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Thanksgiving Day, U.S.A

November 26, 2020

Jesus Healing the Centurion's Servant

Paolo Veronese: Jesus Healing the Centurion’s Servant

Matthew 8:5-13

As we gather in the U.S. to give thanks for all that we are and all that we have, we remember that we are all . . . 

Under the Centurion’s Roof

This story has long held our fascination – a Roman centurion approaches the very un-pagan Jesus on behalf of his servant. This story raises questions for us – who is the servant who merits so much devotion on the part of his master; and what has caused the paralysis? A fall? A disease? A battle wound? This story is repeated by many as part of the Communion Rite – Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, say but the word and my soul shall be healed. This story invites us to step into the household of this Roman centurion to discover why he has such faith, and it invites us to examine our own sense of thanksgiving for all that we have.

My servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully . . . how do we ask for God’s help when those who serve us suffer?

I will come and cure him . . . countless times each day we benefit from God’s blessing and intervention. How do we thank God?

Lord, I am not worthy . . . only say the word . . . how do we respond to the signs of God’s intervention we see all around us?

As you have believed, let it be done for you . . . how do we tell the world about the goodness of God’s love for us?

A Centurion was a person of power and influence who rose through military ranks using his skills as a soldier and leader. If he paid homage to any god or creed, it would have been in keeping with the pagan beliefs held by his contemporaries; yet he comes to Jesus.

Jesus is willing to enter under any roof to heal all suffering and to bind up all wounds. If we find our ourselves hesitating to invite the master into our hearts, let us take a lesson from the powerful and compassionate soldier. Let us go to God with our needs and hopes. Let us speak plainly to the Lord about our feelings and circumstances. And let us give thanks to God for God’s great goodness and love.

Phyllis Tickle offers us a prayer of Thanksgiving that we might share with others as we gather under the Centurion’s roof.

“O Lord my God, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; yet you have called me to stand in this house, and to serve at this work. To you and to your service I devote myself, body, soul, and spirit. Fill my memory with the record of your mighty works; enlighten my understanding with the light of your Holy Spirit; and may all the desires of my heart and will center in what you would have me do. Make me an instrument of your salvation for the people entrusted to my care, and grant that by my life and teaching I may set forth your true and living Word. Be always with me in carrying out the duties of my faith. In prayer, quicken my devotion; in praises, heighten my love and gratitude; in conversation, give me readiness of thought and expression; and grant that, by the clearness and brightness of your Holy Word, all the world may be drawn into your blessed kingdom. All this I ask for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen”.  (Tickle 255)


Tickle, Phyllis.  THE DIVINE HOURS: PRAYERS FOR AUTUMN AND WINTERTIME. New York: Doubleday, 2000. Print.

To learn more about a centurion and his place in Roman society, go to: http://christianity.about.com/od/glossary/a/Centurion.htm

Image from: https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-healing-servant-Centurion-Veronese/dp/B07CSSNKSJ

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Saturday, October 31, 2020

daniel-3-furnace[1]Daniel 1-3

Reality

This one prophecy teaches us much: it tells us how to recognize God in the midst of horror, it reminds us that only God saves in an infinite way, and it exhorts us to witness without actually fighting . . . for the fighting must be left to God. If you can make time today . . . spend awhile with Daniel.

In the first two chapters we read of two important lessons: that all divine dominion comes from the God of Israel, and that false, pagan gods offer nothing. In Daniel 3 we watch as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are tossed into the fiery furnace. Not only do they survive, but a fourth figure appears to accompany them in song: an angel of this marvelous God. This is how much God loves each of us. God is so mindful of us that when we are in distress, God sends word to us and God even protects us from the fire of destruction.

There are many instances in our lives in which our perception is that God has let us down or has turned a deaf ear to our petitions. This thinking comes from our ego rather than from our Spirit. All that we see, touch, taste, smell, and hear is a chimera. All that we perceive, sense, know, intuit, and feel in God . . . this is reality. This is truth.

In a world where so many pagan voices call us to fame, fortune, outward perfection, celebrity, science, power, comfort and self-absorption, we find it difficult to hear the one voice of truth which speaks softly of union, dynamism, mystery, discomfort, humility, change, transformation and inner peace. What Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego know and witness to is the lesson which this prophecy drives home so well when we are able sit to read the entire story . . . the faithful do not need to fight . . . they only must refuse to do anything which separates them from God . . . they must not fear . . . they only need to rest in God . . . and they need not worry about God’s plan . . . they need only to find their place in it.

What we know is this . . . that when we begin with simple tasks such as the food test we read about in Daniel 1, we are being eased into following God in many small ways because these little ways will train our neural connections to focus on God rather than the other world that lures us by calling itself real.

What we also know is this . . . that once we set our feet upon the path of God in all of these little ways our union with God will be stronger than any fiery furnace we must endure. And this is a reality that lasts forever.

This prophecy puts into words the mystery of our faith. This prophecy assures us that the more we let go to fall into God’s trust, the less we will fear. This prophecy reminds us that the more we lose self to let the Spirit enter our souls, the less we struggle. This prophecy promises us that the more we follow Christ rather than our own little plans, the less we stumble. This prophecy is a reality we will want to trust.


Adapted from a reflection written on April 1, 2009.

Image from: http://aeroventure.com/Prophesy-101/Prophets/Daniel-3-furnace_BODY.htm

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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

luke[1]Luke 22:35-38

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

ladder-in-the-darkness[1]2 Peter 2:5

Making Every Effort

Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love.  

Peter shows a stairway we might climb as we grow in our understanding of how we might live according to The Law of Love Christ opens for us. He begins with the concept of faith, a gift given by God that empowers us to believe that which we cannot see or hear or touch or smell but which we have every reason to believe. When we are weary and our faith flags, we bolster belief with virtue, or good and moral behavior. When we feel tempted to toss all morality to the winds we strengthen ourselves by studying the Word and gaining knowledge. When this knowledge is not enough to encourage us we must control our urge to throw spiritual tantrums like those who are just beginning their journey.  We reinforce our dwindling self-control by enduring, by running the race to the end. We boost endurance by remaining loyal to God no matter our circumstances.  This devotion may also need strengthening and if this is so . . . we turn to one for shared sustenance, for mutual affection. And when this is not enough . . . we turn to God for Christ’s endless, limitless and eternal gift of love.

God says: Peter has shown you a ladder you might climb, yet I know that for many of you this work is too arduous. So do not worry, my little ones. If you are too weak I will carry you. If you are too sad I will bring you joy. If you are too alone I will send you a companion. If you are too frightened I will calm your personal storm. Make every effort as best you can. Call on me. My hands and feet, arms and legs will do the rest. Peter offers you his own ladder. Put your foot on the first rung and bolster your faith.

Click on the links to find definitions of these steps in Peter’s ladder and reflect on how these rungs lead us up and out of darkness.


Image from: http://mymorningmeditations.com/2012/03/15/an-invitation-from-god/

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Monday, September 28, 2020

4418670434_2d1d736229[1]1 Peter 1:6-7

Indescribable

In this [inheritance from God] you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Although you may not have seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of [your] faith, the salvation of your souls.

We might imagine the emotions that passed through Jesus’ close companions when he returned to them resurrected. He moved through locked doors, spoke with them, cooked for them, ate with them.  The sensations they experienced must have been indeed . . . indescribable.

God says: Do you not realize that I come to you each day just as I came to my first followers? Do you not know that I value your friendship and love so greatly that I am with you always? Do you not understand that you who did not travel with me in my Galilee years yet still believe in me are my own dear friends? Do not be too critical of your failings and flaws. I created you . . . and I understand who and what I created. Just come to me as you are with your own sweet imperfections. Your perfection lies in that you strive to be with me . . . not in living an unblemished life. When I am with you I feel such indescribable joy. I give this joy to you. Come follow me.

For more thoughts on the opening chapter of 1 Peter, enter the words Gift and Call into the blog search bar and reflect.

Tomorrow, an obedience that brings freedom . . .


Image from: http://flickriver.com/places/United+States/Arkansas/Siloam+Springs/Mount+Olive/

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

Luke 2:29-32

Compline

My eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations.

In the tradition of The Liturgy of the Hours the Canticle of Simeon is sung as part of Compline or Night Prayer.  For the entire prayer, go to the Bible Gateway site linked in the citation above and explore the various interpretations of these verses.  For the story of Simeon, read Luke 2:22-35.

God says: Simeon is a faithful servant who waited patiently for the fulfillment of my promise that he would see the messiah before death came to him.  Just as Mary and Joseph were presenting the child, Jesus, in the Temple, this loyal servant saw in this family what I see, a trinity of hope, love and faith, promise, mercy and constancy.  Simeon also saw that the lives of these three people would be full of deep sorrow and great joy.  Simeon spoke words that I hear in waves from the faithful as they prepare to retire for the night.  Join yourself with them as you prepare for bed.  It is such a short prayer that it will not tax you.  Turn away from the cares of the world for a brief time and pray these verses.  You sleep ever so much better for having joined Simeon to visit with me.

Another faithful servant waited patiently for the appearance of God Among Us.  Tomorrow, the story of Anna . . .


Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aert_de_Gelder_-_Het_loflied_van_Simeon.jpg

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Thursday, May 28, 2020

trinity-sunday[1]1 Thessalonians 5

Time Unknown

The message that God’s time is God’s time and that God alone is enough is important for us to experience.  And it is here in this letter that Paul helps us to better understand God who heals and abides, God of Time Unknown.  A good study Bible with commentary and footnotes will be an effective tool for us to use.

The reference in verse 5 to children of the light, which is who we are, refers to those who are called out of darkness to be light to the world, to be God’s expression of love to the world just as Christ is God’s light and message of love to the world.  Each of us is called to perfect intimate union of light and goodness with God . . . so that we might go forth to tell others this good news.

Commentary and footnotes also make a connection for us with Romans 5:1-10 in which Paul urges us to recognize our indestructible personal union in Christ’s own life.  This sense of our union with God’s timelessness makes our mission to the world all the easier once we realize that as Christ’s disciples we must operate from God’s love rather than our fears.  (Senior 236)

Toward the end of Thessalonians chapter 5, there is a beautiful exhortation to form community in Christ Jesus.  Paul is telling us that the suffering we undergo allows us to unite with Christ.  From the essay on page 324: “The superabundant love for which Paul has just prayed [3: 12-13] is to be shown practically by living out the norms of conduct that he has communicated to them.  Specific ‘imperatives’ of Christian life, principles for acting morally, stem from the ‘indicative’ of  one’s relationship to God through Christ by the sending of the holy Spirit.  Thus, moral conduct is the practical, personal expression of one’s Christian faith, love and hope.” [my underlining]

In the life of the Spirit there is always the opportunity to make a new beginning.  There is always the hope for the impossible.  There is always the call to love most the ones who harm us.  This is the Way of Christ.  It is justice tempered with compassion, righteous action moderated with mercy; it is not leniency which forgives and forgets, but rather it is an active, humble and infinite love which transforms.  And we are called to behave in this manner in this life, otherwise how will we have the skill to behave this way in the next?

Paul is telling us that the way we live each day, the way we interact with others in this world, the way we express our faith in God, our hope that Jesus returns, our love in the Spirit . . . all of this is also our expression of our relationship with the timeless Triune God.

As we fuss and worry about our little timelines, our past and our future, Paul gives us the image of the Trinity with its timeless, infinite goodness.  And Paul tells us that we are one with this indestructible timelessness.

This is something worth thinking about . . . and acting on.

Tomorrow, waiting in God’s time . . .


Image from: http://www.trinitycranford.org/?page_id=8106

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.324-328. Print.   

Adapted from a reflection written on July 23, 2007.

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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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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Deuteronomy 3: Teaching the Children

parent-child[1]Whether we ourselves have children or not, it is beneficial to universal society for those of us who have survived cataclysm to teach those who follow us how to endure well rather than to endure at all costs.  If we hope to improve both collectively and individually we must be willing to take an honest look at how we operate, what we value, and how we enact our values.  This is what Moses calls us to today.  We are not asked to pass along stories of how others have carried on through crisis; we are asked to be earnestly on our guard not to forget the things which our own eyes have seen, not let them slip from our memory as long as we live, but teach them to our children and to our children’s children.  This is a noble vocation: to pass along a manual for how to persist through pain, fear and antagonism.

Keeping in mind that each time we read or hear the phrase “fear” in reference to the Lord in the New Testament that we might replace it with the word “love,” we can see how the arrival of Jesus is the completion of all God’s promises to the people.  God, with his expression of concern and empathy embodied in Jesus, tells us how much he loves us and wants to be with us.  God warns us often about the dangers of idolatry and encourages us to consider the advantages of fidelity.  God’s own fidelity with us is guaranteed.  God’s love proved repeatedly through the stories we can tell about his power to save and restore.   God’s hope for us and in us is spelled out clearly as he establishes – here through Moses – cities of refuge in which his people might find a second opportunity for recovery.  God never gives up on us.

Deuteronomy, perhaps more than any other book of the Bible, asks its readers to remember and to pass along our own story of how the goodness of the Lord has changed us forever.  It asks that we consider God’s goodness, and that we pass along the story of how we came through a wilderness with no road map other than our fidelity to a God who loves us so much he cannot bear to be apart from us for even the smallest of moments.  We are loved by a God who does not ever want to be without us.

And so we pray . . .

Father Creator, Jesus Saver, Holy Spirit Abider and Comforter, we see by your actions that you will never forsake the work of your own hands.  We realize that the only firm ground on which we stand is the rock of your own steadfastness in your commitment to us.  We know that you are incapable of deception, trickery or betrayal.  Give us the fortitude and courage to follow you, even when we are fearful, even when we are in pain.  We rely on your patience and mercy as always.  And we await our own restoration and peace that comes with the joy of knowing and serving you.  We thank you for your bountiful love, and we hope to return that love to you always . . . even when we are fearful or in pain.

Help us to pass along to the children and to the children of those children not only the story of your love . . . but the essence of your love as well.  Guide us in loving our enemies, in praying for the impossible, and in remaining always with you.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 


Image from: http://veronicaplace.wordpress.com/2011/02/05/our-children-are-on-loan-to-us/

Written on August 11, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

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