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Posts Tagged ‘God’s plan’


Psalm 89: A Hymn in Time of National Struggle – Part V

Saturday, January 27, 2018

John Singleton Copley: Eli and Samuel

Finding the Servant

We have taken a quick journey through the Books of Samuel to see that life in our century has much in common with life in ancient days. Some might say that as a species, we have not made much progress. Others may disagree, pointing to improved living conditions for some, though not for all. The Old Testament perspective we see in 1 and 2 Samuel gives way to the New Testament good news that God has come to live among us as a clear sign of God’s love for us. The message that Jesus brings is clear, although not always altogether comfortable. Christ calls us today to tend to those on the margins of our societies who do not benefit from the advances some of us have made, and this clearly will cause times of national struggle.

If we look at the Books of Samuel more closely, and the vivid characters who tell their stories so well, we see clear lessons for living.

How do we handle the corruption we experience? We might take a lesson from God’s message to us when we remember that the young prophet Samuel – who leads a young nation to unity – is raised by a corrupt Temple priest. If God protects and guides a faithful servant to blossom and grow in an environment that lacks authenticity, then we must trust God to protect and guide us today. (1 Samuel 3)

What do we do with our feelings of jealousy or envy?  It is possible to hear a message when we recount the story of Saul’s greed and disappointment when the women sing, Saul has killed thousands, but David tens of thousands. If God inspires David to show courage and love to his enemies, then we must trust God to inspire us today. (1 Samuel 18-19)

Matteo Roselli: The Triumph of David

How might we step out of our comfort zone? Perhaps we learn something about the story of David showing mercy to Saul during the time when Saul persecuted David. If God provides strength and hope to a faithful servant during a time of national turmoil, then we must trust God to bring us strength and hope today. (1 Samuel 24)

How might we better understand God’s plan? We might learn a lesson when we take in the story of David among the Philistines. If we find ourselves working well with our enemies – much to our surprise – then we must trust God’s wisdom and grace more than we trust our own instincts. (1 Samuel 27)

We hear this story . . . we take it in . . . and then we reply with the psalmist and King David . . . O Lord, I will always sing of your constant love; I will proclaim your faithfulness forever.

When we compare other translations of these chapters in 1 Samuel, we open ourselves to God’s fidelity, hope, love, grace and wisdom.

We can learn more about the priest Eli who raised the prophet Samuel in the Temple when we visit: https://bible.org/seriespage/4-rise-samuel-and-fall-eli-and-sons-1-samuel-31-422

Tomorrow, more lessons from Samuel.  

 

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Tobit: Prayers for Death . . . and Birth

Juan de Valdés Leal: The Archangel Rafael

Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 24, 2017

God hears the pleas of two desperate people in two distant places, and he sends his special messenger Raphael to guide Tobiah in the healing of Sarah and Tobit.  Tobiah is first the faithful son and later the courageous and abiding spouse.  Sarah sees no reason for her existence based on a series of marriages that fail because a demon has become enamored of her. She becomes separate from everyone in her intense and desperate grief.  Tobit, a good main who is faithful to his Jewish beliefs, has also become separate his blindness. Yearning for the light, he seeks death rather than continue in the darkness.  He, like Sarah, feels alone; they both search for the reason that God has visited punishment upon them when they know themselves to be innocent of doing wrong.  They stand judged by others because Old Testament thinking saw misfortune as a punishment for sin.  Some of us may from time to time feel like this man and woman.

Yesterday in chapter three, we read that Tobit and Sarah’s desperation has reached such depths that each, in distant privacy, prays for release from this world.  As they pray for death, their prayers rise to God intertwining like spirals of incense.  God hears these petitions and sends Raphael to accompany the faithful Tobiah in his journey to knit together these wounded souls.  God intervenes when we sometimes least expect it . . . and in very surprising and confounding ways.

Rembrandt: The Angel Rafael Leaving Tobit and his Family

The journey that Tobiah takes is a long and complicated one.  Yet he accepts his father’s request, finds a traveling companion (Raphael in disguise) and perseveres faithfully without fully understanding how his actions will result in anything good.  He continues, he obeys, he listens for and answers the call.  This is how we must live.  It is how we must act.  This is how we find consolation and healing. It is how we encounter God.  This is how we become wounded healers.  This is God’s plan.

So after reflection with the story of Tobit, we pray.

Sometimes we must reach the point of desperation in order to know what we truly hold sacred . . . and that we are sacred healers.

Sometimes we must fall into the abyss in order to find God’s abiding presence . . . and our own divinity.

Sometimes we must cry out from our aloneness in order to understand that true and deep hope is also bold and outrageous . . . and that God’s best hope lies in us.

Sometimes we must be victim to our darkest fears in order to lay aside our anxieties . . . for then we see them as prison bars that separate us from God.

Sometimes we must be blind in order to see.

Sometimes we must feel unloved in order to be loved and to love truly and deeply.

Sometimes we must reach the point of desperation in order to know what we truly hold sacred. And in that spot, in that distant place that is actually dep within, we will find our consolation, our birth in Christ.  Amen.

For a beautiful rendition of Angels We Have Heard on High, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5mdybeyLVc

Adapted from a reflection written during Advent 2007. Tomorrow, on Christmas Day, the Messiah arrives.

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2 Timothy 3:10-17: Seek Wholeness – Truth

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

But don’t let [the state of the world] faze you. Stick with what you learned and believed, sure of the integrity of your teachers—why, you took in the sacred Scriptures with your mother’s milk! There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 

God says: You do not need to worry about my plan. It has been well laid out since before you were on the earth and it moves into a future that has no end. I understand that when you look at the years you have allotted to you, you see war, anger, and rage. But when you seek wholeness in me, my truth reveals itself to you. Suddenly you see with my giant eyes. You hear what I hear. And you act as I act. Rather than focus on the all that is going badly, open yourself to the million small stories that accompany the painful events surrounding you. When war rages, my faithful buoy one another up. When injustice prevails, the remnant senses the power of my long arms. You can believe my promise that all will be well. You can trust my action that brings goodness out of harm. You can trust my love that conquers all anger, cruelty, and hate.

When we compare varying versions of these verses, we stumble upon the wholeness of God’s truth.

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Psalm 16: Seek Confidence

Friday, November 24, 2017

Trust

When we begin to trust God, we grow in confidence. When we grow in confidence, we are better able to trust God.

You, Lord, are all I have,
    and you give me all I need;
    my future is in your hands.
How wonderful are your gifts to me;
    how good they are!

This is a beautiful prayer of Trust in God’s love for us – for his safekeeping of us. I like the metaphor of the Cup. It may refer to our daily drinking from the chalice of Christ’s sacrifice for us; or it may refer to our own willingness to offer our lives back to God as a blessing in the Cup of Our Lives.

God says: You have every reason to doubt my existence; but know that I move in you as the Spirit of goodness, justice, truth and mercy.

And so I am thankful and glad,
    and I feel completely secure,
because you protect me from the power of death.
I have served you faithfully,
    and you will not abandon me to the world of the dead.

God says: You have every reason to believe in me. I have created a world in which you have freedom of choice and the promise of my strength and guidance.

I praise the Lord, because God guides me,
    and in the night my conscience warns me.

I am always aware of the Lord’s presence;
    God is near, and nothing can shake me.

God says: When you read these verses today, rely on my deep and constant love for you.

You will show me the path that leads to life;
    your presence fills me with joy
    and brings me pleasure forever.

God says: Each time you recite these verses, my Spirit rises in you as it calls you to join me in the great mystery I have planned for us.

Protect me, O God; I trust in you for safety.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    all the good things I have come from you.”

God says: You have every reason to doubt me. You have every reason to believe in me. Today I call on the Spirit within you. Today I call you to place your trust in me. Today I ask you choose to grow and live in my love, mercy and confidence.

Adapted from a reflection written on July 1, 2007.

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Nehemiah 3: Organization

Saturday, October 14, 2017

When we spend time with the Genesis creation account, we so often move quickly through the opening verses to get to the heart of the story: God creating light, the dome in the sky, the stars and planets, the creatures of air, water and land, and then human life. Today we witness the organization that Nehemiah brings to the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls and Temple after destruction and exile. In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2)

We have the opportunity today to sit with these two verses and with the third chapter of the Nehemiah story to reflect on how God moves in our lives in small and great ways. And we have the opportunity to open ourselves to the story of how God brings order out of chaos in our lives. What strategies for organization might we use as we open ourselves to the gift of God’s passionate insistence in nurturing and sustaining us?

Do we do as Nehemiah does when he surveys the damage and assesses the work to be done? Do we panic in fear or do we place that fear in God’s enormous, open hands?

Do we do as Nehemiah does when he recognizes the work ahead? Do we offer our daily lives to a pattern of prayer and work in the Spirit?

Do we do as Nehemiah does when he sees that nobles will not put their shoulders to the work? Do we repair gates to re-set the appropriate boundaries in our days and nights?

Do we do as Nehemiah does when he sees that the gardens have fallen into ruin? Do we prepare and consume healthy food to tend to the body?

Do we do as Nehemiah does when he sees that the watchtowers are gone? Do we set a prayer, reflection or meditation life to sustain the spirit?

Do we do as Nehemiah does when he sees that the artificial pool needs repair? Do we interact with others in wise and healthy places and times to nurture and renew the mind?

Each morning when we awake, the wind of God sweeps over us to see what organization our day might need so that we might live in God’s space and time. Each noontime the wind of God sweeps over us to untangle our plans that have gone awry. Each evening the wind of God sweeps over us to lay to rest all the anxieties we have carried into our homes. Each night the wind of God sweeps over us to remind us that all the ways our plans have gone astray are in truth opportunities to put ourselves into God’s all-seeing organization rather than our own.

Tomorrow, thwarting hostile plots.

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Nehemiah 1:5-11Continuity

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The commentary in the Biblia de América points out that the words of Nehemiah, the administrator who rebuilt Jerusalem some 50 years after the devastation left by Nebuchadnezzar and his troops, ring with the words of Moses as the people are about to enter into the land promised to them.   And it strikes me today that these are words echoed by Christ . . . and that they are words we might read with care each morning upon our rising.  It is the confession of the people that they have erred.  It is the cry to God that this people seek God’s companionship.  It is the best response we can make to the promise extended to us.

Moses speaks in Deuteronomy 30 and we see both the scattered and the call to the Diaspora to return.  Just so are we scattered today among the various pagan places where people have the choice to fall down in worship to empty gods or to the one true God.

All of this reminds me of the parting of bread and the spilling of wine which Christ performs during the Eucharistic prayer at Mass on countless altars in countless places each day.  In order for the sharing to begin, the bread must be broken, the wine shared.

There is continuity in this paradox of breaking and joining.  As we break away from our distractions to focus on true life and our vocation in it, we move closer to the person we are meant to be.  As we share the wine of life with others and allow ourselves to be poured out as a libation, we move into intimacy with God.

This is a message worthy of hearing and passing on.  This is a life which cries out for continuance.  It is a belief which deserves continuity.  And if we do not move forward into this act each day . . . what other life will following generations model?  What other life can we imagine worth living?

God’s plan unfolds in God’s time, in God’s places.  God’s vocation coalesces in our actions of love, of hope and of faith.  We make God visible when we continue the work and agree to become his priests and his builders.  We become carpenters in the kingdom of God when we willingly join the long line of followers, when we take up the threads of God’s story to weave them into the lives of countless other pilgrims who commit to the continuity of the one great story . . . that we are created in love . . . that we are create for love . . . and that are to love in return.

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

Adapted from a reflection written on February 3, 2009.

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Colossians 1:21-27: True Wisdom

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Cathedral of St. Peter Claver in Cartagena, Colombia

Brother and sisters: You once were alienated and hostile in mind because of evil deeds; God has now reconciled you. God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (NRSV)

We sometimes read familiar verses quickly, thinking that we have felt their full impact and heard their divine wisdom. When we pause to consider singular words or phrases, and when we read varying translations, we open ourselves to their beauty and power. Last week was the feast day of St. Peter Claver when this citation was part of Morning Prayer; yet for some reason this portion of Colossians has stayed with me.

God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. (GNT)

St. Peter Claver

Peter Claver (1581-1654), born in Spain, traveled to the New World and landed in Cartagena – today located in Colombia – to begin his ministry to slaves brought to South America. Entering the holds of ships when they arrived in the harbor, Peter Claver managed the juxtaposition of wealthy slave traders with the plight of those they enslaved. Knowing that he could not possibly change the structures encouraging this lucrative trade, Claver moved forward to answer God’s call as he attended those in need. We might take a lesson from this young man who learned how to live a life of paradox. We might gain this divine, true wisdom of forgiveness, fidelity and love.

And the secret is this: the Messiah is united with you people! In that rests your hope of glory! (CJB)

Writing from jail, Paul tells the Colossians that despite his imprisonment, he is cheerful. As we read these verses, we realize that despite any evil we have committed, God forgives us when we are willing to put aside any harm we do so that we might return to God’s goodness. We understand that evil exists alongside goodness. We begin to appreciate the secret of true wisdom that brings goodness out of all harm.

The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. 

That is the substance of God’s plan. That is the substance of true Wisdom. Let us enjoy this gift today.

We can read more about the remarkable Peter Claver at: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-voices/16th-and-17th-century-ignatian-voices/st-peter-claver-sj

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Judges 21: The Breach

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bridges are to be built over the abysses that separate us.  This is the lesson we learn if we read today’s story carefully.  At first glance it seems as though violence is condoned; God appears to be the castigating all-powerful one; but when we take time to read closely and carefully, and if we use footnotes and commentary, we see something different. Much like the message in Lamentations, we see and hear that in the life of the Kingdom we must learn patience, for the lesson will always arrive.  And so frequently the lesson is the reverse of what we initially thought it might be.  What appears to be forbidden is actually blessed.  What seems to be lost is wonderfully found.  And what we believe to be total chaos settles beautifully into God’s plan.

In today’s Morning Prayer, the psalmist exclaims: O Lord, I will trust in you! (Psalm 55:24 Isaiah pronounces:  It was I who stirred up one for the triumph of justice; all his ways I make level.  He shall rebuild my city and let my exiles go free without price or ransom, says the Lord of hosts.  (Isaiah 45:13)  And in Leviticus 26:13 God reminds us that . . . It is I, the Lord, who brought you out of the land of the Egyptians and freed you from their slavery, breaking the yoke they had laid upon you and letting you walk erect. 

Today’s first reading at Mass is one that I love. (Acts 5:17-26)  It is the beginning of the story of how the Apostles respond to God’s word as they have been called to do.  They are jailed – and they are freed by angels and miracles.  It is a story that reminds us we have nothing to fear.  It is a story that tells us that we survive best by depending on God alone.  And it is a story that shows us how easily the breaches in our lives might be mended if we lived in and for God rather than in and for ourselves.

The people had compassion because the Lord had made a breach . . .

When things look darkest, there is space to find the light.

When life seems horrifying, there is always healing.

When we feel twisted and tortured, there is life anew wrought by transformation.

When breaches appear, let us be patient, let us listen, and let us attend.  Good news always arrives.

The people had compassion because the Lord had made a breach . . .

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 4.5 (2011). Print.  

A Favorite from May 4, 2011.

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Judges 14 and 15: Philistines

Saturday, June 24, 2017 

Alexandre Cabanel: Samson and Delilah

A few days ago we reflected on the story of Samson and Delilah; today’s we consider our lack of understanding that God frequently uses surprising people and circumstances to bring God’s plan to fruition.  In Samson’s early life, we read that he wants to marry a young woman who was not a member of one of the seven non-Israelite tribes with whom the people of Israel were permitted by their Law to marry.  Looking at verse 4, we see that Samson’s desire to marry this young woman is upsetting to his parents – as it would be to a believing Jew – yet it will be used as part of God’s plan to save the faithful.  Now his father and mother did not know that this had been brought about by the Lord, who was providing an opportunity against the Philistines; for at that time they had dominion over Israel.  This story, therefore, today tells us something important which is . . . we never know how or when God will use unexpected people and circumstances in our lives to bring about his plan.  Sometimes we must marry a Philistine. 

The long story of Samson tells us about how people will want to control divinity rather than learn how to be a part of it.  We see in the unraveling of these plots to harness Samson that these people misunderstand how God works.  In the end, the wicked will fall by their own hand, and any harm they have leveled against the faithful will be used for good, but – and this is so important – with the consequences they had planned for others falling on them.

If we are patient, we begin to understand how Samson’s marriage to a Philistine woman plays out not only in Samson’s life but in the life of the community as well.  What happens to this woman, what happens to her family, and how Samson arrives at being one of a series of Israelite Judges is a story that unfolds in a string of twisting, unpredictable events.  All of this leads to the saving of a people, a nation, and a way of living that God has marked as special.  These ironies and turnings are not a jumble of calamities; rather, they are God’s plan to open us to eventual results that no one dreams possible . . . except for God and those who believe and trust in God.  Today we see that God makes the impossible possible.

Both this story of the young Samson, and the story of his relationship with Delilah are the same metaphor: Samson poses a riddle and is betrayed by someone whom he loves and trusts; the resulting reprisals end in Samson displaying his trust in God alone.  Even though he may possess the strength of a thousand, only God saves him; he cannot save himself.  Eventually with his death in Gaza, Samson kills more Philistines in one final act than he ever did in his lifetime.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 8, 2009.

Tomorrow, the Philistines in our lives.

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