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Posts Tagged ‘faith-hope-love’


Isaiah 26:8-12: The Duality of Justice

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Like the Old Testament psalmists, we ask God to avenge the wrongs done to us. Like the New Testament followers of Christ, we ask God to forgive our enemies who know not what they do. This dichotomy of justice reflects God’s merciful nature. It is, at the same time, a challenge we hope to meet.

On the cross that serves as the mechanism of his human death, Jesus requests that God the Creator forgive those who kill him, for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:24)

In his ghastly death by stoning, Stephen uses a last breath to intercede for his attackers saying, Lord, do not hold this sin against them. (Acts 7:60)

These are challenging actions to imitate; this state of mind asks of us an incredibly high level of persistence, patience and fidelity to God’s ways. We doubt that we can rise to this demanding witness to God’s great love, and so we ask . . . How do we bridge the gap between God’s way and our own?

Carlo Crivelli: Saint Stephen

When doubt rises within, we rely on the gift of faith planted in us at our inception. When we relax into God’s plan, this gift flourishes in such a way that we receive much more than we give.

When desperation erodes the sense of peace and good will we have nurtured, we trust the gift of hope in God’s promises to us. When we rest in the memories of God’s power to move in our lives, anxiety crumbles, worry dissolves.

When our circumstances point to all that is wrong with the world, we act in the gift of God’s love as demonstrated in the many small miracles that shower our lives like the gentle rain after a dry season. When we put aside our desire for revenge, our anger subsides. When we determine to address our enemies with mercy, our hope for destruction of those who oppose us ebbs away. When we make the decision to meet our enemies with prudent love and faith-filled awe of the Lord, we find that we are suddenly open to the possibility that the duality we see in God’s justice will bring about the transformation of the world.


To learn more about Saint Stephen, click on the image above or visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Stephen and https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-stephen/

Images from: http://ocarm.org/en/content/ocarm/mercy-without-justice-mother-dissolution-justice-without-mercy-cruelty and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Stephen

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John 20:19-31: Beyond Locked Doors

Third Sunday of Easter, April 15, 2018

It was late that Sunday evening, and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors, because they were afraid.

How can we doubt the love of God when Christ moves through locked doors to console his followers?

Jesus came and stood among them. “Peace be with you.”

How can we turn away from the hope God brings to us to conquer our fear?

The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord.

How can we refuse to unlock our hearts when Christ offers love so astounding that it overcomes all obstacles?

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.”

How can we close ourselves off from Christ’s compassion?

Jesus said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

How can we reject God’s gift of self in the person of Christ, in the presence of the Spirit?

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.”

On this third Sunday of Easter, let us willingly take up this gift, and let us share the good news of Christ’s fidelity, hope, love and joy with others.


When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore other translations of these verses, we invite Christ to open the locks with which we have closed our hearts. 

Images from: https://demetriusrogers.com/2014/09/06/closed-doors/ and https://www.adventure-journal.com/2012/02/25-more-awesome-hearts-found-in-nature/ 

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John 20:11-18: Overwhelmed

Antiveduto Gramatica: Mary Magdalene at the Tomb

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

In this second week of Eastertide, we continue to relive the Easter miracle of our resurrection. We re-visit the Gospel readings for the Easter Octave, and today we reflect on our response to the Risen Christ’s call that we too often miss because we are overwhelmed.

Mary stood crying outside the tomb.

We wonder where we might find God amid the horrors of war. We see no way forward and shrink from those why ask, “Where is your God now?” And because we are overwhelmed, we do not see that Christ accompanies us in faith.

Woman, why are you crying?

We wonder where to look for God amid the homeless, the radically poor, and the fully marginalized. We move forward slowly in darkness, waiting for the light. And because we are overwhelmed, we do not see that Christ accompanies us in hope.

Then she turned around and saw Jesus standing there; but she did not know that it was Jesus. “Woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who is it that you are looking for?”

Mary Magdalene Sees Jesus at the Empty Tomb

We wonder how to encounter God as we struggle to survive the battles of life. We grope for surety, anticipate a surge of confidence, and wonder where compassion is hiding. And because we are overwhelmed, we do not see that Christ accompanies us in love.

Mary stood crying outside the tomb.

The angels of God ask Mary directly – and they ask, “Woman, why are you crying?” Can we give up our fears, give in to these angels, and rely on Christ’s presence?

Christ himself stands before Mary – and he stands before us – to ask, “Who is it you are looking for?” Can we surrender our anxieties, trust Christ himself, and believe that God turns all harm to good?

When circumstances and emotions overwhelm us . . . are we willing to let go of all that terrifies us . . . to fall into the loving presence of the risen Christ?


This selection from John’s Gospel appears frequently in liturgical readings and when we spend time with these verses, we understand why. Read more reflections on this citation on this blog, search for these posts: Overwhelmed by GraceWhere the Body Had Been, Possibilities, Turning Again.

For more reflections on Mary Magdalene, enter her name into the blog search bar to discover what she has to say to us today.

Images from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Antiveduto_Gramatica_-_Mary_Magdalene_at_the_Tomb_-_WGA10352.jpg and http://www.graspinggod.com/jesus-and-mary-magdalene.html

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Isaiah 49:1-6: The Servant’s Mission

Holy Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Yesterday we reflected on the role of the servant in God’s plan for creation. Today we reflect on the servant’s mission.

I will also make you a light to the nations—
    so that all the world may be saved. (GNT)

When we wonder if our thoughts are one with God’s, we examine the source of our motivations. Do we forgive our enemies? Do we pray for those who harm us? Do we reach out to those who are broken-hearted?

I will give you as a light to the nations,
    that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. (NRSV)

When we wonder if our words reflect God’s plan, we examine the foundation of our beliefs. Do we speak up when we see injustice? Do we rebuke ourselves and our loved ones when we go astray? Do we shelter the homeless and feed the hungry?

I will also make you a light to the nations,
so my salvation can spread to the ends of the earth. (CJB)

When we wonder if our actions serve to build God’s kingdom, we examine the fruits born from our life’s work. Do we work to break down unjust structures? Do we work with others to ferret out corruption no matter where we find it? Do we work to create societies that give preference to the poor?

I’m setting you up as a light for the nations
    so that my salvation becomes global” (MSG)

When we wonder if we have the faith to persist in our mission, we ask God for strength. When we wonder if we have the hope to believe in God’s promises, we rely on Christ’s encouraging presence. When we wonder if we have the love to work for the transformation of the world, we rest in the Spirit who heals, counsels, and consoles. As we near the Easter Triduum, we move forward to continue the work of our mission as God’s servants.


When we compare varying translations of these verses, we find the strength, confidence and mercy to move forward in our mission as disciples of Christ. 

Images from: http://lutheran-church-regina.com/blogs/post/sermon-january-12th-2014-isaiah-42 and http://www.turnbacktogod.com/pray-for-gods-servants/ 

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2 Maccabees 12:38-46: Battle – Part VI

Ernest William Tristram: Reconstruction of Medieval Mural Painting, Battle of Judas Maccabeus with Timotheus and the Fall of Maspha – Parliamentary Art Collection, UK

Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 11, 2018

It is the endurance of the Maccabees we seek through our intense hope in the promises of God.  It is the fidelity of the Maccabees we seek through our deep faith in the goodness of God.  It is the devotion of the Maccabees we seek through our passionate love for the ways of God. 

We engage in battle with the world; we struggle with circumstances beyond our control. We look for peace where there is only strife. Anxiety builds as we look for serenity; and fear overtakes us too often. When we examine our journey from Ash Wednesday to Easter, we know that we cannot escape our battles. When we remember the story of the Maccabeus family, we also know that it is our battles that transform us. And so we continue to search.

The way of the Seeker has been demonstrated to us by Christ for if God so loved the world that he sent his only son (John 3:16), and if this son dies in expiation for the sins of all, how can we not forgive all and ask to be forgiven in all?  How can we not enter into this sacrifice and petition to God to redeem all those who have fallen away? How can we refuse to move forward trusting in God and exercising compassion for ourselves and others?

In our Lenten journey as we anticipate the promise of Easter when we celebrate the resurrection of the dead, we find ourselves called to the sheepfold by the love of the Great Shepherd.  If we seek to know this shepherd most intimately, we will imitate Christ in all ways possible, and we will offer all that we suffer for the saving of those who struggle to enter the fold. And so we pray.

Good and strong and gentle God, entering into Christ’s sacrifice with our fellow seekers, we offer our pain willingly.  We lift joyful hearts and songs of praise because by the mercy and surrender of Christ, we are released from the fear and pain that enslaves us.  We ask that our hearts of stone be made warm by the Holy Spirit’s love, that our necks stiffened in pride be made humble in God’s mercy, and that our straying from the sheepfold be redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice. Amen.    

Adapted from a Favorite written on April 25, 2009.

Find image at http://www.artuk.org/artworks/reconstruction-of-medieval-mural-painting-battle-of-judas-maccabeus-with-timotheus-and-the-fall-of-maspha-214242

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2 Maccabees 12:38-46: Battle – Part V

Click on this image for a video commentary.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Today’s Favorite returns once more to 2 Maccabees, the first Book cited in the first Noontime Scripture reflection. The message is as simple, constant, and powerful today as it was more than a decade ago. Be steadfast. Trust in God. Remain faithful to God. Life is a struggle, but God is with us. We need not be afraid. 

Today’s citation reminds us of a strong underpinning of those themes: there is life after our apparent death, and we must pray not only for ourselves but for those who have strayed from the covenant as well.  1 Maccabees 5:6 gives a different reason for the fall of the Israelite troops – the priests had wanted to distinguish themselves in battle – but the message is the same: if we succeed in remaining faithful to our covenant with God, we must pray for those who fallen.

We will not want to miss the true life that follows this one, and we will want to share this full and generous life with our families and friends.  And lest we fear that our loved ones will not accompany us, we remember that it is possible to bring straying sheep into the fold through petition to the Creator. We remember that with God all things are possible.

Christ is the one who offers himself in expiation for the downfall of the world and thus becomes the Redeemer of all.  We participate in this redemption by offering our own sufferings in expiation for others.  The dead will live again, and this we can believe.

Over time, we have spent several Noontimes reflecting on the lessons brought to us by the Maccabeus family.  Their stamina, their perseverance, their refusal to be extinguished, and their refusal to allow God’s law of forgiveness, mercy and justice to be extinguished is seen again in all of Christ’s followers.  Jesus’ disciples are constant searchers of God’s essence and truth.  They will always hunger and thirst for an essence they feel but cannot see, a Spirit they know but cannot always touch. The Maccabeus family tells us this story. Jesus the Redeemer invites all of us to be these followers.

It is the endurance of the Maccabees we seek through our intense hope in the promises of God.  It is the fidelity of the Maccabees we seek through our deep faith in the goodness of God.  It is the devotion of the Maccabees we seek through our passionate love for the ways of God. 

Tomorrow, a prayer for trials and obstacles.

Adapted from a Favorite written on April 25, 2009.

To learn why the Books of the Maccabees are not included in the Jewish Bible, visit: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/omitting-the-maccabees/ 

Watch a video commentary at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdHjJFQAoZk 

Images from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/leaders-mind-3-steadfastness-barry-walsh/ and https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/omitting-the-maccabees/

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Psalm 89: A Hymn in Time of National Struggle – Part V

Saturday, January 27, 2018

John Singleton Copley: Eli and Samuel

Finding the Servant

We have taken a quick journey through the Books of Samuel to see that life in our century has much in common with life in ancient days. Some might say that as a species, we have not made much progress. Others may disagree, pointing to improved living conditions for some, though not for all. The Old Testament perspective we see in 1 and 2 Samuel gives way to the New Testament good news that God has come to live among us as a clear sign of God’s love for us. The message that Jesus brings is clear, although not always altogether comfortable. Christ calls us today to tend to those on the margins of our societies who do not benefit from the advances some of us have made, and this clearly will cause times of national struggle.

If we look at the Books of Samuel more closely, and the vivid characters who tell their stories so well, we see clear lessons for living.

How do we handle the corruption we experience? We might take a lesson from God’s message to us when we remember that the young prophet Samuel – who leads a young nation to unity – is raised by a corrupt Temple priest. If God protects and guides a faithful servant to blossom and grow in an environment that lacks authenticity, then we must trust God to protect and guide us today. (1 Samuel 3)

What do we do with our feelings of jealousy or envy?  It is possible to hear a message when we recount the story of Saul’s greed and disappointment when the women sing, Saul has killed thousands, but David tens of thousands. If God inspires David to show courage and love to his enemies, then we must trust God to inspire us today. (1 Samuel 18-19)

Matteo Roselli: The Triumph of David

How might we step out of our comfort zone? Perhaps we learn something about the story of David showing mercy to Saul during the time when Saul persecuted David. If God provides strength and hope to a faithful servant during a time of national turmoil, then we must trust God to bring us strength and hope today. (1 Samuel 24)

How might we better understand God’s plan? We might learn a lesson when we take in the story of David among the Philistines. If we find ourselves working well with our enemies – much to our surprise – then we must trust God’s wisdom and grace more than we trust our own instincts. (1 Samuel 27)

We hear this story . . . we take it in . . . and then we reply with the psalmist and King David . . . O Lord, I will always sing of your constant love; I will proclaim your faithfulness forever.

When we compare other translations of these chapters in 1 Samuel, we open ourselves to God’s fidelity, hope, love, grace and wisdom.

We can learn more about the priest Eli who raised the prophet Samuel in the Temple when we visit: https://bible.org/seriespage/4-rise-samuel-and-fall-eli-and-sons-1-samuel-31-422

Tomorrow, more lessons from Samuel.  

 

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John 14:12-14: Seek Wholeness – The Work

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

If we cannot believe Christ’s presence in our lives today, we can at least do the works we see Jesus doing in the Gospels. Over time, we will discover that Jesus brings us hope.

I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works.

If we do not trust God with the enormous events of our lives, we can at least trust God with small actions. Over time, we will discover that God is faithful.

The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing.

If we do not allow the Spirit to heal us through transformation, we can at least open ourselves to the possibility of renewal. Over time, we will discover the Spirit’s deep and abiding love for us.

You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do.

God says: Despite your doubts, despite your fears, despite your anxieties, you are already whole. I breathe in you. I rest in you. I work and play and pray in you. If you seek wholeness, know that you already possess it. And this possession becomes evident if you can only do the works you see Jesus doing. When you step into my Way, you discover that you are loved into a wholeness that you recognize readily. Trust me. You can count on it.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore versions of these verses, we discover that we are already whole in our Gospel work of Christ’s Way.

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Jeremiah 39: God is my Greatness

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Seal of Gedaliah

Seal of Gedaliah

From the www.biblehub.com dictionary: “Gedaliah – (God is my greatness), son of Ahikam. Jeremiah’s protector, (Jeremiah 26:24) and grandson of Shaphan the secretary of King Josiah. After the destruction of the temple, B.C. 588, Nebuchadnezzar departed from Judea, leaving Gedaliah with a Chaldean guard, (Jeremiah 40:5) at Mizpah to govern the vinedressers and husbandmen, (Jeremiah 52:16) who were exempted from captivity. Jeremiah jointed Gedaliah; and Mizpah became the resort of Jews from various quarters. (Jeremiah 40:6,11) He was murdered by Ishmael two months after his appointment”.

In today’s Noontime reading we meet Gedaliah, a governor of Judah who tries to protect the prophet Jeremiah, later meets a violent death; yet his name reminds us that God is my greatness. Might we also say the same when we meet evil? Might we have the fidelity, hope and love to rely on God no matter our circumstances?

As we look at the world around us we may believe that our systems and structures are coming apart; and we may be tempted to seek shelter under the narrow arms of a demagogue. This would only demonstrate that we have forgotten that God is our greatness. When we observe unusual weather patterns and devastating natural events, we might think that we have driven nature beyond its own limits; and we might want to blind ourselves to the realities that confront us. This would only confirm that we have forgotten that God is our greatness. In those times when family or friends betray us – or when we find that we are the betrayers – we may believe that we are alone. This would only reject the knowledge that God is our greatness. Today we are given the opportunity to reflect on all that plagues and blesses us. And we are given the opportunity to remember that beyond any doubt, beyond any fear, beyond any anxiety we do well to remember that indeed, God is our greatness.

Today we remember as we reflect . . . we are Easter People.

 To learn more about Gedaliah, click on the image above, or visit: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/tzom-gedaliah/ 

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