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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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James 4Puffs of Smoke

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Throughout his letter, James reminds us that we must be doers of the word and not sayers only.  In Chapter 4 he focuses us on the habits we have nurtured that contribute to our divisions, habits of the heart and mind that create division, habits of the soul that separate us from God.

Where do the wars and conflicts among you come from? . . . Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? 

God wishes happiness for all his creatures; God does not wish that some of us do well while others starve.  James points out that it is our own selfishness and greed that cause us to build the barriers that separate us.  Humility, he says, is the only remedy.  We must submit our will to God’s and resist the demon world that whispers in our ear to tell us that we are more special than others.

Do not speak evil of one another.  Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges a brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law.  If you judge the law you are not a doer of the law but a judge . . . Who are you to judge your neighbor?

When we gossip with one another and slander others we become incapable judges; and the only true and gifted judge is God.  James does not speak here of a judicial system that oversees criminal cases and administers appropriate consequences; rather, James speaks of a world in which humble servants acknowledge God’s power and generosity.  James knows – and once we put away our ego we will also come to know – that God’s plan for justice is far too complicated for humans to fully comprehend.  God’s plan converts sinners, it waits on the last of the sheep, it allows the weeds to grow up with the harvest, it calls the high and powerful to serve the low and powerless, it turns all harm into goodness.  This is a plan that we cannot out-maneuver.  It is a plan that we cannot ignore.  It is a plan that will be in force forever – even until the end of time.

You have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow.  You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. 

I spoke with a friend this morning who is recovering from brain surgery – he and his family are hopeful.  I spoke to another just before Mass whose husband has lung cancer.  “Three weeks ago our lives were normal,” she said.  “Now we spend every day at the hospital.  They know our first names”.  I met a complete stranger as I came out of the store after Mass.  He noticed I was carrying milk.  I noticed that he was driving an historic car.  When I complemented him on its beautiful restoration he said, “Yeah, I spent three years of my life on this and then my wife got sick.  A few months later she was gone.  Just like that.  I don’t know what I’m gonna do”.  We smiled and spoke kind words to one another before parting ways.

We have no idea what our life will be like tomorrow.  We are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. 

James urges us to cease our bickering; he asks that we put an end to petty divisions.  He recommends that we put aside gossip and false speech; he advises that we go to God in humility.

James reminds us that we are mere wisps of vapor and that without God we are less than nothing.  He tells us that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. 

James tells us that all we need do is live our lives as doers of the word and not sayers only.  James asks us to cease judging and gossiping; he asks that we humble ourselves to take the last seat at the table rather than the first.  James reminds us that as tiny wisps of ash rising on the drifting wind we do not have the capacity to judge as God does.

So rather than throw our lives away on pointless living and selfish habits, let us rise like incense from the altar of our lives to be taken into the arms of a God who loves us relentlessly.  For once we humble ourselves to join others who rise in like unison, we will find that we have been gathered together in God’s loving arms . . . to become far more than mere puffs of smoke.


Images from: http://www.ursulinesjesus.org/prayer.htm 

A re-post from September 18, 2011.

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Job 36: Innocence


Job 36Innocence

Friday, October 19, 2018

Written on February 10, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

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 . . . he preserves not the life of the wicked . . . even when it appears that the wicked have won.

God abides with his faithful . . . he 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 . . . he 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 . . . He holds in check the waterdrops that filter in rain through mists.

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

God is powerful . . . In his hands he holds the lightning.

God is good . . . He 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 September 16, 2011.

Image from: http://moderncountry.blogspot.com/2011/07/image-via-foundryshow-today-my-heart.html 

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John 15Pruning – Living in the World

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Written on May 8, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

It occurs to me that the only way to be in this world but of it is to be constantly pruned.  We know that when we plant a grape vine it must be severely cut back each year in order that it bear fruit; otherwise it would run rampant and throw its energy into producing stem and leaves.  With the constant cycle of bearing and pruning, the fruit remains abundant and nutritive.  This is the course of discipleship: the pruning keeps us close to the main vine, Jesus.  If we were left to ramble on our own – as some people choose to do – we would be all flourish and show, lacking depth of root and wealth of produce.

This is why we ought not to be afraid of the cutting back that God does with us, the bringing up short, the changing of plan, the leaping into what looks like nothing – for this is what faith calls us to do.  This is why we ought to rejoice in all circumstances, be they joyful or sorrow-laden.  It is why we ought to expect to be shown a new path just when we think we have discovered something that is rock solid.

We are not meant to languish and roam where we will.  We are creatures created with a purpose.  And that purpose is buried deeply within, to be drawn out by the source of our being.  We can only be truly happy, truly celebrate with a sense of lasting joy when we find ourselves being pruned . . . so that we better hear, we better listen, we better do.

God sacrifices self for us.  We must sacrifice self for God.  This is what goodness does.  This is how goodness behaves.  Living in a world which is self-driven, we will find ourselves at odds with this idea of giving over to the pruning.  We need to expect to be misunderstood, miss-read, miss-heard, miss-believed.  If we are People of the Vine, waiting in joy for our winter pruning so that we might better burgeon in the spring . . . we gladly give over our small worries and pains to the one who prunes us – because he does so with great knowing, great skill, and great love.

When we are being pruned, we know that we are chosen and appointed to go and bear fruit that will remain.  We are called to enact the Law of Love.  We are called to be Fruit of the Vine.


A re-post from September 14, 2011.

Image from: http://pavdevelopment.com/grape/pruning/Pruning-Grape-Vines:-Art-of-Less-is-More

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Psalm 89Steadfast Love

Friday, October 12, 2018

Written on March 7 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Righteousness, justice, faithfulness and steadfast love – these are the tenets of God’s covenant with David and we see steadfast love repeated in this song.  This puts me in mind of Paul’s beautiful anthem to love in 1 CorinthiansLove is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know it in part and we prophecy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfection disappears.  When I was a child I talked like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

The Mosaic Law has many parts and multiple nuances.  The Law that Christ brings, the Law of Love, is but one that supersedes all others; this one law is the perfection of love as we see it lived by Jesus.

In today’s Psalm we see the “creative work of God as a defeat of the powers of chaos”.  The references to the north and south signify the entire whole universe.  The great height of mounts Tabor and Hermon imply God’s might and omniscience.  Steadfast love and faithfulness are “personified here as companions or servants who lead the way of the Lord”.  Festal shouts describe the joy of the people.  We may be taunted from time to time that God has abandoned us as is the king in this psalm, but we know that it is impossible for God to abandon his creatures.  This hymn of praise to the creator himself helps to put us in proper relationship to God; and it reminds us of God’s most salient characteristic . . . God is steadfast love.  (Mays 883-885)

In today’s Gospel from Mark (12:1-12) Jesus reminds us that although he is the cornerstone rejected by builders he will remain faithful and constant.  He tells the parable of the farmer who erects a vineyard and wine press and leaves it with tenants to go on a journey.  When the master wishes to collect what is due him, his servants and even his son are rejected and even put to death.  So too are those who follow Christ; but we are to remain steadfast just as God is steadfast.  We are to remain in love, just as Christ remains in love.  And we are to sing of God’s steadfast love and proclaim God’s faithfulness to the generations.  For this faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.  There is no other cornerstone that holds up the heavens and stands firm on the earth.  There is no other cornerstone on which to build our faith. 


A re-post from September 9, 2011.

Image from: http://www.layoutsparks.com/1/245315/relaxation-candles-heart-light.html

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 883-885. Print.

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Luke 9:1-9God in Their Midst

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Written on February 20 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

In his sermon on the mount, Jesus tells us that we are not to throw pearls before swine.  We are too precious to throw ourselves away or to allow ourselves to be used up in senseless waste.  We walk a fine line between helping others and being abused, between loving those who hate us and enabling those who would use us.  Today’s Noontime, and similar descriptions of these words of Jesus in Mark 6:10-11, Matthew 10:12-14, tell us that we are not meant to be doormats.  We are to extend God’s peace to others and tell the good news of freedom brought by Christ.  If we are rebuffed, we are to shake their dust from our feet in testimony . . . and move on.  We are to journey on, witnessing, ministering, hoping, and enacting Christ – even to the point of suffering and death.  This death in Christ is not pointless as some would have us think; rather, this dying to Christ causes our enemies to wonder – just as Herod does with Jesus – about our origin, our goal and our mission.  If we live our lives as Jesus instructs the twelve today, our enemies may reject us . . . but they will keep trying to see us.  They will keep trying to understand our motivation, our sustenance . . . and our joy.

Our lives of faith will cause our enemies to wonder about our source of strength and determination – even in the face of overwhelming odds – and this they will want to see and experience for themselves. 

Our lives of hope will cause our enemies to wonder about our source of serenity and peace – even in the face of overwhelming cruelty – and this they will want to see and feel for themselves.

Our lives of love will cause our enemies to wonder about our source of compassion and mercy – even in the face of overwhelming pain – and this they will want to see and live for themselves. 

Jesus sent the twelve, he sent the seventy, he sent the seventy-two, and he sends us . . . into the world to witness, to cure, to heal, to carry back those who hunger and thirst for the truth.  We are part of his mission.  We are part of his family.  And we will want to act in such a way that those who seek God will look to us and know . . . that through us, they have seen, and touched, and felt . . . the living presence of God in their midst.


A re-post from September 8, 2011.

Image from: http://freegiftfromgod.com/blog/2011/05/jesus-sends-out-the-twelve/

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Joel 2:25-27Love Born of Freedom 

Thursday, August 30, 2018

A repost from July 31, 2011. 

In today’s Gospel from Mark 6:53-56 we hear the message that we recognize Jesus’ goodness immediately when we are suffering or in need.  [P]eople immediately recognized him.  They scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever he was.  Jesus, moved by compassion, acts out of his love for humanity; he turns no one away.   We must remember to invite Jesus to heal our wounds each day.  We must ask God to guide us as we try to solve our small and big problems.  And we must turn over our fears and anxieties to the Holy Spirit constantly.

Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, a Cistercian monk, writes in today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation (108-109): We have to invite Jesus continually to become Lord of our life.  He never imposes himself by force because, being Love, he wants to be loved in return, and love is born only from freedom and never from force or obligation.  What is true of the natural level is also true of the supernatural.  God cannot force us to love him.  Yet instead of loving God unconditionally, we spend most of our time piously trying to manipulate his power to suit our own desires: we want to have God at our beck and call . . . we have to place ourselves, voluntarily and gratefully, in the hands of the Physician of the bodies and souls, confidently manifesting to him our every illness and complaint. 

In this portion of Joel’s prophecy we are reminded just how much God wants to care for us that even after we have turned away and have done things that would erase any human relationship, God is still waiting patiently to heal.

From the MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer Mini-Reflection (102): God in his power is refuge and strength; God in his mercy is the river that refreshes the soul; God in his beauty stills all our useless struggles and gather us into his peace. 

The Lord himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still.  (Exodus 14:14)

We already have all that we need . . . we may not feel it.

We already have all that we want . . . we may be blind to it.

We already have all the love we require . . . God is allowing us to come to this understanding.

He never imposes himself by force because, being Love, he wants to be loved in return, and love is born only from freedom and never from force or obligation.

Let us live our lives in total trust of the saving power of God’s love for us.

Let us free ourselves of all doubt, all coercion, and all lusting after control for all of these are alien to God’s love.

Let us instead allow ourselves to be born of God’s endless compassion and love.


Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 21 July 2011. Print.

Image from: https://www.maxpixel.net/Sky-Stars-Night-Constellation-Nature-Galaxy-2609647

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Job 12:7-10: Wisdom of Earth, Sky, and Sea

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Why has the state of Hawaii banned the use of some sunscreens?

Even birds and animals have much they could teach you.

We are surrounded with wisdom . . . if only we might see.

Ask the creatures of earth and sea for their wisdom.

We are immersed in knowledge . . . if only we might hear.

All of the creatures know that the Lord‘s hand made them.

We are one with all of creation . . . if only we might learn.

It is God who directs the lives of the creatures.

How might we protect endangered species while nurturing human life?

We are made in the image and likeness of the one who creates all goodness . . . if only we might unite with all, even those with who we differ greatly.

Everyone’s life is in God’s power.

We are called in the divinity of Christ . . . if only we might heal.

Birds and animals have much they could teach us.

How might we make it possible for millions of creatures to co-exist?

We are complete in the confidence of the Spirit . . . if only we might love.

We must ask the creatures of earth, sky, and sea for their wisdom.


When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to compare other translations with these GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION, we learn much from the creatures of the earth, sea and sky. 

Images from: https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/nature/hawaii-just-banned-some-types-sunscreen-protect-coral-reefs and https://greentumble.com/poaching-endangered-species/ and http://www.takepart.com/photos/endangered-species-then-now/bald-eagle-delisted-recovered

 

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1 Timothy 3: 16: The Mystery of Devotion

Monday, August 6, 2018

The GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION of this verse proclaims,

No one can deny how great is the secret of our religion:

He appeared in human form,
    was shown to be right by the Spirit,
    and was seen by angels.
He was preached among the nations,
    was believed in throughout the world,
    and was taken up to heaven.

This secret is one we are called to share with those who have ears to hear, and hands and hearts to act.

The NEW REVISED STANDARD translation announces,

Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great:

He was revealed in flesh,
    vindicated in spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among Gentiles,
    believed in throughout the world,
taken up in glory.

This mystery is one we will want to proclaim to those who have lost hope, who feel abandoned, or have gone astray.

THE MESSAGE translation of Timothy’s words declares,

This Christian life is a great mystery, far exceeding our understanding, but some things are clear enough:

He appeared in a human body,
    was proved right by the invisible Spirit,
was seen by angels.
He was proclaimed among all kinds of peoples,
    believed in all over the world,
taken up into heavenly glory.

This gift is one we will want to affirm to all – especially our enemies – for it is God’s gift of life that inspires devotion, asserts Christ’s love, and confirms the Spirit’s transforming mercy.


When we compare varying translations of this verse, we begin to experience the mystery, secret, and promise of this great gift. 

Images from: https://isha.sadhguru.org/in/en/wisdom/article/krishna-jesus-and-the-path-of-devotion and http://www.chrisrochephotographer.co.uk/project/devotion/

 

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