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Posts Tagged ‘God’s providence’


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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Esther 4:12-14: God’s Yardstick – Esther

Trusting God’s Providence

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Esther

Esther

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

Queen Vashti refuses to obey an order from King Ahasuerus to come into his presence. From this single decision comes the opening for Mordecai and his niece Esther to come to the king’s attention; and it also opens the door for the courtier Haman to plot the end of all Jews living in the kingdom. This may or may not be a familiar story. It may or may not ring with a story we ourselves have lived.

Standing against evil is nothing new in human history; yet when the need to renounce wickedness comes into our lives we are tempted to hide or flee. When we experience the level of malice that Haman displays, it is natural to react as Esther does, wanting to hide or protect ourselves or, at the least, hoping to look out for our own interests first before tending to others.

But Esther hears the warning: Don’t think that just because you live in the king’s house you’re the one Jew who will get out of this alive.

Esther takes in the wider and deeper meaning: If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out.

Esther steps away the fear that holds her: Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.

Esther steps into the challenge before her and asks for solidarity when she says to her uncle: Go and get all the Jews living in Susa together. Fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, either day or night. I and my maids will fast with you.

Esther commits to measuring her life with God’s yardstick rather than her own: If you will do this, I’ll go to the king, even though it’s forbidden. If I die, I die.

Esther allows God’s providence and wisdom to transform her fear. Esther enacts a lesson for us today.

wqueenvashti-0303414jpg-1423640271

Queen Vashti and Esther – image by Edwin Long

For more reflections on Esther, enter her names in to the blog search bar and explore. For more versions of these verses, use this scripture link for Esther 4 to examine Esther’s yardstick. Click on the image to the left for more on International Women’s Day or visit: http://forward.com/opinion/193773/remember-vashti-and-esther-on-international-womens/

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Bartolome Esteban Murillo: The Nativity

Bartolome Esteban Murillo: The Nativity

Saturday, December 27, 2015

Joy and the Tomb

Matthew

 The New Testament brings us the good news of personal freedom and the reality of our individual relationship with God. Joy continues to surprise us as we rejoice in the coming of the Messiah.

In the Gospel of Matthew we hear the familiar story of three wise seekers following not only a singular star in the heavens but also a call of the heart. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel, the women who accompanied Jesus are astounded by joy when they arrive at his tomb to discover that he has risen as promised.

Matthew 2:9-10: And so the wise men left Herod, and on their way they saw the same star they had seen in the East. When they saw it, how happy they were, what joy was theirs! It went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.

God says: You do not have to travel across continents or go to faraway shores to find me. I am here within you. And just as I live in you so also does my mercy. Just as I accompany you so also does my love. Just as I guide and carry you, so does my joy.

Matthew 28:8: So the women left the tomb in a hurry, afraid and yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

God says: Just as my first apostles ran to share the joy of Easter with the world, so might you share the joy of Christmas during this special time of year. Just as these women are open to the reality of my love for them, so might you be open to the good news that I have come to restore and heal. In this Christmastide, rest in the joy of this child’s birth and allow my joy to fully live in you.

joyWhen we hear the Christmas story we focus on the sweetness of the child and God’s provision and providence; we tend to stay away from the story of the cross . . . yet it provides us with a greater example God’s joy in us. Matthew links this joy in the vulnerable child with joy in the loving man.  We might spend time with this linkage today . . . and allow God’s joy to show us something wonderful and new.

If this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urges you to investigate the New Testament, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar. You may want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com

For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

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joySunday, November 9, 2014

1 Samuel 18

Joy and Suspicion

Today we continue to visit with scripture to look for stories about joy that will surprise us in a variety of ways. If you want to explore other stories in which joy astounds us, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today our story is from the Book of Samuel.

Too often the high points in our lives are followed by turmoil and darkness brought on by jealousy. My dad always warned us that as we move up the ladder of life to become more proficient in the workplace we may also become targets for office gossip and suspicion. But, he added, we cannot allow this to affect either our work or our relationships. Rather than frighten us, Dad meant to arm us with the knowledge that joy is accompanied by suspicion, and we see truth play out with David today when he returns from slaying the giant Goliath to be greeted with both great joy . . . and deep suspicion. If we spend time with these verses, we see that success may breed its own kind of darkness. It is up to us to decide how we will react. It is in our power to look for joy hidden in the dark recesses of suspicion.

Verses 6-9: It happened as they were coming, when David returned from killing the Philistine, that the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy and with musical instruments. The women sang as they played, and said, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” Then Saul became very angry, for this saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, but to me they have ascribed thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” Saul looked at David with suspicion from that day on.

Steen: David's Triumphant Return

Steen: David’s Triumphant Return

Suspicion, gossip, jealousy, envy. These are the slippery steps that David navigates with God’s help. Later in his story, David succumbs to temptation that ruins the lives of many, but his actions bring us hope when we understand that even God’s anointed will err.

Fidelity, trust, hope, love. These are the footholds we look for in the face of the mountain we climb. We find joy even in the darkest of places when we rely on God’s providence, God’s wisdom and God’s love.

Visit 1 and 2 Samuel if you have time over the next few hours to put today’s Noontime into context.

Enter the words, Saul, David, envy or jealousy into the blog search bar and explore. Discover ways in which God’s quiet joy is always with us . . . even when we lest expect to feel its presence.  

Click on the Steen image above for more information about this story of triumph, suspicion and ultimately . . . joy. 

For more about anxiety and joy, click on the image above or visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/ 

 

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

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 9, 2014

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 have journeyed through Psalm 119, pausing 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.   As we move through the ending stanzas of this psalm, a certain simplicity and intelligence settles over us.  And so 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 . . . Shin.

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

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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