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Posts Tagged ‘persistence’


sparks risingSunday, September 19, 2021

Wisdom 3

Worthiness through Trials

Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself.

Worthiness is a quality that may be undervalued in our culture; we rely heavily on nurturing independence with high doses of self esteem. As with all good things, too much of it becomes a bad thing, as my Dad used to say.  Self-knowledge and self-esteem are not that far from narcissism.  And self flagellation is not a healthy tool when we step back to look at ourselves. Sadism and masochism are the flip side of a willingness to suffer for the sake of another. And if we are sisters and brother in Christ, we look to God for direction rather than to our own egos.

The human existence is a constant tightrope-walking along the spectrum of desirable and undesirable qualities.

From our study of James this year: Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  (James 1:2-3)

The perfection God asks of us is not that we live a life without flaw, but that we persevere in doing God’s will, and in finding the good in the trials we undergo for the conversion and redemption of others. The joy we know from participating in God’s economy is far greater and longer lasting than the fleeting happiness we experience as a result of a contentment we feel at the end of a good day. Suffering for show or suffering for the sake of suffering is the flip side of the salvific suffering which Christ undergoes for the redemption of others. And if we are sisters and brother in Christ, we are worthy through self-sacrifice of our own agendas for God’s better plan.

souls of the just

Wisdom 3:7

The human existence is a joyful one when we persevere through trials in faith, live through hope and bind with others in love.

Lives lived in Christ shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble, and the alternative is to live as the wicked who receive their punishment to match their thoughts, since they neglected justice and forsook the Lord. 

This is the wisdom offered us today: that we examine our motivations for perfection, and that we cease judging the worthiness of ourselves and others. Once we put aside our mountains of criteria and our hierarchy of worth, we begin to understand the perfection God asks not that we be perfect in all we do, but that we remain steadfast in Christ’s love through our trials and in our constant search for truth.


Adapted from a reflection written on Saturday, May 29, 2010.

Image from: http://kentonjseth.blogspot.com/2010_11_01_archive.html

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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJeremiah 24

The Two Baskets of Figs

From Bible footnotes: “Jeremiah, like Ezekiel, saw that no good could be expected from the people who had been left in Judah under Zedekiah or who had fled into Egypt; good was to be hoped for only from those who would pass through the purifying experience of the exile to form the new Israel.” (Senior 980)

If there is time in your day, read a bit about Jeconiah and the Chaldeans (Babylonians). If there is not much time, let us at least think about what God is asking of us when we experience exile, a time apart from places, persons or even events that are precious to us. God assures us that there is always an opportunity for distillation when we are apart. God reminds us that we experience the abiding presence of the Spirit when we are away from what we love. God tells us that those who are left behind, or sent away, are not the juicy first figs of the season; rather, they are the poor fruit that will not grace the banquet table. They are poor fruit that are loved by God nonetheless. God is the faithful, persistent harvester who nurses fruit from struggling plants. God is the hopeful, healing shepherd, going out to find the one sheep while leaving the ninety-nine behind. God is the patient, able silversmith heating metal to drain away the detritus and keeping watch that the precious ore is not poured away. God is the potter working the clay of our lives in hands that know us better than we know ourselves. As always with God, it is the inverse that proves true: those left behind are those redeemed; those sent away are the rescued.  And here in these verses of Chapter 24, Jeremiah brings us the imagery of two baskets of figs . . . one with first fruits, the other with rotten offerings.

Yahweh says: I will look after them for their good, and bring them back to this land, to build them up, not to tear them down; to plant them, not to pluck them out. 

And so we pray . . .

Good and precious God, we know that you are with us always, even when we must be apart undergoing transformation. We know that we are clay in your hands that you mold with intent and great care. Help us to abide with you as you abide with us. Guide us to hope in you as you hope in us. Teach us to love the world with you even as you love us. We know that true transformation comes with suffering, and that suffering is the path your son strode before us. But because the darkness sometimes feels too permanent, we ask that you guide us. Because the light sometimes seems as though it will never return, we ask that you lead us. Because the figs we bear are sometimes bitter, we ask that you carry us. Because the journey you ask us to walk is sometimes too perilous, we ask that you be us. For all of this we pray. Amen.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.980. Print.   

Adapted from a reflection written on June 14, 2007.

For more on Jeconiah and the Chaldeans, visit: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/711-did-jeremiah-err-regarding-jeconiah and http://biblehub.com/dictionary/c/chaldeans.htm

 Image from: http://www.wheatandtares.org/733/you-naughty-naughty-fig/

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Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Desert Star grows in the Sonora Desert

The Desert Star grows in the Sonora Desert

Jeremiah 12

Why?

Why does the way of the godless prosper, why live all the treacherous in contentment? You planted them; they have taken root. They keep on growing and bearing fruit. You are upon their lips, but far from their inmost thoughts.

These questions are raised by each of us as we strive to do what we know to be merciful and right and good while we see the wicked prosper. Jeremiah records God’s Complaint: My beloved has turned on me like a lion in the jungle; because she roared against me . . . many shepherds have trodden my heritage underfoot; the portion that delighted me they have turned into a desert waste, desolate it lies before me . . . they have sown wheat and reaped thorns.

And so we too, question and wait for an answer that makes sense.

God says: This word of “why” is the one you raise to me most often; I know that injustice and darkness pain you as they pain me. If I were to focus on all that is wrong with the world I would have brought it to an end long ago and so I look for the faithful, the good, the merciful and patient. I wait for the persistent, the loving, and the hope-filled. And my watching and waiting is always rewarded. You who gather goodness into my great harvesting barn also gather joy into my immense heart. You who sow compassion and praise in the vineyards where you struggle also sow the tears of my goodness that salve and heal souls. You who wait patiently and keep me constantly in mind abide in my all-knowing mind and rest in my powerful arms. You are never without me. You need never be afraid. You need never wonder why. 

We are accustomed to instant news feeds and immediate search results. With the Lord we must be patient. In the Lord we must remain. For the Lord we must persist. Because the Lord is present . . . we need not wonder why.

For more on the Desert Star flower, click on the image above or go to: https://www.americansouthwest.net/plants/wildflowers/monoptilon-bellioides.html

To reflect more on Jeremiah 12, enter the words Plots of Darkness into the blog search bar and explore. 

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Holy Tuesday, March 30, 2021

200px-Prophet_Amos_002Amos 7

God’s Servants

Through a series of visions Amos leads us to his central message: we must respond to God’s call to correct the social injustice we see around us. In Chapter 7 we see the core of Amos’ message through a series of visions but it is perhaps his personality that moves us more than the images he describes. Amos displays characteristics we see in Jesus, and these are the same tools we must nurture so that we might be faithful servants of God’s Word: frankness, brevity, an insistence to stay “on message” despite the chastisement and threats received from a corrupt civil, social or religious structure.

Amos refuses to hire himself out, as other prophets do. He resists the urge to say more than Yahweh has told him. He speaks, takes no credit or blame, remains faithful and tenacious, then stands down when his work of prophecy is complete, returning to the productive life he had lived before he stepped into history.

We are each called to be Amos. We are each called to speak in witness to what we know to be truth and light. We each live in the providential care of God. We each have the power of speech and spirit. We each must intercede for our family, friends and enemies – just as Amos does. And then we may return to our work, living the Gospel we know to be true until we are called again by God.

Life lived in this manner becomes less complicated, less frightening, more fulfilling, and more peaceful. Life lived in this manner – even in the midst of painful abuse and dire extremes – is seen as beautiful and serene. Life lived as Amos shows us is life in its proper alignment – we become good and faithful servants doing the work of God. As humble and honest workers, we demonstrate our understanding that God is in charge, that God’s plan will not be thwarted, that God can be trusted to turn all acts of malicious damage into acts of saving love.

This then is the lesson of Amos: Speak when we know we must, listen for the Word always, step forward when called and back when the time for speaking has ended. Act always in God and through God. Remain always God’s willing servant who brings a full and open heart to each day. Trust God . . . and stay out of God’s way. 


Tomorrow, a Prayer for Faithful Servants.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 18, 2008.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Samekh[1]Psalm 119:113-120

Samekh

In your word I hope . . . strengthen me that I might be safe . . . I hold your edicts in awe . . .

Fear of the Lord does not describe terror, dread or anxiety; it does, however, express the sense of wonder, amazement and awe we feel when we think about the guiding presence and protective power of God.

God says: There is no need for you to hide from me. There is no need for you to worry about reporting to me in any way. There is no need for you to live with a sense of trepidation that I might castigate you . . . you punish yourself enough already. I know about your fears and they are groundless. I am with you always and I know all that you think, say and do. I am in awe of your persistence, love and dedication to me. I love the generosity, tenderness and care you bring to your work as you come to the aid of the marginalized. Persist in bringing me your hopes and dreams. Delight in the strength I bring to you. Revel in the safety of my arms and continue to live and work in me.

With God all things are possible. God is our rock of safety.

Jesus says: Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.  (Matthew 7:24-25)


For a view of a calligraphy version of the Hebrew alphabet, click on the image above or go to: http://www.hebrewcalligraphy.net/letters-of-my-being/

For a History of Hebrew Calligraphy, go to: http://www.hebrewcalligraphy.net/history-of-hebrew-calligraphy-qeiyafa-ostracon/

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Saturday, August 1, 2020

questions%20-%20fotolia_38274417%20-%20web_417x313[1]Jeremiah 12:1-2

Why?

You would be in the right, O Lord, if I should dispute with you; even so, I must discuss the case with you.  Why does the way of the godless prosper, why live all the treacherous in contentment?  You planted them; they have taken root, they keep on growing and bearing fruit.  You are upon their lips, but far from their inmost thoughts.

Like most of God’s prophets, Jeremiah asks the Lord direct questions.  He brings his confusion, heartache and pain to the Creator who knows and sees all.  Like Jeremiah, we must bring all of our big and petty woes to God. For with God is the answer we seek.

God says: I am not bothered by the billions of questions that fly to me each day and night. I am not angered.  I am not threatened. There is nothing you can ask that will turn me away from you. So ask. How else will you find peace? I will always answer . . . even though you may not be prepared to hear the reply. Even then I will guide you to understanding. All you need do is remain open and ready for dialog. I long to listen and speak to you. Be not afraid to ask the questions that are in your heart. Persist and be open, and we will speak with one another.

“How is it that evil prospers?”  “Why do the wicked enjoy life while the faithful suffer?”  “When will God’s justice divide the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the chaff?”  “Where is God when so much envy and hate destroy all that is good?”  “What is the point of seeing the weeds pollute the harvest?”

These are questions the faithful feel rise from within when they see injustice in the world.  These are the questions the faithful must bring to God . . . for with God lie the consolation and the replies.


Tomorrow, Job, another faithful servant, hears The Lord’s Speech . . .

Image from: https://www.123rf.com/photo_11983584_magnifying-glass-with-questions-words-on-white-background.html

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Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 17, 2020

Sandro Botticelli: Judith Leaving the Tent of Holofernes

Judith 15:9-15

A Celebration of Deliverance

Today we reflect on joyful celebration after deliverance from disaster, and we pause to consider the sudden and surprising gifts of discipleship.

The book of Judith is a wonderful story about a woman who puts aside her widow’s weeds to save her nation. Her ability is doubted by the elders of her own community, and her enemy underestimates her by a wide margin. Judith succeeds in accomplishing the impossible. We watch her follow a dangerously treacherous and narrow path, listening for and then obeying God’s voice.  We see her unfold in beautiful discipleship.  During this Eastertide we have re-discovered the gifts of discipleship that bloom in our lives when we see our vulnerability to God as privilege; and we watch Judith as she trusts in God alone to deliver her people and herself from a deadly enemy.

Judith’s meekness brings her humility . . . an ability to listen for God’s word and to heed it.

Judith’s brokenheartedness brings her vulnerability . . . an ability to petition God for help.

Judith’s constancy brings her fidelity . . . an ability to rely on God alone.

Judith’s honesty brings her truth . . . an ability to see reality as God sees it.

Judith’s willingness brings her integrity . . . an ability to perceive and respond to God’s call authentically.

Judith’s steadfastness brings her persistence . . . an ability to follow God without flagging.

These are the gifts of discipleship with which God graced Judith . . . and these are the same gifts of discipleship that God gives to each of us today.

As we near Pentecost, let us consider these gifts that God freely gives.  And let us celebrate our own deliverance.


Image from: https://www.wikiart.org/en/sandro-botticelli/judith-leaving-the-tent-of-holofernes-1500

For more reflections about this amazing woman, type the word Judith in the blog search bar and explore.

Adapted from a Noontime reflection written on April 10, 2007.

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Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 10, 2020

2Thess3Proof[1]2 Thessalonians 3

Steadfastness

We continue to remain in the Risen Christ as we shelter in place to meet the threat of a pandemic virus. Some may feel that we live in”end times.” Others believe that the stress caused by a world-wide virus calls us to work with one another, persisting through strife rather than crumbling beneath it.

In waiting for “the end times”, some early Christians decide to abandon their work and devote themselves to keeping up with gossip; they do not make their own living but live from the toil of others.  Paul speaks directly to those who place the burden of living on their community, and he is clear in his thinking.  He urges personal responsibility, faith in God, and imitating the steadfastness of Christ.  It is this unswerving following that prepares us for the life we are called to live . . . a life in Christ.

From today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation by Fr. Henri-Dominique Lacordaire, the founder of the Order of Preachers in France after their revolution: All holy souls – all souls, that is to say, which are enlightened by truth and guided by charity, are in communion.  Even here below, without knowing it, they are linked to one another, they are members of a society of which God is the center, the life, the light, the beauty, and the bliss.  They help one another by their prayers and good works; they suffer for one another’s sake; they are like the stones of which a church is built, which are hidden from one another, yet support one another from the foundation to the roof . . . Our meetings on earth are by comparison mere vain and fruitless advances.

God creates us and wants us to know that we are God’s children, connected to one another and to God by the bond of Christ.  We are to love one another, especially our enemies, as best we can . . . but we are to love.

Christ walks among us to show us that we are important to him and to one another, even though we may not hear, see or feel this importance.   We are to do for one another as best we can . . . but we are to act.

St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians – and us – that we ought not take advantage of others in this bond that we share with one other.  We are to give as best we can, according to the blessings and gifts God bestows on us . . . but we are to give.

Fr. Lacordaire reminds us that there are invisible bonds that hold us together.  We are to remember these bonds and work with them rather than against them. We are to persist in our journey toward truth and light and even though we do not see the end of the journey, even though we do not care to be with some of our fellow travelers, we are to persist and remain steadfast . . . otherwise, our meetings on earth may be mere vain and fruitless advances.

Paul calls us to steadfastness and persistence in Christ.  Christ walks among us to reveal the Father’s promise and the Spirit’s abiding presence.  Through our diligence in following Christ, our fidelity to God’s vision, and our love in the Spirit, we hone our skill at being steadfast.  We increase our stamina and nurture our persistence.  All of these are gifts honestly earned and freely bestowed.  They are the blossoming fruit of discipleship.


Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 2.11 (2010). Print.  

Image from: http://s449.photobucket.com/user/conniecriqui/media/2Thess3Proof.jpg.html

Adapted from the November 2, 2010 Noontime.

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Friday, April 24, 2020

Blessed Julian of Norwich

Van der Weyden: Portrait of a Young Woman Wearing a Coif

Psalm 73: The Trial of the Just

This psalm speaks to a state of mind that each of us has likely experienced once or even more than once, at a time when we lost our balance and our feet all but slipped.

As we have spent time this week reflecting on the traits of a disciple and the work that discipleship entails.  We have re-affirmed that following Christ requires not only love but also intense labor.  Disciples suffer.  They lose heart.  They become enmeshed in a world they do not welcome.   Yet they also experience great joy.

As we read this psalm today we find that each of us is Israel, wondering why the arrogant . . . suffer no pain; their bodies healthy and sleek . . . violence adorns them like a robe Some of us may say to ourselves, as the psalmist does: It is in vain that I have kept my heart clean . . . I was stupid and did not understand.   Discipleship calls for meekness.  Discipleship delivers heart-break.  The ancillary experience of discipleship is suffering . . . and yet great joy.

What is the solution to handling our angst and jealousy so that our mourning might become dancing?  We must dialog with the Lord and offer our questions along with our petitions for those who are far from [God] perish.  We must declare all [God’s] works, remembering that despite our feeling that we are lost and alone we always will be accompanied.

I have taken up again a little book of reflections on the writings of Julian of Norwich, a medieval English mystic and spiritual writer to whom God spoke in a series of revelations.  (Kirvan)  This woman lived a hermetic life in a worldly way, juxtaposing solitude and community in a manner that gives her words a universal resonance.  She speaks of the humility we learn when we bring God our sufferings and failings.  And it is through this humility, this meekness, that we find God.  She writes that we run the danger of carrying our faults so heavily that we consider ourselves “suited only to hell” and that this would be an egregious error for no matter what we do or where we go, God wants to “raise us high in grace”.  She also writes that when we allow our pain to bring compassion to ourselves and others, we will be better prepared to receive God.  This compassion heals any shame or brokenness and transforms all suffering into joy.  She tells us that our failure does not prevent God from loving us.  Peace and love are always present within us, living and laboring, but we unfortunately do not always abide in peace and love.

When we find ourselves deep into our work as disciples we are certain to be worn down and worn out; we will find that our hearts have been broken.  So rather than fight against our pain and suffering, let us offer our brokenness to God as we withstand the trial of the just.  Let us cease comparing ourselves with the wicked and instead open ourselves to God’s grace and compassion.   And let us no longer rail against our imperfections . . . for we must allow ourselves to remember that God is always close to the broken-hearted.

And so the psalmist writes:  How good God is to the upright, the Lord, to those who are clean of heart!

Tomorrow, with God . . . possibilities . . .

Although often attributed as a portrait of Julian of Norwich – the first woman to write and publish a book in the English language – there is no evidence that she sat for the artist, Roger Van der Weyden.  It is lovely, however, to imagine a meeting between the two.


Kirvan, John. All Will Be Well: Julian of Norwich. 2008. Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 2005. Print.

First written on August 9, 2009. Revised and posted today.

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