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Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Moretto: King David

Moretto da Brescia: King David

1 Chronicles 16

Ministry

If we remain constant and in constant dialog with God we are continually surprised by God’s goodness.  When God’s is the first advice we seek, we cannot go wrong; our daily battles will be upheld, and we will stand in awe of God’s generosity.

The Levite hymn of praise that appears in this chapter is thought, by some scholars, to have been added later; other experts believe that it so reflects The Chronicler’s style that it must have always been included in this part of David’s story.  That discussion aside, we can see that David, at this point in his life, makes no decisions without God’s input.  The years he spent on the run avoiding Saul’s troops and making his little guerrilla strikes, have prepared him well for this.  We see here someone who understands that even those close to us, those to whom we have pledged our loyalty and love, can and will betray us, someone who understands the importance of fidelity, perseverance and thanksgiving.  The David we see today has come through fire and understands his place in God’s plan, and he understands and accepts his ministry as his vocation.

When we read David’s entire story, we also see that David slips into separation from God.  He is never, nor are we, a finished product.  He is in process with God and his faith journey will take him many places before it ends in old age.  Even at his death, David is embroiled in the argument of which son will rule after him and the death of his beloved Absalom will bring him deep sadness in his final days; yet David continues to commune with God, to listen and to daily dialog, and to live out his ministry as a faithful servant.

Each of us has a ministry we hope to fulfill.  I admit to struggling with my own vocation.  It would be so much easier, I say to God regularly, if I did not have to do all that God asks, if I might pick and choose my own works as I see them suiting my talents.  The reply always returns with an accompanying chuckle: God knows that the path is full of obstacles, and God knows how we tire.  It is for this reason that God abides constantly, never leaving our side.  God knows well the plans God has in mind for us, as the prophet Jeremiah tells us (29:11), and God desires to surprise us at every turn with an encouraging smile, a loving caress, a kiss that does not betray.  God’s constancy and goodness and wisdom are tools lent to us in order that we perform our ministry.  God also provides us with little respites at oases that suddenly and surprisingly appear.  Those are the moments in which we might raise our own hymns of praise just as the Levites do in today’s reading.

As we remain constant, we remain close to God.  As we remain close, we commune with God.  As we commune, we worship.  Let us lift our voices together in a paean of praise.

Tomorrow, the constancy of dialog with God . . .


Image from: https://www.pubhist.com/w4727

Written on June 20, 2009. Revised and posted today as a Favorite. 

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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Psalm 91: Clinging to God – Part I

NPR Morning Edition - Losing Our Religion: The Growth of the "Nones" Jan 14, 2013

NPR Morning Edition – Losing Our Religion: The Growth of the “Nones” Jan 14, 2013

This week we spent time with the opening chapters of Deuteronomy reflecting on what it means to be in relationship with God.  This may have generated questions that still linger.  Do we need scientific evidence in order to believe that God is with us and that God exists?  Do we keep the new word that God loves and protects us to ourselves or do we teach this story to our children and to our children’s children?  What does God’s guidance look like?  How are we to respond to God’s assistance?  Do we owe something in return for God’s protection and mercy?  Do we deserve the unmerited successes we are given at no cost?

Psalm 91, a hymn of thanksgiving and remembrance, describes the meaning of God’s presence.  Psalm 91, an anthem of hope and petition, expresses our basic human want to be protected from evil.  Psalm 91, a song of call and response, is an intimate conversation with God.

You need simply watch; the punishment of the wicked you will see.  Looking at the negatives in life it appears that the wicked always win; remembering the many small times when we somehow did not fall into the path of the wicked, we give thanks for God’s enduring wisdom.

You have the Lord for your refuge; you have made the Most High your stronghold.  Knowing that God chooses to love us no matter our faith, no matter our hope, no matter our love, we give thanks for God’s enduring persistence.

No evil shall befall you, no affliction come near your tent.  Choosing to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, God among us, we give thanks for God’s enduring power

For God commands the angels to guard you in all his ways.  Giving ourselves over to the Spirit who abides within each of us, we give thanks for God’s enduring love.

With their hands they shall support you; lest you strike your foot upon a stone.  Accepting the guidance and protection freely given to us, we give thanks for God’s enduring presence.


For a reflection on our Unmerited Success, enter those words into the blog search bar and explore. 

On U.S. National Public Radio (NPR) the Morning Edition journalists have explored religion and spirituality in the series Losing Our Religion.  Today if we take time to listen to even a small portion of these broadcasts we may gauge our own awareness – and gratitude – for God’s presence in our lives.  Click on the image above or go to: http://www.npr.org/series/169065270/losing-our-religion

A re-post from January 19, 2013.

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Matthew 17:1-8: Transfigured

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Raphael: The Transfiguration

I love this story because it is so indicative of how we humans behave.  When we see something beautiful we want to capture it.  When we feel something exhilarating we want it to possess it.  When we witness something powerful we want to hold it forever.  Peter, James and John see Jesus transformed, radiating brilliance.

In Mark’s version (9:2-8) and in Luke’s story (9:28-36) we hear again about the brilliance of the whiteness, the flashing of light, God’s voice booming out that he is pleased with Jesus.  We understand that Jesus holds a conversation with Elijah and Moses about his own exodus to come.  Mark tells us that the apostles were frightened.  The apostles suggest to Jesus that they erect tents; Lord, it is good that we are here.  If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.  Luke adds about Peter: He did not know what he was saying.  So many times when we witness a miracle we do not comprehend what is really happening.  Our perspective is too narrow, our view too limited.  We want to hold and keep the present beyond its purpose.  We fear the future and regret the past.  The present, we tell ourselves, is something we can control.  And so we try to hold on to a transfiguration that is meant to be a transition to something new.  We trust what we know . . . and we fear what we do not.

I am amazed that God continues to accompany us when we are so tiny beside his greatness, so stingy beside his mercy, and so self-centered beside his generosity.  I am thinking of a prayer I have just read in Phyllis Tickle’s THE DIVINE HOURS: PRAYERS FOR SPRINGTIME (255): Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves.  Keep me both outwardly in my body and inwardly in my soul, that I might be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul”.  We want so much to draw out our happiness so that it might last forever.  We yearn to capture serenity and hold it fast.  We wish that sadness and loss were experiences we did not have to suffer; and when transfiguration comes we want to remain in it . . . not noticing that once we have been transformed we must go forth to transform the world.

As we approach Holy Week and the miracle of Easter when Jesus suffered, died and rose again to bring us the gift of eternal life, let us follow Jesus along with James and Peter and John to the top of our own high mountain to experience the vision of dazzling whiteness and the gift of transfiguration; and let us celebrate.  How glad and how grateful we must be that Jesus did not follow the suggestion of his friends and remain on the mountain forever in a state of bliss.  How blessed and how graced are we that Jesus abides with us each day calling us to our own transfiguration.  How good and how gracious is our God that he visits us – his little children – constantly and faithfully . . . to grant us miracles in our sorrow, light in our darkness, and peace in all our adversity.


A re-post from March 28, 2012. 

Image from: http://www.3pipe.net/2011/01/giovanni-bellini-st-francis-in-desert.html

Tickle, Phyllis.  THE DIVINE HOURS: PRAYERS FOR SPRINGTIME. New York: Doubleday, 2001. Print.

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2 Chronicles 26Pride and Fall

Tuesday, Christmas Day, December 25, 2018

On the day we celebrate the humble entry of the Christ in a world yearning for healing, we remember the re-post from November 22, 2011. We remember the lesson of  pride that Uzziah teaches us.

Rembrandt: King Uzziah

My mother warned us often: Pride goeth before a fall; she was likely referring to Proverbs 16:18: Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.   Today we are presented with a detailed story of how Uzziah takes so much that God has given to him – wealth, power and fame – and quickly loses it: But after he had become strong, he became proud of his own destruction and broke faith with the Lord, his God.  Was it the flocks and vineyards he owned, the soldiers he commanded or the city fortifications he built that fogged his vision?  We will never know what urged him to take over the office of the temple priest, but we do know his fate: leprosy broke out on his forehead . . . [and the priests] expelled him from the temple.  He fled unwillingly, for the Lord had afflicted him. King Uzziah remained a leper until the day of his death. He lived in exile, in a segregated house, excluded from the Lord.  We can imagine how difficult it must have been for Uzziah to process what had happened to him; and we can appreciate how difficult it must have been for him to deal with his heavy loss: a man who has all suddenly is separated from all that makes him powerful, rich and famous.

David: The Coronation of Napoleon

I remember an historical novel my Mother gave me to read; it was by Annemarie Selinko and was later made into the film Désirée.  It is the intriguing and convoluted story of Napoleon Bonaparte told from the point of view of a young woman he met, wooed and left behind.  It was valuable to me as a young girl and it is valuable to me today as I recall its latent message of pride going before a fall, and I also recall a conversation I had with Mother about humility and gratitude being the antidotes that will inoculate us against the insidious, deadly workings of pride.

Pride can make us ugly.  It can warp and distort our vision and hearing.  It makes us the people we have pledged to never be.  Gratitude puts us in proper relationship with self, God and others.  It reminds us gently that we are not the alpha and omega.  It whispers to us quietly that we have much to learn and that we cannot foresee or control the future.  Humility reminds us to take the last seat at the table rather than the first.  It gives us time to think, restrains us from making fools of ourselves and saves us from impulsivity.  Together, gratitude and humility can steer us away from the fall of pride but ultimately we must be the ones who save ourselves from the hubris that stalks any successful man or woman.

Napoleon crowns himself king, I learned in high school, and when I saw the painting by David in our textbook I remembered the story of the young girl who found out that the disaster of her inconstant suitor was salvation in disguise.  Uzziah is king and enters the temple to act as a priest and make an offering on the altar.  These are stories worth remembering.  They are lessons worth learning.  As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, let us call upon the twin angels of gratitude and humility . . . and keep them close at hand.


More details about Uzziah can be found at the following sites: http://www.christianlibrary.org/authors/John_L_Kachelman_Jr/kings-ot/uzziah.html and http://bibleencyclopedia.com/uzziah.htm

Images from: http://badgercatholic.blogspot.com/2011/05/mary-help-of-christians-ora-pro-nobis.html and http://biblicalgenealogy.kavonrueter.com/Pictures-Ozias.htm

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Psalm 86: Prayer in Suffering and Distress

Friday, January 19, 2018

A Favorite from January 14, 2008.

Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.

And you are the only one who understands my depths.

You are my God; have pity on me, O Lord, for to you I cry all the day long.

Yet I know that you always answer.

Hear my prayer, O Lord, and listen to my voice in supplication,

I ask your help because I have nowhere else to turn.

In the time of trouble I call to you, for you will answer me.

I am confident in this.

For you are great and you do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.

There is no other God before you.

Teach me your ways, O Lord, so that I may walk in your truth;

Because there is no other Way to walk.

Let me worship your name with an undivided heart.

So keep me from seeking revenge or from wishing my enemies harm in any way.

Your kindness toward me is great; you have rescued me from the depths of the netherworld.

I remember all of these times with a grateful heart.

Arrogant men are rising against me, O God;

They come with their friends to take delight in my faltering.

Turn to me and grant me your gracious favor;

Because there is no other place of refuge.

Endow your servant with strength,

So that I might do your will according to your plan.

Grant me a sign of your favor, so that those who hate me may see it and be put to shame,

For I know they will listen to no one else.

Because you, O Lord, have helped and comforted me.

And my grateful heart rejoices in this.

Amen.

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Sirach 27 & 28: Being Blessed

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Malice, anger, vengeance, the evil tongue – these are the topics that Jesus Ben Sirach addressed in these two chapters from this Wisdom Book.  They contain such a treasure of gold!

For the sake of profit many sin, and the struggle for wealth blinds the eye.

We might think of the many kinds of profit we hoard besides financial profit – credit for work done, joy in the good fortune of others, the gifts of prophecy and witness, the understanding of faith, the healing balm of hope, and love of God.  We might think of the times we have been tempted to keep these things for ourselves in the event we run out of energy; and we might thank God that we have always shared the gifts sent. We might marvel at how we receive more energy from this sharing than we ever would from hoarding.

When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do a man’s faults when he speaks . . . The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had; so too does a man’s speech disclose the bent of his mind.

We might think of how often we reveal ourselves in our words, and in our lack of words.

If you strive after justice you will attain it, and put it on like a splendid robe.

We might think of the so many times in our lives when we have made the decision to not seek revenge, to pray for our enemies, to seek justice.  We are always rewarded.  God always delivers a better, more far-reaching justice than we could ever devise on our own or with others.

As a lion crouches in wait for prey, so do sins for evildoers.

We might think of the story of Haman who built a scaffold on which to hang Mordecai, the man he envied . . . and in the end Haman and his entire household meet death on this gallows. Rather than witness the execution of his supposed enemy from the comfort of his home, Haman and his family come to an unexpected and untimely end. I remember how my mother always reminded us that our deeds always “come home to roost just like the chickens do at night”.  The bad deeds along with the good deeds.

Cherish your friend, keep faith with him; but if you betray his confidence follow him not; for s an enemy might kill a man, you have killed your neighbor’s friendship.

We might think of the times we have been betrayed by someone we trusted, and how the depth of our grief was immeasurable.  And we might also think of the times we have been consoled and uplifted by authentic, genuine, abiding friendship.

A blow from a whip raises a welt, but a blow from the tongue smashes bones; many have fallen by the edge of the sword, but not as many as by the tongue.

We might think of the times when words have caused us physical pain, a pain that can only be healed by God.  We might hope that we have not inflicted this kind of pain on another.

And as we read on and on and on . . . we might think about how we are blessed.  We are blessed to have these words of wisdom before us, blessed to have a mind which comprehends, a heart that heals and a soul that turns to God.  We might give thanks that God is good, that God in the end wins over all those who turn toward and away from goodness.  We might think of how we are blessed . . . and so blessed be God forever.

Adapted from a Favorite written on August 22, 2008.

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1 ThessaloniansThe Call

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Roman Market in old Thessaloniki - with new Thessaloniki in the backgroud

The Roman Market in old Thessaloniki – with new Thessaloniki in the background

A Favorite from April 22, 2009.

This is likely the first letter of the New Testament canon to be written around the year 50.  It is appropriate to spend time with this letter at this time of the year as it is flush with the exuberance of the early church and rather than address the profound theological concepts we find in later letters, Paul addresses the characteristics exhibited by the early Christians.  He writes especially about the joy and gratitude which these early people experienced as they waited for Christ’s return – – – which they thought was imminent.  What changes would we make in our lives if we lived as if we understood this concept of return and accounting?  How would this change our stewardship of the gifts we have been given?

The Biblia de América points out that this is a pastoral letter more than anything else and it is modest in its length and tone.  Paul’s’ themes are the mission, development and consolidation of the Church, the Trinitarian nature of the ordinary life, the mystery of evil, and the importance of salvation.  In order to put this letter into some context, we might read about his stay in Thessalonica in Acts 17 as part of his second missionary journey.  The city was a strategically situated port with trade to other parts of the Mediterranean.

Paul exhorts the faithful to refrain from sexual immorality if they are to live a Christian life.  He encourages mutual charity if they are to exhibit Christian love.  He inspires prayers for those who have already died and who are resurrected in Christ Jesus if they are to live in Christian hope.  He urges that the faithful remain faithful, even in the face of so many pressures which call them away from the Trinity.  We might heed his words today for we struggle with the same issues in the same way.  We have not come too far from where the early Christians stood.

Paul calls us to consolidation with those who live in Christ.

Paul calls us to love our enemy.

Paul calls us to be good stewards.

Paul calls us to remain strong against the negative influences of the times.

Paul calls us to Christ.

Let us spend a bit of time today reflecting on the call we feel to be faithful, hopeful, and loving in Christ’s body and resurrection.  What do our actions say about who we are . . . and what we believe?

LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. Print.

To learn more about Thessaloniki, click on the image above or visit: http://romeartlover.tripod.com/Thessalo.html 

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Mark 7:31-37: The Deaf

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Ottheinrich Folio: Jesus Heals a Man who is Deaf and Mute

Ottheinrich Folio: Jesus Heals a Man who is Deaf and Mute

And it happened. The man’s hearing was clear and his speech plain—just like that.

We rise in the morning to greet another day . . . just like that.

We move through our communities without major mishap . . . just like that.

We have enough to eat and enough to drink . . . just like that.

We have health care, networks, access to information . . . just like that.

We interact with family, friends and colleagues . . . just like that.

We lay tired heads on plump pillows . . . just like that.

For those of us on the planet who have received the gift of so much, including the gift of hard work that allows us to enter into the marketplace to compete fairly with others, we must remember that despite all our thinking otherwise . . . all that we have is by the grace of God . . . just like that.

For those of us on the planet who are hampered and even imprisoned and murdered by unjust regimes, we must remember that despite all the solidarity God’s people might muster . . . all that they were promised has been taken away . . . just like that.

As we move through our day giving thanks for the words we hear, let us remember that despite all the rancor they may contain . . . we might allow God’s love to transform the world’s hatred into joy when we remember the Law of Love that Jesus shows us through the miracle of healing . . . just like that.

As we move into the evening giving thanks for the words we use, let us remember that despite all the wisdom they may contain . . . they may easily fall on deaf ears . . . just like that.

And so we pray.

Wise and gentle God, knowing that all that we have and all that we are comes from you, remind us to keep eyes, ears and hearts open in gratitude to you.

Strong and persistent God, understanding that words – whether spoken or unspoken – are powerful instruments of both fear and love, remind us to measure our words and be mindful of their effect.

Merciful and loving God, believing that truth endures beyond lies, integrity outlives deceit, and love is greater than any evil, remind us that our very existence relies on your compassion and fidelity.

We ask this through Christ our Lord, the healer of all that is wrong, the bearer of all that is praiseworthy. Amen.

For more on the Ottheinrich Folio, visit: http://www.facsimilefinder.com/facsimiles/ottheinrich-s-bible-facsimile

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Numbers 1: God’s Yardstickyardstick

Friday, January 1, 2016

We human beings always want to know how many, how much, or how often; we seem consumed with counting and itemizing.  We are driven by data; we want our sports teams to be first rather than second or third.  Some of the techniques used by writers of both ancient epic poetry and modern magical realism are similar and they have to do with numbers: listing, enumerating, and exaggeration of how much, how many and how often.  Is this why we are constantly placing ourselves against the yardstick of others rather than self?  Is it an innate quality we humans have to want to be higher, lower, bigger, smaller, greater, less, best, worst at something?

It is good news that God relates to us as individuals and urges us to rise to our personal best – without comparing ourselves to anyone or anything else.

Today we read about how the Hebrew nation takes great pains to count itself; even the enumerators are named.  Some tribes are large, some small, and this will later determine the amount of territory they receive in the Promised Land.  Perhaps we subconsciously worry about the attention we receive from God or others – will we be too small or too unimportant to catch anyone’s notice?

This is the traditional time of year when we look to past and future, stepping from one year to another.  Really, it is a day like any other but it is such a good day to assess as we plan to move forward into a new year.

As we end another cycle, it is also a good time to thank God for all God has done for us – particularly in this last year.  Some of us will have long lists of new intentions, others shorter but lists nonetheless.  As we are making our own enumeration, we may want to pray Psalm 96 Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all you lands.  Sing to the Lord; bless God’s name; announce God’s salvation, day after day.

Even when life is bleak there will be something to celebrate.  We may not see this in our moment of suffering, but eventually we do.  After pain comes relief, then finally joy.  After sorrow comes release, then understanding.  After tears, there is a time to sing . . . Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all you lands.  Sing to the Lord; bless God’s name; announce God’s salvation, day after day. 

Let us count ourselves in a new way, using God’s measure of success rather than our own. Let us count ourselves as the faithful, the steadfast, the hope-filled and merciful.  And let us sing a new song to bless God’s name.  Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all you lands.  Sing to the Lord; bless God’s name; announce God’s salvation, day after day. 

Adapted from a reflection written on December 31, 2010.

In the opening days of 2016 we will spend time looking for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

 

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