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Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’


Los Angeles Times: 2019 Fire at Carquinez Bridge

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Wrath and Anger

Last Sunday was the twenty-fourth in Ordinary time and the themes from those readings continue to resonate within. Arriving in a time when we experience great medical, social, political, and ecological stress, we must be grateful for their teaching.

Sirach 27:30 to 28:7: We are accustomed to the advice that continues to serve us millennia after Jesus ben Sirach captures God’s inspired message. Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. This Old Testament admonition leads us to dualistic thinking that we are justified in exacting an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; but the New Testament readings balance the urge to seek revenge.

Romans 14:7-9: None of us lives for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. With New Testament thinking, we remember that each word we speak is our representation of God’s breath in creation. Each action we take is Christ’s hand among us. Each prayer we raise is a prayer of the Holy Spirit. How then can we foster hate and division? How can we seek revenge in anger? How can we hope and pray for another’s destruction?

Matthew 18:21-35 offers a way forward, a way to transform our human, childish wants into childlike trust in God. How often must we forgive? The parable of the unforgiving servant is a stark reminder that when we extend mercy, understanding, and forgiveness, we extend the hand of God. When we trust that God has a plan for all that seems incomprehensible, we think with the mind of Christ. And when we love with unending love, we love in the Spirit.

Psalm 103 offers us this final thought: The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion. Not according to our sins does God deal with us, nor does God requite us according to our crimes. God pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills, redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion.

In a time when a best seller work of non-fiction bears the single-word title Rage, we need these readings. In a time when a pandemic continues to turn lives upside down, we need one another. In a time when forests burn and tempests rage, we must help one another. In a time when weapons speak before words, we must listen to one another. In a time when so many ask, “Where is your God”, we must live in faith and hope. In a time when words of wrath and anger are normalized in a world called to love, we must heal one another. For it is in our steadfast response to God’s call for patience and compassion that we are transformed.

Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. How often must we forgive? Not seven times, but seven times seventy-seven times. Jesus reminds us that we must interact with our enemies as our neighbors, for in so doing we help to save the world.


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

The image of compassionate hands is from: https://news.berkeley.edu/2020/04/14/calm-amid-covid-compassion/

Click on the image to find videos in which “UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner discusses the benefits of compassion for others and ourselves.

The image and story of the fire at Carquinez Bridge are from a 2019 article in the Los Angeles Times. 

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-10-27/major-fire-breaks-out-at-carquinez-bridge-in-vallejo-interstate-80-closed

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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Psalm 64

The Perfect Plot

“The psalmist shows that the righteous are often defenseless before the cynicism of the machinations and calumnies to which they are prey.  Those who weave their intrigues act in shadows and believe they are hidden from view.  However, God sees everything, even secret human actions and designs.  His judgment overtakes those who evade justice . . . God will turn their evil against the wicked while publicly acquitting the righteous.  Each life will be brought before the judgment of God; the righteous will find their joy in the Lord”.  (The Psalms 161)

I suspect that every one of us has been the victim of a perfect plot at one time or another in our lives.  Perhaps it was an adolescent bullying that set us apart and taught us a lesson.  Maybe there is jealousy in our workplace and we have become the object of someone’s campaign to see that we find the office too ugly a place to stay.  Or it is possible that within the sanctity of our family or prayer circle – the very refuge where we take shelter from the storms of life – we have been the object of a perfect plot.  If this is so, we feel the angst and sorrow in this psalm.

We have visited this theme before. If we type the word couches or Susana, or plot into the blog search bar we will find other reflections in which we have struggled with the apparent immunity of those who lie on their dark couches and willfully plot to inflict harm on the faithful.  The psalmist today rails against this seeming imperviousness to consequences but he also reminds us that God is in charge . . . that this kind of suffering is part of our human condition . . . and that although we may not see the consequence exacted from these evil ones, still God holds them to an accounting.  It is best to let the matter lie there and avoid thoughts of revenge or payback of any kind.  It is best to allow God to tend to these perfect, secret plots as only God can . . . with deep wisdom, with unblemished justice, with transparent grace, and with a full and burgeoning love of humanity.

I was taught as a child to pray for my enemies and today, as I read this psalm, I come to understand that only God can handle real evil. Only God can create a plan that saves all. And only God has the wisdom, beauty, and power to convert into goodness our dark and devious conspiracies.

If only we might remember that Jesus died as a result of an evil intent that took hold of those who laid out their perfect plot against him.  If only we might follow Jesus’ example as he prays for his killers.  If only we too might intervene on behalf of those who construct perfect plots against us . . . and if only we might ask our compassionate and patient God for forgiveness and renewal for all.

Tomorrow, the mystery of God’s reversal . . .  


A re-post from June 9, 2013.

THE PSALMS, NEW CATHOLIC VERSION. Saint Joseph Edition. New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 2004. 161. Print.

Image from: https://theencouragingword.co/2016/03/03/sheep-in-wolfs-clothing/

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

John 7:40-53: The Crowd

Munkácsy Mihály: Ecce Homo

Munkácsy Mihály: Ecce Homo

From yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT mini-reflection: God takes an odd vengeance on Jesus’ human enemies: he offers them eternal life, if only they will hear and see the truth of the one they pursue with such anger. 

With the election of Francis as Roman Catholic Pope, God invites us to explore the Easter message; with Jorge Bergoglio’s elevation to a major public stage we have the opportunity to react to our human dichotomous past and present.  Traitor, saint, collaborator, kingdom-builder . . . we have no way of knowing what Bergoglio’s heart hides or holds.  We have no way of hearing the man’s dialogs with God.  We have no way of living the man’s hopes and fears.  What we do have is the message of Christ brought to us in yesterday’s readings for Mass.  We will want to spend time with them today.

Jeremiah 11:18-20 begins with: I knew their plot because the Lord informed me; at that time you, O Lord, showed me their doings.  We must not allow our fears and anxieties to frighten us away from loving as God loves – with full and open heart – with full and open forgiveness – with full and open return for us, his prodigal daughters and sons.

Psalm 7: O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and rescue me, lest I become like the lion’s prey, to be torn to pieces, with no one to rescue me.  Our greatest dread is loss – of self, of reputation, of appearance, of control, of comfort, of relationships, of God.  Yet the only loss that is serious is loss of our relationship with God . . . which we forfeit when we turn away.  God never leaves us; God is always waiting for our return no matter the circumstances of our leaving.

John 7:40-53 begins: Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said. “This is truly the Prophet”.  Others said, “This is the Christ”.  But others said, “The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he? . . . So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.  Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. 

This week we have spent time with the different people who were with Jesus in the last hours before his death and we have looked at the story of the Passion from various perspectives and angles.  Today we reflect on these readings to see where we might be standing in the final crowd that follows and hounds Jesus.  Are we for or against him?  Do we reject or adore?  Do we observe or act?

What circumstances chaff at us?  What situations chill us?  What surrounding conditions irritate us?  What people annoy or terrify or inspire us? What motivates us to stand or hide, to collaborate or sacrifice?  What fears and hopes drive us?  What hates or loves move us?

God takes an odd vengeance on Jesus’ human enemies: he offers them eternal life, if only they will hear and see the truth of the one they pursue with such anger. 

A new Holy Father steps forward to lead.  What was his past?  What is his present? What might be his future?  Only God knows.  And this God is such a generous God that any vengeance exacted will be the offer of eternal life.  May Jorge Bergoglio, and may we in the crowd, go to God with all our questions.  May the new Pope, and may we in the crowd, hear and act on The Word as Christ did as we move through each day.  And may the Holy Father, and we in the crowd, all live in The Spirit of mercy, compassion, justice and forgiveness on this, our Lenten journey.  May we love as God loves . . . for it is our only salvation.


A re-post from March 17, 2013.

Image from: http://www.mihalymunkacsy.org/search

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 16 March 2013: 239. Print.

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1 Corinthians 1:18-25: Wisdom’s Paradox

Saturday, December 28, 2019

At that time Jesus said in reply: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.  Matthew 11:25

The Tree of Knowledge

The Tree of Knowledge

The paradox of creation is that the weak are strong and the strong are weak.  This Theology of the Cross, then is present in all suffering and opposes the norms usually associated with power and wisdom.   From La Biblia de América: This foolishness of the cross becomes present in all debility, anguish and the profundity of God’s love.  This is the surprising path of salvation opened to all humans by Christ.

We look for signs yet the only sign relevant to us, Jesus tells us, is the sign of Jonah – – – the prophet who finally did as God asked to save the city of Nineveh, after spending three days in the belly of a whale.  God does not exact the punishment he had meant to carry out, because all of the inhabitants repent – – – inspired by the reluctant prophet.  Jonah then complains about his surprising success.  We are so often determined to be disappointed!

Notes will tell us that God’s ways are inscrutable because we insist on having things “our way” rather than in God’s way in God’s time.  The wisdom and mercy we experience with God is incomprehensible to us because we have not yet learned to trust that this paradox about which Jesus speaks is real.  Our viewpoint is too narrow, our perspective too self-centered to fathom the kind of acceptance and love the creator has for his creatures.

From the NAB comments on Jonah:  The prophecy, which is both instructive and entertaining, strikes directly at this viewpoint [of forgiving wicked enemies].  It is a parable of mercy, showing that God’s threatened punishments are but the expression of a merciful will which moves all men to repent and seek forgiveness.  The universality of the story contrasts sharply with the particularistic spirit of many in the post-exilic community.  The book has also prepared the way for the gospel with its message of redemption for all, both Jew and Gentile.  (Page 961)

These are God’s ways.  This is God’s wisdom.  We live the paradox that when we are weakest we are strongest . . . because we are nearest to God.  In this Christmastide, let us celebrate God’s coming to us as an infant, defenseless and small.  And let us remember that in a few short months we will journey through the Lenten time when we flourish in God’s forgiveness and mercy.  Let us take time today to reflect on the lesson we might learn as we watch this tiny child grow into a man who offers both his humanity and divinity so that we might be free from fear, so that we might be saved.  And let us bask in the wonder of this gift so freely given.  Let us grant forgiveness, as we are forgiven.  Let us bless with mercy, as we are blessed.  Let us cradle and heal those who are broken . . . just as we are cradled and healed by God in his immense love.

When we suffer at the hands of others – – – either intentionally or unintentionally – – – let us gather up our wounded-ness, and our broken-ness.  Let us make of ourselves wounded healers in God’s great plan, in God’s great love, in the paradox of God’s great wisdom.


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

Image from: http://stirringthedeep.com/2011/04/15/sister-wisdom-part-ii/

First written on April 20, 2009. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Daniel 9: Gabriel and the Seventy Weeks

Sunday, November 17, 2019

“I was still occupied with this prayer when Gabriel came to me in rapid flight”.

“A pressing theological question asserts itself.  Does the writer of Daniel think God’s purpose in bringing history to its end can be changed merely by uttering human prayers?” (Mays 631-632) Commentary will enlighten this passage for us further but if time is brief today we might reflect on this one question: How do we react when we discover that a period of trial will last longer than we had first believed?  How do we manage pain that endures not seventy years but seven times that number?  Do we reject God in anger or do we go to God in faith?  Do we sink into private despair or do we turn to God in universal hope?  Do we lash out against those who bring us truth or do we react in love . . . even toward our enemies?  What do we do when we find out that our seventy years of pain are seven times that number?   How do we endure?

Daniel provides us with a model, a plan, a pattern we can follow when we receive the news that life is a string of trials interspersed with little triumphs.  Chapter 9 lays out a simple map.

I turned to the Lord, pleading an earnest prayer . . . We turn to God and pour our fears into God’s ear.  We tell him our worries with honesty.  We do not hide any of the details for God already knows them.

With fasting, sackcloth, and ashes . . . We make an outward sign to our inward selves that we have given over all control to God.  We put aside all pride.  We place ourselves fully into God’s hands for God already holds us firmly.

I prayed to the Lord my God, and confessed . . . We enter into an open and straightforward dialog with God.  We say all that is on our minds, all that weighs down our hearts.  We admit that we have erred and have sometimes adored false idols.

And we can turn to God because God is good.  We can be truthful with God because God is forgiving.  We can put away our fears, our defenses and our weapons because God is love.

Know and understand this . . . Jerusalem was to be rebuilt . . .

When we discover that our suffering will not be ending when we first believed it would . . . we can follow Daniel’s model and remember that God always loves, God is always present, God always forgives and welcomes his tired ones home.  God does, indeed, respond to human prayer . . . and he sends his messenger to bring us the news that God is with us.


More notes on Daniel 9: “The prophet Jeremiah (25,11; 29,10) prophesied a Babylonian captivity of seventy years, a round number signifying the complete passing away of the existing generation.  Jeremiah’s prophecy was fulfilled in the capture of Babylon by Cyrus and the subsequent return of the Jews to Palestine.  However, the author of Daniel, living during the persecution of Antiochus, sees the conditions of the exile still existing; therefore in his mediation, he extends Jeremiah’s number to seventy weeks of years (v 24); i.e., seven times seventy years, to characterize the Jewish victory over the Seleucids as the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy”. (Senior cf. 2, 1100-1101)

To re-visit our reflections on other portions of Daniel 9: We begin with Daniel seeking Ultimate Fulfillment in God; Daniel intones a Prayer in the Desert; then suddenly Gabriel Comes to Daniel in rapid flight.  A vision ensues through which Daniel understands that an end will come to the anguish he and his exiled nation suffer . . . but this end is further off than anticipated. 

To read more about this prophecy, go to the Daniel – God Calls the Faithful and Faithless page on this blog. 

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 631-632. Print.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1100-1101. Print.   

A re-post from October 27, 2012.

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Genesis 45:1-8: Making Ourselves Known

Sunday, October 13, 2019

James Tissot: Joseph and his Brethren Welcomed by Pharaoh

Today we continue our reflection on the story of Joseph whose brothers sold him into slavery . . . on the story of Joseph who forgives and saves these brothers in return.

When we find ourselves in a place of power, do we react with anger or mercy?  Do we struggle to understand how to convert our dire circumstances into an opportunity to be close to God so that we might be able to see our grief as gift?  Do we look for ways to offer this gift back to the God to use as he sees best as he accompanies us in our travail ?

Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and to us in this story, and so may we reveal ourselves to others.  Rather than sink to the easy move of wielding the power we find in our hands, we are to seek God in our suffering and pain.  In so doing, we will discover that God has converted the harm to good, the evil to joy.  We will also discover new depths in ourselves; we will find our best selves – our deepest potential.  Can we imagine offering this re-made self back to one who rejected us earlier . . . particularly when we have the power to reject as we have been rejected?  What greater love can we demonstrate than to turn away from vengeance to turn toward peace?  What greater act might we perform than to follow Christ in an act of forgiveness of others . . . especially the others who have harmed us greatly?

Joseph reveals himself to his brothers . . . and in so doing he bridges profound chasms of sorrow and loss . . . bringing joy and reunion.

God reveals himself to us and thus calls us to the possibilities dreamt for us at our inception.

When we reveal ourselves to others as Joseph did then we demonstrate that we understand the depth of our capacity to be God’s love in a world yearning for peace.

Reading this story we see that we have no choice . . . let us journey through loss to make ourselves known to the world.


First written on September 20, 2008. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite. 

Image from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/350858627214142649/

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1 Kings 2: Consolidation

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Ferdinand Bol: David’s Dying Charge to Solomon

Today’s reading is full of violence and intrigue – not unlike the political and social landscape in which we constantly find ourselves.  People do not hide out much in the tent of the Lord these days, nor do they order heads to be severed from bodies in retribution; but we do indeed destroy reputations, we intimidate and threaten, we use ever kind of subtle and not so subtle violence to get what we want.  We usually do this without counting the cost to others; and we also forget to measure the ultimate cost to ourselves.

In this forgetting of self and others . . . we show our forgetfulness of God.

David leaves a kingdom and a way of life to his son, Solomon because he knows how difficult it is to maintain fidelity and remain in God.  David also knows how much God loves his people and how willing God is to forgive us our faults.  The aging father tries to pass along his understanding of “the measure” to his young son and when we read this entire story we see how much Solomon is able to retain; we find out how and if he prospers from his father’s final words.

Jesus makes the rules of his kingdom clear to us: The measure that you measure with is measured out to you.  There is only one true commandment – love God and love one another, even as I have loved you.  In this week’s scripture class we are asked to re-think the yardsticks we constantly use to make decisions about what we will say and what we will do.  Do we show partiality to a special group of people or to a special idea?  How do we perceive others?  How do we perceive ourselves?  How do our actions demonstrate our perception of God?

James calls us back to the realization that we do not see as God sees, and he reminds us that when we make judgments we so often are looking at the external and forgetting that Jesus lives in everyone we meet – even those people we do not like.  James tells us in 2:1-13 that when we show deference to those with money and power, we neglect those who are poor in worldly treasures and those who are poor in spirit.  We neglect those with whom Jesus chooses to reside, the physically, emotionally and spiritually marginalized.  Jesus calls the poor and the broken-hearted to himself in order that he might heal them.  These are the people for whom Jesus demonstrates compassion.  And so ought we.  Jesus calls the rich and powerful to an accounting.  He is moved to rebuke them for their lack of regard for his poor and broken-hearted.  And so ought we to be moved if we wish to bring about the kingdom.

Today we read of all the plotting and scheming that occur as the young King Solomon consolidates his kingdom.  He lives in treacherous times.  So do we.   And so we pray . . .

Dear Lord,

It is so very difficult to trust in you alone.  We so often forget that you are watching over us and accompanying us in our journey.  The world seems so very scary and in our human survival reaction to our fears, we forget to rely on you alone.  Help us to see as you see.  Help us to look past the external.  Help us to feel as you feel.  Move us with your compassion.  Grace us with the gift of your love.  Help us to free ourselves by acting in humility, mercy and forgiveness.  Help us to see that by freeing others we also free ourselves. And when we move to consolidate our forces from our feeble human weak places, remind us to come together with others in you.  We ask this in Jesus’ name as we give ourselves over to the power of the Holy Spirit who lives and moves in us, and who calls us to unity. 

Amen. 


Adapted from a reflection written on January 30, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

For more on the story portrayed in the painting above, click on the image or go to: http://fourhandles.blogspot.com/2011/04/1-kings-23-davids-final-advise-to.html

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2 Corinthians 2: Painful Circumstances

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Some of us avoid pain; some of us hesitate to inflict pain on another.  Others of us use pain as a weapon against anyone who gets in our way or even ourselves.  Today we read from Paul’s second letter to the people of Corinth and quite close to the opening, he addresses his audience to speak of painful circumstances.  Scholars speculate that either Paul had heard of an aggravating matter that needed to be addressed or that Paul had been rejected by some of the Corinthians.  In either case we are left with the aftermath and on-going effects of suffering.  The group suffers as a result of an action by a member or members of their community.  What one endures, we all endure.  This is the world of Jesus into which we wish to enter.

Paul suggests forgiveness as the central and most important tool that we might use to extricate ourselves from painful circumstances.  It is this same forgiveness that brings us the peace of Christ and assuages anxiety as we live out the after effects of painful circumstancesAs I read Paul’s words, I am reminded of the concise but excellent homily we heard this morning from Bishop Newman as he commented on the first reading at Mass from the first letter of Peter.  He said that these words are some of his favorite: You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  We are special, we are the brother and sisters of the prince of light, Christ, we are united with others God has chosen, and we are to proclaim God’s goodness to all.  As God’s chosen, royal people we will encounter painful circumstances and we will need to forgive the trespasses of others, and we will even have to forgive ourselves for our own lapses in kingdom building.

Peter tells us: Once you were no people but now you are God’s people . . . (1 Peter 2)

Paul repeats to us: God loves us so much that he created us and calls us out of darkness into the light so we must forgive as God forgives.

Peter writes to us: You had not received mercy but now you have received mercy . . .  (1 Peter 2)

Paul reminds us: God loves us so much that he forgives us endlessly, wanting us to forgive ourselves and one another . . . so that we might resolve all painful circumstances as we come together in Christ.


A re-post from September 13, 2012.

For more on how to forgive and what real forgiveness looks like, click on the image above or go to: http://www.birthpangs.org/articles/biblical/forgiveness1.html

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1 Samuel 26: I have been a fool . . .

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Ernst Josephson: David and Saul

I have been a fool and I have made a serious mistake.

David and Saul had at one time a close and personal relationship and David and Saul’s son, Jonathan, become hard and fast friends; yet Saul becomes envious of the admiration the people have for the young warrior-psalm-writer, David.  Today we read a portion of the story in which we see the rupture between them – David and his followers have become fugitives; Saul rants and looks to take David’s life.

In today’s Noontime we watch as David creeps into Saul’s tent where the king sleeps surrounded by bodyguards.  Most of us would expect David to take revenge for the treacherous way Saul has treated him but this does not happen.  Instead, he takes Saul’s spear and water jar to demonstrate his presence and exits the tent.  Admonishing his companion for thinking that they might do God a favor by eliminating Saul, David shows us that he understands his proper place in God’s plan.  He is a servant.  Later, Saul admits he has been wrong and he utters the words many of us need to say to others, or wish that others might say to us: I have been a fool and I have made a serious mistake. 

We can spend our days waiting to hear these words from one who had wronged us.  We can also spend our days weaving convoluted plots in order to avoid using these words, but in the end, the effect is the same: we become exhausted.

When offenses are committed and there is no apology, we must leave the unraveling of the consequences to God.  When we offend others and find it difficult to ask for forgiveness, we must surrender our pride and ask God for the best way to repent and atone.  In this way then, our exhaustion will be transformed into a new exuberance for life.


Written on May 21, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://www.fineart-china.com/htmlimg/image-64098.html

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