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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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Deuteronomy 31:12-13: The Aliens Among Us

Saturday, February 25, 2017refugees-have-no-choice

Moses says: Call together all the men, women, and children, and the foreigners who live in your towns, so that everyone may hear [the Law] and learn to honor the Lord your God . . .

God says: Do you notice that I do not ask you to lock the foreigner away from you? Do you understand that I myself am a stranger in a strange land when I walk among you in the person of Jesus? Do you believe that you exclude my Spirit when you build walls and sow hatred? Do you see that it is you who are the alien when you shut yourselves away from others whom I have created?

Our newsfeeds bring stories that can stir both fear and compassion. Our hearts read these verses and nudge us to live in God’s Law of Love. Our spirits weave together as one in God’s great heart.  Moses’ words call us in our own millennium.

 Assemble the people—men, women, and children, as well as the aliens residing in your towns . . .

When we hear the word of the Lord, let us determine to remain open to the aliens among us.

When we read other versions of these verses, we open our hearts to understand the plight of the refugee and alien. Can we predict which cultures or countries take in those who flees oppression? For Figures at a Glance from the UN Refugee Agency that tell the story of who is displaced and who shelters the aliens, visit: http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/figures-at-a-glance.html 

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James 2:12-13: Law of Freedom

Saturday, February 18, 201750623-freedom

Speak and act as people who will be judged by the law that sets us free. For God will not show mercy when he judges the person who has not been merciful; but mercy triumphs over judgment. (GNT)

Today’s Noontime reflection asks us to explore our own actions to determine how – or if – our words and actions nurture freedom or project fear.

Keep speaking and acting like people who will be judged by a Torah which gives freedom. For judgment will be without mercy toward one who doesn’t show mercy; but mercy wins out over judgment. (CJB)

How well – or how poorly – do we share power with others?

How easily – or how nervously – do we welcome collegiality?

So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. (NRSV)

How happily – or how begrudgingly – do we open ourselves to new ideas or new relationships?

How trustingly – or how obsessively – do we construct bridges with our enemies?

For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time. (MSG)

What does freedom look like in our daily interactions?

How authentically – or how deceptively – do we nurture freedom in others and in ourselves?

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1622gerard_van_honthorst-dec-31

Gerard Van Honthurst: Adoration of the Shepherds

Matthew: Do Not Fear – Part VI

Christmas Saturday, New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2016

Jesus prepares his followers for his own exodus from the mortal life to the eternal. After taking Peter, James and John up the mountain to witness his own transfiguration, he tells them words that engender hope, the words he always tells us: Do not be afraid.

And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.” (Matthew 17:7)

Jesus feels compassion for the women who tend to him so faithfully. Knowing that their fidelity is an exemplar to all of us, Jesus says the words he says to all of us: Do not be afraid.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. (Matthew 28:5)

Jesus feels deep love for those who want to follow him, knowing that their journey will be difficult. To them and to us Jesus lovingly says: Do not be afraid.

Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to my brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:10)

Years after Jesus tells those closest to him that he wants to bring unity out of division, he tells each of us that he wants to erase all fear and division. Jesus tells all of creation that fidelity helps us to see how love converts all harm to good, hope sustains all life through turmoil, and love brings all light from darkness.

Today we might ask, “How can we bring faith, hope and love into our lives every day as we are poised to begin a new year?”

Throughout Christmastide, we continue to reflect on the many ways God says to us, “Do not be afraid. I live within you always”.

 

 

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