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Posts Tagged ‘Good Shepherd’


Monday, January 27, 2020

Ezekiel 5: Our Image of God – Part II

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Yesterday we reflected on an image of God that we may derive from the words of Ezekiel and we saw how easy it was to focus more on what frightens us rather than on what saves and heals us.  We came to understand that when we isolate these images of God we see only the spectacle of God’s supreme power and the inevitability and absoluteness of God’s decisions.  We leave no room for Jesus who said . . .

Judge not lest you yourself be judged.  (Matthew 7:1, Luke 6:37)

I tell you to forgive [your brother] not seven but seventy-seven times.  (Matthew 18:22)

If [your brother] sins against you seven times in a day and seven times comes back to you and says, “I repent,” forgive him.  (Luke 17:4)

Everything is possible for him who believes.  (Mark 9:23)

A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you so must you love one another.  (John 13:34)

With Jesus’ words – and with Jesus’ actions – we begin to see the possibility that there is a Christ-like way to perceive this prophecy.  When the world is viewed through the values Jesus brings to us – and the lessons Jesus teaches us – we see plainly that in our attempt to avoid pain, suffering and eternal damnation we avoid self-examination.  This evasion of suffering at any price and the search for happiness at all cost will tempt us to engage in vigorous judgment and even condemnation of others for when we respond to interior panic we ignore the call to empathy.   In our headlong rush to please and appease the angry God we see on the surface of Ezekiel’s prophecy, we do not examine the prophet’s words closely.  We take flight and trample our neighbors in our feeble attempt to save ourselves . . . and we fly away past the shepherd who stands before us, waiting to save.

Picture1It is possible that Jesus drew his imagery of the Good Shepherd from Ezekiel.  Once we spend time with these verses we begin to see connections.

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.  I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.  (John 10: 14-16)

I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land.  . . . I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land . . .  I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. (Ezekiel 34:13-15)  

This is the image of God that Jesus brings to us from Ezekiel.  This is an image of God we do well to consider today.


A re-post from January 27, 2013. 

Image from: http://sermonreflections.blogspot.com/2012_01_01_archive.html

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Exodus 34The Richness of God

Sunday, November 11, 2018

When Moses sees the people worshiping a golden calf they have fashioned for themselves (Exodus 32:19) he smashes the tablets containing the Ten Commandments in a fit of wrath.  In today’s Noontime we read of the renewal of these tablets.  Even in the face of a willful turning away, God shows his chosen people kindness and mercy.  And God shows us this same gentleness and compassion today.

Murillo: The Good Shepherd

Today’s readings are centered on God as the Good Shepherd, the patient night-watcher, the constant day-herder, the wise and loving one who knows us from the womb until our last breath.

Paul writes to the Colossians (3:12-14) and to us: Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.  And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. 

Moses describes God as merciful and gracious, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity, continuing his kindness for a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness and crime and sin.  Moses also speaks of how God chastises us – all the while loving us as a loving parent wishing the best for his child.

The Psalm in the Morning Prayer today is Psalm 36:6-10 and it reminds us of the depth and breadth of God’s love.  It also reminds us that God will be painfully truthful with us in order that we also grow in mercy and goodness and truth and justice and light: Your love, Lord, reaches to heaven; your truth to the skies.  Your justice is like God’s mountain, your judgments like the deep. To both man and beast you give protection, O Lord, how precious is your love.  My God, the sons of men find refuge in the shelter of your wings.  They feast on the riches of your house; they drink from the stream of your delight.  In you is the source of life and in your light we see light.

The MAGNIFICAT mini-reflection (Cameron 132-133) helps us to understand why we gather to celebrate Eucharist as often as possible: Through the mystery of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, God has destroyed death forever by transforming it from the end of our story to a passageway into eternal life.  In the Eucharistic feast, we taste the promise of the fulfilled.  It is in and with and through Christ that come we come to know the fullness of God’s love, that he gives his own child so that we might live.  Such is the richness of God.  Such is his gift of light and life to us.

Toward the end of exodus 34 we read about how Moses’ face is so transformed into light that he puts a veil over his face.  God’s radiance is reflected in Moses’ face . . . all of this goodness is nearly too much to bear.

The MAGNIFICAT Morning Intercessions help us to make the connection between God’s feeding of the Hebrews in the desert with God’s abiding love for us in the 21st century.  They let us know that God’s eternal message of peace that made Moses’ face radiant in joy is the same message God has for us today.  When we cry out in sorrow . . . God nourishes us.  When we wander in the darkness . . . God brings us the gift of eternal life.

God feeds us with the finest wheat: our Lord Jesus Christ, source of our life.  And so we pray . . .

You feed us at the table of your word: nourish the thoughts of our heart.

You feed us with the bread of life: grant that we may live in the spirit of self-giving love.

You feed us with the pledge of eternal life: grant that we may receive our daily bread with gratitude.

God of life, you invite all peoples to the feast of life in your kingdom.  Forgive us when, in our foolishness, we refuse your invitation to pursue other interests, and bring us back to your table that we may continue to grow in the life of Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord for ever.  Amen.

God is the Good Shepherd of all creation; he is the patient night-watcher and the constant day-herder.  God is the wise and loving one who knows us from the womb until our last breath.  God nourishes and feeds; he rescues and saves.  God calls us always to himself.  For God is rich in kindness and mercy, quick to forgive, slow to anger . . . always calling us home.


A re-post from October 9, 2011.

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection and Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 9 October 2011: 251. Print.

Images from: https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/river-200×15011.jpg and https://fineartamerica.com/featured/sunset-over-wears-valley-tennessee-mountain-art-reid-callaway.html

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Ezekiel 34: A Prayer to the Shepherd – A Reprise

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A flock traversing a narrow path in the Caucasus Mountains

God is the first and the last of the Good Shepherds, and we are made in this image. Called by the shepherd, we know what we must do.  We who may be tempted to push with side and shoulder, and butt all the weak sheep with . . . horns until they [are] . . . driven out, must instead follow the voice of the Master Shepherd who guides, heals, unites, brings home, restores, and rejoices with the arrival of each straying sheep.  We are called to follow God’s example as we grow in our skills of shepherding. When we help Christ in the guidance of others, we become a guiding light to others. When we rely on the comfort of the Spirit, we find our way along narrow and dangerous pathways, through ponderous obstacles, and into the one true fold.

And so we pray.

Oh Master Shepherd,

Gather us up,

Gather us in. 

We wander in barren and hostile lands. 

We hear your voice,

We see your face,

We know your touch.

Gather us up.

Gather us in.

We wander in search of something we have lost.

We hear your voice,

We see your face,

We know your love.

 Gather us up,

Gather us in.

We wander seeking your broad shoulders, your strong arms.

 We know your voice,

We know your face,

We know your embrace.

 Gather us up,

Gather us in.

Amen.

To read more about the shepherds of the Tusheti Mountains in the Caucasus Range, click the image or visit: https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2017/10/the-shepherds-of-the-tusheti-mountains/544514/

 

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St. Gertrude the Great 1256-1302

1 Maccabees 16: Seek Kindness

Monday, November 27, 2017

Adapted from a reflection written on November 15, 2009. In memoria for my mother who always preached Killing with Kindness

The name Maccabees means the hammer and as we read through these books in scripture we experience a great deal of violence in the name of God.  These books are stories about “the attempted suppression of Judaism in Palestine in the second century B.C.  . . . [The author’s] purpose in writing is to record the salvation of Israel which God worked through the family of Matthias . . . Implicitly the writer compares their virtues and their exploits with those of the ancient heroes, the Judges, Samuel, and David”.  (Senior 550)  Portions of this book may be used when dedicating an altar . . . or when praying for persecuted Christians.  The lesson here is that living the life of an apostle of Christ will inevitably include bloodshed – whether it be spiritual, mental or physical.  Each time I pray to my Mother for a special intercession, I find myself in this story.  She, the gentlest of shepherds, realized real battles in her life.  Her slogan was: Kill them with kindness. 

St. Gertrude of Nivelles (626-659)

There is no avoiding the central message of Jesus’ life: When in doubt, exercise kindness and compassion . . . and listen for the word of God to tell us which way to turn, when to pause, when to proceed.  Tomorrow is the Feast Day of St. Gertrude.  My mother and my sister – both deceased – are named for this saint.  Both of these women had a plodding, patient persistence when confronted with evil, and they were formidable and unmoved when it came to right and wrong.  The Morning Prayer for tomorrow begins with a verse from Isaiah (30:15): By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust your strength lies.  I reflect on the betrayal and carnage we witness when we read Maccabees.  The deception of the son of Abubus who gives the faithful a deceitful welcome shakes me to the core.  There is nothing more wicked than luring in the innocent to later spring up, weapons in hand, to rush upon the loyal servant of God – thus repaying good with evil.

What do we do when we are witness to this?  We are utterly astounded as is John in today’s reading.  We go to God who tells us to shake the dust of the unfaithful from our feet and move on.  And we do as my mother always recommended: Kill them with kindness.

Gertrude the Great was a German Benedictine mystic with a special dedication to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A number of her writings are still in publication today. Gertrude of Nivelles founded an abbey with her mother, Itta, in present day Belgium. She is the patron saint of gardens and cats. 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.550. Print.   

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 16.11 (2009). Print.  

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Isaiah 11: The Rule

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Favorite from February 28, 2010.

We often consider what passion we might need to live as disciples of Christ.  Today we look at the rules by which we must learn to live.

Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. 

If we wish to be part of kingdom building, we must learn to look past appearances; we must not make decisions based on hearsay.

Justice shall be the band about his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.

If we wish to part of kingdom building, we must learn – as Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 – that the only armor we need is Christ.

He shall raise a signal to the nations and gather the outcasts of Israel; the dispersed of Judah he shall assemble from the four corners of the earth.

If we wish to be a part of kingdom building, we must wait for the signal, and we must be able to recognize the Shepherd as John tells us in Chapter 10 of his Gospel.

The envy of Ephraim shall pass away and the rivalry of Judah shall be removed; Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah, and Judah shall not be hostile to Ephraim.

If we wish to be part of kingdom building, we must learn to put aside envy; we must learn that God calls for unity and not rivalry.

The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord. 

If we wish to be part of kingdom building, we must learn to delight in wisdom, to listen for God’s counsel, to draw from God’s strength, and to love the Lord our God more than life itself.  This fear, this awe, this love will be all we need to carry us through any adversity we face.

If we wish to be part of kingdom building, we must take all of this in . . . and we must make the Rule part of our fiber and tissue, our heart and soul.

For more reflections on how God’s love manifests itself in our lives, enter  the words The Law into the blog search bar and explore. 

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Micah 5:4: Reflecting God’s Mercy

Monday, August 28, 2017

Achille Tominetti: Downpour in the Mountains of Italy with Herd

We have heard the advice given to us by ancient sages; we know the advice we hear today; yet struggling with the reality that surrounds us is difficult. Sapping our energies and challenging our individual and collective imagination, current events ask for our fidelity to God’s Law of Love. Christ’s simple call to love our enemies asks us to stretch beyond the goals we set for ourselves. The Spirit rests in us and guides us always and all times. This is mercy we will want to take in for our own transformation. This is mercy we will want to reflect to the world.

Even in the rains that drench our enthusiasm when the Shepherd leads us.

And the people will have a good and safe home,
    for the whole world will hold him in respect—
    Peacemaker of the world! (MSG)

Even in the mountains that challenge our resources when God is with us.

And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
    to the ends of the earth. (NRSV)

Achille Tominetti: Returning from the Pasture

Even in the moments that take all our energies when Christ carries us.

When God comes, God will rule the people with the strength that comes from the Lord and with the majesty of the Lord God. God’s people will live in safety because people all over the earth will acknowledge God’s greatness. (GNT)

Even in the places and with people who ask too much of us when the Spirit abides.

And this will be peace. (CJB)

When we compare translations of these verses, we find the strength to reflect God’s mercy. 

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Isaiah 33: A Prophecy of Deliverance

Thursday, May 18, 2017

There is good news to celebrate . . . we are delivered from bondage.  We live in the Messianic age; the promised deliverer has arrived to live among us.   We are no longer chained.  We are not abandoned. We are not alone.

Yesterday’s Mass readings called us to reflect on the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep well . . . and whose sheep know him.  I know mine and mine know me.  Today we continue that theme.  The readings from Acts (Chapters 2 and 11) tell us the story of Peter who witnesses to the presence of the Resurrected Christ.  Psalms 23, 42 and 43 describe how God takes care of us and how we thirst after this Living God.  We learn how to shepherd well.   A Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  We hear about false shepherds.  A hired man runs away and leaves his sheep because they are not his own . . . the sheep scatter and run . . . the wolf catches them. 

In today’s Noontime reading, Isaiah describes for us what happens when the true shepherd arrives to call his sheep back to the fold.  Those who attacked and scattered the innocent sheep are now themselves assaulted.  The spoils of the conflict disappear in the jaws of the locusts; they are gathered up like the crops taken up by caterpillars.  Just when the land is deserted and hushed, just when treaties are broken and fire devours the land . . . this is when deliverance happens.  The counters of treasures, the insolent, the corrupt, all of these will be gone while those faithful who have been scattered will now live on the heights.  Their refuge will be the fortresses of rocks; their food will be supplied, their water assured.  And Christ’s Rock, Peter, witnesses today, telling those gathered to listen to his story of how a vision came to him with an assignment as God’s Shepherd.  I was at prayer when in a trance I had a vision . . . The Spirit told me to accompany three men without discriminating against them.  Peter goes on to explain how God has called him to Shepherd the gentiles along with the Jewish people who have come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah.

And so today we pray.

Good and faithful God,

You have promised that you will not abandon us . . . teach us how to not abandon others.

You have brought us the gift of hope and renewal . . . teach us to be open to the restoration you have in mind for us.

You have promised us peace and prosperity . . . teach us how to live in peace despite the turmoil we cause.

You have been the Good Shepherd . . . never abandoning us . . . never betraying us . . . teach us to live in fidelity to you.

We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

A Favorite from May 16, 2011.

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1 Peter 2: Walking in The Way

Thursday, July 21, 2016The-Way-of-Jesus-Spring-20152

The Apostle Peter tells us that we find spiritual maturity when we walk with Christ in The Way he demonstrates to us.

So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.

Peter tells us that we are not the master builder and that we must agree to live side-by-side with other living stones in the kingdom of God.

Present yourselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life, in which you’ll serve as holy priests offering Christ-approved lives up to God. 

Peter reminds us that our journey along The Way will not be easy or comfortable.

Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. 

In an age when it seems that the world is coming apart at the seams, Peter describes how we might arrive at spiritual maturity, and how we might make the world a better place in the process.

It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. 

In a time when it seems that there is no redemption for the world, Peter tells us that in the end, we must place ourselves in God’s hands.

Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.

In the hour when we remain confused and anxious, we place out trust in the hands of the one who knows more than we can know, who abides with deep fidelity, who looks forward in outrageous hope, and who loves with a bottomless love.

For more on Peter’s own journey with Jesus and his life after Jesus’ death and resurrection, spend time with The Acts of the Apostles. 

Compare this translation with The Message by using the scripture link above. 

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Joel 3:17-21: Salvation for God’s Elect

Saturday, May 28, 2016Wonder-and-Amazement

The expression “God’s Elect” seems contrary to the message of Jesus about universal access to God and salvation. We are all given the option to listen, seek, obey and serve. So the expression we see here today may put us out of our comfort zone. We need to think about this.

From the NAB: “This prophecy is rich in imagery and strongly eschatological in tone. . . Its prevailing theme is the day of the Lord.”

From today’s MAGNIFCAT: “Jesus said: ‘I am the gate. Whoever enters me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture’.” John 10:9 The gate to the Lord’s sheepfold is narrow and cut in the shape of a cross. Yet Christ leads the flock safely through to the place of pasture he has prepared for us. . . Two distinct groups follow Jesus as he goes up to Jerusalem. Those who walked with him who ‘were amazed’ are the ones who live the prayer, ‘Look upon us, show us the light of your mercies. Give new signs and work new wonders.’ However, those who walked behind him ‘were afraid.’ Joining with Jesus who gives his life as a ransom for many changes our fear into amazement.”

With God and prayer, fear turns to amazement. We must remember this.

When we turn to God through our suffering, our wonder and awe are increased many-fold. When we see how God provides for us, our faith is increased many-fold. When we dream of prayers God might answer for us, our petitions are answered many-fold. When we love as God loves us, our love is increased many-fold. And so we pray.

Good and gracious God, grant us the patience, the wisdom, and the perseverance to seek the narrow gate and to enter it. May our fear turn to awe, and may we be continually amazed by your goodness. Amen.

Adapted from a Favorite from May 30, 2007.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 30.5 (2007). Print. 

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