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Posts Tagged ‘kingdom-building’


Isaiah 58Fasting

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Many religions and cults include the practice of fasting as a form of worship; and in most cases the act of abstaining from food, drink or activities is meant to indicate one’s belief in or attitude toward some higher power.  In the case of Christians, fasting is prescribed on certain days in the liturgical calendar; the practice of denying one’s self food and drink is meant not as an outward sign or status but as an expression of interior penance.   The Catholic catechism states the following: “Fasting: Refraining from food and drink as an expression of interior penance, in imitation of the fast of Jesus for forty days in the desert.  Fasting is an ascetical practice recommended in Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers; it is sometimes prescribed by a precept of the Church, especially during the liturgical season of Lent”.  (“Glossary” 879)  Prayer and almsgiving are other forms of this interior penance described in paragraph 1434 of the catechism.

None of this should be a surprise to those who are familiar with the prophecy of Isaiah in which we hear today that this, rather, is the fasting that I [the Lord] wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bead with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.  These words are echoed beautifully in the Beatitudes spoken by Jesus in Matthew 5 . . . yet we persist in thinking that the poor are without resources because they are lazy or ignorant, victims have somehow brought their circumstances upon themselves, and the hungry and homeless just have not planned their lives well.  We continue to believe that refugees have gotten themselves in their sorry state; and immigrants need to “go back home”. It seems that many of us prefer to believe that life’s circumstances can be controlled yet . . . there but for the grace of God are we.

I am wondering if we might feel better about ourselves as a society if once a month we prepared casseroles of food and took them along with gently used clothing to shelters for women, children and men who find themselves in circumstances they do not deserve and have not asked for.  Of course, we would want to do this without judging how or why some of us need such help from others.  I am imagining how the world might be different if we stood up to corruption and the abuse of power.  I am visualizing our communities if we were to come together in small or large groups to exert all our efforts to the improvement of life for all of us and not just some of us.  I am thinking that we would be happy with the results . . . and that we might even enjoy ourselves in the process.

There are worthy organizations that build homes for the marginalized and take on legal cases for victims who cannot afford decent advocacy; there are medical and legal professionals who quietly give of themselves in pro bono work for the disadvantaged.  The least we can do is to support these groups with our own resources of time, treasure, talent and prayer.  We always receive far more than we give once we find time in our busy lives to exert ourselves and to expend our energy in true kingdom-building.

The psalmist reminds us in Psalm 40:7-8: Sacrifice and offering you do not want; but ears open to obedience you gave me.  Holocausts and sin-offerings you do not require; so I said, “Here I am . . .” 

And so we pray . . .

Here I am . . . to do your will, Lord . . . here I am.

Here I am . . . to answer your call, Lord . . . here I am.

Here I am . . . to do offer my gifts, Lord . . . here I am.

Here I am . . . to love your sheep, Lord . . . here I am.  Amen. 


A re-post from Friday, August 12, 2011.

“Glossary.” CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. 2nd ed. Vatican: Libreria Editice Vaticana, 2997. Print.

Image from: http://healthyetips.com/fasting-blood-sugar-levels-advantages-and-disadvantages/ 

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Luke 8:4-15: Living as an Engaged Listener

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Vincent Van Gogh: The Sower

This familiar story has much to teach us not only about our capacity to instruct others but about the way we engage the mysteries of God’s kingdom.  Commentary tells us that this parable “can serve to encourage those who have looked at their failures and who have forgotten that some seed will yield abundantly.  What is important is to realize that this is a parable, and therefore is not a simple illustration of a point being made otherwise.  Rather, a parable is the message, and a message offered in such a way as to elicit listener involvement in its meaning.  With parables listeners bear heavy responsibility for what is heard and understood; quite often the message is not obvious nor available to casual, unengaged listeners . . . In the interpretation (8:11-15) the parable is made into an allegory, i.e., a story in which each item in the narrative is made to represent something else.  Most scholars agree this interpretation represents the situation of the early church in its missionary preaching to a variety of conditions.  As an ‘explanation’ of the parable, however, the interpretation is less than clear”.  (Mays, 939)

We always want answers to our questions in the same manner as we warn a meal in a microwave oven.  We hit a few buttons and we have our desired result.  Listening for and to God’s voice is not so swiftly done.  In order to hear the wisdom of scripture we must settle ourselves, read the words before us, and then grapple with the “less than clear” interpretation given to us.  As the commentary points out, even when we are active, engaged listeners we will not clearly discern the message we know is being placed before us.  And so we look for more clues.

In Matthew 13:18 Jesus seems to be saying that the word goes out to four kinds of hearers: those who will never accept the kingdom’s word, those believe for a little while and then lose heart and fall away, those believe but who are too anxious to act, and finally those who hear the word and produce fruit abundantly.  We see roles defined and demarcations made; the mystery becomes a bit more clear for us and we are less uncomfortable.  Yet we know there is more.  We understand that with this story – as with all stories that Jesus tells – we are given the opportunity to clear away some of the fog that always clutters our view when we are kingdom-seeking.  We are given the chance to examine our failures and successes without being judged.  Knowing that there is more to be found than these simple equivalents of soil and people, we return to Luke’s Gospel . . . we concentrate and read again.  We lean forward a bit as if to physically engage ourselves with these verses in order to wrestle more clarity from them . . . in order to dispel the fog that impedes our vision.  We pray as we read each verse.

Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God has been granted to you . . . and we offer a quick prayer of thanksgiving for this story that shows us that although we work hard at conveying God’s message of love, we will not always succeed.   We marvel at this God who is so patient and willing to give each of us all the time we need to find our way to him.  Thus one of the mysteries of the kingdom is revealed.

But to the rest [the mysteries] are made known through parables so that ‘they may look but not see, and hear but not understand’ . . . and we offer a quick prayer of petition that stony hearts be softened and stiff necks unbent.  And we marvel at this God who is so merciful and loving that he waits endlessly for us to finally listen and hear . . . to finally see and understand.  And here is another mystery of the kingdom revealed.

The image of sowing and reaping was common in Jesus’ day and so the story of the sower was easily understood on a practical level.  What was challenging for Jesus’ listeners then – and what is just as challenging for us today – is to engage with the mysteries Jesus offers to us, to enter into the inscrutable ways of the kingdom, and to willing accept the heavy responsibility of living in this swirling fog of trust, fear, compassion, mystery . . . and love.   This is a message Jesus gives his kingdom-builders.  It is a message we are called to live.

Mays, James L., ed. HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 1203. Print.


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 28, 2011.

Image from: https://gl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ficheiro:The_Sower_-_painting_by_Van_Gogh.jpg

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Matthew 13:33: Critical Yeast

Monday, June 18, 2018

Jesus told them still another parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A woman takes some yeast and mixes it with a bushel of flour until the whole batch of dough rises.” (GNT)

We know that when we bake bread, the baker must thoroughly mix the yeast with all the ingredients. To leave one portion untouched means that the loaves will bake unevenly; one slice of the loaf will be light and airy while another will be heavy and flat. Jesus asks that we go out to all those he invites to join him in the Kingdom.

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.” (NRSV)

We know that when we bake bread, the baker must knead and re-knead the dough, punching down the growing form to eliminate bubbles. To leave these pockets of air distorts the baking loaf and gives it unusual proportions. Jesus asks that we rise again when circumstances keep us from our work in building the Kingdom.

And he told them yet another parable. “The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with a bushel of flour, then waited until the whole batch of dough rose.” (CJB)

We know that Jesus gave his twelve Apostles authority over evil when he sent them into the world to build the Kingdom. (Mark 6:7) Jesus sends us into the world each morning as yeast for the kingdom; he welcomes us home each evening to heal our wounds and restore our flagging spirit.

Another story. “God’s kingdom is like yeast that a woman works into the dough for dozens of loaves of barley bread—and waits while the dough rises.” (MSG)

We know that Jesus sends seventy-two disciples in the world. He sent them out two by two, to go ahead of him to every town and place where he himself was about to go. (Luke 10:1) Jesus sends us into the world not as large cohorts but in small groups to be yeast that will leaven all places of his kingdom.

God creates us as critical yeast for the world. God’s very Word empowers us as he sends us into all parts of the kingdom. The Spirit raises us repeatedly after each buffeting so that we might bring God’s critical leavening to a world that longs for the Kingdom.

Today we pray Psalm 31 and we repeat the anitphon: A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough (Galatians 5:9).

When we compare varying translations of these verses, we discover new ways to become yeast that will build God’s Kingdom. 

Tomorrow, we are the Temple.


To learn more about cricial yeast in the world, listen to the June 7, 2018 podcast of Krista Tippett’s On Being show with AMERICA FERRERA AND JOHN PAUL LEDERACH: “How Change Happens, In Generational Time”. https://onbeing.org/programs/america-ferrera-john-paul-lederach-how-change-happens-in-generational-time-jun2018/

Image from: https://www.circleofhope.net/jonnyrashid/bake-bread-follow-jesus/

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Isaiah 49:1-6: The Servant’s Mission

Holy Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Yesterday we reflected on the role of the servant in God’s plan for creation. Today we reflect on the servant’s mission.

I will also make you a light to the nations—
    so that all the world may be saved. (GNT)

When we wonder if our thoughts are one with God’s, we examine the source of our motivations. Do we forgive our enemies? Do we pray for those who harm us? Do we reach out to those who are broken-hearted?

I will give you as a light to the nations,
    that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. (NRSV)

When we wonder if our words reflect God’s plan, we examine the foundation of our beliefs. Do we speak up when we see injustice? Do we rebuke ourselves and our loved ones when we go astray? Do we shelter the homeless and feed the hungry?

I will also make you a light to the nations,
so my salvation can spread to the ends of the earth. (CJB)

When we wonder if our actions serve to build God’s kingdom, we examine the fruits born from our life’s work. Do we work to break down unjust structures? Do we work with others to ferret out corruption no matter where we find it? Do we work to create societies that give preference to the poor?

I’m setting you up as a light for the nations
    so that my salvation becomes global” (MSG)

When we wonder if we have the faith to persist in our mission, we ask God for strength. When we wonder if we have the hope to believe in God’s promises, we rely on Christ’s encouraging presence. When we wonder if we have the love to work for the transformation of the world, we rest in the Spirit who heals, counsels, and consoles. As we near the Easter Triduum, we move forward to continue the work of our mission as God’s servants.


When we compare varying translations of these verses, we find the strength, confidence and mercy to move forward in our mission as disciples of Christ. 

Images from: http://lutheran-church-regina.com/blogs/post/sermon-january-12th-2014-isaiah-42 and http://www.turnbacktogod.com/pray-for-gods-servants/ 

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Nehemiah 5: Praying with Nehemiah

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

We, like Nehemiah, can rebuild the ruin we see around us when we rely on God. Some of us make large, visible changes for good in our culture; but most of us make small, incremental changes that we think invisible. Yet, in the mind of God our actions are essential to the moving forward of God’s plan. Our prayers are also essential, as Nehemiah shows us.

St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3We are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.  By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation   as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it.  But each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is,   because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.  If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.  Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.  Do not deceive yourselves.  If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.  As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness” and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”  So then, no more boasting about men!  All things are yours whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

What do we do when enormous hurdles block our way forward, we can remind ourselves and others of our true calling. We can pray unceasingly, and we can build kingdom wherever we are planted, for we are God’s builders. We can be wise as St. Paul recommends, and be fools for Christ as Nehemiah was, building as directed by his creator, giving without thought of recompense, hoping for the goodness of the promise, and loving those among and with whom we dwell – even our enemies.

And so we pray.

Nehemiah lives in a world rife with conflict . . . yet he remains loyal to God and the faithful.

Nehemiah lives as a target for the gossip and machinations of his numerous enemies . . . yet he maintains his integrity.

Nehemiah lives among people who refuse to live by the terms of the covenant they have heard, witnessed, and sworn to uphold . . . yet he remains sincere and authentic.

Let us put aside the cares of this world and build God’s kingdom today, for we are God’s co-workers in the kingdom.

Amen.

Adapted from a reflection written on December 23, 2007.

For more about Nehemiah and how his prayer-life affected his work-life, click on the image above to visit the “Bible in a Year Blog” or go to: https://oneyeardevotional.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/powerful-prayer-nehemiah-1/ 

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Isaiah 11: The Rule

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Favorite from February 28, 2010.

We often consider what passion we might need to live as disciples of Christ.  Today we look at the rules by which we must learn to live.

Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. 

If we wish to be part of kingdom building, we must learn to look past appearances; we must not make decisions based on hearsay.

Justice shall be the band about his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.

If we wish to part of kingdom building, we must learn – as Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 – that the only armor we need is Christ.

He shall raise a signal to the nations and gather the outcasts of Israel; the dispersed of Judah he shall assemble from the four corners of the earth.

If we wish to be a part of kingdom building, we must wait for the signal, and we must be able to recognize the Shepherd as John tells us in Chapter 10 of his Gospel.

The envy of Ephraim shall pass away and the rivalry of Judah shall be removed; Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah, and Judah shall not be hostile to Ephraim.

If we wish to be part of kingdom building, we must learn to put aside envy; we must learn that God calls for unity and not rivalry.

The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord. 

If we wish to be part of kingdom building, we must learn to delight in wisdom, to listen for God’s counsel, to draw from God’s strength, and to love the Lord our God more than life itself.  This fear, this awe, this love will be all we need to carry us through any adversity we face.

If we wish to be part of kingdom building, we must take all of this in . . . and we must make the Rule part of our fiber and tissue, our heart and soul.

For more reflections on how God’s love manifests itself in our lives, enter  the words The Law into the blog search bar and explore. 

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Acts 14:21-27: Muscle and Sinew

Monday, May 2, 2016

Jacob Jordaens: The Apostles, St. Paul and St. Barnabas at Lystra

Jacob Jordaens: The Apostles, St. Paul and St. Barnabas at Lystra

What is our vision of heaven and eternal happiness? How do we imagine the work of the kingdom? Paul and Barnabas today show us that discipleship calls for muscle and sinew just as much as it calls for faith, hope and love. We might learn something from this reading today. These two ardent followers of Christ show us just what kingdom work looks like.

Proclaim the good news – We always have the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection before us.

Strengthen the spirits of the disciples – We always have the Spirit of God to guide us.

Exhort the disciples to persevere in faith – We always have the energy of Christ within us.

Appoint elders – We always have the power and wisdom of God moving us.

Commend the faithful to the LORD with prayer and fasting – We always have the grace of the Spirit to console us.

Call the faithful together to report your progress – We always have the voice of Jesus to call us.

When we join in the work of building the kingdom, we will always have the muscle and sinew for the task before us.

They went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs. (Mark 16:20)

To learn more about Paul and Barnabas in Lystra, read Acts 14:8-28.

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Luke 5:1-11: Putting Out into the Deep

Ash Wednesday, February 10, 2016Luke-5_10

Jesus: Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.

Sunday’s Gospel reminds us that when we hug the shoreline, we have little room for growth. During this Lenten season we encourage one another to take stock of where and who we are so that we can move away from the safety of the shallows, so that we can trust God and venture into the frightening but rewarding depths of kingdom-building.

Simon Peter: Master, we’ve been fishing hard all night and haven’t caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I’ll let out the nets.

Peter reminds us that the waters, boat and nets all belong to the Lord and that the Lord knows far more than we can hope to know. Peter shows us why we can trust God. Jesus shows us that there is bounty where we have found nothing of value.

ASH-WEDNESDAYDuring the next forty days we will spend time with scripture that gives us the opportunity to open our hearts, un-stiffen our necks . . . and to put out into the deep to fish the waters we think are empty.

Let this be our Lenten practice for the next several days: Rather than think, “This will not work,” let us say instead, “If you say so, Lord”.

For a reflection on today’s Noontime, click on the image above or visithttp://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/02/06/readings-reflections-with-cardinal-tagles-video-fifth-sunday-in-ordinary-time-c-st-colette-february-72016/ 

Tomorrow, taking care.

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Hosea 10False Heart, True Heart

Wednesday, December 23, 2015heart leaf on stone

A favorite from December 22, 2010.

False oaths, fake alliances, evil intrigues, any means to achieve an end: this is what Hosea sees in his community.  The kingdom of David has been divided in two.  Elijah, Elisha, and Amos have warned the people; Isaiah and Micah will add their prophetic words of warning.  Hosea finds himself seeing clearly the devastation that awaits this false-hearted people . . . but he is ignored.

Yet Hosea persists, telling us that we are people meant to worship God, we are meant to take the yoke upon fair neck, to thresh, to be harnessed by the plow of the true God with a true heart.  We are created to be workers in the vineyard, to sow justice and reap piety, we are meant to break new fields so that the rain of God’s justice might bring forth fruit.

Hosea warns that those who have sowed discord and wickedness will reap perversity and eat of the fruit of falsehood.  Turmoil will break out among those who have trusted their warriors and chariots rather than trusting God.  The fortresses carefully built against the needs of the world will be tumbled and ravaged; the false hearts who take advantage of the poor will be lost in the utter destruction.  Hosea does not surrender to the pressures around him, he endures.

Like Hosea, we might want God’s justice to be clearly visible in the present; we may want all of Hosea’s predictions about false hearts to materialize in an instant.  Those who seek a settling of scores may wish God’s integrity to rain down on those who sit on comfortable couches to contrive wicked plots.  They will want to see a world of integrity replace the world of falsehood they experience.  Yet this is the message of Advent: the one of true heart and true words, the one of promises kept and miracles revealed has come to live among us.  Advent tells us that the possibility of living a genuine life is here – now – this day.   We need only open our eyes to see.

CrossHeartLogo11-300x289If we are dissatisfied with the speed of God’s coming, or if we doubt that God is even here among us, we must look first to ourselves to begin kingdom-building.  We must examine our own hearts to see if we remain in truth no matter the social consequence.  We must cease the gossip, cease the controlling, cease the lusting after outcomes, fame, possessions, power and people.  We must amend our ability – and our willingness – to ignore reality.  We must change our hearts so that we do not succumb to the social pressure to acquire goods or supremacy.  We must nurture our desire to share, our yearning to heal, and our aspiration for peace.  We must ask God to transform the falsehood in our own hearts so that we might receive the goodness from his.  We must be open to the reality of Advent.

In this way – with endurance, with fidelity, and with honesty – the prophecy of Hosea will arrive fully.  And in this way the false hearts of the world will become the true heart of Christ.

 

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