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John 20:11-18: Turning Again

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

James Tissot: Mary Magdalene and the Holy Women at the Tomb

In this second week of Eastertide, we spend time with the Gospels of the Easter Octave, the eight days comprising the celebration of Easter. On day three, Easter Tuesday, we heard John’s account of the discovery of the empty tomb. Today we focus on a few details that bring this story alive. First, we chose a translation that speaks to us most clearly, and then we reflect. Today’s verses are from the USCCB site. (This link also contains an audio version.) We may find other versions by using the scripture link and drop-down menus.

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been.

When harsh realities challenge our beliefs and foundation, we mourn our loss, question all that we thought certain, and doubt the facts before us. Do we also look for the angels who move with us through our days? Do we offer our suffering as a sign of our trust in God? Do we fall back on the familiar or move forward in hope?

[Mary] turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.

Anger and fear, confidence and mercy. In times of deep stress, the primal parts of our brain take over and we instinctively collapse into familiar patterns of flight and denial, aggression and accusation. Might we practice the art of relying on the positive influences in our lives? When we feel panic and worry taking over, might we remind ourselves to look for Jesus who stands before us . . . even when we do not recognize him?

She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.

James Tissot: The Women at Jesus’ Tomb

Our pastor last week, in his morning homily, asked a question we may have been asking ourselves when we look at the detail John provides us. If Mary has already turned away from the empty tomb to look at the man she thinks is the gardener, why does she turn again? And how? When we reflect on these verses, we begin to understand that the second turning is toward a newness in perspective. Mary allows herself to see that the gardener is, in fact, Jesus. Might we follow her example to open our eyes and ears in a new way? Might we have full confidence in the promise of the Christ?

Today we spend time with John’s story of the conversion of Mary at the tomb, and all that followed in the baffling commotion of distrust touched with intense conviction and enduring love. As we read this account today, let us see if we are able to move beyond our anxieties for the world, with the joyful turning of Mary Magdalene.

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John 12:44-50: Re-Creation – Christ

the_good_shepherd_by_zaghami-d6rzo8x

ZaGHaMi: The Good Shepherd

Second Sunday of Easter, April 23, 2017

When we see the Bible as an entire story of God’s people, we know that Jesus is not God’s Plan B. Jesus is Plan A. God does not see that humanity has gone awry and then decide to send in the saving force of Jesus. God’s direct interaction with creation has no beginning or end. It is eternal, just as God is eternal.

Jesus says: Whoever believes in me, believes not just in me but in the One who sent me. Whoever looks at me is looking, in fact, at the One who sent me. I am Light that has come into the world so that all who believe in me won’t have to stay any longer in the dark.

God always has faith that God will find every lost sheep.

If anyone hears what I am saying and doesn’t take it seriously, I don’t reject him. I didn’t come to reject the world; I came to save the world.

God has outrageous hope that every lost sheep will return to the fold.

But you need to know that whoever puts me off, refusing to take in what I’m saying, is willfully choosing rejection. The Word, the Word-made-flesh that I have spoken and that I am, that Word and no other is the last word. I’m not making any of this up on my own.

God’s love knows no bounds. God has always loved us. God will always love us. God continues to love us each day.

The Father who sent me gave me orders, told me what to say and how to say it. And I know exactly what his command produces: real and eternal life. That’s all I have to say. What the Father told me, I tell you.

As Richard Rohr, OFM, has said with a chuckle, “God is victorious. God doesn’t lose. That’s what it means to be God”.

Today as we settle into this second Sunday of Eastertide, let us hold these truths closely. Let us open our ears and open our eyes. And let us determine to be re-created in Christ so that we might live as Jesus lives . . . so that all may be one in this universal message of universal love.

Listen to a four-and-a-half minute chat with Fr. Richard Rohr on this topic at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owZRS5WVJuM

jesus-icon-1000

The photograph above was taken “along the dusty roads of rural Punjab, Pakistan”. The icon is a traditional early image of Jesus.

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Philippians 2:6-8: Re-Creation

Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017

[Jesus] always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. (GNT)

In this Lententide, we have meditated on the humility we might learn on our Emmaus journey; we ponder the outrageous hope we have in the Spirit. We have considered the phoenix rising from ashes as we have pledged to remain in God. We have admitted that we are children of God who rest in Christ; and we have determined to remain in the world while not being of it. We have reflected on the act of allowing ourselves to be de-created so that we might become new in Christ. Today, as we celebrate the wondrous miracle of new life that conquers death, we come to terms with our human yet divine nature.

Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. (NRSV)

Richard Rohr tells us, “All healthy religion shows you what to do with your pain . . . If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become cynical, negative, or bitter . . . If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it – usually to those closest around us: our family, our neighbors, our work partners, and, invariably, the most vulnerable, our children”. (Rohr 119)

Jesus shows us how we might allow our suffering to save ourselves and others.

Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. (MSG)

On this great day we might celebrate the breaking of chains of death that none thought breakable. When we witness Christ in his interactions with those who were crucified with him, and later the women and men who discovered the empty tomb, we do not see Christ puffed up in glory. Rather, we find a humble and loving shepherd who leaves an entire flock in order to rescue a single sheep.

On this great day we celebrate the invitation to re-create ourselves in Christ. We give thanks for the invitation to redemption in Christ. And we rejoice in the promise of hope the Spirit offers us. Let us accept these caring gifts with humility, fidelity and love.

The feast of Easter is an eight-day celebration, so this week we will consider how and where we might show our gratitude to God for these gifts of eternal salvation.

Richard Rohr, OFM. The Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations. Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016.  

To spend more time with these verses, use the scripture link to read varying translations of these words, and to open our hearts to these remarkable gifts of faith, hope and love.

 

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Jeremiah 17:5-10: In Every Season

Thursday, March 23, 2017

We are blessed with a God-given identity and we take our concerns to God the Creator. With gratitude, we trust in God.

I will bless the person
who puts his trust in me.
He is like a tree growing near a stream
and sending out roots to the water.
It is not afraid when hot weather comes,
because its leaves stay green;
it has no worries when there is no rain;
it keeps on bearing fruit. (GNT)

We are accompanied by our brother Jesus and we follow the clearly marked Way our brother Christ sets out for us. In hope, we follow the signs of Christ’s love.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
    sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
    and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
    and it does not cease to bear fruit. (NRSV)

We are consoled by the Spirit who lives within us and we allow the presence of God to mend all that is broken. With love, we rest in this Spirit.

Blessed is the man who trusts in Adonai;
Adonai will be his security.
He will be like a tree planted near water;
it spreads out its roots by the river;
it does not notice when heat comes;
and its foliage is luxuriant;
it is not anxious in a year of drought
but keeps on yielding fruit. (CJB)

Can we imagine a life when all that we say and all we do is measured in the loving ways of God? Can we envision a kingdom in which the poor take precedence and the marginalized rise up? Can we foresee the effects of God’s compassion, power and tenderness?

After a long drought, the desert blooms in Arizona, U.S.A.

Blessed is the man who trusts me, God,
    the woman who sticks with God.
They’re like trees replanted in Eden,
    putting down roots near the rivers—
Never a worry through the hottest of summers,
    never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts,
    bearing fresh fruit every season. (MSG)

Can we believe that we are part of God’s great plan? Can we rely on God’s wisdom, grace and peace? Can we be certain that we are loved and behave as if we accept this truth?

When we compare various translations of these verses, we begin to discover that we are blessed, that we are loved, and that we are created to bear fruit in every season – even in the deserts of our lives.

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Tobit 3:24-25: The Mystery of Trusting Wisdom

The Third Sunday of Lent, March 19, 2017

school of Titian Rafael

The School of Titian: Tobias and the Archangel Rafael 

We recall the lessons we learned with these verses yesterday: God is good, we are good, life is brutal and unpredictable but also good because it brings us to God; the faithful need not fight, they only need to stand and refuse to do anything that causes them to abandon their God.

There is nothing more important to hear, to learn or to repeat to others than the lessons Tobit teaches us today.  All human suffering can be quenched by these precepts.  All human understanding is capable of taking in these ideas; but not all humans have the will to enact what they hear.  That is why we cannot read this story too often.

Wisdom is sometimes defined as patience in the waiting to hear God’s voice.  One definition puts wisdom in its proper place  as coming from God over time – in God’s time and not in our time.  When we think of the wise people we know, we discover that they share a few characteristics in common.

  • Wise people do not often react instantly to an emotional moment; they pause to allow God to speak through them.
  • Wise people declare their thoughts with the wisdom of ages; they have spent a good portion of their lives with and in scripture.
  • Wise people display a certain amount of serenity; they know that all that surrounds them is not real, the justice of the next world, not this.
  • Wise people do not regularly become impatient; they understand that we are here to practice for that which is real, the love of the next world, not this.
  • Wise people display and embody empathy; they have suffered a great deal, and they have allowed themselves to be transformed by this suffering.
  • Wise people do not think first of saving themselves; they have made their suffering salvific, and freely give themselves as co-redeemers with Christ.

The wisdom of the book of Tobit is just this kind of wisdom.  In this story, wisdom maintains her mystery; she is seen as the ultimate act of stepping into the abyss with God. The ultimate act of suffering for and through God. The ultimate act of trust in God.

Wisdom rises from suffering, endures in fidelity, heals in love, restores in hope, and lives in trust.  We can never hear this story too often.

Adapted from a reflection written on March 10, 2008.

 

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The New Testament: Simplicity

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Adapted from a reflection written on March 5, 2009.

If your Bible has an introduction to the New Testament, now is a perfect time to read it.  The season of Lent is calling us to forgiveness, newness and rescue; this is also the message of the New Testament.

From La Biblia de América.  Together, these writings animate, illustrate and consolidate a new faith.  They came to life through an oppressed people longing to be free from the constant need to worry about their everyday subsistence.  Wealthy landholders held most of the power and control.  There was no social safety net.  The little people were left to fend for themselves.  These are the people to whom Jesus ministered.  They are still his dearest ones.  We love Jesus best when we love the marginalized.  This is a theology of simplicity.

The thinking and theology presented by Christ brought not only a newness and a simpleness to old ways, but a challenge that required answers.  The people who heard the message and embraced it even in the face of death served as the tinder that ignited a movement that has not – and will not – be overcome by darkness.  This is what the followers of Jesus know: that we are created out of and for love, and that the creator desires nothing more than our love in return. There is no greater news than this.  The story of Jesus and his actions is unparalleled.  It has no equal; nothing can be more simple.

How do we communicate our love to God, our understanding of the simplicity to which Christ calls us?  Through prayer.  Catherine de Hueck Doherty, the foundress of Madonna House, is quoted in today’s Meditation in MAGNIFICAT:  Prayer is conversation with God.  It does not require a thousand books.  It requires a simple and tremendous love of God and a total simplicity.  I am beloved by God.  He created me.  This is the first idea.  And he wants to be loved by me.  We have to get that into our heads.  Then we proceed to tell him we love him. 

A simple and tremendous love of God and a total simplicity.  This what the people of the Palestine had and knew.  It is what we can come to know.  For this we pray . . . Amen.

For more reflections on the books of the New Testament, visit the New Testament link on “The Book of Your Life” page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 5.3 (2009). Print.  

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

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Matthew 21:33-46: Cornerstone – Part III

Friday, March 3, 2017workers-vineyard

The Old Testament foreshadows the promise of redemption and the fulfillment of hope. The New Testament Jesus explains how loss is gain to his disciples and to us when he tells us the Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard. When we spend time with this story, we see how God turns all hate into goodness, all harm into rejoicing, and all injustice to love.

God says: Sit with me and this story today. Read the words slowly and let them sink into your heart and mind. Repeat the verses until they become one with your sinew and bone. Share your reflection with me and ask me your questions. Share your doubts and fears, your anxieties and anger, your joy and thanksgiving. I am prepared to hear all you have to say about loss and gain, about rejection and praise. When you experience loss, remember this, the very foundation of my love for you stands on my understanding that you will reject me. But my love is greater than any negative thought or action directed at me. I have made you from my, for my love. When you are rejected, remember that I have been rejected too. When you believe yourself lost, you only need extend your hand to me to find all that you believe has vanished for it is in your emptiness that I fill you. It is in your loneliness that you feel my companionship most keenly. And it is in your dejection that you feel the strength of my cornerstone.

To read other translations of this parable, use the scripture link and drop-down menus to compare varying versions.

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Sirach 2:1-6: Serving the Lord

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tintoretto: Jesus Washing the Feet of his Disciples

Tintoretto: Jesus Washing the Feet of his Disciples

We are small children, eager to please our doting parent. We put our trust in the Lord and expect that our lives will run smoothly. Struggles will be brief and bearable, we say to ourselves. This is easy if I am in God’s corner and God is in mine.

Jesus ben Sirach has words for us: My child, if you are going to serve the Lord, be prepared for times when you will be put to the test.

We are ready, we tell ourselves. We are eager to follow.

Be sincere and determined.

We will persevere. We will remain faithful.

Keep calm when trouble comes.

We will live in hope, actively waiting for God’s promise.

Stay with the Lord; never abandon God, and you will be prosperous at the end of your days. 

We wonder if God really understands our circumstances.

Accept whatever happens to you. Even if you suffer humiliation, be patient.

We wonder if we will endure even with the assurance of God’s love.

Gold is tested by fire, and human character is tested in the furnace of humiliation.

We struggle to live meekly as Jesus lives. We yearn for the justice we know God wants. We live in the hope that the Spirit will not abandon or deceive us.

Trust the Lord, and God will help you. Walk straight in God’s ways, and put your hope in God.

We continue to live in The Way Christ shows us. In patience and humility, in fidelity and hope, persevering and waiting in love.

 

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Psalm 112: Rising in the Darkness

Monday, February 13, 2017candles

Whether we know it or, once we commit to loving God as we see God in others, we begin to generate light in the darkness.

Those who love the LORD rise in the darkness as a light for the upright; they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.

We may be unaware that others are watching us but they are. When we say that are committed to Christ, do our actions betray or support our words?

It is well with those who deal generously and lend, who conduct their affairs with justice.

If we hope to make a mark in human history, all we need do is follow Christ. In this way we will find ourselves in the story of hope and generosity rather than the story of fear and exclusion.

For the righteous will never be moved; they will be remembered forever.

Once we begin to think and move in Christ, all fear falls away for we know that we are not in charge and that the long arc of human history is moving toward the light of Christ.

They are not afraid of evil tidings; their hearts are firm, secure in the Lord.

lightWhen we feel ourselves moving in that great tide of humanity that yearns for universal justice, impartial freedom and eternal peace, we will know that all is well.

Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

The honor we seek is not the reward of this life; it is the quiet, humble, everlasting honor that Christ bestows when we follow after him.

They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor; their righteousness endures forever; they are exalted in honor.

We cannot think that our progress is smooth for the way of discipleship is difficult in the best of circumstances.

The wicked see it and are angry; they gnash their teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked comes to nothing.

And we must remember that in our gladness of living and loving in Christ, we are called to invite all those who weary from their journey of opposition, mistrust, and manipulation to join in this great generation of life and light and love.

Those who love the LORD rise in the darkness as a light for the upright; they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.

candles-burningWe give thanks for the times when are the light. We ask forgiveness for the times we have brought darkness to others and ourselves. And we remember to look for the face of Christ in every soul that passes our way.

When we spend time with various translations of this psalm, we find that our hearts are lighter, our path more easily seen and trod, and our journey more full of peace.

 

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