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Third Sunday of Lent, March 7, 2021

forgivenessAmos 2

Oracles

Moab, Judah, Israel. Oracles of condemnation not only of enemies . . . but of Israel herself. Atrocities during wartime, horrible scenes of brutality beyond understanding, humanitarian abuses, corruption in places that are meant to be havens. All of these images are difficult to read and even more difficult to comprehend.

God says: You are far too eager to look for scapegoats and for places to place blame for the woes of the world. What I really ask is that you put violence aside and deal with one another lovingly, even as enemies. What good comes from harboring anger? What fruit is born from bitter seed sown in despair? What peace to do you find by dragging your worries along with you each day. It is no wonder that the night brings you no rest. Spend time with me. Speak to me frankly, openly and honestly. Tell me what is bothering you.  Tell me what stirs you. Tell me when you are ready to surrender to me. I wait – for an eternity – with forgiving, open, strong and loving arms.

Even the smallest gesture of goodness is a light in the darkness. God pulls good out of all harm. We must be patient enough to see it, humble enough to feel it, and bold enough to share our stories of conversion with those who still live in the shadows. As we move through our Lenten journey, let us decide to move away from condemnation and toward mercy and kindness.

Tomorrow, First Word.


Image from: http://doctorjenn.com/wordpress/tag/forgiveness/

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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

rose[1]Sirach 39:13-16a

Opening Our Petals

Listen, my faithful children: open up your petals, like roses planted near running waters . . .

Much like plants that flower and bloom, each of us has our own needs for sun and shade, heat and coolness. Some of us struggle upward, reaching for the nurturing light, fending off the weeds that threaten to choke us out. Some of us tussle with thistles or look for places to put down roots in the hardened ground of the well-traveled path. Others are blessed to find themselves in rich, well-plowed soil. No matter our place or time, we rejoice when we live in days of abundant water, we wait in patience through days of dryness, and always we give thanks as we open our petals to God’s loving kindness.

Send up the sweet odor of incense, break forth in blossoms like the lily. Send up the sweet odor of your hymn of praise; bless the Lord for all he has done.

In Psalm 119, God has sent us a loving letter of welcome, of initiation in Christ’s Law of Love, of consolation in the Spirit. How do we respond to God’s offer of peace and kindness?

Proclaim the greatness of God’s name, loudly sing God’s praises, with music on the harp and all stringed instruments; sing out with joy as you proclaim: the works of God are all of them good.

As we move through our work and play over the next hours, let us compose a list of gifts for which we thank God. Let us put down strong roots into God’s word.  And let us open our petals to God’s light so that we might give praise and thanks for the good that comes to us each day.

Tomorrow, a prayer to give thanks for all of God’s works.


Image from: http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/intelligent-energy/italian-roses-bloom-under-rooftop-solar-thermal/

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Friday, October 30, 2020

091212-impossible[1]Daniel 11

God as the Ultimate Power

The king shall do as he pleases, exalting himself and making himself greater than any god; he shall utter dreadful blasphemies against the God of gods. He shall prosper only till divine wrath is ready, for what is determined must take place. He shall have no regard for the gods of his ancestors or for the one in whom women delight; for no god shall he have regard, because he shall make himself greater than all.  (Verses 36 and 37)

This portion of Daniel’s prophecy is difficult to follow, even with a commentary, as there are varying opinions about the identity of the three kings of Persia, there are several rulers with the name of Antiochus, and kingdoms in the region are morphing and changing while dynasties rise and fall. It is sufficient to note, however, that the writer here conveys the sense of confusion that the Hellenistic Wars bring about. Syria and Egypt battle over who controls the Jewish kingdom and the little people wonder where and how all the conflict will end. The foreign ruler, King Antiochus, venerated Apollo and Zeus and he even saw himself as the king of Mount Olympus, Zeus/Jupiter. He did as he liked, including the placement of a gargantuan of a pagan god in the Jerusalem Temple. All that once was thought immutable is now changing and here the angel of the Lord tells us, through Daniel, that the Lord God will not be manipulated, controlled or mocked; the Lord is ultimately in control of all and everyone. Those who do not understand this will eventually come to see “this simple portrait of a tyrant, possibly even a mad one, willing and able to work his designs without being challenged even by the gods (v. 37) and yet unaware that his ultimate doom has been sealed in secret by the God who is the master of all of history and whose word is the last as well as the first”. The closing verses of this chapter predict the future and in the following chapter we find “the most important innovation contained in the book of Daniel, the notion of resurrection in 12:1-3”.  (Mays 633)

It strikes us as odd that one who professes to lead as a servant might have so little regard for the small works of beauty and goodness that are significant to the community. These leaders appear to place little value on benchmarks or markers or significant events that a people hold in common. They believe themselves more important than a god like Adonis, the one who sways so many women (Jones 1447).

When we find ourselves in the hands of those who are able to work their designs without being challenged by any entity on earth, we will want to remember that God is the ultimate source of infinite power, and that this power brings with it the gift of new, eternal life. This power generates from profound goodness and self-sacrificing love rather that brute muscle and dispassionate control. This power determines the nature of life and even death itself. And this power brings the gift of resurrection to those who follow faithfully.


Adapted from a reflection written on July 22, 2010.

Image from: http://www.quiettime.org/6243/power/

Jones, Alexander, ed.  THE JERUSALEM BIBLE. New York, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1966. 1447. Print.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 633. Print.

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Friday, October 23, 2020

cc_jer29_11plant[1]Jeremiah 18:13-17

An Unnatural Apostasy

Therefore, thus says the Lord, “Ask among the nations – who has heard the like?”

God speaks to us of a behavior that has gone far away from the norm.

Truly horrible things has virgin Israel done!

We know this story – Israel has rejected her close relationship with God and has chosen to align herself with pagan gods.

Does the snow of Lebanon desert the rocky heights? Do the gushing waters dry up that flow fresh down the mountains? 

Israel’s actions are as unnatural as snow melting in freezing weather or rivers ceasing their journey through mountain valleys.

Yet my people have forgotten me: they burn incense to a thing that does not exist.

Israel abandons the covenant that has brought her out of Egypt and established her in fertile lands.

They stumble out of their ways, the paths of old, to travel on bypaths, not the beaten track. 

Israel goes against all advice and convention to insist on her own journey that is full of danger.

Their land shall be turned into a desert, an object of lasting ridicule: all passers-by will be amazed, will shake their heads. 

Those who do not remain faithful will find their lives arid; they will be embarrassed by their own actions once they have the opportunity to look back on what they have done.

Like the east wind, I will scatter them before their enemies; I will show them my back, not my face, in their day of disaster.

Old Testament thinking sees God as an angry, vengeful creator. New Testament experiences God through a messianic lens that perceives God as merciful and forgiving, beckoning and tending, guarding and guiding. New Testament thinking teaches us that we can trust the creator to care for us when we look for wisdom and peace. Messianic thinking places hope in the presence of the creator among us in human form. Messianic hope teaches us that no one is too lost, nothing is too disastrous and no obstacle is too impossible for our God who loves us dearly and well.

Jeremiah also brings us these words: For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

When we reflect on Israel’s unnatural turning away from so great a love, let us also consider our own relationship with God. Do we scatter before the east wind . . . or do we cleave to the source of all good and all hope? Do we bow to an unnatural apostasy . . . or do we remain as steady as the snows upon the high mountain tops . . . and rush down mountainsides with joy as we fall into God’s own hands?


Image from: http://www.crosscards.com/cards/scripture-cards/jeremiah-29-11-5.html

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2 Maccabees 9: Giving Up & Giving In

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

We might eliminate a good deal of treachery and betrayal from our lives if we first find a way of doing all things through, and for, and with God alone . . . for God alone guarantees an honorable path for living.  God alone assures us a life spent in eternal serenity.  God alone makes promises that are fully and truly kept. 

These are the closing words from Saturday’s Noontime when we reflected on Chapter 8 of 2 Maccabees.  Today we look at The Punishment and Death of Antiochus: the stories of Antiochus’ illness and death.  Verses 8 – 11: Thus, he who previously, in his superhuman presumption, thought he could command the waves of the sea, and imagined he could weigh the mountaintops in his scales, was now thrown to the ground and had to be carried on a litter, clearly manifesting to all the power of God . . . Shortly before, he had thought that he could reach the stars of heaven, and now, no one could endure to transport the man because of his intolerable stench.  At last, broken in spirit, he began to give up his excessive arrogance, and to gain some understanding, under the scourge of God, for he was racked with pain unceasingly. 

After suffering the torment of his pain, he capitulates to the will of God.  He vows to restore all that he has ruined, and even vows that he will convert to Judaism.  This is a story of a fearsome ruler who surrenders to an even more fearsome Old Testament Yahweh, a God who is relentless in delivering justice.   The story ends sadly, with Yahweh apparently deaf to this sinner’s petitions for mercy.  So this murderer and blasphemer, after extreme sufferings, such as he had inflicted on others, died a miserable death in the mountains of a foreign land. 

We have no way on knowing how this man is ultimately judged by his maker.  In the context of the times he was seen as one who sinned so greatly that he became a lost soul, succumbing to the temptation of sin.  This is a man who would have done well by listening to the words of Psalm 36: Sin speaks to the sinner in the depths of the heart.  There is no fear of God before his eyes.  He so flatters himself in his mind that he knows not his guilt.  In his mouth are mischief and deceit.  All wisdom is gone.  He plots the defeat of goodness as he lies on his bed.  He has set his foot on evil ways, he clings to what is evil. 

The psalmist does not try to solve the riddle of evil into which souls enter when they begin to love lies and deception; nor may we for these are the inscrutable ways of Yahweh.  Instead, we might look at this man and ourselves with New Testament eyes, and we might continue with Psalm 36 as we sing to God: 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.

Superhuman presumption, excessive arrogance . . . a broken spirit, a believer in love.  Nicanor and Antiochus . . . Paul and Abraham.  Those who trust only power and self . . . those who trust only God.

Even if – and perhaps especially when – the path directly before us is shrouded in mystery, we are given a clear direction by the source of all life itself so that we might orient our journey.  When we suffer from a broken spirit, we will want to see this sorrow as what it is . . . a giving up of presumption and arrogance . . . and a giving in to goodness and light.


For an interesting post about journeying, click on the image above or go to: http://journeyintomidlife.com/contact.htm

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Daniel 6:11: Expectation

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Written on January 7 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Anton Rivière: Daniel

Nearly three years ago we looked at Chapter 6 of Daniel – the well-known story of the young man’s trial in the lion’s den.  We reflected at that time on the vigor of Daniel’s enemies.  Today we might want to spend time thinking about what brought Daniel out of the den: his – and God’s – constancy, his – and God’s – hope, his – and God’s – expectation of goodness.

Even when Daniel hears dreadful news he remains optimistic – because it is his custom to trust in God.

Even when Daniel is sent in the lion’s den he remains fearless – because it is custom to give all to God.

Even when Daniel spends the night with the animals that later attack and kill his enemies he remains hopeful – because it is his custom to expect that God will act for and in him.

Anton Rivière: Daniel in the Lion’s Den

Even when Daniel exits the lion’s den unharmed he remains humble and hopeful – because it is custom to always expect great things from God, and to remember that God converts all harm to good.

From today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation by Mother Elvira Petrozzi, founder of a community with a presence in fifteen countries that opens its arms to the lost and desperate:  The biggest sickness in our world is sadness, indifference, and loneliness.  Like parched land waiting for water, so the world is waiting for those who will proclaim hope.  God has freely chosen us to proclaim this hope.  He has given us the strength to follow him and has put in our hearts the desire to embrace this wounded humanity.  In receiving mankind, the living hope in us must become love in gestures, in works, and in life.  Jesus is telling us to give life, to give ourselves, not only a part of us or a few hours of work.  If we do not give our life, spend our life for others, it will vanish from our hands.  (107-108)

This is what Daniel knows: that the life he has is really God’s life in him.

This is what Daniel believes: that by giving his life on earth, he gains eternity with God.

This is what Daniel does: all that God asks – even when it does not seem to make sense.

Today’s Gospel is an accounting of one of the times Jesus cured a man of leprosy (Luke 5:12-16) and the mini-reflection in MAGNIFICAT speaks to the expectation this man had when he approached Jesus with these words: Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.   “When the leper approaches Christ filled with expectation, his entire life changes”.  (102)  How much better we might be if we approach our worries in this fullness of expectancy.  How much better might the world be if we all were to approach our problems in an expectation of goodness . . . hopeful of kindness . . . joyful in our vindication by God.

And so we pray . . . Good, and gracious, and gentle, and hope-bearing God, you walk amidst us, sharing our sorrow, lifting our fears.  Bring us to you in joyful expectation of your mercy.  Bring us to you in the fullness of your time and your plan.  Give us courage.  Give us constancy.  Give us perseverance.  Give us hope.  Give us the spirit of Daniel as he enters the lion’s den, as he lingers there, and as he comes forth into the light of a new day.  Give us Daniel’s humility.  Give us Daniel’s peace.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 


A re-post from December 6, 2011.

Images from: http://kosarajuraj.blogspot.com/2011/06/miracles-of-jesus-christ.html and http://www.art-prints-on-demand.com/a/riviere-briton/daniel-in-the-lions-den-1.html 

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 7 January 2011: 102, 107-108. Print.

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Isaiah 59: Turning from Sin

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

We look for light, and lo, darkness; for rightness, but we walk in gloom!

In the Northern Hemisphere we are moving from winter to spring when our days are longer and the nights shorter.  As we pull away from winter depths, we are reminded that darkness can easily overcome us and wear us down.

We stumble in midday as at dusk . . . we all growl like bears, like doves we moan without ceasing.

All of this darkness makes us tired and short-tempered; we complain and sink low . . .

We look for right, but it is not there; for salvation, and it is far from us.

We wonder, “Where is our God who has promised to abide with us?  Who is powerful enough to save us?”

The Lord saw this and was aggrieved that right does not exist.

Despite the calamity and ruin there is right among us because God takes pity on us, his loved creatures.  God brings us goodness and rightness in the form of a human child, Jesus.

He saw that there was no one and was appalled that there was no one to intervene . . .

God knows that we struggle to overcome the darkness.  God comes to dwell with us as our brother, Emmanuel.

So his own arm brought about the victory, and his justice lent him his support.

St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesians that we are no longer strangers and sojourners but fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. (2:19-20)

He put on justice as his breastplate, salvation as the helmet on his head; he clothed himself with garments of vengeance, wrapped himself in a mantle of zeal.

As we approach the season of Lent, we remember Paul’s admonition to put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil, so that you may be able to resist and hold your ground.  Stand firm with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and you feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances hold faith as a shield, to quench all flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (6:11, 13-17)

He shall come as a redeemer to those who turn from sin . . .

Knowing that we are powerless in and of ourselves, our God moves to guide and to guard us.

This is the covenant with them which I have made myself, says the Lord . . .

God keeps his promises because he is good.

The Lord says, My spirit is upon you and my words that I have put into your mouth shall never leave your mouth . . .

And so we will celebrate God’s goodness and tell others of God’s great love.

Nor will my words leave the mouths of your children nor the mouths of your children’s children from now on and forever, says the Lord. 

We find ourselves alone and in darkness.  God sees and hears our plight.  God gives us the chance to reunite with goodness and rightness.  God helps us up out of the darkness when we wear Christ as our armor and when we seek God’s love.  This is predicted by Isaiah.  This is witnessed to us by Paul.  This we can believe.  This we must pass along to our children . . . and to our children’s children.  For this is how we turn away from sin to turn toward what is good and right and just.   This is how we turn to God.

Amen.


Adapted from a reflection posted during Advent on December 5, 2011.

Images from: http://a-christ-followers-musings.blogspot.com/2011/01/fruit-of-spirit-goodness.html and http://soithappens.com/page/3/

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John 15Pruning – Living in the World

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Written on May 8, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

It occurs to me that the only way to be in this world but of it is to be constantly pruned.  We know that when we plant a grape vine it must be severely cut back each year in order that it bear fruit; otherwise it would run rampant and throw its energy into producing stem and leaves.  With the constant cycle of bearing and pruning, the fruit remains abundant and nutritive.  This is the course of discipleship: the pruning keeps us close to the main vine, Jesus.  If we were left to ramble on our own – as some people choose to do – we would be all flourish and show, lacking depth of root and wealth of produce.

This is why we ought not to be afraid of the cutting back that God does with us, the bringing up short, the changing of plan, the leaping into what looks like nothing – for this is what faith calls us to do.  This is why we ought to rejoice in all circumstances, be they joyful or sorrow-laden.  It is why we ought to expect to be shown a new path just when we think we have discovered something that is rock solid.

We are not meant to languish and roam where we will.  We are creatures created with a purpose.  And that purpose is buried deeply within, to be drawn out by the source of our being.  We can only be truly happy, truly celebrate with a sense of lasting joy when we find ourselves being pruned . . . so that we better hear, we better listen, we better do.

God sacrifices self for us.  We must sacrifice self for God.  This is what goodness does.  This is how goodness behaves.  Living in a world which is self-driven, we will find ourselves at odds with this idea of giving over to the pruning.  We need to expect to be misunderstood, miss-read, miss-heard, miss-believed.  If we are People of the Vine, waiting in joy for our winter pruning so that we might better burgeon in the spring . . . we gladly give over our small worries and pains to the one who prunes us – because he does so with great knowing, great skill, and great love.

When we are being pruned, we know that we are chosen and appointed to go and bear fruit that will remain.  We are called to enact the Law of Love.  We are called to be Fruit of the Vine.


A re-post from September 14, 2011.

Image from: http://pavdevelopment.com/grape/pruning/Pruning-Grape-Vines:-Art-of-Less-is-More

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Proverbs 23:1-25Words

Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Favorite from September 30, 2010.

Toil not to gain wealth; cease to be concerned about it; while your glance flits to it, it is gone! . . .

Remove not the ancient landmark, nor invade the fields of orphans; for their redeemer is strong; he will defend their cause against you . . .

Apply your heart to instruction, and your ears to words of knowledge . . .

Get the truth and sell it not – wisdom, instruction and understanding . . .

Let your father and mother have joy; let her who bore you exult . . .

We are also told to beat our boys with a rod so that they do not die.  Of course when we consider the context of this advice we can see the wisdom in it.  Today we know that brutality only begets depression and initiates waves of violence.

The Book of Proverbs has much to say to us.  It is best taken in parts and considered in light of its era.  When allowed to rest in our hearts for a time, it nurtures the seeds of wisdom planted within by the Maker, redeemed and transformed by the Savior, and cherished and graced by the Spirit.  We have only to open our hearts and ears; we have only to meditate on the Word . . .  to know that goodness created us . . . and longs to live within us.

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