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1 Thessalonians 3Standing Firm in Faith

Sunday, July 9, 2017

From the MAGNIFICAT Evening Prayer Mini-Reflection: Even today, human beings have no control over storms at sea, and sometimes very little control over storms in the heart.  Only God has the power to still the tempest without and the tempests within. 

In today’s Noontime we can hear the anguish in Paul’s words . . . For this reason, when I too could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith.  There are times when we can bear things no longer, when we must hear from someone, when we must have a sign from God, when we insist on something more than blind faith and wild hope.  Our best antidote to this type of obsessive fear is the act of giving thanks for all that we are and all that we have received from God.  When the storms without and the storms within begin to brew, we must recall the so many times that we are rescued; and we take comfort from knowing that God loves us more than we can imagine.  When we turn to God in thanksgiving we will appreciate Paul’s words: What thanksgiving can we render to God for you? Paul has it right – when the going gets tough, the rocky path suddenly becomes smoother when we praise God.

In the end, what we want most is to know that all is well . . . and it always is when we live in Christ.  So let us give thanks and praise.

In the end, the only thing that matters is that we live in Christ . . . for existing outside of Christ is not the life we are called.  So let us give thanks and praise.

In the end, the only thing that matters at all is that we live with Christ . . . for living without him, living in fear and hopelessness is a life of anxiety and desperation.  So let us give thanks and praise.

Christ is in each of us.  When days are dark, let us give thanks and praise.  When days are bright, let us give thanks and praise.  Let us remain in Christ, in hope, in faith, and in love.  Then perhaps someone will write to us as Paul writes to the Thessalonians of his gratitude that we have remained strong in faith, bold in hope, and merciful in love . . .  For we live, if you now stand firm in the Lord.

Let us also stand firm . . . and let us give thanks and praise.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 26.10 (2010). Print.

A Favorite from October 26, 2010.

 

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Ephesians 2:7-10: A Shower of Grace and Kindness

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

In faith, we abide with God, as God abides with us.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus.

In hope, we trust in God, as God trusts in us.

Saving is all God’s idea, and all God’s work. All we do is trust God enough to let God do it. 

In love, we live in God, as God lives in us.

It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing!

In faith, through hope, by love, we are images of God’s passion in a world longing for transformation.

We neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving.

In faith, through hope, by love, we are Christ’s hands and feet in the world looking for kindness.

God creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join God in the work God does, the good work God has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

In faith, through hope, by love, we are the Spirit’s healing presence among people who yearn for peace.

When we compare translations of these verses and open ourselves to God’s kindness, we encounter the transforming power of God’s grace.

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Hebrews 11Something Betterrainbow-forest-468

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. 

“This chapter draws upon the people and events of the Old Testament to paint an inspiring portrait of religious faith, firm and unyielding in the face of any obstacles that confront itThese pages rank among the most eloquent and lofty of the Bible”.

All these [holy women and men of the Old Testament] died in faith.  They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth . . . Perhaps when we feel as though we are alien to those around us it is because we are living in two different worlds: the first being what we see around us, the second being the reality of the world of the Spirit.

“The author gives the most extensive description of faith provided in the New Testament, though his interest does not lie in a technical, theological definition.  In view of the needs of his audience he describes what faith does, not what it is itself”.  

hebrews 11Women received back their dead through resurrection . . . Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment . . . The world was not worthy of them . . . Perhaps when we are persecuted for God’s sake it is because we bring a truth to those who wish to live in this world rather than build God’s world.

“Through faith, God guarantees the blessings to be hoped for from him, providing evidence in the gift of faith that what he promises will eventually come to pass”. 

By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac . . . By faith, Joseph spoke of the Exodus of the Israelites . . . By faith Moses was hidden by his parents . . . By faith the walls of Jericho fell . . . By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish with the disobedient . . . What more shall I say? . . . Perhaps we might have more confidence in the future if we thank God for the many miracles we have received in the past and receive even today.

“Christians have even greater reason to remain firm in faith since they, unlike the Old Testament men and women of faith, have perceived the beginning of God’s fulfillment of his messianic promises”.

God had foreseen something better for us . . . And perhaps we already hold in our hands something better than what we had anticipated . . . if we might only live as if we have evidence of our faith.

Today, we hear from the 35th chapter of Isaiah in the first reading at Mass and I smile.  The prophet describes what he sees in the future . . . and I like to think he sees who and what Christ’s followers are and are becoming.  He speaks of the desert and the parched land will exult: the steppe rejoice and bloom . . . Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe.  The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water . . . No one unclean may pass over it, nor fools go astray on it.  It is for those with the journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk.  Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy.  They will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee . . .

This is what God envisions for us.  This is what God promises us.  This is the gift we have been given . . . a faith that is the realization of what is hoped for . . . and is evidence of things not seen . . . a faith that is evidence of something better . . . 

Citations are from THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. 

A Favorite from December 6, 2010.

For more about Rahab, visit: http://biblehub.com/topical/r/rahab_or_rachab.htm

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.363-364. Print.   

 

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Romans 5:1-5: Indwelling and Endurance

Pentecost Sunday, June 4, 2017

PENTECOST-

Jean Restout: Pentecost

With the indwelling of the Spirit, we know Christ more intimately.

Jesus Christ has brought us by faith into this experience of God’s grace, in which we now live.

Through the promise and gift of God’s grace, we live more fully.

And so we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory!

With the gift of life’s obstacles, we find our way to God through Christ.

We also boast of our troubles, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance brings God’s approval, and God’s approval creates hope.

With the transformation and peace of God’s wisdom, we become true disciples of Christ.

This hope does not disappoint us, for God has poured out God’s love into our hearts by means of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s gift to us.

With persistence in faith, courage in hope, and charity in love, we come to understand the true gift of the Spirit’s indwelling.

When we spend time with these verses by reflecting on varying translations, we open ourselves to the Spirit’s indwelling, and we learn to endure in Christ.

For a slide show of Pentecost paintings, click on the image above, or visit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/19/pentecost-in-art-paintings-stained-glass-windows-frescoes-and-more-photos_n_3303122.html?slideshow=true#gallery/298296/0

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1 Peter 1:3-9: A Living Hope

Third Sunday of Easter, April 30, 2017

Peter Denies Christ
John 18

As we enter into the third week of Eastertide, we look to Peter, Jesus’ companion who denied knowing him (John 18); and who later pledged to the resurrected Christ that he would feed and love his sheep (John 21). We are those sheep and today we listen to Peter’s words.

What a God we have! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! 

As we move through our days and nights, this is good news. In our typically linear way of thinking, the past, present and future are separate entities that we cannot manipulate; yet Peter tells us that Jesus has changed the natural order of time. Past, present and future fuse into an eternal timelessness, an infinite oneness, an unending union. And we are invited to participate in this union.

The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole. I know how great this makes you feel, even though you have to put up with every kind of aggravation in the meantime.

As we look at our lives and our surrounding circumstances, these are joyful words. In our consumption and status driven world, the powerful hold sway over the poor, sickness opposes good health, and death overcomes life; yet Peter reminds us of the many miracles that erase the demarcation between wholeness and weakness.

You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.

James Tissot: Feed My Lambs
John 21

As we anticipate the fulfillment of God’s promise, the serenity of Jesus’ Good News, and perfect union with and in the healing of the Spirit, we find Peter’s words reassuring. In the rush of our days, we pause to reflect on the healing power of Peter’s testimony. From one who once renounced the Living God, we hear the miracle of his conversion. And we turn from our anxieties and fears to the assurance of this Living Hope.

The verses cited above are from THE MESSAGE. To compare these words with those in other translations, use the scripture link and the drop-down menus to explore Peter’s message of A Living Hope to us.

Tomorrow, the first of Peter’s sermons following Pentecost.

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John 12:44-50: Re-Creation – Christ

the_good_shepherd_by_zaghami-d6rzo8x

ZaGHaMi: The Good Shepherd

Second Sunday of Easter, April 23, 2017

When we see the Bible as an entire story of God’s people, we know that Jesus is not God’s Plan B. Jesus is Plan A. God does not see that humanity has gone awry and then decide to send in the saving force of Jesus. God’s direct interaction with creation has no beginning or end. It is eternal, just as God is eternal.

Jesus says: Whoever believes in me, believes not just in me but in the One who sent me. Whoever looks at me is looking, in fact, at the One who sent me. I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won’t have to stay any longer in the dark.

God always has faith that God will find every lost sheep.

If anyone hears what I am saying and doesn’t take it seriously, I don’t reject him. I didn’t come to reject the world; I came to save the world.

God has outrageous hope that every lost sheep will return to the fold.

But you need to know that whoever puts me off, refusing to take in what I’m saying, is willfully choosing rejection. The Word, the Word-made-flesh that I have spoken and that I am, that Word and no other is the last word. I’m not making any of this up on my own.

God’s love knows no bounds. God has always loved us. God will always love us. God continues to love us each day.

The Father who sent me gave me orders, told me what to say and how to say it. And I know exactly what his command produces: real and eternal life. That’s all I have to say. What the Father told me, I tell you.

As Richard Rohr, OFM, has said with a chuckle, “God is victorious. God doesn’t lose. That’s what it means to be God”.

Today as we settle into this second Sunday of Eastertide, let us hold these truths closely. Let us open our ears and open our eyes. And let us determine to be re-created in Christ so that we might live as Jesus lives . . . so that all may be one in this universal message of universal love.

Listen to a four-and-a-half minute chat with Fr. Richard Rohr on this topic at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owZRS5WVJuM

jesus-icon-1000

The photograph above was taken “along the dusty roads of rural Punjab, Pakistan”. The icon is a traditional early image of Jesus.

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Galatians 3:26-29: Re-Creation – God’s People

Easter Friday, April 21, 2017

If we wonder how God sees the children God lovingly created to bring light to the darkness, we might consider Paul’s words to the Galatians.

It is through faith that all of you are God’s children in union with Christ Jesus. You were baptized into union with Christ, and now you are clothed, so to speak, with the life of Christ himself. So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free people, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are the descendants of Abraham and will receive what God has promised.

Through God’s grace, we receive the gift of faith and we read the testimony left by others.

From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us. We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy! (1 John 1)

Through the grace of the Holy Spirit, we receive the gift of life eternal. On this Easter Friday, as we gather ourselves for Easter re-creation, we benefit from spending time with John’s first letter of testimony. He tells us that all he recounts is real. He reminds us that all he recounts to us has taken place. And he states very clearly that all he reports to us continues to occur today.

To explore varying versions of the verses cited in today’s Noontime, use the scripture links and the drop-down menus.

 

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Philippians 2:6-8: Re-Creation

Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017

[Jesus] always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. (GNT)

In this Lententide, we have meditated on the humility we might learn on our Emmaus journey; we ponder the outrageous hope we have in the Spirit. We have considered the phoenix rising from ashes as we have pledged to remain in God. We have admitted that we are children of God who rest in Christ; and we have determined to remain in the world while not being of it. We have reflected on the act of allowing ourselves to be de-created so that we might become new in Christ. Today, as we celebrate the wondrous miracle of new life that conquers death, we come to terms with our human yet divine nature.

Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. (NRSV)

Richard Rohr tells us, “All healthy religion shows you what to do with your pain . . . If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become cynical, negative, or bitter . . . If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it – usually to those closest around us: our family, our neighbors, our work partners, and, invariably, the most vulnerable, our children”. (Rohr 119)

Jesus shows us how we might allow our suffering to save ourselves and others.

Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. (MSG)

On this great day we might celebrate the breaking of chains of death that none thought breakable. When we witness Christ in his interactions with those who were crucified with him, and later the women and men who discovered the empty tomb, we do not see Christ puffed up in glory. Rather, we find a humble and loving shepherd who leaves an entire flock in order to rescue a single sheep.

On this great day we celebrate the invitation to re-create ourselves in Christ. We give thanks for the invitation to redemption in Christ. And we rejoice in the promise of hope the Spirit offers us. Let us accept these caring gifts with humility, fidelity and love.

The feast of Easter is an eight-day celebration, so this week we will consider how and where we might show our gratitude to God for these gifts of eternal salvation.

Richard Rohr, OFM. The Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations. Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016.  

To spend more time with these verses, use the scripture link to read varying translations of these words, and to open our hearts to these remarkable gifts of faith, hope and love.

 

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Romans 9: Children of the Promise – Part I

Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 26, 2017

Adapted from a reflection written on June 3, 2010.

In this chapter of Romans, Paul puzzles over the lack of faith in the Christ story among the Jewish people.  They are clearly chosen by God to convey the message of freedom and salvation to the world and in fact, one of their own is the Messiah; yet they reject the message of hope and promise that Jesus offers. This is also the message that Paul proclaims anew.

In the previous chapter (Romans 8), Paul reminds us that faith is the belief in things not seen; hope is the exercise of expecting something that is greater and better than we think likely (8:24-25).  He reminds all of us that the Holy Spirit is at work in and among us, and that we must be open to God’s plan rather than forwarding our own.  Now he puzzles over the lack of expectation and fidelity in those who have had the advantage of the special status; he finds it strange that the very people and tradition that have engendered the message now turn against it.

Do we see this same contradiction in our own age? Do we see it in ourselves? If not, we might be content to muddle forward as always. If so, we have a clear choice before us. Do we blame God for the failings and lacks in society? Or do we examine ourselves, and then rely on God as we take action?

Paul answers some of his, and our, questions in verses 14 to 16: What then are we to say?  Is there injustice on the part of God?  Of course not . . . it depends not upon a person’s will or exertion, but upon God, who shows mercy. 

We are part of God’s great design and are called to take part in the redemption of the world.

Shall we say, then, that God is unjust? Not at all . . . So then, everything depends, not on what we humans want or do, but only on God’s mercy. (GNT)

We are God’s precious children, and are asked to demonstrate the same mercy that God shows us.

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! . . .  So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. (NASB)

We are the receivers of God’s great promise. Let us accept this gift graciously, and act with God’s justice for all.

Tomorrow, more of Paul’s thinking. How does it affect all that we do?

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