This is good news for those who are beleaguered in physical, emotional and spiritual ways. This is redemption for those who work at transformation. This is deliverance for those who suffer.

Living in exile, Esther keeps her Jewish heritage secret. As a woman with little influence in her own life, Esther moves quietly through Xerxes’ court, maintaining a low profile. Mordecai’s petition for her assistance pulls Esther out of anonymity and moves her into a life that requires courage, patience and wisdom; and we watch as she relies on God for these qualities.

We have much to learn from this young woman who allowed herself to be led by the source that created and called her. When do we speak up? Why do we remain silent? We have much to explore in her story of quiet obedience and patient trust. When do we question? Why do we follow? We have much to share about the wisdom of this brave young woman.  When do we celebrate? Why do we rejoice? 

Today we ask . . . what have we learned from Esther?

Tomorrow, Mordecai’s dream . . . Esther is the river.  

For more on Esther, visit the Jewish Women’s Archive at: https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/esther-bible 

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Psalm 27: Seek Trust – God’s Face

Morgan Weistling: Kissing the Face of God

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

This is one of my favorite Psalms. The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom should I fear?  The Lord is my life’s refuge, of whom am I afraid?

We all seek God’s face.  This is what we miss so much in our pilgrimage on this planet.  Where do we find this face? The psalmist tells us: In the temple. 

This week’s Mass readings are from Exodus and we hear again the story of how Moses erected a desert tent as the temple that housed the covenant promise that the people held with God.  And God came down to speak with Moses and to the people in the form of a fiery column of smoke.  This column was both guide and protector.  The temple eventually traveled to various cities in the Kingdom of Israel, Jericho, Shiloh, and others, until it eventually rested in Jerusalem – where it ceased to travel and became permanent . . . and corrupt.

The Messiah arrived to replace that temple and to tell us that each one of us is a temple – to be kept holy and sacred for the Spirit’s in-dwelling, to be God’s presence in a struggling world.  And this is what we agree to as part of our own personal covenant with our creator.  That we will trust God and live in accordance with God’s statutes, that we will love God and practice the Greatest Commandment daily, that we will do our best to be People of Hope as we follow The Way that Jesus walked while here on earth.  As the psalmist says, I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy. And the sacrifices I offer are the little and big trials which I undergo daily.

We are all apostles sent forth with this message.  We are journeying together with a clear map to follow.  Again the psalmist, aware that enemies lurk along the roadside, says, Lord, show me your way; lead me on a level path because of my enemies.

The final exhortation sung by the psalmist is, Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord!

And the people say . . . Amen.

Adapted from a Favorite written on August 2, 2007.

 

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

6648f45035a47efdafeee4d3f3f056e4_XL[1]Nehemiah 13

A Prayer for Willingness

True hope differs from waiting in that it expects the impossible to become possible through our petition and in God’s action.  Today we might reflect on a mirror image to hope and conversion that we pondered yesterday: the juxtaposition of willingness and desire.  It is this willingness – rather than our desire – that refines us as faithful.  It is this willingness – and not mere desire – that marks us as God’s disciples.

But what might we gain, we ask ourselves, from being willing rather than willful?

Perhaps it is our willingness that God nurtures patiently, waiting for our readiness to participate fully in God through Christ.  Perhaps it is this measure of willingness that indicates our full and ready understanding of who God is and why we are created in God’s image.   Perhaps is it our willingness to withstand any difficulty, our determination to be disciples of Christ that signals our preparedness to believe that God can truly make all things possible.  Do we desire to be with God but try to avoid all obstacles in our journey?  Or are we willing to travel the road, despite its roadblocks, in full willingness?

As we read about Nehemiah warning against stepping into alien and pagan territory and relationships, we might remember the Good Samaritan parable told by Jesus.  A man from Samaria, considered to be an outcast by the Jewish community, helps an injured traveler on the road to Jerusalem while the Levite, one who has special status in the Jewish community, keeps himself separate and pure.  As we mature from our Old Testament self who seeks to merely understand God and enter into our New Testament self to seek union with God we leave our desire behind . . . and we enter into willingness

We fully experience God’s presence when we give over our human desire of wishing for the end result through expedient or easy means, when we surrender our willfulness in order to become willing. But for this we need courage.

We genuinely live as God’s disciples when we cease asking for the easy route that has no brambles or pitfalls, when we take on the divine mantle of succumbing to the arduous journey of true willingness.  But for this we need strength.

And so we pray . . .

Dear and gracious God,

We hope to rest constantly in you; grant us your readiness.

We desire to follow faithfully the way of Christ; grant us your eagerness.

We expect to hurdle all obstacles that would keep us from you; grant us your strength.

We hope to respond willingly to your call no matter how difficult the journey; grant us your courage.

We ask that you hold us close to you. 

We ask that you keep us forever with you. 

We ask that you grace us with your willingness.

We ask this in Christ’s name, in unity with the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

For more information about the contrast of willingness and willfulness, click on the image above or go to the 21 February 2013 Brookhaven Retreat blog post at:  http://www.brookhavenretreat.com/cms/blog-22/item/845-willful-or-willing

Adapted from a reflection written on July 21, 2009, and posted on May 9, 2013. 

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Proverbs 12: If You Love Learning

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The school in which I teach has a front portico with seven columns as a direct, overt message that we seek knowledge. (See Proverbs 9.) The school motto is: Veritatem prosequimur – Pursue truth. For an institution of learning, the image of Wisdom building her house is apt. Today we explore several verses from Chapter 12 as we reflect on the value of taking advice.

If you love learning, you love the discipline that goes with it—
    how shortsighted to refuse correction!

Acceptance of a valid critique is a sign of strength rather than weakness.

You can’t find firm footing in a swamp,
    but life rooted in God stands firm.

Building our spiritual house on Christ is a sign of our confidence in The Word.

The words of the wicked kill;
    the speech of the upright saves.

The gossip of bad people gets them in trouble;
    the conversation of good people keeps them out of it.

Sharing The Word with others is an invitation to the Spirit.

Fools have short fuses and explode all too quickly;
    the prudent quietly shrug off insults.

Living The Word brings us fortitude rather than fear.

Evil scheming distorts the schemer;
    peace-planning brings joy to the planner.

No evil can overwhelm a good person,
    but the wicked have their hands full of it.

Living as Jesus teaches is a sign of courage rather than submission.

Prudent people don’t flaunt their knowledge;
    talkative fools broadcast their silliness.

Sharing The Word in the Spirit is a sign that the Kingdom of God is here. The Kingdom of God is now.

When we compare other translations of these verses, we find that a love of learning is essential for workers in the Kingdom.

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