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Psalms 119:25-32: God’s Yardstick – The Law

God’s Love Letterwrite-famous-love-song-down-and-dedicate_tips-writing-love-letter

Monday, January 16, 2023

In these opening days of a new year, we have looked at women in scripture who see and use God’s yardstick in their lives. Over the next few days we explore how we find God’s yardstick in both Old and New Scripture.

We have spent a number of reflections with this psalm, the longest of the 150 songs of sorrow, praise, joy, petition and lament. Two winters ago we spent several weeks examining each of the poem’s stanzas that begin with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. As we concluded we decided that this psalm was an intense love letter from God to us. When we look at all the psalms, and this one in particular, we discover a yardstick that can only come from God, a yardstick that measures both the highs and lows of our days. A yardstick that offers forgiveness, healing, redemption and joy.

I’m feeling terrible—I couldn’t feel worse!
    Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember?

On the days when we feel we can go no further, we must remember to take our woes to God.

When I told my story, you responded;
    train me well in your deep wisdom.

On the days when we find it difficult to gather strength, we remember to ask God for help.

Help me understand these things inside and out
     so I can ponder your miracle-wonders.

On the days when we forget the wisdom God has shared with us, we remember to ask again.

My sad life’s dilapidated, a falling-down barn;                                                                         build me up again by your Word.                                                                                         On the days when we see no way past the heavy obstacle before us, we remember to rest in God.

Barricade the road that goes Nowhere;                                                                                        grace me with your clear revelation.                                                                                  During the nights when doubts and fears return, we remember that with    God all things are possible.

I choose the true road to Somewhere,
    
I post your road signs at every curve and corner.                                                           During the nights when we are restless and alone, we remember that Christ is constantly within.

I grasp and cling to whatever you tell me;
    God
, don’t let me down!                                                                                                          During the nights when we are desperate for peace, we remember that the Spirit heals and comforts.

I’ll run the course you lay out for me
    
if you’ll just show me how.                                                                                                     During the days and nights when we struggle with the world, we read and re-read God’s love letter to us, and remember that we are made by God for and with and in love alone.


Enter the words God’s Love Letter into the blog search bar for other reflections about Psalm 119. This ancient prayer from ancient scripture continues to serve us today as God’s yardstick. Tomorrow, we find God’s measure of love in the person of Jesus. 

Image from: http://apuregeneration.com/blog/category/true-love/page/2

 

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Judges 17: As We Are – Part II

Saturday, December 17, 2022intimacy-with-god1

In this time of Advent, as we expect the coming of light and truth, we reflect on our relationship with Gad and the intimacy we give and receive.  

As a community, the ancient Hebrews in their relationship with Yahweh were continually looking for something to excite or interest them while at the same time walking away from a profound intimacy with a God who loves them more than they can imagine. As believers today, we are in relationship with God and frequently we look for something we already have, the presence within that keeps us from harm and that draws us continually to our own divine origin. For some reason, we humans struggle with relationships that bring us to the truth of ourselves, relationships that ask us to grow, relationships that fulfill through their constancy.

There is no lack of stories – either about famous celebrities or the people in our own circles of friends and families – of men and women who cannot maintain fidelity. What is it we fear? Seeing ourselves in the mirror of the beloved’s eyes? Finding that we prefer the instant, superficial image that others have of us rather than the enduring truth of who we are?

We need not succumb to the fear of who we might be. We need not do as we think best but rather, let us do as God thinks best and as God asks of us as we hear in today’s first reading at Mass from Isaiah 30: Thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: O people . . . no more will you weep; he will be gracious to you when you cry out, as soon as he hears you he will answer you. The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst. No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher, while from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: “This is the way; walk it in”, when you would turn to the right or to the left.

We have an interior guide who is ever faithful to us. Let us put aside our fears of who we think we might be to open our eyes and ears to who we really are. And let us return this gift of self to the God who made us. For in this one small action we find a self that is waiting to be revealed. In this one small way we remain truly faithful to the one who knows and loves us . . . precisely as we are.

Tomorrow, the gift of life and love.


Image from: https://blogwithmalaika.wordpress.com/

A favorite from December 5, 2009.

 

 

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Hebrews 5:11-14 & 6: Resting in the Promise

Saturday, December 3, 2022147975.hebrews (1)

You have become sluggish in hearing . . .

Notes from the NAB, page 1328: Rather than allow the slow to become content in their slowness, Paul exhorts them to even higher levels of spirituality. He is not lenient. And as for those who have fallen away completely, he does not even address these apostates. If all we need is energy to progress in our spiritual journey, we can turn to Christ for he tells us through Matthew (10:28-30), my yoke is easy, my burden light. Christ himself exhorts us, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Sometimes we are not so much sluggish as afraid. We know that the task lying before us is laden with tricky passages, dark corners, deceitful paving stones that look firm and yet sink into quicksand. On these occasions we must also turn to Christ, trusting him when he says take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart. Disobedience is not an option for an apostle.

Paul tells us that Christ’s promise is immutable, and he uses the long story of the covenant promise between Yahweh and Abraham as ample proof. Did not the elderly couple – Sarah and Abraham – begin a kingdom of millions? Did this new way of seeking God not travel to all peoples of all nations? Do we not know even today the story of this Abraham, Sarah, and the high priest Melchizedek? Paul reminds us that it is impossible for God to lie; God’s very goodness and honesty force God to keep God’s covenant with God’s people.

So when we feel weary or afraid, we might turn to Paul for a reminder of the words we can never hear too often. This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil [into the Holy of Holies], where Jesus has entered as forerunner . . .

We must rest in this promise that when all is dark, when all appears to be lost, when all is more difficult or more terrifying than we can bear, we must be still so that we might hear again . . .

Come to me . . . and you will find rest for your souls . . .


A Favorite from December 11, 2008.

Image from: https://faithgateway.com/blogs/christian-books/hope-anchor-soul

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Mark 4:12-25: The Parable of the Lampshining-our-light_med_hr

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Our talents are gifts from God and they are meant to be shared with the community – not hidden and kept away for ourselves. The last verse sounds so harsh, perhaps silly. Its true meaning is that once we begin to share what we have, we will be given the further gift of wanting to share. We will increase, we will convert, and we will find intimate union with God.

If our great fear is fear to commit, then once we begin to commit to others, the action becomes easier. If we do not take those steps toward others, if we build walls, then we will end up with less than we had when we arrived here. We will be alone in our tower – a tower built with our own hands.

Using another example, if we have a fear of paying attention to others because we want all the attention for ourselves, we will never be fulfilled. If, on the other hand, we practice stepping out of ourselves and giving to others, we will receive further gifts which will enable us to truly forget ourselves and do for others. If we do not take these steps, we will end by being alone – separated from humans and from God – and again, all by our own hand.

Fill in the italicized words above with any human fear and Jesus’ message is this: Once we take the steps to convert ourselves in the area where we know we need improvement, we will receive more and more gifts which will empower us to continue our conversion. If we refuse to enter into this difficult process of conversion, we will lack more and more – until we have and are nothing. We will have diminished rather than increased. We will have separated ourselves from God. We will have descended the ladder of Beatitude into a lonely place – rather than ascended it to intimate union with God.

Mark’s Gospel is the most brief and succinct. His descriptions are precise. Jesus’ actions are seen in a clean, clear trajectory of purpose. His words are unadorned and plain, but strong and resolute. Mark’s story of Jesus is powerful.

May the power of these words be with each of you today.


Image from: http://www.gloryknowledge.com/parables/parable-1.html

Adapted from a reflection written on April 16, 2007.

 

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Isaiah 42:6-7: The Mystery of Wisdom – Part IIcandle and scripture

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

I am the Lord, I have called you . . .

The mystery of wisdom is that when we call on the Lord, we find the answer lying in our own response to God’s call to intimacy with goodness.

I will hold you by the hand and watch over you . . .

The mystery of wisdom is that when we take God’s hand, we discover that we are also called to extend our other hand to those who live in darkness.

I will make you as a covenant to my people . . .

The mystery of wisdom is that when we extend our hand to others, we have entered into God’s promise.

I will make you a light to the nations . . .

The mystery of wisdom is that when we enter into God’s promise, God’s light flows through and from us.

I will call you to open blind eyes . . .

The mystery of wisdom is that when God’s light flows from us, we begin to heal others.

I will call you to bring out prisoners from the dungeons . . .

The mystery of wisdom is that when we begin to heal others, we bring them forth from their prisons of fear, anger, anxiety and prejudice.

I will call you to bring out those who sit and wait in darkness . . .

The mystery of wisdom is that when we bring others forth from their prisons of darkness . . . we find ourselves standing in the fullness of God’s eternal, all-encompassing and nourishing wisdom.

Tomorrow, wisdom as promise and grace.


Image from: http://wallpapersinhq.com/55874-the_light_of_wisdom/

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Matthew 9:1-8: Taking Up Our Bedtake up your bed

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 22, 2021

They brought to him a paralytic lying on a bed . . .

Jesus says: Take courage . . . Get up . . . pick up your bed and go home . . .

God says: Each little incident that paralyzes you with fear is not from me. I only bring you love. Each enormous obstacle that looms before you is not from me. I only bring you hope. When you are paralyzed with fear, reach for me. When you are knocked off your feet, take up the bed of sorrow onto which you have fallen, and come home.

When we give ourselves over to fear we let go of God’s hand. When we languish in our sorrow and remain on our paralytic bed we reject the offer of newness God brings. If depression or anxiety overwhelm us we must seek professional guidance and help. God wants to convert the paralysis in our lives to loving acts of kindness, mercy and justice.

 


Image from: https://www.wordonfire.org/articles/fellows/pick-up-your-mat/

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Mark 16: Obeying Fear

Annibale Carracci: The Dead Christ Mourned by the Three Marys

Annibale Carracci: The Dead Christ Mourned by the Three Marys

Friday, March 25, 2015

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and John, and Salome bought spices so that they might go anoint Jesus . . . Then they went out and fled from the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment. They said nothing to anyone for they were afraid . . .

In this ending of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ followers obey their fear. Our Lenten journey brings us the opportunity to examine our own temptation to obey our fears rather than trust the Easter miracle.

When he had risen, early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene . . . when they heard he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe . . . After this he appeared in another form to two or three of them walking along on their way to the country. They returned and told the others; but they did not believe them . . . Later, as the eleven were at the table, as the eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised.

In this ending of Mark’s Gospel, we see Jesus’ love overcome his followers’ distress. Our Lenten journey brings us the opportunity to believe the resurrection story and follow Christ.

boat-on-the-seashoreGod says: If you read my scripture carefully you will see how many times these sacred writers record my assurance to you that you need not be afraid. Spend time with my servant Mark today and allow my grace to fill you. Read the end of his story with its double ending and examine your own doubts and fears. Allow my story to sink into your bones and feel the promise I offer you. My love does not fail. My promise remains for eternity. Rather than obeying your fears, bring them to me . . . for I will still your uneasy heart.


Using the scripture link, study the various versions of Mark’s Chapter 16, and decide to put away your fears.

Carracci image from: http://www.jesus-story.net/painting_magdalene.htm

Boat image from: https://highwidhim.wordpress.com/tag/insult/

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Judges 16: The Strength of Samson

Reubens: Samson and Delilah

Peter Paul Reubens: Samson and Delilah

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Then Delilah said to Samson, “How can you say that you love me when you do not confide in me?”

In this often-told Old Testament story we see how words can be used to deceive and conceal. Words of love can manipulate and destroy as well us build up and restore.

So he took her completely into his confidence and told her, “No razor has touched my head, for I have been consecrated to God from my mother’s womb”.

In this well-told Old Testament story we see how trust and betrayal both tug on the body, mind and soul.  Acts of deceit become preludes to acts of greatness when God is central to our lives.

Delilah had Samson sleep in her lap, and called for a man who shaved off his seven locks or hair. Then she began to mistreat him, for his strength had left him.

In this familiar Old Testament story we see how intimacy and revenge are dichotomous sisters in our modern lives. But always, as in this story, malice is superseded by God’s love.

Samson cried out to the Lord and said, “Oh Lord God, remember me! Strengthen me, O God.

In any array of negative emotion we call on God for strength; and so our fear, anger, and desire for revenge become hope, mercy and love.

Jesus reminds us: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

In this often-told Old Testament story we see how words can be used to deceive and conceal. In this often-told New Testament story we see how words of love can build up and restore. As we journey toward season of Lent and the Easter promise, let us reflect on the actions and words of Samson, Delilah and Jesus. Let us determine the source of our strength; and let us determine who we choose to follow and why.


Image from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Samson_and_Delilah_by_Rubens,_1609.jpg

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Thursday, January 27, 2022

JRC Martin: Resurrection Morning

JRC Martin: Resurrection Morning

Daniel 12

The Great Apocalypse

What images come to mind when we hear the word ApocalypseWhat are our hopes? What are our fears? And what image of God do we offer to the world with all we say and do?

“Resurrection is explicitly affirmed only here in the OT, though belief subsequently spread until it finally became orthodox Jewish doctrine. But who is to be revived? ‘Many’ appears to mean only ‘some’, but it includes righteous and wicked. The scenario makes best sense if we see the problem being addressed as one of justice. There are those who have suffered undeservedly and those who have sinned without punishment. Both groups must be revived so that justice can be administered”. (Barton, and Muddiman 570)

And so we pray . . .

Good and faithful God, teach us to remain in you as you remain in us.

Good and patient Christ, help us to love our enemies as you love yours.

Good and encouraging Spirit, heal us of all our wounds and worries, our hates and fears . . . so that we might remain ever in and with you. Amen.


Louisa Anne, Marchioness of Waterford: Christ Raising the Dead

Louisa Anne, Marchioness of Waterford: Christ Raising the Dead

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 570. Print.

For more reflections on the words of this prophet, enter the words Daniel or Apocalypse into the blog search bar and explore.

Images from: http://pastorblog.cumcdebary.org/?tag=resurrection and https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/waterford-christ-raising-the-dead-n03222

 

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