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Posts Tagged ‘God’s love’


Psalm 120Prayer for a Returned Exile

Soldiers marshaling people for a march

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Today we consider this prayer by those who returned from captivity and exile to find their holy Temple and city in ruins. Today we also consider our own response to the challenge of rebuilding, and the gift of transformation. Adapted from a reflection written on May 18, 2009.

There is a cycle of Psalms that pilgrims began to sing when they made their journey to Jerusalem each spring.  This is the first of the fifteen Songs of AscentPilgrims to this day still refer to this journey as an ascent – a going up – to Jerusalem.  The holy city was God’s dwelling place, the new Sinai, the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept in the temple’s Holy of Holies guarded by huge gold statues of cherubim – fierce and loyal winged celestial creatures.

Not only is this psalm an anthem of thanksgiving for having been rescued, it is also a petition for protection against the bands of attackers who lurked along the Jerusalem route to waylay and rob the innocent.  The victim who is helped in the Good Samaritan parable is on the road to Jerusalem.  The priest and the Levite pass by the wounded man and do not help him.  If they are on their way up to Jerusalem, they will not want to break their fast or become impure in any way before entering the Temple.  They leave the man in the ditch to be helped by the Samaritan.  Joseph and Mary leave the protection of their clan to travel alone back to Jerusalem in search of the lost child Jesus.  He is found with the elders of the temple discussing scripture.

Several years ago we reflected on this prayer during one of our Noontimes, and we spent some time with the following citation from the St Joseph Edition of Psalms.  “Human beings are born to be pilgrims in search of the Absolute, on a journey to God.  We advance by way of stages, from the difficulties of life to the certainties of hope, from the dispersion of cares to the joyous encounter with God, from daily diversions to inner recollection”. 

When we make our Easter journey toward Pentecost, we feel a certain vulnerability.  We have experienced friendship with Christ, and we have witnessed his death.  He has returned and we are joyful; yet he speaks of going away to send us the Advocate.  He reminds us that his love can never leave us.  We hear his words and experience this love; yet we feel that there is something more . . . there is something missing.  We lack an ingredient to an important lesson.

We have returned from exile with Christ’s resurrection.  His act of humility and love has set us free.  Let us thank him for our deliverance.  Let us ask him to protect us against the bands of marauders that assault our days and nights as we journey home.  In joy, we make our Prayer of Ascent.

From the MAGNIFICAT evening prayer last night, we pray: Make our love a sign of your presence in the world!

For all who live lives of loveless loneliness: may we embrace them in our communities of love.  Make our love a sign of your presence in the world!

For all who have mistaken power and possession for love: may they discover the truth through the witness of Christian believers: Make our love a sign of your presence in the world!

For all who have died: may they live forever in the kingdom of God’s love: Make our love a sign of your presence in the world!

Amen.

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

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 17.5 (2009). Print.  

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Isaiah 55:8-9: God’s Ways

Sunday, October 1, 2017

There is little wonder that we become confused in our contemporary society; and God is aware of this.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts. (NRSV)

God’s generosity is far too deep and far too wide for us to understand; and God is aware of this.

“My thoughts,” says the Lord, “are not like yours,
    and my ways are different from yours.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so high are my ways and thoughts above yours. (GNT)

God’s call to us to follow in the ways we cannot understand are a struggle. And God is aware of this.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not my ways,” says Adonai.
“As high as the sky is above the earth
are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (CJB)

God’s hope for us is greater than we can imagine. And God is aware of this.

“I don’t think the way you think.
    The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
God’s Decree.
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
    so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
    and the way I think is beyond the way you think. (MSG)

God’s love for us is greater than we can take in. And God is aware of this.

Although God’s ways are not our ways, God abides with us still. For God is aware of who we are. And so God loves us still.

When we compare varying versions of these verses, we understand the enormity of God’s faith, hope and love in and of us.

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Ezekiel 33:7-9: Warning to All

Sunday, September 17, 2017

We have read this message before. We have heard this call. Today we have the opportunity to respond to the warning, and to pass it along to others.

From last Sunday’s MAGNIFICAT mini-reflection in the Morning Prayer: The greatest demand love makes on us is that we help one another into the kingdom of God. Sometimes love requires us to speak a painful word of truth to awaken someone blinded by sin, recognizing that we ourselves are also sinners. Let us do for one another what we would have others do for us. (Cameron 130)

Of course, there are days when our ego wants to do precisely what we like without regard for anyone or anything. The child in us wants to have our way. There are other days when we want to take splinters our of our neighbors eyes without tending to the beams in our own. And there are days when we take credit for all that goes well while throwing blame on others for all that goes wrong. Ezekiel tells us that God warns the sentinels among us, and he tells us that we must listen for the word of warning from them and from God.

Yesterday we spent time reflecting on true wisdom – what it is and where it is found. Today we further explore that wisdom as we hear it when we listen to the sentinel warning, and when we experience it as we gather together in Jesus’ name.

Other readings from last Sunday that accompany Ezekiel’s warning bring us further wisdom when we spend time with them. Psalm 95 . . . If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts. Romans 13:8-10 . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law. And in Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus gives us a tiered process to rebuke or warn another. If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you . . . If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.

Giving voice to warnings, rebuking one another in love, these are hallmarks of a disciple and we need true wisdom from God in order to follow the process Jesus describes for us. And so we reflect today.

Do we listen for or listen to the warnings we hear? Do we rebuke one another with compassion? Do we listen when others rebuke us? Do we witness with kindness? Do we gossip about others because we cannot summon up the courage to go to another in mercy? How do we react to gossip spread about us? How do we rebuke gossip when we hear it? And what do we do when scandal hits our church, our group of loved ones who gather in Christ’s name?

We must heed the warnings we hear. We must interact with others with patience, care and wisdom. We must seek true sentinels rather than false prophets. And we must always be certain that our actions bear fruit that is goodness and that bring goodness out of harm.

We must take time to reflect today, for we never know at what hour God’s warnings arrive. And we must prepare ourselves, for we will need all the wisdom and love God gifts to disciples.

When we compare varying translation of these verses, we open ourselves to God’s warning, we better learn how to rebuke another, and we better learn how to receive a rebuke from another. 

For more reflections on false and true prophets, for sentinels who hear and pass along warnings, and for ways to rebuke and be rebuked, use the blog search bar and explore.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 10.9 (2017): 129-130. Print.

 

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Proverbs 29: Seeing What We Are Doing

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

NASA: The Americas at night

We have moved through Proverbs absorbing the wisdom God reveals to us; but have we allowed ourselves to open to the mystery of transformation? What have we learned? Do we fully acknowledge that God sees that all we are doing?

Stubbornness versus discipline, obfuscation versus clarity, stasis and status quo versus dynamism and change. These are dichotomies God opens for us to explore. Do we take advantage of God’s carefully laid lesson plan?

For people who hate discipline
    and only get more stubborn,
There’ll come a day when life tumbles in and they break,
    but by then it’ll be too late to help them.

When we balk at the notion that God is in charge, we might remember that every obstacle is an opportunity to hone skills, and every closed door is an invitation to newness. We must ask ourselves to explore the unfamiliar and new rather than remain in the comfort of what we know. For God sees all that we are doing.

NASA: Asia at night

Today’s verses point out the value of honest friends versus the danger of flattering neighbors, and again we hear the warning against scheming, remembering that those who plot become the victims of their own plans. We recall God’s familiar call to soften our hearts and unstiffen our necks. Through all of this, do we remember that God sees all we are doing?

Evil people fall into their own traps;
    good people run the other way, glad to escape.

The good-hearted understand what it’s like to be poor;
    the hardhearted haven’t the faintest idea.

Sage versus cynic, cooperation versus sarcasm, gossip versus respect, and the irony of goodness against evil. In a black-and-white world of duality, we want simple answers but we also know the difficulty of seeing what we are doing.

Good people can’t stand the sight of deliberate evil;
    the wicked can’t stand the sight of well-chosen goodness.

NASA: Planet Earth

The world surrounding us is full of complex circumstances that challenge us to look for complex solutions. When we consider the mystery of God’s wisdom, we remember God’s loving providence. With time and study, we open ourselves to God’s compassionate correction. With time and care, we begin to welcome the knowing that God sees all we are doing. With time and love, we grow in our capacity to see for ourselves all that we are doing . . . while giving thanks that God sees all as well.

When we explore varying translations of these verses, we open the mystery of how we might see what we ourselves are doing.

For more NASA shots of earth, click on the images above and explore, or visit: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/earthday/gall_earth_night.html 

 

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Proverbs 21: Motivation

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Good leadership is a channel of water controlled by God;
     God directs it to whatever ends God chooses.

We justify our actions by appearances;
    God examines our motives.

Over the last few weeks, we have examined twenty chapters of sound advice and we have discovered much to ponder and much to celebrate. Today we remind ourselves that even when we try to deceive ourselves with appearances or quick fixes, the God who created us knows our most secret desires and motivations. We do well today to explore God’s wisdom and love in these verses.

Clean living with God and justice between neighbors are traits of wise living while arrogance and pride describe the wicked. Besides being practical, careful planning brings us more exposure to wisdom than does a hurry-scurry life. Lying and cheating lead only to smoke and death. Doing our best and preparing for the worst, learning by listening rather than talking, tending to the poor, celebrating justice, and trusting God are all signs of a wise one. An addiction to thrills brings us to a congregation of ghosts, and the evil we plot will only boomerang on us, the plotters.

Watch your words and hold your tongues.

We can easily agree with this practical advice but the proposition posed today is this: what motivates us to life authentically and to avoid deceit?

The writers of Proverbs understand that we cannot fake fidelity. We cannot pretend that we have hope. And we are incapable of loving our enemies if this love does not come from the heart.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus, we have an opportunity to explore our motivation for practical living.

For a post on God’s valentine to us, click on the image above. 

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Lamentations: In the Darkness

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Keeping each of you in prayer while I am away from electronics. Holding you in prayer at noon each day.

We gather our worn flesh and our broken bones. We take one last look around us at the weariness, poverty and darkness in which we find ourselves . . . and we prepare for restoration.

Just when we believe that we escape all that terrifies us, we learn again that life holds no guarantee. Just when we believe that we escape our worries and anxieties, we learn again that eternal life is a promise on which we can rely.

When we use the scripture link and commentary to explore this book, we discover that there is no guarantee that we will not suffer; but there is a guarantee that the light of God’s love will overcome the darkness to bring us new life. 

 

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Judges 1: Cycles of Love

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema: The Women of Amphissa

We know that Judges is the book in the Old Testament that takes us from the time following the death of Joshua through several hundred years of leaders, or judges, who include Gideon, Deborah and Samson, to the time of Jesse, father of David.  It delineates the story of a people struggling to understand themselves and one another, a people who constantly cycle through a loop of straying, repenting, returning, and forgetting.  The last verse of the book speaks about the attitude of the people regarding not only their civic relationship with one another, but also their spiritual relationship with God.  In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what he thought best.  We reflected on this idea several days ago, saying that this is a sentiment we might apply to our contemporary times as we watch events unfold over which we have little and no control. It seems that in all ages we humans . . . do what we think best.  We also see God’s reaction to human waywardness: God allows the weeds to grow up with the wheat.

A number of years ago I came across a painting in the National Gallery’s Pompeii exhibit. It showed maenads, those who stir themselves to frenzy with wine and orgy, and who sink so low that they tear apart their own children.  They are the famous Bacchae of Dionysus, the distraught female followers of this god of wine who exacts revenge on any woman who will not submit to his will.  This Dionysus is the antithesis of the God of Israel.  This pagan god takes what he wants for his own satisfaction, and his followers are too exhausted to see the truth of his and their existence.

We are constantly faced with a choice in our lives because God grants us the freedom to follow or to strike out on our own, to enact love or to deaden our senses with the wine of self-pleasure and self-gratification.

The painting by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadea entitled The Women of Amphissa shows the exhausted maenads as they awaken the morning after a night of mad running through the hillsides in rapacious, orgiastic delight.  We can see their numbness to the light and to life.  The local townswomen protect them and arrange for them to be returned home unharmed; but the damage has already been done, and they remain powerless, forever in the grip of Dionysus.  They cannot escape from his cruel delight in watching them destroy others.  They have no God who loves them enough to sacrifice himself in redemption of their souls.  There is no Christ who refuses to leave his faithful to do what they think best.

Our God . . . the God of Israel . . . the one God of all of us here is not a God who holds us bound by the secrets or the dark debauchery that surround us.  Our God does not destroy with threats, but rather calls us to grow amid the weeds through faith in God’s own hope and love.  Ours is the God who forgives many times and constantly.  Our God welcomes those who witness and turn to goodness.  Our God does not chain us, does not bind us, does not force us into relationships, and does not take revenge.  Our God brings light, and truth and redemption.  And this God asks us to behave in like manner.  God sets us free to search for God’s goodness with our whole heart and our whole soul, to love or to turn away.  Our God is always hoping that when we do what we think best, we will respond in joyful hope to the call of light and truth and authentic, unencumbered love.

Adapted from a reflection written at the close of 2008. 

For more on the Bacchae, Dionysus and the playwirght Euripides, visit : http://www.mythography.com/myth/glimpse-of-a-greek-god-dionysus-in-the-bacchae-of-euripides/

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Judges 6: Gideon’s Call

James Tissot: The Angel Puts Fire on the Altar of Gideon

Thursday, June 29, 2017

We have spent several days with this Old Testament Book in which we watch the Israelites enter into a cycle: neglect of their covenant with God, the worship of idols, repentance, a petition to God for help, God’s generous response, silence as God waits for the people to respond. God always sends a hero to save the faithful – and this particular hero is Gideon.

We find the following when we read commentary.

  • God asks Joshua, in the book preceding Judges, to lead the people into the Promised Land and he does.
  • God asks the people to wipe out those who worship pagan idols but they do not; and this sows the seed of future problems.
  • Prior to God’s intercession in the life of the faithful, the people are forced to run away from invading armies and literally “head for the hills” when these invaders arrived with chariots.
  • Once the people share a loving relationship with God, they have a rock of refuge, a bulwark of safety.
  • When the people neglect their relationship with God, the cycle of idol worship begins anew.
  • God always has a hero in mind.
  • God’s silence is the space we are given to respond to God’s deep and abiding love.

God calls Gideon while he is in the middle of his work, and Gideon, like many of those called, has many questions. He wants to understand why and how should go about the work God has in mind. God answers, as God always does, “I will be with you, do not worry.” Gideon praises and worships God when he realizes what is happening, that he will be an instrument of redemption in the people’s cycle of sin and repentance.

Like Gideon, we are likewise fearful in our response to God. We know what we are asked to do; yet frequently we are too frightened to step out of our comfort zone. In the end, however, no find that no other course of action is worth taking.

The story of Gideon also demonstrates for us that silence can be entirely appropriate when it is patient, loving, merciful, and just. A silence that waits, that whispers to the beloved, that calls the beloved back to the covenant, is a silence that heals.

So like Gideon, let us sit beneath our terebinth and call on God. For God will surely answer.

Adapted from a Noontime written on January 31, 2007.

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John 1:1-18: Divine Energy

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
    God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
    in readiness for God from day one.

Here is a bit of advice from Richard Rohr and Mike Morrell. “You can . . . reread the prologue to John’s gospel, and every time you see the term ‘Word’ or Logos, substitute Relationship or Blueprint, instead, and it will really help you get the message . . . This exact model of relationship is then intended to be passed on to us in what Jesus calls the ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’. The Holy Spirit is the relationship between Father and the Son. It is this relationship itself that is gratuitously given to us! Or better, we are included inside this love. Wow. This is salvation in one wonderful snapshot”. (Rohr and Morrell 186)

Everything was created through him;
    nothing—not one thing!—
    came into being without him.

If we might take this in, we realize that it is almost too wonderful to believe, and yet, it is the reality in and by that, we are called to live. We might have some fears about how we are to surrender to this divine energy. So Rohr and Morrell continue.

God was in the world,
    the world was there through him,
    and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,
    but they didn’t want him.

“This same relationship shows itself in other myriad forms, such as endless animals and wildflowers, mountains and trees, every cultural attempt at art and science and medicine, all positive street theatre, and every movement of renewal. Every one of these manifestations expresses this endless desire to express new forms of life and externalized love. All things good, true, and beautiful are baptized in the one, same Spirit. The Holy Spirit shows herself as the central and healing power of absolute newness and healing in our relationship with everything else”. (Rohr and Morrell 186)

No one has ever seen God,
        not so much as a glimpse.
    This one-of-a-kind God-Expression,
        who exists at the very heart of the Father,
        has made him plain as day.

This divine energy wants all that is good for us. This divine energy brings all that is holy together in us so that goodness might overcome the darkness. This divine energy will never give up, and will never give in. This divine energy is God’s enormous and all-encompassing love as seen in the creator, the redeemer and the healer. This divine energy lives and loves in us.

When we compare varying translation of John’s prologue, we open ourselves to the divine energy of the Trinity. Tomorrow, everything is holy now.

For photos of Arizona sunsets in the southwest USA that echo divine energy, click on the image above and reflect on the divine energy of creation, or visit: http://www.arizona-leisure.com/arizona-pictures.html 

Rohr, Richard with Mike Morrell. THE DIVINE DANCE: THE TRINITY AND YOUR TRANSFORMATION. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 2016. Print. 

 

 

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