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Posts Tagged ‘Good Shepherd’


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

Friday, September 2, 2022how-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.

Image from: https://www.logos.com/grow/what-does-the-word-faith-mean-in-hebrews-11/

Adapted from a reflection written on October 20, 2010.

 

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John 19: Glory, Part X – Fans and Followers

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

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.

Images from: http://www.carlbloch.org/Woman-at-the-Well.html

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

Monday, March 28, 2022

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.  As we move closer to Palm Sunday, as we prepare to enter the holiest of times 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.


Images from: http://www.redletterchristians.org/mislabeling-the-word-of-god/, http://jnwheels.com/tag/jnwheels/, http://galleryhip.com/i-am-the-vine-you-are-the-branches-bible.html, and http://wallpaper-kid.com/empty-tomb-worship-backgrounds.htm

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Wednesday, December 9, 2020

6508036-md[1]Luke 2:8-12

Keeping the Night Watch

Now there were shepherds in that region, living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.

We become so weary with the daily earning of our bread that we are too exhausted to keep the night watch. Our blessing is that the Good Shepherd never flags and he endures when we falter. And this Good Shepherd who keeps a constant watch will awaken us so that we might rise to hear the words of Good News that bring healing, peace and light to the world.

Murillo: Adoration of the Shepherds

Esteban Murillo: Adoration of the Shepherds

God says: Do not stretch yourselves beyond your strength. Rely on me for power that is eternal. Do not ask too much of your mind. Ask me for wisdom that has always been and always will be. Do not tax your spirit more than it can endure. Call on my Spirit to dwell in you and to bring you peace. If you are able, keep the Night Watch with me. When darkness falls and you have lost your way, settle into the night with the sheep you are tending . . . and know that I am with you. If you are too tired to stay awake, ask for my help . . . and I will keep the Watch. And I will awaken you with the Good News that you will want to share with others.

When we spend energy that we do not have we endanger not only the body and mind but the soul as well.  When we find that we falter and cannot stand, we need only call on the one who always endures.


For beautiful prayers at night that strengthen the body, mind and soul when we find ourselves wakeful and uneasy, dip into Phyllis Tickle’s NIGHT OFFICES: PRAYERS FOR THE HOURS FROM SUNSET TO SUNRISE, Oxford University Press, 2006.  

Image from: https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/the-adoration-of-the-shepherds/612bacfa-afd6-4325-b17d-df6febb13b7c

For a Goodreads review, go to: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/613100.The_Night_Offices

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Monday, January 27, 2020

Ezekiel 5: Our Image of God – Part II

shepherd%20leading%20sheep[1]

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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