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Posts Tagged ‘Paul Coutinho’


Deuteronomy 28How Big is God?

Friday, February 8, 2019

Written on February 10, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

“So we go to our religious services and make sure we read the latest popular inspirational books and attend all kinds of psychological wellness retreats and conferences.  And we come away feeling good.  But without the willingness to be spiritually challenged, we cannot and will not change.  Without the will to give up whatever is asked of us in order to meet a bigger God, we find that our understanding and experience of the Divine cannot and will not grow.  Try taking that to your prayer and meditation time, and see what happens”.

This citation is from a book that I am reading by Paul Coutinho, S.J. entitled HOW BIG IS YOUR GOD?  It is challenging and humorous at the same time and I highly recommend it.  I am smiling as often as I frown.

Today’s Noontime is about the black and white consequences of our obedience.  We may pretend that we follow God . . . or we may truly follow God.  The Old Testament view is that when we do what we are called to do we will prosper physically; when we fail to do what God asks, we suffer.  The Book of Job, however, tells us that this black and white view of the world does not fully serve us because our reality tells us that too frequently the innocent suffer through no fault of their own.  This is a challenge that Coutinho opens to us today: Is it not a very small God who punishes people for misdeeds?  Is it not a very large God who forgives, calls and is infinitely patient?

In the prologue of his book Coutinho writes: “I invite you now to ask yourself: Am I looking to meet a big God, a God without limits?  Do I have the will to experience the Divine – in all its wondrous and infinite possibilities?  He explains that we might begin where Ignatius Loyola began: “by questioning our lives, questioning the world around us, questioning our relationships, questioning our family life, questioning our work, and questioning our passions.  Let’s also question our relationship with God”. 

This is what the Hebrew people confront in today’s Noontime reading:  Everything they do, everything they are has been thrown into question.  At first reading we see this to be a bad thing – they suffer and question.  On second thought we might see this as a good thing . . . they have been given the opportunity to know their God better.  They have the chance to see . . . how big is their God?


A re-post from February 8, 2012.

Image from: http://storagenerve.com/2009/09/17/cloud-the-quest-for-standards/cloud-question-mark-cloud-computing/

Paul Coutinho, S.J., HOW BIG IS YOUR GOD? Loyola Press.  Watch Paul Coutinho at: http://www.mycatholicvoice.com/media/i8icLh   and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozevDJf9q9U

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John 8:12-20: Missing God

Monday, March 14, 2016 missing puzzle piece

Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.”

If this is so, then why do we miss God when God accompanies us in joy and sorrow?

The Pharisees objected, “All we have is your word on this. We need more than this to go on”.

If this is our thinking then we miss God’s presence just as many religious leaders did in Jesus’ day, and as many do today.

Jesus replied, “You’re right that you only have my word. But you can depend on it being true. I know where I’ve come from and where I go next. You don’t know where I’m from or where I’m headed. You decide according to what you can see and touch. I don’t make judgments like that. But even if I did, my judgment would be true because I wouldn’t make it out of the narrowness of my experience but in the largeness of the One who sent me”.

If this is so, then we will want to move out of our narrowness and into the largeness of the one who creates us. If this is so, then we will want to dwell with Jesus’ words for a time, and allow them to sink into the marrow of our bones. If this is so, then we have much to forget and much to learn. If this is so, we want to offload all that constrains us and encourages us to judge; and we will want to open our hearts and minds and very selves to welcome this big and generous God.

Today we continue this week’s Lenten practice as we open ourselves to the enormity of God’s light and promise. Rather than thinking: “I will set all things right in God’s kingdom,” let us think instead, “I will strive each day to follow Jesus’ example of forgiveness, mercy and love”.

workshops+puzzle+piecesWhen we use the scripture link to spend time with various versions of these verses, God becomes big enough to hold the multiverse. Watch a video by Paul Coutinho, S.J., “How Big Is Your God?” at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozevDJf9q9U  Smile with images Fr. Paul creates in this brief video, and reflect on how we might be missing God’s generosity and enormity each day.

Tomorrow, dead end. 

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Psalm 21: Assertiontell the storm

March 16, 2015

Life’s problems are too complicated for us to unravel, our enemies are too numerous to number and as an answer to our frequent question asking God what are to do, we might read, reflect on and pray Psalm 21. This song teaches us how we might assert ourselves in the following loving ways – – – we petition God with our woes and worries, we give thanks where we are able, we do what we can, we watch and wait on the Lord . . . and we sing words of praise to our God . . . Arise, Lord in your power!  We will sing and chant the praise of your might. 

In praying this psalm, we express our assurance that God will deliver us, and we remind ourselves that we are not in control of outcomes, nor do we know how any particular outcome will domino through our individual and communal lives.  What we do know when we pray this psalm is this: God will not abandon the faithful, and eventually – and under God’s direction – our enemies will come to understand how their actions have harmed others.  Fr. Paul Coutinho writes of this when he describes how anger can take hold of us in his book, HOW BIG IS YOUR GOD?

Anger is a ridiculous emotion.  Think about it.  The people I am angriest with are usually having a good time.  They seem to be blessed more and more by life.  I believe that God will punish them eventually, but their lives only get better.  I try to convince myself that that God is taking them high up in life only so that they may have a great fall.  And yet nothing like this ever happens.  The only one who suffers from my anger is me.  Additionally, I become more ridiculous in my anger.  I think about this person I am angry at when I wake up, and I feel his or her presence at the breakfast table.  I leave my breakfast unfinished and rush off to my workplace, and this person’s presence, my angry idea of him or her, follows me there.  I may inflict this angry feeling onto my co-workers or even my friends or clients.  If I decide to go to the movies that evening, I find that person I am angry with sitting right next to me, and half the movie is over and I have not been able to follow the story.  And then, of course, I bring this person to bed with me, and I toss and turn the whole night, feeling his or her presence in my own bed.  See how ridiculous anger is?  And maybe, just maybe, the thing I am most upset about in another is something I have not reconciled within myself.  (Coutinho 136-137)

Fr. Coutinho suggests that there is an alternative to anger.  We might pause, reflect and respond.  And our response can be one of love for the other.  Coutinho recommends that we love a person to goodness, or – as my mother always said – we kill them with kindness This kind of assertive behavior leaves the doors of communication open, offers an alternative to anger, and might also help preserve friendships or even develop new ones.  (Coutinho 138) This thinking reminds me of the advice my father always gave us – we do what we are supposed to do, and then we step back and let God worry about the other guy. 

coutinho Big is GodIn today’s Noontime, the psalmist puts human anger into God’s hands and decides to watch the outcome, imagining God exacting a just punishment.  Today we decide to go beyond this thinking to pray this psalm with a new assertion. An assertion that directs us to place the intricacies of our problems where they rightly belong . . . in God’s able hands.

Adapted from a reflection written on February 15, 2010.

As a Lenten activity, watch Paul Coutinho, S.J. for a positive, humorous, uplifting view about God and anger at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozevDJf9q9U

Fr. Paul Coutinho, HOW BIG IS YOUR GOD? Loyola Press, 2010.

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