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Posts Tagged ‘discipleship’


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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Monday, November 16, 2020

pearl-in-clam[1]Matthew 7:6

Pearls of Great Price

Do not give what is holy to dogs or cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Swine and dogs were words used by Jews to express contempt for Gentiles. Commentary tells us that they may also be used by Christians to describe those obstinate, impenitent Christians. In this portion of Matthew’s Gospel, the writer records the teachings of Jesus in which we are asked to pray for one another rather than judge one another. A true disciple is one who is willing to go to his knees and pass through the narrow gate onto The Way which Jesus walks. A true disciple is wary of false prophets, looks to build his life on a sturdy, strong foundation, and understands that he need not fight God’s fight. A true disciple knows that if we want to tap into our divinity, we must first humble ourselves as Christ does. A true Christian depends on God for all things, and witnesses this loyalty by praying for the swine and the dogs in his life.

This saying can be a harsh one. This teaching can be difficult to take on and live out. It calls for the courage to remain on our own with God rather than be in the company of a crowd. It calls for perseverance in traveling a long road with many turnings that hide the future from our eyes. But we are pearls of great price, worth more than any amount we might imagine. And these pearls have been bought at great cost by Jesus’ redemptive suffering, death and resurrection. These pearls will not be left alone to be snatched up by a thief. These pearls are worn by God with great love. They are tended with great care.

We are pearls of great price, as Paul reminds the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23), bought with sacrifice and love. So rather than step casually into a life we have been given as gift, let us live each day with the care and devotion God gives to our creation. Let us value the breath we have been given even as wet us pray for those who do not. And rather than give what is holy to dogs or allow ourselves to be trampled by swine, let us celebrate with joy each new dawn that brings us the mystery and of God’s love.


Image from: http://connectathens.blogspot.com/2009/08/pearl-of-great-price-032509.html

Adapted from a reflection written on February 9, 2010.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

luke[1]Luke 22:35-38

Instructions

The instructions Jesus gave to the disciples he sent out into the world earlier in his ministry are simple. Take nothing with you except for the gifts God has given you. All will be provided as you do the work of God. Today’s Noontime reading is the slice of time between the prediction of Peter’s denial and Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane. We listen and watch as those closest to Jesus misunderstand the words of the instructions he has given them. They take them literally. We may likewise misunderstand today.

We are told so frequently what is important and yet we forget. We are asked: When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything? 

And we reply: No, nothing. Yet do we truly trust God in time of crisis? Or do we rely on the sack, the sandals and the sword before all else? We believe in God’s presence and we rely on God when all is going well; but what do we do when a life sours and begins to devolve? Do we succumb to the temptation to second guess ourselves and our childlike placing of ourselves in God’s care? Do we begin to think ourselves foolish for having been so trusting and innocent? Do we think that kingdom building comes without a price? Do we take the words of Jesus literally, as the disciples do in today’s reading?

It is enough, Jesus says to his followers when they do not comprehend, and then he moves into the garden to begin his final agony, knowing all the while that he will be abandoned – has already been abandoned – by many. The disciples melt away when the pressure becomes too great or the fear too overwhelming; yet the Lord kneels in prayer for all of us, for each of us. It is enough.

When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything? 

As we set out each day with Jesus on the road to Gethsemane and Calvary, let us try to remember our instructions for a time of crisis. And when calamity strikes, as it always does, we must remember that true discipleship is difficult . . . yet fulfilling. We find strength in acting in our belief that we are loved and provided for; and we find peace in hoping for the best outcome from horrific scenarios. The story of redemption and salvation begins with an all-encompassing love that is rejected, vilified, and even reviled. So when we find ourselves in crisis we do well to remember the instructions Jesus gives to all his disciples . . .

When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything? 


First written on March 17, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://rodiagnusdei.wordpress.com/tag/luke/

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Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Luke 18:31-34

Comprehension

“Luke understands the events of Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem to be the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, but, as is usually the case in Luke-Acts, the author does not specify which Old Testament prophets he has in mind”.   (Senior 133 cf.)

Many of us live much of our lives in this way: we do as God asks with the understanding that that we are fulfilling some needed action . . . without fully comprehending how our small part fits in with God’s great plan. Discipleship is characteristically vague in this way, asking us to rely in faith on God, asking us to rest in hope with God, asking us to act in love for God.

Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem . . .

Each time we feel God’s desire move through us we know that we are going up to Jerusalem.

The Son of Man will be handed over . . .

Each time we follow Christ we understand that we run the risk of being handed over to the scoffers, the naysayers, the plotters and the complacent.

He will be mocked and insulted and spat upon . . .

Each time we lament that disciple work is difficult we put aside the memory of Jesus’s last days.

After they have scourged him they will kill him . . .

Each time we die another small death we believe we have no more energy to move forward.

But on the third day he will rise . . .

Each time we think we are extinguished forever we rise in restoration and healing.

But they understood nothing of this . . .

Each time we try to explain the reasons for our outrageous hope we meet expressionless faces.

And the word remained hidden from them . . .

Each time we come up against the wall of incomprehension we must remember that even those who followed Jesus day to day did not fully understand . . . until Christ returned to them following the events of his Passion and death.

And they failed to comprehend what he said . . .

Each time we believe that we are lost we must remember that God always acts through inversion and so the lost will be found.

Each time we fall Christ is there – even though we do not comprehend.

Each time we suffer Christ is there – even though we do not understand.

Each time we die one of those many small deaths that mark our passing, Christ is there – even though we do not fully see.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.133. Print.   

Enter the words Going Up to Jerusalem – A Prayer into the blog search bar and explore another reflection. To better understand the expression, enter the words Going Up to Jerusalem and visit the three-part post.

To read about Jerusalem Day and the crowds who pray at the southern wall of the Temple, click on the image above or go to: http://blog.friendlyplanet.com/2013/03/the-top-10-places-and-sites-to-visit-in-israel.html

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Sunday. August 16, 2020

peace-it-does-not-mean-to-be-in-a-place-where-there-is-no-noise-trouble-or-hard-work[1]Mark 8:34-38

The Forfeited Life

He called the people and his disciples to him and said, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.  Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.  What gain, then, is it for anyone to win the whole world and forfeit his life?  And indeed what can a man offer for his life?  For if anyone in this adulterous and sinful generation is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels”.

Discipleship, inversion, angels, and trust in God: these are the themes we have visited this week.  Today Mark reminds us that in order to follow Christ we must look for goodness in reversals; we must welcome God’s message and the messengers themselves for they bring us God’s presence.  And we must rely on God for all that we are and all that we have, for God accompanies us always and everywhere.

God says: I know that I am most visible to you when you are ill, frightened or broken-hearted.  I understand this for I created you and I created the world, and I understand the hold that the world can have on you.  I know that you welcome me when I come to you in a version of myself that matches your expectation and that I startle you when I arrive in a way that makes you uncomfortable.  I understand your reluctance to open your arms to me for I created you and I created the world. I understand that you rely more on your senses than you do on me.  Yet still I ask that follow me for I created you and I created the world.  I rejoice each morning with you when you turn to me in prayer.  I sing with you at noon when you remember me and call my name.  I celebrate with you each evening when you return to me in thanksgiving . . . for I created you and I created the world.  And I ask that you forfeit all for me so that you might know my peace . . . the peace that the world cannot give.  

Discipleship is hard-earned and well-worn. Inversion can be anticipated and yet still surprising. God’s angels are constantly with us yet they frequently go unseen. Trust in God brings a new way of life and a guarantee of eternal peace. Let us thank God for the grace and blessings bestowed on us this day and all days.


Image from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/48765608435979800/ 

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Friday. August 14, 2020bigstock-Worship-to-God-Element-of-des-18657185-1[1]John 16:2-4

Knowing God

They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God.  They will do this because they do not know either the Father or me.  I have told you this so that when the hour comes you may remember that I told you.   

Jesus explains the cost of discipleship to his followers; he warns that the price for their loyalty to him is high.  But with this risk also comes a security that no amount of money can purchase.  No walls, no alarm system, no weapons can guarantee.  He tells the faithful that although their constancy in following God may bring them rejection and pain . . . it also brings the peace the world seeks.

God says: So many of you ask what I am thinking and doing. You only have to look at the actions of my Word to you, the Christ, to know. You want to know how to find me. I am with you even now. You seek deep knowledge and understanding of my ways. It is for this knowing that I prepare you. It is for this intense relationship that I teach you. If you want to fully see me and recognize my Way, watch my son and do as he does. You must expect denunciation, mistreatment and even death because of me. Those who beat you and deny your ways may believe that they reverence me by killing you. They believe this because they do not rightly know me as you do. So do not be afraid. When you know and understand my son you know and understand me. Remember all that I have shown you. 

When we know God we also know that any persecution we suffer in God’s name is balanced by immeasurable joy.  When we follow God’s Way we live in a security that is unmatched by any human fortress.  When we live in God’s Word we come to know the peace that is promised for eternity.  This is the knowing of God that will carry us when the hour comes.


A re-post from August 21, 2013.

Image from: https://www.freepik.com/premium-photo/silhouette-man-mountain-top-sky-sun-light-success-leadership-people-concept_5349675.htm

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Saturday, July 18, 2020

Joseph's Dream

Joseph’s Dream

Genesis 45:5

Sent Ahead

Do not be distressed and so not reproach yourselves for having sold me here.  It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you.

Amazingly, Joseph is able to forgive his brothers who years before had sold him – the favored son – into slavery.  His fidelity to God brings him solace and rescue.  His hope in God brings him salvation and healing.  His love of God brings him humility and transformation.

God says: We can see how difficult life was for my servant Joseph yet Joseph continued to trust me even as his blessed and happy life became one of hardship and confusion.  Joseph had always been marked as special and his brothers plotted first to kill him out of their envy.  Later they sold him to a passing caravan and lied to their father Jacob about what had taken place.  For years their sorrow festered.  Not so with Joseph.  Despite the turmoil Joseph kept his eye on me.  Despite the frustration Joseph spoke with me.  Despite the fear Joseph trusted in me.  It was for these reasons that Joseph was able to fulfill the dream I placed in him: he was willing to go ahead of the Hebrew nation so that many might be saved.

God brings good out of all harm.  We need not waste ourselves with worry and anxiety.  Each of us has a place in God’s plan of salvation.  We only need be open to the outrageous possibility of God’s dream for us.


To better understand Joseph’s fidelity in the face of crisis and how each of us may be sent ahead, read the story of Joseph and His Brothers in Genesis Chapters 37 to 50.

For more about the emotions of resentment and envy, visit: https://www.intentionalcommunication.com/envy-jealousy-resentment-the-comparison-emotions-at-work-reprise/

Image from: https://www.sermonview.com/cart/product_info.php?products_id=859

For a reflection and a prayer on this story of Truth Revealed, enter the words in tot the bog search bar and explore. 

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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

76d2ce62177a139a96b48d628d63c470[1]1 John 5:13-14

Simple Truths

I write these things to you so that you may know that you have eternal life . . . And we have this confidence in the Son of God, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 

This week we have highlighted several verses from the first letter of John and we have examined the words he records to remind us of how much and how well we are loved.  Today, if there is time in our busy schedules, we might spend time with the entire letter. As we continue to journey through the COVID-19 pandemic, we find wisdom here.

John experienced friendship with Jesus first hand.  He was present at the Transfiguration.  John is the Beloved Apostle to whom Jesus gave over care of his mother, Mary.  He is the faithful disciple who writes the beautifully soaring Gospel defining Jesus as the Word that has been from the beginning and will be to the end.  We do well to spend time with this letter written directly to each of us today.

“The purpose of this letter is to combat certain false ideas, especially about Jesus, and to deepen the spiritual and social awareness of the Christian community . . . The author affirms that authentic Christian love, ethics, and faith take place only within the historical revelation and sacrifice of Jesus Christ . . . The author sets forth the striking contrasts between light and darkness, Christians and the world, and truth and error to illustrate the threats and responsibilities of Christian life.  The result is not one of theological argument but one of intense religious conviction expressed in simple truths”.  (Senior 387)

Why are we so reluctant to believe the good news that each of us has a personal invitation to be as close to Jesus as John is?  Do we cherish the idea that some of us are more special or less special to Christ?  In believing this we would be straying from the lesson Jesus teaches us.

When are we ever happy with the story of salvation?  When it is the version we have dreamed for ourselves?  In thinking this we would be missing the lesson Jesus taught us.

How will we come to grips with the fact that following Christ requires intense religious conviction?  Or are we hoping to write our own plan for salvation and telling God how we best fit into this plan for the world?  In this desire we illustrate that we have missed all that Jesus has taught us.

John reminds us in his first letter that we are Children of God, that we suffer threats and share responsibilities as Christ’s followers, and that we reap gifts beyond imagining when we allow ourselves to be one with the Mystical Christ.  These simple truths bring forth complex emotions and intense reactions.  They call us out of ourselves and into the world for others.  They carry the weight of the world yet raise us in freedom and salvation.  These simple truths are lived out for us by Christ each day and they bring us the message of our rescue from darkness that we long to hear: that Christ hears our petitions and holds them as dearly as he holds each of us. May we hold one another in Christ as we listen to and take heed of God’s simple truth.


Image from: http://pinterest.com/alinekd/god-is-cool/

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

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Friday, June 19, 2020

955165_60482143-610x250[1]2 Corinthians 6:1-10

An Acceptable Time

“A series of seven rhetorically effective antitheses, contrasting negative external impressions with positive inner reality. Paul perceives his existence as a reflection of Jesus’ own and affirms an inner reversal that escapes outward observation.  The final two members illustrate two distinct kinds of paradox or apparent contradiction that are characteristic of apostolic experience”.  (Senior cf. 283)

We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful . . . and so as disciples of Christ we must become accustomed to the world’s unbelief.

As unrecognized and yet acknowledged . . . and so as followers of Christ we must become comfortable with rejection.

As dying and behold we live . . . and so as members of the remnant we find that dying so that we might live a normal daily act.  

As chastised and yet not put to death . . . and so as apostles of the Living God we become accustomed to the scorn of others.

As sorrowful yet always rejoicing . . . and so as sisters and brothers of Christ who take up our cross daily we are assured that our mourning is turned into dancing.

As poor yet enriching many . . . and so as disciples sent into the world in twos we know that we need not take a purse or sandals for the journey.

As having nothing and yet possessing all things . . . and so as children of God we are gladdened by the knowledge that we lack for nothing when we hold only Christ, that we rise in new life when we forfeit the old, and that we are loved beyond imagining by the One who rescues us in an acceptable time.

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
    At an acceptable time, O God,
    in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.  (Psalm 69:13)

For this and for all God’s goodness we give thanks as we sing of God’s loving fidelity, justice and mercy.   Amen.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.283. Print.

Image from: http://donaldcmoore.com/2013/05/08/at-an-acceptable-time/

For more thoughts on God’s Acceptable Time click on the image above or go to: http://donaldcmoore.com/2013/05/08/at-an-acceptable-time/

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