Posts Tagged ‘inversion’

Luke 16:19-31: The Rich Man and Lazarus

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Hendrick ter Brugghen: The Rich Man and the Poor Lazarus

Hendrick ter Brugghen: The Rich Man and the Poor Lazarus

The Lazarus in scripture whom we perhaps know well is the brother of Martha and Mary whom Jesus’ raises from the tomb in a prefiguring of his own resurrection. Today’s Lazarus is not this friend of Jesus but rather a poor man named covered with sores, [who] had been dumped on [a rich man’s] doorstep. All he lived for was to get a meal from scraps off the rich man’s table. His best friends were the dogs who came and licked his sores.

In death we see the reversal of their stations; the rich man suffers in hell while Lazarus finds himself in the lap of the patriarch Abraham. This inversion of status is one we might easily predict if we only read the Gospel with care. Jesus is constantly reminding us that the first will be last and the last first. And yet we easily – and frequently happily – ignore this teaching.

We make our Lenten journey to our Easter home and today’s words from Luke ask us to consider our station in the eternal world with more care than we examine our position and status in this world. In the hubbub and noise of modern society we are easily caught up in gaining, storing, achieving and making a mark. Yet here we see that we are wise to focus instead on nurturing, tending, healing and transforming ourselves and – with the gift of the Spirit – making Christ visible in a greedy and foggy world.

As we think about our status in God’s eternal kingdom, let us examine more closely how we bring this Gospel message into our temporal lives and how we share this message with others. Let us be more attentive to the little ordinary moments in each day that we ignore and so easily bypass. And rather than work so hard at ignoring the people and events that bring us discomfort, let us work instead to bring the beauty of God’s kingdom into fullness today.

We remember our Lenten practice. Rather than thinking: “Let us make three tents to contain the joy of God’s wisdom,” let us think instead, “Let us share the joy of God’s great gift of love”.

Tomorrow, rejecting the cornerstone.

Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hendrick_ter_Brugghen_-_The_Rich_Man_and_the_Poor_Lazarus_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

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James 1-5: God’s Yardstick – James

The Measure of God’s Lovecrayon heart

Sunday, January 29, 2023

We continue to look for God’s yardstick in the New Testament.

We are never in doubt about James’ dedication to Christ and in a way his letter is a Gospel to Christ’s followers for it outlines a clear roadmap for The Way Christ asks us to walk.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides . . .

Do we see our hardships as sheer gift?

Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.

Do we talk more than we do? Do we lead with our anger?

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.

Do we hide from ourselves or do we know who we are?

Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! 

Do we live on the margins or in the comfortable center?

Be patient like that. Stay steady and strong. The Master could arrive at any time.

Are we impatient and petulant or enduring and resilient?

Friends, don’t complain about each other. A far greater complaint could be lodged against you, you know.

Do we appreciate more than we disparage?

Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.

Are we willing to stay the course or do we look for quick fixes?

Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing. 

How often and much do we pray? Are we willing to sing?

My dear friends, if you know people who have wandered off from God’s truth, don’t write them off. Go after them.

Do we share the Good News or do we hold it to ourselves?

Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.

Are we willing to share Christ’s story? Do we take risks in Christ’s name to include more that we divide and love more than we fear? If so . . . we are following the measure of God’s love that James describes for us.

Tomorrow, Stephen.

When we use the scripture link to compare THE MESSAGE version of these verses with translations that may be more familiar to us, we have the opportunity to explore the great measure of God’s love we are given to share.

Image from: https://www.istockphoto.com/photos/heart-shape-crayon-drawing-pencil-drawing

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Psalms 30, 34 and 126: God’s Yardstick – The Law of Love – Part III

Beyond the Poverty of Spiritpoor in spirit

Thursday, January 19, 2023

We continue to look for God’s yardstick in New Scripture.

As we learn how to enter into God’s humility we also acquire self-knowledge, and it is this deeper understanding that leads us to the second beatitude, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” This poverty of spirit shows us that sadness is not to be avoided for it is in the depths of grief that we encounter God most deeply. Through humility we arrive at understanding that our successes and failures come to us through no talent of our own . . . but through God’s deep, infinite and abiding goodness. When we refuse to understand this truth we find ourselves stalled on God’s ladder of beatitude. When we blame God for the disaster, sadness and darkness in the world, we demonstrate our own refusal to act with God to heal, bridge, console, and include. When we admit that we are not in charge, we are ready for the third rung on God’s Yardstick.

Those who wept as they went out carrying the seed
    will come back singing for joy,
    as they bring in the harvest. (Psalm 126:6)

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” We often understand the quality of meekness as sweetness and affability rather than strength, but the meekness that Jesus displays is a willingness to be taught. Those who are meek as Jesus is meek have submitted their strength to God for God’s use. They have no arrogance and so they become instruments of God’s authority – both here on earth and later. So it is through our poverty of spirit and sadness that we arrive at possessing authority. It is through the power of Christ that the paradox unfolds . . . and we move to the fourth beatitude.

Tomorrow, God’s righteousness.

Adapted from a favorite written on January 5, 2007.

Image from:  http://stevesbasics.blogspot.com/2013/11/blessed-are-poor-in-spirit.html

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Luke 1:46-56: God’s Yardstick – Mary

The First Apostle

Saturday, December 31, 2015

Tanner: The Annunciation

Henry Ossawa Tanner: The Annunciation

On this eve of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

And Mary said,

I’m bursting with God-news;
I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

Who among us might dance and sing with joy when discovering that our circumstances endanger our lives? Who among us can see that up is down and down is up when everything around us tells us otherwise. Who among is willing to sacrifice our lives with such outrageous hope? Who among us is so open to the indwelling of the Spirit? Who among us can see the world with Mary’s yardstick rather than the one we have fashioned with our lives?

To read other versions of these verses like THE MESSAGE version above, click on this scripture link and explore. Use the drop-down menus to find versions of the Bible that may be new to you. Consider why this canticle is part of the Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. To learn more about Henry Ossawa Tanner, click on the image above or visit: http://www.artstudio.org/virgin-mary-and-electricity/ 

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Esther 3 (B): Preamble – Part III

Christmas Day, Sunday, December 25, 2022

Andrea del Castagno: Queen Esther

Andrea del Castagno: Queen Esther

This week we spend time with Esther 3 (B) today and consider it as preamble to new grace and blessings.

We see how God’s grace enters Mordecai, Esther and Ahasuerus. We see how God’s power comes through a vulnerable and frightened, yet brave woman. We see how God acts through inversion. We see how God dwells with the lowest and the poorest. We see how God guides, protects, calls and loves his faithful. We see a foreshadowing of God’s most wonderful gift to come, the saving and redemptive power of the gift of Christ.

Mordecai remains true to his God and for this he draws the venomous envy of Haman. He goes to God when the decree of destruction is read out, and he does as God asks, he goes to Esther.

Esther remains faithful to God and believes that God loves and protects her even as he calls her to take on in a dangerous mission. She overcomes her fear and acts from her position of weakness, not from any strength, to become an agent for good.

Zurbarán: Madonna with Child

Francisco Zurbarán: Madonna with Child

Jesus comes to live among us as one of the world’s most helpless. In this way, he places himself in our hands and asks that we place ourselves in his. This is the amazing story of Jesus that we know so well. This story of Esther is a fitting preamble to understanding the gift of Christ. Let us spend some time with this story, and with Christ, today.

Adapted from a reflection written on December 25, 2010.

Images from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Francisco_de_Zurbaran_-_Madonna_and_Child_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg and 


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Matthew 5:38-48: The Presence

Thursday, December 15, 2022godspresence

Today’s reading gives us the core of Jesus’ message: Resist evil and take no revenge; love our enemies . . . intercede for those who do us harm. This is a difficult teaching, a complex lesson which unfolds to us as we live each day. When we unwrap the bundle of fear and anxiety we experience, we begin to understand pain and suffering. Rather than being consumed or stepping away, we must open ourselves to transformation. We must be willing to be vulnerable just as Jesus is vulnerable.

It struck me this morning as Mass began that of course God comes to us an infant needing our care and attention. He submits himself to our ministrations – no matter how adequate or inadequate – and by this example he shows us how we too, are to live. If we allow him to subsume our entire being, we will realize that this presence of Christ in us is The Presence we continually seek.

From this morning’s mini-reflection in MAGNIFICAT: The lowly will find joy and the pure rejoice. Why? Because of a Presence that even a blind man can sense . . . because it is the Presence we have been waiting for all our life.

Because Christ brings us a message of inversion, he comes to us as an extraordinarily powerful sovereign and creator in the form of a human infant. This is a revolutionary idea. It is an existence which challenges all that has gone before.  It is in this humble form that Jesus first draws us in to later invite us to intimacy with him.

It is this intimacy, this presence, that we know we are missing – and that we try to fill with immediate pleasure and satisfaction.

It is this communion, this presence, that we constantly seek in all of the places we will not find it – in the emptiness of success, money and power.

It is this love, this presence, that manifests itself – and that asks us to manifest our own selves by praying and by acting on behalf of our enemies.

I have read the prophet Isaiah many times and yet this morning as I read out the first reading at Mass, I was struck by this verse (29:24): And those who err in spirit will acquire understanding, and those who find fault will receive instruction. Learning about Christ and learning how to live in Christ is a continual process into which we are always welcome to enter at any time in any circumstance. Even those of us who come late to the lesson, or those of us who come with unwilling heart will eventually arrive at accepting the message we do not want to hear which is: We save ourselves by loosing ourselves to Christ; we fill ourselves by emptying ourselves of all that is worldly; and we find The Presence we have always been seeking when we rest and act in the love that is Christ.

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 4 December 2009. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on December 4, 2009.

Images from: https://pastorfish.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/practicing-the-presence-of-god-september-18-2011/ 

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Matthew 11:25-30: Drawing Us Gently

Saturday, December 10, 2022outstretche-hand

In my mother’s Bible which I read when I am home at Noontime, the Douay version of these well-known verses has a nostalgic ring. At that time, Jesus spoke and said, “I praise thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou didst hide these things from the wise and prudent, and didst reveal them to the little ones.  For such was thy good pleasure”.  And later those famous lines: Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light”.

And you will find rest for your souls . . .

Is this not what we all seek?  Rest for the soul?  Are we not troubled as we wend our way through our day, as we hear the morning and evening news?  Whether we struggle with or for family, friends or strangers, does not the weight of the day so often feel ponderous by nightfall?

For I am meek and humble of heart . . .

Here is Jesus, the very expression of God to us, saying that he who is mighty and all-powerful and all-knowing and all-creating values most, meekness and humility, not power and glory. Do we not so often get this wrong? Do we not look for news of those who have million dollar sports or screen contracts? Do we not look for news of those who battle for political and social prominence?

find_rest_in_my_soul_aloneFor my yoke is heavy and my burden is light.

If we might only truly believe these words we would be less anxious, less worried, less controlling, less self-seeking. We have the power to act our belief. We are given the free will to choose to follow the wide road with its many deceits and traps or the narrow road of meekness and humility. The irony is that when we choose what looks like the easy road we become more burdened; and meanwhile the choice of the apparent difficult road frees us more than we can ever imagine possible. With God, all things are possible and all things work by inversion. When we think we are winning we are actually losing; and when we think we are losing we are actually winning.

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened . . .

Can we not hear our Lord calling? Can we not see the smiling face and feel the outstretched hands? Are we too wise and too prudent to experience Christ’s presence? Or can we become his little ones? For this is the pleasure of God, that we become as little children who trust. It is through our child-like expectation that all good things are possible through God that God chooses to reveal himself to us, his children and it is in this way God draws all of us to himself.

And you will find rest for your souls.

A favorite from November 30, 2007.

Image from: https://lmw.org/he-cares-about-your-anxiety/ and https://www.amazon.ca/Find-Rest-Soul-Alone-Psalm/dp/B00JZC5AEK

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James 1:2-3: The Value of Obstacles – Brightly coloured council road signs and equipmentTuesday, September 27, 2015

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.

James opens his letter with advice that will catch anyone’s interest. In our modern cultures we do not consider trials as gifts to be examined; we too frequently dismiss or even ignore tribulations as inconveniences to be shunted into the darkness. We too rarely consider obstacles as doors of opportunity or growth; yet this is James’ invitation.

You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.

Perhaps this is why we pray for smooth days and comfortable nights. We do not believe that we are up to the test. Or we do not see ourselves learning good lessons from hard times. We are uncomfortable with being vulnerable and we fear having to rely on family, friends, neighbors or even strangers.

So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.

James asks us to suppress our natural tendency to avoid uncomfortable circumstances; we infer from his words that we might gain more from a constrained environment than from easy comfortable surroundings. Rather than skitter around stressful situations or difficult people, James begins, we might allow ourselves to grow in fortitude and wisdom if we rely on God’s guidance when we must maneuver hard times.

Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

Certainly we do not want to look for stress in our lives; the world presents us with enough disquiet to fill our days. Clearly we do not want to be the cause of conflict in our personal and professional lives. Yet just as certainly and clearly we understand that once we open ourselves to the guidance of God’s hand when we navigate straitened days, we will remember our success in dark times and recognize a certain confidence growing within.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.
blocksWe live in a world that values power, fame and wealth. We humans tend to look at one person’s loss as being another’s gain; yet when we live an inverted life with Christ where loss is gain and gain is loss, we begin to better understand James’ lesson. Stumbling blocks become building blocks. Trials become jubilation. When sorrow and pain are traversed in God’s grace we begin to experience the joy of perseverance. When we live by God’s measure rather than our own, and when we allow God to guide us through the road blocks of our lives, we finally learn the value and joy of learning new faith and new life as a result of persevering through our obstacles.

Tomorrow, right attitude.

Use the scripture link to examine various versions of these verses to see which most plainly and clearly.

Images from: http://stevesponseller.com/page/2/ and https://www.dadometer.com/types-of-building-blocks-for-toddlers/

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Proverbs 24: 1-22Morning, Noon and NightPsalm55_17

Saturday, August 13, 2022

We are much more than the finite beings we imagine ourselves to be. We are infinite.  When we allow ourselves to rely on God, when we imitate Christ as best we can and when we enter in the Spirit with other like-minded people . . . we open ourselves to the possibility that we might attain our divinity through Christ.  In today’s Noontime we hear words that echo through Jesus’ words and Paul’s letters: The Gospel story is about inversion.  We become our best selves not by struggling to become so, but by struggling to empty ourselves in order that Christ might take us over.  This surrender is at the core of our happiness.  It is the root of serenity.

We see the message again of the plaint against those who plot evil and yet seem to succeed.  We are to witness to all that is unjust, unholy, unhopeful and unloving, let God know of our grief, and wait in the Lord for God alone can handle the intricate plots of darkness.  Psalm 55 is the perfect prayer to intone when we wait for the darkness to lift and our Spirit to rise.

I will call upon God, and the Lord will save me.  At dusk, dawn, and noon I will grieve and complain, and my prayer will be heard.  God will give me freedom and peace from those who war against me, though there are many who oppose me.  

Of course we become inpatient with God when we do not hear the answer we want to hear at the time we were hoping to hear it.  When things are dark around us, it is so difficult to see God moving in our lives; yet if we are able to work in God’s way, we will see that there is a plan and that all things will turn to the good when we turn to God.  And so we might look at later verses in this psalm.

Cast your care upon the Lord, who will give you support.  God will never allow the righteous to stumble. 

In truth, we have nothing to fear when we are close to God.  Physical pain, mental anguish, spiritual sufferings are all supplanted by peace when we witness and wait in the Lord.  And God is always abiding even when we believe we do not feel God’s presence.  In the morning . . . at the noontime . . . and even in the night of our lives.

Adapted from a reflection written on September 2, 2009.  

Image from: http://freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/3007416/posts

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