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Posts Tagged ‘Paul’


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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Acts 17: Uproar – Part I

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Apostle Paul

The Apostle Paul

The Apostle Paul causes uproar wherever he goes in the name of Christ.  He ruffles feathers.  He points out inconsistencies.  He speaks convincingly and with authority as one who has been on both sides of the argument. He inspires faith, hope and charity in some, jealousy in others.  As with the story of David, another of God’s imperfect leaders, we understand that those who serve as God’s vessels will always be envied.  This knowledge can discourage us from continuing in God’s service, or it can make us even more strongly bound to God.  The choice is always ours to make.

These readings continue the theme. Numbers 11:25-29, James 5:1-6, and Mark 9:38-48.

We are further advised that if resentment is a constant companion in our lives, we will never understand the mercy God wants to show us in this world and the next. Therefore, we will want to learn to live without bitterness. It is not the treasure we want to set aside: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth but rather, store up treasures in heaven. And heaven’s treasures are mercy, kindness and love. Matthew 6:19-20 and 1 Peter 1:17-19.

Each gesture and each word we enact in the world is our definitive representation of God.  When we speak, or fail to speak, when we act, or fail to act, we bring God into our homes, our work and prayer places and our communities.  What do our words and gestures say about who we are?

And so we consider . . . Rather than foment division, we want to add to the world’s serenity. But what about the kind of uproar that Paul causes? How does this fit into God’s design?

Today and tomorrow we reflect on an idea proposed by biologist E.O. Wilson and consider how his proposals affront or enact God’s kingdom. Visit the Smithsonian magazine to read, Can the world really set aside half the planet for Wildlife?

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/can-world-really-set-aside-half-planet-wildlife-180952379/?no-ist

Tomorrow, God’s uproar.

Adapted from a favorite written in September 28, 2009.

 

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Romans 16:17-20: Warning to Troublemakers

Thursday, February 4, 2016f8a252c28d8359617d691b379d2404e5

In this political season in the U.S., Paul’s words are worthy of our reflection time.

Keep a sharp eye out for those who take bits and pieces of the teaching that you learned and then use them to make trouble. Give these people a wide berth. They have no intention of living for our Master Christ. They’re only in this for what they can get out of it, and aren’t above using pious sweet talk to dupe unsuspecting innocents.

Paul’s letter to the Romans holds this little paragraph: a warning to the brethren who cause dissention and scandal contrary to the doctrine they have learned. Commentary suggests that Paul’s intent is to inoculate the growing community against the formation of factions that might lead to the fragmentation of the church.  In 1 Chronicles 28:20 David says to his son Solomon: Take charge! Take heart! Don’t be anxious or get discouraged. God, my God, is with you in this; God won’t walk off and leave you in the lurch. God’s at your side until every last detail is completed for conducting the worship of God. 

And how do we worship the Lord? When do we gather to give thanks to God?

We hear that we must go about our work without fear of any kind.

We understand that our kingdom work is more important than any other.

We demonstrate our belief that God is with us always when we put aside the fear-mongering and scandal-peddling of troublemakers.

TakeHeartHandsLogoJohn shares Jesus’ words with us: These things I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

When we set ourselves to doing God’s work, we have no reason for apprehension or anxiety.

In both the Old and New Testaments, we see God’s yardstick in our world. Paul, David and Jesus offer us a clear image and method of measuring God’s presence and love in our lives.

Adapted from a reflection written on April 27, 2008.

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Ezekiel 37: From Dry Bones to Restoration – Part VIfoundation-277x156

Sunday, September 20, 2015

How do we begin to build a strong foundation that will withstand the storms of life and be our constant restoration? Paul’s letter to the people of Corinth show us the way.

Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:10-11)

What do we do once the foundation is laid? Can we expect the difficult part of our work to be complete? Paul tells the Corinthians and he tells us.

1 cor 3-1As long as you grab for what makes you feel good or makes you look important, are you really much different than a babe at the breast, content only when everything’s going your way? (1 Corinthians 3:1-4)

How do we make certain we are doing the correct work? Paul tells the Corinthians and he tells us that we must look to God for our assignments.

We each carried out our servant assignment. I [Paul] planted the seed, Apollos watered the plants, but God made you grow. It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow. Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages. What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving. You happen to be God’s field in which we are working. (1 Corinthians 3:5-9)

What is the great reward we expect to have? Paul tells the Corinthians and he tells us that we are each living stones in God’s living temple.

1cor3-16-17-temple-of-god-holy-building-1024x575You are God’s house. Using the gift God gave me as a good architect, I designed blueprints; Apollos is putting up the walls. Let each carpenter who comes on the job take care to build on the foundation! Remember, there is only one foundation, the one already laid: Jesus Christ. Take particular care in picking out your building materials. Eventually there is going to be an inspection. If you use cheap or inferior materials, you’ll be found out. (1 Corinthians 3:9-15)

Can we expect to find peace if we hide from the potential God has placed in us? Paul tells the Corinthians and he tells us that the reward may seem like a punishment, but then God’s world is always about inversions.

 Don’t fool yourself. Don’t think that you can be wise merely by being up-to-date with the times. Be God’s fool—that’s the path to true wisdom. What the world calls smart, God calls stupid. (1 Corinthians 3:18-20)

lord is spiritWhat will our reward look like after our travail? Paul tells the Corinthians and he tells us that our reward will be greater than any other we will know. Our reward is our life in Christ.

I don’t want to hear any of you bragging about yourself or anyone else. Everything is already yours as a gift—Paul, Apollos, Peter, the world, life, death, the present, the future—all of it is yours, and you are privileged to be in union with Christ, who is in union with God. (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)

Spend time with these verses today and compare varying versions. When we spend time with God in this way, God’s wisdom seeps into our bones. Christ’s peace settles into our hearts. And the Spirit binds us to God forever, bringing us restoration.

Tomorrow, words from the master builder, Jesus.

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Philippians 2:7-9

imagesCAXVU6SCFullness

He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness, and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death on a cross.  Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.

Paul speaks frequently of emptying himself so that Christ may be every more present.  Paul often refers to himself as a slave in Christ. This weekend as we celebrate the baptism of Jesus and mark the end of the Christmas season, let us spend time with the idea that the small child is both human and divine.  Let us examine what Paul might mean when he uses the imagery of slavery.  And let us reflect on just how much we are willing to empty ourselves . . . so that we might too receive God’s fullness.

“This is my beloved Son,” we hear in tomorrow’s Gospel (Matthew 3:13-17), “with whom I am well pleased”.  Humans look for affirmation from their parents; we strive to please those who brought us life.  We can imagine that Jesus is no different in that the affirmation he receives on the bank of the Jordan brings him both satisfaction and a certain amount of fear.  Yes, he has done well and the creator has confidence that Jesus will complete his exodus from our world.  And yes . . . he knows that struggles lie ahead.

Today we remember that God’s world is always inverted as Paul reminds us that when we are empty we are truly full.  Knowing this, we might allow our own sadness or desolation to bring us God’s fullness.  We might seek affirmation from the one who created us.  And we might call on Christ and ask that he carry us through life’s turmoil when we are overwhelmed.

We need not fear what we do not know.  We need not shrink from the hollowing out of ourselves.  We only need call on the one who is all . . . for it is in this calling we will find that all emptiness is filled, and it is in this calling that we come to understand what it means to be Christmas people.

Tomorrow, the Fullness of Life.

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The Third Sunday of Advent

December 22, 2013

Hebrews-6-19[1]

Hebrews 5:11-14 & 6

Resting in the Promise

You have become sluggish in hearing . . .

Notes from the NAB, page 1328: Rather than allow the slow to become content in their slowness, Paul exhorts them to even higher levels of spirituality.  He is not lenient.  And as for those who have fallen away completely, he does not even address these apostates.  If all we need is energy to progress in our spiritual journey, we can turn to Christ . . . for he tells us through Matthew (10:28-30), my yoke is easy, my burden light.  Christ himself exhorts us Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Sometimes we are not so much sluggish as afraid.  We know that the task lying before us is laden with tricky passages, dark corners, deceitful paving stones that look firm and yet sink into quicksand.  On these occasions we must also turn to Christ, trusting him when he says take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.  Disobedience is not an option for an apostle.

Paul tells us that Christ’s promise is immutable, and he uses the long story of the covenant promise between Yahweh and Abraham as ample proof.  Did not the elderly couple – Sarah and Abraham –   begin a kingdom of millions?  Did this new way of seeking God not travel to all peoples of all nations?  Do we not know even today the story of this Abraham, Sarah, and the high priest Melchizedek?  Paul reminds us that it is impossible for God to lie; his very goodness and honesty force him to keep his covenant with his people.

So when we feel weary or afraid, we might turn to Paul for a reminder of the words of hope we can never hear too often.  This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, which reaches into the interior behind the veil [into the Holy of Holies], where Jesus has entered as forerunner . . .

In this Advent season when we anticipate the arrival of Emmanuel, God among us, let us rest in this promise . . . let us acknowledge that when all is dark and appears to be lost, when all is more difficult or more terrifying than we can bear we must be still  . . . so that we might hear again . . .

Come to me . . . and you will find rest for your souls . . .

Adapted from a reflection written on December 11, 2008.

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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Ephesians 5:19-20

Liturgy of the Hours – Part I

breathe[1]Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and praying to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. 

The liturgical observation of Canonical Hours has its origin in the old Judaic tradition of praying seven times in the twenty-four hour cycle as Psalm 119:164 tells us: Seven times a day do I praise you. With the rise of Christianity and its spread through the Roman Empire, these seven prayer intervals, or eight if both Prime and Lauds are prayed at separate intervals, have come to us through the ages.  We have spent time reflecting about Lauds, Vespers and Compline.  Today we take another look at how we might join our voices at other times of the day and night when we know that millions around the globe are praying.  In this small way we take our large and little problems to God . . . to find solace and peace in troubled times.

The Night Watch Prayer is sometimes referred to as Matins and is prayed at any hour between 2 a.m. and sunrise.  We know that the early apostles prayed throughout the day and night as we read in Acts 16:25-26: About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened, there was suddenly such a great earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose. When we awake in the middle of the night there is a certain comfort in remembering this story of the jailed disciples whom God miraculously freed.  We also find a certain peace in offering our petitions when we know that millions in other time zones gather during their waking hours to pray the daytime offices.  In this way we join our own prayer to the cascade of prayer lifted to God without ceasing. 

The Prayer of Terce is traditionally prayed at 9:00 a.m. at the time when modern-day employees typically arrive in their offices.  If we find ourselves in difficult workplaces we might seek a few trusted colleagues who will agree to pause at an appointed morning hour to quietly petition God for the repair of the broken places in our offices, and to give us the insight we need to better understand the cold hearts and stiff necks of stubborn co-workers.  This agreed upon appointment with God does not require that we physically gather; the mingling of our prayers from our separate cubicles or offices in a common call for goodness is pleasing to God who loves to see faithful children come together in any way they can to ask for justice and mercy.

Matins, early in the morning when we cannot sleep or when we awake, and Terce, as the working part of our day begins . . . we must remember God in all we ask.  We must call on God with all we say.  And we must live in God in all we do.

So let us join our voices with the millions that rise to God at Matins or Terce, and let us be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and praying to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.   Amen.

The Benedictus, Magnificat and Compline posts earlier this week describe other times in the cycle  of prayer or conversation with God.  Tomorrow, the prayers of Sext and None.   For more information on fixed hour prayer, this constant dialog with God at regular intervals, go to: http://www.explorefaith.org/prayer/prayer/fixed/index.php  

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Monday, May 20, 2013 – 2 Corinthians

file[1]Chapter 12, verses 7 to 10 and Chapter 13, verses 5 to 13

“By a barrage of questions, by challenges both serious and ironic, by paradox heaped upon paradox, even by insults hurled at his opponents, [Paul] strives to awaken in his hearers a true sense of values and an appropriate response.” (Senior 275). Sometimes in community we need to do the same. We need to challenge, and we also need to use uncomfortable means to save souls. Yet we do this from a stance of weakness, as Paul says, and not from a position which overpowers. We call, we do not force. Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in faith. Test yourselves. . . For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we rejoice when we are weak but you are strong.

Paul and the Jesus community of Corinth struggled within a long, faithful, combative covenant, the one never giving up on the other. Scholars believe that this letter may be a cobbling together of several smaller letters and for that reason may seem disjointed; but it is evident that the people in the community of Corinth kept these missives and read them aloud at their gatherings, even though there are passages which are critical of the Corinthians themselves. These people are a solid example of those who are willing to remain in relationship with one another through trial, beyond criticism, straining toward unity and the formation of community.  Paul says in these verses that his own amazing strength comes from his weakness, and that he relies on this mystery of strength through weakness as it was taught by the risen Jesus.  And it is Jesus who continues to teach this lesson to us each day.

We have been celebrating Eastertide and we have examined the gifts we receive through discipleship.  Yesterday we reveled in the Pentecost event when the Spirit comes to live in intimacy with us.  As we witness the mystery of Christ’s passion and resurrection, and our own redemption and restoration, it is good to look at the closing words of this letter. We recognize some of them as the prayer we hear at Mass just before the kiss of peace.

Rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the holy ones greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

And may the peace of Christ be with each of you. Amen.

To take part in a Strength Through Weakness discussion board, click on the image above or go to: http://strengththroughweakness.forumer.com/index.php

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.275. Print.

Adapted from a Noontime written on April 5, 2007

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Fourth Sunday of Easter, April 21, 2013

Jodaens: Saints Paul and Barnabas in Lystra

Jacob Jordaens: Saints Paul and Barnabas in Lystra

Acts 13:41-52 – Results

Contrary to what we may think, the practice of meekness does not create a world of submission and pain.  Faithful meekness trains us to handle obstacles and to persist through adversity.  True meekness teaches us to listen, to witness, and to respond as God directs.  Honest meekness turns the other cheek in an invitation to join Christ’s mystical body.  Authentic meekness steps forward into the world despite any threat to reputation, stamina or strength.

Today’s Noontime is a snippet of the story of life in the early Church. Footnotes will tell us that Antioch was an important missionary center after the focus shifted away from Jerusalem and we see how jealousy begins to simmer when Paul and Barnabas attract more followers to The Way.  The result of their meekness in Christ is conflict . . . and at first glance this may seem to be a failure.

There are three important elements in this story for us to remember.

First, we see how thirsty people are to hear The Word.  Verse 44 tells us that nearly the entire city turns out to hear Paul and Barnabas speak.  The result of Christ’s meekness is celebrity.

Second, when the missionaries are eventually forced out of the city by the jealous and powerful, Christ’s Word and Christ’s Way are easily dispersed throughout the Roman Empire, into the West and Europe.  The result of Christ’s meekness is endurance.

Third, when looking at verses 51 and 52 we find that the disciples make a statement through their witnessing rather than through an act of aggression.  The result of Christ’s meekness is quiet power.

A grain of wheat falls to the ground and bursts open so that the stalk may grow in fertile soil.  We see the grain of wheat being trod on here, and crushed into fertile ground.  Conflict and strife bear fruit through Christ and we see that the result of Christ’s meekness is not failure.  It is an abundant harvest.

And so we pray.

Good and Gracious God,

Teach us to speak of you in such a way that we call others to follow you.

Fill us with your Spirit in such a way that we find patience for the journey.

Remind us of our redemption by your Son in such a way that we remember to thank you.

Call us to our higher selves in such a way that we find power in you.

Stay with us in such a way that we delight in the practice of meekness.

Bless us in such a way that our meekness brings results for you.

We ask this in Jesus’ name. 

Amen.

Tomorrow, rejecting idols . . . the importance of meekness . . .

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