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Posts Tagged ‘hope’


Micah: The Promise of the Shepherd

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A shepherd at his sheep gate near Nazareth

A shepherd at his sheep gate near Nazareth

We have examined the construct of deception and how envy and hope show us divergent journeys through life. We have spent time with the prophet Micah who speaks to both fraudulent leaders and God’s vulnerable, faithful followers. With Micah, we have examined the true path to perfection and celebrated the promise of restoration offered us each day by the Creator.

“With burning eloquence [Micah] attacked the rich exploiters of the poor, fraudulent merchants, venal judges, corrupt priests and prophets”. (Senior 1140) The prophet’s testimony foreshadows Jesus’ words. Do we believe that God comes to live among us? And what does God’s presence look like? And how will we recognize this consoling presence?

Through Micah, God says: Woe to those who plan iniquity, and work our evil on their couches.” (2:1)

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says: Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:24)

Through Micah, God says: I will assemble all the remnant of Israel; I will group them like a flock in the fold, like a herd in the midst of the corral; they shall not be thrown I to a panic by men. With a leader to break the path they will burst open the gate and go out through it; their king shall go through before them, and the Lord at their head”. (2:12-13)

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says: Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good – a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it. (John 10:1-6)

Those who were listening to Jesus’ voice: had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good – sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for – will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. ( John 10:7-10)

The Creator speaks to us through the prophet Micah. The Creator visits us in the person of Jesus. The Creator lives in us as the healing presence of the Holy Spirit. Let us listen to the promise given us this day; let us share this gift of hope and redemption with others; and let us persist in listening for and following the voice of the genuine shepherd.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1140. Print.   

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

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Romans 5The Difficulty of Love

Sunday, May 29, 2016Authentic-love-graphic

A Favorite from August 10, 2010.

It is in this chapter of Romans that we receive our greatest challenge of all challenges: Only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps even for a good person one might even find the courage to die.  But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. 

We read today one of the great paradoxes of Christian living – that we receive the gifts of faith, hope, love, grace, peace and life eternal when we are willing to die to self with Christ, so that we might rise again in new life.  We are reminded that none of our transgressions can turn God away.  Our creator is always waiting to comfort us, save us and free us from all that makes us unhappy.  It is we who forget this as Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians 4:6-7: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 

romans-5-8Commentary tells us that here we see the law and sin in proper relationship to one another – only through the sacrifice of Jesus.  We may well wonder how we view our own transgressions against God, self and neighbor in light of this good news.  Do we shrink from examining our conscience, afraid of what we might find to confess?  Do we eagerly give ourselves over to recollection and self-questioning in order that we more fully understand our proper relationship with God through his Spirit? If the former, we take consolation from today’s Noontime that reassures us that no human can surprise God with sin.  If the latter, we do not hesitate to quiet ourselves within so that we might fully understand and believe that God wants nothing more than to love us . . . and be loved in return.

The difficulty with genuine and authentic love is this . . . that it imitates Christ.  It is willing to die to self even for enemies, because genuine and authentic love knows that through Christ there is always the opportunity to transform.  Through Christ we are each called to rise and live again.  In this way through Christ, our hearts and minds are guarded in Christ Jesus.  We can find no better champion than Christ.  We can find no better protector than Christ.  We can find no better lover than Christ.  For it is Christ who makes all difficult things possible . . . through his abundant and difficult love.

For another reflection on authentic love, click on the heart image above or visit: http://www.newhopeladies.com/?p=486

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Isaiah 43:20-25: Already Given

Friday, May 27, 2016gift

We ask for good health, security, predictability, fidelity. We look for mercy, wisdom, hope and love. We anticipate salvation, healing, transformation and resurrection. But these gifts we believe we need to acquire have already been generously given.

The beasts of the field will glorify me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I have given waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people.

When we feel as though the world has let us down, we come to understand that all that we need . . . we already hold.

The people whom I formed for myself will declare my praise.

All that is required of us is that we remain faithful in our gratitude.

I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

All that we need remember is that God wants to forgive and heal. All that is confusion and mystery becomes peace-filled and comforting. All that we seek we already have in abundance. So let us give thanks, for once we begin to practice thankfulness, we also begin to fully experience what the Lord has freely and wonderfully already given.

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Baruch 3 and 4: A Prayer for Mercy

Thursday, May 26, 2016012015wisdom_tim

An Exhortation on the Law of Wisdom

Baruch, born into a noble family, served the prophet Jeremiah as disciple and secretary. Along with Lamentations, and Jeremiah’s prophecy which Baruch penned, we have a unique treasure. These three Books taken together remind us of our special nature as loved creations of God, they give us a foundation of wisdom that we might use to navigate our own sacred story, and they propel us into a future of hope and mercy. Links to notes below* fill in any gaps we may have with this long yet interesting tale, and today we look at it to reflect on what we have learned about ourselves, our traditions, and our shared sacred history.

Why do we lapse into behavior we have sworn to eliminate from our lives? Jeremiah, through Baruch, suggests that we lack wisdom. But where do we find it?

For Baruch and Jeremiah wisdom lies in the Mosaic Law. For us as people of the New Testament the old law has been superseded and fulfilled by the new law, Jesus. And the new law of the Gospels is about love in the form of service to God in advocacy for those on the margin.

In chapter 4 Baruch writes that the Jewish people have been sold to the Gentiles for their lapse, for turning away from Yahweh to the pagan gods. He continues in this chapter with a classic description of Wisdom: Patience and Hope for Deliverance. We gain wisdom, Baruch tells us, by patiently yet actively hoping, expecting the Holy One to appear. And the Living God does appear before us every day.

Today we pray. Merciful God, you give us so many opportunities to soften our hard hearts and turn them toward you. You constantly open little gates for us to enter your Way. You visit your wisdom and patience and peace and love and mercy upon us. Grant that we may see you, grant that we may hear you, grant that we may feel you in our lives. Bring us the healing which we so desire in order that we may truly serve you and find union with you. We ask this through Christ your son, in union with the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Adapted from a favorite written on May 25, 2007.

If there is no time to spend with these two chapters today, focus on 4:22-23: I have put my hope for your deliverance in the Eternal One, and joy has come to me from the Holy One because of the mercy that will swiftly reach you from your eternal Savior. With mourning and lament I sent you away, but God will give you back to me with gladness and joy forever.

*For notes on BARUCH, visit: http://www.usccb.org/bible/baruch/0

*For notes on LAMENTATIONS: http://www.usccb.org/bible/lamentations/0

*For JEREMIAH: http://www.usccb.org/bible/jeremiah/0

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Job 8: Taking the Dare – Part IV

Friday, May 13, 2016

Kim French: Bull Rushes

Kim French: Bull Rushes

Job’s friends believe that he is guilty of some crime against God; why else does he suffer so heavily? Job’s friends do not understand that God has taken a dare from Satan (Job 1), trusting that Job will remain faithful no matter the circumstances. Bildad does not recognize Job as an instrument in God’s plan; he cannot imagine that God calls to the potential place in Job at his conception . . . or that God calls on the potential placed in each of us to respond to God’s immense love in such a steadfast manner.

Reeds can’t grow where there is no water . . .

God says: Send down your roots into my Word each day with confidence.

Evil people sprout like weeds in the sun, like weeds that spread all through the garden. Their roots wrap around the stones and hold fast . . . But then pull them up—no one will ever know they were there . . .

God says: Place all your hope in the promise of my mercy.

God will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouts of joy.

God says: My joy in you is endless and boundless.

Risen_LGThose who hate you will be clothed with shame, and the tent of the wicked will be no more.

God says: I have great plans for you. Plans for joy and not for woe. When evil visits you, remain in me. I am the only force that can bring about the miracle of your transformation. Take the dare that Satan hands to you by trusting me more than yourself. Follow me. Rest in me. Trust in me.  Remain in me. Take up the great dare that my love for you can bring about the impossible. 

When we spend time with these verses and reflect on varying translations, we begin to see the depths and breadth and height of God’s love for humanity. Use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore.

 

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Job 8: Taking the Dare – Part III

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Job and his Friends

Job and his Friends

God’s trust in humanity is so enduring that the Creator takes the dare from Satan. How might we return this amazing trust? God the parent guides and protects us every waking moment and every sleeping hour. We need not eradicate all of the evil in the world; we need only keep our eyes on Christ and do as he asks; we need only open ourselves to the miracles of the Spirit and follow.

God’s hope in us is so strong that Christ returns for us. How might we learn from this strength? Christ reconciles and guides us. And so must we heal and shepherd others. We need only bloom where we are planted, reap the harvest that God has sown.

God’s love for us is so infinite that the Spirit resides eternally in us. How might we return this love? By tending to the marginalized, the broken-hearted and the bereft, by entering into transformation, and inviting others to join us.

In the marvelous story of Job, his friend Bildad cannot believe that Job suffers innocently. He cannot fathom why God allows misfortune to befall one of the ardent faithful. “Does God mess up?” he asks. “Does God Almighty ever get things backward?” He encourages Job not to hang his life from one thin thread, not to hitch his fate to a spider web. Bildad sees Job’s misfortune as punishment, and so might we if we do not read closely. After consideration we understand that Job suffers precisely because God trusts him, believes in him, and loves him. God restores all that Job loses and more, and this is a gesture that Satan cannot understand in his narrow, stingy world. God trusts that Job will not turn away in desperation or fatigue, and this is an attitude that Satan cannot countenance from his pathetic, narrow perspective. God allows Job to choose between hope and desperation, and this is a love that Satan cannot comprehend with his tragic, empty heart.

If God is so willing to take Satan’s dare, so willing to trust humanity with the enormity of God’s infinite goodness and mercy, might we then be willing to follow Jesus? Might we be willing to open ourselves fully to the Spirit?

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Acts 17: Uproar – Part II

Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 8, 2016

E.O. WIlson

E.O. Wilson

Unhealthy competition brings about a kind of chaos in the sound; it becomes impossible to find inner peace and community serenity. How then, can we see God’s presence in the work of Paul, a former persecutor of Jesus’ followers? How then do we understand the kind of uproar that Jesus’ life and words so often engender?

Each time we stand up for the marginalized, we bring about God’s uproar. When bridges are built over chaos and disarray, when wounds are healed, when differences reconciled, we enter in God’s uproar.  Once we look carefully at the tumult around us, we begin to realize that there is a fine difference the chaos of darkness with its attendant prejudices, the transformation of God’s uproar.

When we become doers of the word and not hearers only, as St. James tells us in his letter, we call people out of their comfort zones.  We cause God’s uproar.

When we ask questions about our own treasure trove, as Matthew and Peter suggest we do, we also ask others to think about the value of the wealth they have amassed.  We cause God’s uproar.

When we meet and overcome our own fears and do what others are afraid to do, we cause God’s uproar.

When we live in true charity with one another to pray for our enemies, when we refuse to conform to corruption, we cause God’s uproar.

When we insist on being open to possibilities without giving in to abuse, we cause God’s uproar.

When we tell of the marvels that God has wrought in our own lives, when we insist on reminding ourselves and others of Christ’s good news, we cause God’s uproar.

wild-map-640Like Paul, when we enter a town and begin to tell the marvelous news that we do not have to retain the chains that imprison our bodies, minds and souls, we can expect pandemonium.  It is up to us to examine the din and the tumult to discover its origin, and if the upheaval is God’s we only need persevere and hold tightly to our hope.  Sometimes, like Paul, we will move on to the next town or to the next situation; but always – even through the devastation of earthquakes and the violence of storms – we will be accompanied by Christ’s light . . . we will know that we have entered into God’s uproar . . . and that all will be well.

Adapted from a favorite written in September 28, 2009.

Consider God’s uproar and read the NY Times review of  Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life by O.E. Wilson, biologist. Wilson is professor emeritus at Harvard and the winner of two Pulitzer prizes. Or consider the Audubon Society’s perspective at: https://www.audubon.org/magazine/september-october-2015/eo-wilson-wants-us-leave-half-earth

Visit the EO Wilson Foundation, click on the images above for more information, or watch a PBS episode on Wilson’s bold proposal at: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/how-to-save-life-on-earth-according-to-e-o-wilson/ 

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Psalm 27: Fearless Trust

ark

A rendering of the Ark of the Covenant

Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 17, 2016

The followers of Yahweh erected a tent to house the ark they created to hold their tangible remnants of their relationship with the Lord: stone tablets holding God’s ten pronouncements of the Mosaic Law, manna provided by the Lord during the Hebrews’ desert wanderings, and the staff that Aaron used to mystify Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt whom the enslaved people of God escaped. The Israelites replaced the tent with a glorious Temple to house the ark, sacred scrolls of God’s word to them. More than once this Temple was overrun, brought down, and reduced to rubble and a single, solemn wall of prayer. Today followers of Christ carry this tent, this Temple within; and it is in this sacred interior space that we find courage, hope, strength, faith, persistence, peace and joy. As we move through Eastertide, we bolster ourselves for the journey ahead as we continue our pilgrimage.

The New American Bible gives a wonderful title to these verses: A Psalm of Fearless Trust in God. We might benefit from the grace of this special prayer if we reflect carefully on its words as we pray them.

moses tabernacle

A depiction of the Moses Tent


When we are anxious or troubled, we recall . . .

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    I will fear no one.
The Lord protects me from all danger;
    I will never be afraid.

When we are overwhelmed and distraught, we remind one another . . .  

Even if a whole army surrounds me,
    I will not be afraid;
even if enemies attack me,
    I will still trust God.

When we are lost or abandoned, we remember . . .

I have asked the Lord for one thing;
    one thing only do I want:
to live in the Lord’s house all my life,
    to marvel there at his goodness,
    and to ask for his guidance.

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A model of the Jerusalem Temple

When all seems lost and dark, we remind one another . . .

In times of trouble God will shelter me;
    God will keep me safe in the Lord’s Temple
    and make me secure on a high rock.

When we are alone or bereft, we call out . . .

So I will triumph over my enemies around me.

    With shouts of joy I will offer sacrifices in his Temple;
    I will sing, I will praise the Lord.

Hear me, Lord, when I call to you!
    Be merciful and answer me!

When we falter, we encourage one another . . .

When you said, “Come worship me,”
I answered, “I will come, Lord.”

The Wailing Wall, Jerusalme today

The Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem today (The Wailing Wall)

When the world closes in and we find no exit from sorrow, we pray . . .

 Teach me, Lord, what you want me to do,
    and lead me along a safe path,
    because I have many enemies.

Don’t abandon me to my enemies,
    who attack me with lies and threats.

 When we are rescued, we rejoice . . .

I know that I will live to see

      the Lord‘s goodness in this present life.

Trust in the Lord.
    Have faith, do not despair.
Trust in the Lord.

woman-praying-darkWhen this present life seems as though there is no evidence of God’s presence, let us remember Christ’s temple of light and peace that we carry within.

Psalm 27, one of my favorites, has been set to music by many. As we pray today we might listen to the Shane and Shane rendition at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndZsEDuCVAQ or a version by James Block: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJDF6z2EuPQ

If there is time in the next several hours, enter the word TEMPLE into the blog search bar and consider how God’s plan has brought us from enslavement through the desert to a solid place where we rejoice . . . and yet remains with us when great loss or great sorrow overtake us. It is God’s abiding love that brings us this fearless trust in the temple of God that remains within. When we reflect on these images or listen to these or other audios as we pray, we allow this fearless trust in God to rest in us today. Wishing all of you peace and joy on this day and all days.

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Ezekiel 48:35: The Lord is Here – Part I

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Michaelangelo: The Prophet Ezekiel (The Sistine Chapel, The Vatican)

Michelangelo: The Prophet Ezekiel (The Sistine Chapel, The Vatican)

We have looked at the book of Ezekiel perhaps a dozen times but today we focus on the last four words of this prophecy that describes the New Jerusalem in the New Kingdom:  The Lord is here.

Ezekiel’s prophecy tells us that there is hope after judgment.  The prophet, a priest who was carted away to Babylon with the early exiles, uses the sharp contrast between the destruction of the defiled earth-bound temple and the restoration of the purified divine temple – which we now understand through the New Testament story to be Jesus and then ultimately all of us as Jesus’ mystical body. Ezekiel also uses the beautiful imagery of the watchman calling in the darkness to announce the New Jerusalem, along with four visions and five parables.  His story is filled with symmetry, “hammering repetitions and . . . non-traditional prose”.  (ARCHEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE 1213) And all of this he does to get our attention, and to bring us to focus on the last words of his prophecy: The Lord is Here.  And we ask: where?

In the flurry of international, national and local news, we might well wonder, where is the Lord? In the rush of heavy schedules, hectic days and anxious nights, we might well ask, where is the Lord? In our private and public lives, in our bodies, hearts and minds, we feel the worries and hopes of a waiting world, and we might well voice the question, where is the Lord? And in each circumstance, in every life, Ezekiel reminds us with his compelling verses, the Lord is here.

When we spend time with this prophecy today, we have the opportunity to feel the presence of God as we remember and reflect . . . we are Easter People . . . and the Lord is among us.

Adapted from a Favorite written on September 15, 2007. 

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1312. Print.

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