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Posts Tagged ‘Good Shepherd’


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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Psalm 23Shepherding

Thursday, April 21, 2016psalm23_1024

A Favorite from April 10, 2011.

I attended a memorial service yesterday preceded by a celebration of the life of the deceased.  These things are never easy.  Part of the service was the comforting 23rd Psalm, the Old Testament reading was from Proverbs 3 (wisdom as a feminine force) and the New Testament was John 14 (Do not let your hearts be troubled . . . I am going to prepare a place for you.)  Scripture has the power to heal . . . if we allow it.

I am struck by how often we turn to the divine seeking solace – expecting the comfort and wisdom of the words to be instant much like our meals in the microwave, our movies on demand, and our relationships which must fulfill some purpose for us in order to be profitable.  The sermon today was given by Bishop Newman and he spoke of his time as pastor at the Cathedral of Mary our Queen when he asked a sound engineer to find the places in the immense building that did not receive sound well.  He referred to these places as “dead areas” and he asked us to think of the dead places in our lives that were like the deadness of Lazarus which we had heard in today’s Gospel (John 11:1-45).  He asked us to think of the “little deaths” we experience: addictions that govern us, work losses that discourage us, damage to relationships, troubles in a marriage that gnaw at us; and he asked us to think of how we resolved these problems or how we stirred ourselves to address these dead places.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives . . .

As he spoke, I thought of the dead zones in my life, and I thought about the opportunities I have been given for resurrection and redemption.  Surely we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever . . .

We must be persistent and fearless in our pursuit of God’s understanding and in our practice of God’s love.  I will fear no evil, for you are with me . . .

We must be courageous and creative in our determination to resolve the problems that create dead zones in our lives.  Your rod and staff comfort me . . .

We must always take all problems with our enemies to God, remembering that God alone can deal with betrayal and deceit.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies . . .

We must remember that God constantly seeks new ways to love us and to bolster us on our journey.  You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows . . .

We cannot hear God through the cacophony of our days.  We must make a quiet place where we might allow rest and restoration because he makes me lie down in green pastures . . .

We must look for our imperfections, confess them, and ask God to heal them for God is more powerful than any force we know, even death.  He called the dead Lazarus from the tomb, and so he calls us to come to him for healing.  The extent of our “deadness” or the number of the “little deaths” in our lives is unimportant.  God is more powerful, and more loving, and more present than we have imagined.  The Lord is my shepherd . . .

I love Marty Haugen’s version of this Psalm from the GATHER hymnal which we so often sing, and which I use as an opening prayer in my classes during this time of year: Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life . . .

Let us rejoice that God is among us always to comfort, to heal, to restore, to transform and to redeem.   And let us open ourselves more to God’s wise and merciful shepherding.

Listen to the Marty Haugen setting of the 23rd Psalm at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L55J02iTGjM   

Tomorrow, crossing the Jordan.

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Mark 14:27-31: Finding Holiness in Shaken Faith

Thursday, September 3, 2015how-do-you-keep-the-faith

All of you will have your faith shaken.  Jesus makes this pronouncement not long before his own resolve is tested in the Gethsemane Garden.  He warns his followers that they will abandon him but even though they do, he will still return to bring them back to the fold.  We see the work of a good and watchful shepherd.

None of us is exempt from uncertainty or doubt.  All of us experience times of dryness and bleak landscapes.  Jesus goes before us everywhere, even though we may often feel that we walk alone.  Jesus prepares a way for us, even though we might think the road is blocked with obstacles.  Jesus comes to gather us, even though we believe that we are not worth collecting, or we do not need saving.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, must bring us to his home because he is not capable of forgetting or abandoning his little ones.

When we feel the pressure of our days, we may want to think about this reflection from today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation by St. Paul of the Cross: [God] knows how to console us when we least expect it.  If anyone hurts you, turn on him as something of great value and, with the eyes of one who loves, see him as the person chosen by God to clothe you in holiness and in the patience, silence, and meekness of Jesus Christ.  If you can learn to see God’s will as a source of strength, taking every difficulty you go through as something that comes not just from circumstances but from the loving hand of God your creator, you will soon be speeding along the short road to holiness. The troubles we have in life, if we see them as part of God’s loving plan and accept them as being what he wants for us, will actually help us to grow in knowledge and love of him.  Even when things are at their worst, keep your peace of heart and accept whatever God sends you as being for your good.  God is your guide, your father, your teacher, your husband.  In everything that happens the best thing you can do is abandon yourself to his will.

And so we pray:  Good and gracious God, keep us ever mindful that the times when we feel furthest from you are when we are closet.  Remind us that when we are most harried, we are also most loved.  Tell us again that when we are most in pain, we are most comforted. 

Let us act as Jesus does when the time of persecution comes; he does not seek revenge but builds bridges instead. 

Let us act as Jesus does when the time of pain arrives; he does not curse the darkness but turns to the Father for strength. 

Let us act as Jesus does when the time of abandonment happens; he does not rebuke the followers who leave him but turns to them in love.

We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 20.10 (2010). Print.

Adaptec from a reflection written on October 20, 2010.

 

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John 19: Glory, Part X – Fans and Followers

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Carl Henrich Bloch: Christ on the Cross

Carl Henrich Bloch: Crucifixion

Today’s lesson on Glory: It is the quiet follower who lives in union with the shepherd while the boisterous fan will not hear the shepherd’s voice when it is crowded out by the jeering crowd. Yet, the loving shepherd continues to invite us all.

There is a difference between being a fan of Jesus and a follower.  While we may find it easy to cheerlead a message we long to communicate, it is something else entirely to live the message with great love. We like to gather with those of like minds to celebrate meaningful occasions but we shrink from sharing time and space with our enemies or even those with whom we may not agree on important issues. We listen to new stories that reinforce our already-formed ideas and turn away from information that will ask us to re-think or re-group. When Christ extends his offer of celebration we may find that our attendance requires work on our part – before, during and after the event. It requires that we trust God. It requires that we carry the Spirit so she may be easily identified. It may even require our willingness to take up a new cross that leads to crucifixion.

Fans appear for a special occasion and may even show up through a season but true followers are always present, willing to suffer persecution, slander, and even crucifixion. Fans hide when kangaroo courts form, put their hands out money appears and sidle up to cameras when fame is offered. Followers are not influenced by wealth or power; they are not turned by bribes or corruption. Followers continue in solidarity for strength and in prayer with God.

Carl Heinrich Bloch: In a Roam Osteria

Carl Heinrich Bloch: In a Roman Osteria

In John 19 we read that Jesus is mocked, beaten, humiliated, taunted, and made to carry the instrument which will help people to kill him.  In bowing to God’s plan and by suffering through this act of self-gift, Jesus offers us the opportunity to collaborate with him in our own redemption. Jesus invites us to spend time with him so that we will know the shepherd’s voice, hear the master’s footstep, and rejoice at the lover’s touch. Fans struggle to maintain their connection to this lover once the party turns into the passion of the crucifixion.  Fans slink away into the darkness when the lover calls to them and asks for their witness.  Fans go home once the party turns into something they do not control or do not like; they do not stay to pick up the leavings or to gather remnants into baskets for the poor. Fans have no way of experiencing the lasting joy of union because they have been practicing the art of separation; and yet despite all of this . . . Jesus continues to invite these fans to join him as followers. And for this we are grateful.

When we sit quietly for a few moments today to read this description of Christ’s passion and ultimate descent from the cross, we have the opportunity to ask ourselves these questions: Where and how do we see ourselves in the life of Christ? And how do we imitate this one who deserves not our overt fanaticism . . . but our quiet, persistent, and faithful following?

Carl Heinrich Bloch: Woman at the Well

Carl Heinrich Bloch: Woman at the Well

Use a search engine to find more images of the work of Danish painter Carl Heinrich Bloch as we reflect on the fans and followers of Jesus, or visit the slide show at: http://www.carlbloch.org/slideshow.html 

Adapted from a reflection written on June 5 and 6, 2008.

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John: Naming OurselvesMislabeling-the-Word-of-God

March 28, 2015

In beautiful prose, the writer of John’s Gospel gives us many portals to name Christ, to understand the person of Jesus, and to model ourselves after this Word of God Among Us.  On this eve of Palm Sunday, as we prepare to enter the holiest of weeks in the liturgical calendar, let us take time to assess who Jesus is, how we convey to the world our own understanding of God in the person of Jesus, and how we intend to change in order that we become more like this saving servant.

Chapter 1: Word of God and Light of the World – What does it mean to be the Word of God? Do we enact God’s mercy and justice in our actions and words? How might we bring light to the world’s darkness? Do we look for hope, bring peace, and heal others?

Chapter 3: Spirit of God – God grants us eternal life. What do we store up for this eternity? Where does our treasure lie? Do we offer life or death to ourselves and others?

Chapters 4 – 9: Healer and Miracle Worker – How do we become the hands and feet of Christ? When do we allow God to work many small miracles for and through us? How often do we witness to injustice? When and why do we heal ourselves and others?

good shepherdChapter 10: The Good Shepherd: We have the prophets’ cry out against false shepherd and teachers. Do we number among them? Do we listen for the voice of Jesus the Shepherd? Do we put aside the world to follow the one true shepherd? When do we call others to follow in Christ’s Way?

Chapters 11-12: Restorer of Life – We cannot raise Lazarus from the dead but we can restore wounded hearts, ask and grant forgiveness, bridge gaps and mend fences. We are capable of bringing hope to the hopeless, mercy to the marginalized and love to the abandoned and brutalized. When and where do we grant these gifts we have been given by God?

Chapters 13 – 14: Advocate – It is easy to look away from problems and slip into denial. Who are our loved ones, associates, colleagues and friends? Do they call us to good or encourage us to hide in darkness?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChapters 15 – 17: Vine for our Branches – God gives us the choice to be life-takers or life-givers. What path do we choose and why? Are we willing to change course once we see that we need to change? Do we offer to God the apology saying that we are content in our comfort zone? Do we inflict discomfort on others or call them gently? What nourishment do we allow God to bring us and how do we pass this sacred sustenance along?

Chapters 18 – 20: Lamb of God – Humility is such a difficult quality to wear in our status and power-driven world and yet it is essential. Do we strive for the meekness that Jesus displays? Do we give more than we receive? What role does pride play in our lives? How do we handle our own sense of entitlement and that of others?

Chapter 21: Resurrection – There are no words to express the beauty of God’s desire to bring us to eternal happiness in the kingdom. What fidelity to do we show to the Gospel story in our actions and words? What narrative of resurrection do we live out? What promise of resurrection to we believe? And how do we witness to the miracles of resurrection we know God performs constantly in our own lives and in the lives of others?

empty tomb with sheet and lightWe are perhaps too accustomed to these images and if this is so, we must spend quiet time with them today. If we celebrate and enact these metaphors in our lives daily then let us rejoice in the Good News that is so familiar. In either case, let us spend time with these names and call ourselves followers of Christ as today we prepare for the Palm Sunday gift of Jesus as the very name of God.

Tomorrow, Christ in Us.

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