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Matthew 2:13-15: A Time to Flee

Monday, January 8, 2018

When is it appropriate to flee rather than witness?  When do we step away from injustice rather than challenge it?

After [the Magi] had left, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, “Herod will be looking for the child in order to kill him. So get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you to leave.” (GNT)

Commentary tells us that, “Egypt was a place of refuge for those fleeing from danger in Palestine (see 1 Kgs 11, 40, Jer 26, 21), but the main reason the child is to be taken to Egypt is that he may relive the Exodus experience of Israel”. (Senior 9)

The Holy Family become refugees in a world of turmoil. A world that persists in tumult today. Seeking shelter, much like their Hebrew ancestors, Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus understand that it is time to seek sanctuary.

Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and left during the night for Egypt, where he stayed until Herod died. This was done to make come true what the Lord had said through the prophet, “I called my Son out of Egypt.” (GNT)

Leaving during the night . . .

The act of slipping away in the darkness tells us that Joseph and Mary understood the gravity of the threat. They know that although they have shepherded light into a shadowy world, and despite their belief that God’s light pierces those shadows, they must also act in prudence. They must listen to the voice of God that comes to them through the angel.

“I called my Son out of Egypt . . .”

Jesus re-experiences the exodus journey of his people, showing us that if his family trusts God enough to step away from evil, then so must we.

Stay there until I tell you to leave . . .”

Today we reflect on the flight of The Holy Family to hear what it has to say to us

After the scholars were gone, God’s angel showed up again in Joseph’s dream and commanded, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay until further notice. Herod is on the hunt for this child, and wants to kill him.” (MSG)

Are we open to the angels who bring us God’s word?

Joseph obeyed. He got up, took the child and his mother under cover of darkness. They were out of town and well on their way by daylight. They lived in Egypt until Herod’s death. This Egyptian exile fulfilled what Hosea had preached: “I called my son out of Egypt.” (MSG)

Do we obey the call of God’s voice?

He got up, took the child and his mother under cover of darkness . . .

Are we willing to take flight from injustice?

Stay until further notice . . .

And are we prepared to return when God calls us?

When we use the scripture links to read varying translations of these verses, we open our hearts to the messages of angels.

Gentile da Fabriano: Flight Into Eygpt

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.9. Print.

For a chronology of Jesus’ life, click on the map above, or visit: http://www.bible-history.com/Chart_Jesus_Chronology/

For a reflection connecting this reading with the plight of refugees, visit the Flight Noontime at: https://thenoontimes.com/2011/10/24/flight/

 

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Song of Songs 6:1-3: Discovery

The Three Magi

The Third Day of Christmas, December 27, 2017

In the old carol The Twelve Days of Christmas, our true love brings us three costly French hens on the third day. This extravagant gift might reflect the gifts of the three magi to the Christ child of frankincense, gold and myrrh; or they might remind us of the essential virtues for life: faith, hope and love. Today we consider another powerful Trinity present in our lives: Creator, Redeemer, and Healer, giver, receiver, and gift – a duo of two who hold between them the essence of their love . . . the Holy Trinity. Looking for clues to discover more about this mysterious relationship we experience with God, we explore Solomon’s Song of Songs.

“Determined to share her lover with no one, the girl refuses the aid offered by the daughters in seeking him.  She implies that she had never really lost him, for he has come down to his garden”.  (Senior 796)

We often spent time thinking about our need to trust and obey God when we feel trouble brewing.  Can we imagine ourselves as ardent lovers of God?  Can we see ourselves as determined as this young woman in today’s Noontime?  Can we see ourselves as settling for nothing less than full discovery of God even within our most intimate selves?  Can we believe it possible that God might have a unique, genuine and loving connection with each one of us . . . without forgetting who we are and what we need?

With God all things are possible.  We have only to ask.  God loves us more ardently than any earthly lover might, and we might love God more than anything or anyone on earth.

How much time do we spend in quiet discovery of God’s goodness each day as balanced with the time we spend worrying about all we believe we need from God?  How much effort do we give to tending our own garden to make it ready for the visit of the lover who is anxious to bring us what we need before we ask?  Do we go out in search of this most excellent lover who awaits us with joy even when we are in the midst of our suffering, or do we sit at home and pine?

Do we seek sorrow or joy, separation or union?  How much effort do we really give to seeking God?

Zurbarán: St. John of the Cross

I paraphrase here the third of St. John of the Cross’ Dichos, or Sayings: Although the road is wide and soft for those who have the will to walk it, you will still need strong feet, an eager spirit, and obstinate determination.  The pathway to the lover’s garden is inviting, but not easy.  There are always stones in the path, low-hanging branches and slippery stepping stones that cross the stream.  Do we pursue this Lover God as ardently as we pursue our daily wants and desires?  Are we willing to put aside our agendas to take up the one we are given by the one who loves us best?  Do we secretly undermine our own efforts to find intimacy with God, or is this life of God’s one we choose to discover? Do we give up in our search of the beloved, or is this a lover we seek with passion?

Perhaps we have been searching and have discovered this intimate God already.  Perhaps we know precisely where Christ sits among the lilies.  Perhaps we browse along the paths with the Spirit when we are both troubled and happy.  If not, then let us go.  If so, then let us celebrate.

Where has your lover gone? 

My lover has come down to his garden . . . to gather lilies . . . my lover belongs to me and I to him . . .

Adapted from a favorite written on August 13, 2010.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.796. Print. 

To read the O’Henry (William Sydney Porter) story, The Gift of the Magi, visit: http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/GifMag.shtml

To better understand the three gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh, visit: https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/jesus-historical-jesus/why-did-the-magi-bring-gold-frankincense-and-myrrh/

To read John of the Cross’ poem, Dark Night of the Soul, along with a brief commentary, visit: https://www.poetseers.org/spiritual-and-devotional-poets/christian/the-works-of-st-john-of-the-cross/dark-night-of-the-soul/index.html

Find John’s Dichos at: http://joshuakezer.blogspot.com/2012/01/sayings-of-light-and-love-dichos-de-luz.html 

For reflections on the mystery of God as three persons in one, enter the word Trinity into the blog search bar and explore.

For more on the Trinity, visit: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Trinity-Christianity

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Matthew 2:1-12: Do Not Fear – Part XIV

Sunday, January 8, 2017

tissot-the-magi-in-the-house-of-herod-719x596x721

James Tissot: The Magi in the House of Herod

Matthew describes divergent reactions to the news that a new king has come to Judea. Scholars from the east spend time and finances looking for this new leader. King Herod and the city of Jerusalem show us a different response. What is our own reaction to this news?

Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

In the Day by Day meditation presented in today’s MAGNIFICAT, Fr. Alfred Delp has more words for us about the magi. They are the men with clear eyes that probe things to their very depths. They have a real hunger and thirst for knowledge. And we might ask . . . what is our own hunger? After what do we thirst?

Delp’s words mean more to us when we remember that he died in a Nazi concentration camp: I know what that means now. They are capable of arriving at right decisions. They subordinate their lives to the end in view and they willingly journey to the ends of the earth in quest of knowledge, following a star, a sign, obeying an inner voice that would never have made itself heard but for the hunger and the intense alertness that hunger produces. And we might ask ourselves . . . are we willing to subordinate our lives to such a quest? Are we willing to give up the familiarity of our fears to follow the star, the sign that Christ wants to move and act in us? Do we genuinely welcome the newness of the Christ child? Are we willing to accept this gift of Epiphany, this revelation, this surprise?

More from Delp: What are we looking for anyway? And where will we find genuine yearning so strong that neither fatigue, nor distance, nor fear of the unknown, nor loneliness, nor ridicule will deter us? And we might ask . . . are we willing to take on these questions each day as we rise, each Noontime as we pause, and each evening as we retire?

Herod responds to this mystery of knowledge, redemption and love with his familiar fears. He flies into a rage and lashes out at this child who represents something new. The magi, on the other hand, tell us how to take in the gift of this child who grows to be a man willing to sacrifice all in order to save us.

bhreligion-science-and-the-journey-of-the-magiThey rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.

As we close this Christmastide, we reflect on our willingness to give our fears to the Christ who is able to turn harm into good. As we carry this season of joy into the new year, we consider our openness to the journey of life in Christ, the quest for a food that satisfies for eternity. And we consider our persistence in the pursuit of the star that will lead us to Christ and his surprising offer of eternal peace. This is an Epiphany worth celebrating.

For a homily on spirituality versus religion, and today’s feast as a journey of seeking – our quest for God, and God’s relentless quest for our hearts, click on the image of the Magi and the Holy Family. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Day by Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 8.1 (2017): 115-116. Print.  

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Psalm 56: Do Not Fear – Part XII

Friday, January 6, 2017

Jacob Wet: Adoration of the Magi

Jacob Wet: Adoration of the Magi

Today is the traditional close of the Twelve Days of Christmas, a day when many cultures celebrate the arrival of the three magi in Bethlehem. In some countries, children place hay-filled shoes outside their front doors to feed the camels of the kings as they pass by on their journey to the Messiah. In the morning, children find that the camels have eaten the hay and the kings have left presents behind in thanks.

The official name of this celebration is Epiphany, a word coming from the Greek word meaning “to reveal”. Our Merriman Webster English definitions are: a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something, an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking, an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure, a revealing scene or moment, an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being. Today, on this traditional close of Christmas – a day when God surprises us with the revelation of Jesus’ divinity – we might put aside our fears to understand the full impact of this gift.

Sandro Botticelli: The Adoration of the Magi

Sandro Botticelli: The Adoration of the Magi

In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Psalm 56 is one we might keep close to hand in 2017 as our personal and public lives unfold. The psalmist speaks to God – just as we might – to tell God that foes trample and oppress him; enemies lie in wait while the mighty and proud dominate his world. The psalmist’s words are distorted; adversaries lurk; opponents plot to end his life. Wickedness, anger, tears, and wanderings. The psalmist records the offenses of a lifetime but rather than despair, he gives his worries to God. Like the psalmist we might place our own woes in our shoes beyond the door as if they were stalks of hay or straw, trusting that the king of kings will exchange them for the promise of restoration.

Your vows are binding upon me, O God; I will render thank offerings to You. For you have delivered my soul from death, indeed my feet from stumbling, so that I may walk before God in the light of the living.

Today, as we reflect on the psalmist’s words, we ask ourselves, “How do we best prepare to enter the land of the living?”

Quentin Metsys: The Adoration of the Magi

Quentin Metsys: The Adoration of the Magi

Throughout Christmastide, we have reflected on the many times and the many ways the Living God assures us that we need not be afraid. Let us keep God’s wisdom always in our hearts and minds as our refuge and rock. Let us keep the centering presence of Christ always as our beginning and our end. And let us keep the healing indwelling of the Spirit as our homing guide.

When we explore other versions of these verses, we begin to understand how we might practice placing our fears in the restorative hands of the eternal, Living God.

Definition from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epiphany 

For more on the Feast of the Epiphany, visit:  http://catholicism.about.com/od/holydaysandholidays/p/Epiphany.htm 

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Acts 18:9: Do Not Fear – Part VII

Sunday, New Year’s Day, January 1, 2017

Gerard de Laresse: Adoration of the Kings

Gerard de Laresse: Adoration of the Kings

We enter a new year, a time of replenishment and restoration. We look for a new message of transformed hope. A new sign of renovating freedom. We await a new pronouncement of the words we need to hear: Do not be afraid.

And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; (NASB)

Saul, the persecutor of early Christ-followers, encounters the risen Christ and learned that his fears have no meaning in this kingdom of Jesus. He now believes the words: Do not be afraid.

One night Paul had a vision in which the Lord said to him, “Do not be afraid, but keep on speaking and do not give up. (GNT)

Saul the persecutor, blind for a time, trusts God’s plan as he shares the Good News that Christ’s new coming brings new hope and new meaning.

One night the Master spoke to Paul in a dream: “Keep it up, and don’t let anyone intimidate or silence you. No matter what happens, I’m with you and no one is going to be able to hurt you. You have no idea how many people I have on my side in this city.” That was all he needed to stick it out. He stayed another year and a half, faithfully teaching the Word of God to the Corinthians. (MSG)

Saul the persecutor becomes Paul the Apostle, sharing the Good News that hope is alive, rebirth and transformation are possible, and fear is only for those who refuse to believe.

Centuries after Paul shares his news with anyone who will listen, he tells each of us that there is no reason for fear or division.

Today, as we reflect on the journey the magi make to worship the new king, we might ask ourselves, “What journey we are willing to make? And what are we willing to put aside in this new year as a sign that we refuse to surrender to fear?”

Throughout Christmastide, we continue to reflect on the transformative power of God’s words to us, “Do not be afraid”.

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Judges 17: As We Are – Part III

Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 20, 2015

MAINO_Fray_Juan_Bautista_adoration_of_the_Shepherds

Fray Juan Bautista Maíno: Adoration of the Shepherds

In this time of Advent, as we expect the coming of light and truth, we reflect on the gift of life that comes to us in the innocence of a child.

As we are . . . We come to the crèche to adore as the lowly shepherds came. The poorest, the marginalized, the abandoned and neglected. We bring our worries and anxieties . . . just as we are.

As we are . . . We come to the stable as the Magi came. The wise, the enlightened, the privileged and comfortable. We bring our hopes and our fears . . . just as we are.

As we are . . . We come to the Christ child as people for millennia have come. The troubled, the peaceful, the miserable, the joyful. We bring our dreams and plans . . . just as we are.

MAINO_Fray_Juan_Bautista_Adoration_of_the_Kings

Fray Juan Bautista Maíno: Adoration of the Magi

As we are . . . We come to Christ as our families and colleagues, our friends and enemies come. We come to Christ’s beauty and innocence and we are either closed or open. We come to life in Christ, and Christ accepts us . . . just as we are. We give thanks for God’s great generosity today.

To listen to the Radiolab podcast on Normalcy today to consider how the norms we adopt open or close us to hear God’s voice, visit: http://www.radiolab.org/story/91693-new-normal/

To reflect on how we come to the Christ child this Advent, click on the images above and study Maíno’s paintings in detail The Adoration of the Shepherds and The Adoration of the Magior visit: https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/adoration-of-the-shepherds/103e1807-2917-4906-87ce-71a3a027f37e?searchid=f9f31297-8ba6-6a71-c8f9-8e467d5eb988 and https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/the-adoration-of-the-magi/3f1f4d63-0476-4ac0-904f-776713defe78?searchid=9245f6a4-fab5-7ba0-23b9-1181d542b32c 

 

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Friday, January 6, 2012 – Matthew 9:35-38 – Epiphany

E-piph-an-y: A Christian festival, the manifestation of a deity, a sudden intuitive perception or insight, a piece of literature presenting a revelation.  These definitions define the holiday or the emotion, the state of being surprised by something we already know but have not yet acknowledged.  This word may also define our relationship with Christ.  Today we encounter Jesus in the midst of his work and this is what we find.

Jesus teaches.  Jesus proclaims the Good News that we are free to choose life over death.  Jesus heals. Jesus is moved with compassion at the sight of the crowds.  All of this goodness is what God has in mind for us.  All of this kindness is what God has in store for us.  All of this love is what God intends for us.  And this is what the Magi come to honor and worship.

In our Western tradition we have come to know these three men as Melchior, a scholar from Babylon, the place of Israel’s exile about six centuries before Christ’s birth, Caspar, another scholar from Persia, the civilization that overran the Babylonians, and Balthazar, an Arab scholar.  These learned men bring gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold that serve as symbols for our own worship of the Son of Man.  Frankincense, aromatic incense, is brought to purify the Lord; myrrh, perfumed oil often used in embalming, is offered to anoint the Lord; and gold, the symbol of power, is presented to honor the Lord.  Some commentary suggests that the Magi bring forward these gifts for medicinal purposes; others propose that they are meant as tribute to this new kind of high priest, savior and king.  Still others say that these gifts stand in stark contrast to the sacrificial gifts of birds, lambs and oxen that the Jewish people proffered to God.  In any interpretation the story holds importance for us for these men have spent their lifetime studying the heavens and their search leads them to a small place in a small town where this small Jewish family shelters for a time.  Who is more surprised?  The Magi themselves?  Mary and Joseph?  The shepherds who tend their flocks and follow the Magi who follow the star?  Or are we perhaps the most surprised?

All of this is tradition as we have said earlier but we hold and cherish this belief in the story of the Magi for a purpose.  We love to hear the names read out rhythmically.  We want to listen to the details of this story again.  We want the mystery and surprise of this holy night to roll over us and wrap us in the warm and holy mystery of the Christ.  We want to be children for a little time again. 

When I was small my Eastern European grandmother made doughnuts and inside them she had hidden shiny, bright coins.  Who would find the pennies, the dimes?  Who would be lucky enough to encounter the rare quarter?  Children understand how important it was to nibble the edges of the pastry carefully.  Children know the importance of joyful anticipation.  Children understand wonder and surprise. As adults we want the confirmation from these intelligent students of the heavens and stars.  As adults we want to be affirmed that the Good News we have heard is true.  As adults we want someone to stun us with a vivid and beautiful truth.  We want the verification that wonderful surprises lie ahead of us.  We want to see and hear and touch the reality of the Christ Child.

Velázquez: The Adoration of the Magi

On this Epiphany let us resolve to believe more and doubt less.  Let us decide to act on our beliefs and turn away from a cynical view of the world.  Let us announce to the world that we will love our enemies into goodness.  Let us bow in homage to the Christ child.  Let us lay at his feet the incense of our own suffering and the joy of our hearts.  Let us come and worship the Lord.  And let us allow ourselves to experience the surprise and enchantment of the Epiphany . . . just as God has intended.

For another reflection on the Epiphany, go to the post for January 2, 2012: Reminders

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Monday, January 2, 2012 – Isaiah 45 – Reminders

The wise men approach from the East, bearing gifts that will sanctify, purify and sustain.  They are yet another sign of God’s promise to us that he loves, guards and guides us.  We will want to be watching for the many reminders God gives to us as marking posts along the way of our journey. 

This reflection was written on January 3, 2010 and it is posted today as a Favorite . . .

I have not spoken from hiding nor from some dark place on the earth . . . I, the Lord, promise justice, I foretell what is right.

The prophet Isaiah brings us a message today that we already know; yet we can use a frequent reminder. He announces the coming of hope, the arrival of the long-awaited one who frees us from defeat, the advent of one who helps each of us to cross our daily hurdles. 

It was I who stirred up one for the triumph of justice; all his ways I make level.

If we wish to walk in the level path, we have only to follow God’s anointed one.  In today’s reading it is Cyrus, the Persian king who rises up against Babylon and releases the captive nations.  As the New Testament story tells us, God also sends a true Messiah who releases us from our bondage of sorrow and chaos.  He sends the Christ.

Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above, like gentle rain let the skies drop it down.  Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice also spring up!

Today we celebrate the idea that although political kings did not recognize the power of Christ, three wise magi from the East bring frankincense, gold and myrrh to the most unlikely of all kings, the child of Light, the child of Justice.  Isaiah reminds us that this child brings something to us which we all seek . . . true peace, eternal serenity . . . if only we might walk with him a little way, pray with him a little while. 

Come and assemble, gather together, you fugitives . . .

Rather than stand alone on the rampart, Isaiah reminds us that we must gather into phalanxes with all of the faithful, that we must put aside our squabbles so that we might rise at the sound of the Shepherd’s voice to form solidarity as we witness.

Turn to me and be safe, all you ends of the earth, for I am God; there is no other!

There is no dark corner that the eye of the Lord does not see.  There is no sequestered portion of creation from which the ear of God cannot hear the plea of the weary.  There is no god who can outlast our God, none who can withstand our God, not one who will win any battle against this God. 

The prophet Isaiah brings us a message today that we already know . . . yet we can use a frequent reminder.

Turn to me and be safe, all you ends of the earth, for I am God; there is no other!

For an interesting new twist to the Magi story, click the image above or go to http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/wise-men-ancient-text-differs-bible-tale-magi/story?id=12460820

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