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Posts Tagged ‘God does the impossible’


Genesis 29-35: God’s Yardstick – Rachel

Persistent Hope

William Dyce: Rachel and Jacob

William Dyce: Rachel and Jacob

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

It is a great irony that Jacob, who duped his brother Esau, is duped by his uncle Laban who substitutes the older daughter Leah for the younger daughter Rachel on Jacob and Rachel’s wedding night. Jacob served Laban for seven years in the hope of marrying Rachel whom he loved. The veiled Leah is ushered into the marriage bed by her father. Jacob must work an additional seven years in order that he might also marry Rachel. This quick summary tells about the facts as described by the writers of Genesis but it leaves to our imagination the sentiment between these people. We can only imagine the emotional roller coaster of each person in this story. Today we reflect on Rachel and the yardstick she must have used to manoeuver a path through her complicated life.

When we find ourselves embroiled in family arguments, we remember that God will always heal great wounds.

So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, yet they seemed to him like a few days because of his love for her. (Genesis 29:20)

When we feel that life holds no promise or grace, we remember that with God all things are possible.

Then God remembered Rachel. God listened to her and made her fruitful. She conceived and bore a son, and she said, “God has removed my disgrace.” She named him Joseph, saying, “May the Lord add another son for me!” (Genesis 30:22)

When we find that life and death occupy the same space and time, we remember that God is the author of all life, of life eternal.

Rachel went into labor and suffered great distress.  With her last breath—for she was at the point of death—she named him Ben-oni (son of my vigor); but his father named him Benjamin. (Genesis 35:16-18)

When we feel that our existence on earth has had little or no meaning, we remember that with God there is always healing and inversion.

Francesco Furini: Death of Rachel

Francesco Furini: Death of Rachel

Thus Rachel died; and she was buried on the road to Ephrath (now Bethlehem). Jacob set up a sacred pillar on her grave, and the same pillar marks Rachel’s grave to this day. (Genesis 35:19-20)

When we are unclear about how to move forward through great adversity . . . we remember the story of Rachel, and we see God’s yardstick in her life.


When we use the scripture link to compare various versions of this story, we allow these verses to show us God’s yardstick in our own lives.

To learn more about Rachel, click on the images above, or visit: http://www.womeninthebible.net/1.4.Rachel.htm

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Genesis 23 & Tobit 3: God’s Yardstick – Sarah

Strength in Reliance

Jan Provoost: Abraham, Sarah and an Angel

Jan Provoost: Abraham, Sarah and an Angel

Saturday, January 7, 2023

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

Two women named Sarah figure in scriptures and today as we remember their stories we better understand that God’s promise is so often delivered through surprise. Choose one of these stories – or both if there is time – and look for God’s yardstick.

Genesis Chapters 12-23 tell us the story of Sarah, wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac. Although we know this story well, it is likely that we have not spent time beyond the basic facts that are obvious to us. She traveled with her husband and his family from Ur to Haran and was barren for much of her married life. She was so beautiful that her husband asked her to pose as his sister to avoid creating jealousy among Egyptian leaders and endangering his life. She suggested that her husband take her slave Hagar to his bed so that he might engender an heir with her; then later asked him to banish the slave and child when the younger woman took on a disparaging attitude. Sarah prepared a meal for strangers and then laughed when they told her that she would conceive at the age of 90. She was buried in Machpelah Cave near Hebron. When we focus on even a portion of her story, we find that Sarah shows humor, resiliency, and openness to God’s presence in her life.

Jan Steen: Tobias and Sarah on their Wedding Night

Jan Steen: Tobias and Sarah on their Wedding Night

Tobit 3 introduces us to Sarah who prays for death to come to her quickly. In Chapters 6-12 we follow Tobias and Sarah as the angel Raphael ushers them through danger. We may know this about the Sarah who marries Tobias: she is married to seven men who die on their wedding night, she and Tobit pray for death at the same moment and God hears them both, she travels from Ecbatana to Nineveh and back to Ecbatana with Tobias who – with help from the angel Raphael – routs the demon who has plagued her. When we explore her story, we find that Sarah withstands false accusations that mount against her by relying on God to solve problems that appear to have no solution.

Strength that flows from reliance on God and belief that with God all things are possible. This is the yardstick with which these two women measure their lives.


Images from: http://catholicsaints.info/sarah-the-matriarch/ and http://thislamp.com/posts/2012/2/14/for-valentines-day-a-love-story-from-the-book-of-tobit.html

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James 1-4: A Prayer to Resolve Turmoil

Wednesday, October 19, 2022peace-key-703x201

No matter the constraint, no matter the barriers to resolution, there is always a path to find peace when we live in Christ, James tells us. We have seen, in the last few days as we have spent time with the opening chapters of James’ letter, the steps for resolution are not complicated when we live in the Spirit. We see today when we reflect on all that James has shared with us, there is always a way forward with God. And so we pray.

Faith and works together will bring us wisdom . . . good and gracious God, bring us your wisdom. Remind us to rely on what we learn from you rather than our intelligence.

Good works bear good fruit . . . generous and faithful God, bring us your grace. Remind us that apples do not grow on vines and berries do not grow on trees.

Wars and quarrels are of our own making and not God’s . . . peaceful and sustaining God, bring us your serenity. Remind us that with you all things are possible.

God’s love is persistent, patient, strong and at the same time gentle . . . loving and courageous God, bring us your meekness. Remind us that humility can achieve more than all earthly power, fame and glory.

No matter the problem, there is always a solution . . . life-giving and eternal God, bring us your fortitude. Remind us that your love for us will never die.

Amen.


For reflections on how to find peace in today’s world, click on the image above or visit: http://www.peacepoint.com/find-peace

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Ezekiel 37: From Dry Bones to Restoration – Part IIwith-God

Thursday, September 15, 2022

At the end of chapter 37 is the Oracle of the Two Sticks in which we understand that the two kingdoms will be re-united (something thought totally impossible) and the true Davidic king will reign eternally from Jerusalem – Jesus. The chapters following this one describe the battle against Gog, again a dramatic description, and the end-of-time feast in the restored Jerusalem. In all, this portion of Ezekiel’s prophecy tells the reader that what is thought impossible . . . is possible for God. It tells us that God does not abandon us even when we abandon God. It tells us that God loves us and God is constantly with us, even when we have turned away.

The most hopeless of cases have hope in them somewhere, but it takes an act of great love to resuscitate what has been lost.  God does this for us, and God calls us to do the same for one another.  When we move through a desert experience it is difficult to believe that God is with us; but this difficulty does not make God’s love more distant. Through the visions of Daniel and Ezekiel we see that with God all things are possible. It is possible to move toward our own conversion. It is possible to move away from the brittleness of the dry bones and toward the refreshing, renewing waters of restoration in the New Jerusalem.

There is a line from an old novena to St. Jude that I remember: When the difficult was too great to bear, Saint Jude somehow managed to see that it was lifted.  It was almost as if he had set the pattern for one of the branches of the armed services: “The difficult I shall take care of immediately; the impossible (in terms of human power) may take a little longer”.  Faith found that humility means power in the eyes of God.

Jesus saidAnd so we can petition God for forgiveness – which God freely gives. We can ask for restoration. And this God also gives.  We can come before God humbly as we stagger through the deserts of our lives, and we can ask that God grant us all that we believe to be impossible. And God will always answer.

In MAGNIFICAT on Saturday evening, there was a small reflection at the beginning of the Evening Prayer: God is present in the deserts of our lives.  It is in the desert that God revealed himself to Abraham.  It is in our dryness and desolation that God is often working the most marvelous transformations.  Let us rejoice in this blessed desert . . . where Christ reveals himself.  

As we tumble into our beds, perhaps weary at the end of a dry day full of impossibility, let us remember to pray for the impossible as the psalmist does in Psalm 63.

O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting. For your love is better than life, my lips speak your praise. So I will bless you all my life, in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul shall be filled as with a banquet, my mouth shall praise you with joy. On my bed I remember you.  On you I muse through the night for you have been my help; in the shadow of your wings I rejoice. My soul clings to you; your right hand holds me fast.

 As we begin our days that promise impossibility, let us remember . . .

O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.  Your love is better than life . . . My souls clings to you . . . your right hand holds me fast.  Amen. 

Tomorrow, praying for the impossible . . . 


Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 26.1 (2008). Print.  

Adapted from a reflection written on February 1, 2008. 

Images from: https://olayemirichard.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/with-god-all-things-are-possible/

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Ezekiel 37: From Dry Bones to Restoration – Part Iwasted food

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Today’s verses for reflection are the famous “Dry Bones” of Ezekiel, the metaphor which describes the reunion of our own body and soul at our own resurrection.  This book is a panoply of images, for this prophet speaks in a variety of metaphors which, when examined, bring the understanding that the oasis mirages of the desert are possible.  Restoration after great tragedy can happen – not because of our own good works, but because of God’s infinite and ever-abiding compassion.

Several summers ago I had the gift of living in the Arizona desert for a week to witness the quiet but sudden blooming which happens after a rain. Tiny delicate yet sturdy flowers pop up overnight after a scattering of dew . . . and then disappear again with the heavy noon sun. The constant cycle of arrival and departure is fascinating.

So, too, are Ezekiel’s bones which clamber together to form full figures. This dramatic imagery came to the Jewish people when they were well into their exile, well into the desert, without much hope or recourse to salvation, or so they thought.  When the prophet is asked if he thinks it possible that the desiccated bones might rise to take on flesh and function again, he wisely replies that only God can answer that question.  What follows is an interesting interplay in which Ezekiel is invited to take a part in this resurrection which does occur quite dramatically. What was thought as lost has been found. And restored. The people who had no temple, no visible home for Yahweh, had never been abandoned by their God as they had thought. The dry bones rise, take on flesh, and live.

Tomorrow, oracles and more possibilities . . . 


Click on the image above for more of Chef Barber’s vision or visit: http://www.karenandandrew.com/2015/03/chef-dan-barbers-vision-to-slash-food-waste-transforms-blue-hill-into-wasted-through-march-31st/ 

And as you consider resurrection from desolation, you may want to read about chef Dan Barber who pulls together exquisite meals from food that would otherwise be thrown away. http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/waste-not-want-not-eat-up

Adapted from a reflection written on February 1, 2008.

 

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Mark 4:1-25: The Parable of the Sowergoodsoillogo

Saturday, September 10, 2022

This is a familiar story we frequently hear. The other synoptic (meaning “seen as one”) gospels of Matthew and Luke have this same parable with little variations. Matthew also tells of the farmer who sows wheat in the day time but then an evil person sows weeds at night in the same field. When the workers want to pull the weeds, the owner says no; he knows that they may also pull up the wheat. The weed in this story is most likely the darnel plant that looks exactly like wheat until it matures. The allegory, therefore, is that we should not judge who is wheat and who is weed in our own little fields because we all look alike until the end of the journey. And only God can discern which is which – who is who.

Our scripture group recently shared ideas about how we each are a type of seed. We lack understanding when we allow “the evil one” to steal us away from God (the seed on the path). We allow persecution and tribulation to wear us down (the seed on the rocks). We allow our worldly goods and worries to separate us from God (the seed in the thorns). We all hope to be seed with a proper disposition – the seed which falls on fertile soil; yet we cannot tell who is who.

We also spoke of the ancient custom of plowing after sowing – so once the seed is disbursed it has to endure the plow before it germinates and grows; but the message of two thousand years ago is the same message we hear today: discipleship is difficult, troublesome, and usually unpopular. We have received the Word, but allowing it to flourish in our hearts and then govern our hands, feet, lips, and minds can be another thing entirely. When we are feeling as though discipleship is too onerous for us, we always go back to the one idea which is central to our lives: With God, all things are possible. Life may look impossible when we are down, but we can still reach our potential as a disciple. We can still be Christ-like. We can transform ourselves with the purifying fire of the struggles we experience. We can be touched and healed if we open ourselves to the possibility of miracles. And we can, in turn, offer our simple life to Christ by opening it to others.


Image from: https://cdcloans.com/?attachment_id=2824

Adapted from a Favorite written on March 3, 2007.

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Mark 16:1-3: Rolling Back the Stonerolling back the stone from the tomb

Monday, September 5, 2022

[Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome] were saying to one another, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”

Not long ago I heard a Ted Talk on rewilding on a day when I also had spent time reflecting on the last chapter of Mark’s Gospel. As a child I took for granted that the women who returned to Jesus’ tomb to dress his body might rely on finding someone to roll away the heavy stone for them. As an adult, I now better understand the trust these women, either knowingly or unwittingly, placed in God’s plan that they might be given the opportunity to serve as an integral part of the resurrection story. They thought they were going to anoint the dead body of a well-loved prophet and healer; but what God has in mind is their role as the first proclaimers of the Good News that Jesus has risen.

On that warm afternoon in August I considered how off the mark we are when we make plans with definitive outcomes without considering God’s input. And I determined to readjust my thinking yet again to leave my thinking more open to God’s powerful dreams and possibilities.

If we ever doubt God’s desire to love us into goodness, we need only remember the outcomes of giant dreams and enormous possibilities presented in these and other video presentations. Today we pause in our study of Mark’s story and remember why, and when and how the little roles we imagine for ourselves in kingdom building become opportunities for intimate relationship with our loving and healing God.

Watch one or all of the short clips below and consider how and when and why God rolls back the heavy stones in our lives. Reflect on the power of God to heal, restore and change . . . and how we humans fit into God’s amazing plan.


How Wolves Change Rivers at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysa5OBhXz-Q

How Whales Change Climate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M18HxXve3CM

Humpback Whale Shows Appreciation after Being Freed from Nets: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcXU7G6zhjU

To learn more about rewilding, visit: http://rewilding.org/rewildit/

More Ted Talks can be found at: https://www.ted.com/talks 

Image from: https://stthomasplymouth.org/the-stone-that-needs-to-be-rolled-away/ 

 Enter the words The Magdalen into the blog search bar and discover more about Christ’s first disciple.

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Mark 9:1-7: Jesus Transfigured

Icon: The Transfiguration

Icon: The Transfiguration

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Rather than ask for a sign of our worthiness or God’s presence, we might act on the opportunity we are given to witness to Christ’s transformation as did Peter, James and John.

When we pause in the rush of life to examine those around us . . .

When we listen for God’s voice and do as God bids us . . .

When we are loving in our approach to enemies . . .

When we are patient with ourselves, faithful to our covenant, hopeful that our impossible dreams will be realized . . .

We see miraculous conversions taking place around us constantly . . . and this is our sign.

We witness the transformation of the members of Christ’s Mystical Body, we discover that we ourselves are transfigured . . . and this is our sign.

We see the blessing of the gifts offered by the Holy Spirit . . . and this is our sign.

We keep vigil at the tomb to witness to the Resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of ourselves and so we begin to fully understand that it is through his own transfiguration that Christ transfigures each of us. And this surely and simply and certainly is our sign . . . that we are well and truly loved by God.


For more on icons, click on the image above or visit: https://iconreader.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/transfiguration-icon-the-event-and-the-process/ 

Adapted from a favorite written on March 22, 2008.

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Mark 6:1-6Jesus of Nazareth

Diego Velázquez: Christ Cricufied - The Prado Museum, Madrid

Diego Velázquez: Christ Crucified – The Prado Museum, Madrid

Friday, August 26, 2022

“What is this wisdom that is given to him?  What mean such miracles wrought by his hands?” . . .  And Jesus marveled at their unbelief.  (Douay)

“Where did this man get all this?  What kind of wisdom has been given him?  What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands?”  . . .  He was amazed at their lack of faith.  (NAB)

“This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joseph and Jude and Simon?  His sisters, too, are they not here with us?”  And they would not accept him. . . .  He was amazed at their lack of faith.  (Jerusalem Bible)

“Where did he get the things he is teaching?” they said.  How can he perform such miracles?”  . . .  He was amazed at their unwillingness to believe.  (William Barclay translation)

When I reflect on the Crucifixion, call to mind the image created by Diego Velázquez that tells us – much like Marks’s Gospel – of the stark reality of the love Jesus, this God-man, has for each of us. It seems to me that Velázquez has captured the unambiguous difference between the healing, merciful Christ and the Jesus of Nazareth who is disbelieved in his own town. The mystical eeriness produced by the floating cross coupled with the universality of Jesus’ half-covered face allow us to personalize this image with our own version of the very human Christ.

I imagine that our own lack of faith proves a heavy obstacle to the performing of miracles and to the healing of bodies and souls; yet Jesus of Nazareth abides. He still performs the impossible.

Let us invite this Jesus into our homes today and every day. Let us open our hearts and minds to the wild possibilities he dares to dream with us.  Let us gather together as his resurrected body to bring healing and hope to one another.


Use the scripture link above to explore other translations of these verses.

Adapted from a favorite written on June 8, 2008. 

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Featured_picture_candidates/Crucified_Christ_(Vel%C3%A1zquez)

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