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Mark 16: The End

Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 31, 2019

Women at Jesus’ Tomb

I am always fascinated by the last words in the short ending version of Mark’s Gospel: They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.  Commentary tells us that Mark’s was likely the first of the Gospels to be recorded; Jesus’ followers tell of their experience in the face of persecution and doubt.  Scholars also tell us that a second writer tagged the story with a more positive, second ending.  Verses 9 to 20 give the reader fresh hope. “This passage, termed the Longer Ending to the Marcan gospel by comparison with a much briefer conclusion found in some manuscripts, has traditionally been accepted as a canonical part of the gospel and was defined as such by the Council of Trent.  Early citations of it by the Fathers indicate that it was composed by the second century, although the vocabulary and style indicate that it was written by someone other than Mark.  It is a general resume of the material concerning the appearances of the risen Jesus, reflecting, in particular, traditions found in Luke [24] and John [20].  (Senior 94)  The Gospel ends on . . . the notes of awe and silence and fear, Mark’s . . . way of expressing profound reverence for the events he narrates.  In Jesus’ victory over death, God’s power has transformed the world forever”. (Senior RG 417) 

In awe and silence and in fear . . . the old way comes to an end; the new way begins.

But what is it that has concluded; and what has been instituted?  A church, a way of life, hope, transformation?

Soon we begin Holy Week, the time when we tell and re-tell, live and re-live the story of Jesus’ last days on earth.  We hear the old eyewitness accounts that tell us Jesus has died.  We know that he was buried in a borrowed tomb and that a few days later the tomb is found empty.  Where have the guards gone?  Where are the twelve who were known as the Apostles?  Why is it that only the women return to the tomb to finish the burial rite?

They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.  It appears to be the end. And yet . . .

I am wondering – as I always do at this time of year – what I would have done had I lived two thousand years ago.  What would I believe?  What would I experience?  Would I see Jesus’ death as the end of something?  Would I see it as the beginning?  Would I be one of those the Resurrected Christ chose to visit?  And if I were to experience this visit . . . would I believe?  And what would I believe?

Each Holy Week as I sit listening and meditating on scripture the same sudden realization always washes over me.  I have been visited by the Resurrected Christ and I have received miracles at his hand.  I have been graced with Jesus’ hope and mercy.  I have been to the tomb to find it empty and I have for a few moments thought that the beautiful truth I believe in is only a sham.

They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

And as quickly as that doubt rises it dissolves into nothingness.  All fear is transformed into the warm glow of gratitude and peace.  And I know once again that what appears empty is full, in Christ; what seems lost is gained, in Christ; and what looked like a sad conclusion is, in fact, the beautiful beginning of a new narrative, in Christ.  Let us go out to tell all who will listen the Good News that the end is in truth the beginning . . . in Christ.


A re-post from March 31, 2012.

Image from: http://thewinedarksea.com/index.php/weblog/2010/03/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.94 & RG 417. Print.   

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Sirach 7: Public and Private Life

Friday, March 29, 2019

Several days ago we reflected on the meaning of our public image in the Book of Daniel; today with Sirach we might spend time with how this compares to our private life.  The Irish culture holds an image of a man who is a street angel but a house devil . . . pleasant and amiable – even lovable – to his neighbors . . . while beating his wife and children behind closed doors.  How many of us harbor devils inside that we do not show to the world?  How do these devils slip into our lives without our knowing?

We are advised by Jesus ben Sirach to bring our public and private lives into line with our covenant promise with Yahweh.

In this book of wisdom, we are cautioned that we must be humble in our dealings with one another; we ought not seek out the high places at the table.  We are warned to refrain from seeking work as a judge unless we have the strength to root out crime; otherwise we succumb to corruption and mar our integrity.  We ought not flaunt our wisdom, our power, our wealth, our specialness in any way . . . for our pride will be our undoing.  This is how humility arrives.

We are also advised to steer clear of situations the catechism refers to as near occasions of sin: those times when we ourselves do not sin but come dangerously close to slipping over the precipice into evil.  Standing by wordless as we watch malevolence occur without offering witness to injustice is not the way of the Lord. When we lack courage, we only need to look to God for strength.  This is how fortitude arrives.

We ought to pray in earnest and not hurry through prayer as this leaves room for a false sense of independence from God.  We humble ourselves appropriately when we come before the Lord and so we ought to enter into prayerfulness with deliberation and patience so that we might all the better hear the word of God.  This is how wisdom arrives.

In private and in our family life, we need to continue to live with thoughtfulness, with intention.  Treating servants well – or the people we meet in the mall, in the supermarket, in the gas station – leads us to treating all well.  Honoring elders, respecting the living, remembering the dead.  This is how piety arrives.

Refrain from bartering for friends.  Mourn with those who mourn.  Steer clear of those who do not.  Visit the sick.  This is how compassion arrives.

When we eliminate fear and pain from our lives by blocking them out and riding over these powerful emotions, we also eliminate important opportunities for learning the ways of God.  We erase the opportunities for God to guide and protect us.  When we petition God and thank him for his bounty, we indicate our understanding that we are his creatures.  This is how faith arrives.

When we balance our inner self with our outer self, we clear away the dark corners where house devils might lurk.  Integrity finds a comfortable dwelling place within . . . and chases away these devils to make room for angels.  This is how hope arrives.

When we bring into focus our whole mind, our whole heart, our whole body and our whole soul to celebrate our union with God, we enter into his divinity.  This is why the words of Jesus ben Sirach are so important to us today.  With all your strength, love your Creator . . . for this is how love arrives.


A re-post from March 29, 2012.

Image from: http://sandeshavahini.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/the-heart-in-the-bible/

To review the Noontime reflection on Public Life go to: https://thenoontimes.wordpress.com/2012/3/23/

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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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Genesis 4: A Demon Lurking


Genesis 4: A Demon Lurking

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tissot: Cain Leads Abel

It is likely that we each have our own definition for sin and we may want to compare it with what we find in Genesis 4 when we hear the Creator warning Cain: Why are you so resentful and crestfallen?  If you do well, you can hold up you head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door; his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.

We are only a few pages into the Bible and God describes to us what sin is and how it can steal into our hearts almost without our knowing. How is it that we miss the personal implications for our own development when we hear this story?  Cain is told what sin is and is cautioned about sin.  God does not withdraw his love yet Cain seems to feel slighted and he appears to think only of himself and his own sadness; he does not celebrate Abel’s good fortune but instead takes Abel out into the fields to murder him.  The ground that Cain had tilled now becomes a killing field; and the innocent Abel dies without reproducing his own family.  As this chapter unfolds, we see that the chain of violence begun by Cain continues through his descendants and, we suppose, continues through time even to us.  Sin that has been unleashed in the world continues to be a demon lurking at the door which we have the power to master yet somehow do not.

Commentary will elucidate further for us.  Although Cain and Abel may represent nomadic versus sedentary farmers, or rival ways of life, Cain’s act of violence represents “an attack on the integrity of the family, an offense against the divinely intended order of creation expressed in the command to reproduce.  But Cain’s sin is more than a rejection of the divinely established order; in arrogating to himself the divine sovereignty over life in ending a life, Cain has repeated the sin of his parents by making himself ‘like God’.”  (Mays 887)

When we think of sin we are accustomed to feeling less worthy, less hope-filled, more culpable, more ashamed.  When we think of sin we think of turning away from God, of being self-centered and un-controlled and we forget about God’s grace and God’s love.  Rather than give ourselves an overwhelming obstacle to overcome, how much better we might fare if we focused instead on how God loves us and wants to help us.  In short, rather than fuss with ourselves about how poorly we are doing we might feel more successful if we focus instead on giving our feelings of resentment, disappointment and anger over to God.  Knowing that we may too easily succumb to the devil that prowls at the door, let us give our negativity to the one who converts it into goodness.  Let us acknowledge the negative emotions that sneak up on us, and then instead of acting on them . . . let us turn them over to God.

Sin has been described as the willful turning away from God, and in turn this means a turning away from hope.  In this season of Advent, as we prepare ourselves for the coming of the light into the darkness of the world, let us take a journey inward to uncover the Cain in each of us.  And rather than take our brother into the fields to kill him in the place where we have harvested goodness in God’s name, let us celebrate the good fortune of others . . . and turn over all resentment to God.  In this way we easily and happily turn the tables on the demon who constantly lurks at our door.


A re-post from December 4, 2011.

Image from: http://www.artfire.com/ext/shop/product_view/vintagecharming/3784014/Cain_and_Abel_1904_James_Tissot_Chromolithograph_Print/Ephemera

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 887. Print.

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Mark 1 -3A Reason to Believe

Tuesday, February 20, 2019

Today we return to the Gospel of Mark and when we study these opening Chapters we discover that they provide the perfect resource for us when we have had a bad day, an awful week, a cataclysmic month, or a horrendous span in our lives.  In these simple stories we will find the courage to continue an arduous journey; we will find hope that will impel us forward through tragedy.  We will even find the strength to help others who journey alongside us. Mark shows us a typical series of days in the life of Jesus in such a way that we might see ourselves putting aside our worldly worries to follow him.  Mark, with his quick-moving, thriller Gospel, gives us a reason to believe.

John the Baptist serves as a precursor or herald for the Messiah who follows him.  Our troubles and woes often announce themselves as well.  We feel a frisson of fear, a foreshadowing of something not fully revealed.  When we follow Jesus we will know that these forebodings are not our ultimate end.  Our end is rescue and redemption.  John baptizes the one who saves us all and Jesus unites with us in our own baptism.

The Spirit drives Jesus into the desert for forty days where he lives among wild beasts, is tempted by Satan and is ministered to by angels.  We too are driven into the barren wastes where we also met with devils and angels.  When we follow Jesus we will know that these dead places are not our last stop – even though they may seem to be at the time.  Jesus relies on the Father and unites with us in our own sufferings and temptations.

Jesus begins his ministry.  He cures many.  He gathers a following.  He chooses steadfast friends from the countless who follow him.  He is hounded by those who envy his relationship with God and the people.  We too step into the world to reveal our gifts and to allow God to act through us.  We too encounter obstacles to the Call we feel.  We too are harassed by those who cannot abide our closeness with God.  When we follow Jesus we know that there is no one, no idea, no thought, no thing that can separate us from God.  God never strays; it is we who have the choice to abandon or to abide.  Just as Jesus turns always to the Father so do we.  Jesus unites with us in the struggle.

Jesus steps into dangerous territory and his family and friends caution him, they even question his work.  We have seen the look of disappointment on the faces of others who misunderstand our steadfastness, who feel betrayed by our fidelity to the Gospel.  We know the sensation of rejection when those we love can no longer abide with us in the Spirit.  Jesus invites us to be one with him in the sacrifice we make in our own Gospel journey.  Jesus bonds with us as his sisters and brothers; he holds us close.  Jesus becomes one with us and takes up our too-heavy cross.

These opening stories in the Gospel of Mark draw us into Jesus’ story just as a good cinematographer hooks us in the opening shots of a film.  Jesus moves from friend to foe, from those who love him to those to hate him; and he always keeps his eye on the Father.  Jesus accompanies us in our own story; and he helps us to be mindful of the Spirit.

As we prepare to enter the Lenten season, we do well to read these opening Chapters of the Gospel of Mark for he tells us all and he tells us quickly.  Mark celebrates Jesus even as he foretells his awful end.  Mark holds no punches, sweetens no madness, and obscures no ugliness.  Mark shows us all.  Mark’s story gives us hope when tragedy strikes.  Mark’s story gives us courage when cataclysm hits.  Mark’s story helps us to prepare for the journey.  Mark’s story gives us a reason to believe this amazing Christ.


A re-post from February 20, 2012.

Image from: http://www.atotheword.com/2011/04/05/jesus-man-born-blind-for-works-of-god-to-manifest-in-him/

For more on the Gospel of Mark, see the Mark – “I Am” page on this blog. 

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TitusSlaves for Christ

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Today’s Noontime offering is a personal reflection on Paul’s Letter to Titus, a brief epistle in which we find valuable advice on bringing disparate voices together.  It was this letter that united many in the formation of churches for Christ in the first century.  If we savor the wisdom we find here, we may still find unity through this short letter two thousand years after its writing.

El Greco: Christ Cleansing the Temple

Paul speaks of rebuking fellow Christians and I believe that when Jesus cleared the temple of the money changers (Matthew 21, Mark 11 and John 2) he was acting in this way of rebuking those who refuse to hear.  Jesus extends that advice to his apostles whom he sends like sheep among wolves in Matthew 10, Mark 6 and Luke 9 when he says that when they enter a town where the people do not return the peace they are offered, these disciples are to shake the very dust of the town from their feet.  We also hear Jesus lament the fact that he is rejected by his hometown of Capernaum in Matthew 11 and in Luke 10 he laments the lack of faith displayed by the inhabitants Bethsaida and Chorazin, saying that the Sodomites will fare better than these people in God’s eye.  Scary stuff . . . and for this reason I am reluctant to separate myself from those who demonstrate a lack of faith . . . with me, hope dies slowly.

And so we pray that our acts of hope and our endless intercessory prayers for these reluctant travelers will reach God’s ears.  We must constantly communicate with God – and always with a smile – that a plan that does not allow for the conversion of sinners will be a plan with holes in it.  We must be as persistent as the widow in Luke 18 who rails against the unfair judge when it comes to those who distort God’s love in a perverse homage to self rather than to the will of God.  We understand that we must keep ourselves safe from this kind of corruption . . . but we do not give up . . . we continue to ask for transformation . . . our own as well as that of those who choose to do harm to us, ourselves and others.  We cannot abandon someone with whom we have spent a portion of our journey . . . even though that person demonstrates clearly that they wish to take a fork in the road that puts distance between us.  So these people we will continue to hold in prayer . . . in the expectation that God’s will – and not ours – be done.

The Persistent Widow

How do we maintain this kind of dichotomy?  We turn back to Paul who offers Titus . . . and us . . . the solution.  He says that we are to tell the people that . . . They are to slander no one, to be peaceable, considerate, exercising all graciousness toward everyone.  For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deluded, slaves to various desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful of ourselves and hating one another.  Eventually we will all put aside this hateful world to choose the peaceable kingdom which God offers so patiently each day.

Like Paul, let us all be slaves to Christ, slaves to this Law of Love which keeps vigil, which hopes for good, and which sends endless petitions rising to God like incense for the transformation of the world, the transformation of others as well as for ourselves . . . that we all may one day find union with one another and with Christ.


Images from: http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20060313JJ.shtml and http://www.free-stories.net/children-bible-stories/new-testament-stories/parable-of-the-persistent-widow.html

For more on Paul’s Letter to Titus, see the Titus – Church as Community page on this blog.

For a wonderful way to experience the cities Jesus and Paul knew, visit:  www.bibleplaces.com

A re-post from February 16, 2019. 

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Job 36: Innocence


Job 36Innocence

Friday, February 15, 2019

Too many times the innocent suffer.  Too often the blameless stand accused unjustly.  What do we do when this happens?  What wisdom supports us?  What hope sustains us?  What love overcomes the insurmountable object that blocks the path?

God does not listen to lies . . . God rejects the obstinate in heart . . . even when we lie to ourselves.

God does not defend the wicked . . . God preserves not the life of the wicked . . . even when it appears that the wicked have won.

God abides with his faithful . . . God withholds not the just man’s rights, but grants vindication to the oppressed . . . even when we arrive at a place of hopelessness.

God always listens to the broken hearted . . . God saves the unfortunate through their affliction, and instructs them through distress . . . even though we do not feel his presence . . . God is there.

Behold, God is sublime in his power . . . God is great beyond our knowledge . . .

God is miniscule . . . God holds in check the water drops that filter in rain through mists.

God is vast . . . God nourishes the nations and gives them sustenance.

God is powerful . . . In God’s hands he holds the lightning.

God is good . . . God spreads the clouds in layers as the carpets of his tent.

In our innocence we stand before this awesome God.

In our innocence we are vindicated in our faith in God.

In our innocence we are saved by our hope in God.

In our innocence we are justified by our love for God.

In our innocence we are redeemed by our patient waiting on God.

Be still and know that God is God . . .


A re-post from Fenruary 15, 2019.

Image from: http://jesus-photos-pictures.blogspot.com/2010/11/god-holding-world-in-his-hands-photos.html 

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Luke 11:37-54Unmarked Graves

Friday, December 4, 2019

The Pharisees Question Jesus

Jesus warns his listeners, Woe to you!  – and he also warns us – that we might fulfill the letter of the law and completely miss its spirit.  Jesus describes for the Pharisees and others – and he describes for us – what it means to be his true disciples.  Jesus tells the dinner guests – and he tells us – how to avoid becoming unmarked graves that people walk over without even realizing.

Jesus also speaks to those who know the law inside and out; he challenges the lawyers and scribes and points out how they block entrance to the kingdom by their obtuseness and their stubborn inflexibility.  He also warns all that we are judged by what we do and what we do not do.

Commentary tells us that here Jesus delineates six woes and we might take the opportunity to examine ourselves today.

Do we worry about our outward appearance and cleanliness and neglect our true selves, our souls?

Do we speak with piety and yet rebuke the marginalized and broken?

Do we make a show of our tithing and do nothing for the poor?

Do we seek honor and fame while we isolate and segregate those we see as unworthy?

Do we overly obfuscate and complicate the simple law of love that Jesus gives us and steer others away from the true Way?

Do we attempt to supersede the Holy Spirit by encouraging others to worship us rather than God?

With Jesus’ words we see the easy pitfalls that line the pathway of our journey.  We will want to look for the small and subtle ways in which we complicate the simple instruction to love one another.  We will want to gather around ourselves like pilgrims who openly share the difficulties of the road; and we will want to move away from those who lie in wait to catch others in something they might say.

The Scribes and Pharisees Hear Jesus

Today’s picture is one we will want to keep with us for a while before we leave the Christmas season because it gives us insight into how to best deal with the kind of envy and greed that both lures and surprises us.  In the Christ Child, we have just been given the dual gifts of hope and light; we have received these as tools we might use to conquer the narrowness we see today in the scribes, the Pharisees and even ourselves.  These are the instruments we will use to avoid embroiled arguments, byzantine squabbles and superficial bickering.  The presence of the Christ in each moment of our lives is all that saves each of us from becoming the unmarked grave of a life lived . . . and lost.

And so let us pray as St. Paul prayed with the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:12): Our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience that we have conducted ourselves in the world . . . with the simplicity and sincerity of God, [and] not by human wisdom but by the grace of God.  Amen. 


A re-post from January 4, 2012.

Images from: http://allsaintswritersblock.wordpress.com/about/ and http://possessthevision.wordpress.com/seeking-jesus/passing-from-the-way-and-into-the-truth/jesus-is-victorious-over-an-evil-establishment/

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1 Samuel 24Escape

Monday, November 19, 2018

Rembrandt: Saul and David

Several weeks ago, we reflected on celebrating escape from something or someone who would have brought us great ruin or harm.  Yesterday’s Gospel gave us the opportunity to examine how Jesus is able to escape the traps laid for him by those who hated him.  Today we take a look at a small portion of the story of David, the young man who is designated as King of Israel by Samuel but who waits his turn as leader of God’s chosen people by resisting the temptation to fight against Saul.  David does not deny that he has been chosen King, nor does he murder Saul in order to take what is his; rather, he abides in God’s will and God’s time . . . and he takes the routes of escape that God offers while he actively waits on the fulfillment of God’s plan.

Today we read the story of how God saved his imperfect yet faithful servant and we are no less than David.

Today we read the story of how David relied on his God’s constancy . . . and he did not allow fear to turn him toward revenge or cowardice.

In yesterday’s Gospel (Matthew 22:15-21) we read the story of how Jesus confronted prejudice and hatred and we do well to follow his example.

In yesterday’s Gospel we were given a road map for how to escape manipulation and scheming.  We must rely on God always, remain faithful to the covenant God shares with us, and always act in love and for love of God.  In this way we will always know escape from anything danger or evil that hopes to overtake us.

And so we pray . . .

When the call to do God’s work pulls us into alien and dangerous territory, we must rely on God’s wisdom and not our own.

When the hand of God heals us and then sends us out to do God’s work, we must rely on God’s fidelity and nurture our own.

When the voice of God urges us to work in fields are that unfamiliar to us and that sap our energy, we must rely on God’s strength and conserve our own.

When the heart of God sends us to work with those who would do us harm, we must rely on God’s love and hope for redemption.   Amen.


A re-post from October 17, 2011. 

Images from: http://www.aaroneberline.com/blog/tag/david/ and http://www.artbible.info/art/large/378.html

 

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