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Posts Tagged ‘goodness’


James 3:13-4:10: Envy

Saturday, November 12, 2022envy

“Within this call to conversion, James develops the theme of envy as exemplifying the measure of the world . . . Why is envy so singled out? Because its underlying assumption is that your gain is my loss. This is the opposite of the Spirit of the community, where all gain by anyone’s growth and all rejoice in anyone’s good fortune. Envy causes me to sorrow when another has something I lack. And when life is measured simply in terms of what I possess – ‘I am what I have’ – then for another to have and me to lack is intolerable. Envy drives the acquisitive instinct . . . the step is a short one to conflict, war, and murder, not only between individuals but also between nations . . . It is remarkable that this passage, which alone in the New Testament analyzes the causes of human conflict, should play so little role in moral discussions of war and peace”. (RG 551-552)

God says: James is correct when he tells you that envy is often at the root of your violence and anger. He is also correct when he points out that life in the Spirit means that you feel joy when one of you rejoices and sadness when one of you is in pain. Your friendship with me brings much than consolation; it brings you the ability to see the world as I see it, full of potential for goodness. I resist those who are full of pride in themselves and I nurture those who look for life in me. When you agree to live in The Way you will no longer be envious of others and you will celebrate when any one of you does well because you will understand that all good things come from me. When you are envious of others I am saddened, for your envy tells me that you do not understand my generosity. When you make war against one another I grieve,  for I can see that you do not understand my love. James is bringing my message to you . . . take time with it today.

Enter the word envy into the blog search bar and explore.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 551-552. Print.

Image from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-couch/201307/why-women-fear-envy-and-why-we-dont-need

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James 5:19-20: Harvest of Hope

Tuesday, November 1, 2022HarvestLogo

My dear friends . . .

What are we to make of James’ letter to us? How does he frame his closing remarks?

If you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth . . .

And surely we must know someone who is broken or abandoned. And just as surely we will know someone who is full of pride and over-confident.

Don’t write them off . . .

thorn heart bibleThis may be difficult. James has asked us to find a way to communicate with those whose anxiety or pride have put them out of our reach; yet James admonishes us.

Go after them . . .

We have no excuses. James wants to see our faith played out in our works.

Get them back . . .

James wants to see us as wounded healers, as a light in the darkness, as salt for the earth.

And you will have rescued precious lives from destruction . . .

James urges us to bring hope to and out of those who despair and those who shun God.

And you will have prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God . . .

James urges us to look for God’s image in others. He asks that we continue to commit our work and our prayer to God as we struggle to unlock the goodness waiting to rise from so many wounded souls. He asks us to participate fully in God’s outrageous and daring harvest of hope.

Tomorrow, a prayer for harvesting hope.

Use the scripture link to find other versions of these verses from THE MESSAGE. 


Images from: https://www.catholiccharities.net/Events/RegionalEvents/HarvestofHopeDinner.aspx and https://pastorrudytlc.com/2019/03/04/lent-and-love/

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James 3:3-7: Apples and Berries

Friday, October 14, 2015red-apples-on-tree-11294511627z6e

My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?

James continues to be clear about his meaning . . . with Jesus, pretense is impossible. God sees and understands all. Apples grow on trees. Strawberries grow on vines. We cannot pretend otherwise.

In the Spirit, fruit is borne from the work of the one who seeks union with God, God who makes the impossible possible. When we live in union with God we refrain from gossip and slander, and we also witness to this message by calling others to goodness. Apples grow on trees. Strawberries grow on vines. We cannot pretend otherwise.

Matthew reminds us that: It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard. Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. (Matthew 12:34) Apples grow on trees. Strawberries grow on vines. We cannot pretend otherwise.

strawberriesPaul tells the Philippians and us: Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. (Philippians 4:8). Apples grow on trees. Strawberries grow on vines. We cannot pretend otherwise.

Tomorrow, living well.


Use the scripture links to explore varying versions of these verses and reflect on the choice before us to praise or to curse.

Images from: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=11183 and https://lynnerickardsauthor.wordpress.com/2012/10/03/how-do-fruit-and-vegetables-grow/

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James 1:16-18: Rivers of Light

Saturday, October 1, 2022rivers of light

This first chapter of James’ letter contains beautiful imagery. This man who knew Jesus so well reminds us that in our hectic, chattering world we must work to stay on the path of Christ.

So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course.

James repeats that every good thing in our lives comes from God.

Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven.

James likens God’s gifts to a flowing, sustaining ribbon of goodness that nourishes and sustains.

The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.

James reminds us that in God there is no darkness at all. There is only goodness, and truth and mercy.

There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle.

James tells us again that God comes to us in a very tangible way in the person of Jesus.

God brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.

And it is Jesus who longs to love our sadness into joy. It is Jesus who wants to heal where there is pain and wounded-ness. It is Jesus who shares eternal life with us in the Father and in the Spirit.

And so my dear friends, James says, do not be thrown off course by the tragedies that stalk you. Remember that Christ is an ever-present, ever-giving, ever-transforming force that cannot be quenched. Remember that in order to maintain a balanced view you must ask loudly, and you must expect patiently that with God all things are possible. With God, all obstacles become gifts and all harm is turned to good. With God . . . there is always a river of light to lead, and guard and guide. We have only to be open to its presence. 

Tomorrow, what makes us wise?


Use the scripture link to reflect on other versions of these verses, and to open the possibilities of Christ’s great river of light.

Image from: http://www.adverblog.com/2012/07/23/rivers-of-light-in-colombia/

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Matthew 5:21-26: Teaching on Anger

Carl Heinrich Bloch: The Sermon on the Mount

Carl Heinrich Bloch: The Sermon on the Mount

Second Sunday of Easter, April 24, 2022

A Favorite from August 10, 2009. 

Anger is a universal, human emotion which each of us handles in our particular way.  In today’s citation we hear Jesus tell us how important it is that we learn to identify our anger, to name its origin and to manage its effects immediately and completely. Verse 24 tells us that nothing engendering anger may be allowed to take root and live in us; nothing can be allowed to separate us from God.

From Julian of Norwich in ALL WILL BE WELL: “In his merciful way, our good Lord always leads us as long as we inhabit this impermanent life.  I saw no anger other than humanity’s, and God forgives us that, for anger is no more than perverse opposition to peace and love. It arises from a lack of strength, or wisdom, or goodness.  And this failure lies in ourselves rather than in God. Our sin and desperation generate in us a wrath and a continual opposition to peace and love”.

The best antidote to anger is mercy, Julian tells us, for “the ground of mercy is love, and the ministry of mercy is to preserve us in love.  For mercy works in love, with generosity, compassion, and sweetness. And mercy labors within us, preserving us, and conveying everything to the good”.

In his sermon on the mount, Christ tells us: Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Jesus understands well how the entry of a third party into a conflict can either quell or stir the flames of anger. A quiet mediator who empowers those in conflict to listen to one another is invaluable. Any person outside the conflict who delights in adding to that roiling emotions that often accompany a rift nearly always spell death for the relationship. It is for this reason that Jesus urges us to seek settlement before appearing before a judge. Not all third parties have the best interests of those in conflict in their hearts.

Julian concludes her comments with a thought about the effects of anger and a possible sure: “Our failure is frightful, our falling inglorious, our dying wretched. Yet never does love’s compassionate eye turn from us, nor does the operation of mercy cease”.

Mercy and goodness when applied to anger bring about change that transforms. When carrying our gift of self back to God, we must first put anger away. We must first seek and give mercy. We must remember that our travels here are temporary and that the next world, where there is no place for anger to fester and take over, is permanent and eternal. This anger we experience here must be left behind. We must convert it to compassion . . . for in so doing, we enter into Christ’s love and body.

Tomorrow, Jesus’ teaching about adultery.


Julian of Norwich. ALL WILL BE WELL. Ave Maria Press, 1995, 2008. Print. 

Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bloch-SermonOnTheMount.jpg

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joyMonday, November 1, 2021

Ezra 6

Joy and Dedication

We move further into scripture looking for stories of joy that continue to surprise us. To explore other stories, 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 taken from the Book of Ezra.

We dedicate buildings and highways, poems, novels and songs. We create solemn ceremonies and speak reverent words to remember the dead, the lost, and even the forgotten. In all of our endeavor to avoid past mistakes and to keep in mind past and present loved ones and sacred places, we will want to remember to also dedicate ourselves to service in God. For it is in this giving that we find eternal joy.

The people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. With joy they celebrated the festival of unleavened bread seven days; for the Lord had made them joyful, and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel. (Ezra 6:16 & 22)

God says: I know that you appreciate all that your forbears have sacrificed for you, and that you also dedicate days and memorials to your many causes. But as you read these words in this moment of the time I have given to you, begin to dedicate yourself to the goodness I have planted within you. Take a step toward seeing a glimmer of goodness you find so difficult to encounter in your enemies. Step forward in a life of full and authentic dedication to creation. Commit to dedicating a few moments of each day to speaking and listening to me. In doing all of this you will find joy in the most surprising of times and places. This I promise to you.

joy candlesVisit Ezra 6 today and spend some moments among the verses. Listen for God’s voice to speak to you.


To learn more about Ezra and Nehemiah, spend time with the stories in these two books. Enter their names in the blog search bar and explore. Click on the images for other reflections. Or use the scripture link to compare different Bible versions of these verses. 

For a better understanding of these Books, go to: http://biblehub.com/dictionary/e/ezra-nehemiah.htm 

Image from: http://chrisaltrock.com/tag/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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Friday, July 16, 2021

Ruth 3

Naomi and RuthChesed Part IV – Ruth Presents Herself

The story of Ruth is a story with characters who “are presented as models who live faithful to the spirit of the covenant even in the difficult situations of life”. (Senior RG 141) It is believed to be a true story and is best read with notes in order to understand the plight of Naomi and her daughter-in-law, the customs of land ownership, the Levirate marriage contract, the tradition of allowing widows to glean food from a harvested field, the remarkable strength of Ruth’s fidelity to her mother-in-law, and the noble loyalty of Boaz who is drawn to Ruth’s kindness and piety. As we have investigated this story, we have thought about how God moves and works through people, is ever faithful and always at hand. Today we can focus on the last verse of chapter 3 when Naomi says to Ruth, “Wait here, my daughter, for the man will not rest, but will settle the matter today”. These words describe true integrity, true honesty, true clarity, and true holiness. This man will not rest until he settles a matter of honor – and he will do this before the sun sets. This man will not let anything stand in the way of doing what he knows he is called to do. This man sets aside his own humanity to do the will of the divine. Again from the Readers’ Guide page RG 145: “The double meaning [of the word for feet or genitals in Hebrew] may be intended to rouse the interest of the audience, ‘to raise a few eyebrows,’ only to show that the unusual steps taken by Ruth [and recommended by Naomi] do not end up in an illicit sexual union, but reveal the honorable character of Boaz. He does not take advantage of Ruth, but agrees to take the necessary steps to marry her. He ensures her reputation is not ruined and sends her away with six measures of barley”.

The marriage of these two honorable people results in the birth of a child, Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David, the ancestor of Jesus. It is the beautiful story of how people who respond to God’s call can transform tragedy into something blessed and holy. It is also the story of God’s constant presence in our lives as we accompany one another, share our grief, and move toward the light of truth. The action begins with emptiness which is reversed by the end of the tale. “The emptiness of the land (famine) causes Naomi to leave the land. The emptiness of the land gives way to the emptiness of Naomi in the loss first of husband and then sons. Naomi dismisses her daughters-in-law because her ‘emptiness’ cannot be cured . . .” And so she returns home so that she will not be a widow in a foreign place, but not alone. Ruth follows her. Back in Bethlehem, Naomi who finds herself empty of everything that previously had meaning, says the words in 3:18. She recognizes the goodness in Boaz and Ruth and she supports the young woman who waits for the man of integrity to do what he must do to claim her as his wife. Blessings and graces follow.

And so we pray . . .

Good and generous God, make us instruments of your work as were Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. Send us the words to say, the acts to perform, the prayers to raise as we enter the difficult situations of life and the pockets of emptiness around us. Send us your word that we may do your work to bring joy out of mourning. We ask this as always in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Image from: http://www.reformedchristianity.org/virtues/friendship/1659-ruth-and-naomi.html

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 141. Print.

Adapted from a favorite written on August 31, 2007.

 

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Thursday, July 15, 2021

Ruth 4

Ary Scheffer: Naomi and Ruth

Ary Scheffer: Naomi and Ruth

Chesed – Part III

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. 

This is a beautiful story about women, a happy story about what marriage is meant to be. It is also a story about constancy, fidelity, perseverance, family, ancestry, and a deep abiding love which puts the other before self. It is an image of how we might be with, and in and through Christ. It is a metaphor for the relationship we have already been gifted by our creator.

This is not a long book and still it is saturated with imagery and peopled by characters worthy of any Jane Austen novel or Shakespearean play. “The book of Ruth . . . is one of the most beautiful pieces of literature in the Bible.  The plot revolves around family relationships . . . and the role each member plays in fulfilling the needs of other members and hence the family as a whole”. (Meeks 408)

Some of us have families we might turn to; others of us do not. Some of us are born into clans that suffocate us and so we strike out on our own to build community; others find themselves in a large caring tribe that lets no one fall behind during the trek. All of us are born into the family of God and in this family there will be Naomis, and Ruths and Boazes: people who know the value of “loyalty of faithfulness arising from commitment” which in the Hebrew community is known as chesed. Naomi guides her widowed daughters-in-law (women without men were less than human in this era). Ruth abides with Naomi to share whatever destiny comes to them. Boaz preserves both the family inheritance and individual family members in a respectful and considerate way. All three understand the importance to continuity and to the fulfillment of a pledge at cost to self. (Meeks 408) All three listen for and to God. All three find a way to follow God, to preserve legacy, and to further a lineage that produces the Messiah of the human race. And all of this without accepting abuse or losing self.

We might spend some time today with this story and with our own reflection on how we embody chesed as we weave our lives. Do we respect the traditions of the clan? Do we provide for and abide with those who are marginalized? Do we do what is just and merciful even when this may be painful? Do we gather in the harvest at the expense of others? Do we leave the gleanings for those who have none and protect them as they forage? Do we listen for the voice that calls us to strange lands and yet abides? Do we intentionally commit our own acts of chesed? And if so . . . what are they?


For more information on the beautiful story of Naomi and Ruth, click on the image above or go to: http://www.womeninthebible.net/paintings_ruth.htm

Adapted from a Favorite written on October 1, 2009.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Ruth 2

Chesed – Part II

The story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz is a tale about family, integrity, honor, honesty and fidelity. It is also about God’s providence and love; and it is about returning to the covenant relationship we have with God that is marked by “loyalty of faithfulness arising from commitment” which in the Hebrew community is known as chesed. (Meeks 408) If there is time this weekend, read this story from beginning to end. It will warm your heart.

“The book contains a beautiful example of filial piety . . . Its aim is to demonstrate the divine reward for such piety even when practiced by a stranger . . . [Ruth] became the ancestress of David and of Christ. In this, the universality of the messianic salvation is foreshadowed”. (Senior 278)

Today we enter the drama at the point where Ruth, the stranger in this land of the one living God, goes for the first time to glean what she can so that she and her mother-in-law might survive. It is when she is in the field gathering the leftovers that she meets Boaz for the first time. Keeping in mind that a widow in ancient society was considered a burden rather than an asset, we see how well Boaz treats her. He does not take advantage of her diminished status; rather, he seeks to support and protect her from the impure, unwanted – yet legal – advances of others. He cautions her to glean only in his fields, and he warns off the men who work for him, making certain – as much as he is able – that Ruth might gather enough to support herself and her mother-in-law. He even allows her to glean among the sheaves themselves rather than just the edges of the field. It is clear that he is taken by Ruth yet he does not take advantage of her. In subsequent chapters Boaz fulfills all honor obligations so that he might marry Ruth according to the law and tradition of the time. So we see that “Ruth’s piety . . . her spirit of self-sacrifice, and her moral integrity were favored by God with the gift of faith and an illustrious marriage”. (Senior 278) But first she was widowed, followed her widowed mother-in-law to a new land, and set about doing what she might so that they both might survive.

Ruth does what she must, given what she is given. Ruth gleans where God sends her and in so doing, she harvests more than the ephahs of barley that she takes home to Naomi; she becomes the mother of Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David, king of the Jews. Ruth appears in Jesus’ genealogy: Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. (Matthew 1:5).

In the times when we feel widowed, abandoned or alone . . .

In the times when we feel the overpowering burden of providing for self or others . . .

In the times when we feel that we have arrived in a foreign land with new traditions and customs . . .

In the times that we feel exhausted from the gleaning we have done for endless days . . .

Let us remember the goodness and wisdom of Naomi . . .

Let us remember the integrity and protection of Boaz . . .

Let us remember the piety and self-sacrifice of Ruth . . .

And let us remember the merciful justice, the guidance, and the love of the Lord. For these are the things that save.


Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. 404. Print.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.278. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 18, 2010.

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Julius_Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld-_Ruth_im_Feld_des_Boaz.jpg

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