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Posts Tagged ‘hope’


Romans 9: Children of the Promise – Part I

Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 26, 2017

Adapted from a reflection written on June 3, 2010.

In this chapter of Romans, Paul puzzles over the lack of faith in the Christ story among the Jewish people.  They are clearly chosen by God to convey the message of freedom and salvation to the world and in fact, one of their own is the Messiah; yet they reject the message of hope and promise that Jesus offers. This is also the message that Paul proclaims anew.

In the previous chapter (Romans 8), Paul reminds us that faith is the belief in things not seen; hope is the exercise of expecting something that is greater and better than we think likely (8:24-25).  He reminds all of us that the Holy Spirit is at work in and among us, and that we must be open to God’s plan rather than forwarding our own.  Now he puzzles over the lack of expectation and fidelity in those who have had the advantage of the special status; he finds it strange that the very people and tradition that have engendered the message now turn against it.

Do we see this same contradiction in our own age? Do we see it in ourselves? If not, we might be content to muddle forward as always. If so, we have a clear choice before us. Do we blame God for the failings and lacks in society? Or do we examine ourselves, and then rely on God as we take action?

Paul answers some of his, and our, questions in verses 14 to 16: What then are we to say?  Is there injustice on the part of God?  Of course not . . . it depends not upon a person’s will or exertion, but upon God, who shows mercy. 

We are part of God’s great design and are called to take part in the redemption of the world.

Shall we say, then, that God is unjust? Not at all . . . So then, everything depends, not on what we humans want or do, but only on God’s mercy. (GNT)

We are God’s precious children, and are asked to demonstrate the same mercy that God shows us.

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! . . .  So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. (NASB)

We are the receivers of God’s great promise. Let us accept this gift graciously, and act with God’s justice for all.

Tomorrow, more of Paul’s thinking. How does it affect all that we do?

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Romans 12:2-16: Into the World

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind.

Today Paul gives us specific guidelines for how to live the Beatitudes, what we are to do with our concerns, how we are to handle our negative emotions, and where we might take our worries and fears. Our God-given identity calls us to reflect Christ in the world; but how are we to do this? Paul reminds us of God’s gracious gift of faith . . . and how we might carry it into a world that will likely be surprised by this message.

And because of God’s gracious gift to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you. 

Paul reminds us that humility and love serve us much more than revenge.

Love must be completely sincere. Hold on to what is good.

God turns all harm to goodness. We have proof of this and we can rely on this.

Love one another warmly, and be eager to show respect for one another.

Paul addresses Christians, but we might extend this openness and respect to all.

Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion.

Fidelity and responsibility. Prudence and authenticity. These are our hallmarks of behavior.

Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times.

Hope and patience. Prayer and petition. These are foundations on which we stand.

Share your belongings with your needy fellows, and open your homes to strangers.

Community versus individuality. The common good versus the singular gain. These are values we must weigh.

Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse.

This is perhaps the most difficult of all Jesus’ messages. Loving those who harm us is a challenge we want to ignore; but with Christ as our guide and refuge, we cannot lose.

Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep.

Our brother Jesus celebrates and mourns. We are invited to do the same.

Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise.

We are reminded that human wisdom cannot reach the heights of God’s wisdom. We remember that God does not abandon or betray us. We have before us a clear guideline for living as Jesus does, for living as we all might, for living as a builder in God’s kingdom. Today we have a striking description of our own God-given identity. Let us go into the world as if we believe.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to compare varying versions of these words, we discover the blessings and gifts of God.

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Tobit 3:24-25: The Mystery of Trusting Wisdom

The Third Sunday of Lent, March 19, 2017

school of Titian Rafael

The School of Titian: Tobias and the Archangel Rafael 

We recall the lessons we learned with these verses yesterday: God is good, we are good, life is brutal and unpredictable but also good because it brings us to God; the faithful need not fight, they only need to stand and refuse to do anything that causes them to abandon their God.

There is nothing more important to hear, to learn or to repeat to others than the lessons Tobit teaches us today.  All human suffering can be quenched by these precepts.  All human understanding is capable of taking in these ideas; but not all humans have the will to enact what they hear.  That is why we cannot read this story too often.

Wisdom is sometimes defined as patience in the waiting to hear God’s voice.  One definition puts wisdom in its proper place  as coming from God over time – in God’s time and not in our time.  When we think of the wise people we know, we discover that they share a few characteristics in common.

  • Wise people do not often react instantly to an emotional moment; they pause to allow God to speak through them.
  • Wise people declare their thoughts with the wisdom of ages; they have spent a good portion of their lives with and in scripture.
  • Wise people display a certain amount of serenity; they know that all that surrounds them is not real, the justice of the next world, not this.
  • Wise people do not regularly become impatient; they understand that we are here to practice for that which is real, the love of the next world, not this.
  • Wise people display and embody empathy; they have suffered a great deal, and they have allowed themselves to be transformed by this suffering.
  • Wise people do not think first of saving themselves; they have made their suffering salvific, and freely give themselves as co-redeemers with Christ.

The wisdom of the book of Tobit is just this kind of wisdom.  In this story, wisdom maintains her mystery; she is seen as the ultimate act of stepping into the abyss with God. The ultimate act of suffering for and through God. The ultimate act of trust in God.

Wisdom rises from suffering, endures in fidelity, heals in love, restores in hope, and lives in trust.  We can never hear this story too often.

Adapted from a reflection written on March 10, 2008.

 

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Tobit 3:24-25: The Favor of Providence

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Tobias_cura_a_cegueira_de_seu_pai_-_Domingos_Sequeira

Domingos Sequeira: Tobias Heals the Blindness of his father Tobit

As a Noontime companion, you will know that this book is a favorite. This story is full of fidelity, promise, hope, healing, courage, desperation, prayers answered and the mystery of how we gain most in ourselves by trusting God. The story tells us of the importance of the mystery of trust.  We see God move not only through the disguise of the archangel Rafael, but also through people who respond to God’s call . . . even when it places them in danger.

Today’s excerpt is brief but we gain much if we spend some of our time with these verses. They are a wonderful antidote for a dispirited day.  The story reminds us of all the Old Testament foretells, all the prophets predict, all the wisdom books proclaim, and all that Jesus comes to fulfill. We have valuable lessons here. On this second weekend of Lent, we serve ourselves well by reflecting with these verses and taking in their lessons.

First: Tobit shows us that God is good, and we are good. It also shows us that although life is brutal and unpredictable, it is good because it brings us to God.

Second: The faithful need not fight, they only need to stand and refuse to do anything that causes them to abandon their God. We need to kill people with kindness, we need to make our hearts open and vulnerable to God, we must become Christ’s hands and feet, head and heart through the act of healing one another, and through the act of interceding for one another, even our enemies. 

Tomorrow, we discover how these lessons teach us the importance of the mystery of wisdom and trust. If we take an hour or so to read more than these verses this weekend, we will not regret our decision to use our time in this way.

Adapted from a reflection written on March 10, 2008.

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Psalm 39: Landing in Troubletrouble

Saturday, March 11, 2017

We might all pray Psalm 39 each morning in our present atmosphere of gossip, innuendo and hyperbole.

I’m determined to watch steps and tongue
    so they won’t land me in trouble.
I decided to hold my tongue
    as long as Wicked is in the room.
“Mum’s the word,” I said, and kept quiet.

In our current environment of fear, anger and suspicion, we return to the words of the psalmist.

    But the longer I kept silence
The worse it got—
    my insides got hotter and hotter.
My thoughts boiled over;
    I spilled my guts.

“Tell me, what’s going on, God?
    How long do I have to live?
    Give me the bad news!

In our present milieu of nepotism, corruption and denial, we look for Wisdom in God’s Word.

You’ve kept me on pretty short rations;
    my life is string too short to be saved.
Oh! we’re all puffs of air.
    Oh! we’re all shadows in a campfire.
Oh! we’re just spit in the wind.
    We make our pile, and then we leave it.

“What am I doing in the meantime, Lord?
    Hoping, that’s what I’m doing – hoping
You’ll save me from a rebel life,
    save me from the contempt of dunces.

I’ll say no more, I’ll shut my mouth,
    since you, Lord, are behind all this.
    But I can’t take it much longer.

In our current setting of despair, anxiety and distrust, we look for hope in God’s promise of justice.

When you put us through the fire
    to purge us from our sin,
    our dearest idols go up in smoke.
Are we also nothing but smoke?

In our present circumstances, we are honest with our Creator. We are hopeful in Christ. And we are faithful to the Spirit.

“Ah, God, listen to my prayer, my
    cry – open your ears.
Don’t be callous;
    just look at these tears of mine.
I’m a stranger here. I don’t know my way –

    a migrant like my whole family.
Give me a break, cut me some slack
    before it’s too late and I’m out of here.”

In every moment of every day, we remember that God is with us no matter our circumstance, and no matter our state of mind. We remember to trust the hand that created us, and to follow the voice that calls us.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore other versions of this psalm, we encounter God’s real presence in our lives, especially when we find ourselves surrounded by trouble. And we encourage one another to trust the wisdom and promise of God.

 

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Psalm 9: The Book of God’s Wonders

Monday, March 6, 2017psalms9_2-31

The MESSAGE version of this psalm speaks to us in our core. Anyone who has been wronged, anyone who has suffered injustice of any kind, anyone who looks for refuge in the storm of life will smile as they read these verses.

I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart, I’m writing the book on your wonders. I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I’m singing your song, High God.

What are the miracles of our relationship with God will we want to enter into the Book of God’s Wonders?

The day my enemies turned tail and ran, they stumbled on you and fell on their faces. You throw dirty players out of the game, wipe their names right off the roster. Enemies disappear from the sidelines, their reputation trashed, their names erased from the halls of fame.

We look for the patience to allow God’s plan to blossom and flourish.

God holds the high center, God sees and sets the world’s mess right. God’s a safe-house for the battered, a sanctuary during bad times. The moment you arrive, you relax; you’re never sorry you knocked.

We pray for the hope we will need to remember God’s promise of safety, and we pray for the courage to knock at heaven’s door as Jesus tells us we must.

Sing your songs to Zion-dwelling God, tell God’s stories to everyone you meet: How God tracks down killers yet keeps an eye on us, registers every whimper and moan.

We pray for the fortitude to weather the storm, knowing that although the horizon is dark, God navigates our lives.

psalm-9_18Be kind to me, God; I’ve been kicked around long enough. Once you’ve pulled me back from the gates of death, I’ll write the book on Hallelujahs; on the corner of Main and First I’ll hold a street meeting; I’ll be the song leader; we’ll fill the air with salvation songs.

We pray for the courage to thank God in public and to share the stories we list in the Book of God’s Wonders.

They’re trapped, those godless, in the very snares they set, their feet all tangled in the net they spread. They have no excuse; the way God works is well-known. The cunning machinery made by the wicked has maimed their own hands.

We remember to intercede for those who would harm us.

The wicked bought a one-way ticket to hell. No longer will the poor be nameless—no more humiliation for the humble.

We ask for mercy for our enemies, and the grace to step away from the temptation to seek revenge.

Up, God! Aren’t you fed up with their empty strutting? Expose these grand pretensions! Shake them up, God! Show them how silly they look.

We ask God to steer us clear of all pretension. We ask that Christ lead us in the ways of the just. And we ask that the Holy Spirit abide in us forever, as we proclaim the wonders God has wrought for us.

When we use the scripture link and the drop-down menus to compare other translations of this Psalm, we discover that we have a great deal to record in The Book of God’s Wonders, and to share with all the world. 

 

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Psalm 18:22-23: Cornerstone – Part II

Thursday, March 2, 2017shall-become-the-cornerstone

When we fear that our world is too ugly, too violent, too deceitful and cruel, we must remember the inversion the ancients understood.

The stone which the builders rejected as worthless
    turned out to be the most important of all.

This was done by the Lord;
    what a wonderful sight it is! (GNT)

When we are defeated, turned away, rejected or abandoned, we must remember to rely on the Creator for sustaining the life we have been gifted.

The very rock that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone!

This has come from Adonai,
and in our eyes it is amazing. (CJB)

When we lose hope, feel lifeless, have no energy to struggle back from loss, we must remember to trust the Holy Spirit who heals, guides and abides.

Thank you for responding to me;
    you’ve truly become my salvation!
The stone the masons discarded as flawed
    is now the capstone!
This is God’s work. (MSG)

When frustration overcomes us, anxiety freezes us, or fear seizes us when we see cataclysm looming, we must remember to call on God, the Creator of all.

When we reflect on Psalm 118 we find a prayer for thanksgiving in victory; and we discover that our defeats are the cornerstones of new life. 

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Sirach 2:1-6: Serving the Lord

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tintoretto: Jesus Washing the Feet of his Disciples

Tintoretto: Jesus Washing the Feet of his Disciples

We are small children, eager to please our doting parent. We put our trust in the Lord and expect that our lives will run smoothly. Struggles will be brief and bearable, we say to ourselves. This is easy if I am in God’s corner and God is in mine.

Jesus ben Sirach has words for us: My child, if you are going to serve the Lord, be prepared for times when you will be put to the test.

We are ready, we tell ourselves. We are eager to follow.

Be sincere and determined.

We will persevere. We will remain faithful.

Keep calm when trouble comes.

We will live in hope, actively waiting for God’s promise.

Stay with the Lord; never abandon God, and you will be prosperous at the end of your days. 

We wonder if God really understands our circumstances.

Accept whatever happens to you. Even if you suffer humiliation, be patient.

We wonder if we will endure even with the assurance of God’s love.

Gold is tested by fire, and human character is tested in the furnace of humiliation.

We struggle to live meekly as Jesus lives. We yearn for the justice we know God wants. We live in the hope that the Spirit will not abandon or deceive us.

Trust the Lord, and God will help you. Walk straight in God’s ways, and put your hope in God.

We continue to live in The Way Christ shows us. In patience and humility, in fidelity and hope, persevering and waiting in love.

 

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Matthew 5:13-16: Salt and Light – A Reprise

pope-francis

Pope Francis

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Jesus tells us that we must be salt for the earth, adding flavor, bringing joy; and we are to share this salt of our faith with others.

Jesus tells us that we must be light for the world, slicing through the darkness, bringing hope; and we are to shine this light on the margins and into the corners.

To hear Pope Francis’ words on how we might be both salt and light, visit Vatican Radio at: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/06/07/pope_on_how_to_be_salt_of_the_earth_and_light_of_the_world/1235417

 

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