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1 Peter 3:8-22: Salvific Suffering – Part III

The Sadducees

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What do we fear . . . and why?

We reflect on the story of the early apostles (Acts 5) as they remain faithful to Christ while suffering and rejoicing with equal energy and passion. When we open ourselves to God’s generosity, we come away refreshed and encouraged with the news that when we respond to the call to do God’s work, we know that we quickly find God in the obstacles that surround us.  We know that we are Rocks in company with Peter; we know that we can serve as foundations of the living temple; we see that we are able confront corrupt authority; we can rejoice in our suffering to bringing truth and light to the world.

When we reflect on this story, we understand that a small group of the faithful, through the power and love of the risen Christ, successfully challenges the old guard. We realize that the Sadducees are afraid to order a sentence of death on these Jesus-followers because they fear the people will revolt. They fear the power of the Spirit.

There is irony in this story. Those who inflict fear on others eventually experience fear themselves. This we see the power of the Spirit unfold, rising from fear to bring us peace. This,we begin to understand, is the gift of salvific suffering.

And so today we ask ourselves, what do we fear, and why?

Tomorrow, how do we suffer with Christ?

Adapted from a Favorite written in November 10, 2007.

 

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Luke 21:14-15: Remember

Wednesday, November 30, 2016getty_rm_photo_of_finger_with_string

Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. (NABRE)

This advice goes against the grain of modern society. Smartphones bring an Internet of knowledge to our fingertips; they also bring false reports and charlatans.

Make up your mind right now not to worry about it. I’ll give you the words and wisdom that will reduce all your accusers to stammers and stutters. (MSG)

Our egos want to depend on data provided by polls and surveys; and these data may lead to inaccurate conclusions and foolish decisions.

Make up your minds ahead of time not to worry about how you will defend yourselves, because I will give you such words and wisdom that none of your enemies will be able to refute or contradict what you say. (GNT)

Power and fame, accolades and wealth bring false confidence; and none of these protect us as does the wisdom of Jesus. None of these can save as does the Living God.

So make up your minds not to worry, rehearsing your defense beforehand; for I myself will give you an eloquence and a wisdom that no adversary will be able to resist or refute. (CJB)

Anxiety brings us false worry. Faith in the wisdom of the Spirit brings us hope. Anger affirms false power. Love brings us the eternal peace of Christ.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore varying translations of these verses, we find new reason to reason to remember the wisdom and promise of Christ.

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Matthew 9:32-34: The Mute

Monday, August 8, 2016

Tissot: Jesus heals a Mute Man Possessed by Demons

Tissot: Jesus heals a Mute Man Possessed by Demons

The crowds were amazed and said, “Never has anything like this been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons.”

As always, when goodness happens, evil will be lurking nearby, looking for an opportunity to douse the light, hoping that the darkness will take over. When we have no moral compass night and day look the same to us. Truth and lies have no boundaries. Deceit and honesty are difficult to discern. The innocent suffer as the wily take over. But this describes the world in which we live. In the Kingdom, the Beatitudes hold sway . . . the broken-hearted, the poor in spirit, the meek, the hungry, the thirsty, those who mourn and suffer persecution, the merciful, the pure of heart, those reviled in the name of goodness . . . all of these have value.

When we are confused or frustrated by the events around us we might turn to Matthew 5 to the new Rules for the Road that Jesus gives us so clearly. The inversion of values will not make sense to the unscrupulous or greedy, but what do we do when we are up against those who cheat a system meant for good or who look out only for themselves? How do we address such darkness? And must we speak or act when confronted by violence that takes advantage of the innocent?

Today we read about Jesus bring speech to a man who could not speak and we see that the crowds were amazed for never before had they seen such authority used to heal someone afflicted and disadvantaged. Those in power, on the other hand, are alarmed. We know the end of this story as does Jesus; still, he moves forward with his acts of healing, opening eyes that cannot see and ears that cannot hear. Are we as willing as he is to step into the darkness, bearing the light of The Word?

We are not Jesus, we tell ourselves. We are not expected to interfere with those who hold so much authority and power, we say as we comfort one another, so we will let someone else speak up. But is this the case? Are we – who have the gift of speech and the ability to use it – expected to remain mute in fear and confusion when we have the Beatitudes to guide us? Or might we use the words the Spirit gives us to bring clarity to obfuscation? Might we use our strength in Christ to shed light in the darkness? Might we use the power of Christ’s love, in solidarity with others, to bring about kingdom moments in a world waiting for freedom and honesty?

We have this to ponder today as we compare the translation above with other versions using the scripture link and drop-down menus. 

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imam at Mass

Iman Sami Salem during Mass in Rome

Matthew 8:4: Tell No One

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Scholars speculate about Jesus’ request that those he cures tell no one about their healing. We find this request in a number of places in Matthew: 12:15-16, 16:20, 17:9 and we notice that neither Jesus nor Matthew rebuke the exuberance of those who receive Jesus’ gift. In the HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY we find this statement: “[T]hough Jesus did not seek to attain ‘celebrity status’ for his miraculous powers, the effects of his works were simply too marvelous to be kept a secret”. (Meeks 881)

Perhaps we need to point this out to those who are our sports and entertainment icons. Celebrity is a gift to be treasured and used well.

monk and imam

Catholic monk welcomes Muslim worshipers in a church in Nice

Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, and he ordered them not to make him known. (Matthew 12:15-16) Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. (Matthew 16:20)

In the CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE commentary tells us that, “To this [Matthew] adds a full citation from the First Servant Song (Is 42, 1-4) . . . emphasizing the meekness of Jesus, the Servant of the Lord, and foretelling the extension of his mission to the Gentiles”. (Senior 26)

Perhaps we need to point this out to those who would be our social or political leaders. Power is strongest when used in service to the poor and broken.  

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Matthew 17:9)

Others speculate that Jesus was waiting until a particular moment to reveal his true nature to the world. Again from the CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE commentary: “[O]nly in the light if Jesus’ resurrection can the meaning of his life and mission be truly understood; until then no testimony to the vision will lead people to faith”. (Senior 37)

Perhaps we need to point this out to our religious leaders. Influence is purest when used in the Spirit of the Living God.

And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. (Mark 8:27-30)

muslims catholics procession

Muslim faithful walk behind a religious man as they attend Mass in tribute to slain priest

Jesus asks his closest followers to refrain from announcing his presence to the world. From the CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE commentary: “Jesus acknowledges this identification [as messiah] but prohibits [the disciples] from making his messianic office known to avoid confusing it with ambiguous contemporary ideas on the nature of that office”. (Senior 81)

Perhaps we need to point this out to ourselves. Humility, sacrifice, and an authentic reverence for the Way that the Living God asks us to live. These are the marks of authentic leaders and followers. 

Our modern society and instant global communication have brought a new tension to our lives; but they have also brought a rapid means of connecting with others in a positive and healing way. We must look for constructive strategies to form solidarity with those who carry the good fruits of Christ’s story into the world. “Tell no one,” Jesus said in the beginning of the ministry. Now that his resurrection has begun the transformation of the world, we must not lose heart. Now we must tell everyone we know the Good News that Jesus is among us, calling each of us to a life of faith, hope, peace and love.

Reprepsentatives of the Muslim comunity go to Catholic Mass at Milan's Santa Maria

Representatives of the Muslim community go to Catholic Mass at Milan’s Santa Maria

Today, let us consider an act of solidarity we might make with others as we speak to our own entertainment, sports, political, social, and spiritual leaders and ask for lasting peace that transforms society.

After the shocking murder of an elderly Catholic priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel, in France, the web brings us pictures and words of Muslims joining Christians in Catholic liturgies. For more on how these religious leaders work for solidarity in the name of peace, click on the images above or see: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36936658 or  http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/07/muslims-pray-catholics-french-priest-murder-160731131924563.html 

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. Print.

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

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Psalm 47: Applause!applause-stop-motion-w350x222

Saturday, July 16, 2016

This ancient hymn is replete with images of strength; God is mighty, subdues all, sets us at the head of the line! Who could not want to follow a God like this? There must be a catch, we say to ourselves. Perhaps there is.

What is the real cost of following God who subjects all to one will? And are we ready to pay the full price? Are we willing to applause this one at any cost to ourselves? In the New Testament Jesus more fully explains the living God.

Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. (Matthew 7:5) Is this a rebuke we can celebrate in ourselves?

I’ll say it again–it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Matthew 19:24) Is this a thinking we can cheer?

But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! (Matthew 5:44) Is this a command we can follow?

The powerful, Old Testament Yahweh becomes the thoughtful, meek Jesus who speaks and heals with authority. When we say we want to follow God, what is our image? Whom do we obey? Which version of power do we choose to worship? And whom do we praise?

Tomorrow, spiritual maturity.

When we compare varying translations of these verses, we being to understand their impact on our lives. We begin to see what it is we applaud . . . and why.

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1 & 2 Chronicles: Our Sacred History – Part II

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Cornelis de Vos: KIng David handing the Scepter to Solomon

Cornelis de Vos: King David handing the Scepter to Solomon

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done . . . 

As we move from childhood to maturity, we take on commitments and we either fulfill or turn away from promises. As we seize control of as many facets of our lives as possible, we also strive for success as the world around us identifies it. And somewhere in the blur of activity and struggle, they is always the chance that we might move away from the core of who and what we are.

In the story of David and Solomon we find two men, and the women who surround them, scrabble to come out on top and in front, surrounded by security, relaxing into comfort. The details of David’s anointing and rise, his battles with both his enemies and King Saul he has pledged to serve, are all benchmarks in David’s life. So are his interactions with Michal and Bathsheba, and the prophet Nathan. David’s son Solomon must also struggle against heavy odds to survive into adulthood and to assume his father’s seat of power; but later he succumbs to the wishes of others and the lure of success and fame. Details of a temple are laid out and even include specifics about music, vessels and decorations. Life at court attracts both those who support and those who tear down what once was full of hope.

How do we arrive at the peak of power in our lives? What do we store up for the journey ahead and what do we jettison? What do we tend to and what do we ignore? Does our relationship with God grow or diminish? Have we found wisdom that nourishes and serenity that heals . . . and do these gifts from God even matter to us?

Today we take time to examine our lives to see how or if we have followed God’s lead in the living of our hours on earth, and to examine the kind of kingdom we have been building. We consider what we have set aside as having great value and what we have cast off as holding us down. And we discover, in the many relationships and encounters we have experienced, that both our storehouse and the debris we leave behind reveal a great deal about who and what we have become.

The two books of Chronicles have four major portions: a genealogy of our leaders beginning with Abraham (1 Chronicles 1-9), a description of the monarchy under David and Solomon (1 Chronicles 9 – 2 Chronicles 9), the divided kingdom (2 Chronicles 10-18), and the period from Hezekiah to the Babylonian exile (2 Chronicles 19-36). This story of divine promise interwoven with human commitment and infidelity tell a story that we might see reflected in our own personal sacred history. This story is worthy of our time over the next few days.

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Luke 11:14-23: Devil Mud

Thursday, March 3, 2016pharisees (1)

If we have heard or read this story a number of times, it is likely that we know only one or two translations. Today we look at THE MESSAGE version as we reflect on our relationship with God . . . and our understanding of how Satan comes stealthily into our lives.

Jesus knew what they were thinking and said, “Any country in civil war for very long is wasted. A constantly squabbling family falls to pieces. If Satan cancels Satan, is there any Satan left? You accuse me of ganging up with the Devil, the prince of demons, to cast out demons, but if you’re slinging devil mud at me, calling me a devil who kicks out devils, doesn’t the same mud stick to your own exorcists?

Those who are jealous of Jesus’ power are eager to claim that his authority comes from darkness. In our Lenten pilgrimage we might consider our own reaction to others’ good news.

But if it’s God’s finger I’m pointing that sends the demons on their way, then God’s kingdom is here for sure.

Those who cannot understand the depth and beauty of Jesus’ transformative love want to credit themselves with for their success and blame others for their failures. The concept of God’s kingdom of love where love and forgiveness are powerful runs counter to their thinking of justified revenge and just wars.

When a strong man, armed to the teeth, stands guard in his front yard, his property is safe and sound. But what if a stronger man comes along with superior weapons? Then he’s beaten at his own game, the arsenal that gave him such confidence hauled off, and his precious possessions plundered.

Those who believe that our world justifies an escalation of power find comfort in their belief that God blesses the good and condemns the bad.

This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you’re not on my side, you’re the enemy; if you’re not helping, you’re making things worse.

Jesus’ words bring us the news that our dualistic thinking of good/bad, strong/weak, right/wrong is not the way of the kingdom but an illusion of the world. Jesus tells us clearly that the evil we throw at others comes back to live with us. And Jesus reminds us that when we chose to disbelieve his assertion that God’s world is nothing but love . . . we will want to reconsider our thinking . . . and the devil mud that we are tempted to throw.

When we compare other translations of Jesus’ words, their meaning takes on new light. And as we reflect on our concept of Satan, let us remember our Lenten practice this week. Rather than thinking: “The dream of peace is an unreal and distant illusion,” let us think instead, “The dream of peace we hold is present in God’s kingdom. And God’s kingdom is now”.

Tomorrow, the greatest commandment.

 

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2 Corinthians 13: Weakness and Strengthsidewalkcrack-940x6263

Friday, July 17, 2015

Following on the heels of yesterday’s Noontime we see the continuation of the theme of inversion which we always find when we seek Christ.

When we page through the Book of Sirach we come across many wise words about arrogance. In Sirach 10:7-16 we see that pride is a kind of domination over others: Odious to the Lord and to men is arrogance, and the sin of oppression they both hate.

We struggle for independence and compassion and too often create or find schism and haughtiness.

Let us spend time with Sirach today, and as we do we pray.

Mysterious and incarnate Christ, show us the power of humility and meekness.

Human and divine Jesus, guide us that we might see the corrupting influence of power and prestige.

Obedient and healing Christ, help us to understand that our cross is our pathway to you.

We strive for what we already have and this is the same lure that drew in Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden.  We want to be like gods and we do not realize, or do not know or remember, that we find our own divinity in Christ. We do not realize, or do not know or remember, that we are one with God in the Spirit. We do not realize, or do not know or remember, that we have no need of little gods for we are, through the grace and kindness of Christ, one in union with God.

Paul reminds us that our weakness makes us strong, our poverty makes us rich.  This is the wealth we will want to store up. This is the power we will want to wield. Let us remember this message today and all days.

Adapted from a reflection written on June 14, 2008. Click on the image above for posts on perseverance and growth, or visit: http://theoutsidewithin.com/tag/plants/ 

2 corinthians 13

To learn more about the Book of Sirach, visit: http://biblehub.com/dictionary/s/sirach.htm

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Psalm 115

metal-texture-silver-gold-scratchedSilver and Gold

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.

From footnotes, This is “a response to the enemy taunt, ‘Where is your God?’ . . . [I]t ridicules the lifeless idols of the nations, expresses a litany of trust of the various classes of the people in God, invokes God’s blessing  on them as they invoke the divine name, and concludes as it began with praise of God”.  (Senior 726)  True silver and gold are trust in the work of the Lord’s hands. There is no need to exact revenge.

Yesterday’s first reading at Mass was another look at the character of silver and gold.  In Wisdom 7:7-11 they are seen as useless as the lust for power and control because all truly good things come from God, and God values our prudence and humility above supremacy.  I prayed and prudence was given me; I pleaded and the spirit of wisdom came to me.  I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches as nothing in comparison with her, nor did liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and before her, silver is to be accounted mire. 

When we feel ourselves struggling to gain an upper hand or to mercilessly wield authority that has been vested in us, we must give God thanks for the goodness we have seen; and we must turn to songs like this one that remind us of our proper place in the universe: The heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth is given to us . . . It is we who bless the Lord. Hallelujah! 

Amen. 

A reflection written on October 12, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite. 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.726. Print.   

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