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Posts Tagged ‘John’


The Catholic Letters: Universality

Friday, October 4, 2019

The New American Bible explains the inclusion of the letters of James, Peter, John and Jude in the canon of the New Testament saying that “early Christians saw the New Testament as the depository of apostolic figures to whom they are attributed”.  That being said, there is ambiguity about the authorship of some of these letters; however, they were all written during the early “apostolic age” and as such are important to us – the apostles of the twenty-first century.  What lessons can we take from them?

Scholars tell us that these letters demonstrate the true meaning of the word catholic.  They underscore the idea that Christ came for all.  Christ heals all who seek him.  Christ loves allChrist answers all who call upon him.  So it follows that if we are Christ we, too, must have a universal view of humankind.

When I think of James, I love that he reminds us to be doers of the word and not sayers only.  We cannot be saved by faith alone.

When I think of Peter, I remember that his letters did not make much sense to me until I had suffered greatly.  Peter, Cephas the Rock, writes so beautifully of the way to suffer properly, of how to make our suffering holy and thus unite ourselves with Christ through the cross so that we become co-redeemers with Christ.

John’s letters, and in particular the first two, are beautiful anthems to love.  They are surfacing as first readings at Mass this week and I am always struck by how they amplify the message of John’s lyrical Gospel, and how they give us a clear understanding that God is love and that love is God.

Jude’s one simple letter tells us how to live in a Christian community, how to beware of false teachers, and how to admonish one another properly.

Taken together or separately, there is much to be gained by sitting with a commentary and an epistle or two on a quiet afternoon to understand the allegory and the message meant for us . . . the modern apostles.

We seek God.  We seek union and intimacy with God.  This cannot be done unless we follow in the footsteps of those who shared bread with the Master.  Jesus came as God’s expression of love to us, his creatures.  He comes to us each day in the persons with whom we interact.  He calls us to be the universal church.

God seeks us.  He seeks union and intimacy with us.  This cannot be done unless we allow our hearts to be open to the potential planted in us.  We go to Jesus each day as we demonstrate our faith by loving God our creator fully.  We go out to Christ each day as we unite with Christ, becoming co-creators of love.  We become the universal church.

Jesus, breath of God, abide with us as we rise, become us as we go about our day, dream with us as we put our head upon the pillow at night.  Jesus, we seek you even as you seek us.  Amen.


Adapted from a reflection written on January 11, 2008.

Image from: https://jooinn.com/old-letter-rolls.html

Investigate the Letters of the New Testament at: http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/SFS/an0400.asp

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Obadiah 1:15-21: The Measure

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

THINK team commemoration design

A favorite from September 11, 2012. Let us consider again the measure of our lives . . .

The measure that you measure with is measured out to you.  John the Evangelist speaks of the measure of God’s joy which we will know when we follow Jesus.  All three synoptic Gospels (Matthew 7:2, Mark 4:24, Luke 6:38) remind us that we are measured by our own actions; this is the same message we hear from the prophet Obadiah today; yet . . . Do we truly listen to these words? 

Countless times in the Old Testament we hear stories of how people are done in by the plans they designed for their perceived enemies.  The story of Esther is a wonderful example which I always recall because it illustrates this point in the person of Haman who is executed on the gallows he ordered constructed for Mordecai, the man he envied and wanted to eliminate.

Do we truly listen to these words?

Each time we find ourselves plotting to “teach someone a lesson”:  Do we truly listen to these words?

When we worry about the schemes of others more than we place our petitions for change in God’s hands: Do we truly listen to these words?

If we engage in gossip or enable disrespectful or abusive behavior without saying a word: Do we truly listen to these words?

If there are times that we refuse to witness as God asks: Do we truly listen to these words?

When we have given up hope and cease asking God to intercede for those who harm us: Do we truly listen to these words?

When we allow our doubts and fears about God’s love for us and the goodness of his creation to overcome his love for us: Do we truly listen to these words?

When we examine the measure with which we measure others . . . will we want to be valued by this standard?  Will we want to have others’ opinions rammed into our minds?  Will we want others to lapse into mediocrity for fear of failure?  Will we want others to give up entirely?  Will we want others to speak in compassionate truth?  Will we want to be measured with the norm we use when looking at others?

Do we truly listen to these words?

Notes from La Biblia de América: Can patience run dry?  Does the capacity to lend support have a limit?  Our Christian faith teaches us that the answer is, no.  It is necessary to forgive seven times seven times – or infinitely.  Love cannot have limits.  Is this the only message Obadiah wants to communicate . . . is he merely acting to break a cycle of violence in his own day, or does he speak to us as well?  This briefest of prophecies has as a target the Edomites, a people in constant conflict with those in Judah, the descendents of Jacob’s brother, Esau.  The abrasive conflict reaches a height when Edom backs the invading Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem and carry the Jewish people off into exile.  Obadiah speaks to the remnant left behind after the Assyrian holocaust.  Obadiah speaks to us now.

Who are the Edomites in our own lives today?  We know the land of Edom well.  It is the place where our constant adversaries live.  It is the hard heart which envies who we are and what we have.  It is the stiff-necked place from where schemes and lies and plots all spring . . . and these are the places we are asked to measure with the same measure we wish ourselves to be measured.  We are asked to measure in faith, with hope . . . and through love.  Let us go to Edom with a full measure of love in our hearts.


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

Adapted from a post written on May 11, 2009.  

For more information on the THINK team design, click on the image above or go to:

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Matthew 17:1-8: Transfigured

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Raphael: The Transfiguration

I love this story because it is so indicative of how we humans behave.  When we see something beautiful we want to capture it.  When we feel something exhilarating we want it to possess it.  When we witness something powerful we want to hold it forever.  Peter, James and John see Jesus transformed, radiating brilliance.

In Mark’s version (9:2-8) and in Luke’s story (9:28-36) we hear again about the brilliance of the whiteness, the flashing of light, God’s voice booming out that he is pleased with Jesus.  We understand that Jesus holds a conversation with Elijah and Moses about his own exodus to come.  Mark tells us that the apostles were frightened.  The apostles suggest to Jesus that they erect tents; Lord, it is good that we are here.  If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.  Luke adds about Peter: He did not know what he was saying.  So many times when we witness a miracle we do not comprehend what is really happening.  Our perspective is too narrow, our view too limited.  We want to hold and keep the present beyond its purpose.  We fear the future and regret the past.  The present, we tell ourselves, is something we can control.  And so we try to hold on to a transfiguration that is meant to be a transition to something new.  We trust what we know . . . and we fear what we do not.

I am amazed that God continues to accompany us when we are so tiny beside his greatness, so stingy beside his mercy, and so self-centered beside his generosity.  I am thinking of a prayer I have just read in Phyllis Tickle’s THE DIVINE HOURS: PRAYERS FOR SPRINGTIME (255): Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves.  Keep me both outwardly in my body and inwardly in my soul, that I might be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul”.  We want so much to draw out our happiness so that it might last forever.  We yearn to capture serenity and hold it fast.  We wish that sadness and loss were experiences we did not have to suffer; and when transfiguration comes we want to remain in it . . . not noticing that once we have been transformed we must go forth to transform the world.

As we approach Holy Week and the miracle of Easter when Jesus suffered, died and rose again to bring us the gift of eternal life, let us follow Jesus along with James and Peter and John to the top of our own high mountain to experience the vision of dazzling whiteness and the gift of transfiguration; and let us celebrate.  How glad and how grateful we must be that Jesus did not follow the suggestion of his friends and remain on the mountain forever in a state of bliss.  How blessed and how graced are we that Jesus abides with us each day calling us to our own transfiguration.  How good and how gracious is our God that he visits us – his little children – constantly and faithfully . . . to grant us miracles in our sorrow, light in our darkness, and peace in all our adversity.


A re-post from March 28, 2012. 

Image from: http://www.3pipe.net/2011/01/giovanni-bellini-st-francis-in-desert.html

Tickle, Phyllis.  THE DIVINE HOURS: PRAYERS FOR SPRINGTIME. New York: Doubleday, 2001. Print.

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Luke 4:1-13The Test

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Tissot: Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness

As we begin a new year, let us prepare ourselves to be tested as Christ’s followers . . . and let us watch the Master as he interacts with Satan.  This reflection was written in January 2010 and is posted today as a Favorite . . .

Today we watch as Satan tests Jesus, hoping to tempt him into succumbing to his control.  We hear Jesus remind Satan that he cannot test God.  Even after his failure, Satan departed from him until an opportune time.  The devil never gives up . . . nor does God.

St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians (10:9), reminds us of this again.  In 2 Corinthians (2:9) he encourages us to be stalwart so that we might withstand our own test and temptation.  In 8:8 and 13:5 he recommends that we test our own spirit to see where it needs bolstering.  In Galatians 6:4 he again suggests that we test ourselves.  To the Thessalonians he says: Test everything.  Hold on to the good and avoid every kind of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22)

St. James (1:12) lauds the holy one who can withstand the test. 

St. John in 4:1 of his first letter writes that we are to test false prophets and stray spirits to examine the origin and veracity of their authority.

Jesus cites Deuteronomy 6:16 when he reminds the devil that we are to refrain from testing God.  We are to obey the commandments, to do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord.  In the Old Testament, this clinging to commandments and laws brought God’s protection and defense.  In the New Testament we realize that we are graced with God’s protection as a birthright; we receive uncounted blessings each day . . . even in the midst of suffering.

All of this testing of self and this refusal to test God takes a great deal of effort, and by the end of each day we may be fatigued from holding firm and maintaining our own appropriate behavior.  Spiritual exhaustion may accompany a life of trust in God, patience with his creatures, and perseverance in living a life of charity.  It is for this reason that we must refill the well and give ourselves permission to rejuvenate the spirit.  Perhaps when our nerves are frayed we ought to take this as a sign that we need to retreat from life for a bit.

When Jesus is tempted by Satan, he replies: One does not live by bread alone; worship the Lord your God and serve him only; and do not put the Lord your God to the test.

When we feel ready to explode, about to fall apart, or are just plain exhausted, we might repeat these words to ourselves and follow them with . . . if this is a test, dear Lord, give me the grace, the peace and the will to follow you, to know that you will convert all harm to good, and to know that we need trust only you. 

In this way, we may pass each test that comes our way.  


A we move through the opening days of a new year, we re-post this reflection from January 3, 2012. 

Image from: http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/4453/Jesus_Tempted_in_the_Wilderness_J%C3%A9sus_tent%C3%A9_dans_le_d%C3%A9sert 

For more images of Jesus from the Brooklyn Museum, click on the image above or follow this link: http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/4453/Jesus_Tempted_in_the_Wilderness_J%C3%A9sus_tent%C3%A9_dans_le_d%C3%A9sert

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Acts 8:4-40Magic or Mystery

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Avancino Nucci: Peter’s COnflict with Simon Magus

Written on March 10 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

In today’s Noontime we have the juxtaposition of Simon the magician – who uses sleight of hand and deceit to lure in an audience – with Philip the apostle – who allows the Spirit to work through him to call others to Christ.  Which are we today?  Who are our friends, family, companions and colleagues?  What do we expect from our world?  How do we interact with all of God’s creatures and God’s creation?

Following the martyring of Stephen, the apostles scatter.  This brutal act which was meant to stifle the Spirit only carries it out into the world.  As always, God turns all harm to good . . . if we prepare ourselves to receive God’s gift of grace.

We might examine our conscience as we move into our Lenten journey.

You thought you could obtain God’s gift with money . . . Pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you . . .

Do I want to know the truth even when inconvenient?

Peter said . . . your heart is not right with God . . .

Will I accept critique, even when it is delivered unkindly?

How can I understand [the Gospel] unless someone guides me . . .?

Am I willing to listen more than I talk?

The crowds listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did . . .

Do I consistently create time and space for God in my life no matter the circumstance?

Now those [apostles] who were scattered went from place to place . . .

Am I willing to proclaim the good news even when joy eludes me?

Philip proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus . . .

We cannot purchase or earn God’s grace in any way.  God’s grace is not a trick that fools the eye or ear.  God’s grace is the action of Spirit that moves within and through us.  The proper response to this gift is our gratitude, our fidelity, and our willingness to build the kingdom with all who are likewise called by God.

We may be tempted to worry only about ourselves and we may want to think that our relationship with God is with God alone.  We find out, once we begin to listen well, that we are to act in concord with one another despite and even because of our differences.  God’s great oneness is not a monolith but a kaleidoscope variety of his creatures and creation.  Once we begin to notice what attracts us to God, once we begin to discern our reason for seeking God . . . we will know if we are looking for magic to solve our problems . . . or the Spirit that transforms us into faithful kingdom builders.


A re-post from November 10, 2011.

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Magus

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Isaiah 66:18-24God Sets a Sign

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Witten on March 4 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

For I know their works and their thoughts . . .

Isaiah reminds us that God sees all; there are no secrets.  Just a few days ago we heard the words of Jesus as recorded by Luke telling us that what is whispered in the dark will come to light.  It is impossible to hide from God for God is omniscient and all-knowing.

And I am coming to gather all the nations and tongues . . .

Isaiah reminds us that God is all powerful; he can do all things.  Nothing is impossible for God.  Jesus tells us that what is impossible with men is possible for God.  (Luke 18:27, Mark 10:27, Matthew 19:26)  It is impossible to conquer God who is omnipotent and eternal.

And they shall come and shall see my glory . . .

Isaiah reminds us that God is awesome; in the Old Testament we are told to fear, or to stand in awe of God for this reason.  Jesus tells us that once we walk in God’s way, nothing will be impossible for us (Matthew 17:20) that his glory is our glory. This is the measure of God’s might and love. It is impossible for God to be or do evil for our compassionate God is goodness itself.

And I will set a sign among them.

Isaiah reminds us that God knows the faithful just as the faithful know God.  Jesus tells the Father that he has come to gather in those faithful.  When we bear witness to evil, we also bear the sign of God on our foreheads.  It is impossible for God to forget or neglect us for God is love itself.

Isaiah lived at a time of deep and corrosive corruption and he understood the damage this kind of erosion has on people.  He warned against the decay and fire that envelops those who neglect God’s way.  His words continue to instruct us today.  Jesus too, teaches us the lessons we need to know in order to be numbered in those who know and recognize God with ease.

St. Paul writes to the people of Philippi (4:8) one of the simplest yet truest and most beautiful descriptions of Christian living.  Once we take these words in and own them, we have no need to fear the dire consequences we see in Isaiah today.  Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  If we can say that we seek truth, purity, and beauty, if we act in honor and justice, if we live grace-filled days . . . we need not fear the harvester’s sword.

God has set a sign among us.  That sign is Christ.  We need not fear Isaiah’s predictions when we respond to God’s call as St. Paul urges.  Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious . . . this is excellence . . . this is worthy of praise . . . this is worthy of our time . . . this is God among us . . . this is Christ.  Amen.


A re-post from August 18, 2011.

Image from: http://omgzi.blogspot.com/2010/10/ichthys-sign-of-fish.html

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John 21:1-14: It Was Already Dawn

Friday, April 13, 2018

James Tissot: Jesus Appears on the Shore

In this second week of Eastertide, we continue to find new life in the Easter miracle of our resurrection as we re-visit the Gospel readings for the Easter Octave. Today we return to the Sea of Tiberius with Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John and two other disciples. Discouraged, frightened, needing employment, or wanting to go back to familiar rhythms and themes of life . . . we do not know why these followers return to the waters of Galilee. But we do know that this is where they encounter the risen Christ. It was already dawn, John tells us.

This imagery reminds us that when we believe our night of suffering and striving is endless, we – like these disciples – will look up from draining work to discover that it is already dawn. Perhaps we – like these disciples – meet Jesus when we are at our lowest. Perhaps we are the two unnamed disciples who take up nets and oars with our comrades to shove out into deep waters to see how we might survive. Perhaps we believe our lives have brought us disappointment again. First, there was the death of Jesus, and now we have been fishing through the night yet have caught nothing.  Unexpectedly, a stranger calls out to us from the shoreline, urging us to cast our nets once more . . . but on the starboard side of the boat.

This is how it happened . . . When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. (NABRE)

How could this possibly matter, we wonder? What difference can it make to change the side of the boat? We have strained ourselves to the limit and we have no more strength.

They did what he said. All of a sudden there were so many fish in it, they weren’t strong enough to pull it in. (MSG)

With this, Peter leaps from the boat and we question his actions as he flails his way to the shoreline; yet it is there – when the dawn is upon us – we realize that Christ has been with us all along.

When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”  (NABRE)

We see that Jesus is already baking fish on the open fire, but we add our own fish from the new catch, finally understanding that we are to join Christ in his work. A memory flickers through our minds of the 3 fish and 5 loaves that Jesus divided so that five thousand might eat. And as we settle around the warmth of the fire to take in this meal, we realize our work, we hear Christ’s call. Despite our discomfort with the unfamiliar, we know that we must return to Jerusalem to continue the discipleship Jesus has begun in us.

Regardless of our fatigue, we lean into our nets again. In spite of deep waters and dark nights, we leap from our small boat to thrash ashore so that we might share a meal with Christ. Although we have thought our suffering and fears went unnoticed, Christ has been with us, waiting with baked fish and bread to erase our exhaustion and nourish our hope. And suddenly the night slips away . . . . almost without our noticing . . . for it is already dawn.


When we compare other translations with the ones in this post, we begin to understand that despite the length of the night and the frustration of the work, Christ invites us to join him in our own renewal.

To read Matthew’s accounting of how Jesus feeds 5000, read Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-34, Luke 9:12-17 or John 6:1-14. Matthew (15:32-39) and Mark (8:1-9) also describe the feeding of 4000. 

Images from: https://www.dominicanajournal.org/burning-coals-for-breakfast/ and https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/cooking-steckerlfisch-over-an-open-fire-high-res-stock-photography/56298235

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The Gospels: Stories

The Book of Kells: The Four Gospels

The Fourth Day of Christmas, December 28, 2017

From snopes.com: “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is what most people take it to be: a secular song that celebrates the Christmas season with imagery of gifts and dancing and music. Some misinterpretations have crept into the English version over the years, though. For example, the fourth day’s gift is four “colly birds” (or “collie birds”), not four “calling birds.” (The word “colly” literally means “black as coal,” and thus “colly birds” would be blackbirds.)

No matter the color of the birds in these lyrics, most critics agree that the number four refers to the Four Gospels in The New Testament canon. The first Gospel, scholars generally agree, was written by Mark in the first century. Concise, quick-moving, written to a Roman audience, this book is described as: vivid and detailed, active and energetic, wondrous, and demonstrating power over devils. The Gospel of Matthew was also written in the first century but after Mark’s Gospel. A topical retelling of the Christ story, it holds less joy than other Gospels but shows itself as an official, didactic, story of rejection and even despondency. This Gospel is sometimes referred to as the Jewish Gospel. Along with the Book of Acts, Luke writes the third Gospel of prayer, and praise, women, the poor, and the outcast. This artistic Gospel is written before the fall of Jerusalem (70 C.E.) for gentiles and Greeks who were coming into the growing Christian community. The final Gospel was written after the fall of Jerusalem by John of Patmos; and he is also believed to be the writer of the Book of Revelation. This story is a celebration of feasts and testimony. Full of symbols, this highly spiritual Gospel brings God’s Incarnation into sharp reality.

Although these stories vary in detail, approach, style and focus, taken together they bring us a diverse and passionate accounting of Jesus as King (Mark), Jesus as Savior (Luke), Jesus as the Son of God (John), and of the Kingdom (Matthew) into which he invites each of us.

When we read the opening and closing verses of each Gospel, with an understanding of the writer’s audience, we begin to more fully realize God’s love for creation’s diversity, and the great variety in the stories that tell us of Emmanuel, God’s presence among us.

To learn more about each Gospel, click on the links or visit: www.biblehub.com

To learn more about what the Gospels are and are not, visit the PBS Frontline page on The Story of the Storyteller at: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/story/gospels.html 

Snopes last updated December 23, 2015 https://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/music/12days.asp

 

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Luke 9:8-36: Transfiguration

Second Sunday of Lent, February 21, 2016grymes violins

So many times we are called to Transfiguration.  So many times we are called to Exodus.  So many times we meet angels and prophets and yet do not respond.  We are so caught up in getting through the day, getting through the night, the week, the month, the year . . . the life.

So often we want to pause at a happy spot to set up a tent to house that moment and hold it.  So often we want to wrestle with time until it obeys us.  We live in the past . . . live in the future . . . live anywhere else but the present . . . re-living, un-living, projecting, transferring.

Jesus goes up to the mountain with two of his beloved apostles to speak with Elijah, Moses and his Father about the work that lies before him.  Of course he knows what was expected of him – down to the smallest detail – yet he listens to those who have gone before him. He listens to the wisdom of the ages. And he shares the experience with his friends.

violins of hopeJesus shares this wisdom and love with us as well.  He give to us the opportunity of transfiguration of self.  We are not held away from the gift of salvation; rather, we are invited to join Christ’s joy and glory.  So when the cloud descends upon us, and we hear the voice from the mist say: This is my Son, listen to him . . . may we have the courage, the wisdom, the light and the joy to do as we are bidden.  Because through this experience comes a true knowing of God, a true knowing of self.  With this comes an openness to the Word and the Truth and the Light.

In this Lenten journey, it is good to pause to reflect upon the possibilities offered to us through Transfiguration.

Adapted from a Favorite from December 11, 2007.

Looking for transfiguration, we begin a new Lenten practice this week. 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”.

grymes bookTo learn more about how the Violins of Hope provide an opportunity for learning and reflection through restored instruments that survived the Holocaust, and to see how Cleveland’s MALTZ MUSEUM OF JEWISH HERITAGE offers opportunities of transfiguration, click on the images above or visit: http://www.violinsofhopecle.org/

To hear these violins in concert, go to a CBS video at: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/violins-of-hope/  

Learn about the book Violins of Hope by James A. Grymes at: http://www.jamesagrymes.com/

Tomorrow, the Christ.

 

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