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Posts Tagged ‘inversion’


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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Mark 1The Mystery of Jesus

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

We visited this portion of Mark’s Gospel a few years ago when we reflected on the divergent images of fire and water – the fire of the Spirit within and the cleanness of the water that purifies.  Jesus is both human and divine; he is a vessel that holds – what seems to be – two contrary natures.  Jesus comes to tell us that we too, as his adopted sisters and brothers, have this potential to hold two opposing forces.  He comes to tells us that the impossible is possible when we live in him.  He comes to tell us that the Mystery of Christ is also the Mystery of our own origin.

Mark writes his Gospel with amazing clarity and precision.  We see a lightning view of Jesus’ meteoric rise and then what appears to be a fading into darkness . . . but we know better.  When circumstances are darkest, hope is strongest.  When the light seems the most dim . . . clarity arrives within.  This is the Mystery we understand from our brother Jesus.

Mark’s original story ends at 16:8: Then they went out and fled from the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment.  They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.  Sometime later the final stories of the Resurrection and Ascension were added.  Some believe that the final portion of the original was lost (Senior 94).  There is speculation about who added which ending and when – but there is no doubt about the veracity of the story.  The fervor here cannot be denied.  Just as Jesus cannot be denied, despite all of our efforts to put ourselves first and Christ last.

We are human.  We are divine.  When it is dark, it is bright.  Where there is fire, it does not consume but feeds us.  Where there is water, it purifies and cleanses rather than drowns.  We need not fuss and fidget with the details of this story.  We do not need to look for inconsistencies or to point at events we think cannot have taken place.  All we need do is trust and believe.  All we need do is relax into the mystery . . . and enjoy its wonder and beauty.


A re-post from February 19, 2012.

Image from: https://hdqwalls.com/fire-water-heart-art-wallpaper 

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

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Philippians 3:7-11Righteousness in Christ

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Written on January 7, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

When the cup is empty it is full.  When it is dark it is light.  When we are weak we are strong.  Christ is inversion.

We must empty ourselves of self in order to make room for Christ.  If we do not let him in, how can we belong to him?  How can we act in and for him?  Christ is constantly calling us to the openness and the selflessness that he knows we can achieve.

The reflection before Mass in MAGNIFICAT this morning is important for us to hear: Once Jesus Christ is manifested in the world in the Epiphany, once the revelation is made that the “Kingdom of heaven is at hand”, everything changes.  And the sign of it is this: we can keep Christ’s commandments.  By doing so, we remain in him, and he in us.  There is One in us who is greater than the one who is the world.  In short, we belong to God.  That belonging changes everything.

The Kingdom of God is at hand.  It is not floating in some distant future time.  It is now.  And we have work to do in this kingdom.

We belong to God.  And as God’s loving and beloved creatures, we seek to both console and be consoled.  We search for this perfect intimacy with God . . . but it has already been given to us as gift.

That belonging changes everything.  And so we must change everything.  When the cup is empty it is full. When it is dark it is light.  When we are weak we are strong.  Christ is inversion.  We must live and act in him.


IA re-post from

Images from: http://rosemaryl.blogspot.com/2010/09/light-in-darkness-blog-carnival-round-2.html and http://www.okcure.org/links__resources

Cameron, Peter John.  MAGNIFICAT. 8.1 (2008): 102. Print.  

A re-post from January 12, 2012. 

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Matthew 18:6-9: Stumbling Blocks

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Working with adolescents and teenagers, I take this verse of scripture seriously.  It is what calls me to stand before corruption, greed, lust for power, and self-aggrandizement.    It is what draws me to defend children within my family.  It is what calls me to speak to authority in the work place.  It is what calls me to my knees in my daily prayer before God.

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me . . .

When I am asked by others what gives me patience, it is this verse.

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me . . .

When I am asked what makes me fearless in the face of great adversity, it is this verse.

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me . . .

When I am asked how I am able to live around decay and dishonesty, it is this verse.

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me . . .

When I asked why I hold myself and others to high standards, it is this verse.

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me . . .

Jesus is clear; there is no ambiguity in his words.  Jesus is concise; Jesus does not feel the need to further explain his thinking – it ought to be obvious.  If we cannot and do not and will not defend and protect those who are the most vulnerable, what are we worth?

If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me . . .

Commentary tells us that these little ones who believe in me refers to anyone who believes in Christ.  “It is not clear if they are missionaries (see 10:42), all disciples, recent converts, those of low social status, or those weak in faith”.  (Meeks, 1890)  I will keep this in mind as I struggle with adults who cast down stumbling blocks before children.  I will remember that as always with Jesus, the Gospel is about inversion.  I will remind myself that often the children are the adults and the adults are the children.  I will continue to learn at Jesus’ knee how I might remove the millstone from my neck or how it is better to enter eternal life maimed than not at all.  I will do without my eyes if I am better able to see Christ in those who do not believe.  I will live without a hand or foot if I have a clearer picture of what Jesus’ has in mind as my work.  And I will be well aware of the stumbling blocks I might be casting before others in my attempt to save “the children”.

Dear, and good, and wise Jesus, You called your dear ones to yourself.  Help us to see the frightened child in the adults who struggle with un-named alarms.  Help us to act in kindness and humility with all who suffer from anxiety.  And keep us always close to you, even as we wend our way through the stumbling blocks cast down by our own terrors and fears.  Amen.   


A re-post from October 25, 2011.

Images from: http://dkevinbrown.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/do-i-really-believe-the-bible/ and http://johncalvin09dev.blogspot.com/2009/11/devotional-using-scripture-quote-from.html and http://johncalvin09dev.blogspot.com/2009/11/devotional-using-scripture-quote-from.html

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. Print. 

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Job 2:11-13Great Suffering

Monday, November 5, 2018

Written on June 14 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

At first glance, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar seem to be Job’s intimate friends.  When they arrive and see that Job is greatly changed and greatly affected by his new circumstances, they do not accuse Job or offer him platitudes; rather, they join him in grief and abide with him in his great suffering.  Once we begin to read the speeches these three offer, we change our thinking.  They urge Job to confess the hidden sin which they believe is the root cause of his pain . . . even though Job has nothing to confess.  This is when we realize that these three acquaintances are not able to think much beyond their immediate world and code.  They cannot really accompany Job in his great pain.

This week, the first Mass readings have been taken from Second Corinthians and Paul has been reminding his sisters and brothers in Christ that for your sake [Christ] became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich (8:9) We are rich enough, according to this thinking, that we can afford to love even our enemies . . . and it is our willingness to enter into suffering with Christ that brings us this wealth.

In the Gospels this week, we have been reading a similar message from Matthew 5: Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.  Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn you back on one who wants to borrow . . . You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’.  But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father.  These are difficult reversals to understand, thorny inversions to believe . . . these are hard lessons to model and to live.  Yet they are the fabric of Christian life.

Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar do their best to comprehend and even help Job but they cannot really abide with him because they do not understand the underpinning creed that suffering through and with and in Christ brings about true and lasting serenity.  They do not realize that suffering is not always a curse . . . and that great suffering may even be a blessing from God.


A re-post from October 3, 2011.

Image from: http://calvarybiblefellowshipmass.org/2011/08/27/1-year-bible-reading-08-28-09-03-11/

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