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Sirach 11:29-34: Guests and Strangers – Care in Choosing Friends

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Biblia de América which I have been using as a resource lately, names this citation differently from our NAB as we can see from the title above.  In addition, it has references to Proverbs 1:10-16, 5:10 and 6:1 for this citation which, if you have time to look at them, will add some depth to today’s reading.  The footnotes in this same Biblia remind us that sowers of discord are to be avoided at all cost, as their deceits create structures of illusion – they are the people of the darkness, people of deception and lies . . . with a spark he sets many coals afire.

I am thinking of a counterpoint to this image.  I am remembering the description of the souls of the just from this past Sunday’s first reading.  These souls are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.  They seemed in the view of the foolish to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction.  But they are in peace.  For if before men they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself.  As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.  In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble; they shall judge the nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord shall be their king forever.  Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect.  (Wisdom 3:1-9)  [My bold font.]

This is not a call to exclusivity; rather, it is a call to universality.  It is a universal invitation to openness, to mercy, to fidelity, to love.  We are each invited to lead lives worthy of the creator – honest and compassionate lives, faithful and constant lives, forgiving and loving lives.  Ardent lives which burn with the fire of Christ’s love.

It is also a call which carries with it a degree of heat – the fire of the gold smith’s forge – but we ought not fear this furnace.  It is the crucible of life with which God prunes and disciplines us . . . for when we are tried and tested, so then are we proved.  And when we are proved we are graced.  When we are graced we are holy.

There is a clear choice before us:  we may become like the sparks which set many tongues wagging and many hearts gossiping.  Or we may be the spark which sets souls ablaze with the fire and love of Christ.

We must take care in choosing our associates and friends for they are either strangers, sowers of discord who are to be avoided; or they are guests who are soul mates to be welcomed into our hearts.

St. Paul tells us (Romans 12:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:1, Galatians 6:4, 2 Corinthians 13:5) that we are to test the spirit for this is how we will find if travelers are either the tinder of deceit . . . or the kindling of the Pentecost.


LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. Print.

Written on November 6, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Sirach 40: Joys and Miseries of Life

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Southern Oregon, USA: Ten Years After the Biscuit Fire

As he reaches safety, he wakes up astonished that there was nothing to fear.  (Verse 7)

If only we might remember this constantly when deep grief or great sorrow overtakes us.

Each time we find that we have come through the fire . . .

We can look back to see where we were when we first felt the warning frisson that something was arriving at our door that would call to our best self that aches when stretched.

We can think back to feel the pain as we squeeze through the narrow gate of the life of Christ to which we are called.

We can look back to see ourselves exhausted and collapsed . . . searching for familiar landmarks with foggy eyes.

We can remember the sense of drifting that accompanies the re-awakening.

We can sense that our suffering self has connected with our healing self.

And we can look forward to the next encounter with one of life’s miseries . . . out of which will grow one of life’s joys . . . into which we go to meet our God.  What do we fear . . . ?

As she reaches safety, she wakes up astonished that there was nothing to fear.  

If only we might remember this constantly.


Written on October 9, 2008, re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

To learn more about nature’s recovery of the Biscuit Fire in Southern Oregon, click on the image above or go to: http://oregonstate.edu/terra/2012/10/the-biscuit-fire-10-years-later/

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Malachi 3God’s Own Possession

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Written on March 28, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

We have looked at the Book of Malachi a number of times, first thinking about how difficult it can be to apologize when we know we are wrong; and also about how the newness God offers to us can transform our pride and arrogance to the understanding and compassion which he wishes to share with us.  Today we consider what it really means to be God’s own possession

Malachi’s prophecy is the last we read before we turn to the New Testament . . .  a fitting closing and opening.  We, too, stand at a point in our Lenten journey when we begin to put away our old self . . . to turn to something new, something difficult, something transforming.

I must confess to having a special affection for Chapter 3 in this book which describes how we might allow ourselves to be refined through trial.  Malachi uses images familiar to his audience: the work of the gold or silver smith, and the fuller.  More information about the work of a fuller with references to other verses in both the Old and New Testaments can be found at this link.

http://www.bible-history.com/faussets/F/Fuller/

Before and after the fulling process

In both occupations, it is necessary for the smith or the fuller to keep a close eye on the progress of his work.  In both cases, a steady hand and a keen eye use an extreme measure to bring about astounding beauty.  The smith employs intense heat and fire, the fuller uses a sometimes caustic alkaline combined with fat (or in some cases urine and chalk) to clean and even bleach cloth.  Both of these artisans produce work that dazzles the eye and glorifies the wearer.

Mark describes the whiteness of Christ’s clothing during the Transfiguration as dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.  (9:3) The Book of Revelation contains frequent references to the wearing of dazzling garments at the time of the Second Coming of Christ; and the people of Laodicea are advised to buy . . . gold refined by fire so that you may be rich and, and white garments to wear . . . and ointment to smear on your eyes that you might see.  During the fulling process, the vat of chemical and fat must be prepared with care, the cloth introduced with caution, the procedure monitored continually.  Once the material has been submitted to this bleaching method, it is stretched beneath the sun to dry and come to its potential whiteness; yet always under the watchful eyes of the fuller.  A silver or gold smith must use extreme heat to refine the ore he uses in order that all impurities rise to the top of the molten silver or gold to be bled from the top.  He dare not take his eye from his work; he must apply the proper heat at the proper time, and then pour the liquid with care into the waiting mold which has already been prepared.

Both of these tasks require that the workman remain at his post, keeping a constant eye on his work lest all be lost.  Both of these tasks require thoughtful planning before and after difficult and complex processes.

Fuller’s Soap

Just so does God, the creator, plan and prepare a place and a mission for us.  Just so does God, the workman, abide with us through the refiner’s heat and the fuller’s lye.  Just so does God place his hope in our dazzling potential and our latent promise.  Just so does God love us with his infinite care and his enduring love.  Just so does God keep devoted watch over his own as they undergo the smith’s fire and the fuller’s lye . . . to become dazzling arraignment and jewels.

And they shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my own special possession, on the day I take action.  And I will have compassion on them . . . 


A re-post from January 9, 2012.

Images from: http://www.ehow.com/about_4572172_what-fullers-soap.html and http://www.sbthp.org/fulling.html and http://astoldbyrachel.blogspot.com/2010/11/remove-dross-from-silver-and.html

For more information on the process of fulling cloth and how to make fuller’s soap, click on the images above or go to: http://www.sbthp.org/fulling.html and http://www.ehow.com/about_4572172_what-fullers-soap.html

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Matthew 21:1-11: Shaking the World

Monday, July 16, 2018

Footnotes and commentary will explain much to us in today’s Noontime. The poetic parallelism we find with the words ass and colt in the citation from Zechariah 9:9 may justify the thinking that Matthew was a Gentile; a man practicing the Jewish faith would be accustomed to hearing these double allusions from their rabbi and not confuse the prophecy with reality. We might also learn more about the custom of strewing palm branches during the feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:39-40 and 2 Maccabees 10:5-8) when rededicating a Temple. And finally, scholars will be able to tell us that Matthew uses the participle shaken in verse 11 that was commonly used in the apocalyptic literature of Jesus’ time. In Matthew 8:24 the storm is described with this same verb and the noun in that verse literally means earthquake. Matthew wants to tell us that Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem literally and figuratively shakes the world out of its complacency. (Senior 20, 44-45) This prophet from Nazareth in Galilee who heals the sick, feeds the multitudes, and forgives sins has come to set the world afire . . . and the world is clearly shaken by this message: The Temple is about to fall.

I have friends and family who insist that Jesus came to live with us only so that we might learn how to “get along” with everyone. This thinking conveniently reinforces the idea that living in a loving community means that we turn blind eyes to dishonesty and greed. This view will also have us thinking that in Luke 12:49 and Matthew 10:34-36 Jesus cannot possibly mean that even family members will be pitted against one another when they understand the true meaning of Jesus’ message. For some it is difficult to believe that Jesus is telling his followers – and us – that the habits of a lifetime will have to change: complacency about corruption must end, we cannot condone the oppression of the marginalized, or affirm lies and gossip. We must cease living in excess and we must become humble, patient, and persevering in order to enter the kingdom. We can see why Jesus’ message shook the world in his own time . . . and why his message continues to shake the world today.

When we read these verses and we feel compelled to place the palm branches of our lives on the roadway to welcome this amazing healer who will always put himself last, we must also be willing to follow him into the Temple when he cleanses it.  When we raise our voices in thanksgiving to say Hosanna in the highest, we must also be willing to weep with the women and John the Beloved Apostle to mourn the emptiness of the world without Jesus.  When we shout out to the doubters: This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee; we must ready ourselves for the cataclysmic shaking that will turn us in a new and life-giving direction we had not thought possible for ourselves or others.  We must ready ourselves for the shaking of the world and the rebuilding of the Temple.  And so we pray . . .

When the earth yawns open to swallow us whole, let us stand firm on the lessons Jesus has taught us. 

When the coming storm gathers dust into lethal clouds, let us hunker down to shelter in the arms of our loving God.

When Jesus shakes the world into God’s new reality, let us not cry out against it. 

Let us welcome this shuddering new birth . . . knowing that with the passing of the storm the Spirit who has abided with us . . . will nourish us anew. 


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.20, 44-45. Print. 

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 25, 2011.

Images from: http://www.simonedwards.me/?p=76 

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1 Samuel 13The Heat of Self-Knowledge – Part II

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

King Saul

King Saul

The fire of battle is a familiar setting for scripture stories and for our own lives as well. Whether the skirmishes are physical, mental, emotional or spiritual, blood of one kind or another is constantly spilled.  Misery seems to be a constant human companion and because of this we may begin to think that God is not present as we suffer.  But in this thinking we will not be correct, for God is always present, even when circumstances are bleakest.

We generally consider the fires of life to be destructive but today’s Gospel brings us another perspective (Luke 12:49-53).  Jesus says: I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!  What are to make these words uttered by the Lamb of God who constantly speaks of unity and peace?  What can he possibly mean when he asks: Do you think I have come to establish peace on earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.  What Jesus is speaking of here is the fact that when we are acting in the Gospel, when we are true disciples of Christ, there will be friction and even conflagration.  There will be destruction; yet this destruction will be an opportunity for new building.

Catherine of Siena has this insight to today’s Gospel when she describes how we become alight with the fire of self-knowledge, the fire of Christ: The soul’s being united with him and transformed into him is like fire consuming the dampness in logs.  Once the logs are heated through and through, the fire burns and changes them into itself, giving them its own color and warmth and power.  It is just so with the Creator . . . We begin to experience the heat of self-knowledge- which consumes all the dampness of our selfish love for ourselves.  As the heat increases, we throw ourselves with blazing desire into God’s measureless goodness, which we discover within our very selves.  (Cameron 312)

What we see in yesterday’s and today’s Noontime reading is Saul allowing the dampness to consume him rather that the fire of the heat of self-knowledge.  Many of us back away from self-examination because we do not want to face the demon within. What Christ tells us, and what Catherine of Sienna clarifies for us, is that without Christ’s fire of self-knowledge we too, are lost because it is this very conflagration that purifies and binds.  It is this fire that transforms.  It is the blaze which makes us new again.

Tomorrow, fire in the desert. 

For more on King Saul, click on the image above or visit: http://www.bible-people.info/Saul.htm

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 22.10 (2009): 312. Print.

 

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Matthew 10:34-39: Division

Iron-Curtain-Border-Facilities-higher-res-available

The European Iron Curtain

Sunday, August 14, 2016

God often speaks in sudden and surprising ways.

We know from life experience that fire has the potential to both destroy and heal, to either bring all to ash or to cauterize and cure.  Jesus explains to his followers in today’s citation that when we say yes to his invitation what we agree to is our willing entrance into a life of hardship, tension, prophetic courage, and even rebellion.  Yet as grim or as unhappy as this life might seem on the surface, a life in Christ shuns temporary pleasure in exchange for eternal joy.

To die to self in order to allow God to enter is the key to life in Christ.  I have said to my close friends that a few years ago I realized that I was trying to manage my daily problems on my own, thinking that I need not bother God with things that seem so trivial in the light of the events reported on the evening news.  Yet through my pain I came to understand that rather than fear the sensation of falling down a deep well backwards with no way to even guess if there were a bottom to this pit . . . and rather than scrabble with my hands at the sides of the well . . . what God was calling me to was a life in which I willingly pull my hands away from the sides of the well to cross them on my chest . . . to fall into the hands of God that then eased me down this frightening tube.  After a time of free fall, I realized that the dreaded dark bottom of this well was opening into a flood of light.  I also understood that my willingness to allow all that I am and all that I do to descend into what I could not see and could not predict gave me the gift of total and eternal sustenance.  The waters I thought were waiting at the bottom of this well were, in fact, non-existent; for it is at the bottom of this well that I found God waiting.

A green zone now occupies the former Iron Curtain zone

A green zone now occupies the former Iron Curtain zone

Injury, crisis, strife, cataclysm, catastrophe, division, a fire that burns with a killing intensity . . . all of these, when faced with the love of Christ, disappear as dust . . . to leave in their place a serenity that will always abide.

The fire that Christ brings can heal when we hand all back to God that we have been given, the gifts as well as the pain.  The divisions we thought insurmountable . . . have conjoined and fused in a blaze of Christ’s love . . . to form a bond that can never be broken, a peace that can never be destroyed.

Adapted from a reflection written on June 17, 2009.

For more on the greening of the Iron Curtain zone, click on the images above, or visit: http://www.thebigroundtable.com/stories/boys-loved-birds/

For another reflection on radical trust, visit the Falling Down the Well page on this blog. 

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Ezekiel 48:35: The Lord is Here – Part III

Saturday, April 9, 2016Empty-Tomb

We have celebrated Easter Week, an eight-day celebration of the resurrection of the crucified Christ, and as we move forward through Eastertide, we continue to explore the doubt we might have about the resurrection miracle. We continue to ask the familiar question in the face of violence and tragedy: Where is God?  And Ezekiel, the prophet who lives in exile from the physical place in which he believes God resides, gives us a simple answer to this simple question: God resides everywhere. As Easter people who celebrate the miracle of Easter renewal, we see God best in the new temple of the Christ’s body.  We see God best when we all strive toward creating the New Jerusalem here among us, a place where differences are anticipated and respected, a place where every voice is heard, a place where reparations are made and accepted, a place of healing and restoration.  A place of ultimate and intense truth.  A place of purity and of fire and of healing.

The prophet Ezekiel tells us that God is a paradox.  He tells us that the Temple and God’s presence must be central to our lives.  He tells us that God is awesome – “reaching far beyond human relationships and human explanations”.  (Senior RG 339) He tells us that as individuals we are responsible for our own adherence to the Law and that no matter our ancestry or our misfortunes, we cannot scapegoat our circumstances.  “Each person lives or dies according to his or her wicked or virtuous way of life”.  (Senior RG 340) Ezekiel transforms the art of prophecy, bringing it to a new level and setting the stage for the entrance of the Messiah and the New Testament.  He also lays the foundation for the Second Coming – when the Lord returns and sends his angels among the living to separate the sheep from the goats.

Mikhail Nesterov: The Empty Tomb

Mikhail Nesterov: The Empty Tomb

All of this is too terrible, too wonderful, too much to believe – and yet there is nothing else to believe.  All other thought pales and hence the paradox.  What we first see and hear we want to believe but do not, thinking that this New Jerusalem is impossible.  Yet through living, suffering, hoping, believing and loving we arrive at no other spot. We have no choice but to believe that indeed, the Lord is Here. 

When we spend time with this prophecy today, we have the opportunity to feel the presence of God as we remember and reflect . . . we are Easter People . . . visited by the risen Christ . . . and so the Lord is among us.

Click on the image above of linens in the empty tomb to read “Rising Isn’t Optional,” a post by youth minster Lindsay Williams, visit: http://blogs.nd.edu/oblation/2012/11/29/rising-isnt-optional/ 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 337. Print.   

Adapted from a Favorite written on September 15, 2007.

 

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Malachi 3: Refiningmalachi_3-10

March 7, 2015

Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek.

In several weeks we will witness again Christ’s passion and death. Let us prepare the temple of our hearts with God’s written Word. Today we choose a chapter and book in the Bible that we have never explored before. As we read, we allow the Spirit to open our ears to God’s words.

My messenger is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye. My messenger will sit refining and purifying.

In several weeks we will experience again the Easter miracle. Let us prepare our hearts and minds with the refining fire of Christ’s presence, the Living Word.  Today we compose a prayer of thanksgiving to the Living God for all that heals and sustains us each day. As we write, we allow the Spirit to open our hearts to God’s living presence.

Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek.

In several weeks we will experience again the phenomenon of Pentecost. Let us prepare ourselves to receive the Spirit in this special way. Today we spend time with someone who is suffering to allow the refining fire of God’s love to transform all mourning into joy.

For more on Malachi’s imagery of a smelter’s fire of a fuller’s lye, enter the word refiner into the blog search bar and explore.  

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

no diving from bridgeAmos 7:4-6

Vision of Fire

A persistent drought burns up the land. Crops wither, ancient orchards fade.  Dry wadis remain where rivulets once danced among rocks.  Children perish. The remnant struggles to survive.  Perhaps we need to turn to God in hope and say: Cease, O Lord God! How can we stand?  We are so small!

And surely God will answer: This also shall not be.

When we focus on our weakness we forget to look for answers in our most precious resource, the indestructible strength that comes to us through our relationship with God.  Again we miss the opportunity to draw goodness from harm just as God does. As part of our Lenten promise to change for the better, let us commit to turning to God when we feel weak and vulnerable; and let us share the good news of God’s saving power.

When we ask God to strengthen us, we show the creator our understanding that we are Children of God.  We show Christ our willingness to lean on him when we experience trouble.  And we show the Spirit our desire to find courage in the abiding, forgiving presence of the Lord.  As part of our Lenten journey, let us determine to always turn to God in hope.

Tomorrow, Vision of the Plummet.

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