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Friday, June 19, 2020

955165_60482143-610x250[1]2 Corinthians 6:1-10

An Acceptable Time

“A series of seven rhetorically effective antitheses, contrasting negative external impressions with positive inner reality. Paul perceives his existence as a reflection of Jesus’ own and affirms an inner reversal that escapes outward observation.  The final two members illustrate two distinct kinds of paradox or apparent contradiction that are characteristic of apostolic experience”.  (Senior cf. 283)

We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful . . . and so as disciples of Christ we must become accustomed to the world’s unbelief.

As unrecognized and yet acknowledged . . . and so as followers of Christ we must become comfortable with rejection.

As dying and behold we live . . . and so as members of the remnant we find that dying so that we might live a normal daily act.  

As chastised and yet not put to death . . . and so as apostles of the Living God we become accustomed to the scorn of others.

As sorrowful yet always rejoicing . . . and so as sisters and brothers of Christ who take up our cross daily we are assured that our mourning is turned into dancing.

As poor yet enriching many . . . and so as disciples sent into the world in twos we know that we need not take a purse or sandals for the journey.

As having nothing and yet possessing all things . . . and so as children of God we are gladdened by the knowledge that we lack for nothing when we hold only Christ, that we rise in new life when we forfeit the old, and that we are loved beyond imagining by the One who rescues us in an acceptable time.

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
    At an acceptable time, O God,
    in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.  (Psalm 69:13)

For this and for all God’s goodness we give thanks as we sing of God’s loving fidelity, justice and mercy.   Amen.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.283. Print.

Image from: http://donaldcmoore.com/2013/05/08/at-an-acceptable-time/

For more thoughts on God’s Acceptable Time click on the image above or go to: http://donaldcmoore.com/2013/05/08/at-an-acceptable-time/

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees

James Tissot: Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees

Luke 5:33-6:11

Questions

I am always fascinated by the questions posed to Jesus . . . and the manner in which he answers these questions.  The Pharisees and scribes whom he condemns as vipers are anxious to depose this man.  They are jealous of his authenticity and his authority.  They want him gone.

Last week we examined how to react and pray for the plotters and schemers who want to undermine us and even eradicate us.  Today we watch Jesus as he combats his foes with the simplest of techniques . . . with questions.

Jesus so often answers his inquisitors’ demands with questions of his own.  He also uses the parables with which we are familiar, stories with simple images like putting new wine into old skins.  His words are plain and simple enough for the people of his day to understand . . . and they are also eternal so that we might understand his meaning two thousand years later.  Jesus’ words are also universal.  They create pictures that humans will comprehend.  He invites.  He calls.  He brings the Old Testament scriptures to life as he describes the desperation of David’s plight when he and his men eat the bread of offering in 1 Samuel 21.  Jesus makes a connection between himself and David by using a simple rabbinic method of mentioning a well-known scripture story to pertain to a present situation.  Jesus was, in fact, a wonderful teacher.

The questioners described by Luke in today’s reading do not understand that God has come to live among us in human form.  They do not see that Jesus fulfills their hopes and prophecies.  Jesus is the Sabbath . . . and they do not revere him . . . they trump up charges against him . . . they became enraged and together discussed what they might do to Jesus.

Yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT reflection was from St. John of the Cross and it concerned why we undergo trial.  He writes: The reason trials are necessary . . . is that highest union cannot be wrought in a soul that is not fortified by tribulations, darknesses, and distress, just as a superior quality liqueur is poured only into a sturdy flask which is prepared and purified . . .  A man should hold in esteem the interior and exterior trials God sends him, realizing that there are few who merit to be brought to perfection through suffering and to undergo trials for the sake of so high a state.  For God repays the interior and exterior trials very well with divine goods for the soul and body, so that there is not a trial which does not have a corresponding and considerable reward.

In today’s story we can feel the resentment building among Jesus’ enemies and, of course, we know the end of the story.  We know that they win . . . but they lose.  We know that they are in power . . . but have no power.  We know that they are full of themselves . . . and empty of God.  We see their opposite in Jesus who stands quietly to answer their questions . . . who calls them to unity, to hope and to love . . . who waits patiently, who replies calmly, who endures endlessly.

In today’s story, who are we?  The Pharisees . . . or the expression of God among us?  And how have we decided to question our own inquisitors?


Image from: https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/4550

Adapted from a reflection written on February 11, 2008.

Cameron, Peter John, ed. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 1.21 (2008). Print.  

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Sunday, June 14, 2020

Tissot: The False Witness

James Tissot: False Witness before Caiaphas

Luke 22 – The Plot to Kill Jesus

Over and over again we read frightening lines like this one: The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people.   The leaders see that they will lose influence and power because to Jesus offers compassion and healing to those who suffer.  The leaders also worry that Jesus’ actions might attract the attention of the overlord Romans, and they do not want to encourage another Jewish rebellion.  They search for a way to do away with this troublesome rabbi who asks piercing questions.  Jesus – who presents a way of finding timeless peace and healing restoration – is eliminated by those who offer far less.  The paradox is that this cornerstone that is rejected becomes a salvific force which redeems not only friends but enemies – if only these adversaries might put down their weapons and return to the goodness to which they are called.

Today we continue with our theme of dark schemes and wicked conspirators, and we look at how events around Jesus’ last hours unwind . . .

While Jesus and his followers prepare for Passover, the shadowy plot of murder unwinds; these two activities coil around one another in a twisting dance of darkness and light.  This serves to remind us that in this world goodness and evil often walk side by side unremarked . . . almost accepted.  We fool ourselves into believing that all around us must be perfect.  Who is the reaper who knows to sort the grain from the chaff?

A foreshadowing of Peter’s denial sends a frisson of consciousness through us . . . we too have denied Christ when we are under pressure.  Jesus reminds us that we need nothing for our journey save his protection and guidance.  We fool ourselves into believing that we make our own way and earn our own bread. Who is the source of our talents?

Jesus prays.  Judas betrays.  The faithful scatter.  The powerful take over.  The odd dance of inversion continues as those with arms believe themselves to be the strongest.  We fool ourselves into believing that we can exert pressure to win arguments by overwhelming knowledge when overwhelming goodness is the true strength.  Who allows himself to be made weak so that he might be strong in the creator?

Arrest, denial, rejection.  Jesus stands innocent before Pilate and Herod.  He is beaten and sentenced to death.  He carries his cross, he is crucified and dies . . . and he awaits the resurrection he has been promised by the Father.  We fool ourselves into believing that this story was lived once by a man two thousand years ago.  Who suffers each day with each of his billions of sisters and brother?

There is no plot Jesus does not comprehend.  There is no darkness he has not experienced.  There is no pain he has not suffered.  There is no mockery, no betrayal, no rebuffing, no murder he has not survived.  Jesus experiences all, and Jesus wants to save and restore all . . . if we only rely on him.

When the situation is bleakest, when the plot is thickest, when the hour is darkest . . . this is where Christ stands.  This is where he waits . . . for he knows that we will need him because we take nothing else with us on this journey – no purse, no bag, no sword.  We take only Christ, for he is all we need against any evil, against any plot . . . against even murder.


Adapted from a Noontime written on November 18, 2009. 

Image from: http://www.freebibleimages.org/illustrations/tis-trial-caiaphas/

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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Normand: Esther Denouncing Haman

Ernest Normand: Esther Denouncing Haman

Esther 9 – Reversal

Yesterday we reflected on how God foils perfect plots . . . today we examine the turning point in the story of Esther and look for clues about how we might expect the same reversal of evil when we place ourselves fully in God’s hands.

As humans we too often see or experience the hunting down and destroying of either an innocent or someone we believe “deserves what she gets”.  Regardless of guilt or blamelessness, the brutal pack mentality of an attack on another human being is something to be avoided and we must work at turning others away from this ugly thinking.  We may have been a peripheral or integral part of a plot to bring someone down and if this is the case then we must go to that victim to ask forgiveness.  Association with those whose goal it is to establish an us against them mentality is dangerous for it sets us on a path that descends into darkness.  Escape from these associations can be difficult and is always permeated with its own special fear; yet it is imperative that we escape because – as we see repeatedly in scripture and in life – God will always, later or sooner, reverse the plots that schemers have conjured in dark corners on their well-worn couches.

When the day arrived on which the order decreed by the king was to be carried out . . . on which the enemies of the Jews had expected to become masters of them, the situation was reversed: the Jews became masters of their enemies.

King Ahasuerus allows a great violence to erupt against Haman and his family and this is not the sort of outcome that the New Testament faithful will want to see.  What Christ-followers will ask for is that light penetrate the darkness, that hard hearts be softened, and that stiff necks begin to bend.  And so we pray . . .

Just yet merciful God, you give us the opportunity to ask for our enemies’ conversion, grant us also the charity to intercede on their behalf.

Gentle and beautiful God, you make each one of us in your loving image, make also in each of us the patience to wait for reversal at your hand. 

Strong yet gentle God, you bless us with the capacity to forgive, bless us always with your constant guidance and care for without you we are too easily led into the darkness.

Wonderful and awesome God, you surprise us constantly with your merciful justice, help us to see that in each of our calamities we might anticipate your sweet reversal.

We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Spend some time with these characters and the scripture citations and study the characters in this story.  What more do we see in this story that we might apply to our own lives?

Tomorrow, what ditches are we digging?


A re-post from June 10, 2013. 

To learn more about the feast of Purim, visit: https://www.jhi.pl/en/blog/2019-03-18-purim-the-festival-of-lots

For another reflection on this story, go to the Esther – From Calamity to Rejoicing page on this blog at:  https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-historical-books/esther-from-calamity-to-rejoicing/

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Friday, March 20, 2020

Acts 21:27-36: Going Up to Jerusalem – Part III

The Garden Tomb

The Garden Tomb

To give James and the Jerusalem Jewish Christians their due, they are able to come to an agreement with Paul; but as we follow this story we see that Paul is meant to run into a huge struggle.  He is finally arrested and taken to Rome for his trial and with this single action, the Roman Empire catapults this young religion onto the world stage.  The little-known Jewish sect of the followers of The Way spreads Christ’s message through the Empire.  Jesus becomes a household word and the Way of Peace and Peace-Making suddenly has a universal audience because of Paul’s strife.  There is irony in this story . . . and inversion.

The controlling Jewish leaders meant to stop this movement at its inception, but if we remember the words of Gamaliel in Acts 5:34-42 we will understand that God always works through irony and inversion.  Gamaliel was the most respected scholar and leader of the times.  Paul himself studied with this rabbi.  The writer of Acts records these words of Gamaliel, and they are words we might try to live by daily: In the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone!  Let them go!  For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.

Many times in scripture we encounter this theme:  The faithful need not fight, they only need to maintain their relationship with God and refuse to do anything which causes them to abandon God . . . and it is always the struggle that brings strength, it is always the conflict that teaches patience, it is always the skirmish that draws others to God’s loving providence.  There will be difficulty when we go up to Jerusalem but still we must go.

We must all go up to Jerusalem.  We must stand for something.  We must witness, watch and wait.  We must allow the Holy Spirit to put the words we need into our mouths when we fear speaking.  We must cease worrying about the anxieties and cares of this world.  We must remain committed to the relationships we make.  We must seek and form unity rather than separation.  We must think of self last and neighbor first.  We must pray and intercede for those who harm us.  We are to commit daily acts of hope when we see the impossibilities of this life swirl around us trying to pull us into a vortex of depression and hopelessness.  We are to act with justice rather than leniency.  We are to rebuke Godlessness.  We are to be merciful to all – especially those who seek our destruction.  We are to forgive endlessly, to love infinitely and to hope outrageously.  For this we are created.  To this we are called.  Our God seeks nothing but intimacy with all of us.

God perseveres.  God endures.  God is patient.  God is love.  And this God of Love calls us all to go up to Jerusalem.

Jesus lived.  Jesus died.   Jesus rose.  Jesus returned.  Jesus lives.  And Jesus calls us all to go up to Jerusalem.

Tomorrow: A Prayer as we go up to Jerusalem.


Image from: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/israel/jerusalem-garden-tomb

To learn more about Jerusalem, visit Victor’s Place blog and read the Tomb of Jesus post at: http://vhoagland.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/at-the-tomb-of-jesus-november-14/

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Saturday, January 25, 2013

2 Kings 5: The Cure of Naaman

Pieter de Grebber: Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman

Pieter de Grebber: Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman

Naaman is cured of leprosy not by his faith alone but through the faith and encouragement of a small child who believes in Yahweh and the power of his prophets.  It is worth our while to read this story and examine commentary and footnotes because once we do – and this may seem unbelievable – we will find that we have a greater understanding of the modern world we live in today.

Through the child in this story we see that prophets are not the only ones among us who are called to heal, cure and serve as instruments for miracles. We see that we are also called to heal one another either with the direct laying on of hands, or by our intercessory prayers.

Jesus tells us in a very clear way that we must pray for our enemies: You have heard it said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy”.  But I tell you: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you . . . If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  (Matthew 5: 43-47)

Christ constantly presents us with a world of inversion. We die in order to be born; we give in order to receive; we sit at the lowest seat in order to be called higher; we humble ourselves so that we might be exalted.  The examples Jesus gives us are endless.   Today we hear God’s urging to heal others, even those who harm us, so that we in turn are healed.

I believe that we are called to be healers, even when wounded ourselves, because the prayers of a victim rise ever so quickly to God’s altar. God, in all of his compassion and mercy and desire to love, will reward the prayer of one who is wounded who – like God – forgives and then petitions healing for the abuser.

We must be present in spirit to our fellow pilgrims, and when we wade into the river of forgiveness, just as Naaman enters the river Jordan, we will find that the our willingness to intercede for our enemies will wash away the things of this world.  Suddenly we find ourselves present to the Spirit. And just as suddenly we will know that we, like Naaman, will “know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.”  This one God, this Yahweh, sent his son to heal us and ransom us from our dark place.   It is this God who calls us to heal one another . . . so that we in turn may be healed.


First written on May 31, 2007.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite. 

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1 Corinthians 1:18-25: Wisdom’s Paradox

Saturday, December 28, 2019

At that time Jesus said in reply: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.  Matthew 11:25

The Tree of Knowledge

The Tree of Knowledge

The paradox of creation is that the weak are strong and the strong are weak.  This Theology of the Cross, then is present in all suffering and opposes the norms usually associated with power and wisdom.   From La Biblia de América: This foolishness of the cross becomes present in all debility, anguish and the profundity of God’s love.  This is the surprising path of salvation opened to all humans by Christ.

We look for signs yet the only sign relevant to us, Jesus tells us, is the sign of Jonah – – – the prophet who finally did as God asked to save the city of Nineveh, after spending three days in the belly of a whale.  God does not exact the punishment he had meant to carry out, because all of the inhabitants repent – – – inspired by the reluctant prophet.  Jonah then complains about his surprising success.  We are so often determined to be disappointed!

Notes will tell us that God’s ways are inscrutable because we insist on having things “our way” rather than in God’s way in God’s time.  The wisdom and mercy we experience with God is incomprehensible to us because we have not yet learned to trust that this paradox about which Jesus speaks is real.  Our viewpoint is too narrow, our perspective too self-centered to fathom the kind of acceptance and love the creator has for his creatures.

From the NAB comments on Jonah:  The prophecy, which is both instructive and entertaining, strikes directly at this viewpoint [of forgiving wicked enemies].  It is a parable of mercy, showing that God’s threatened punishments are but the expression of a merciful will which moves all men to repent and seek forgiveness.  The universality of the story contrasts sharply with the particularistic spirit of many in the post-exilic community.  The book has also prepared the way for the gospel with its message of redemption for all, both Jew and Gentile.  (Page 961)

These are God’s ways.  This is God’s wisdom.  We live the paradox that when we are weakest we are strongest . . . because we are nearest to God.  In this Christmastide, let us celebrate God’s coming to us as an infant, defenseless and small.  And let us remember that in a few short months we will journey through the Lenten time when we flourish in God’s forgiveness and mercy.  Let us take time today to reflect on the lesson we might learn as we watch this tiny child grow into a man who offers both his humanity and divinity so that we might be free from fear, so that we might be saved.  And let us bask in the wonder of this gift so freely given.  Let us grant forgiveness, as we are forgiven.  Let us bless with mercy, as we are blessed.  Let us cradle and heal those who are broken . . . just as we are cradled and healed by God in his immense love.

When we suffer at the hands of others – – – either intentionally or unintentionally – – – let us gather up our wounded-ness, and our broken-ness.  Let us make of ourselves wounded healers in God’s great plan, in God’s great love, in the paradox of God’s great wisdom.


LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. Print.

Image from: http://stirringthedeep.com/2011/04/15/sister-wisdom-part-ii/

First written on April 20, 2009. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Luke 10:1-24: Serpents and Scorpions

Sunday, October 27, 2019

In the past few days at daily Mass we have been reading from the tenth Chapter of Luke’s Gospel; we have witnessed the sending forth of disciples by Jesus, and we have heard his words of counsel to these followers of The Way.  These words are not only for those who accompanied Christ in his journey; they are words for Christ’s twenty-first century followers.  They are words for us.

“I rely on you,” Jesus says to them . . . and to us: The harvest is abundant but the workers are few . . .

“The work will be dangerous,” Jesus tells them . . . and us: I am sending you like lambs among wolves . . .

“My followers must rely on the message of freedom and hope that I have given them to carry into the world,” Jesus reminds them . . . and us:  Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals . . .

“You must not be deterred,” he says . . . and neither must we: Greet no one along the way . . .

“It is imperative to always operate from a perspective of peace,” Jesus reminds them . . . and us: Into whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this household”.

“You are to remain focused on your work,” he says to them . . . and to us: Do not move around from one house to another . . .

“You will not be able to convert all who hear the message of salvation which you carry,” . . . and neither will we: Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, “The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shale off against you”.

Jesus warns his followers, “The rejection you will surely experience is your badge of honor,” . . . and it is to be ours: Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.

Jesus tells them, “You carry the Living Word with you” . . . and Jesus tells us: Whoever listens to you listens to me.

Jesus reminds his disciples, “I will protect you as you move about in this most dangerous of worlds,” . . . and Jesus also reminds us: Behold I have given you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you.

We humans worry about our physical safety more than we do our spiritual welfare.  We have this backwards.

We creatures of God spend great amounts of time and talent and energy amassing power and wealth rather than storing up treasures that are impervious to rot and decay.  We have this upside down.

We children of God turn to false, exterior gods too often rather than to the Living God who has given us life and who dwells within. We have this inside out.

As we read the work that Jesus has outlined we see that it is not a complicated plan he has in mind; but it is the reversal of that we have come to understand as powerful and lasting.  It is the inversion of the world as we experience it. And it is the only way to live cheek by jowl with the evil that we know exists.  Jesus does not promise to remove all obstacles from our path; rather he promises that our journey is the one that leads to honest happiness. He does not swear that he will make the way easy and smooth; rather, he swears that he will accompany us through the narrow gates of our passage.  Christ does not guarantee that we will find peace once we complete a prescribed checklist of tasks; rather, he guarantees that when we follow him we will experience a serenity that is everlasting.

We must not fear the snakes and scorpions we encounter as we step into our journey; rather, we must trust God’s message that even snakes and scorpions are subject to our will . . . when we follow this simple plan.


A re-post from October 6, 2012.

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2 Maccabees 5:10: Holy Place and Holy People

Friday, April 12, 2019

Image from “Places of the Spirit” published by Lake Placid Institute

But the Lord did not choose the nation for the sake of the holy place, but the place for the sake of the nation.

So many times we get things backwards.  We forget that we become weak in order to be made strong, that we serve in order to lead, and that we die that we may live in Christ.  We have looked at the books of Maccabees many times before and just last spring we spent time with this chapter reflecting on the stark difference between mystery and problem, impatience and trust, pride and humility, anxiety versus openness to God’s awesome power, sedition versus fidelity.  Here is some of what we were thinking.

We need to relax into the mystery of life more.  We need to adapt a humble stance with our Creator and a willingness of heart to do as we are bidden.  We need to immerse ourselves in God who is always with us . . . rather than trying to swim upstream or downstream with him.  We need to move away from sedition, death and the slandering and killing of fellow pilgrims.  We need to move toward the light, toward the mystery . . . and allow it to embrace us.

We can view the mysterious way that God moves in our lives with awe or with skepticism.  We can choose to believe or to disbelieve that Christ overcomes the barrier that death presents to the rest of us.  We can choose to be faithful to our covenant agreement and call, or we can strike out on our own to find another God to worship . . . or we can even choose to worship ourselves and our own ideas.  But none of this will satisfy because we will be making holy places where there is no holiness.  We will be creating holy communions where there are none with whom to commune, for nothing can be made holy without God’s presence.

In 1 Corinthians Paul tells us several times in the opening chapters do you not know that you are living temples of God, members of the body of the living Christ?  He echoes this on his other letters when he asks us to step away from immorality, from idolatry and to turn to the one true source of life: God the creator, God the redeemer, and God the love that exists in an inscrutable way deep within the mystery of each of us.

Mount Agung, Bali

This is all that we are asked to do . . . yet we so often make life much more complicated than it really is.  We are a holy people who come together when God calls us and thus we make holy places in which the Spirit will abide.  And in so doing we will rise even amidst the worst of circumstances, even above the pillaging of the temple . . .  to be sheltered in God, to live eternally in the Spirit, to be renewed in hope and forged in fidelity . . . to remain of and in Christ.  For we are his holy people . . . and he is our holy place.


A re-post from February 26, 2012. 

Image from: http://www.hcc.commnet.edu/artmuseum/exhibits/2004/izzy-places/index.html 

To see and read about the top ten sacred mountains, go to National Geographic’s Ten Sacred Mountains page, click on the image above, or go to: http://traveler.nationalgeographic.com/books-excerpts/ten-sacred-mountains-text

You may also be interested in Sacred Places of a Lifetime at: http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/coupon.jsp?code=MR35082&URL=%2Fjump.jsp%3FitemID%3D4464%26itemType%3DPRODUCT or Places of the Spirit at: http://www.hcc.commnet.edu/artmuseum/exhibits/2004/izzy-places/book.html

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