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Posts Tagged ‘paradox’


Luke 23:50-56Burial

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Yesterday we reflected on the two words Jesus says frequently to us: Follow me . . .

Today we take a look at what we are invited to do as a first step in the resurrection process.  We are invited to our own burial.

Van der Weyden: Descent from the Cross

Scripture – and in particular the New Testament story of Jesus – is full of inversion.  We see many paradoxes in Jesus’ words and actions: We must give up all we have in order to gain the world, those who are broken are strong, leaders are those who serve, we must be willing to die if we want to live.  What appears to be incongruous results in a reality we had not anticipated.

What looks like death is life itself.

I tell you the truth, Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John (12:24), unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 

What looks like burial is life itself.

The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, Jesus says in the Gospel of Mark (4:30-32)It is the smallest you plant in the ground; yet when planted it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches the birds of the air can perch in its shade. 

What looks like the end is really the beginning. 

The wallpaper image on my computer is the painting Descent from the Cross by Rogier Van der Weyden; I keep it there to remind me of Jesus’ words to us about life, death, and resurrection.  Each time I log on and see the image, I am reminded that we are always in the process of a necessary burial – the first step toward resurrection.  With that image in my mind, it is easier to remember that anything I do in the material world is a reflection of my belief in the spiritual world. As I travel about my digital universe, I carry with me the constant reminder that it is the spiritual world we seek rather than the material.

I am the resurrection and the life, Jesus says to Martha (John 11:25-27).  He who believes in me will live even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this? he asks.

Martha replies: Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who was to come into the world.

As we reflect on the verses in today’s Noontime and as we look at the expressions on the faces painted on the Van der Weyden canvas, let us take in what we have been told.  It is what those who loved Jesus well are about to fully understand as they lower his body from the cross.  It is the elemental truth that . . . Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

What looks like sorrow will soon be joy.  

The first step toward that joy is our eagerness to unfold the paradox Jesus has given us.  It is our willingness to submit to burial in the life of this world.  It is the full knowing that, like the kernel of wheat, we cannot live until we go into the soil . . . to burst forth again in the new life of Christ.


A re-post from September 1, 2011.

Image from: http://eastofthemoonwestofthesun.blogspot.com/2011/04/day-95-holy-saturday-preparation-for.html 

Further information about the Van der Weyden painting can be found at the following sites or sites of your choosing.  You may want to share some with us.  A good description of the symbolism represented in the characters we see. http://www.andrewgrahamdixon.com/archive/readArticle/197

A beautiful slide show through which the viewer can zoom in to see the detail in the cloth, even the tears glistening on cheeks.  http://www.slidingtime.be/ The show is a link from this blog.  http://writingwithoutpaper.blogspot.com/2010/04/rogier-van-der-weydens-descent-from.html

This link gives us more insight into the painting.  http://blogs.artinfo.com/secrethistoryofart/2011/05/06/inside-the-masterpiece-van-der-weydens-descent-from-the-cross/

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John 20:1-10: The Impossible as Reality

Thursday, April 28, 2016Abundant-Life

 A Favorite from May 5, 2008.

 For some reason this chapter has popped up at Noontime several times.  Today, as always when this happens, we can look more closely at this reading . . . and this is what comes to me.

Today’s morning scripture reading is from Hebrews.

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.  Because of it the ancients were well attested.  11:1-2

I have often tried to imagine the rainbow of emotions which swept through Mary, Peter and John when they saw the empty tomb.  There were so many explanations of what might have happened.

This is the time of year in which we always re-live the Resurrection story.  Two thousand years after the fact, we are still experiencing the mix of doubt, fear, hope and joy which swept through the early apostolic band.  They had been accompanied by Jesus in life . . . now they would be accompanied by him and the Spirit . . . for eternity.

We are surprised by the absence of something we thought existed . . . someone who once was a foundation . . . some idea that gave us meaning.  We see, hear and feel the emptiness and sorrow of that loss.  Slowly, and painfully, we explore the possibilities.  Little by little we come to the realization that our existence is paradox.  We are divine, we are human . . . we are human, we are divine.

jesus is risenWe are slow to believe . . . we see the empty tomb . . . we know that our eyes do not deceive . . . we can imagine the possibilities . . . and we dare to hope . . . we dare to dream . . . we dare to live in a way we have never lived before.  The impossible becomes reality.

 

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Ezekiel 48:35: The Lord is Here – Part III

Saturday, April 9, 2016Empty-Tomb

We have celebrated Easter Week, an eight-day celebration of the resurrection of the crucified Christ, and as we move forward through Eastertide, we continue to explore the doubt we might have about the resurrection miracle. We continue to ask the familiar question in the face of violence and tragedy: Where is God?  And Ezekiel, the prophet who lives in exile from the physical place in which he believes God resides, gives us a simple answer to this simple question: God resides everywhere. As Easter people who celebrate the miracle of Easter renewal, we see God best in the new temple of the Christ’s body.  We see God best when we all strive toward creating the New Jerusalem here among us, a place where differences are anticipated and respected, a place where every voice is heard, a place where reparations are made and accepted, a place of healing and restoration.  A place of ultimate and intense truth.  A place of purity and of fire and of healing.

The prophet Ezekiel tells us that God is a paradox.  He tells us that the Temple and God’s presence must be central to our lives.  He tells us that God is awesome – “reaching far beyond human relationships and human explanations”.  (Senior RG 339) He tells us that as individuals we are responsible for our own adherence to the Law and that no matter our ancestry or our misfortunes, we cannot scapegoat our circumstances.  “Each person lives or dies according to his or her wicked or virtuous way of life”.  (Senior RG 340) Ezekiel transforms the art of prophecy, bringing it to a new level and setting the stage for the entrance of the Messiah and the New Testament.  He also lays the foundation for the Second Coming – when the Lord returns and sends his angels among the living to separate the sheep from the goats.

Mikhail Nesterov: The Empty Tomb

Mikhail Nesterov: The Empty Tomb

All of this is too terrible, too wonderful, too much to believe – and yet there is nothing else to believe.  All other thought pales and hence the paradox.  What we first see and hear we want to believe but do not, thinking that this New Jerusalem is impossible.  Yet through living, suffering, hoping, believing and loving we arrive at no other spot. We have no choice but to believe that indeed, the Lord is Here. 

When we spend time with this prophecy today, we have the opportunity to feel the presence of God as we remember and reflect . . . we are Easter People . . . visited by the risen Christ . . . and so the Lord is among us.

Click on the image above of linens in the empty tomb to read “Rising Isn’t Optional,” a post by youth minster Lindsay Williams, visit: http://blogs.nd.edu/oblation/2012/11/29/rising-isnt-optional/ 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 337. Print.   

Adapted from a Favorite written on September 15, 2007.

 

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John 14:27: God’s Yardstick – The Law of Love – Part V

PeacemakersPermaculture & Peacemaking

Saturday, January 23, 2016

We continue to see God’s yardstick in the New Testament.

To understand how the Beatitudes form a ladder of love and gratitude that brings us purity of heart, we began at the first rungs: Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek. We moved to the next rungs: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and those who show mercy. From here we move into serenity.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” St. Paul tells us that we are God’s adopted sons and daughters. It is our brother, Jesus the Christ, who shows us this ladder of beatitudes so that we might attain our inheritance. We need only move to the uppermost rung where we see the inversion and paradox of living a Christian life.

planet and hands“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This may feel nonsensical. It may seem to be the opposite of what we seek and what we believe to be true. This new Law of Love may seem to be the opposite of the Old Testament Covenant where the good are rewarded and the bad reviled. But here Jesus pauses on his road to Jerusalem to preach this sermon to thousands as they recline on a hillside to tell them – and us today as we look for order and sanity – that there is a new order to things. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you falsely on my account.” With the Beatitudes, Jesus calls us to spiritual maturity. He asks us to be faithful in a new way. Jesus asks us to step through the narrow gate with him, to tend to the marginalized, to stand and speak when he asks us to speak, to be silent when he asks for our silence, to preserve what is holy rather than to give it to dogs. And so he gives us these final words: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

To learn about willful blindness and how one person’s determination to speak up can change the world, watch Margaret Heffernan’s Ted Talk at: https://www.ted.com/talks/margaret_heffernan_the_dangers_of_willful_blindness?language=en 

Tomorrow, blessing.

Adapted from a favorite written on January 5, 2007.

 

 

 

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Psalms 30, 34 and 126: God’s Yardstick – The Law of Love – Part III

Beyond the Poverty of Spiritpoor in spirit

Thursday, January 21, 2016

We continue to look for God’s yardstick in New Scripture.

As we learn how to enter into God’s humility we also acquire self-knowledge, and it is this deeper understanding that leads us to the second beatitude, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” This poverty of spirit shows us that sadness is not to be avoided for it is in the depths of grief that we encounter God most deeply. Through humility we arrive at understanding that our successes and failures come to us through no talent of our own . . . but through God’s deep, infinite and abiding goodness. When we refuse to understand this truth we find ourselves stalled on God’s ladder of beatitude. When we blame God for the disaster, sadness and darkness in the world, we demonstrate our own refusal to act with God to heal, bridge, console, and include. When we admit that we are not in charge, we are ready for the third rung on God’s Yardstick.

Those who wept as they went out carrying the seed
    will come back singing for joy,
    as they bring in the harvest. (Psalm 126:6)

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” We often understand the quality of meekness as sweetness and affability rather than strength, but the meekness that Jesus displays is a willingness to be taught. Those who are meek as Jesus is meek have submitted their strength to God for God’s use. They have no arrogance and so they become instruments of God’s authority – both here on earth and later. So it is through our poverty of spirit and sadness that we arrive at possessing authority. It is through the power of Christ that the paradox unfolds . . . and we move to the fourth beatitude.

Tomorrow, God’s righteousness.

Adapted from a favorite written on January 5, 2007.

 

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Mark 15:16-20The Paradox of Mockery

François-Léon Benouville: The Mockery of Christ

François-Léon Benouville: The Mockery of Christ

Monday, September 7, 2015

Paraphrasing from La Biblia de América (1538): The condemned man remains silent during this scene.  The soldiers convert Jesus into a symbol of mockery and Mark does not record a single word about Jesus’ comportment.  Jesus says and does nothing.  He does not react.  He is the defenseless victim of the soldiers who, in an attempt to mock Jesus, adore him as God.

This paradox is the paradox we are all asked to live each day.  We are asked to witness to the injustice we experience – or to the injustice we see others experience.  Living in this way, we begin to understand that the persecution we suffer is not the pain and punishment our accusers wish to inflict on us; rather it is the martyrdom Jesus asks us to bear when he says (Mark 5:11-12), Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

When we are mocked for Jesus’ sake, we step into God’s blessed gift of paradox . . . for the punishment our accusers wish to inflict upon us they suffer themselves.  And the joy they wish to remove from us . . . they pour on us abundantly.

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

A favorite from Friday, April 15, 2011.

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John 18:28-38: Glory, Part IX: Handing Ourselves Over1000509261001_1553982855001_Bio-Radio-Mother-Theresa-SF

Monday, July 27, 2015

The scene of Pilate moving from inside to outside and back again as he links Jesus and his accusers is an interesting one in which we see two worlds, two understandings, two ways of thinking collide.  In the end, Jesus allows himself to be handed over for judgment, punishment and execution . . . and in so doing he demonstrates to his followers how we are to behave when faced with insurmountable odds.  We are to obey the voice within, follow the example of Christ, and rest in the peace of the Holy Spirit to become the paradoxical witness to the world we know we are called to be.

Today’s lesson on Glory: When we hope to avoid suffering, we also avoid opportunities for intimacy in Christ.

In an auditorium recently in which young people had gathered to raise funds to help a sister parish in Haiti, teenagers sang and swayed to music glorifying God and his awesome works.  I was struck by their innocence and fervor, and I prayed that the crosses they had already born, along with the ones they would be called to bear, would not weigh on them too heavily.  And then I remembered that earlier that evening I had seen evidence that perhaps these young people were not so innocent of suffering after all.  Tucked quietly in an alcove behind the table where Haitian coffee was being served to guests was a simple hand-painted sign clearly written by a youngster . . . and as I read it, I hoped that this young woman or man understood the enormity of the citation cited from the words of Mother Theresa of Calcutta:

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. 

This speaks such plain truth.  And yet we fear the pain and suffering which leads to this tremendous love in which we might rest for eternity.  We too often rush to the arms of denial, quick comfort, or easy silence which gives assent to corruption and wrong doing.

In today’s reflection we see this truth in the gestures and words of Jesus who allows himself to serve as savior and symbol for all peoples of all times and all places.

May we serve as humble replicas of this paradox of Christ’s love. And may we come to know God’s glory through our simple acts of handing ourselves over to God.

Search for information about Theresa of Calcutta and reflect on why and how her presence among India’s poor gave rise to opposing views about her work. Consider how this paradox may or may not be a sign of God’s glory in our time. 

Adapted from a Favorite written on September 14, 2008.

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

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 five 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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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

955165_60482143-610x250[1]2 Corinthians 6:1-10

An Acceptable Time

“A series of seven rhetorically effective antitheses, contrasting negative external impressions with positive inner reality. Paul perceives his existence as a reflection of Jesus’ own and affirms an inner reversal that escapes outward observation.  The final two members illustrate two distinct kinds of paradox or apparent contradiction that are characteristic of apostolic experience”.  (Senior cf. 283)

We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful . . . and so as disciples of Christ we must become accustomed to the world’s unbelief.

As unrecognized and yet acknowledged . . . and so as followers of Christ we must become comfortable with rejection.

As dying and behold we live . . . and so as members of the remnant we find that dying so that we might live a normal daily act.  

As chastised and yet not put to death . . . and so as apostles of the Living God we become accustomed to the scorn of others.

As sorrowful yet always rejoicing . . . and so as sisters and brothers of Christ who take up our cross daily we are assured that our mourning is turned into dancing.

As poor yet enriching many . . . and so as disciples sent into the world in twos we know that we need not take a purse or sandals for the journey.

As having nothing and yet possessing all things . . . and so as children of God we are gladdened by the knowledge that we lack for nothing when we hold only Christ, that we rise in new life when we forfeit the old, and that we are loved beyond imagining by the One who rescues us in an acceptable time.

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
    At an acceptable time, O God,
    in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.  (Psalm 69:13)

For this and for all God’s goodness we give thanks as we sing of God’s loving fidelity, justice and mercy.   Amen.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.283. Print.

For more thoughts on God’s Acceptable Time click on the image above or go to: http://donaldcmoore.com/2013/05/08/at-an-acceptable-time/

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