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Posts Tagged ‘doubt’


Mark 14:27-31: Finding Holiness in Shaken Faith

Friday, September 2, 2022how-do-you-keep-the-faith

All of you will have your faith shaken. Jesus makes this pronouncement not long before his own resolve is tested in the Gethsemane Garden. He warns his followers that they will abandon him but even though they do, he will still return to bring them back to the fold. We see the work of a good and watchful shepherd.

None of us is exempt from uncertainty or doubt. All of us experience times of dryness and bleak landscapes. Jesus goes before us everywhere, even though we may often feel that we walk alone. Jesus prepares a way for us, even though we might think the road is blocked with obstacles. Jesus comes to gather us, even though we believe that we are not worth collecting, or we do not need saving. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, must bring us to his home because he is not capable of forgetting or abandoning his little ones.

When we feel the pressure of our days, we may want to think about this reflection from today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation by St. Paul of the Cross: [God] knows how to console us when we least expect it. If anyone hurts you, turn on him as something of great value and, with the eyes of one who loves, see him as the person chosen by God to clothe you in holiness and in the patience, silence, and meekness of Jesus Christ. If you can learn to see God’s will as a source of strength, taking every difficulty you go through as something that comes not just from circumstances but from the loving hand of God your creator, you will soon be speeding along the short road to holiness. The troubles we have in life, if we see them as part of God’s loving plan and accept them as being what he wants for us, will actually help us to grow in knowledge and love of him.  Even when things are at their worst, keep your peace of heart and accept whatever God sends you as being for your good. God is your guide, your father, your teacher, your husband. In everything that happens the best thing you can do is abandon yourself to his will.

And so we pray:  Good and gracious God, keep us ever mindful that the times when we feel furthest from you are when we are closet. Remind us that when we are most harried, we are also most loved. Tell us again that when we are most in pain, we are most comforted. 

Let us act as Jesus does when the time of persecution comes; he does not seek revenge but builds bridges instead. 

Let us act as Jesus does when the time of pain arrives; he does not curse the darkness but turns to the Father for strength. 

Let us act as Jesus does when the time of abandonment happens; he does not rebuke the followers who leave him but turns to them in love.

We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 


Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 20.10 (2010). Print.

Image from: https://www.logos.com/grow/what-does-the-word-faith-mean-in-hebrews-11/

Adapted from a reflection written on October 20, 2010.

 

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John 20: Glory, Part XI – Emptinessmiracles-happen

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Knowing that through humility, emptiness, and service, our journey leads us more quickly to the kingdom of God we seek.

Today’s lesson on Glory: Mary Magdalene and the other apostles discover an empty tomb and at first believe that Jesus has left them behind. Through many “wonders and signs,” Jesus assures them of his very real presence.

Each Easter we spend time with this chapter of John’s Gospel, reliving the passage Jesus’ followers make from emptiness to fulfillment. It is very like the same passage we make each time we traverse a difficult patch of our lives. We might re-read these verses when we find ourselves in the emptiness of betrayal, denial or abandonment. They hold stories we will want to re-live and re-tell.

mary-magdaleneThe Empty TombMary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. We might better manage our disappointments, fears and troubles if we remember that fulfillment follows this emptiness.

The Appearance to Mary of MagdalaMary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?  We might better experience peace for the hatred we encounter in the world if we leave ourselves open to the visits of angels.

The Appearance to the Disciples On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, in fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you”. We might better discover unity in our divisions if we look for Christ who is always in our midst.

doubtiing thomas

Caravaggio: Doubting Thomas

ThomasThomas was not with them when Jesus came and so he said to the disciples, I will not believe”. Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you”. Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!” We might better understand our role as branch to Jesus’ vine if we accept Jesus’ love with humility.

Signs and WondersNow Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name. We might better hold firm in our love of Christ if we humble ourselves before the many signs and wonders we experience in our lives.


We might compare varying versions of John 20 and connect these stories to the hills in valleys in our own lives. Search this blog for reflections from John 20 and re-think the Easter miracle. 

Images from: http://thekingscorneratctk.blogspot.com/2015/04/recognizing-jesus.html and https://theultimatefundraiser.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/make-miracles-happen-with-kapiolani-medical-center-childrens-miracle-network/ and http://womenofchristianity.com/bible-women/mary-magdalene/

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Mark 16: Obeying Fear

Annibale Carracci: The Dead Christ Mourned by the Three Marys

Annibale Carracci: The Dead Christ Mourned by the Three Marys

Friday, March 25, 2015

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and John, and Salome bought spices so that they might go anoint Jesus . . . Then they went out and fled from the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment. They said nothing to anyone for they were afraid . . .

In this ending of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ followers obey their fear. Our Lenten journey brings us the opportunity to examine our own temptation to obey our fears rather than trust the Easter miracle.

When he had risen, early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene . . . when they heard he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe . . . After this he appeared in another form to two or three of them walking along on their way to the country. They returned and told the others; but they did not believe them . . . Later, as the eleven were at the table, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised.

In this ending of Mark’s Gospel, we see Jesus’ love overcome his followers’ distress. Our Lenten journey brings us the opportunity to believe the resurrection story and follow Christ.

boat-on-the-seashoreGod says: If you read my scripture carefully you will see how many times these sacred writers record my assurance to you that you need not be afraid. Spend time with my servant Mark today and allow my grace to fill you. Read the end of his story with its double ending and examine your own doubts and fears. Allow my story to sink into your bones and feel the promise I offer you. My love does not fail. My promise remains for eternity. Rather than obeying your fears, bring them to me . . . for I will still your uneasy heart.


Using the scripture link, study the various versions of Mark’s Chapter 16, and decide to put away your fears.

Carracci image from: http://www.jesus-story.net/painting_magdalene.htm

Boat image from: https://highwidhim.wordpress.com/tag/insult/

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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Galatians 3:1-14

thebible-jesus-disciples-20130321Our Experience of Christ – Part I

Who has bewitched you?

We might ask ourselves this question a thousand times during the day and the answer is always the same.  It is our doubt, our lack of faith that clouds our vision.  Paul reminds us that our justification, or our salvation, comes “not through the law or works of the law but by faith in Christ and in his death . . . The gift of God’s spirit to the Galatians came from the Gospel received in faith, not from doing what the law enjoins”.  (Senior 297)  Paul appeals to our experience of Christ both in our daily lives and as we meet him in scripture, and he reminds us that while we might come close to Christ by observing the law, it is through faith that we are blessed and redeemed.  This was promised to Abraham and now – Paul reminds us – it is promised to the gentiles.

These new Christians in Galatia to whom Paul writes were former pagans and they were being encouraged by other missionaries to observe all Jewish law along with Christ’s law of love.  This even included circumcision. (Senior 293)  Having descended from the Celts who had invaded western and central Asia Minor three hundred years prior, the Galatians had little experience in discerning and living a relationship with one true creator who loves his creatures so much that he is willing to die for them.  We might find ourselves to be much like these Galatians.


 Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.293,297. Print.

First written on April 23, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite. 

Image from: http://btscelebs.com/2013/03/21/the-bible-mission-real-verse-jesus-christ-on-palm-sunday/

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Reubens: The Incredulity of Thomas

Peter Paul Reubens: The Incredulity of Thomas

Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 25, 2021

John 20:24-29

Incredulous

Our culture wants hard facts and raw numbers. It sees humans as targets for marketing rather than reflections of God’s hope in a troubled world. The science of polling and focus groups is our newest religion while belief in miracles, acting in faith, and loving in hope are qualities that are seldom valued.

Today the Apostle Thomas brings us the opportunity to measure what is truly important, and to explore our own beliefs in the Easter story and actions in our world. Today we are given a chance to determine how well we live out the message of the Gospel. We are asked to look at how well we have become God’s message of hope to the world.

For another reflection on the theology of the Apostle Thomas, enter the words My Lord and My God into the blog search bar and explore.


Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_The_Incredulity_of_St_Thomas_-_WGA20193.jpg 

An adapted re-post from Easter Thursday 2014.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Word of God

The Word of God

1 John 1:1-4

The Word of Life

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of Life – for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us – what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too many have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.

We are a visual, tactile people.  We look for data. We rely on evidence.  We want facts.  We seek reason over emotion and the Apostle John understands this – as does God.

God says: I know that you want cold, hard proof that I am with you and yet you have it each day at your rising to a new sun and a new beginning.  Did I not awaken you this morning? I understand that you rest on science and law and that you measure your life with scientific and legal standards.  Do I not show you my justice and mercy every minute of every hour each day as you go through your work and play? I comprehend that you have fears and anxieties that rattle you and shake your confidence.  Will I abandon you when you lay your head to rest this night to gather strength for a new day?  You can rely on the testimony of the Beloved Apostle who recounts his experiences to you.  Learn to trust his word . . . for it is mine. 

When doubt assails us we waver.  When obstacles obstruct our path we stumble.  When opposing arguments clatter around us we shrink and hesitate.  John tells us today that these doubts, obstacles and arguments are as nothing before the profound truth that supports and protects us. John speaks to us with passion so that we too might believe.  When we spend time with John 1:1-5, we explore our fears and joys about the message we hear.


A re-post from July 1, 2013.

Image from: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=156989&picture=smoke-13

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Good Friday, April 10, 2020

John 21:1-14

sea-of-galilee-2[1]A Prayer by the Sea of Tiberias

We have taken apart the story of the disciples and the transformation of their lives on the shore of the sea they fished so well and so long.  We have witnessed their first, uncertain steps as they learn to become fishers of God’s children rather than fishers of God’s creatures in the sea.  Just as these early followers return to what felt familiar and found it lacking, so too might we find our old habits and old haunts when we look for peace. The disciples teach us a valuable lesson across the millennia that Jesus is always present to us.  Even when we do not recognize him.  Even when we choose to ignore him.  When we look for what we thought is lost, the apostles tell us, we need not look far.  We need only call on God.

With this story from John, we see the gentle way in which Jesus brings his followers back to the work of kingdom-building.  When we place ourselves in their place and time, we also witness the risen Christ for he is always with us quietly to materialize just when we are most in need.  He allows us to make our own decisions; yet he willingly suggests where we might best cast our nets.  He sustains us when we are hungry and frightened, he carries us when we are beaten and spent, he loves us willingly, always and without restraint.

Like these humble apostles who find their hopes dashed and their faith shaken, we too might return to our former, familiar ways only to find them less comfortable and less successful than we remembered.

Like these weary apostles who are frightened and disoriented by their incomprehensible Easter experience, we too might be slow to recognize Jesus when he steps quietly into our lives.

Like these flawed but loving apostles who are tossed by the social, political and religious pressures that surround them, we too will see Christ in the most casual of places and find him at the most dire of times.

Jesus calls, Jesus suggests, Jesus invites, Jesus feeds, Jesus shares.  Jesus asks us to follow, always leaving the choice open to us.  Jesus asks us to listen, always leaving us the option to turn away.  Jesus asks us to share, always leaving us the opportunity to accept or reject his offer.

And so we pray.

Good and constant Lord, we have witnessed the Easter story and still we have our doubts.  Pull us back to you and hold us closely.

Good and patient Lord, we have seen the empty tomb and still we worry.  Hold us in your arms to keep us from falling away.

Good and loving Lord, we have eaten with you in an old, familiar place in a new, transforming way.  Keep us ever with you and never let us forget our encounter with you by the Sea of Tiberias.

We ask this in Jesus name.  Amen. 


A re-post from Easter Week 2013.

To read a blog journal of a visit to The Sea of Galilee/Tiberias, click on the image above and toggle through the entries, or begin the sea-line journey at: http://pauseforthought.wordpress.com/2009/07/09/a-simple-home-of-love-teaching-and-healing/  You may also be interested in other Holy Land entries on the Mountain Tops and Monday Mornings blog.

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Saturday, April 4, 2020

John 20:24-29

Caravaggio: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas

Caravaggio: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas

My Lord and my God!

Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. 

The loveliness of Thomas is that he is passionate; he leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind what is required to bring him to the conclusion that Jesus is risen.  We might see ourselves or someone we well know in this story today. We may even be Thomas ourselves.

A week has passed since the incredible event at the garden tomb; so many rumors fill the Jerusalem air that it is impossible to sort through them.  The disciples are again inside, we are told, and this time Thomas is with them.

Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you”.

Again the stunned surprise as the disciples look to one another to see who still stands in doubt.  It is likely that Thomas is not the only follower of the Teacher who needs convincing of the mysterious truth that Jesus is no ghost but a man, scarred by his crucifix experience, but still . . . a full, living, breathing, resurrected man.  Not resuscitated as was Lazarus, but risen.  The disciples in the Upper Room struggle once more to gain the peace Jesus so easily grants them.  All eyes move back to Jesus, who holds out his hands palms upward as he says to Thomas, Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it in my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.

Thomas’ response is five brief words that contain the theology by which he will live out the remainder of his days – a theology by which we too might easily live our entire lives . . . if we  might only see and believe: My Lord and my God!

We might wonder what words erupted from the other disciples who may have chided Thomas for his lack of belief.  We might imagine that there was a new solemnity in the air as these friends struggled to find new footing in this new place of total faith.  Or we might as easily believe that they fell into conversation just as they had so often done before this last Passover.  John does not record any detail but what we can see is Thomas’ unrelenting passion.  As strongly as he insisted on seeing evidence before committing himself to this incredible belief . . . he now as strongly validates the mystery standing before them.  My Lord and my God!

And so we pray . . .

Good and forgiving God, visit with us this day and each day in such a way that we cannot deny you: My Lord and my God!

Good and patient God, remain with us through our days of doubt and our nights of fear in such a way that we will always praise you: My Lord and my God!

Good and loving God, guide us in our times of trial and our times of rejoicing in such a way that we will always love you: My Lord and my God!

We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Tomorrow, the road to Emmaus . . .


A re-post from Easter Week 2013.

Image from: http://www.dovesandserpents.org/wp/2011/08/doubting-thomas-me/

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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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