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Good Friday, April 10, 2020

John 21:1-14

sea-of-galilee-2[1]A Prayer by the Sea of Tiberias

We have taken apart the story of the disciples and the transformation of their lives on the shore of the sea they fished so well and so long.  We have witnessed their first, uncertain steps as they learn to become fishers of God’s children rather than fishers of God’s creatures in the sea.  Just as these early followers return to what felt familiar and found it lacking, so too might we find our old habits and old haunts when we look for peace. The disciples teach us a valuable lesson across the millennia that Jesus is always present to us.  Even when we do not recognize him.  Even when we choose to ignore him.  When we look for what we thought is lost, the apostles tell us, we need not look far.  We need only call on God.

With this story from John, we see the gentle way in which Jesus brings his followers back to the work of kingdom-building.  When we place ourselves in their place and time, we also witness the risen Christ for he is always with us quietly to materialize just when we are most in need.  He allows us to make our own decisions; yet he willingly suggests where we might best cast our nets.  He sustains us when we are hungry and frightened, he carries us when we are beaten and spent, he loves us willingly, always and without restraint.

Like these humble apostles who find their hopes dashed and their faith shaken, we too might return to our former, familiar ways only to find them less comfortable and less successful than we remembered.

Like these weary apostles who are frightened and disoriented by their incomprehensible Easter experience, we too might be slow to recognize Jesus when he steps quietly into our lives.

Like these flawed but loving apostles who are tossed by the social, political and religious pressures that surround them, we too will see Christ in the most casual of places and find him at the most dire of times.

Jesus calls, Jesus suggests, Jesus invites, Jesus feeds, Jesus shares.  Jesus asks us to follow, always leaving the choice open to us.  Jesus asks us to listen, always leaving us the option to turn away.  Jesus asks us to share, always leaving us the opportunity to accept or reject his offer.

And so we pray.

Good and constant Lord, we have witnessed the Easter story and still we have our doubts.  Pull us back to you and hold us closely.

Good and patient Lord, we have seen the empty tomb and still we worry.  Hold us in your arms to keep us from falling away.

Good and loving Lord, we have eaten with you in an old, familiar place in a new, transforming way.  Keep us ever with you and never let us forget our encounter with you by the Sea of Tiberias.

We ask this in Jesus name.  Amen. 


A re-post from Easter Week 2013.

To read a blog journal of a visit to The Sea of Galilee/Tiberias, click on the image above and toggle through the entries, or begin the sea-line journey at: http://pauseforthought.wordpress.com/2009/07/09/a-simple-home-of-love-teaching-and-healing/  You may also be interested in other Holy Land entries on the Mountain Tops and Monday Mornings blog.

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Friday, April 3, 2020

John 20:19-23

The Upper Room

The Upper Room

I send you . .  .

“Peace be with you,” Jesus said to them. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.

When life presents us with circumstances that confuse our senses, how do we bring reality into focus?  What fears do we bow to?  How do we unravel ourselves from our emotions?

When family or friends hurt or disappoint us, how do we recover?  How do we avoid seeking revenge?  What do we do to manage our desire to control others?

When we suffer a loss that is too great to handle, how do we move forward?  What do we hide? What do we reveal?

Fearful and confused, the disciples have gathered in the upper room where they shared that last meal with Jesus.  We can only imagine their bewilderment when Jesus appears among them.  They quiz one another about who did or did not lock the door.  They quiz Jesus about how he comes to be with them.  Their mourning has turned into rejoicing.

They are startled by the Teacher’s actions and words.  Here he is – somehow whole and back with them yet bearing the crucifixion wounds – and he is behaving as if this were their normal Passover journey to Jerusalem.  And now he tells them that he expects them to go out into the world – the world that has just put him to death – and teach others as he has taught them.  Even more surprisingly, he tells them that whose sins they forgive are forgiven and whose sins they retain are retained.  They are beyond confused.  They are stunned.

There is no other experience in their varied lives that has prepared them for what stands before them.  How, they ask themselves, could they have been so blind to Jesus’ real mission?  How had the Teacher been so patient with them?  Why does he value them so much? Can it be that he truly loves them this deeply and this well?

We are often blind-sided by circumstances.  What have we learned from these experiences?  Have we really noticed that it is Jesus who breathes life into our wounded lives with his own, powerful breath?  Have we taken his gentle urging seriously that we go into the world to do as he has done?  Do we fully and enthusiastically believe that Christ’s peace will be with us as we unlock the door behind which we have buried ourselves to go out into a world that will be both loving and hostile?

Today we reach the half-way point in the Easter Octave and if we still stand frightened and locked away rather than thankful, open, amazed and engaged in the world we have missed entirely the Easter story.  We have missed the announcement of the end of fear.  We have missed the liberation of our bodies, minds and souls.  But – and this is the truly amazing point of the Easter story – despite the fact that we have hidden ourselves away, Jesus comes through all locked doors to retrieve us.  Jesus breathes life back into our exhausted lives.  Jesus will go to hell and back in order to set us free from our fears and anxieties.  It is in this way that we know the breadth and depth of God’s love.  Jesus sends us, just as he was sent.  And Jesus goes with us always so that we have nothing to fear.

Tomorrow, the doubt of Thomas . . .


Image from: http://www.biblepath.com/holyland3.html

A re-post from Easter Week 2013.

o reflect more on the Upper Room and descriptions of other places Jesus lived, click on the image above or go to: http://www.biblepath.com/holyland3.html 

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Thursday, April 2, 2020

John 20:14-18

At the empty tomb: Why are you weeping?

Mary turned and saw Jesus there, but she did not know it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”  She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him”.

When life presents us with circumstances that confuse our senses, how do we bring reality into focus?  What promises do we make; what vows do we forswear?

When family or friends hurt or disappoint us, how do we recover?  To what lengths do we go?  What bridges do we build?

When we suffer a loss that is too great to handle, how do we move forward?  What do we expect? What do we hope?

Mary Magdalene’s sorrow and love are evident in this brief exchange. So churned by emotion that she does not recognize the Teacher, she speaks to a man she takes for a stranger and asks for his help.  No matter the consequence, no matter the danger, she is more determined than ever to at least bring proper respect to Jesus’ body.  Tears cloud her eyes as she waits for an answer, and then . . .

“Mary!” Jesus says to her.  In that instant Mary hears the familiar call . . . and she feels, more than sees, the Christ standing before her.

“I have not yet ascended to the Father,” Jesus tells her, “But go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”.

Ven der Weyden: Mary Magdalene

Ven der Weyden: Mary Magdalene

In this quick conversation Jesus and Mary have said all they need say to one another.  She is distressed.  He wants to calm her fear.  She is distraught.  He wants to sooth her too-jangled nerves.  She needs more strength than she can muster on her own.  He wants to give her his broad shoulders that carry the heaviest of yokes.  She is exhausted with grief and he has paused in this most important of journeys to stay a moment with her because he sees that she needs him.

She asks . . . he gives . . . generously.

What does Jesus tell us when we call on him in our Magdalene moments?

Jesus tells us that all is well. He explains that God has the situation in hand.  God his Father, God our Father.  Jesus also wants the word to go beyond just him and the Magdalene, beyond just you and me.  Jesus wants the world to know that he has not abandoned us.  He wants each of us to know that he is aware of what is happening at every moment in our lives.  Jesus wants to take each of us with him to the Father.

Why are you weeping? Jesus asks.  Let us be honest and tell Jesus all.

Tomorrow, the appearance to the disciples . . .


A re-post from Holy Week 2013.

Images from: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/rogier-van-der-weyden-the-magdalen-reading and https://stillblondeafteralltheseyears.com/the-empty-tomb-master-sculpture-of-mary-magdalene/

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Third Sunday of Lent, March 15, 2020

Luke 23:6-16: Herod

Andrea Schiavone: Christ with Herod

Andrea Schiavone: Christ with Herod

Herod was very glad to see Jesus . . .

He had been waiting to see him for a long time . . .

He had heard about him . . .

He had been hoping to see him perform some sign . . .

We are so eager to know Christ; we bring our small and big worries to his feet.  We have heard so much about him.  We are hoping that he will cure our woes and still our anxiety.  We have some specific tasks for him to complete for us; we hold a short but good list of wrongs for him to right.

Herod questioned Jesus at length . . .

But Jesus gave him no answer . . .

Herod treated Jesus contemptuously and mocked him . . .

Herod and the guards clothed Jesus in resplendent garb and sent him back to Pilate . . .

We have a lot of questions for Jesus and we present our daily list of petitions faithfully; but – strangely – it seems that Jesus is not listening.  There are no answered requests for us to tick off our list.  We feel disappointed and even let down.  We wonder if the naysayers are correct . . . perhaps there is no resurrection.  Perhaps we believe in folly.

Herod decides to have Jesus flogged and released.  Pilate washes his hands of the man. 

We have passed the half-way mark in our Lenten journey and so we take an accounting.  We have given alms.  We have fasted.  We have attended morning and evening prayer.  We have participated in the sacrament of reconciliation.  We have checked off our chores like small children pleasing our parents and still our little lists of favors, pleas and signs appear to be left unanswered.  We wonder if Jesus is listening and we continue to look for a sign.

Herod was very glad to see Jesus . . .

He had been waiting to see him for a long time . . .

He had heard about him . . .

He had been hoping to see him perform some sign . . .

We arise each morning to fresh water, food and clothing for the day, transportation, information, friendships.  We travel through the day experiencing little miracles all along the way, little signs of God’s love.  And we somehow miss them.

Evening falls and we count our accomplishments and disappointments.  We enter them into a mental balance sheet and come up with a balance.  We take credit for all that goes well and we assign blame to ourselves or others for all that seems to fail.  And we again miss the miracle that we have wandered through another day in the company of a God who loves us so much that we are never left alone for an instant.

Herod sits and speaks with Jesus and does not understand the miracle of the gift of God’s love.  We too might speak with Jesus each day and open ourselves to the wonder of God’s care.

Herod looks for a momentous sign so that he might have full confidence in Jesus’ power to save and while he is scanning his surroundings he looks past the obvious sign that sits before him . . . the embodiment of God’s protection and promise in the person of Jesus.  We too might look past the obvious today . . . or we might choose to believe.

Herod wants a sign that he already has.  Let us take each small miracle as it comes to us.  And let us remember that the sign of God’s love is always with us.  Jesus never leaves our side.


Image from: http://www.kunst-fuer-alle.de/english/fine-art/artist/image/andrea-schiavone/8293/4/111915/christ-before-herod/index.htm

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Friday, January 24, 2020

2 Kings 4: Blindness

Leighton: Elisha Raises the Shunamite

Frederic Leighton: Elisha Raises the Shunamite

“How can I help?”  These words of the prophet Elisha are echoed by Jesus when he asks the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?”  (Matthew 20:30-34, Mark 10:46-52, Luke 18:35-43)   We might take some time today to think about what it is we want.  If Elisha visited us today, if we bumped into Jesus on our way home from work and were asked this question, what would we reply?  For what blindness of our own do we seek healing?  And once healed . . . do we wish to continue seeing Christ as the one who has done this healing?

We have many wishes hidden in our subconscious; or perhaps our secret desires are not hidden but rather have taken possession of our lives so that we think of nothing else.  In either case, if we are asked to synthesize all that we desire into one great wish . . . what will it be?  For whom will it be?

In today’s Noontime we read several stories: a widow with nothing whose children will be taken into slavery, a woman of influence whose child is brought back to life, a poisoned stew that becomes a healing meal, loaves of bread that multiply to feed many.  These stories have something in common: The saving power of a loving God wrought by a faithful servant who is not blind to the possibilities before him.

The prophet Elisha is faithful to Yahweh in every way.  He relies entirely on God’s providence for all that is necessary in living a mortal life: food, clothing, shelter.   He also relies on God for his vision of possibilities.  Most of us, when confronted by the widow, the wealthy woman, the poisoned stew and the too few barley loaves, want to turn to someone else to ask, “What am I supposed to do with this now in this moment?”  Elisha moves toward God as he allows God’s miraculous work to take place.  Elisha is not blind to the possibilities.

Jesus tells us about our own spiritual blindness (John 9:35-41) saying: If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim that you can see your guilt remains. 

What do we claim that we can see?  Is it the exasperation and desolation of life . . . or the goodness and gift of our existence?

What do we claim that we want?  Do we seek comfort and ease for ourselves . . . or the beauty of understanding how we fit into God’s plan?

Are we blind . . . or do we truly see?  When Jesus hears that the man he has cured of blindness has been thrown out of the temple precincts, he seeks the man out and asks: Do you believe in the Son of Man?  When this man asks who this Son of Man is that he may see him, Jesus replies: You have seen him and the one speaking to you is he . . . I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind. 

Jesus presents this man – and us – with an important question: Once we have seen the miracle before us, do we believe it, or do we choose to categorize it in a way that it can be explained away?   Jesus also asks us to think about this question: What is our own spiritual blindness?  What are the miracles lying just before us that we pass by because we cannot fathom their possibility?  And so we consider . . . if Elisha visited us today, if we bumped into Jesus on our way home from work, what would we reply?  For what blindness of our own do we seek healing?  And once healed . . . do we take these gifts for granted . . . do we explain them away . . . or do we give God the honor due . . . and do we see Christ as the one who has done this healing?


First written on January 21, 2010. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

To read commentary on 2 Kings 4, click on the image above or go to: http://deaconsmemorial.blogspot.com/2011/04/optional-mass-of-fifth-week-of-lent.html

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Friday, January 3, 2020

1 John 5: Victory

reclaiming_gods_hope[1]For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.  And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.  Who [indeed] is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

We are so often told – and we so often forget – that once we place ourselves in God’s hands we need not struggle.  From the first books of the Torah to the final words of Revelation we hear this message and yet we fight with and against the world.

Sometimes we fear one another.  We hoard money, goods, guns, plots and any object or idea we believe keeps us special . . . and this is sad because we are already special.

Sometimes we fear the past or the future.  We look over our shoulders constantly or peer into the coming days looking for clues about how we should act and decide . . . and this is so senseless because these preoccupations takes us away from the holy present.

Sometimes we fear God.  We look for full comprehension or we want total control; we deny, cajole, and make bargains . . . and this is so little of us because as John tells us today: The surest victory over the world comes not from our actions or thoughts but through our faith in God.

I write these things to you so that you may know you have eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God.  And we have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything in accordance with his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked of him is ours. 

John cannot speak more plainly to us.  In his Gospel he tells us quite clearly that Jesus is the unique Son of God.  He reminds us that salvation comes through our belief in the Son.  He explains that “Jesus is not the victim of human injustice even though those who killed him were evil people.  Jesus chose to offer his life for others so that they could see God’s love revealed on the cross.  When we see God’s love on the cross, we are reminded that God identifies with the lowly, suffering people of the world by joining with them”. And finally, John’s Gospel describes for us how mutual love and unity express God’s love.  (Senior RG 450-451)   All of this is explained to us and yet our fears overcome our faith; we allow the turmoil of the world to overcome us; we forget that victory comes through our faith in the story that we witness through John and the other apostles.

John tells in his writings that he has witnessed all that he recounts – we are not reading a second, third or fourth-hand accounting.  In his first letter, John intertwines the very real with the ideal and we may become confused with this fusion of two perspectives; yet in is this dance between two opposites and the synthesis they present, John describes a world of universal acceptance and love that we seek.

Jesus tells us endlessly that God’s simple commandment to us is his call to love.  We struggle with this for we do not see it in the world we occupy.

John tells us endlessly that Jesus’ simple commandment to love comes directly from God the creator.  We struggle with this and we let doubt and fear and a desire to control our world to take us over.

As we begin a new year in our western calendar, let us decide to put aside our anxieties about the world.  Let us spend time reflecting with John, a man who accompanied Christ – God Among Us.  And let us place all our fears and hopes in the hands of a God who loves us deeply and always . . . for it is in that place alone that we experience victory that conquers the world.


A re-post from December 31, 2012.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 450-451. Print.   

For more on the First Letter of John, visit the 1 John – Testimony page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-new-testament-revising-our-suffering/1-john-testimony/

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Exodus 23:1-9: We are God’s Dwelling Place

Saturday, November 30, 2019

You shall not repeat a false report.

Do not join the wicked in putting your hand, as an unjust witness, to anyone.  Neither shall you allege the example of the many for an excuse for doing wrong.

Nor shall you  . . . side with the many in perverting justice.

When you come upon your enemy’s ox or ass going astray, see to it that it is returned to him.

When you notice the ass of one who hates you lying prostrate under its burden . . . help him to raise it.

You shall not deny one of your needy fellow-men his rights in a lawsuit.

You shall keep away from anything dishonest.

You shall not put the innocent or just to death . . . You shall not acquit a guilty man.

Never take a bribe.  Bribes blind even the most clear-sighted and twist the words even of the just.

You shall not oppress an alien . . . since you were once aliens yourselves.

If we might only heed these oh so old words . . . there would be oh so much less strife among us!

Paul reminds us that Christ fulfills this old Mosaic Law, telling us that he even comes to supersede it. He also reminds us that we are significant members of God’s family.

You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the capstone.  Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you are also being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.  (Ephesians 2:19-22)

John of Patmos has a vision of the New Earth and the New Jerusalem in which he reports a loud voice from the throne saying: Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.  He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God].  (Revelation 21:3)

Jesus is not God’s Plan B.  He does not arrive to live among us as an afterthought or as a fixative for something that has gone wrong.  He has always been and will always be the thought and action of God among us . . . The Word.  It was always intended that we live peaceably side by side, helping one another with our troubles, lifting one another to new levels of spiritual maturity, coaxing, exhorting and encouraging one another over the hurdles we encounter in our journey.  Yet even as we are a collective, we also have the individual responsibility to see to our own growth, to gather around us friends who live by the Mosaic and Christian codes, to rebuke one another, to listen to one another, and to love one another.  We might look back from our twenty-first century vantage point to see the pieces fall into place.  We can see that from the earliest stages of our development as peoples, God was abiding with us.  We can also see that he abides with us still.  Let us praise God!  Let us sweep the floors clean . . . renew the old and new rules . . . and welcome him into the dwelling place of our hearts.


Written on November 9, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://wau.org/resources/article/re_gods_dwelling_place/ and http://life-in-a-jiffy.blogspot.com/2011/06/nature-hearts.html

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Ezekiel 39:25-29: Restoration After Hiatus

Monday, October 21, 2019

Govert Flink: Issac Blessing Jacob

When we look at the life of Jacob we might be tempted to look at the story of his deeds or accomplishments: his early toying with deceit, his growing ability to focus persistently on a goal, his fathering of twelve sons who lead the Twelve Tribes of Israel.  When we look more closely we see that rather than a rising and falling arc of “doings” what we really find is a string of actions that are separated by pauses.  What Jacob has mastered is not so much the “doing” of life but the thoughtful hiatus.

In the story of Jacob we see that are many periods of hiatus in which he is separated from all he loves by either his own actions or the events that swirl around him.  When we reflect a bit more on Jacob, we might also see how and if and whether we experience hiatus in our own lives.  Today’s Noontime calls us to reflect on the goal we all have in mind when we are in a state of hiatus.  We yearn for the reunion, the curing, the re-construction, the bridging, the healing . . . the restoration.

We know that the lands and fortunes of the tribes of Jacob are indeed restored . . . and then lost again.  The people wander away from the lesson they thought they had learned during exile.  Their hubris and their lack of willingness to listen to and for the voice within gets in their way, they become easily distracted, and wander into the wilderness again to lose what they had regained.  Fortunately for humans, God forgives endlessly.  The prophet Ezekiel reminds us of this.

When we experience hiatus well we have the opportunity to learn much about ourselves.

We come to know that the Lord is our God, before whom no other god may stand.  These other gods may be our desire for wealth, looks, fashion, friends, prestige, life style, addiction – anything which separates us from God.

We experience the New Law of Love, the Law of the Beatitudes which Jesus brought us on the Mount (Matthew) and on the Plain (Luke).

We become people who do not fear poverty, illness or rejection suffered as the result of Kingdom Building and Kingdom Living.

We become light and salt and yeast to the world.  We are to be brothers and sisters together shouting with joy that God is good.

We become to be harvesters who go forth weeping to return singing.

We become people who are Jesus in a world which is not.

We become people who wait for, and hope for, and work for Restoration.

And this is the Restoration which awaited the tribes of Jacob.  It is the same restoration which comes to all those who wait actively, seek patiently, and witness persistently.

This is a Way worth following.  It is a Life worth living.

Amen.


To explore how hiatus figures in Jacob’s life and in our own, go to the A Journey Hiatus in the Journeys of Transformation page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/a-journey-of-transformation/a-journey-hiatus/

Image from: https://www.thinkingfaith.org/articles/jesus-who-do-you-think-you-are-1-abraham-isaac-and-jacob

First written on October 6, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Psalm 30:6: At night there are tears, but joy comes with the dawn.  

The darkness of night seems to magnify our fears; demons multiply when shadows fall.  The morning light dispels our aches, pains and fears.  If only we might live constantly in those moments of first light.

God says: I understand why you fear the darkness; it is where the wicked spend their time.  I appreciate how much you love the light and how hard you work to bring light into the darkness.  Jesus comes to you each day in both obvious and subtle ways to replenish and nourish the energy that drains as you struggle with your dark hours.  My Spirit abides with you endlessly to lift you when you are down, to animate you when you are discouraged.  I defend, protect, call and unite you.  The darkness is empty and hollow . . . and has no power over you. Live in me and you will have the light with you always.  With me joy abides. In me the Spirit lives.  For me Jesus saves.  Come . . . and remain in me.

It is possible to live in the light even though we are surrounded by darkness.

For more reflections about dispelling the dark, type the word Light in the blog search box and see where the light leads you.  Click on the image above to read a story about two brothers and the lesson that the “first light” brought to them. 


A re-post from August 30, 2012.

Image from: http://nandini-j.blogspot.com/2012/01/two-brothers-chinese-story-on-respect.html

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