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Saturday, January 2, 2021

The Ninth Day of Christmas

imagesCATHI3OG1 John 2:21-25

Because We Know the Truth

I write to you not because you do not know the truth but because you do . . . Let what you have heard from the beginning remain in you . . . then you will remain in the Son and in the Father.   

What we have heard we know to be true. What we have seen we know to be authentic. What we have witnessed we know to be God’s gift of light and hope and peace and joy to the world.

On this ninth day of Christmas, enter the word truth into the blog search bar and consider how the truth John writes about is essential to us as Christmas people.


Image from: http://www.idemandthetruth.com/about-the-movement/

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Saturday, December 19, 2020

Rembrandt: St. Anna the Prophetess

Rembrandt Rijn: St. Anna the Prophetess

Luke 2:36-38

Anna

She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.

“A fourth and final [Lucan] theme is expressed in Simeon’s word to Mary (apparently this occurs in the outer court where women were allowed).  Jesus will bring truth and light and will effect decision and judgment. However, in so doing he will face opposition and death. When Jesus comes to Jerusalem as an adult, the journey will be his ‘exodus’ (NRSV: ‘departure,’ 9:31).

“Simeon’s words are confirmed by Anna, a devout woman of advanced age . . . The two aged saints are Israel in miniature, poised in anticipation of the new.  God is leading Israel to the Messiah, but the Messiah will weep over this city because it did not know the time of the messianic visitation (19:41-44)”. (Mays 932)

Scholars describe Anna as having insight that most of us lack and she appears in this story to affirm the Messiah’s identity. She is likely 105 years old, lives in or near the Temple, and dedicates her days and nights to a life of service to and in God; but she is no doddering ancient. Robin Gallaher Branch describes her saying that “her lifestyle evidently invigorates her, for she is mobile, articulate, alert, spiritually savvy and unselfish”. (Branch)

Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph, Anna and Simeon, servants, disciples, prophets, all announcing that openness and peace and joy have come to a people who yearn to be free, that light and courage and hope have come to a people who wait in darkness, that healing and consolation and union have come to a people who remain faithful despite their fear. As we approach the fourth Sunday of Advent, a time when we near the announcement of joy to the world because the Messiah is come, let us remember that we are Advent people. And let us, like Anna, be articulate, alert, spiritually savvy and unselfish as we declare to all that the one who saves is indeed come to live among us.


For insight into the importance of Anna the Prophetess, one of the Bible’s most unusual women, by Robin Gallaher Branch, click on the image above or go to: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/anna-in-the-bible/

Branch, Robin Gallaher. “Anna in the Bible.” Bible History Daily. Biblical Archeology Society, 19 Apr 2013. Web. 15 Dec 2013. .

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 932. Print.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2020

6508036-md[1]Luke 2:8-12

Keeping the Night Watch

Now there were shepherds in that region, living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.

We become so weary with the daily earning of our bread that we are too exhausted to keep the night watch. Our blessing is that the Good Shepherd never flags and he endures when we falter. And this Good Shepherd who keeps a constant watch will awaken us so that we might rise to hear the words of Good News that bring healing, peace and light to the world.

Murillo: Adoration of the Shepherds

Esteban Murillo: Adoration of the Shepherds

God says: Do not stretch yourselves beyond your strength. Rely on me for power that is eternal. Do not ask too much of your mind. Ask me for wisdom that has always been and always will be. Do not tax your spirit more than it can endure. Call on my Spirit to dwell in you and to bring you peace. If you are able, keep the Night Watch with me. When darkness falls and you have lost your way, settle into the night with the sheep you are tending . . . and know that I am with you. If you are too tired to stay awake, ask for my help . . . and I will keep the Watch. And I will awaken you with the Good News that you will want to share with others.

When we spend energy that we do not have we endanger not only the body and mind but the soul as well.  When we find that we falter and cannot stand, we need only call on the one who always endures.


For beautiful prayers at night that strengthen the body, mind and soul when we find ourselves wakeful and uneasy, dip into Phyllis Tickle’s NIGHT OFFICES: PRAYERS FOR THE HOURS FROM SUNSET TO SUNRISE, Oxford University Press, 2006.  

Image from: https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/the-adoration-of-the-shepherds/612bacfa-afd6-4325-b17d-df6febb13b7c

For a Goodreads review, go to: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/613100.The_Night_Offices

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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

The Word of God

The Word of God

1 John 1:1-4

The Word of Life

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of Life – for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us – what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too many have fellowship with us; for our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.

We are a visual, tactile people.  We look for data. We rely on evidence.  We want facts.  We seek reason over emotion and the Apostle John understands this – as does God.

God says: I know that you want cold, hard proof that I am with you and yet you have it each day at your rising to a new sun and a new beginning.  Did I not awaken you this morning? I understand that you rest on science and law and that you measure your life with scientific and legal standards.  Do I not show you my justice and mercy every minute of every hour each day as you go through your work and play? I comprehend that you have fears and anxieties that rattle you and shake your confidence.  Will I abandon you when you lay your head to rest this night to gather strength for a new day?  You can rely on the testimony of the Beloved Apostle who recounts his experiences to you.  Learn to trust his word . . . for it is mine. 

When doubt assails us we waver.  When obstacles obstruct our path we stumble.  When opposing arguments clatter around us we shrink and hesitate.  John tells us today that these doubts, obstacles and arguments are as nothing before the profound truth that supports and protects us. John speaks to us with passion so that we too might believe.  When we spend time with John 1:1-5, we explore our fears and joys about the message we hear.


A re-post from July 1, 2013.

Image from: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=156989&picture=smoke-13

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Friday, June 26, 2020

the_light_door[1]Opening Doors

Psalm 1:5-6

The wicked will not stand firm at the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.  For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. 

We live by a code that is judgmental and vengeful.  Jesus came to live among us in order that we might learn to live in a new way, The Way of Love.  Old Testament thinkers might want to exact an eye for an eye; New Testament thinkers will want to pray for the wicked as Jesus advises.

God says: I know that the temptation is great to condemn those who do evil but I alone will judge.  What I ask of you for those who are lost is your prayer and intercession.  I know that you desire to know me so that you and I might truly be one.  I know that you work hard at quelling your desire for revenge.  I love for this struggle to remain close to me. And I know that you struggle to open closed doors so that my light might enter.  I love you for your persistence and dedication to The Way of Love despite the obstacles it presents to you.

Type the word light in the blog search bar and explore God’s world of love.  Or click on the image above and explore God’s creation through photography.

Tomorrow, a prayer with Psalm 1 . . .


Image from: http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/Pakistan/East/Islamabad/islamabad/photo1057299.htm

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Friday, January 31, 2020

1 Maccabees 12:39-52: Convolution

Tryphon

Tryphon

Below is a site which makes an attempt to unravel this highly complicated plot we see unfolding in 1 Maccabees.  It is difficult to sort through the intricacies of this period in Jewish history just prior to the arrival of Jesus.  All of these double faces and double plots with their twistings and turnings are sometimes too difficult to witness, too difficult to watch . . . and yet we ought to spend here.  We must observe, witness and learn from what we experience. These convolutions may well be too close to home.

http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Diodotus_Tryphon 

This betrayal, capture and murder of Jonathan paint a clever piece of political strategy which – – – in the end – – – backfires on Tryphon.  His life terminates in suicide.  This is an old story, an old theme, with characters familiar to all of us.  We see this drama played out in our families, in sensational headlines, in history books, in memoirs, and sometimes in our own lives.  Tryphon presents himself as a reasonable friend while plotting to use Jonathan’s trust to his advantage.  This is a story repeated in big and little ways daily.  Hearts are won and then broken.  Promises made and then abandoned.  Lives buoy upward on the tide of events only to be ruined.

What do we do when we too frequently find ourselves the victims of the Tryphos in our lives?  Do we cease to trust and go within to barricade ourselves from danger?  Do we resort to revenge and add to the violence and atmosphere of mistrust?  Or do we pray for those who harm us, hope for an impossible but just outcome, and place our faith ultimately in God?

Isolation leads to our own depression and suicide.  Violence ushers us swiftly to our own corruption and brutal end.  The sign of our spiritual development is that we are able to ask God to convert hard hearts and stiff necks, that God right an immense wrong, and that God abide with us just as we struggle to abide with God.

We can predict our own ends when we examine this story and ourselves.

Verse 39 reads: Tryphon was determined to become king . . . When we determine our destiny without consulting God we enter into a dark convolution of self.

Verse 40: Looking for a way to seize and kill . . . When we first seek to do away with opposition rather than listen to disparate voices we create a crooked image of God.

Verse 49: Tryphon sent soldiers . . . to destroy . . . When we enlist our friends in a warped plan of retribution we give ourselves over to a darkness that is ultimately overcome by light.

Our lives are repeated patterns of options from which to choose: life or death, light or darkness, mercy or violence, justice or destruction.  We are moving toward Lent and later Eastertide.  We will witness the promise fulfilled; we will be rescued.  In which direction do we steer ourselves?  Onto the straight yet narrow paths of light which lead to completion?  Or into the dark convolutions of a distorted sense of self?

We know the road signs.  We know the feeling of despair when we suffer the little deaths of self through betrayal that escort us to our own destruction.  We also know the sensation of love, the exhilaration of hope and the power of faith.

Let us witness and watch . . . and let us become accustomed to looking for the light that pierces the darkness . . . and steers us away from the convolutions of darkness.


First written on April 24, 2009. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

To read more about the Selucids and others, click on the coin image above or the citation.  

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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

John 13:21-30: Betrayal

Caravaggio: Taking of Christ in the Garden

Caravaggio: Taking of Christ in the Garden

Often during our Noontimes we have explored the theme of infidelity and the effects it has upon our intimate relationships and our collective experience as a people of God.  We have spent time thinking about how an act of betrayal never has a single secret effect.  We have prayed for those who deceive and harm us.  We have pondered how to handle an act of betrayal when it slices through our lives.  Today we see God himself allow each of us to make a choice for freedom and life or slavery and death.  Judas has become a slave to an idea which leaves his soul open to darkness.  Jesus allows him to proceed along the path he has chosen: What you are going to do, do quickly.  Yesterday we reflected on Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.  Today we explore John 13 more closely.

Today’s citation comes from the portion of John’s Gospel often called The Book of Glory; Chapters 13 to 20 tell the story of the passion, death and transformation of Jesus.  Here he has just delivered his discourse on the relationship he has with the Father – one of deepest intimacy.  And he has just told his followers – his followers of that evening and his followers today – that the same intimacy is open to each of us, that God yearns to hold us and to possess us more than anything we can imagine from our human experience.  Yet this citation begins with: Jesus was deeply troubled . . .

Able to read our inmost thoughts, Jesus understands that Judas is disappointed, disgruntled, and about to act on his envy and anger.  Judas Iscariot, despite so much time spent with the Master, is unable to enter into this intimacy offered.  And so he strikes at that which he cannot experience.

Jesus dipped a morsel and handed it to Judas . . . extending an ultimate invitation . . . knowing that it and he will be rejected; for after Judas took the morsel . . . Satan entered him. 

Who and what are Satan?  I believe that this force of negativity cleverly appeals to the narcissistic child in each of us; and I believe that it is present always.  Only through our fidelity to God and the light . . . do we evade that which relishes the night.  The risen Christ offers this invitation to unity constantly.  How do we respond?

Jesus shares a last meal with a man who believes that he operates in secret and who has likely convinced himself that his actions are for some greater good.  Judas’ actions will set a course of events into motion which cannot be recalled.  The calculus has been set much earlier than this through a series of moments of discontent, of wounded pride, of self-importance.  Judas resists the call to goodness and falls to the darkness.

So he took the morsel and left at once.  And it was night.

In an understatement of fact, the writer John tells us all we need to know about betrayal and the evil on which it feeds.  Envy, willfulness, desire for control of self and others, attendance to our own needs at the expense of others . . . these are signs that lead only to darkness.  And it was night.  Goodness, mercy, kindness, gentleness, prudence, courage, openness, perseverance . . . these are the signs that lead to light and life.

Heavenly Father, keep us always open to Christ, your Word among us.  Count us among your faithful.  Create in us a spirit that will always recognize you and welcome you . . . even in the most surprising places and unexpected people. 

Today we receive you; we receive your word.  Keep us ever mindful of your love for us.  Call us always to the light that is you.  Amen.


Written on January 27, 2009.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/his/CoreArt/art/bar_cvggo_taking.html

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Thistledown

Wisdom 4:20 & 5: Hope

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

These verses – actually beginning with the last verse of Chapter 4 – give us reflections of the wicked concerning the fate of the faithful.  Here is an answer to all of the times the psalmist laments: Why do we suffer and the wicked get away with murder?  Today we have the answer to so much questioning.  The faithful will rest in peace after struggling so long in the temporal world.  This chapter is a balancing counterpoint to chapters three and four: The Hidden Counsels of God.

So much about God is mystery.  Perhaps this is why we like this time of year with lights twinkling in the darkness, carols piercing cold air, our breath forming vapor as we step into the early morning crispness.

Over the week end my grandchildren and I watched one of their favorite movies, Babe, about a pig that becomes a sheepdog.  The story takes place in New Zealand and so Christmas is celebrated in the dead of summer; yet the farmer places a Christmas tree atop his house and the family gathers in the warm weather to exchange presents.  The grandchildren and I had a lively conversation about what we would and would not like about having Christmas in July.  At first it was winter that seemed more appropriate because it is the time when we are hunkered in and hunkered down, waiting for life to begin.  On the other hand, the coming of Light and Truth into the world coincides with the full and open days of summer, jammed with activities that distract us.  When do we need Christ more?  The answer is likely: all of the time.

We also spent time – as we always do when we watch this film – reflecting on the faith and doubt of the farmer and his wife about the pig and themselves.  We spoke again about the relationships between generations.  And, of course, we spoke about the incredible idea that a pig might win a sheep herding tourney.  We have sat in the bleachers at the Harford County Farm Fair and watched these dogs work a flock of sheep.  We have also watched pig races, horse sled pulls and other animal trials.  The children – and I – are impressed by the competency of this Hollywood pig.  And we are all rewarded by the cheers of the crowd when Babe brings the final sheep configuration home.  These were the same people who had jeered moments before.  Yes, the hope of the wicked is like thistledown borne on the wind . . .

When we are confronted with sneering laughter we need only focus on the potential within and wear the Lord as our armor (verses 16-19).  For when we put on Christ as recommended by Paul in Ephesians 6, we have no need of any other thing for the just live forever, and in the Lord is their recompense. 

This is one of the times in the liturgical year when we hear the theme of the rejected cornerstone.  It gives us the opportunity to think about surprises . . . and about unusual possibilities like Christmas in July . . . pigs that can herd sheep . . . cornerstones that no one recognizes.  It is the time of year to think about arming ourselves with Light and Joy . . . Peace and Hope . . . about wearing the Lord as we set forth each day . . . about being Christ in a turbulent world.


Written on December 1, 2008, re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/2010/03/page/4/

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Nehemiah 1: A Vocation for Building

Friday, September 13, 2019

Jerusalem: Stones at the Temple South Wall

We have visited with this book several times during our Noontime reflections and we know that it, along with the book of Ezra, describes the restoration time of the Jewish nation.  We know that Nehemiah was the administrator who is credited with the rebuilding of the temple and walls while his friend Ezra, the priest, rebuilt the religious traditions of the Jewish people.  Together these men led their community to recovery through work, prayer and a close connection with their God.  

The survivors of the captivity there in the province are in great distress and under reproach.

We constantly bump into people who are in great distress and under reproach.  There are times when we ourselves are the victim of abuse of one kind or another, times when we too, suffer greatly in that we are separated from some one, some thing or some tradition which used to comfort us and bring us peace.  When we find ourselves in exile . . . and we yearn for reconciliation . . . the best remedy for this affliction is to do as Nehemiah did: I prayed: O Lord, God of heaven, great and awesome God, you who preserve your covenant of mercy towards those who love you and keep your commandments, may your ear be attentive, may your eyes be open, to heed the prayer which I, your servant, now offer in your presence day and night for your servants the Israelites, confessing the sins which we of Israel have committed against you, I and my father’s house included.

This was Nehemiah’s vocation, that he call together a buffeted and distracted people to bring them home to Yahweh where they might be healed and restored.  It is our vocation as well, for as Christians we too are called to help in the gathering, fishing and harvesting work of God’s kingdom.  To this we are called.  For this we are made.  Let us pray with Nehemiah . . .

O Lord, may your ear be attentive to my prayer and that of your willing servants who revere your name.  Grant success to your servant this day . . . and all days.

Our vocation is to build and rebuild, to restore, to bring unity out of chaos, to bring light into the darkness, to bring hope to the desperate.  And we are never alone in this work.  We are constantly accompanied by the one who is the light, the hope, the joy of the world.  We ask this in Jesus’, name.  Amen.


Written on September 12, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite. 

For more on Nehemiah and Ezra and the re-building of Jerusalem, go to: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/nehemiah%E2%80%93the-man-behind-the-wall/

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