Posts Tagged ‘Henri Nouwen’

joy-quote-nouwenThursday, January 6, 2022

Joy and Ezekiel


We have traveled through the Old and New Testaments discovering the many ways that joy visits not only on the days of celebration when we expect her arrival but also on days without light and nights without end. We have journeyed from the stories of Genesis to the extravagant images of Revelation to find that no matter the circumstance God’s joy rescues us from sure destruction, Christ’s joy redeems us from our recklessness, and the Spirit’s joy heals us despite the gravity of our wounds.  For the next several days we re-visit the prophets for a final experience of joy in darkness. And we remind ourselves that we have the power to bring God’s infinite, sustaining, persistent joy to others.

It is difficult to find any reference to joy in Ezekiel’s prophecy that does not refer to a contempt-filled celebration, a rejoicing at the destruction or fall of God’s faithful. We might consider what we celebrate to our own delight but to the grief and sadness of others. We might reflect on our own sense of satisfaction at the expense of others. And we might take heed of this prophet’s warming that what appears to be joy may instead be our own malicious, contempt and derision.

Ezekiel 25:6: This is what the Sovereign Lord is saying: You clapped your hands and jumped for joy. You despised the land of Israel.

Ezekiel describes for us a New Jerusalem with a new Temple that heals, sustains and brings joy to the faithful. And he warns us against supposing that we have the power to determine the parameters of this New Covenant. “The new heart and the new spirit which must exist under the new covenant cannot be the work of man; they too, must be the work of God. By such teachings, [Ezekiel] helped prepare for the New Testament doctrine of salvation through grace”. (Senior 1034)

Ezekiel 36:5: Therefore thus says the Lord God: Surely in the fire of my hot jealousy have I spoken against the rest of the nations and against all Edom, who have given to themselves my land with wholehearted joy and with uttermost contempt, that they might empty it out and possess it for a prey and a spoil.

valley-of-dry-bonesEzekiel foreshadows Christ’s coming when a new order fulfills the old promise; dry bones rise from the valley floor (Ezekiel 34:1-14) to take on tendons and flesh and skin. Hopeless, dry bones that are cut off from life are promised new breath, new vitality, and a new ruler. In this new kingdom intercession for enemies replaces desire for revenge, and the Messiah’s inclusive love supplants anger, and jealousy. (Ezekiel 34:15-28) Let us keep these images in mind as we enter 2015 with its fresh opportunities for newness, let us remember Ezekiel’s warning about replacing joy with derision. Let us recall his promise that dry bones come together again with the breath of new life. And let us resolve to move away from the darkness of contempt toward the salvation of Christ’s joy.

Today, January 6, is the liturgical celebration of the visit of the three Magi to the stable in Bethlehem. When you can gather the time, watch THE NATIVITY STORY film produced in 2006. You will find the depiction of the three wise ones delightful, and the portrayal of Mary and Joseph grounded and uplifting. Before filming, the cast learned how to milk goats, make cheese, and to use simple tools used two millennia ago. (Source IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0762121/) These magi understood how dry bones might come to new life. We might avow our own beliefs today. 

For another reflection on Ezekiel’s prophecy, click on the Valley of Dry Bones image above , or visit: http://playfulnessandpurpose.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/dry-bones-ezekiel-341-14/ 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 1034. Print.

joyIf this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urges you to investigate the Old or New Testaments, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar.

Citation image from: http://www.bestsayingsquotes.com/category/joy-image-quotes-and-sayings-1.html

Dry bones image from: http://playfulnessandpurpose.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/dry-bones-ezekiel-341-14/

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Thursday, April 30, 2020

1 Chronicles 17: Dialog

Today as we continue to live in this extraordinary shelter-in-place, we need dialog with God more than ever, and so we continue to consider the story of David.

What I like most about the story of David – amid the ups and downs, the triumphs and failures – is the fact that we see this man in constant dialog with God.  Today’s reading is no exception.  David has brought the Ark from Shiloh to Jerusalem, has been established as king, and now wants to build a house for Yahweh.  Nathan, the prophet, brings him word that Yahweh will have a permanent temple at another time – once the lineage has been established through an heir and son.  David acquiesces and gives thanks for the blessings he and his house have already received . . . and will receive in the future.

Turn my Mourning into Dancing: Finding Hope in Hard Times is a small but valuable book published from the works of Henri Nouwen by his estate after his death.  It teaches us to be grateful at all times . . . even and especially when days are dark.  “I am gradually learning”, Nouwen writes, “that the call to gratitude asks us to say, ‘Everything is grace’ . . . We can learn to see our remembered experience of our past as an ongoing conversion of the heart.  We let what we remember remind us of whose we are – not our own, but God’s.  If we are not truly ready for a new life in the service of God, truly joyful at the prospect of God’s unfolding vocation for our lives, truly free to be sent wherever God guides, our entire past, gathered into spaciousness of a converted heart, must become the source of energy that moves us onward”.  (Pages 19 and 20)  Nouwen calls us to let go and to leave our compulsions behind, to move out of the house of fear, to convert our illusions through prayer and to open ourselves to a surprising God.  He cautions us about being lured in by fatalism or our craving for approval.  He reminds us that God is in all people and all things, even in suffering.  “There is no human suffering that has not in some way been a part of God’s experience.  That is the great and powerful mystery of God becoming flesh to live among us.  God becomes a part of our mourning, and invites us to learn to dance – not alone, but with others, sharing in God’s compassion, as we both give it and receive it”.  (Pages 69 and 70)  Nouwen tells us that “In the most significant relationships of our lives, God is not an afterthought.  We discover one another as living reminders of God’s presence”.  (Page 72)  And this is what David knows . . . he knows that only though God is his mourning turned into joy.  And he knows that he must thank God for all that he has and will have.

We hear this message over and over again in Esther 9:22, Isaiah 61:3, Jeremiah 31:13, Amos 8:10, James 4:9 and Revelation 21:4, that our mourning will turn into dancing, sadness into joy.

David is not a perfect human; yet through his humility and his constant dialog with his creator, he sees life through God’s plan rather than his own.  David does not treat God as an afterthought and for that reason we see him in constant communication – asking advice, petitioning help . . . and thanking God for the blessings he and his house enjoy.  Despite the downturns and the missteps, David keeps his body, mind and soul centered on God, his heart in open readiness for the surprises of his maker.

Tomorrow, all our works belong to God and are a sign of our constancy . . .

Image from: https://www.ancient.eu/King_David/Written on January 4, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

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