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Map of Israel and Judah

Map of Israel and Judah

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Jeremiah 42

The Journey to Egypt . . .

If you remain quietly in this land I will build you up, and not tear you down . . .

Repeatedly in Scripture we are urged to move out of our comfort zones, and to put Christ into action. From the first words of Genesis (In the beginning when God created the heavens and earth . . .) to the last words of Revelation (Amen!  Come, Lord Jesus!  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.  Amen.), we are encouraged to take steps into wide and dark abysses, to take leaps of faith. We are inspired to commit acts of hope and to bring union with enemies through love. Today’s reading is one of those quiet times when we hear the Lord our God tell us that it is time to remain planted, to listen, to persevere through the trouble, to be still, to be calm . . . for the Lord our God is with us.

I will plant you, not uproot you . . .

But so often in our lives we are tempted to sort out problems by changing our location rather than changing ourselves, we have likely packed our bags for Egypt where we will see no more of war, hear the trumpet alarm no longer, nor hunger for bread. We convince ourselves that it makes a great deal of sense to pull up stakes and begin anew elsewhere when relationships or covenants have gone terribly, and seemingly irreparably, amiss. Frequently we believe it is time to move out or away from a place or a person and there are certainly situations in which our personal safety depends on our stepping away from danger; but in today’s reading we are challenged to make a spiritual change in our hearts rather than a physical change with our bodies. The prophet’s words rise to us and ask us how quickly we back away from God when our lives become difficult. When we consider the choice before Jeremiah to remain or stay, we see that much of who we are and what we do identifies us as remnant.  

For I regret the evil I have done you . . .

Jeremiah the prophet suffers greatly and deeply.  From 628 to 520 B.C.E. he speaks chiefly to the people of Judah and her capital Jerusalem.  Much like today, these are turbulent times.  The superpowers of the day, Egypt, Assyria, and Babylonia, are carving up the Middle East putting small states like Judah in constant danger.  The old Israel Kingdom divided in 930 B.C.E. and its northern portions were invaded, her people disappeared into exile.  The people of the southern kingdom of Judah constantly ask Jeremiah’s opinion, he speaks, and then they disagreed with him.  At turns, they ignore him, persecute him, they even imprison him.  Yet Jeremiah continues to speak when the people ask and when God calls.  His story may seem pointless and depressingly familiar; but through all of the abuse this prophet receives, he remains faithful to his own covenant with his creator.  And the message de delivers is a constant reminder that the change God asks us to make is a change in our hearts. Jeremiah also reminds us of three important concepts: God unfailingly calls us to repentance, we will suffer consequences when we break our covenant promises, and restoration is ours when we respond to God’s call.  Jeremiah reminds his people – and us today – that we are a faithful remnant to be gathered up by God.

Then listen to the word of the Lord, remnant of Judah.

Tomorrow . . . be still and know that you are Remnant.


Adapted from a reflection written on October 7, 2007.

Image from: http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/01/27/feast-of-jeremiah-june-26/

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Thursday, September 2, 2021

God's heart for the worldJeremiah 32

Pledge of Restoration

Never again shall the city be rooted up or thrown down.

These are the reassuring words we finally hear as a prelude to the description of restoration we read today. The prophet Jeremiah buys a plot of land, “to testify that Judah will be restored and the life of the past will be rescued”. (Senior cf. 989) This might seem improbable after we have heard so many predictions of death and destruction but when we hear the Lord’s pledge, we know that all is well

Is anything impossible to me?

Let us take our worries and cares to the one for whom the impossible is possible.

They shall be my people and I shall be their God.

Let us rely on the one who is the creator of all life.

One heart and one way I shall give them.

Let us rest in the peace of God’s great and generous heart.

I will make with them an eternal covenant, never to cease doing good to them.

Let us trust in God’s fidelity and outrageous hope.

I will take delight in doing good to them.

Let us answer God’s call to celebrate the joy of the kingdom.

I will replant them firmly in this land, with all my heart and soul.

Let us share God’s goodness with open and loving hearts.

Amen.  


Image from: http://www.spiritualliving360.com/index.php/discovering-gods-heart-for-the-world-47201/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.989. Print.   

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The Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 20, 2020

Hebrews-6-19[1]

Hebrews 5:11-14 & 6

Resting in the Promise

You have become sluggish in hearing . . .

Notes from the NAB, page 1328: Rather than allow the slow to become content in their slowness, Paul exhorts them to even higher levels of spirituality.  He is not lenient. And as for those who have fallen away completely, he does not even address these apostates. If all we need is energy to progress in our spiritual journey, we can turn to Christ for he tells us through Matthew (10:28-30), my yoke is easy, my burden light.  Christ himself exhorts us Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Sometimes we are not so much sluggish as afraid. We know that the task lying before us is laden with tricky passages, dark corners, deceitful paving stones that look firm and yet sink into quicksand. On these occasions we must also turn to Christ, trusting him when he says take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart. Disobedience is not an option for an apostle.

Paul tells us that Christ’s promise is immutable, and he uses the long story of the covenant promise between Yahweh and Abraham as ample proof. Did not the elderly couple – Sarah and Abraham –   begin a kingdom of millions? Did this new way of seeking God not travel to all peoples of all nations? Do we not know even today the story of this Abraham, Sarah, and the high priest Melchizedek? Paul reminds us that it is impossible for God to lie; his very goodness and honesty force him to keep his covenant with his people.

So when we feel weary or afraid, we might turn to Paul for a reminder of the words of hope we can never hear too often. This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil [into the Holy of Holies], where Jesus has entered as forerunner . . .

In this Advent season when we anticipate the arrival of Emmanuel, God among us, let us rest in this promise. Let us acknowledge that when all is dark and appears to be lost, when all is more difficult or more terrifying than we can bear we must be still  . . . so that we might hear again . . .

Come to me . . . and you will find rest for your souls . . .


Image from: http://society6.com/PocketFuel/Hebrews-619_Print#1=45

Adapted from a reflection written on December 11, 2008.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Luke 2:22-24

Two Turtledoves

Delilah Smith: Two Turtledoves

Rituals

Many see Jesus as an outsider or an iconoclast who wanted to break rules and molds; yet when we look closely, we see that Luke presents us with a picture that is quite different.

“Luke offers readers several major themes important to his theology. First, Jesus is reared according to the laws of Judaism. Neither his parents nor Jesus rebelled against or rejected the law of Moses. The best of Jewish piety and obedience to Moses were observed. Five times in this section Luke speaks of actions according to the Law of Moses. As for Mary’s purification and the child’s presentation to God, Luke interweaves the two rituals in a confusing way. According to Lev. 12:2-8, forty days after the birth  of a male child the mother went through a ritual purification, offering a lamb as a sacrifice in the Temple or, if poor, a pair of pigeons or turtledoves.  According to Exod. 13:2, 12-13, the firstborn male child belongs to God and could be redeemed (taken home) by means of an offering by the father”.  (Mays 932)

We know from Matthew, Mark and John that Jesus overturned the tables of the corrupt Temple money changers and we see in all four Gospels that he was not shy in declaiming the hypocrisy of the Temple leadership; yet here we see Jesus and his family following the Mosaic Law. We watch as they adhere to these simple rituals in order to identify their fidelity to God and their hope in the future. The rebellion that Jesus later leads is far more encompassing than a mere political statement. Jesus comes to each of us to rescue us not only from social, religious and civic oppression . . . but from the darkness of the mind, heart and soul. Jesus comes to guarantee our life eternal. Jesus comes to rescue our overwhelmed spirit. Jesus comes to guarantee peace and serenity in the Spirit.

In this Jesus, then, we see not the overturning of the harsh, old way and outdated rituals, but a loving fulfillment of the promise of God’s original covenant with the faithful.

Tomorrow . . . another theme from Luke.


Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 932. Print.

To see more of Delilah Smith’s paintings, click on the image above or go to: http://www.dailypainters.com/paintings/53376/Two-Turtle-Doves-12-days-of-Christmas/

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Thursday, October 15, 2020

shhhh[1]Psalms 32:3-4

Keeping Silence

All the time I kept silent, my bones were wasting away with groans, day in, day out; day and night your hand lay heavy upon me; my heart grew parched as stubble in summer drought.

We do not give voice to our worries for fear of appearing weak or because we anticipate rejection. We harbor our words out of a need to control through passivity. We refrain from speaking because we are proud, or frightened or lost; and yet holding all this negative silence drains our energy, saps our strength and weighs us down. The springs that nourish us dry up and our bones begin to waste away. In our resistance to openness we guarantee that the unholy fist of brooding silence will maintain a firm grip upon our souls.

God says: I see that you are afraid and so you retreat – yet withdrawal takes you further from me and my healing hands. I understand that you do not want to hear what others have to say when you speak – yet by holding your words you give permission for others to decide what you are thinking. I know that you are confused and that you look for release from the troubled place in which you find yourself – yet your hiding only adds to your pain. Corrupt arrogance, false stoicism, prideful deceit, distrust and dishonesty: is this the world you want to inhabit forever? Forgiveness, compassion, peace, unity and honesty: is this the eternity you wish to spend with me?

There are times when silence is holy and there are times when silence stifles the soul. The psalmist calls us to a candid remission of our faults and a conversation with God. God’s covenant promises a guiding Spirit and a merciful embrace. Jesus show us mercy and justice. When we remain silent about all that troubles us we invite dark thoughts and we see only hopelessness on the horizon. God invites us to much more than this. God invites us to a remission of all that troubles us. Let us give voice to our fears and worries.

To reflect on the positive and negative ways that silence can act in our lives, enter the words silent or silence into the blog search bar and explore.


Image from: http://www.incasa.org/2011/11/14/the-culture-of-silence/

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Saturday, October 3, 2020

week-4[1]1 Peter 4:12 – 5:14

Out of Our Comfort Zone

It is human nature to avoid or reject anything which challenges us to move out of our comfort zone. We may want to eliminate from our lives anything which makes us re-think an idea, an issue, or a long-held perception of a person. We may want to circumvent any conflict or idea that challenges the status quo or asks us to open our minds to a new concept.  Peter tells us clearly that suffering can actually be good for us when we suffer according to God’s willnot according to some trial we create for ourselves out of our own stubbornness, pride or envy.

In our prayer time this weekend we might want to examine our desire to remain comfortable to determine if our trials are truly in line with Peter’s idea in verse 19: those who suffer in accord with God’s will hand their souls over to a faithful creator as they do good.

From this morning’s Liturgy of the Hours in MAGNIFICAT: God’s faithful constancy is an anchor in an ever-shifting world, where love declared today is spurned tomorrow, and all other certainties are blown away by the wind.  In the end, God is all there is and all there need be.

May we find fidelity as the keystone of our relationship with our faithful creator.

May we remain constant even as we learn to shift ourselves out of our comfort zones.

May we do good today and every day as we hand our souls over to the will of God in accordance with the covenant we hold together.


Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT.14.3 (2007). Print.

A re-post from October 5, 2013 and adapted from a reflection written on March 14, 2007.

Enter the word suffering into the blog search bar and spend some time with the concept of suffering.

The quote in the image above is credited to Neale Donald Walsch, the author of the “Conversations with God” series. The image is from Breathe Out.com at: http://www.breathe-out.com/?p=306

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Isaiah 54:10

rainbow.327225339_std[1]Steadfastness in Love

Though the mountains leave their place . . .

This is how much God loves us and wants to be in intimate union with us. When we can allow ourselves to let go of our limiting, earthly emotions and thoughts, the depth and intensity of this potential relationship will overwhelm us.  God
alone is enough.

Though the hills be shaken . . .

This is how deeply God loves us and wants to be intertwined with us.  When we can allow ourselves to be open and vulnerable to those who need us most, the breadth and power of this invincible refuge will surround us.  God alone is enough.

My love for you shall never leave you . . .

This is how intensely God loves us and wants to be with us forever.  When we allow ourselves to cast away our small fears and gargantuan anxiety, the durability and stamina of this immense passion will overtake us.  God alone is enough.

My covenant of love with you shall never be shaken . . .

love 3[1]This is how fervently God loves us and wants to make a home with us.  When we allow ourselves to see the world from the margins of life, the compassion and justice of God’s kingdom will consume us.  God alone is enough.

Thus says the Lord who has mercy on you.

This is how ardently God loves us and wants to dwell within us.  When we allow ourselves to become disciples of Christ, the full force and gift of this union will wipe out all fear, all harm, all evil as the Spirit becomes one with us.  God alone is enough.

May we remain in God as God remains in us.  And let us give thanks for this gift of steadfastness in love that our discipleship bestows on us.

Amen.


Images from: http://ambassadorsforjesus5.com/5_soup_for_the_soul/god_cares_for_you and http://www.upisbetter.com/2012_06_01_archive.html

A re-post from May 12, 2010.

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Easter Saturday, April 18, 2020Double-Rainbow-3[1]Genesis 9: The Example of Noah

Like so many stories in scripture, the tale of Noah is so familiar to us that we might easily pass over verses through which God speaks to us.  Once again we are shown a figure around whom an entire saga unfolds who is at once faithful and flawed.  There is always something to learn about ourselves as we read about others.

Into your power they are delivered . . . I give them all to you. 

God is so generous with the gifts God creates for us – the planet and all that is on it – that we too easily take God’s bigheartedness for granted.  God is generous so that we might learn to be generous as well.

I will demand an accounting . . .

Although God is lavish beyond imagining with the millions of species of animals and plants scattered about the earth, we must remember that there will be a reckoning.  Each feather on each sparrow is precious – just as we are precious.

I am establishing my covenant with you . . .

God is constantly seeking union and reunion with us.  God promises to protect and keep us.  To guide and rescue us.  For our part, we are asked to follow and abide.  It ought to be easy to find serenity within the embrace of this gentle yet strong God . . . and yet we resist.

This is the sign I give you  . . .

God is constantly working wonders in our lives in small and tremendous ways.  God persists with the signs we request, knowing that we will be too scattered, too anxious, too angry, too bored, too self-obsessed to see them.  God invites us to put away our yearning for these portents and to accept the gift of eternal life so willingly and eagerly given.

I set my bow in the heavens . . .

From childhood we are taught the greater meaning of the beautifully arching colors created by the prism of droplets in the air.  Science explains the mechanics of the arc but our hearts linger with the deeper significance in the phenomenon.

When he drank some of the wine he became drunk . . .

God continues to give us examples of imperfect humans so that we might bring our own imperfections forward to lay in sacrifice on the altar of our lives.  God does not ask for perfection in us – God knows us so well.  God asks that we persevere.  God asks that we trust.  God asks that we love.

This familiar childhood story deserves more time than we usually give to it.  Let us take that time today to look beyond our little horizon to see God as magnanimous protector, God as ardent lover, God as careful promise, God as loyal friend, and God as eternal truth.  It is this perfect God who calls our imperfection home.  It is this vigilant God who heals our aching flaws.  It is this tender and devoted God who creates for us the wonders of the planet . . . and allows her creatures the marvelous freedom to choose to return to the covenant.

In this Eastertide when we experience the full force of God’s promise to each of us, let us think about returning our own imperfections to God, and let us examine the example of Noah.


Image from: http://allwallsinfo.com/double-rainbow/

A re-post from April 18, 2013. 

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Saturday, January 18, 2020

Deuteronomy 7: Blessings of Obedience

Count_blessings6[1]This is one of those portions of the Old Testament that we humans can distort to fit our own agenda; we might take it to mean that God shows partiality, or that some of us are somehow above others of us.  I do not believe this to be so, and careful reading of good commentary tells us otherwise.   The message we might better take away from today’s Noontime is this: Israel has a special function to serve in God’s plan – that of bringing other nations out of the darkness of pagan worship and into the light of mercy, justice and hope which the Living God brings to all.  From the HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY (Mays 198-199): “God has chosen Israel, not because of any special worthiness on its part, but out of God’s personal attachment based on divine love and the promises made to the ancestors (vv. 7-8).  The Exodus experience reveals that God’s essential character promises covenant loyalty over uncountable generations (vv. 8-9).  However, the integrity of God’s character also threatens individual retribution for those who are apostate (v. 10).  A further motive for wiping out Canaanite religion is offered by the promise of fertility for family, field, and flock (vv. 13-14), an especially appropriate counter to Baal’s claims to bestow fertility.  Obedience also leads to good health.  The plagues of the Exodus tradition will be reserved for enemies (v. 15)”.

When we consider this, we understand that rather than giving his chosen people an exemption from acting in God’s name, God is expecting his faithful to behave as he himself does: with justice and compassion, bringing hope, and acting in love.  This is the thinking we hear from Jesus in Luke 12:48: From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. 

Like Israel, the faithful are in a special covenant relationship with God.

Like Israel, the faithful are called to act in obedience to God’s call.

Like Israel, the faithful are graced with God’s countless blessing.

Like Israel, the faithful have not earned a “special worthiness” . . . yet are loved deeply and dearly by the Living God.


Image from: http://somewhereincraftland.blogspot.com/2011/01/count-your-blessing-subway-art.html

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 198-199. Print.

Written on October 31, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite. 

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