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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Robin Anderson: Mary Holding Baby Jesus Looking Up Towards the Light

Robin Anderson: Mary Holding Baby Jesus Looking Up Towards the Light

A Prayer to Fulfill God’s Promise in Us

It is truly a paradox that God creates humans to fulfill the great promise of love. Let us consider our response to this call to promise.

It is a sign of God’s love that God chooses to come among us as a child.  Let us consider how we make room for others in our lives.

It is a further gift and promise from God that we are granted the free and open will to choose how we will respond to this loving call. Let us carefully consider our reply.

It is an honor to put aside our own ego in response to God’s open invitation to love. Let us prayerfully consider how we become selfless in service to others.

It is our return promise to God that we offer our thoughts, words, and deeds in the service of God’s good. Let us honestly consider how we best make this return promise of love.

Good and holy God, you are paradox, sign, gift, honor and promise. May we joyfully live in you. May we authentically live through you.  And may we lovingly live with you . . . in thought, word and deed.  Amen.


For more on the paradox, sign, gift, honor and promise of God’s love, explore the first three stanzas of Psalm 119 in last week’s Noontimes.

For more information on the painting above, click on the image or go to: http://robinandersonfineart.blogspot.com/2011/02/mary-holding-baby-jesus-looking-up.html 

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Monday, November 23, 2020

images[3]Psalm 92

A Hymn of Thanksgiving for God’s Fidelity

Fidelity: faithfulness, loyalty, patience, understanding, questioning and answering, dialog, forbearance, union, love.

From St. Joseph Edition of The Psalms notes: This is a didactic psalm, that is, both a praise of the Lord and an instruction of the faithful. The psalmist meditates on God’s way of acting.  His love and faithfulness are reflected in everything he does, but they must be comprehended. Ultimately the happiness of the wicked will fade like seasonal grass, whereas the lot of the righteous will be like the great trees whose roots are planted on solid ground. For the latter, new seasons are promised in the courts of God. God’s joy is like a new spring in the life of believers.

Again our theme of renewal. Again the idea that a righteous life is more difficult to live than a wicked one, but that true serenity and joy is found by struggling to live a life of justice.

I like the point in the citation above that God’s acts are a demonstration of his love and fidelity and that we must strive to comprehend this idea . . . an idea which is so difficult for so many humans . . . because fidelity is such a demanding quality . . . and we humans appear to be much too fickle and willful to comprehend its depth and true meaning.

Each day as we go through each hour, how do we as God’s creatures express God’s fidelity? How do we express God’s love? Are we faithful when it is convenient or when we have the time or energy? Do we love those who please us most? We recall Paul’s words to Timothy: I remember you constantly in prayers, night and day.  I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears, so that I may be filled with joy, as I recall your sincere faith . . .  (2 Timothy 1:3-4) This is the same letter in which Paul states that he is already poured out like a libation and there are times when we feel this pouring out rather than gratitude. But when we look at verse 3 of this psalm we see again the idea of loving God faithfully by praying day and night. And when we are spent . . . we might at least raise eyes and hands to heaven to thank God, and to ask that God lighten our load.

Prayer and petition are important as we near and enter into Advent, even when we feel spent. When we come to the end of an exhausting day, we can light one small candle in the darkness which comes so quickly at this time of year in our northern hemisphere, and we can repeat the antiphon we find as part of the Liturgy of the Hours Night Prayer: Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace, alleluia.

With this simple act and prayer we might remain faithful . . . even though we are spent. And so we pray . . .

We know that you watch over us, O Lord.  Grace us with the patience and perseverance to keep hopeful watch with you . . . as faithfully as you keep wonder-filled watch with us.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, together with the Holy Spirit. Amen.


THE PSALMS, NEW CATHOLIC VERSION. Saint Joseph Edition. New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 2004. 243. Print.

Image from: http://brotherdismas.blogspot.com/2011/05/saturday-of-4th-week-in-easter.html

Adapted from a reflection written on December 4, 2007.

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Friday, October 30, 2020

091212-impossible[1]Daniel 11

God as the Ultimate Power

The king shall do as he pleases, exalting himself and making himself greater than any god; he shall utter dreadful blasphemies against the God of gods. He shall prosper only till divine wrath is ready, for what is determined must take place. He shall have no regard for the gods of his ancestors or for the one in whom women delight; for no god shall he have regard, because he shall make himself greater than all.  (Verses 36 and 37)

This portion of Daniel’s prophecy is difficult to follow, even with a commentary, as there are varying opinions about the identity of the three kings of Persia, there are several rulers with the name of Antiochus, and kingdoms in the region are morphing and changing while dynasties rise and fall. It is sufficient to note, however, that the writer here conveys the sense of confusion that the Hellenistic Wars bring about. Syria and Egypt battle over who controls the Jewish kingdom and the little people wonder where and how all the conflict will end. The foreign ruler, King Antiochus, venerated Apollo and Zeus and he even saw himself as the king of Mount Olympus, Zeus/Jupiter. He did as he liked, including the placement of a gargantuan of a pagan god in the Jerusalem Temple. All that once was thought immutable is now changing and here the angel of the Lord tells us, through Daniel, that the Lord God will not be manipulated, controlled or mocked; the Lord is ultimately in control of all and everyone. Those who do not understand this will eventually come to see “this simple portrait of a tyrant, possibly even a mad one, willing and able to work his designs without being challenged even by the gods (v. 37) and yet unaware that his ultimate doom has been sealed in secret by the God who is the master of all of history and whose word is the last as well as the first”. The closing verses of this chapter predict the future and in the following chapter we find “the most important innovation contained in the book of Daniel, the notion of resurrection in 12:1-3”.  (Mays 633)

It strikes us as odd that one who professes to lead as a servant might have so little regard for the small works of beauty and goodness that are significant to the community. These leaders appear to place little value on benchmarks or markers or significant events that a people hold in common. They believe themselves more important than a god like Adonis, the one who sways so many women (Jones 1447).

When we find ourselves in the hands of those who are able to work their designs without being challenged by any entity on earth, we will want to remember that God is the ultimate source of infinite power, and that this power brings with it the gift of new, eternal life. This power generates from profound goodness and self-sacrificing love rather that brute muscle and dispassionate control. This power determines the nature of life and even death itself. And this power brings the gift of resurrection to those who follow faithfully.


Adapted from a reflection written on July 22, 2010.

Image from: http://www.quiettime.org/6243/power/

Jones, Alexander, ed.  THE JERUSALEM BIBLE. New York, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1966. 1447. Print.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 633. Print.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Bridle_bit_by_Fjallira[1]Psalm 32:9-10

Bit and Bridle

Do not be senseless like horses or mules; with bit and bridle their temper is curbed, else they will not come to you. Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.

The Jerusalem Bible translation of these two verses gives us another, interesting perspective:  Do not be like senseless horse or mule that need bit and bridle to curb their spirit (to let you get near them). Many torments await the wicked, but grace enfolds the one who trusts in Yahweh.

The palmist reminds us that the message is clear. We have a simple choice to make: bit and bridle or grace and love. Those who choose the wide way that leads to destruction will be comfortable in the present time but ultimately experience much pain and grief. Those who choose the narrow way that Christ shows to us will suffer in the present time but quickly come to know full and timeless peace.

God says: To survive in the world you have developed habits and behaviors that shut others down, that close others out, or that frighten others away. This may protect you for a time but in the end you will be even more vulnerable and frightened than you were when you began to act this way. To survive eternity you must know the way of grace and love. You do not want to be hindered by bit or bridle. You do not want eternal torment but rather, you seek my enfolding arms, my loving protection, and my unending serenity. Put aside your anger and distrust. Put on your wedding garment of love and hope, and come to the feast today.

We can receive no invitation that is more simple or more clear. God creates us not for the bit and bridle but for the grace and light and love that is our true potential.

Click on the verse link above and explore how other translations report what the psalmist has to tell us.


Image from: http://comefillyourcup.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/bridle-that-tongue/

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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

ladder-in-the-darkness[1]2 Peter 2:5

Making Every Effort

Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love.  

Peter shows a stairway we might climb as we grow in our understanding of how we might live according to The Law of Love Christ opens for us. He begins with the concept of faith, a gift given by God that empowers us to believe that which we cannot see or hear or touch or smell but which we have every reason to believe. When we are weary and our faith flags, we bolster belief with virtue, or good and moral behavior. When we feel tempted to toss all morality to the winds we strengthen ourselves by studying the Word and gaining knowledge. When this knowledge is not enough to encourage us we must control our urge to throw spiritual tantrums like those who are just beginning their journey.  We reinforce our dwindling self-control by enduring, by running the race to the end. We boost endurance by remaining loyal to God no matter our circumstances.  This devotion may also need strengthening and if this is so . . . we turn to one for shared sustenance, for mutual affection. And when this is not enough . . . we turn to God for Christ’s endless, limitless and eternal gift of love.

God says: Peter has shown you a ladder you might climb, yet I know that for many of you this work is too arduous. So do not worry, my little ones. If you are too weak I will carry you. If you are too sad I will bring you joy. If you are too alone I will send you a companion. If you are too frightened I will calm your personal storm. Make every effort as best you can. Call on me. My hands and feet, arms and legs will do the rest. Peter offers you his own ladder. Put your foot on the first rung and bolster your faith.

Click on the links to find definitions of these steps in Peter’s ladder and reflect on how these rungs lead us up and out of darkness.


Image from: http://mymorningmeditations.com/2012/03/15/an-invitation-from-god/

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Thursday, September 24, 2020

head_29[1]Amos 9:14-15

Raising Up

I will bring about the restoration of my people Israel; they shall rebuild and inhabit their ruined cities, plant vineyards and drink the wine, set out gardens and eat the fruits. I will plant them upon their own ground; never again shall they be plucked from the land I have given them, say I, the Lord, your God.

Evidence and judgment, words and woes, threats and promises, visions of locusts, fire, the plummet, and the fruit basket, condemnation of priests and leaders, prophecy against greed and corruption, the final vision before the altar and then the winnowing sieve. This prophecy is too much to bear yet just as we are about to put aside forever its dark images and frightening premonition of doom . . . Amos leads us to the place he was always leading us. Amos brings us to the Christ, the Messiah.

God says: You most often find me in the dark valleys of your life for it is the failures, the betrayals, and corruption that bring you swiftly to my side.  Just so does my prophet Amos warn you that my little ones must be shepherded.  My lambs must be tended, my sheep must be led.  Through the suffering, pain and sorrow I am with you.  I have created you and you are mine.  I have loved you and I will never leave you.  I have already rescued you and placed you within the protective walls of my vineyard. You have been planted upon your own ground and you will never again be plucked from the place I have given you. Yours is the place of honor in my own sacred heart.  This I have promised.  This is the raising up you have been seeking.  This is your raising up that is my gift to you this day.

How does the prophet Amos speak to us today? What foreshadowing does he share? What hope does he bring? What is his promise of raising up for you? When we consider our world today, many will say that we need the words of Amos more than ever. When we contemplate our surroundings, many will say that it is time to heed the prophecy that  reminds us God is always raising us up.

Amos sheep


Use your own commentary or one of the links below to learn a bit more about his prophecy.

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/21356/Amos

http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/112277/jewish/The-Prophet-Amos.htm

http://thisischurch.com/christian_teaching/sermon/amos.pdf


Images from: http://www.faithvillage.com/article/0531061aff6d4f0c81db56f7d5fc3f35/the_boldness_of_amos and http://www.liquidthinking.org/archive/2005_09_01_archive.htm

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Thursday, July 23, 2020

Luke 2:29-32

Compline

My eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations.

In the tradition of The Liturgy of the Hours the Canticle of Simeon is sung as part of Compline or Night Prayer.  For the entire prayer, go to the Bible Gateway site linked in the citation above and explore the various interpretations of these verses.  For the story of Simeon, read Luke 2:22-35.

God says: Simeon is a faithful servant who waited patiently for the fulfillment of my promise that he would see the messiah before death came to him.  Just as Mary and Joseph were presenting the child, Jesus, in the Temple, this loyal servant saw in this family what I see, a trinity of hope, love and faith, promise, mercy and constancy.  Simeon also saw that the lives of these three people would be full of deep sorrow and great joy.  Simeon spoke words that I hear in waves from the faithful as they prepare to retire for the night.  Join yourself with them as you prepare for bed.  It is such a short prayer that it will not tax you.  Turn away from the cares of the world for a brief time and pray these verses.  You sleep ever so much better for having joined Simeon to visit with me.

Another faithful servant waited patiently for the appearance of God Among Us.  Tomorrow, the story of Anna . . .


Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aert_de_Gelder_-_Het_loflied_van_Simeon.jpg

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Monday, July 20, 2020

mary-and-elizabeth[1]Luke 1

The Encounter

In the first chapter of Luke we witness a series of encounters: the immaculate as she encounters the one who is in the presence of God, two cousins carrying new life, two cousins as yet unborn, and the quiet drama of God’s word coming to live among God’s people.  All encounters are holy.  Would that we might see them so.

We plan to meet friends for lunch.  We arrange our lives to gather for an important occasion.  We enter dates on calendars and electronic schedulers.  We commit to union with others.  All encounters are holy.  Would that we might make them so.

We are surprised when we meet a friend from days lived long past.  We chance upon a relative we have not seen since a funeral years ago. We find ourselves waiting in queue with a former colleague we have not thought of in the years since we shared a workplace.  All encounters are holy.  Would that we might make them so.

We bump into strangers in our daily interactions. We exchange currency and salutations with people we barely perceive. We pump gas and load purchases next to people we may never see again. We rent vacation apartments and share cups and plates with hundreds whom we will never meet. We travel in airplanes, trains, buses and taxis and brush against thousands or even millions.  All encounters are holy.  Would that we might make them so.

We might imagine a life in which we anticipate joy as we meet new people and encounter new ways of thinking.  We might picture a life in which conflicts are expressed openly with respect rather than obliquely with silent aggression.  We might read Luke 1 and see a girl who steps into danger, fully knowing and fully accepting the challenge that lies before her . . . saying with full and open heart, My soul magnifies the Lord.

All encounters are holy.  Would that we might see them so.

Prophet and Redeemer meet before the world is aware of their existence.

Two women clasp one another as they kiss cheeks.

A harbinger arrives, announcing good news that we often choose to disbelieve.

God comes to earth to walk among his people.

Trust in God.  Hope with God.  Love for God.

Believing that the impossible might be made possible.

All of these encounters are revealed to us today.

All of these options stand before the people we read about today.

All of these possibilities lie beneath the encounters presented to us today.

Let us imagine a life in which each time we look up, we greet the other with warm trust, exuberant hope, and authentic love.  Let us picture a world in which we greet and listen to one another with genuine respect.  Let us see ourselves stepping forward honestly with hand extended in faithful friendship.  Let us imagine the possibilities that lie beneath our encounters, and let us pray . . .

All encounters are holy.  Would that we might believe them so.


Image from: http://www.retreatinabag.net/category/retreat-event-planning/ministry-at-the-retreat/

Adapted from a reflection written on January 22, 2009.

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Thursday, July 16, 2020

boat[1]Matthew 4:20

Following

When Jesus called, the disciples left their nets and followed him.

If we look for pat answers in scripture we are not seeking God in both the divine and human.  If we hope for a “black and white” world we are not growing.  If we believe that God loves some to the exclusion of others . . . we have not yet begun our journey.

God says: There in only one commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.  All the finagling and deception you believe shows me your power is like a child who struggles against the loving arms of a parent.  All that I ask is that you follow; I will protect you.  All that I ask is that you do my Word; Jesus will show the Way.  All that I ask is that you abide in love; the Spirit abides in you . . . and I ask that you abide in me.

We spent many hours seeking answers to questions we need not ask when all we need is God alone.  All of the earthly plots and schemes are useless in God’s eternity.  The only tool we need is God’s Language of Love.  And this we learn as we follow Jesus.  This we put into action as we yield to the Spirit.

When Jesus calls, let us leave behind our nets that have been so important to us . . . and let us follow . . .


For more thoughts on discipleship, enter the word follow in the blog search bar and explore.

A re-post from July 16, 2013.

To read a homily on the miracle of leaving our nets behind, click on the image above or go to: http://revjoezarro.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/dropping-your-nets-and-the-miracle-of-the-fishermen/

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