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Posts Tagged ‘God’s plan’


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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godsplan1-2blk96gPsalm 54: Nothing is in Vain

Monday, May 29, 2017

Adapted from a Favorite from May 24, 2010.

Nothing I experience is useless; not even one second is in vain.  We should be aware of everything we live, because everything is for his plan.               

Monsignor Luigi Giussani (MAGNIFICAT, Monday, May 24, 2010 Meditation)

We read these words and comprehend their meaning; but this does not always translate into something we can live.  We are not always able to manage our anxiety and fear.

We know that sacred scripture is God speaking to us and that the Psalms of petition are particularly appropriate for the faithful to intone when they are frustrated, disheartened or discouraged.  Psalm 54, Confident Prayer in Great Peril, is one that we will want to pray often, especially when we feel that all we have said and done has been said and done in vain.  As Monsignor Giussani reminds us today, in God’s economy, no word and no act is lost or wasted.  All that we say and do finds a place in God’s plan.

In verse 7 we see that the psalmist asks that the work of the evil be turned back upon them.  The writer is familiar with how God moves in our lives for we know that when the wicked fall, it is by a plot of their own making that has turned in upon them.  And when the faithful flourish, they do so despite the evil that would severe their connection with God. In the closing verses, the psalmist recognizes the power we find in making petitions in God’s name and so we find the logic in ending each prayer with the final words of . . . we pray this in God’s name . . . or . . . we ask this in Jesus’ name . . . or . . . we make this petition in Jesus’ name who together with the Holy Spirit hears our prayers.

Your-Plan-B-is-Gods-Plan-AGod’s word lies open to us today and we have the opportunity to examine our word as we make our requests known to God.  We will want to consider if we pray in confidence or in hesitation.  We will want to examine our relationship with God. Does our doubt outweigh our faith? Is our disappointment stronger than our hope? Is our antagonism more intense than our love?  And we will want to take a look at how and when and why we think that the words we have uttered and the acts we have accomplished in God’s name may have been completed in vain.

Nothing I experience is useless; not even one second is in vain.  We should be aware of everything we live, because everything is for God’s plan.

When we petition the Lord, let us ask with confidence, let us know that God turns evil back upon itself, and let us believe that all we say and do has a place in God’s plan . . . especially when we ask in God’s name.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 24.5 (2010). Print.  

 

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Ezekiel 43: God’s Glory Returns

archway-roman-ruins-tyre-lebanon_12240_600x450

National Geographic: Ruins of Roman Archway in Tyre, Lebanon

Thursday, May 25, 2017

As a counterbalance to the description of the downfall of Tyre on which we have reflected before, today we have a description of the temple in the New Jerusalem. What we see described here is God living with all of the Israelites forever. The man leading the prophet through this beautiful scenario says: Describe the temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins. Let them consider the plan, and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple – its arrangements, its exits and entrances – its whole design and all its regulations and laws. Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations. This portion of Ezekiel’s prophecy is full of detailed descriptions of the place and the people who make up this new city where God dwells forever with his people. It was meant to both instruct and to bring comfort to those who lived in exile with this prophet. The footnotes in the NAB point out that in the new Israel the temple is free, even physically, from civil jurisdiction – moving away from the habit of corrupt kings like Ahaz and Manasseh who treated it as a private chapel for pagan rites.

Jerusalem _ Old City Walls _ Noam Chen_IMOT

Noam Chen: Old City of  Jerusalem

When Jesus arrived on the scene hundreds of years later as the true Messiah, he upset much of this separatist and purist thinking. It was for his openness and universality that he was hunted down, condemned and put to death.  Because his new Law of Love fulfilled and superseded the old Law of Moses, he and his apostles were hounded out of towns and executed. Even in the early Christian church we see the struggle with this idea of openness and universality with the first Council which convened in Jerusalem to determine the importance of circumcision as a requirement for church membership. After discussion, and when the dust settles, we read in Acts that circumcision was not determined necessary.  God’s church is open to Gentile and Jew, slave or free, woman or man – to all those who will be faithful to the Covenant first established with Adam and Eve.

This is how we see the New Temple and the New Jerusalem as revealed by Ezekiel millennia ago. This place of worship where God dwells is where we live even today . . . if we might only choose to open our eyes and ears to it. This prophet was painting a picture of radiance for his exiled peope, and they must have taken heart at the memories these words stirred of how it is to gather together as Yahweh’s faithful to repent, to petition, to give thanks, to worship.

As Easter people who believe in the Resurrected Jesus, we too, can relax into these images and make them our own. We can carry them into the world with us each day as we encounter and then counter the darkness that wishes to prevail. We can arm ourselves with these pictures of the universal gathering of all of God’s People . . . the Faithful to the Covenant . . . the Hopeful in all things hopeless . . . the Truthful in all relationships . . . the Struggling with the cares of this world . . . the Freed who have escaped the chains of doubt and anxiety. For we are Easter people who live the Resurrection even now. For God’s Glory has returned in us . . . in our willingness to serve . . . our willingness to be vulnerable . . . our willingness to witness . . . our willingness to be Christ and Light and Truth to a world struggling to be free of the darkness.

This is God’s Plan. This is God’s Design. This is God’s Law.

Amen.  Alleluia!

A Favorite from April 13, 2008.

For a Noontime reflection on Tyre, visit: https://thenoontimes.com/2012/09/18/tyre/ 

For more National Geographic images of Lebanon, click on the image above. 

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Romans 9: Children of the Promise – Part I

Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 26, 2017

Adapted from a reflection written on June 3, 2010.

In this chapter of Romans, Paul puzzles over the lack of faith in the Christ story among the Jewish people.  They are clearly chosen by God to convey the message of freedom and salvation to the world and in fact, one of their own is the Messiah; yet they reject the message of hope and promise that Jesus offers. This is also the message that Paul proclaims anew.

In the previous chapter (Romans 8), Paul reminds us that faith is the belief in things not seen; hope is the exercise of expecting something that is greater and better than we think likely (8:24-25).  He reminds all of us that the Holy Spirit is at work in and among us, and that we must be open to God’s plan rather than forwarding our own.  Now he puzzles over the lack of expectation and fidelity in those who have had the advantage of the special status; he finds it strange that the very people and tradition that have engendered the message now turn against it.

Do we see this same contradiction in our own age? Do we see it in ourselves? If not, we might be content to muddle forward as always. If so, we have a clear choice before us. Do we blame God for the failings and lacks in society? Or do we examine ourselves, and then rely on God as we take action?

Paul answers some of his, and our, questions in verses 14 to 16: What then are we to say?  Is there injustice on the part of God?  Of course not . . . it depends not upon a person’s will or exertion, but upon God, who shows mercy. 

We are part of God’s great design and are called to take part in the redemption of the world.

Shall we say, then, that God is unjust? Not at all . . . So then, everything depends, not on what we humans want or do, but only on God’s mercy. (GNT)

We are God’s precious children, and are asked to demonstrate the same mercy that God shows us.

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! . . .  So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. (NASB)

We are the receivers of God’s great promise. Let us accept this gift graciously, and act with God’s justice for all.

Tomorrow, more of Paul’s thinking. How does it affect all that we do?

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Jeremiah 17:5-10: In Every Season

Thursday, March 23, 2017

We are blessed with a God-given identity and we take our concerns to God the Creator. With gratitude, we trust in God.

I will bless the person
who puts his trust in me.
He is like a tree growing near a stream
and sending out roots to the water.
It is not afraid when hot weather comes,
because its leaves stay green;
it has no worries when there is no rain;
it keeps on bearing fruit. (GNT)

We are accompanied by our brother Jesus and we follow the clearly marked Way our brother Christ sets out for us. In hope, we follow the signs of Christ’s love.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
    sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
    and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
    and it does not cease to bear fruit. (NRSV)

We are consoled by the Spirit who lives within us and we allow the presence of God to mend all that is broken. With love, we rest in this Spirit.

Blessed is the man who trusts in Adonai;
Adonai will be his security.
He will be like a tree planted near water;
it spreads out its roots by the river;
it does not notice when heat comes;
and its foliage is luxuriant;
it is not anxious in a year of drought
but keeps on yielding fruit. (CJB)

Can we imagine a life when all that we say and all we do is measured in the loving ways of God? Can we envision a kingdom in which the poor take precedence and the marginalized rise up? Can we foresee the effects of God’s compassion, power and tenderness?

After a long drought, the desert blooms in Arizona, U.S.A.

Blessed is the man who trusts me, God,
    the woman who sticks with God.
They’re like trees replanted in Eden,
    putting down roots near the rivers—
Never a worry through the hottest of summers,
    never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts,
    bearing fresh fruit every season. (MSG)

Can we believe that we are part of God’s great plan? Can we rely on God’s wisdom, grace and peace? Can we be certain that we are loved and behave as if we accept this truth?

When we compare various translations of these verses, we begin to discover that we are blessed, that we are loved, and that we are created to bear fruit in every season – even in the deserts of our lives.

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