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Daniel 2: Public Life

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Daniel before Nebuchadnezzar

I am thinking of all the negative things that happen to Daniel which he calmly allows God to transform into good – his exile, his imprisonment, his gift as an interpreter of dreams which may be used against him . . . because of envy on the part of the king’s magicians.  He knows that the very prediction he is called to announce may bring about his execution.  Daniel withstands all of this – and even more when we read the entire story – by placing his trust, hope, faith and love in God . . . and by allowing God to work his wonderful will with those who are opposed to him, to the Jewish people and to their God.  I am reminded of Psalm 37: Commit your life to the Lord, trust in him and he will act, so that your justice break forth like the light, your cause like the noon-day sun.

Daniel does not let fear of failure or a reluctance to commit to God or to obey God to deter him from his path of fidelity.

Be still before the Lord and wait in patience; do not fret at the man who prospers; a man who makes evil plots to bring down the needy and the poor. 

Daniel does not abandon God or allow the world and its worries to lure him away from following God.

Calm your anger and forget your rage; do not fret, it only leads to evil.  For those who do evil perish; the patient shall inherit the land.

Daniel abides with God just as God abides with him.  Daniel waits upon the wisdom of the Lord, knowing that for God time is eternal.

A little longer – and the wicked shall have gone. 

Daniel knows that the only true emotion, the only lasting force is God’s love for us.  It is greater than anything we can imagine.  It is bolder, more persistent and persevering than anyone we know.  It is the only energy that matters . . . this love and peace of God that comes to us in the form of the man, Christ.

Look at his place, he is not there.  But the humble shall own the land and enjoy the fullness of peace.

Daniel makes a public statement when he expresses his love of God; and as we read his story we may join him to enter into our own public statement about our intensely personal relationship with God.

And so we might ask ourselves: Do we love God enough to make a public statement about our fidelity to him?

 For the humble shall own the land . . . and enjoy the fullness of peace.  Amen. 


A re-post from March 23, 2012. 

Image from: http://myyearofjubilee50.blogspot.com/2011/11/dan-man.html

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Mark 14:66-72A False and Dangerous Road

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Paraphrasing from the commentary in the BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA: Ssimultaneously, Master and disciple move through a process.  With an intentional gradation, the story presents us with Peter’s triple denial as he completes Jesus’ prediction to the letter (Mark 14:30).  Mark reminds us that when we rely on self alone we journey down a false and dangerous road.  (LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA 1537) I am wondering . . . why we insist on being so willful when God stands ready to help us at every turn.

This very night, before the cock crows three times, you will betray me. It still amazes me that Jesus is such a constant companion to us who do worse than ignore him, to us who contradict and even reject him.  I am still surprised at the enormity of Jesus’ patience that he abides with us beyond our disagreement with him; he remains to suffer the buffeting blows we deliver with our lack of faith, love and understanding.  It still startles me each time I read this passage to know that the patient and persevering Christ suffers intensely for us while all the while we cannot summon the courage to allow him to protect us and to take us in.

Even though I should have to die with you I would not deny you.

Tissot: Second Denial of St. Peter

Human fear is a powerful motivator.  Fear of starving keeps us working.  Fear of being alone keeps us seeking.  Fear of failure keeps us struggling.  Our hubris somehow blots out all reality; our envy blinds us to the outcomes that are easy predictions to others.  This is a dark and dangerous road on which to journey, this path we take when we deny, refute and reject salvation.

You too were with the Nazarene, Jesus.

How many times in a day are we asked to stand on principle, to tell truth, to fill an omission that another intentionally commits?  How many times do we step up, come forward, stand in solidarity to witness in humility and love?

I neither know nor understand what you are talking about. 

Rembrandt: The Apostle Peter Denies Christ

This story should always be told in complement with the ending from John 21 when the resurrected Jesus thrice asks Peter if he loves him and Peter replies: You know all things.  You know that I do.  This joyful ending to a horrible story reminds us that the Master and disciple move in tandem toward an inevitable end.  This wonderful turning at the end of John’s Gospel shows what we yearn to know.  God brings goodness out of harm, God keeps promises, God always offers multiple opportunities of conversion, God wants to lead us away from the false and dangerous road of deceit, subterfuge, and lies.  God wants us to choose life over death, light over dark, goodness over evil, service over power, humility over fame, the marginalized over the in-crowd.

Do you love me more than these?

Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.

Feed my lambs.

Do you love me?

Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.

Tend my sheep.

Do you love me?

Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.

Feed my sheep . . . Follow me.


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

A re-post from December 2, 2011. 

Images from: http://www.fineartprintsondemand.com/artists/rembrandt/apostle_peter_denies_christ.htm and http://devotionalonjesus.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html and http://www.eons.com/photos/group/catholics-50-3/photo/709583-Peter-Denies-Jesus-three-times/jesus—lent-passion-easter

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Job 36: Innocence


Job 36Innocence

Friday, February 15, 2019

Too many times the innocent suffer.  Too often the blameless stand accused unjustly.  What do we do when this happens?  What wisdom supports us?  What hope sustains us?  What love overcomes the insurmountable object that blocks the path?

God does not listen to lies . . . God rejects the obstinate in heart . . . even when we lie to ourselves.

God does not defend the wicked . . . God preserves not the life of the wicked . . . even when it appears that the wicked have won.

God abides with his faithful . . . God withholds not the just man’s rights, but grants vindication to the oppressed . . . even when we arrive at a place of hopelessness.

God always listens to the broken hearted . . . God saves the unfortunate through their affliction, and instructs them through distress . . . even though we do not feel his presence . . . God is there.

Behold, God is sublime in his power . . . God is great beyond our knowledge . . .

God is miniscule . . . God holds in check the water drops that filter in rain through mists.

God is vast . . . God nourishes the nations and gives them sustenance.

God is powerful . . . In God’s hands he holds the lightning.

God is good . . . God spreads the clouds in layers as the carpets of his tent.

In our innocence we stand before this awesome God.

In our innocence we are vindicated in our faith in God.

In our innocence we are saved by our hope in God.

In our innocence we are justified by our love for God.

In our innocence we are redeemed by our patient waiting on God.

Be still and know that God is God . . .


A re-post from Fenruary 15, 2019.

Image from: http://jesus-photos-pictures.blogspot.com/2010/11/god-holding-world-in-his-hands-photos.html 

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Song of Songs 8The Lover

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Written on January 31, 2009  and posted today as a Favorite . . .

“The Song of Songs, meaning the greatest of songs, contains in exquisite poetic form the sublime portrayal and praise of the mutual love of the Lord and his people.  The Lord is the Lover and his people are the beloved.  Describing this relationship in terms of human love, the author simply follows Israel’s tradition.  Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel all characterize the covenant between the Lord and Israel as a marriage.  Hosea the prophet sees the idolatry of Israel in the adultery of Gomer.  He also represents the Lord speaking to Israel’s heart and changing her into a new spiritual people, purified by the Babylonian captivity and betrothed anew to her divine Lover ‘in justice and uprightness, in love and mercy’.”  (Senior 791)

For stern as death is love, relentless as the nether world is devotion; its flames a blazing fire.  Deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away.  Were one to offer all he owns to purchase love, he would be roundly mocked.  8:6-7

“In human experience, death and the nether world are inevitable, unrelenting; in the end they always triumph.  Love, which is just as certain of its victory, matches its strength against the natural enemies of life; waters cannot extinguish it nor floods carry it away.  It is more priceless than all riches”.  (Senior 798)

In Song of Songs 2:14, the lover asks for a word or a song: Oh my dove in the clefts of the rock . . . let me see you, let me hear your voice, for your song is sweet and you are lovely.  She replies in words similar to those found in 2:17: Until the day breathes cool and the shadows lengthen, roam, my lover, like a gazelle or a young stag upon the mountains.  (Senior 798)

When God the Lover calls us, will we recognize his voice?  Will we understand that the Lover cries out to us, asking us to join him in his work of conversion and transformation . . . wishing to give us the gifts of his richness?

O garden-dweller, my friends are listening for your voice, let me hear it!  Be swift, my lover, like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spices!  8:13-14

When we hear the Lover’s voice, will we be prepared to follow?  To lose such a love is a loss from which we will not recover; therefore, do not arouse, do not stir up love, before its own time.  8:4 

We prepare best for this deeply intimate love by living a life in which we witness, watch and wait.

Oh my dove in the clefts of the rock . . . let me see you, let me hear your voice, for your song is sweet and you are lovely.

By patience and by listening we enter into Wisdom.  By obedience and by witnessing we respond to the Lover with his own words.

Until the day breathes cool and the shadows lengthen, roam, my lover, like a gazelle or a young stag upon the mountains . . . for we do not wish to stir up love before its own time . . . we wish to prepare as best we can . . . for in this Lover there is someone far more powerful yet tender than anyone we have ever known.

So as we act in justice and walk in humility, let us witness to the truths we know to be true.

As we give thanks for the bounty we have received, let us watch for the signs of the Bridegroom who comes leaping over the hills to us, his beloved.

Let us wait in joyful anticipation the love we are destined to live.

Let us join in the reaping of our Lover’s harvest . . . even as we walk through the fire of his love.  Amen


A re-post from January 19, 2012.

Image from: http://www.webexhibits.org/poetry/explore_famous_free_background.html

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.79 & 798. Print.

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GalatiansLove, Faith and Works

Monday, January 14, 2019

We have reflected frequently on this letter perhaps because its brevity draws us in.  This Noontime is a revision of something we shared in May 2009.  We offer it to you today.

Paul writes to the Galatians to remind them of the reason for their initial conversion . . . the love of Christ.  Interlopers were undermining the Gospel he had preached to them and the people of Galatia had begun to waver.  This is a scenario we live again today.  We know the truths that we have heard, but when the world intervenes with its own gospel we become confused.  We forget the initial message that . . . we are saved through grace brought by Christ’s death and resurrection, not by the Law This was surprising news to the Jewish structure in Paul’s day.  It sometimes surprises us today.

We constantly and loudly hear two compelling philosophies.  It is much easier, we tell ourselves, to do well if we are just told what to do and then we do it.  It is much easier, we tell ourselves, if we can just interpret the law as we like and then we can do what we like.

These modes of thinking are reflected in our polarized political and social world.  The two ends of the spectrum on which we live pull and push at one another until the middle is either squeezed to death or has the life pulled out of it.  There is no predictable place to stand.  It is this problem that instigates Paul’s letter to the Galatians; and we can take advice from his thinking today as he reminds us that because Christ is mystery only Christ can show us the way to salvation and how to live the mystery of life.  Only Christ can model how to live the Law, because he is the Law.

As this letter opens, Paul chides us for being so quickly led astray by the world; then he reminds us that there is only one true model to follow, Jesus.  Reading further into this letter we read that we might be saved by our faith.  Various protesting Christian sects stand on the premise that faith alone saves us.  We know that this is not true because it is faith as displayed by the sacrificial love of Christ that brings us home.  Our faith must be accompanied by works because . . . Jesus is love, and if we have faith, our works must be love.  If we have one without the other we lack integrity.  When we try to live a life in which we split ourselves and allow our actions to differ widely from what we say we believe, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14, we are the gong clanging loudly signifying nothing.

Paul closes the letter with another reminder that the Galatians – and we – must return to our initial desire to follow Christ, for there is no other road to salvation.  We may surround ourselves with friends who help us create the illusion that this world answers all our needs if we can only amass enough money, fame or comfort; yet somewhere deep inside, we know that there is more.

When I feel both squeezed and pulled apart by the world, I know that it is time to return to this letter.  I look for verse 3:1: O stupid Galatians!  Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?  I re-read verse 1:6: I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you by [the] grace of Christ for a different gospel.  I look again at 5:7: You were running so well; who hindered you from following [the] truth.  I meditate on verses 2-5: Bear one another’s burdens, and so you fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deluding himself.  Each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason to boast with regard to someone else; for each will bear his own load. 

But in a world which constantly, and with expert ways, calls us away from Christ, it is with Galatians 6:9 that we will want to spend a good amount of time: Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up.


A re-post from January 14, 2012.

Image from: http://www.66clouds.com/new_testament.html

For more on this letter, see the Magnanimity page of A Book of Our Life on this blog. 

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1 Corinthians 11Imitators of Christ

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Written on January 29 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Vermeer: Christ in the house of Martha and Mary

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.  Ephesians 5:1-2

You became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became a model in Macedonia and in Achaia . . . For you became imitators in God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: you suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered.  1 Thessalonians 1:6, 2:14

This portion of 1 Corinthians deals with problems in liturgical assembles; the church Paul established in Corinth was experiencing difficulties in maintaining the customs instituted by the apostle and so he writes to counsel them.  He encourages them to remember who they are and all that God has given them; he asks them to serve as good models of Christian living – even though he, Paul, is not with them.  He asks that they call upon their faith in Christ’s promise to be with them always in the offering of bread and wine.  He asks that they put aside the corrupt ways they have allowed the creep into their spiritual practices.

Samaritan Woman

Some of what we read is troublesome when we look on these words from our place in the twenty-first century.  Commentary tells us that Paul’s attitude toward women was in concert with the thinking of that day.  Fundamentalists take these words literally and diminish women to a status below men.  Most scholars today aver that if Paul were living in our world he would give women equal status with men.  But rather than focus on some of Paul’s words here, what we can focus on is the way Christ himself treated women, beginning with his own mother, and the sisters of his friend Lazarus, Mary and Martha.  It is clear from the Gospel stories that the Samaritan Woman in John 4, the woman with the hemorrhage in Matthew 9, Mark 5, and Luke 8, the Canaanite/Syrophonecian woman in Matthew 15, and Mark 7, the woman crippled by a spirit for thirteen years in Luke 13, the woman caught in adultery in John 8 are all important to Jesus.  He uses women in his parables in Matthew 13, for example – The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough and in Luke 15 with the woman and the lost coin.  There are other instances but these few serve to show the respect with which Christ treated women and this is what we are called to model.

Bernardino Luini: Mary Magdalene

As Paul writes to the Corinthians – and to us today – about how we misuse and even abuse the gift of presence God gives to us each day either through the Eucharist or in any other form, we might remind ourselves that while we strive to imitate Christ perfectly we will miss the mark frequently.  And as we read through the many stories we have about Jesus, we find one thing in common: Jesus loves us all, greatly and deeply.  This is what Paul calls us to imitate.  This is what we can strive to be and do.  This is the person we can follow no matter our circumstance, gender, or status.  This is all that God asks of us.  This and nothing more.


A re-post from November 27, 2011.

Images from: http://thesisterproject.com/sisterpedia/fiction-as-a-cure-for-sister-rifts-throwing-the-book-at-bad-behavior/ http://www.haverford.edu/relg/faculty/amcguire/marymimages.htm 

http://blog.beliefnet.com/beyondblue/2011/03/the-samaritan-woman-loneliness.html 

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Psalm 70Finding Meaning

Sunday, December 16, 2018

O Lord, come quickly to help me . . . come quickly to help me, God. 

Victor Frankl

Friday’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation of the Day, was written by Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived Auschwitz.  As I read this psalm I recall some of his words.

Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself – be it meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter.  The more one forgets himself – by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love – the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself . . . (Cameron 151)

As I reflect on his words I wonder how those who physically survived a death camp can ever smile again.  I wonder how they move past the fear that must haunt them. I wonder how they manage to move through days of freedom without falling into fits of dark despair.  I wonder how they begin again.

In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as a meaning of sacrifice . . . In accepting this challenge to suffer bravely, life has a meaning up to the last moment, and it retains this meaning literally to the end . . . My comrades’ . . . question was, “Will we survive the camp?  For, if not, all this suffering has no meaning.”  The question that beset me was, “Has all this suffering, this dying around us, a meaning?  For, if not, then ultimately there is no meaning to survival; for a life whose meaning depends upon such a happenstance – as whether one escapes or not – ultimately would not be worth living at all”.   (Cameron 151)

Entrance to Auschwitz

We too often believe that life’s meaning is found in quick happiness and forget that true human meaning comes from paring ourselves down to a nothingness that brings us sharply up against the realization that only God is worth seeking.  We too often act out of fear and forget that no deceit lasts forever, and that we only fool ourselves with our feeble deceptions for God knows and sees all in the end.  We too often look for quick solutions and forget that only a forgiving heart and an abiding love bring true and eternal life.

O Lord, come quickly to help me . . . come quickly to help me, God. 

And so we pray . . .

Good and glorious God, we struggle to find meaning in the highs and lows of our lives and so we gather up all that we have and all that we are . . . to offer it back to you.  For you are our only place of refuge . . . you are our only source of meaning . . . you are the only salvation worth seeking.  O Lord, come quickly to help us . . . come quickly to help us, God.  Amen. 


A re-post from November 13, 2011. 

Image from: http://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/frankl/frankl.html

Cameron, Peter John, ed. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 11.11 (2011): 151. Print.

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1 Samuel 24Escape

Monday, November 19, 2018

Rembrandt: Saul and David

Several weeks ago, we reflected on celebrating escape from something or someone who would have brought us great ruin or harm.  Yesterday’s Gospel gave us the opportunity to examine how Jesus is able to escape the traps laid for him by those who hated him.  Today we take a look at a small portion of the story of David, the young man who is designated as King of Israel by Samuel but who waits his turn as leader of God’s chosen people by resisting the temptation to fight against Saul.  David does not deny that he has been chosen King, nor does he murder Saul in order to take what is his; rather, he abides in God’s will and God’s time . . . and he takes the routes of escape that God offers while he actively waits on the fulfillment of God’s plan.

Today we read the story of how God saved his imperfect yet faithful servant and we are no less than David.

Today we read the story of how David relied on his God’s constancy . . . and he did not allow fear to turn him toward revenge or cowardice.

In yesterday’s Gospel (Matthew 22:15-21) we read the story of how Jesus confronted prejudice and hatred and we do well to follow his example.

In yesterday’s Gospel we were given a road map for how to escape manipulation and scheming.  We must rely on God always, remain faithful to the covenant God shares with us, and always act in love and for love of God.  In this way we will always know escape from anything danger or evil that hopes to overtake us.

And so we pray . . .

When the call to do God’s work pulls us into alien and dangerous territory, we must rely on God’s wisdom and not our own.

When the hand of God heals us and then sends us out to do God’s work, we must rely on God’s fidelity and nurture our own.

When the voice of God urges us to work in fields are that unfamiliar to us and that sap our energy, we must rely on God’s strength and conserve our own.

When the heart of God sends us to work with those who would do us harm, we must rely on God’s love and hope for redemption.   Amen.


A re-post from October 17, 2011. 

Images from: http://www.aaroneberline.com/blog/tag/david/ and http://www.artbible.info/art/large/378.html

 

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Galatians 2:15-21God’s Mercy

Monday, October 22, 2018

Paul’s argument in this letter is that a man does not have to submit himself to circumcision in order to follow Christ; Christ is the fulfillment of the old law and is therefore not subject to it. Christ is, in fact, its full human embodiment.  How silly we are, Paul says, to believe that The Law is more important than Christ – God’s presence among us, as one of us.  In Paul’s view the Galatians have missed the big picture.  We are saved by Christ . . . and not the Law.

We have spent time reflecting on this in a number of our Noontimes, thinking about how we are frequently caught up in following the letter of the law and completely missing its intended purpose.  Neglecting the spirit of the law in order to adhere to the permutations we have created with it is a stumbling block to living a life of justification or salvationIn short, we are missing the forest by focusing on the trees.

We worry about the future and fret over the past.  We are anxious about people and plans in the weeks and months to come; we harbor anger and guilt about offenses we or others have committed long years ago.  We carry all of this weighty negativity with us and stagger through the present – missing the joy that God has posted along the way for us.  We seem intent on suffering, and doing it badly.

In a letter to Titus, Paul writes: When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, who he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.  (Titus 3:4-7)

With the letter of the law, we can become hyper-vigilant, struggling to maintain a safe distance from even the suggestion that we may break an order.

With the spirit of the law, we are free to explore new ways of serving God, free to express our emotions and to dialog with our creator.

With the Law, there is an immutable permanence and state of stasis that can deaden the soul.

With the Spirit, there is limitless compassion that heals, soothes, restores and replenishes the soul.

When we are intent on following the rules there is a paring down that takes place, a closing off of possibility, a temptation to finagle and maneuver.

When we are intent on following God, there is an opening up, a flourishing, a limitless opportunity for new beginnings.

With rules, we count our near occasions of sin and the number of times we have failed.

With God, we look for occasions to serve and opportunities to follow Jesus.

When we find ourselves looking for loopholes and excuses, we know we have strayed too far from Christ.  When we hear ourselves walking fine lines and arguing small points, we know we have wandered too far from the creator.  When we see ourselves safely hidden in our comfort zone fortresses rather than stepping into the unknown to witness and build up the Kingdom, we know that we have somehow forgotten that we are well-loved and ever-protected.

Paul speaks to the Galatians and he speaks to us, encouraging each of us to step into our lives with full confidence and gentle fearlessness.  He urges us to be led by the Spirit rather than be stifled by the law.  And he reminds us that God welcomes the sinner eagerly . . . for God has endless and abundant mercy.


A re-post from September 19, 2011.

Images from: http://www.biblechef.com/Indexes/Artifacts/JewishTorahSheet.html

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