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Posts Tagged ‘fidelity’


Mark 16:9-15: A Prayer for Unbelief 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

José de Ribera: The Penitent Magdalene or Vanitas

In this second week of Eastertide, as we conclude our exploration of Easter Week Gospel readings, we challenge ourselves to decide where we stand in the Easter story. How many times does Christ approach us to share the good news that our freedom is won? How often do we panic because we have forgotten the Easter miracle of restoration? How frequently do we give thanks to God for the goodness in our lives and then turn to go out to share this good news?

Now after [Jesus] rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. 

We may be the mourning Mary who experiences rejection when she shares her hope-filled story with others, or we may be those who scoff at her joy.

After this [Jesus] appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

We may be the Emmaus disciples who spend a day and share a meal with the risen Christ, or we may be those who are content in their skepticism.

Later [Jesus] appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.

We may be one of the eleven who huddle in the upper room, afraid to leave and afraid to stay, persisting in our unbelief. Or we may take in Christ’s rebuke, and then go out to join all of creation in praising God.

And [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.”

We may be one of those who persists in the bitterness of disappointment, or one who neither doubts nor believes but who chooses to stand in some in-between world of detachment.

Today, as we consider that Christ leaves not one of his sheep behind, let us choose to believe the Easter miracle and take up Christ’s gift of new-born joy rising from pain. Let us admit that we have the freedom to choose to ignore or to react to Christ’s presence in our lives. And let us put aside our unbelief to join all of creation in praise of God’s persistent love. And so we pray.

Good and gentle Jesus, you know what to say to us so that we might believe. We thank you for your hope. 

Gracious and generous God, you meet our fears with your mighty persistence. We thank you for your fidelity.

Giving and merciful Spirit, you calm our fears and soothe our anxieties. We thank you for your love.

Amen.


Today’s verses are from the NRSV translation of Mark’s Gospel. When we open other translations, we also open ourselves to Easter belief.

Images from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/ , http://www.jesusplusnothing.com/studies/online/roadtoemmaus.htm and http://www.beliefnet.com/espanol/20-asombrosas-palabras-de-jesus-para-ti.aspx?p=9

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Exodus 2: To Know . . . and to Act

James Tissot: Moses

Tuesday, March 13, 2016

God saw the people and knew . . .  

What do we chose to bring to God?  What do we hold back?  When God answers our prayer, are we ready to act upon the result of our petition? When we hesitate to act in God’s name and good will, what is it we fear? Has not God given us the desire of our hearts? Are we afraid that now suddenly God will abandon us? Knowing that God knows all and accompanies us always, what actions do we fear taking as we move forward? And

As we continue our Lenten journey of examination and questions, we look at the story of Moses’ birth, and we reflect upon the answers to prayer that God enacted through this one man’s life.

God saw the people and knew . . .  

In DAILY REFLECTIONS FOR LENT: NOT BY BREAD ALONE for Tuesday, February 23, Jay Cormier asks: What prayer are you willing to work for?  His question is this: When we perceive an unjust situation – whether it be our own or someone else’s – do we ask for God’s help for the remediation of the injustice?  And when we do, are we willing to take the action God will ask us to take?

God sees the people and God knows . . .  

We have spent time with the Exodus story in our Noontimes and so may appear to hold nothing new.  But what may be new to us is the connection between asking for help and having to act as a consequence of receiving this help.  God has many ways of knowing the people, and with this full knowledge, God chooses to act.  Once God does, the people are called to respond to a new summons for a different kind of faith journey, a journey that requires their fidelity and perseverance.  The people cry out, a hero is born, salvation arrives, yet there is work to be done as a result of this salvation.

God sees the people and God knows . . .  

We might meditate on the following today.  We cry out, a solution arrives.  We rejoice in our salvation.  We enter into the work that will transform us.

God sees the people and God knows . . .  

Jay Cormier offers the following prayer:  Father in heaven, do not let us confine our prayer to words and rituals alone.  Open our hearts and inspire our spirits to work and sacrifice for the hopes and dreams we ask of you, you who are the Giver and Sustainer of all life. 

And the people say . . . Amen.

God sees us and God knows . . .

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. Print.  (Meeks)

Adapted from a reflection written on February 24, 2010.

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2 Peter 1:16-18: Made-Up Stories

Peter Paul Rubens: Transfiguration

Monday, March 5, 2018

We move toward the Easter promise, standing on the rejected cornerstone, stretching forward in hope. The story of Jesus’ transfiguration reminds us that the promise is real and tangible. Hope is justified.

We have not depended on made-up stories in making known to you the mighty coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. With our own eyes we saw his greatness. 

As he witnesses the transfiguration, Peter says to Jesus, Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Jesus asks his followers to hold their mountaintop experience in their hearts until he has risen from the dead. Mark records these words: [Peter] hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Although at first they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant, the disciples later recounted the encounter. Today we benefit from Peter’s witness.

We were there when he was given honor and glory by God the Father, when the voice came to him from the Supreme Glory, saying, “This is my own dear Son, with whom I am pleased!” 

Jesus climbs the mountain to examine his coming exodus. (Matthew 17:1-13Mark 9:2-10, Luke 9:28-36). We journey through Lent in expectation of our own encounter. Peter witnesses to the event of Jesus’ transformation. We witness our own makeover in the possibility that Easter opens for us so that we too may say . . .

We ourselves heard this voice coming from heaven, when we were with him on the holy mountain.

Peter witnesses boldly for us. Are we willing to witness for others today?

These verses are the GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION BIBLE. When we compare other versions of these words, we – like Peter – do not rely on made-up stories. And we discover ways to share our own story of faith and conversion with others.

Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Transfiguration-Rubens.JPG 

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Esther 7: The Persecutor

Giovanni Andrea Sirani: Esther Before Ahasuerus

Saturday, February 17, 2018 

Yesterday we assessed the narcissism we might discover in ourselves and how unilateral listening governs our world circumstances. Today we reflect on how Esther and Mordecai operate in their world – and what we might learn from them.

It is clear that Haman is consumed by envy of Mordecai and while we cannot analyze this character from a Biblical story, we can certainly learn from his actions. It is also clear that Esther – as a woman but especially as a Jewish woman in a non-Jewish court – fears for her life, and the life of her nation. The kingdom of Xerxes is an ancient one in which individual rights are denied to most. We might believe that we as a species have evolved and it is true that in general, we have. However, many peoples in our modern society have no benefit of personal rights. When this happens, we might speculate, it is often the result of someone, or some group, behaving in a narcissistic manner. Navigating these troubling conditions is difficult at best. What does the story of Esther have to tell us?

Queen Esther answered, “If it please Your Majesty to grant my humble request, my wish is that I may live and that my people may live”.

Humility is usually an ineffective tool against brutality; it seems to encourage even more violence. Yet, here we see that despite her humble behavior and words, Esther acts in order to save a people.

“If you keep quiet at a time like this, help will come from heaven to the Jews, and they will be saved, but you will die and your father’s family will come to an end. Yet who knows—maybe it was for a time like this that you were made queen!” (Esther 4:14)

On Ash Wednesday when we explored Chapter 4, we considered Martin Neimöller’s advice that if we do not speak against evil and injustice, we guarantee not our safety, but our sure demise. Despite their fear, Esther and Mordecai form a solidarity of two as they begin a quiet, patient assertion of justice and truth.

An article from Psychology Today gives us guidelines to manage the effects of narcissism. These experts advise that we evaluate both our surroundings and the narcissist to look for context, that we maintain a firm sense of purpose along with a sense of humor, and that we remain realistic about how much we can accomplish when working with the self-centered. If we are in dangerous surroundings, controlled by a persecutor as Esther and Mordecai are, we begin by turning to God and finding others with whom to form solidarity. We move forward with patience, reliance on the Creator, persisting in hope, and acting in mercy.

Tomorrow, fighting back.

When we read varying translations of this story by using the scripture link and the drop-down menus, we find an opportunity to transform a world beset by narcissism.

For more advice, read the August 14, 2014 post “Eight Ways to Handle a Narcissist”. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201408/8-ways-handle-narcissist

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Job 22: Beyond Human Limits – Part II

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Job’s “friend” in today’s Noontime lives by absolute, simplistic thinking.  Eliphaz tells Job that once he admits his sins, his pain and suffering will cease.  We know – because we have looked at this story many times and have paused to ponder the wisdom held within, that Job suffers innocently.  His goodness surfaces in a conversation between God and Satan.  The devil tells the Almighty that the only reason Job is so devout is because God cares for this servant so well.  It is true that for Job, life is good; yet God knows the depth of this man’s love for his creator. And so God tells Satan that he may do anything he likes to Job except terminate his life.  God believes that they will see deep fidelity from this servant; he knows that Job will remain faithful.  The devil delights in this bargain, believing that humans cannot suffer well, and so Job loses all: his family, his resources, his health.  His wife tells him to curse God and die.  His three “friends” sit with him and offer the kind of advice we read about today.  Job counters repeatedly, never giving in to the temptation to curse God and capitulate.  He never loses faith in God.  He never loses hope that all will be revealed.  He never loses the love engendered in him.  He questions God, he defends himself against the poor advice from his “friends” and he waits.  He is supremely patient.  And he is ultimately rewarded for his fidelity.

Job has the freedom to choose how he will react to the circumstances in which he finds himself.  Eliphaz baits him – much like the devil baits Jesus in today’s Gospel (Luke 4:1-13).  Jailed, and later executed by the Nazis, Fr. Alfred Delp understands this kind of suffering. He writes . . . During these long weeks of confinement I have learned by personal experience that a person is truly lost, is the victim of circumstances and oppression only when he is incapable of a great inner sense of depth and freedom.  Anyone whose natural element is not an atmosphere of freedom, unassailable and unshakable whatever force may be put on it, is already lost; but such a person is not really a human being anymore; he is merely an object, a number, a voting paper.  And the inner freedom can only be attained of widening our own horizons.  We must progress and grow, we must mount above our own limitations.  It can be done; the driving force is the inner urge to conquer whose very existence shows that human nature is fundamentally designed for this expansion

Tomorrow, the freedom to suffer, and final words from Father Delp.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 21.2 (2010). Print.  

Adapted from a reflection written on February 21, 2010.

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Job 40:1-5: Arguing with the Almighty – Part IV

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Laurent de La Hyre:
Job Restored to Prosperity

Looking forward to the end of Job’s story we have the choice of thinking that Job’s happy ending is the result of fantasy, or we may choose to believe that God abides and keeps promises.  This choice to believe or doubt is entirely up to us; and I choose to believe that the story is not a fairy tale.  I choose to believe that God abides.

THE MESSAGE translation of Job 40 begins with words from God, “I run the universe”. After we struggle with Job through his long story of loss and pain, we understand that although he – and we – long for specific answers to our specific questions, we must be content to rely on God’s goodness and love for us. We must be content to depend on God’s gift of hope and covenant. And we must be content to trust God’s steadfastness and mercy.

How do we do this? We have a model in Job whose fidelity through deep travail brings us a pearl of wisdom that we might employ to see our worries and anxieties through a lens of patience. Job’s persistence, as he journeys through the obstacle course of woe visited on him by Satan, gives us new eyes to refocus our own worldview.

When we spend time with Job 40, we have a fresh appreciation of his steadfastness; and we have a transformative moment to argue with the Almighty that opens us to the possibility of resurrection.

Today we use the scripture links and drop-down menus to help us argue with the Almighty. 

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Job 40:1-5: Arguing with the Almighty – Part II

Friday, February 2, 2018

Ilya Repin: Job and his Friends

When God seems distant to us we might pick up Job’s story, with its human drama of innocent suffering, to see how and where we fit into the tale.  Are we the wife who urges her husband to curse God and die (2:9)? Are we the friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar who insist that Job repent for some nameless sin even as Job proclaims his innocence, saying that he knows not what he did to incur God’s wrath?  Do we act as the Satan does in the opening chapters, do we roam the earth looking for mischief to create?  How do we see God?  As a sarcastic tyrant or as a faithful creator who only has our good in mind?  How do we react when we feel estranged from God?  With petulance, or like Job who admits at last that God is great and that God is good?  Do we, like Job, finally put our worries aside knowing that God will handle them?  Do we intercede when asked, as Job does, for the very friends who tried to lead us astray?  Do we rely on God or on ourselves?  Do we spend sleepless nights worrying about our own guilt and innocence, or do we move on to pick up the threads of a broken life as best we can?  What do we do?  How do we pray?  Where do we turn for help?

In today’s reading Job agrees to put his hand over his mouth so that he might finally listen to Yahweh, and he does this after having made a full and cogent argument to his maker.  If we follow Job’s example, we understand that we are meant to wrestle with God.  We are created to think, reflect and re-think.  We are created to know God and to serve God; and to do this well we must ask questions.  These questions are followed by enigmatic answers from God that we struggle to understand and, at first glance, we see as unsatisfactory. Later, when we practice persistence and fidelity, we begin to understand God’s message. Therefore, as we put our questions to God, we must also remain patient and authentic. For it is with waiting and honesty that we acquire wisdom, a full and nourishing wisdom that comes through lengthy days of listening, reflecting and praying.

Tomorrow, God abides.

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Job 40:1-5: Arguing with the Almighty – Part I

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Leonid Afremov: Whirlwind of Feelings

I love to read the answer that God gives Job after all of those chapters of haranguing that go on between Job, his wife, and his friends.  Finally, Yahweh speaks out of the whirlwind to ask questions with a touch of sarcasm saying: Who are you to question me?  Where were you when the earth was formed, the stars set in the sky and the animals and vegetation created?  Job replies that he will now be silent to listen . . . and as God continues, we wonder if he means to sound so much like an unfeeling tyrant?  Does God not, we might ask, understand that Job has stood unjustly accused?  Does Yahweh not remember that Job has been a good and faithful servant?  Does God not understand the suffering and pain that Job has endured?  If we read through to end of the book, we will have an answer to these questions.

Leonid Afremov: Feelings of Work

Today’s reading echoes a feeling we may have from time to time: that God just does not “get it”.  There are moments when we feel as though God does not understand what it is like to be human, and it seems that the lines between guilt and innocence are blurred. If the innocent suffer along with the guilty, what is the point in being righteous and behaving well?  Of course, we will understand, if we read on and if we reflect that guilt and innocence are not what God is concerned about here.  Yahweh questions Job to ask him if he is prepared to be the deity who oversees a vast and complex realm.  Of course, Job is not. Realizing that no human could order the universe and bring completion to such a chaotic world, Job listens to the message God gives him. Yahweh and Job end their dialog by returning to what is important; they each remain in their proper roles: loving, protecting creator and loyal, obedient creature.  In this final dialog, we see that both Yahweh and Job know and express who they are and what their nature is.

Tomorrow, when God seems to be distant . . .

For more reflections on weathering the whirlwind, enter the word in the blog search bar and explore. 

Adapted from a Favorite written on January 27, 2008.

 

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Eustache Le Sueur: Christ Healing a Blind Man

Isaiah 40: Seek Consolation

Third Sunday of Advent, December 17, 2017

The End of the Exile

Be comforted, be comforted, my people, saith your God.  Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem, and call to her, for her evil is come to an end, her iniquity is forgiven; she hath received of the hand of the Lord double for all her sins.  The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God.  Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain.  And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken . . .  Behold the Lord God shall come with strength, and his arm shall rule.  Behold his reward is with him and his work is before him.  He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and shall take them up on his bosom, and he himself shall carry them that are young . . .

From time to time we reflect on the ideas of exile and doom . . .  today’s dawn brings consolation.

Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and weighed the heavens in his palm?  Who has poised with three fingers the bulk of the earth, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? 

After the darkness . . . comes the light . . . more revealing and more wonderful than we have ever imagined.

Do you not know?  Hath it not been heard?  Hath it not been told you from the beginning?  Have you not understood the foundations of the earth?  . . .  And to whom have ye likened me, or made me equal?  saith the Holy One.  Lift up your eyes on high, and see the one who has created these things . . . not one of them was missing.

The holy ones who wait and watch and witness . . . will receive their comfort . . . a consolation more intense and enduring than they have ever dreamed.

Youths shall faint and labor, and young men shall fall by infirmity.  But they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall take wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. 

Last Christmas Day we read and reflected upon the beginning of Romans 11 in which St. Paul brings to us, God’s Remnant, the message of our creator’s Providence and Fidelity.  He reminds us that God understands the human condition and that he sends us his grace to overcome our fears and the darkness.  God also understands rupture and the deepest places of the heart that suffer from the pain of disconnection and separation . . . and God wants to heal this . . . to call us back . . . to gather us in his arms.  God wants to give us his Consolation.  God is the Forgiving Father of the Prodigal Son story.  We may be either the Straying Child who has spent his gifts carelessly, or the Remaining Child who is jealous and bitter at the Father’s generosity toward those who return.  Or perhaps we have found a place where we can numb ourselves . . . remain aloof . . . protect ourselves from the suffering and undergoing of life that we are meant to experience.  Or maybe we are Children of the Light . . . who struggle with self . . . who rise to the undergoing . . . who falter and stumble but who turn to God always as the first and last source and sustenance.  Most likely we are all of these . . . and we do well when we reflect that our true Consolation rests in openness to reconciliation with God and with others.  We do well to rely on God’s Providence and Fidelity and meditate on this idea, as we do on Christmas Day each year, that we are to be God to one another.

So on this Sunday of joy amidst darkness and waiting we, like God, are to abide with those who have broken faith with us.  We are to remain faithful, remain present but without participating in any dysfunction.  We are to be hopeful, to be open to the potential of something greater which God sends through his grace rather than our works.  We are to abide without fear, because God is with us, especially in our moments of deepest terror.  And we are to remain merciful, imitating Christ, because God always comes to his remnant, to those who wait, and hope and seek.

For a musical version of Isaiah 40, visit James Block’s recording at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgsdhQzVfSQ 

From a reflection written on Christmas Day 2007.

 

 

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