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joyMonday, October 25, 2021

Judges 9

Joy and Conspiracy

Today we continue to visit with scripture to look for stories about joy that will surprise us in a variety of ways. If you want to explore other stories in which joy astounds us, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today our story is from the Book of Judges.

In today’s story we have a cast of characters, most of them vicious and all of them passionate. Jotham, Abimelech and Jerubbaal are prominent as we visit Shechem, Beth-millo and Mount Gerizim; yet, despite the unusual names and distant locations, this is a story that in many ways takes place in our own neighborhood. Today we read about fear, violence and conspiracy, and the unexpected hope that always accompanies us, even in the most dire of circumstances.

Mount Gerizim

Jotham escapes assassination and summits mount Gerizim to pronounce the tale of the trees that speaks truth in a way that even the hardest of hearts can understand. We may have heard this fable of the trees as children but if not, today we take the time to sit with it. We listen to the words from the olive, the fig, the vine and the bramble to see if we might hear them from the lips of friends, family or colleagues. Or perhaps we have uttered – or thought – these words ourselves. Perhaps we have experienced the violence we read about today in a very real, physical way; or perhaps we have suffered emotional trauma that has left its marks of damage on our hearts and minds. Whatever the case, we have something to learn. Joy is always present in the darkest of hours. Joy is always possible in the most evil of conspiracies. Joy is constantly with us in the presence of God.


For information on Mount Gerizim, visit: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/gerizim-mount 

Image from: https://virtualreligion.net/iho/gerizim.html  

For more about anxiety and joy, click on the joy image above or visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/ 

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joySunday, October 24, 2021

Deuteronomy 16

Joy and Feasts

From time to time we will visit scripture to look for stories about joy that will surprise us in a number of ways. If you wish to explore other stories in which joy astonishes us, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today our story is from the Book of Deuteronomy.

God of forgiveness, God of love, you teach us to celebrate with you; and yet, we forget your teaching.

God of hope, God of faith, you instill us with a model of your love; and yet, we put aside your inspiration.

God of promise, God of hope, you ask us to reverence you; and yet, we overlook your many miracles that grace our lives.

God of mercy, God of wisdom, you inspire us to worship you; and yet, we create vast deserts of days without thanking you.

God of feasts, God of joy, you offer us your merciful justice; and yet we hoard your compassion and neglect to share this gift so lovingly given by you.

Deuteronomy 16:15: Seven days you shall celebrate a feast to the Lord your God in the place which the Lord chooses, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.

Let us remember to thank God for the gift of our health, our gifts, our hearth, our goods, our home, family and friends by sharing joy gladly, by celebrating freely, and by thanking God often for the great gift of Feasts.


To read about the feasts of Passover, Weeks and Booths, read Deuteronomy 16. Also visit: http://biblehub.com/dictionary/p/passover.htm, http://biblehub.com/dictionary/w/weeks.htm and http://biblehub.com/dictionary/b/booths.htm 

To learn about the importance of Feasts in the Old and New Testaments, click on the image of Solomon’s Jerusalem below, or visit: http://www.keyway.ca/htm2012/20121001.htm 

solomon's jerusalemFor more about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/ 

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joySaturday, October 23, 2021

Leviticus 9

Joy and Ministry

From time to time we will visit scripture to look for stories about joy that will surprise us in a number of ways. If you wish to explore other stories in which joy astonishes us, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today our story is from the Book of Leviticus.

Whenever we practice formal religious rites, experience God in nature, or find God among family and friends, we will always find ministers of joy. In today’s story we read about joy experienced by God’s people who wander in the desert looking for the promise of safety and security. We watch as Moses designates priests who will act as intermediaries for the faithful, and we wonder if we ourselves might be priests to one another. We examine our willingness in being conduits of joy to the world. And we reflect on our own capacity for joy.

Reubens; Sacrifice of the Old Covenant

Peter Paul Reubens: Sacrifice of the Old Covenant

Wherever we find the God of joy, we will also find those willing to tell how they have been redeemed by God’s love. In today’s story from this book of laws and restrictions, we ponder on the freeing power of joy and its ability to overcome all obstacles. We consider how we find joy in other places, times and people and how joy is always present – although often hidden – in times of deepest sorrow; and we reflect on how we might reveal the healing presence of joy to ourselves and one another.

desert tentHowever we find joy like that described in today’s story about these ancient people in the celebration of life and thanksgiving, we will be moved to open the windows and doors of surprise for ourselves and one another. We remember how we long for joy in times of sadness or exile. We recall how the burning presence of joy can heal and save. And we determine to bring the loving salve of God’s joy into the narrowest places of our lives each day.

And so we pray . . .

Let us call on God’s living presence in any hour of despair or pain.

Let us offer up to God any arid landscape we experience today.

Let us minister to one another with shouts of great celebration as we recognize God’s desire to bring joy to even the tiniest moments of our lives. 

And let us revel in the loving surprise of God’s joy and presence and like the faithful we read about today, let us cheer loudly as we fall down in great bows of delighted reverence for God. 

Amen.


For more about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/ 

Reubens image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sacrifice_of_the_Old_Covenant_Rubens.jpg

Temple image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shemini_(parsha)

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joyFriday, October 22, 2021

Genesis 31

Joy and the Deceiver

This is the first in a number of posts in which we will visit scripture looking for stories about joy. These tales will surprise us in a number of ways as we explore. If you wish to read more about how joy astonishes us, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see what surprises you there. Today we begin with the book which holds scripture’s oldest stories: Genesis.

In today’s story we read of the relationship between Jacob and his uncle Laban. After deceiving his father and brother – with the help of his mother – and depriving his older twin brother of his birthright, Jacob leaves home to travel to a distant land where he lives with his mother’s brother. Laban promises protection and wages and Jacob settles into his new life, taking his wives Leah and Rachel from among Laban’s daughters, and establishing his own family. But as happens so often in family dynamics, Jacob’s uncle and cousins become jealous of Jacob’s prosperity.

Verse 2: Jacob saw the attitude of Laban, and behold, it was not friendly toward him as formerly.

And also as so often happens in our human relationship with God, the all-knowing creator sends word to guide and assure us.

Ribera: Jacob with the Flock of Laban

José Ribera: Jacob with the Flock of Laban

Verse 3: Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you”.

Jacob and his wife Rachel deceive Laban so that they might take their children, livestock and belongings to return home; but Laban pursues them and all hope seems lost until God surprises Jacob’s household with joy.

Verses 24 and 25: God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream of the night and said to him, “Be careful that you do not speak to Jacob either good or bad”. Laban caught up with Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsmen camped in the hill country of Gilead.

Laban and Jacob meet and each speaks his mind. They argue. They air grievances and sort out quarrels.

Verse 27: Why did you flee secretly and deceive me, and did not tell me so that I might have sent you away with joy and with songs, with timbrel and with lyre; and did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters?

Finally uncle and nephew reach a covenant agreement and seal their pact with ritual stones at Mizpah. The drama ends with each man stepping away from violence, each man going his way, each man blessing the other.

Verse 55: Early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place.

Brugghen: Jacob Reproaching Laban for Giving him Leah in Place of Rachel

Hendrick Ter Brugghen: Jacob Reproaching Laban

In a story chock full of deceit, joy surprises us. In a tale with so much potential for violence, God speaks to the heart. In the patriarch saga of bloodshed and deception God brings us to the joy of mercy. Let us consider today the times we have moved out of a relationship without allowing the joy of knowing one another kindle forgiveness. Let us reflect on the times we have deceived another without offering the gift of asking pardon. Let us remember the joy that surprises all deceivers. And knowing that God is always with us, let us look for the joy that is waiting to surprise us today.


To learn about the story of Jacob, spend time with Genesis chapters 25-36. For insight into the relationship between Jacob, Leah, Rachel and Laban, and how both joy and deception play roles in Jacob’s life, visit: https://bible.org/seriespage/never-satisfied-story-jacob-and-rachel 

For more about anxiety and joy, click on the image above or visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/ 

Ribera image from: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/jusepe-de-ribera-jacob-with-the-flock-of-laban 

Brugghen image from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hendrick_ter_Brugghen_-_Jacob_Reproaching_Laban_-_WGA22181.jpg

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Thursday, September 2, 2021

God's heart for the worldJeremiah 32

Pledge of Restoration

Never again shall the city be rooted up or thrown down.

These are the reassuring words we finally hear as a prelude to the description of restoration we read today. The prophet Jeremiah buys a plot of land, “to testify that Judah will be restored and the life of the past will be rescued”. (Senior cf. 989) This might seem improbable after we have heard so many predictions of death and destruction but when we hear the Lord’s pledge, we know that all is well

Is anything impossible to me?

Let us take our worries and cares to the one for whom the impossible is possible.

They shall be my people and I shall be their God.

Let us rely on the one who is the creator of all life.

One heart and one way I shall give them.

Let us rest in the peace of God’s great and generous heart.

I will make with them an eternal covenant, never to cease doing good to them.

Let us trust in God’s fidelity and outrageous hope.

I will take delight in doing good to them.

Let us answer God’s call to celebrate the joy of the kingdom.

I will replant them firmly in this land, with all my heart and soul.

Let us share God’s goodness with open and loving hearts.

Amen.  


Image from: http://www.spiritualliving360.com/index.php/discovering-gods-heart-for-the-world-47201/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.989. Print.   

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Monday, June 21, 2021

1 Chronicles 16

The Ark Comes to Jerusalem

david dances before the ark

Robert Leinweber: David Dancing Before the Ark

Here – and also in 2 Samuel 6 – we see David bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem amid celebration and festivity. The presence of God brings a response of joy and thanksgiving from the people. The priest blesses both the occasion and the faithful; David cavorts with elation; a meal is served. The people worship God because the Ark containing sacred text, sacred food and the sacred blooming staff has taken up residence. These people feel invulnerable, joyful and grateful.

Within each of us is the place where God dwells and where scripture flourishes like Aaron’s staff. We are sustained by the new desert manna: the body and blood of Christ. We take this dwelling with us on our desert journey. We too might leap for joy and bow down in reverence and happiness. We too might bring the Ark to Jerusalem. There is no obstacle to knowing God’s presence except the obstacles we ourselves set up.

Give thanks to the Lord, invoke his name.

God is the originator of all that is good and holy.

Glory in his holy name; rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord!

We can offer up all that sorrows us when we come into the presence of the Lord.

Look to the Lord in his strength; seek to serve him constantly.

We honor God when we perform his works rather than our own.

Give to the Lord . . . bring gifts and enter into his presence.

The best offering to God is that of ourselves. We carry to him the burdens of our day, our attempts to do his bidding.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his kindness endures forever.

We do not need to build an ark to house our sacred reminders of God’s presence for we already possess it. It is our hearts that hold all sacredness holy.

We do not need to build a temple to God for it is already built. It is the temple of our bodies.

We do not need to offer burnt sacrifices to God for they are already present in any sorrow we experience.

So let us bring the burnt remnants of our losses, let us give thanks for God’s providence and care, and let us rejoice in the knowing that we are created for love by love.

David brings the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem to place it in the tent set aside for Yahweh.

Let us lay our burdens on the altar of our lives . . . and like David, let us leap and dance for joy.


Adapted from a reflection written on February 21, 2009.

Image from: https://www.hippostcard.com/listing/as-david-dancing-before-the-ark-robert-leinweber-00-10s/17276478

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Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2021

1 John 2

holy spirit doveIdeal and Real – Part III: Hostile Camps

The early Christian community struggled to survive the various arguments declaring Jesus more human than divine or more divine than human. “They were the community of true prophecy. But now, the community itself is divided into two hostile camps. And the cause of the division is precisely what should have been the centerpiece of this unity: the proper understanding of the nature and role of Jesus”. (Senior RG 563)

Rather than reprimand us or remind us that we are not in control, John repeats what he has written so often that from the beginning Christ has been and that through eternity Christ will be. Knowing that we struggle with the double mystery of eternity and infinity, Christ remains with us so that we might not panic when trials arrive at our door. Knowing that we struggle with the dichotomy between the visible and invisible, the real and ideal, Christ brings himself to us in the Scripture we hold in our hands, the Word that we can open as frequently as we need in order that we remain connected to this divine-human mystery. Knowing that we are terrified at the thought of being left alone, Christ invites us constantly to come to him joyfully. Today we might read the words of one who lived and still lives beside him.

My children . . . we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world . . . Do not love the things of the world . . . for the world and its enticements are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever . . . Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you . . . And now, children, remain in him . . .

And so we pray . . . Creator Father, Rescuer Christ, Abider Spirit . . . save us from the hostility of the world . . . help us as we struggle with the opposing camps of our lives . . . bring our reality into focus with the ideal which you have dreamt for us . . . and keep us ever close to you in joy. Amen.

Tomorrow – Part IV: The New Commandment


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 563. Print.  

Adapted from a reflection written on Sunday, January 10, 2010.

Image from: https://www.biblword.net/why-is-pentecost-important/

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john3Wednesday, May 19, 2021

1 John 1:1-4

A Prayer to Love

The Apostle John tells us today . . .

What we have seen from the beginning . . .

What we have heard . . .

What we have seen with our eyes . . .

What we looked upon . . .

What we touched with our hands . . .

Was visible . . .

Is still visible . . .

And we proclaim to you now . . .

We are writing this so that your joy may be complete . . .

This is our anthem of love . . .

Sing it often . . .

Proclaim it aloud . . .

So that others may know this joy. Amen.

Spend some time today with the opening of John’s first letter of love to us by clicking on the scripture link above or here in this paragraph. Explore the four versions of these verses that have been selected. Choose another version by using the drop-down menus and examine the meaning of love in your life and where it is present in an unusual way. Say the prayer above or write your own prayer. Consider sending your Prayer to Love to another . . .


For an interesting prayer to St. John from The Feast Day Cookbook by Katherine Burton and Helmut Ripperger, David McKay Company, Inc., New York, 1951, click on the image above or go to: http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/prayers/view.cfm?id=965

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Ascension Sunday, May 16, 2021birds-watercolor-painting-giclee-poster-gift-idea-two-sparrows-home-decor-joanna-szmerdt

Matthew 10:29-31

Every Hair

Jesus taught us, saying: Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than two sparrows”.

In this short citation of Jesus’ words, we learn all that we need to know about living life and about being watchful.

ONE: Nothing can be concealed from God. The Creator knows all that we think and do. The Creator understands our most secret motivations. Why do we try to hide anything we do or anything we think? Secrecy is futile in the kingdom.

Christ walks always with us, calling us forth in the name of the Creator. The Spirit remains in us, filling us with life eternal.

TWO: Nothing we do goes unnoted by God. The Creator marks both our pain and sorrow, our happiness and joy. Why do we persist in relying on our own small forces when we have the omnipotence and omniscience of the Creator buoying us up?  Reliance on self is meaningless in the kingdom.

Christ walks before and behind us, guiding and protecting in the name of the Creator. The Spirit hovers, abiding and consoling with love everlasting.

If God notes even the falling of a sparrow’s feather, how much can our anxiety and willfulness accomplish? How far will our stubbornness carry us in comparison with the power and strength of the Spirit?

If God numbers every hair on our heads, how much do we think we can hide what we do not like about ourselves?

How much will our separateness gain for us in comparison with the unity we have in God’s love? Secrecy and too much reliance on self will always be trumped by humility, generosity and love in the kingdom. Let us live as if we believe that God has numbered our every hair.


Image from: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/birds-watercolor-painting-giclee-poster-gift-idea-two-sparrows-home-decor-joanna-szmerdt.html?product=greeting-card

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