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Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’


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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Obadiah 1:15-21: The Measure

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

THINK team commemoration design

A favorite from September 11, 2012. Let us consider again the measure of our lives . . .

The measure that you measure with is measured out to you.  John the Evangelist speaks of the measure of God’s joy which we will know when we follow Jesus.  All three synoptic Gospels (Matthew 7:2, Mark 4:24, Luke 6:38) remind us that we are measured by our own actions; this is the same message we hear from the prophet Obadiah today; yet . . . Do we truly listen to these words? 

Countless times in the Old Testament we hear stories of how people are done in by the plans they designed for their perceived enemies.  The story of Esther is a wonderful example which I always recall because it illustrates this point in the person of Haman who is executed on the gallows he ordered constructed for Mordecai, the man he envied and wanted to eliminate.

Do we truly listen to these words?

Each time we find ourselves plotting to “teach someone a lesson”:  Do we truly listen to these words?

When we worry about the schemes of others more than we place our petitions for change in God’s hands: Do we truly listen to these words?

If we engage in gossip or enable disrespectful or abusive behavior without saying a word: Do we truly listen to these words?

If there are times that we refuse to witness as God asks: Do we truly listen to these words?

When we have given up hope and cease asking God to intercede for those who harm us: Do we truly listen to these words?

When we allow our doubts and fears about God’s love for us and the goodness of his creation to overcome his love for us: Do we truly listen to these words?

When we examine the measure with which we measure others . . . will we want to be valued by this standard?  Will we want to have others’ opinions rammed into our minds?  Will we want others to lapse into mediocrity for fear of failure?  Will we want others to give up entirely?  Will we want others to speak in compassionate truth?  Will we want to be measured with the norm we use when looking at others?

Do we truly listen to these words?

Notes from La Biblia de América: Can patience run dry?  Does the capacity to lend support have a limit?  Our Christian faith teaches us that the answer is, no.  It is necessary to forgive seven times seven times – or infinitely.  Love cannot have limits.  Is this the only message Obadiah wants to communicate . . . is he merely acting to break a cycle of violence in his own day, or does he speak to us as well?  This briefest of prophecies has as a target the Edomites, a people in constant conflict with those in Judah, the descendents of Jacob’s brother, Esau.  The abrasive conflict reaches a height when Edom backs the invading Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem and carry the Jewish people off into exile.  Obadiah speaks to the remnant left behind after the Assyrian holocaust.  Obadiah speaks to us now.

Who are the Edomites in our own lives today?  We know the land of Edom well.  It is the place where our constant adversaries live.  It is the hard heart which envies who we are and what we have.  It is the stiff-necked place from where schemes and lies and plots all spring . . . and these are the places we are asked to measure with the same measure we wish ourselves to be measured.  We are asked to measure in faith, with hope . . . and through love.  Let us go to Edom with a full measure of love in our hearts.


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

Adapted from a post written on May 11, 2009.  

For more information on the THINK team design, click on the image above or go to:

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Ezra 10:1-15: The People’s Response

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Jerusalem

Ezra and Nehemiah, priest and administrator, return from exile to rebuild Jerusalem after its fall and the nations’ exile.  In joy tinged with sadness they dig into the ruins of their past to re-discover their covenant with Yahweh and to and re-pledge their fidelity to him.  Yet in this bittersweet moment as they return from deportation, they continue to ignore God – even the leaders among them who are to serve as models.  We read the long list of their names further along in the chapter and we pause to reflect that we too, are among the guilty.

We remember that although the Old Testament response to their recognition of unfaithful ties with non-Jewish spouses and children was severance and abandonment, our New Testament response is one of openness and an invitation to reconciliation.  Today we might look at Ezra’s response to the original act of betrayal: for he was in mourning over the betrayal by the exiles.  A leader among them, Shecaniah, during his appeal to Ezra says: Yet even now there remains a hope for Israel . . . have courage and take action!  The action they take is to name the culpable . . . and to expel the innocent women and children from their presence.  This story has always troubled me, as does any total severance I encounter in my life.  There is something about it which does not match the Gospel story.

We know that there are times when even Jesus recommends that his missionaries shake dust from the feet to move out of hostile territory and on to new places.  We also know that only God can soften hearts, and can give the gifts of faith, hope and love of enemy.  Only God can unbend stiff necks and open closed eyes, ears and hearts.  Only God can send us the graced moments that make our relationships come alive for an eternity.  Yet, we also believe that we must always make ourselves available for the miracles God wishes to give us.  We must be open to the outrageous possibility that God can grant our hearts’ desires when we ask in Jesus’ name.  We must be willing to remain as constant as God has remained with us.  And we – the victims of abuse – must be willing to petition intercession and salvation for our abusers while maintaining a prudent, watchful and open stance with our enemies.  This must be our response . . . for it is the Christian response.

Many times in the Gospel we see Jesus defer to the Father and we hear the words and bind them to our minds and to our hearts: Do not be afraid.  Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Jesus’ response is to rely on the creator and it must be our response.  Just as Jesus trusts in God’s wisdom and plan, so must we.

It is easy to assign culpability to the blameless, faceless and nameless women and children in today’s reading who find themselves as destitute as these Jewish people themselves had several times been in their history – slaves in Egypt, exiles in Babylon.  Yet they show no compassion.  Christ has not yet walked among them to show them The Way.

I like to think that when confronted with difficult decisions like the ones we read about and think about today, that we will choose the Jesus Way, the Jesus Approach to the dilemma.  Our response, if we follow Jesus, must be as honest, prudent and open as his.  What is this response . . . ?  With prudence and with trust in God, let us welcome the guilty . . . for we are among them.  Let us forgive . . . for we are forgiven.  


A re-post from May 24, 2009.

Image from: http://blog.thefoundationstone.org/2009/12/23/fasting-as-a-prayer/

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Ezekiel 18: A New Heart and a New Spirit

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Written on December 17, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Jacob Willemsz de Wet: Workers in the Vineyard

The prophet Ezekiel foreshadows the story Jesus tells us in Matthew 20 about the vineyard owner who pays the same wage to the worker who has worked for but an hour as he does to the one who has worked all day.  We are cautioned by both prophet and Messiah not to complain about God’s generosity – we may one day hope to benefit from this abundance.

The prophet also foretells the story Jesus describes in Luke 15 who leaves his ninety-nine sheep to go in search of the one that is lost.  We are told by both prophet and Savior that we are as precious to God as that one sheep.  This story is told as an illustration of God’s determination to call us – we may one day have need of this persistence.

Ezekiel tells the people in exile that they must move beyond these old proverbs and customs of believing that the sins of one generation are visited upon another.  He foresees what Jesus tells, that there will be a Messianic Age when we are released from the old and given a new heart and a new spirit – this spirit is forgiveness – this heart is love.

This is wonderful news!  Yet, it brings with it a reality that we may not want to hear.   With this newness comes the responsibility to return and repent.  We cannot expect that the good we have done will somehow outweigh the bad; yet we have the certain knowledge that all Ezekiel has foretold is true.  God will persist in calling out to us as we wander lost and alone.  And God has a heart large enough to repair any damage that has been done either by us or to us – for we have this promise from the prophet Ezekiel that we see fulfilled in our brother the Christ.  Jesus has died yet lives.  Jesus returns for us . . . so that we might live.  The Spirit abides with us . . . and brings us this new heart . . . this new spirit . . . as a gift from God.  All we need do is reach out our hands, and open our hearts.

 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, says the Lord God.  Return and live!


A re-post from December 16, 2011. 

Images from: https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/jacobwillemszdewetdasm11.jpg and http://www.ideachampions.com/heart/archives/quotes/index.shtml

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Matthew 18:21-35The Unforgiving Servant

Thursay, January 17, 2019

Rembrandt: The Unforgiving Servant

It is so very difficult to forgive those who have wronged us grievously; and it is also difficult to curb the pressing urge to seek revenge against our enemies.  Jesus tells us today that we must endlessly forgive those who harm us . . . otherwise we are like the unforgiving servant in today’s parable.  And the frightening outcome of his life is not one we want for ourselves or our loved ones.

Seventy-seven times, we are told by scholars and experts, represents a number of completion.  By forgiving endlessly we near the perfection or completion we yearn for.  The irony here is that when we become the unforgiving servant we distance ourselves from the very fullness we seek.  We label ourselves as partial and lacking.  Jesus warns us of this today.

Luke also records that Jesus tells his followers they must forgive endlessly (17:4).  This is something they and we struggle to understand.  Our instincts tell us to attack, defend, justify and explain.  We want to come out of any dispute or confrontation as the clear and evident winner.  We want to survive.  For most of us it is difficult to walk away from an argument or to allow another to have the last word; yet Jesus tells us that our first step toward wholeness is to forgive.  Reconciliation will follow if we remain open.  Isolation, anger and fear become more distant and even impossible when we turn our backs on revenge and seek union instead.  Jesus calls us to this today.

St. Paul reminds the Ephesians (4:32) to be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.  Which one of us, he implies, is so perfect that we cannot forgive?  And how do we hold a grudge when Jesus – God among us – does not?  St. Paul points this out to us today.

Immaculée Ilibagiza

Following the horrific genocide in Rwanda, the warring Hutus and the Tutsis were brought together in a journey from fighting to forgiveness.  We follow events as they unfold; we want this reconciliation to work because this coming together of bitter enemies tells us that we are worth redeeming.  It shows us what God sees in us.  It reminds us of God’s covenant promise to us.  Powerful testimonials to our capacity to forgive can be found in both print and video media and here are only a few examples.  http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/8564297/ns/today/t/fighting-forgiveness-rwanda/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mK0W4jx2OZY  and http://articles.cnn.com/2008-05-15/world/amanpour.rwanda_1_hutu-gitarama-tutsis?_s=PM:WORLDWhen we read, hear or view these stories, we take heart.  We once again bolster ourselves for the difficult yet redeeming task of forgiving others.  We once more feel the stirrings of hope in our tired hearts.  We again pull ourselves away from our fear to love our enemies into goodness.

Kill them with kindness, my mother always advised, taking her example from Jesus.  Let God worry about the other guy, Dad always told us, knowing that evil is too enormous and too dangerous for us to conquer on our own.  In her book entitled Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Genocide, Immaculée Ilibagiza tells her story that echoes those of so many other holocaust survivors that God resides even in the center of hell itself if that is where he has to be in order to save us.  This is how much God loves us.  This is how much we can love one another.

When we feel ourselves drawn into this story as the master or the servants, we know that it holds something for us.  When we find ourselves giving over to the anger within us and fear that it will control our thoughts, words and actions, we will want to turn to this story.  When someone who has wronged us approaches us in humble fear of our retaliation, let us reach out a warm and welcoming hand and remember the words that Jesus taught us to pray . . .  Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And let us remember the story of the unforgiving servant.


A re-post from January 17, 2012.

Images from: http://australiaincognita.blogspot.com/2008_10_01_archive.html and https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/thumblg_immaculee1.jpg

To read more about Immaculée Ilibagiza, see: http://www.beliefnet.com/Inspiration/Most-Inspiring-Person-Of-The-Year/2006/Immacule-Ilibagiza.aspx

For more on Rwando, go to: http://www.unitedhumanrights.org/genocide/genocide_in_rwanda.htm

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Psalm 70Finding Meaning

Sunday, December 16, 2018

O Lord, come quickly to help me . . . come quickly to help me, God. 

Victor Frankl

Friday’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation of the Day, was written by Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived Auschwitz.  As I read this psalm I recall some of his words.

Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself – be it meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter.  The more one forgets himself – by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love – the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself . . . (Cameron 151)

As I reflect on his words I wonder how those who physically survived a death camp can ever smile again.  I wonder how they move past the fear that must haunt them. I wonder how they manage to move through days of freedom without falling into fits of dark despair.  I wonder how they begin again.

In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as a meaning of sacrifice . . . In accepting this challenge to suffer bravely, life has a meaning up to the last moment, and it retains this meaning literally to the end . . . My comrades’ . . . question was, “Will we survive the camp?  For, if not, all this suffering has no meaning.”  The question that beset me was, “Has all this suffering, this dying around us, a meaning?  For, if not, then ultimately there is no meaning to survival; for a life whose meaning depends upon such a happenstance – as whether one escapes or not – ultimately would not be worth living at all”.   (Cameron 151)

Entrance to Auschwitz

We too often believe that life’s meaning is found in quick happiness and forget that true human meaning comes from paring ourselves down to a nothingness that brings us sharply up against the realization that only God is worth seeking.  We too often act out of fear and forget that no deceit lasts forever, and that we only fool ourselves with our feeble deceptions for God knows and sees all in the end.  We too often look for quick solutions and forget that only a forgiving heart and an abiding love bring true and eternal life.

O Lord, come quickly to help me . . . come quickly to help me, God. 

And so we pray . . .

Good and glorious God, we struggle to find meaning in the highs and lows of our lives and so we gather up all that we have and all that we are . . . to offer it back to you.  For you are our only place of refuge . . . you are our only source of meaning . . . you are the only salvation worth seeking.  O Lord, come quickly to help us . . . come quickly to help us, God.  Amen. 


A re-post from November 13, 2011. 

Image from: http://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/frankl/frankl.html

Cameron, Peter John, ed. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 11.11 (2011): 151. Print.

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