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Posts Tagged ‘fear’


Proverbs 1:8-19: Greed and Violence

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The writer of these verses is clear and explicit about the wiles of those who might entice us to lie in wait for the honest man or woman who sets our teeth on edge, or who stirs our yearning for some thing or some quality we do not have but want. The writer wants us to remain alert for those who delight in setting traps for the innocent in their search for wealth and power. The wily ones are always looking for new members to swell their ranks.

Walk not in the way with them . . . it may be difficult to see that actions appearing harmless can lead us to dark paths we want to avoid. And so we must be watchful.

These lie in wait for their own blood . . . it may be difficult to see that family, friends or colleagues engage in activities that lead too easily to the ways of violence. And so we must be prudent.

These set a trap for their own lives . . . it is worth more than we can say to step away from plots and schemes that bring down the innocent for our own gain. And so we must be faithful to God.

This is the fate of everyone greedy for loot . . . it is worth more than we can judge to live a life that is void of even the beginning stirrings of envy or greed. And so we must be compassionate and loving.

These are words meant to instruct and warn us. These are verses meant to steer us into The Way Jesus later lays out so clearly. Are these words we can trust? Can we put aside our anxieties when we realize that for millennia traps have been laid for the innocent? Can we hand over our anger to God even as we pray for our enemies? Might we quiet our fears and tame our anxieties while we wait in joyful anticipation of God’s justice? Might we step away from the violence that grows from our human greed, and follow The Way of Christ?

When we compare different versions of these verses, we discover new truth about the violence of greed and the holiness of the innocents who trust in God.

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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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Judges 6: Gideon’s Call

James Tissot: The Angel Puts Fire on the Altar of Gideon

Thursday, June 29, 2017

We have spent several days with this Old Testament Book in which we watch the Israelites enter into a cycle: neglect of their covenant with God, the worship of idols, repentance, a petition to God for help, God’s generous response, silence as God waits for the people to respond. God always sends a hero to save the faithful – and this particular hero is Gideon.

We find the following when we read commentary.

  • God asks Joshua, in the book preceding Judges, to lead the people into the Promised Land and he does.
  • God asks the people to wipe out those who worship pagan idols but they do not; and this sows the seed of future problems.
  • Prior to God’s intercession in the life of the faithful, the people are forced to run away from invading armies and literally “head for the hills” when these invaders arrived with chariots.
  • Once the people share a loving relationship with God, they have a rock of refuge, a bulwark of safety.
  • When the people neglect their relationship with God, the cycle of idol worship begins anew.
  • God always has a hero in mind.
  • God’s silence is the space we are given to respond to God’s deep and abiding love.

God calls Gideon while he is in the middle of his work, and Gideon, like many of those called, has many questions. He wants to understand why and how should go about the work God has in mind. God answers, as God always does, “I will be with you, do not worry.” Gideon praises and worships God when he realizes what is happening, that he will be an instrument of redemption in the people’s cycle of sin and repentance.

Like Gideon, we are likewise fearful in our response to God. We know what we are asked to do; yet frequently we are too frightened to step out of our comfort zone. In the end, however, no find that no other course of action is worth taking.

The story of Gideon also demonstrates for us that silence can be entirely appropriate when it is patient, loving, merciful, and just. A silence that waits, that whispers to the beloved, that calls the beloved back to the covenant, is a silence that heals.

So like Gideon, let us sit beneath our terebinth and call on God. For God will surely answer.

Adapted from a Noontime written on January 31, 2007.

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1 Peter 3:8-22: Salvific Suffering – Part III

The Sadducees

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What do we fear . . . and why?

We reflect on the story of the early apostles (Acts 5) as they remain faithful to Christ while suffering and rejoicing with equal energy and passion. When we open ourselves to God’s generosity, we come away refreshed and encouraged with the news that when we respond to the call to do God’s work, we know that we quickly find God in the obstacles that surround us.  We know that we are Rocks in company with Peter; we know that we can serve as foundations of the living temple; we see that we are able confront corrupt authority; we can rejoice in our suffering to bringing truth and light to the world.

When we reflect on this story, we understand that a small group of the faithful, through the power and love of the risen Christ, successfully challenges the old guard. We realize that the Sadducees are afraid to order a sentence of death on these Jesus-followers because they fear the people will revolt. They fear the power of the Spirit.

There is irony in this story. Those who inflict fear on others eventually experience fear themselves. This we see the power of the Spirit unfold, rising from fear to bring us peace. This,we begin to understand, is the gift of salvific suffering.

And so today we ask ourselves, what do we fear, and why?

Tomorrow, how do we suffer with Christ?

Adapted from a Favorite written in November 10, 2007.

 

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

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

We might imagine ourselves discovering Christ just as we break bread with him. We might imagine his disappearance as a disappointment or as an opportunity to share the joy of Good News with others. Our reaction to Christ’s presence brings us great fear, great sorrow, great joy, or a mixture of many emotions. How do we write our own story?

Christ appears to the Apostles on the road to Emmaus. Mosaic (6th Century mosaic)

They didn’t waste a minute. They were up and on their way back to Jerusalem. They found the Eleven and their friends gathered together, talking away: “It’s really happened! The Master has been raised up—Simon saw him!”

Then the two went over everything that happened on the road and how they recognized him when he broke the bread.

God says: You may find this story difficult to believe. You will want assurance that you would not miss my presence among you; yet you need not be afraid. I am not angered that you overlook me, gaze past me, and cringe away from me when I appear as the homeless, the hungry, the refugee, and the poor. When you suffer embarrassment, all you need do is turn to me with a vulnerable heart. When you are uncomfortable each time I come to you as the marginalized, all you need do is open your arms to me. When you are angry with circumstances you cannot control, ask for my guidance and protection. I have the strength and persistence, the love and fidelity, the hope and energy to be with you through every moment of your suffering. Give me your anxiety and fear. Come away and break bread with me. All the rest is nothing. I am all. And I am enough in this day and in all days.

Diego Velázquez: The Supper at Emmaus

When we spend time reflecting on this story, and when we admit the number of times our anger or discomfort have gotten the best of us, we realize that we, like the Emmaus disciples, have the opportunity to break bread with Christ himself.

 

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

Monday, April 3, 2017

Pieter Coecke van Aelst: Christ and His Disciples on Their Way to Emmaus

Yesterday we spent time with the story of the disciples who encounter Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Today we imagine the possibilities in our lives if every time we come up against an obstacle we might recognize Christ’s presence and invite him to linger.

In an intense flash, at the breaking of the bread, we suddenly become fully aware of the identity of our companion.  We abruptly comprehend why we have felt so light and happy as we journey to Emmaus.  We realize that the hopes we have put away may be taken back out.  The faith we have placed in God’s plan is still valid.  The love we wish to share is still viable.  The Teacher has not lied to us in some silly attempt to ease the pain of our days.  The Teacher has offered – still offers – an opportunity of intimacy with him previously unknown to humankind.  And we disciples who have left Jerusalem in fear and sadness . . . now retrace our steps to return to the crucible of conflict which our Way of living brings us.  We are transformed.  We no longer allow fear overcome courage.  We do what Paul urges all of us to do – and we heard this yesterday – we put on Christ, the only protection we need.

We notice that Jesus leaves when the disciples recognize him, but his Spirit remains. And Jesus expects that now we will be his hands, his feet, his teaching.  We are Emmaus People . . .

A Favorite from March 31, 2009.

 

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Psalm 18:22-23: Cornerstone – Part II

Thursday, March 2, 2017shall-become-the-cornerstone

When we fear that our world is too ugly, too violent, too deceitful and cruel, we must remember the inversion the ancients understood.

The stone which the builders rejected as worthless
    turned out to be the most important of all.

This was done by the Lord;
    what a wonderful sight it is! (GNT)

When we are defeated, turned away, rejected or abandoned, we must remember to rely on the Creator for sustaining the life we have been gifted.

The very rock that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone!

This has come from Adonai,
and in our eyes it is amazing. (CJB)

When we lose hope, feel lifeless, have no energy to struggle back from loss, we must remember to trust the Holy Spirit who heals, guides and abides.

Thank you for responding to me;
    you’ve truly become my salvation!
The stone the masons discarded as flawed
    is now the capstone!
This is God’s work. (MSG)

When frustration overcomes us, anxiety freezes us, or fear seizes us when we see cataclysm looming, we must remember to call on God, the Creator of all.

When we reflect on Psalm 118 we find a prayer for thanksgiving in victory; and we discover that our defeats are the cornerstones of new life. 

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