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Posts Tagged ‘God’s love’


Isaiah 9Peculiarly God’s Own

Friday, July 1, 2018

We are accustomed to hearing this beautiful anthem at Advent and so these words feel odd to us in the northern hemisphere who experience Christmas in the cold and dark.  We are accustomed to frosty, long nights rather than warm, short ones when we think about God’s coming to live among us.   The people who walked in darkness cry out for light.  Isaiah’s people are lonely and afraid as they try to ride out the terms of their exile.  Today’s words must have felt astonishing to them, yet welcome.  These people who were accustomed to neglect and abuse must have felt a fluttering image come into focus of the life they had been promised.  The words we read in Isaiah today may even have taken them back to earlier words of promise in Deuteronomy that we heard in the first reading at Mass today (Deuteronomy 7:6-11): Moses said to the people: “You are a people sacred to the Lord, your God; he has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be a people peculiarly his own.  It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, for you are really the smallest of all nations.  It was because the Lord loved you and because of his fidelity to the oath he had sworn to your fathers, that he brought you out with his strong hand from the place of slavery, and ransomed you . . .”    This small nation, these insignificant people are lifted up and redeemed by a God-hero.  Amazing words and deeds . . .

These words from today’s second reading (1 John 4:7-16) confirm our best hope: In this way the love of God was revealed to us: he sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.  In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his son as expiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God loves us, so we also must love one another.   We who are oppressed or lost, we who are abandoned are redeemed  and brought back by a Wonder-Counselor.  Amazing words and deeds . . .

We hear welcome words from Jesus in today’s Gospel (Matthew 11:25-30): Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy and my burden light”.   This oppressed people, these burdened people are healed and transformed by a Prince of Peace.  Amazing words and deeds . . .

Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Prince of Peace . . . and yet this one is meek and humble and willing to take on so much that is not his to take.  This is the God who walks among us as one of us.  This is the one who can exert all power over all things and all people yet he stoops to us in humility and meekness . . . because this is how much he loves us.  Amazing . . . and wonderful . . . that we are peculiarly God’s own. 


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 1, 2011.

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Isaiah 26:8-12: The Duality of Justice

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Like the Old Testament psalmists, we ask God to avenge the wrongs done to us. Like the New Testament followers of Christ, we ask God to forgive our enemies who know not what they do. This dichotomy of justice reflects God’s merciful nature. It is, at the same time, a challenge we hope to meet.

On the cross that serves as the mechanism of his human death, Jesus requests that God the Creator forgive those who kill him, for they do not know what they are doing. (Luke 23:24)

In his ghastly death by stoning, Stephen uses a last breath to intercede for his attackers saying, Lord, do not hold this sin against them. (Acts 7:60)

These are challenging actions to imitate; this state of mind asks of us an incredibly high level of persistence, patience and fidelity to God’s ways. We doubt that we can rise to this demanding witness to God’s great love, and so we ask . . . How do we bridge the gap between God’s way and our own?

Carlo Crivelli: Saint Stephen

When doubt rises within, we rely on the gift of faith planted in us at our inception. When we relax into God’s plan, this gift flourishes in such a way that we receive much more than we give.

When desperation erodes the sense of peace and good will we have nurtured, we trust the gift of hope in God’s promises to us. When we rest in the memories of God’s power to move in our lives, anxiety crumbles, worry dissolves.

When our circumstances point to all that is wrong with the world, we act in the gift of God’s love as demonstrated in the many small miracles that shower our lives like the gentle rain after a dry season. When we put aside our desire for revenge, our anger subsides. When we determine to address our enemies with mercy, our hope for destruction of those who oppose us ebbs away. When we make the decision to meet our enemies with prudent love and faith-filled awe of the Lord, we find that we are suddenly open to the possibility that the duality we see in God’s justice will bring about the transformation of the world.


To learn more about Saint Stephen, click on the image above or visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Stephen and https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-stephen/

Images from: http://ocarm.org/en/content/ocarm/mercy-without-justice-mother-dissolution-justice-without-mercy-cruelty and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Stephen

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John 14:27: The Gift of Duality

Monday, April 23, 2018

Jesus fully understands the difficulty we face as we struggle to live in two opposing worlds. As we reflected yesterday . . . We see that great love can rise out of great hatred.

Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid. (GNT)

Jesus fully understands the pain we experience as we strive to live up to the example he sets. As we reflected yesterday . . . We see that perfection can rise out of imperfection.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (NRSV)

Jesus fully understands the fog of our confusion as we work to make sense of the dichotomy of our existence. As we reflected yesterday . . . We see that divinity can rise out of humanity.

What I am leaving with you is shalom — I am giving you my shalom. I don’t give the way the world gives. Don’t let yourselves be upset or frightened. (CJB)

Jesus wants to heal our suffering, to bring us consolation, to animate hope and engender fidelity. As we reflected yesterday . . . We see that our unity with Christ comes through our willingness to accept the paradox of God’s enormous love for each of us. 

I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. (MSG)

Jesus wants to give us the gift of  his peace, the gift that is everlasting, the gift that holds us together both personally and communally, the gift that rises from knowing and accepting our duality. Let us open our hearts and minds to this greatest of gifts.

Tomorrow, duality in fire.


When we compare varying translations of these verses, we discover the gift of exploring our duality. 

Images are from: https://thei535project.wordpress.com/2017/04/26/peace-i-leave-with-you/ and http://fscaston.org/events/sit-in-the-heart-of-god-and-listen/heart-of-god-2-2/

For another reflection on this citation, visit the He Is In You post on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2012/08/22/he-is-in-you/

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Psalm 116: Making a Return

Easter Thursday, April 5, 2018

In the NRSV translation, this psalm carries the title Thanksgiving for Recovery from Illnessbut what sort of illness might this be? Is our gratitude for a physical, psychological or spiritual restoration? Are we able to step forward into the healing grace of God?

I love the Lord, because he hears me;
    he listens to my prayers.
He listens to me
    every time I call to him.

Now that we have re-lived the story of Easter promise, do we continue to believe in our covenant with God when life challenges us? Are we able to remain steadfast in our beliefs when family or friends test us? How do we love our enemies when they plot and scheme against us?

And so I walk in the presence of the Lord
    in the world of the living.
I kept on believing, even when I said,
    “I am completely crushed,”
even when I was afraid and said,
    “No one can be trusted.”

As we journey through this week of EASTER celebration, are we willing to put aside our wilfulness of ego to reclaim our vow of willingness as servants of the Spirit? Do we step forward as builders of the kingdom of God? Do we shrink from the call to leave our comfort zones?

I am your servant, Lord;
    I serve you just as my mother did.
You have saved me from death.
I will give you a sacrifice of thanksgiving
    and offer my prayer to you.

Remembering the generous love of the Creator, living in the company of the risen Christ, and resting in the consoling mercy of the Spirit, we ask one another to give thanks to God.

In the assembly of all your people,
    in the sanctuary of your Temple in Jerusalem,
    I will give you what I have promised.

We ask our family, friends and foes to make a return for God’s unbounding courage, generous wisdom, and nourishing love.

Praise the Lord!


When we compare varying translations of these verses, we welcome the opportunity to make a return of God’s great love.

Images from: https://yoogozi.com/simple-secret-to-life-serving-others/ and 

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Isaiah 42:1-7: My Servant

Holy Monday, March 26, 2018

We enter the holiest of weeks. We reflect on the scriptures that bring us to Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. We enter into this story as best we can to discover how we might become God’s servants.

When we look for intimacy with God, we remember that God chooses us and nurtures a relationship with us.

Here is my servant, whom I support,
my chosen one, in whom I take pleasure.
I have put my Spirit on him;
he will bring justice to the [nations].

When we wonder how we are to behave, we remember that God comes to walk among us to lead us out of the darkness and into the light.

He will not cry or shout;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.

He will bring forth justice according to truth;

he will not weaken or be crushed.

When we think about how we are to proceed, we understand that no matter the obstacle, God is with us. No matter the betrayal, God is for us, and no matter the separation, God unites us.

I, Adonai, called you righteously,
I took hold of you by the hand,
I shaped you and made you a covenant for the people,
to be a light for the [nations],

so that you can open blind eyes,
free the prisoners from confinement,
those living in darkness from the dungeon.

When we reflect on Isaiah’s message on this Holy Monday, we arrive at understanding that we are created in love, created by love, and created for love. When we accept this thinking, we take our first steps as God’s holy servant.


When we compare other translations with the COMPLETE JEWISH BIBLE version, we discover how we might become God’s servants. 

Tomorrow, walking with eyes open.

Click on the image to learn about the doctrine of Jesus as a social justice issue. 

Image from: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/mica-mcgriggs/doctrine-of-christ_b_8125510.html 

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Jeremiah 1:6-8: I will be with you . . .

Friday, March 16, 2018

Jesus Heals Peter’s Mother-in-Law in Matthew 8:14–15, Mark 1:29–31, and Luke 4:38–41

Several years ago, we spent time with the prophet Jeremiah to study his life, his word, and his meaning for the faithful in the twenty-first Century. Today we focus on a few verses at the opening of his prophecy when he argues with God to say that he is an inadequate vessel for God’s word.

I answered, “Sovereign Lord, I don’t know how to speak; I am too young.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say that you are too young, but go to the people I send you to, and tell them everything I command you to say. Do not be afraid of them, for I will be with you to protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” (GNT)

When we are weary or feel that are out of our depth, we remember God’s deep love and irrepressible willingness to support Jeremiah. And we know that God loves us as well as God loves this able servant.

The Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” (NRSV)

When we believe that we do not have the skill or tools to do the work of kingdom-building, we remember the profound constancy and resilient wisdom God shows Jeremiah. And we know that God guides and protects us as well.

“Don’t say, ‘I’m just a child.’ “For you will go to whomever I send you, and you will speak whatever I order you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you, says Adonai, to rescue you.” (CJB)

When we see our circumstances as dire and our environment unsustainable, we remember that Jeremiah also felt bereft and useless. And we know that God consoles and heals.

The Lord said to me, “Don’t say that you are only a boy. You will go wherever I send you. You will say whatever I command you to say. Don’t be afraid of people. I am with you, and I will rescue you,” declares the Lord. (GW)

When we see our plans destroyed and our lives upended, we remember that Jeremiah also felt abandoned and misunderstood. And we know that God will always accompany us in the difficult work that lies ahead of us. God will always free us from our fears.

The Lord said to me . . . The Lords says to each if us . . . I will rescue you . . . do not be afraid . . . I will protect you . . .  do not say, “I am only a child” . . . I will be with you always . . . 

When we use multiple translations to explore these verses, we understand more fully the depth, width, and breadth of God’s wisdom, care, and love.

Image from: http://bibleblender.com/2017/bible-stories/new-testament/matthew/old-testament-prophecy-jesus-heals-multitudes-matthew-8-14-8-17

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Psalm 139: Wonderfully Made

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

This is such an intimate and beautiful song of praise. Why do we hide? Why do we think that God cannot see or hear us? Why do we fear? Why do we believe that God does not tend to us?

We are God’s amazing, wonderful, beautiful works of art. Let us together praise God for the willingness to enter into intimacy with us. We reflect on varying versions of Ephesians 2:10.

God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do. (GNT)

We are made in God’s image, made in love, to respond in love to all that confronts us.

For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (NRSV)

We are one in the Spirit with God’s fidelity sustaining us. We are one in God’s hope bolstering us. We are one in God’s love healing us.

For we are of God’s making, created in union with the Messiah Yeshua for a life of good actions already prepared by God for us to do. (CJB)

We are God’s work of art. Coalescing in a reflection of God’s diversity. Ebbing and flowing in the Spirit that abides and transforms.

He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. (MSG)

This is such an intimate and beautiful song of praise. Why do we hide? Why do we think that God cannot see or hear?

We are wonderfully, amazingly and beautifully made in and by and through God. Let us do all that we can to come together in Christ.

To hear David Haas’ song “You Are God’s Work of Art”, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmMuze_AaC0

For another reflection on Psalm 139, visit the God’s Work of Art post on this blog at:  https://thenoontimes.com/2016/11/04/psalm-13914-15-gods-work-of-art/

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Esther F: The River is Esther

Edward Armitage: The Feast of Esther

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

It has been a week since Ash Wednesday when we began our Lenten journey of discovery, renewal, and transformation. We have had seven days to contemplate the state of our world and our personal circumstances. We have reflected on the violence in Esther’s world and in our own. Today, amidst bloodshed and reversals, and despite our fears, we find a way to give thanks.

In the apocryphal verses of this story, we hear Mordecai declare his praise for God’s providence. We too, might announce our acclaim.

Then Mordecai said: “This is the work of God. I recall the dream I had about these very things, and not a single detail has been left unfulfilled – the tiny spring that grew into a river, and there was light, and sun, and many waters”.

In the apocryphal verses of this story, we hear Mordecai describe God’s river of compassion, and the river is Esther. We too, might affirm God’s love.

“The river is Esther, whom the king married and made queen”.

In the apocryphal verses of this story, we hear Mordecai announce his gratitude for God’s power. We too, might proclaim our appreciation.

“The Lord saved his people and delivered us from all these evils. God worked signs and great wonders, such as have not occurred among the nations”.

In the apocryphal verses of this story, we hear Mordecai assert his joy for God’s presence. We too, might broadcast to anyone who will listen our confidence that God also abides.

“Gathering together with joy and happiness before God, they shall celebrate these days on the fourteenth and fifteenth of the month Adar throughout all future generations of his people Israel”.

With these apocryphal verses, we experience the river that is God’s power, fidelity, hope and mercy. And this river is Esther.

 Tomorrow,, Esther on the fringes of society.  

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Esther 1: Susa

Jacopo del Sellaio: The Banquet of Ahasuerus

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Over the next few days, we will explore the story of Esther, a recounting of how a brave young woman saves a nation of people by mustering the courage to respond to God’s call. Polar forces place her in grave danger; yet Esther survives to rejoice in God’s guidance and protection. As we accompany her on this journey from fear to joy, we move from ordinary time through Ash Wednesday to Lent to discover the potential for transformation. Esther invites us to move away from typical days of activity into a more quiet life of introspection. Like Esther, we examine our relationship with God to see how fear manipulates us. And like Esther, we arrive at a new level of understanding of God’s love.

This is the story of something that happened in the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled from India to Ethiopia – 127 provinces in all. King Xerxes ruled from his royal throne in the palace complex of Susa. 

UNESCO has declared Susa a World Heritage Site as one of the oldest cities in the world. Rebuilt by the Persian King Darius, inhabited by the monarch Xerxes in the Book of Esther, and later conquered by Alexander the Great, Susa represented a city where many cultures and peoples came together.

In this opening chapter of Esther’s story, we learn about Xerxes’ court. As a soldier and builder, he made his mark in the ancient world, and his famous Tukta banquets were reknown. It is at one of these feasts that our story begins.

The king gave for all the people present in the citadel of Susa, both great and small, a banquet lasting for seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. There were white cotton curtains and blue hangings tied with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and colored stones. Drinks were served in golden goblets, goblets of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king. Drinking was by flagons, without restraint; for the king had given orders to all the officials of his palace to do as each one desired. Furthermore, Queen Vashti gave a banquet for the women in the palace of King Ahasuerus.

Queen Vashti refuses to do as King Xerxes asks and so is banished from court. Into this scenario steps the innocent, beautiful young Jewish woman, Esther. We observe the wealthy and famous in this ancient world and we reflect on our world today. Celebrities and sports figures hold our interest, while the lower classes serve as the invisible support to a lavish life. The powerful command while the powerless live on the margins of society.  What questions come to us as we reflect on this opening chapter of Esther’s story?

Tomorrow, Esther becomes queen.

For another reflection on Esther 1, visit The Race of the Just post on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2011/10/19/the-race-of-the-just/ 

King Xerxes is also known as Ahasuerus or Achashverosh. For more information on the people in this story, visit http://www.iranchamber.com/history/susa/susa.php, http://www.livius.org/articles/place/susa/, https://www.britannica.com/place/Susa, https://www.ancient.eu/Xerxes_I/, https://amazingbibletimeline.com/blog/esther-and-mordecai-under-xerxes-of-persia/,or http://www.womeninthebible.net/women-bible-old-new-testaments/queen-vashti/

 

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