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Friday, January 3, 2020

1 John 5: Victory

reclaiming_gods_hope[1]For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.  And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.  Who [indeed] is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

We are so often told – and we so often forget – that once we place ourselves in God’s hands we need not struggle.  From the first books of the Torah to the final words of Revelation we hear this message and yet we fight with and against the world.

Sometimes we fear one another.  We hoard money, goods, guns, plots and any object or idea we believe keeps us special . . . and this is sad because we are already special.

Sometimes we fear the past or the future.  We look over our shoulders constantly or peer into the coming days looking for clues about how we should act and decide . . . and this is so senseless because these preoccupations takes us away from the holy present.

Sometimes we fear God.  We look for full comprehension or we want total control; we deny, cajole, and make bargains . . . and this is so little of us because as John tells us today: The surest victory over the world comes not from our actions or thoughts but through our faith in God.

I write these things to you so that you may know you have eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God.  And we have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything in accordance with his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked of him is ours. 

John cannot speak more plainly to us.  In his Gospel he tells us quite clearly that Jesus is the unique Son of God.  He reminds us that salvation comes through our belief in the Son.  He explains that “Jesus is not the victim of human injustice even though those who killed him were evil people.  Jesus chose to offer his life for others so that they could see God’s love revealed on the cross.  When we see God’s love on the cross, we are reminded that God identifies with the lowly, suffering people of the world by joining with them”. And finally, John’s Gospel describes for us how mutual love and unity express God’s love.  (Senior RG 450-451)   All of this is explained to us and yet our fears overcome our faith; we allow the turmoil of the world to overcome us; we forget that victory comes through our faith in the story that we witness through John and the other apostles.

John tells in his writings that he has witnessed all that he recounts – we are not reading a second, third or fourth-hand accounting.  In his first letter, John intertwines the very real with the ideal and we may become confused with this fusion of two perspectives; yet in is this dance between two opposites and the synthesis they present, John describes a world of universal acceptance and love that we seek.

Jesus tells us endlessly that God’s simple commandment to us is his call to love.  We struggle with this for we do not see it in the world we occupy.

John tells us endlessly that Jesus’ simple commandment to love comes directly from God the creator.  We struggle with this and we let doubt and fear and a desire to control our world to take us over.

As we begin a new year in our western calendar, let us decide to put aside our anxieties about the world.  Let us spend time reflecting with John, a man who accompanied Christ – God Among Us.  And let us place all our fears and hopes in the hands of a God who loves us deeply and always . . . for it is in that place alone that we experience victory that conquers the world.


A re-post from December 31, 2012.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 450-451. Print.   

For more on the First Letter of John, visit the 1 John – Testimony page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-new-testament-revising-our-suffering/1-john-testimony/

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Mark 16: The End

Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 31, 2019

Women at Jesus’ Tomb

I am always fascinated by the last words in the short ending version of Mark’s Gospel: They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.  Commentary tells us that Mark’s was likely the first of the Gospels to be recorded; Jesus’ followers tell of their experience in the face of persecution and doubt.  Scholars also tell us that a second writer tagged the story with a more positive, second ending.  Verses 9 to 20 give the reader fresh hope. “This passage, termed the Longer Ending to the Marcan gospel by comparison with a much briefer conclusion found in some manuscripts, has traditionally been accepted as a canonical part of the gospel and was defined as such by the Council of Trent.  Early citations of it by the Fathers indicate that it was composed by the second century, although the vocabulary and style indicate that it was written by someone other than Mark.  It is a general resume of the material concerning the appearances of the risen Jesus, reflecting, in particular, traditions found in Luke [24] and John [20].  (Senior 94)  The Gospel ends on . . . the notes of awe and silence and fear, Mark’s . . . way of expressing profound reverence for the events he narrates.  In Jesus’ victory over death, God’s power has transformed the world forever”. (Senior RG 417) 

In awe and silence and in fear . . . the old way comes to an end; the new way begins.

But what is it that has concluded; and what has been instituted?  A church, a way of life, hope, transformation?

Soon we begin Holy Week, the time when we tell and re-tell, live and re-live the story of Jesus’ last days on earth.  We hear the old eyewitness accounts that tell us Jesus has died.  We know that he was buried in a borrowed tomb and that a few days later the tomb is found empty.  Where have the guards gone?  Where are the twelve who were known as the Apostles?  Why is it that only the women return to the tomb to finish the burial rite?

They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.  It appears to be the end. And yet . . .

I am wondering – as I always do at this time of year – what I would have done had I lived two thousand years ago.  What would I believe?  What would I experience?  Would I see Jesus’ death as the end of something?  Would I see it as the beginning?  Would I be one of those the Resurrected Christ chose to visit?  And if I were to experience this visit . . . would I believe?  And what would I believe?

Each Holy Week as I sit listening and meditating on scripture the same sudden realization always washes over me.  I have been visited by the Resurrected Christ and I have received miracles at his hand.  I have been graced with Jesus’ hope and mercy.  I have been to the tomb to find it empty and I have for a few moments thought that the beautiful truth I believe in is only a sham.

They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

And as quickly as that doubt rises it dissolves into nothingness.  All fear is transformed into the warm glow of gratitude and peace.  And I know once again that what appears empty is full, in Christ; what seems lost is gained, in Christ; and what looked like a sad conclusion is, in fact, the beautiful beginning of a new narrative, in Christ.  Let us go out to tell all who will listen the Good News that the end is in truth the beginning . . . in Christ.


A re-post from March 31, 2012.

Image from: http://thewinedarksea.com/index.php/weblog/2010/03/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.94 & RG 417. Print.   

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Luke 12:10-12Essence

Friday, February 1, 2019

Written on January 15, 2010 man posted today as a Favorite . . .

This first verse is one which ought to make us pause when we come across it. We ought to hear more sermons about this. We need to share our thoughts with others on this thinking.  We may want to write these verses someplace where we will see them each morning when we rise and each evening when we return home.  Our lives will be better lived if we manage to integrate this idea into our being.

Notes tell us that “The sayings about the Holy Spirit are set in the context of fearlessness in the face of persecution . . . The Holy Spirit will be presented in Luke’s second volume, the Acts of the Apostles, as the power responsible for the guidance of the Christian mission and the source of courage in the face of persecution”. (THE NEW AMERICAN BIBLE, 1115)

We are referred to Matthew 12:31-32 where further notes tell us that “Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit [is] the sin of attributing to Satan what is the work of the Spirit of God”. (1027)   Where do we see this sort of blasphemy unfold in our lives?  When we are at play with family and friends, when we are at work with colleagues and associates, when we are at prayer with our God . . . these are the times when we decide what to do and what to say.  When we turn away from our call because we do not trust God . . . when we ignore God’s continued presentation of our learning curve . . . when we think we have a better way of proceeding than we see in God’s plan . . . these are all occasions that lead us to flirt with the devil.  These are circumstances that can easily lead us to attribute the difficulties of life to the work of the wicked when really they are lesson plans in our own trajectory of existence.

We must look at how Luke follows this hard saying: When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how or what your defense will be or about what you are to say.  For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you are to say. 

Looking at Luke 11:54 we see why Christ is explaining this hard saying to his followers: for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.  Jesus knows what his enemies are thinking and scheming.  He also knows what our enemies are thinking and scheming.  We need to trust this one who understands most clearly how the dark world works.  And when we are in that precarious, dangerous place of doubt in which all disciples of Christ find themselves, we must rely on this one to tell us what to say and what to do.

I sometimes think that we do not spend enough time praying to and with the Holy Spirit.  We imagine God as parent, God as friend, lover or sibling; yet God as essence penetrates our tissues.  God as being filters through all that we think, say and do.  God as ephemeral reality becomes us.

In recent years it has become starkly clear to me that each of us has control of what we think, say and do.  We have the power to hurt and to heal.  We need to maintain contact with the Holy Spirit in order that we mend and repair rather than rend and destroy.

It has become clear to me that when we are walking in the way we are to go, that forces of darkness will pull and push at us to disconnect us from the Holy Spirit.  We need to dismiss the devil and invite the Holy Spirit in.

It has also become clear to me that when we come together to pray in the name of God, through the Christ, and with the Spirit, that a petition that synchronizes with God’s plan is immediately answered.  We need to pray today and all days that the essence of the Holy Spirit pervade our being . . . to make us one with God.


A re-post from February 1, 2012. 

Image from: http://mysticdreamz.com/?page_id=398

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1 Corinthians 15:35-38: Our Mode of Resurrection

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Christ has asked us to rise and go; and this we do with fidelity. We have felt the wrath of anger and a desire for revenge; and we have found hope of the Spirit’s justification. But what will be the manner of our transition from this life to the next? Can we explain it? Can we believe it? Can we share it’s promise with others?

It is likely that we have all pondered the resurrection at one time or another. We know that we have been sent to this earth to present to and for the world a unique face of God. Our face of God is what we sow, and it is also what we will reap. The Gospel evangelists tell us, by repeating Jesus’ words so succinctly and well, that we all are on a pilgrimage to the next world. Like the ten bridesmaids in one of Jesus’ many parables, we can choose to be prepared for the arrival of the bridegroom, or we can choose to burn our oil foolishly so that when he arrives we will not be present. We gain admittance to the Resurrection wedding feast by becoming incorruptible, but what does this incorruptibility look like? We remain steadfast and firm, faithful to God’s promises, hopeful in the Spirit’s wisdom, living God’s word as Jesus did, and by putting away our envy and pride. Once at the great feast, we will look around to see that all are equal, and – most importantly – we will be content with that fact. A famous Renaissance poet Jorge Manrique has written beautiful lines about his thoughts upon the death of his father, “Coplas a la muerte de mi padre.” He expresses this idea, “All of our lives are rivers – and all of these rivers, big and small, run to the sea . . . where they disappear into one another.” This might be our image of heaven as evoked by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. Only those who have put away envy and pride, only those who have truly humbled themselves to obey will even be able to imagine such a place where we are all special – and where no one is more special than anyone else.

When Jesus speaks of John the Baptist in the Gospel of Matthew, he says that John is the greatest prophet of all time – even greater than Elijah; and yet, the least in heaven is greater than this great prophet. The least will be great, and greater than anything we can imagine.

So can we explain our mode of resurrection? Can we believe in Christ’s fidelity? Can we rely on the hope of the Spirit? Can we share the joy of God’s promise of resurrection?


Adapted from a reflection written on February 7, 2007.

Image from: https://www.jesuschristformuslims.com/support-us/

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Exodus 39:32-43: Presentation of Work

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Moses’ Tabernacle Tent

Yesterday we reflected on how at times we must abandon the sanctuary.  Delving into this separation from all that comforts us helps us to explore the idea that there are times when God calls us to leap over the abyss of our doubts.  Today we reflect on the establishment of the first sanctuary or “dwelling place” for Yahweh, the desert temple tent.  Verse 43 tells us that Moses was pleased with the work of the people and so he blessed them.  This is reminiscent of the Creation story when God moves through the phases of creation – the sea, the land, the plants and animals, the humans – he sees that the work is good.  In the relativistic twenty-first century western world, it is easy to think that our standard for goodness relies on our personal perspective. But when we read both Old and New Testaments, we remember that accountability, evaluation, and even assessment are part of the Gospel story.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

It is good to review the portions of Exodus that describe in detail the Temple Tent of Yahweh that the people carried as they wandered the wilderness for several generations.  Verse 39:43 describes the experience of joy in the completion of work and a task well done for Yahweh.  When we read varying translations of these words, we begin to feel the blessing God gave the Hebrews – that God gives to us.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

When we complete any task to which God calls us, it is good to rest awhile and reflect on what we have accomplished.  It is good to give God thanks for we know – if we will admit it – that all we do is done through God. All we do that is worthy, is done with God.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

This blessing of all work done in God’s name may put a new spin on our daily lives, and in fact, it ought to do so.  If we work, play, and pray for ourselves, we have missed the point of our existence. When we work, play, and pray with God, we participate in a plan far greater than any we might devise.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

For more information, click on the image, or visit: http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/tabernacle-of-moses.html

When we have struggled through the travail of repairing a relationship, we will know the goodness of God’s providential care. When we have repaired, restored, rejuvenated our soul with God, we will know the beauty of God’s plan.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

When we have worked our way carefully through the many tasks of a day with no casualties or misunderstandings, we know the joy of putting a peaceful head on our nighttime pillow.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

When we make a presentation of our work, and we see that our efforts have produced fruit in abundance that will last, we know the perfect serenity of God.

Moses saw that all the work was done just as the Lord commanded, [and] he blessed them.

When we are forced to flee our sanctuary and then agree to return, restored and healed, we will see that the work we have done has been done just as the Lord commanded. We will know that we, like the Hebrew people, are blessed. We will know that the presentation of our labor is pleasing to God, so let us rejoice in God’s blessing.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 16, 2008.


Images from: http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/tabernacle-of-moses.html

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Mark 16:9-15: The Entire Creation

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Imre Moroc: Jesus Appears to the Disciples after Resurrection

In this second week of Eastertide, we spend time with the Gospels of the Easter Octave, the eight days comprising the celebration of Easter. On day seven, Easter Saturday, we hear Mark’s accounting of the doubt that seized Jesus’ followers; and we have the opportunity to explore our own willingness to share Jesus’ story with the entire creation.

Today’s verses are from the NSRV translation, but we may want to choose another version that speaks to us most clearly by using the scripture link and drop-down menus. If we want to hear an audio version of today’s verses, we visit the USCCB site.

 But when the disciples heard that Jesus was alive and had been seen by Mary Magdalene, they would not believe it.

We hear the good news that Jesus assures us that we are his adopted sisters and brothers . . . but we continue to believe in status rather than love.

And the Emmaus disciples went back and told the rest of the disciples, but they did not believe them.

We hear the good news that Jesus invites us to rejoice in his return . . . but we continue to believe in power rather than hope.

Later Jesus appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.

We hear the good news that Jesus assures us of eternal peace . . . but we continue to doubt.

And Jesus said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news. to the whole creation”.

We hear the good news that Jesus assures us of eternal peace . . . and we determine to share this story with the whole creation.

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Luke 24:36-48: Fulfilled

Thursday, April 27, 2017

tissot-the-communion-of-the-apostles-751x523

James Tissot: The Communion of the Apostles

In this second week of Eastertide, we spend time with the Gospels of the Easter Octave, the eight days comprising the celebration of Easter. On day five, Easter Thursday, we hear Luke’s account of what takes place when the Emmaus disciples return to Jerusalem. Once again, when we reflect on a few details, the story becomes vital to our understanding the mystery and miracle of Easter.

First, we choose a translation that speaks to us most clearly. Then we reflect. If we want to hear an audio version of today’s verses, visit the USCCB site. We may find other versions by using the scripture link and drop-down menus.

In the MESSAGE translation, Cleopas and his companion went over everything that happened on the road and how they recognized him when he broke the bread.

Can we imagine ourselves listening to our colleagues as they tell us that they have witnessed a miracle? Can we envision our conversation with family and friends as we hear about their incredible interaction with the risen Christ?

While they were saying all this, Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you.” They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death.

Can we predict our reaction to the appearance of Christ among us? What do we say when we share a meal with him? Is our overwhelming emotion fear? Do suspicion and doubt take over? Do anxiety and disbelief crowd our hearts? And then we hear Jesus’ words.

“Don’t be upset, and don’t let all these doubting questions take over. Look at my hands; look at my feet—it’s really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn’t have muscle and bone like this.” 

How do we reply?

They still couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true.

We are startled to hear the Teacher ask: “Do you have any food here?” They gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked. He took it and ate it right before their eyes.

Duccio di Buoninsegna: Christ Appears to the Disciples at the Table

If we persist in a thick-headed and slow-hearted reaction, we look for ways to unravel the fraud we suspect. If we are reluctant and discouraged, we listen and watch warily, looking for reasons to doubt. If we remain hopeful and determined, we open our minds and hearts as we prepare to love and be loved. We listen to Christ’s words. We accept the joyful newness that asks to change our thinking.

Jesus says,Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled. You’re the first to hear and see it. You’re the witnesses”.

We cannot do this, we are thinking. We do not have the courage or the tools. This newness is all too new, and too incredible for belief. Until Christ tells us . . . “What comes next is very important: I am sending what my Father promised to you, so stay here in the city until he arrives, until you’re equipped with power from on high”.

Christ predicts the arrival and in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. Christ offers a gift too amazing to believe. Christ proposes a life too wonderful, too mystifying, too marvelous to believe. And yet . . .

Christ stands in the midst of us, sharing our meals, attending to our fears and doubts. Christ has fulfilled the promise of redemption made by the Living God for millennia. The choice is ours to make. Do we turn inward in our doubt? Or do we open in newness to accept the fulfillment of the promise we are offered?

For other posts on the story of Emmaus, enter the word into the blog search bar and explore.

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Luke 24:13-35: The Road to Emmaus – Part V

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Helge Boe: On the Road to Emmaus

They urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.”

We journey toward our Easter resurrection, carrying our doubts and fears, measuring, and even judging, ourselves and those who walk with us. We hope to avoid obstacles, not realizing that they provide us with opportunities for transformation. We see ourselves in a race against time, not understanding that God’s time is eternal. We perceive ourselves as small entities in competition with the billions of earth’s citizens, not comprehending that we are all the living stones of the temple that is God’s kingdom.

They urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.”

A humble yet confident, vulnerable yet strong young man joins us on our journey. He speaks words that both comfort and challenge. He listens well. Asks thoughtful questions. We can feel the compassion and empathy coming from his eyes; his whole body exudes an essence we want to capture so that we might carry it along with us. Yet we need not. We try to possess what we already own. We try to control what we are already promised.

This man’s words are wisdom. His actions are mercy. He embodies hope, he enacts fidelity, he is love. Do we invite him to linger with us, or are we too busy tending to our pains and worries, monitoring our timelines and space?

They urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.”

Hendrick Terbrugghen: Supper at Emmaus

Christ walks with us today as surely as he walked with these disciples in the journey to Emmaus. He breaks bread with us today just as he did at the supper table in Emmaus. Let us set aside the time and space to share our uncertainties with him. Let us dedicate the time and place to share our joy. And let us allow The Teacher to open our hearts to the enormity of God’s love and promise as we journey toward the Easter promise.

They urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.”

For more on the Emmaus experience, click on the image of the Boe painting, or visit: http://www.jesus-story.net/emmaus.htm 

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Romans 5:1-8: Throw Open the Doors

Thursday, December 1, 2016lock-heart

By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us – set us right with him, make us fit for him – we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. (MSG)

If only we might look at faith as our willingness to throw open the doors of our heart. In this way we convert doubt to steadfastness.

If only me might persist I loving our enemies to see that God loves each and all. In this way we convert walls to bridges.

If only we might relax into God’s love long enough to understand that God already lives in our hearts. In this way we convert fear to grace.

If only we might perceive God’s grace and stand tall to shout out God’s glory. In this way we convert hatred to love.

God says: When you fear the wide open spaces of my grace and glory, I become a small, petty god in your eyes. It is no wonder that you do not trust me. When you reject my love to replace it with fear, I become a mean, manipulating god who preys on brave hearts. It is no wonder you discard me. When you open your hearts, when you persist in loving your enemies, when you allow my strength to bolster you and to carry your woes, I become the enormous, infinite Living God who is loving all harm into good, all evil into love. Remain in me, no matter your circumstances.

And so we pray.

Good and generous God, today we give all fear, anger and doubt to you. We pledge to throw open the doors of our hearts to your presence, and to resist closing them again to your love. Amen.

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