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Posts Tagged ‘God’s providence’


Holy Tuesday, March 30, 2021

200px-Prophet_Amos_002Amos 7

God’s Servants

Through a series of visions Amos leads us to his central message: we must respond to God’s call to correct the social injustice we see around us. In Chapter 7 we see the core of Amos’ message through a series of visions but it is perhaps his personality that moves us more than the images he describes. Amos displays characteristics we see in Jesus, and these are the same tools we must nurture so that we might be faithful servants of God’s Word: frankness, brevity, an insistence to stay “on message” despite the chastisement and threats received from a corrupt civil, social or religious structure.

Amos refuses to hire himself out, as other prophets do. He resists the urge to say more than Yahweh has told him. He speaks, takes no credit or blame, remains faithful and tenacious, then stands down when his work of prophecy is complete, returning to the productive life he had lived before he stepped into history.

We are each called to be Amos. We are each called to speak in witness to what we know to be truth and light. We each live in the providential care of God. We each have the power of speech and spirit. We each must intercede for our family, friends and enemies – just as Amos does. And then we may return to our work, living the Gospel we know to be true until we are called again by God.

Life lived in this manner becomes less complicated, less frightening, more fulfilling, and more peaceful. Life lived in this manner – even in the midst of painful abuse and dire extremes – is seen as beautiful and serene. Life lived as Amos shows us is life in its proper alignment – we become good and faithful servants doing the work of God. As humble and honest workers, we demonstrate our understanding that God is in charge, that God’s plan will not be thwarted, that God can be trusted to turn all acts of malicious damage into acts of saving love.

This then is the lesson of Amos: Speak when we know we must, listen for the Word always, step forward when called and back when the time for speaking has ended. Act always in God and through God. Remain always God’s willing servant who brings a full and open heart to each day. Trust God . . . and stay out of God’s way. 


Tomorrow, a Prayer for Faithful Servants.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 18, 2008.

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Sunday, February 7, 2021

sparks of fireWisdom 3:1-9

A Prayer for Fallen Sparks

They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead . . . but they are in peace . . . They shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble . . . they shall judge nations and rule over peoples . . . and the Lord shall be their King forever . . . because grace and mercy and care are with God’s holy ones.

We near the end of our journey through Psalm 119, and today we pause to reflect and consider the insights and wisdom God reveals to us through the written word. We have come to understand that God is too great and too good to describe and therefore we dart about, looking for a time and place to ignite the smallest bit of kindling so that our small spark of life might not be extinguished. In the coming week, we move through the ending stanzas of this psalm and a certain simplicity and intelligence settles over us.  As we find new understanding, we pray.

Knowing that we are always in God’s hands although we may not feel God’s presence we pray: Providential God, speak to us in a way that we might hear you.

Knowing that God’s Word lives in and around us although we may not comprehend it, we pray: Consoling God, reveal yourself to us in a way that we might see you.

Knowing that God’s fidelity saves us although we may not believe it, we pray: Faithful God, abide with us in a way that we might sense you.

Knowing that God’s love redeems us although we may not trust it, we pray: Redemptive God, hold and rescue us in a way that we might feel you.

Knowing that God’s grace and mercy are present to and in us although we may not believe it, we pray: Gracious God, continue to wrap us in your kindness and beauty although we may not thank you.

Knowing that we are fallen sparks, little life forces that dart to and fro, seeking origin and end, looking for wisdom and security, we pray:  Loving God, although we may not believe that you sacrifice all in order to transform us, bring us insight and serenity so that we might rest eternally in you.  Amen.   

Tomorrow, we near the end of Psalm 119 . . . Qoph.


Image from: http://www.torange.us/Fashion-and-beauty/fireworks/sparks-of-fire-25690.html

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Saturday, December 5, 2020

Canticle of Zechariah

Zechariah and the Angel Gabriel

Luke 1:57-80, 2:29-32

Canticles

When we pray the Liturgy of the Hours we participate in the rhythmic repetition of the morning and evening canticles that we find here in Luke. They – along with the presentation of petition, glorification and thanksgiving through the psalms – give our days and nights a deep sense of tranquility. These times of meditation and contemplation create the pathways through which God speaks. The heart, in this way, willingly readies the soul in hospitality for the reception of the Holy Spirit and the presence of Christ. Prayer cleanses the mind, prepares the spirit and animates the heart for the reception of God’s revelation to us. Nothing can be more important for it is our intentional and incidental prayers that bring us sanity and serenity. These canticles of praise help us to travel through our days, our years, our lives.

No one experiences life without feeling distress and anxiety, and it is when we turn to God – the source of all that is good – that we are healed, lifted up, salvaged and restored. When we allow harm to transform us through our grieving and our trust in God, we find the joy expressed in the canticles we read today.  We also find reason to celebrate God’s salvific love.

Champaigne: Visitation The Canticle of Mary or the Magnificat

Champaigne: Visitation
The Canticle of Mary or the Magnificat

These canticles sung by Zechariah who finds his voice after the loss of speech, and by Mary, who anticipated greatest joy and greatest sorrow, are meant to carry us from sun up to sun down continually. The canticle of Simeon, which the Liturgy of the Hours designates as part of the Night Prayer, is an anthem of gratitude, and together these songs can bracket our goings and our comings, they can guide our days and nights, they can fill us with hope and trust in God.

When we sit with Jeremiah 20:10-13, Psalm 18, and John 10:31-42 we can see how we too might sing canticles of praise for God’s providence as we move from dread to joy.

I hear the whisperings of many: “Terror on every side!  Denounce!  let us denounce him!” All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine . . . In my time of distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice . . . From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears . . . The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus.  Jesus answered them . . . “If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father”. Then they tried again to arrest him; but he escaped from their power.

The Prophets Simeon and Anna with the Christ Child

The Prophets Simeon and Anna
with the Christ Child

And so we pray . . .

God is in his temple and he hears my voice, it reaches his ears . . . we are the temple in which God resides, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

They tried again to arrest him; but he escaped from their power . . . we have nothing to fear when we walk in the way which is lighted by the light of Christ.

Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord! For He has delivered the soul of the needy one . . . we have everything to gain when we live in God.

As we begin our Advent journey, let us sing these canticles at dawn, at the setting of the sun, and when we lie down to rest. And as we escape from the power of terror’s grip and watch it melt away, let us turn to God in all things, in all ways, at all times . . . and let us sing our canticle of joy.  Amen.


Adapted from a reflection written on April 3, 2009.

To explore these songs of praise and what they can mean to us, click on the images above or go to The Liturgy of the Hours page on this blog.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

providence[1]Psalm 33God’s Power and Providence

Rejoice, you just, in the Lord . . .

Each time we weather a new emotional storm and lay all of our worries in God’s hands . . . we become one of the just.

Give thanks to the Lord on the harp . . .

Each time we muster the courage and energy to thank God for even the smallest of blessings . . . we give thanks to God on the harp of our lives.

Sing to God a new song . . .

Each time we decide to deal with old woes in new ways . . . we learn to sing a new song.

But the plan of the Lord stands forever, wise designs through all generations . . .

Each time we ask God to be the architect of our lives . . . we discover that we stand with God in eternity.

Our souls waits for the Lord who is our help and shield . . .

Each time we shelter in the arms of God . . . we learn what it means to be divine.

For in God our hearts rejoice . . .

Each time we put aside our petty worrying . . . we unite ourselves more fully with God.

May your kindness, Lord, be upon us . . .

Each time we act as Christ acts . . . we experience more fully God’s goodness.

We have put our hope in you.

Each time we rely on God rather than our own little plans . . . we see our wildest hopes flourish.

The just are invited to praise God for creation, for intervention and help.  The psalmist also praises God for his revelation of himself to us.  We read that the Lord loves covenants, commitments, fidelity, constancy, love of creation and justice.  His own kindness is seen in the many ways he has saved his faithful.   The proper response to all of this is our own re-commitment to our covenant with God.  This psalm reads like a mini-Gospel as it contains the same message which we received with gift of Jesus to the world.

For the word of the Lord is true, and he is faithful in everything he does.

What can be more powerful than this?  What can be more providential? What can bring us more hope?  What can bring us more healing?

The gift and promise and covenant are freely given.  All we need do is . . . rejoice.

Tomorrow, the Trinity of Love . . .


Adapted from a reflection written on May 7, 2008.

Image from: http://www.soundanalarm.com/category/articles/christian-doctrines/providence-of-god/

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Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Cristofano Allori: Judith With the Head of Holofernes

Cristofano Allori: Judith With the Head of Holofernes

Judith 13: Slaying Holofernes

Judith teaches us about courage, fidelity, and divine providence.  She shows us clearly the strength of women, the power of faithfulness through duress, the results of steady, enduring, immutability . . . and the gift of God’s abiding presence.  Judith instructs us on the results of constancy and the privilege of discipleship.

In this particular chapter, we see Judith carry out the final stages of her plan . . . and I am always intrigued by the fact that none of Holofernes’ soldiers see anything suspicious about two women leaving the camp and the reason for this is that from the first night of her stay Judith makes it clear that she and her maid will go out to pray each evening.  For this reason their escape route is made through their accustomed daily commitment to God (12:5-9).

It is also clear that Holofernes’ principle error is seeing women as sexual objects.  The heart of Holofernes was in rapture over her, and his spirit was shaken.  He was burning with the desire to possess her, for he had been biding his time to seduce her from the day he saw her.  (12:16) Neither this man – nor anyone in his inner circle – sees the true significance of the presence of this quiet, beautiful, spiritual woman in their midst.  And they pay for this blindness with the loss of life and the loss of the campaign they have planned against the people of Bethulia.

What can we learn from this today?  How can we take this lesson into our own lives and honor it?  What is it about Judith’s conduct that speaks of her so well?

This story – when read from beginning to end – is full of unexpected twists.  And so is life.  This story – when we take the time to examine it more fully – can startle us and even repel us with its stark reality and violence.  And so can life.  This story – when reflected upon in the context of the coming of Christ – brings us the expectation of restoration, justice and joy.  And so does life.  This story brings us the gift of constancy, a gift we receive through our own discipleship.

Tower of David Museum, Jerusalem: Reconstruction Model of Ancient Jerusalem

Tower of David Museum, Jerusalem: Reconstruction Model of Ancient Jerusalem

What do we do against life’s twists and turns and ironies?  We remain constant, we abide with God, we fear less and we pray endlessly.  We empty ourselves of ego and pride . . . and we allow God to complete and fill us.  We act – just as Judith did – from a custom of constantly walking and praying with God.

Good, merciful and just Creator, we place ourselves in your hands each day at our rising.  We carry you with us throughout each day.  We return to you each evening just as we return to family, home and hearth.  Abide with us this day and all days, just as you accompanied Judith and her maid into the enemy’s camp.  Abide with us each evening as we walk out to the ravine to pray with you, just as Judith and her maid were accustomed to doing.  We seek you, just as Judith sought you.  We bring to you our worries and fears, just as these women did.  May we too remain constant to you in our prayers and in our actions.  May we too know the triumph and the peace which comes from abiding with you.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 


If you have time to read more about Judith’s story and reflect on her importance in our lives today, enter her name in the search box on this blog and spend time with her.  Or open your Bible to this book and begin her story in Judith 8.  For background, and to better understand the context, begin reading from Chapter 1.   For an online commentary, click on the model of ancient Jerusalem above.

Images from: https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/220px-cristofano_allori_0021.jpg and https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/reconstruction_model_of_ancient_jerusalem_in_museum_of_david_castle1.jpg

First written on July 27, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Matthew 26:6-13: The Anointing

An alabaster jar

An alabaster jar

A woman came up to him with an alabaster jar of costly perfumed oil, and poured it on his head while he was reclining at table.

I am noticing something for the first time about chapter 26 of Matthew as we read the story of the conspiracy against Jesus.  Amid the howling, the deceit, the betrayal and the preparation for the last meal followed by the passion . . . there are 7 brief verses . . . an eye in the storm of the hurricane.  Jesus is anointed . . . and even at this moment of respite, his apostles complain.  He tells us what we have heard so often: The poor are with us always, but now the King is among you.  Rejoice!  My death in this life and Resurrection into the next are upon us!  We know that where Jesus goes, we are invited to follow.

Amidst the jangle and turmoil of a terribly difficult passage in his journey, Jesus relies on God and trusts God’s providence.  He fully understands that we are all – including himself – a part of the whole.  He knows that God’s economy will provide redemption for all . . . and that this redemption rests in him.  His love for his sisters and brothers is so authentic and so intense that he sacrifices himself of his own volition. Why do we worry?  Why are we angry?  We have someone who is willing to do all that it takes to redeem us.  We must find and bring our own alabaster jar for the anointing.

From today’s reflection in MAGNIFICAT (Simon Tugwell, O.P.):  God’s providence does not mean that he has got it [life] all planned out in advance, so that our part is simply to follow.  That is the thought that might well drive us to despair: once we had left the right way, who would help us then?  We may think of God’s providence rather in terms of the way in which he integrates all our free choices, mistakes and sins and all, into his plan.  He is that expert dancer who can make dance even out of the stumblings of the most atrocious partner!  Our hatred, our fear, become the occasion of our redemption, as we see so clearly on Calvary.  (Cameron)

This is what Jesus tells his companions in today’s Noontime reading. Rejoice, salvation is at and, the God who made you in his image, the God who walks among you now, the God who watches over you is showing you a Way for you to come together in him.  And you may bring your mistakes with you!  For God is so good and so whole and so just and loving . . . that there is a seat for everyone at the table.

As we prepare for our own Passover and as we enter into the last weeks of Lent, we can rest in the knowledge and the peace that even our stumbling is made holy by God’s love.  God will integrate all of our free choices – be they sensible or insensible, just or unjust.  God will enter into our Easter dance – be it clumsy or elegant, hurried or slow-paced.  God will lead us into Easter rejoicing . . . if only we might follow.

We celebrate this un-named woman who saw salvation before her eyes . . . and honored it.

We trust that we, too, honor this amazing gift of life eternal.

We hope in the Christ, believe in the Creator, and love in the Holy Spirit.

Let us pause for a moment in the whirlwind of our days . . . give thanks . . . anoint one another . . . and follow Christ.  Let us rejoice!


Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 1.3 (2008). Print.  

First written on March 12, 2008. Revised and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://www.reddirtchronicles.com/2011/01/the-gospel-in-an-alabaster-jar/

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Mark 8:1-11Nothing to Fear

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Gospel writers tell us that Jesus feeds thousands from a few fish and several loaves of bread; yet we store up food and goods against the fear that we will one day be without.  Famine grips the horn of Africa and the people who live there wait on the generosity of others; and despite the abundance in which others live, these images stir some to sharing and others to hoarding.  In either case, we fear that we will one day be without.   Today’s Mass readings deal with the intense fear that seizes us when cataclysm strikes and we fear the worst.  The homily we heard at Mass today was moving.  Father reminded us that although we seek physical signs of God’s presence . . . we do not see the markers God constantly posts along the route of our journey.  Fear has the effect of eliminating sight and reason.

In 1 Kings 19:9a-13a, Elijah hides in a cave, fearing that Queen Jezebel’s men will find him and execute him in the same way she has put to death other prophets.  God calls to Elijah that it is time for him to come out of his hiding place.  Go and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.  And Elijah hears the Lord not in the tumult of the storm or the crashing of the earthquake, but in the whisper of the gentle wind.

In Romans 9:1-5, Paul bears witness to God’s presence even though he suffers great anguish.  Rather than succumb to fear, Paul continues to tell the good news story that Christ is risen and present.  He persists in responding to God who first called him in the bolt of blinding light in Acts 9 when he says to him: Get up and go into the city, you will be told what you must do.  Paul finds God in the blinding light.

In Matthew 14:22-23, the apostles become frightened during a storm that threatens to swamp their boat.  Jesus walks toward them over the water and says: Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.  Peter gets out of the boat to walk toward Jesus but doubt overtakes him and he begins to sink.  Immediately Jesus reaches to pull him to the water’s surface.  Peter finds God in his willingness to risk the dangers of the storm-tossed waters.

God is constantly telling us that we need not be afraid . . . yet we cannot hear the voice for the cacophony of the world.

God is constantly showing us that God is with us . . . yet we cannot see God for the blinding confusion of the world.

God is constantly proving to us that God wants to heal and rescue us . . . yet we cannot feel God’s presence for the fears that we harbor.

Our daily experiences frighten us and so we ask God to give us a sign that God is present . . . forgetting that God already is.  God feeds us daily.

We allow the details of living to stir up so much fear that we can no longer hear or see or touch the goodness and providence of God . . . and still God says to us: Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.  

We fret over minutiae, we become anxious about events that are too overwhelming for us to handle, anxiety overtakes us . . . and still God says to us: My heart is moved with pity for you have been with me many days now and have come a long distance . . . do not be afraid for I am always with you . . . I will sustain you . . . you are mine . . . there is nothing to fear. 


A re-post from August 7, 2011.

Images from: http://mtoliveluth.blogspot.com/2010/06/whisper-of-gods-love.html 

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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 27: Knowing Tomorrow

Monday, August 21, 2017

We so easily convince ourselves that we are in control, that our well-laid plans will come to fruition, that all those who work hard and behave well will avoid suffering and pain. Proverbs remind us that we will want to think this through again.

Don’t brashly announce what you’re going to do tomorrow;
you don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. (MSG)

We have ourselves convinced that we can bull our way through any problem and over any obstacle if we just shove our way to the front and outlast everyone else.

The weight of stone and sand is nothing compared to the trouble that stupidity can cause. (GNT)

We look for solutions to our problems by changing homes, changing friends, changing work, changing spouses when in reality all that brings us anxiety and worry ride along with us until we change our hearts.

Like a bird that strays from its nest
is a man who strays from his home. (CJB)

We believe that if we have just a little more wealth, a little more power, a little more fame then we can make right all that is wrong when all we need is already dwelling within.

The purity of silver and gold is tested
by putting them in the fire;
The purity of human hearts is tested
by giving them a little fame. (MSG)

So what are we to do when we realize that the gifts we have to earn a way in the world are given to us by the Creator, when we see that God’s providence holds us fast in good times as in bad? Proverbs can give us ideas.

Know your sheep by name;
    carefully attend to your flocks;
(Don’t take them for granted;
    possessions don’t last forever, you know.)
And then, when the crops are in
    and the harvest is stored in the barns,
You can knit sweaters from lambs’ wool,
    and sell your goats for a profit;
There will be plenty of milk and meat
    to last your family through the winter. (MSG)

Once we remember that our lives are spinning thoughts of the Creator that yearn to come together in the Spirit, then we begin to understand that knowing tomorrow is purely God’s domain. It is for us to lace our trust in this eternal, constant, loving presence.

When we compare varying versions of these verses, we have less apprehension about the knowledge that we cannot know what tomorrow brings.

 

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