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Friday, January 17, 2013

Deuteronomy 5: Speaking with God

We have heard his voice from the midst of the fire and we have found out today that a man can still live after God has spoken with him.

Reubens: Teresa of Ávila

Reubens: Teresa of Ávila

Moses acts as mediator for the Chosen People because they believe that anyone who sees the face of God and hears his voice must live no more. This thinking changes when Jesus acts and moves among his people to heal their wounds and cure their anxieties.  This thinking is altered with Jesus’ death and resurrection.  This new idea of a God among us transforms our human fear if we only allow it.  Christ becomes our new arbiter with God, interceding for us with our petitions before the Father.

Like the Hebrews, we also have the opportunity to hear the voice of God.  We might see his face in those who live as Christ asks; but perhaps like the Hebrews, we are a bit afraid to approach the Holy Presence to petition favor.  What we read today tells us that we need not dread God’s presence, and we need not hesitate to ask Jesus for his help . . . this is what he awaits – our realization that he loves us more than we can imagine.

Prayer is the best way to hear the voice of the Creator, Redeemer, and Consoler, and God has advice for us that is better than any offered by any human.   We may not have time for formal, liturgical prayer.  We may not feel comfortable in communal prayer.  We may find that individual prayer lacks direction and intensity.  However, whatever our condition or opinion regarding prayer, we must address all obstacles to it . . . for this is the only way to reach the serenity that God promises, the peace that Christ purchases, and the love that the Holy Spirit offers.

Today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation is taken from words of Teresa of Ávila regarding prayer.  The good that one who practices prayer possesses . . . is that in spite of any wrong they who practice prayer do, they must not abandon prayer since it is the means by which they remedy the situation; and to remedy it without prayer would be much more difficult.

This does not mean to say that those who pray each day have a magical entrée to God’s presence and favor; but what it does say to us is that people who pray daily have a place to take the stresses that come to bear on them as they maneuver their daily obstacle course . . . and that place is God.

We might wish that God would show us a physical smoking presence with a loud booming voice as the Lord does with the Hebrews in today’s reading . . . but would this be more helpful than that quiet voice which speaks to us from behind to which Isaiah refers in 30:21?

We might wish we had stone tablets on which are written God’s words clearly . . . but is this more loving than God’s writing on our hearts as Jeremiah predicts in 31:33?

Teresa of Ávila tells us that she trusts in God’s mercy and love; she perseveres in prayer through the dry times in order to maintain contact with this God of compassion and peace.  When we struggle with our own desire to know God intimately and to commune with him daily, we will know that we are not unique . . . for holy and saintly people have their doubts, their fears and their anxiety when they speak with God.  We can do no worse and no better than this then, to listen for the voice of God . . . a God who loves us in spite of any wrong we commit.


Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 28.5(2010): 385-386. Print.

Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teresa_of_%C3%81vila

Written on May 28, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Deuteronomy 3: Teaching the Children

parent-child[1]Whether we ourselves have children or not, it is beneficial to universal society for those of us who have survived cataclysm to teach those who follow us how to endure well rather than to endure at all costs.  If we hope to improve both collectively and individually we must be willing to take an honest look at how we operate, what we value, and how we enact our values.  This is what Moses calls us to today.  We are not asked to pass along stories of how others have carried on through crisis; we are asked to be earnestly on our guard not to forget the things which our own eyes have seen, not let them slip from our memory as long as we live, but teach them to our children and to our children’s children.  This is a noble vocation: to pass along a manual for how to persist through pain, fear and antagonism.

Keeping in mind that each time we read or hear the phrase “fear” in reference to the Lord in the New Testament that we might replace it with the word “love,” we can see how the arrival of Jesus is the completion of all God’s promises to the people.  God, with his expression of concern and empathy embodied in Jesus, tells us how much he loves us and wants to be with us.  God warns us often about the dangers of idolatry and encourages us to consider the advantages of fidelity.  God’s own fidelity with us is guaranteed.  God’s love proved repeatedly through the stories we can tell about his power to save and restore.   God’s hope for us and in us is spelled out clearly as he establishes – here through Moses – cities of refuge in which his people might find a second opportunity for recovery.  God never gives up on us.

Deuteronomy, perhaps more than any other book of the Bible, asks its readers to remember and to pass along our own story of how the goodness of the Lord has changed us forever.  It asks that we consider God’s goodness, and that we pass along the story of how we came through a wilderness with no road map other than our fidelity to a God who loves us so much he cannot bear to be apart from us for even the smallest of moments.  We are loved by a God who does not ever want to be without us.

And so we pray . . .

Father Creator, Jesus Saver, Holy Spirit Abider and Comforter, we see by your actions that you will never forsake the work of your own hands.  We realize that the only firm ground on which we stand is the rock of your own steadfastness in your commitment to us.  We know that you are incapable of deception, trickery or betrayal.  Give us the fortitude and courage to follow you, even when we are fearful, even when we are in pain.  We rely on your patience and mercy as always.  And we await our own restoration and peace that comes with the joy of knowing and serving you.  We thank you for your bountiful love, and we hope to return that love to you always . . . even when we are fearful or in pain.

Help us to pass along to the children and to the children of those children not only the story of your love . . . but the essence of your love as well.  Guide us in loving our enemies, in praying for the impossible, and in remaining always with you.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 


Image from: http://veronicaplace.wordpress.com/2011/02/05/our-children-are-on-loan-to-us/

Written on August 11, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Daniel 14: Bel and the Dragon

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Rembrandt: Daniel and Cyrus Before the Idol Bel

“These stories are caricatures.  They should not be taken as accurate descriptions of Babylonian religion . . . The Babylonians in the stories are excessively stupid, and their devices are too easily exposed.  The story of the dragon shares the Daniel 6 the motif of the lions’ den, but does not necessarily depend on the earlier chapter.  All we can say is that Daniel was associated with the lions’ den in oral tradition, and that both these stories make use of the motif.  Bel and the Dragon is more fantastic than Daniel 6 . . . These fantastic elements give the story a light-hearted quality, but the background here is more tense than in Daniel 1 – 6.  Daniel confronts the Babylonian religion a way that he never does in the earlier chapters . . . There is a sense here that Judaism and paganism are fundamentally incompatible”.  (Senior RG 351)

We humans always want a contest; we look for heroes to champion and causes to support.  We are willing – and even eager – to take sides and create divisions.  We cry out for peace and unity but too often we fight for separation, isolation, and a sense of superiority or elite privilege.  We seem to be comfortable with a certain degree of “clubiness” in the circles of friends and family that we form.  Someone is always “in” or “out” depending on a morphing list of requirements that we often keep secret even from the “members” of our circle.  We are reluctant to embrace the universal model that Jesus lives.  We shun those who are different and give lip service to diversity.  The stories we read today – with their hyperbole and stereotypes – might be fodder for our late night comics or talk show political pundits and in that sense they are too extreme to be true; yet they hold a mirror up to us that we might see ourselves not so much as the character of Daniel but as those who would dupe the King.  The corrupt priests and the families take advantage of a generous monarch; those who worship the dragon become consumed by their jealousy and passion.  We might take a lesson from all of this.

False gods, false priests, jealous colleagues, spiteful associates are plentiful in our lives.  The lions’ den may suddenly be found in our home, our place of worship or work.  Dragons haunt the lonely places of the heart; yet . . . The true and living God is ever-present; but we seem to forget this.  The one all-powerful and infinite God is always with us; but we often fail to show that we believe this.  The merciful and intimate one and only God is within us; but we behave us as though we do not believe this.

And so we pray.

Good and generous God, keep us from any elitism that separates us from the world around us; guide us in welcoming others into our hearts.

Dear and loving God, help us to guard against the temptation to exclude or eliminate others from our lives; show us how to welcome those who are different from ourselves.

Wise and abiding God, remind us that none of us can afford to isolate ourselves from others; tell us often that wounds heal, anxieties ebb away, and love stitches up the empty places in our lives.  Amen.


A re-post from November 17, 2012.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. RG 351. Print.   

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Matthew 20:17-28: Prediction

Fifth Sunday of Lent, April 7, 2019

A re-post from Holy Week 2012 . . . 

Thursday and Friday evenings as I stepped off the church walkway and into the darkness I realized that the night sky was not as dark as usual.  The large Paschal Moon hovered over the campus, challenging the brightness of the large, artificial, man-made lamp stands.  Having stayed later than most worshipers to spend a bit of extra time reflecting, I was nearly alone on the campus . . . and I said a small, quiet prayer to the Creator for all the gifts I so easily use that he has so lovingly given.  It was a sacred moment which I wanted to hold, much as the apostles wanted to hold the beauty and fullness of The Transfiguration.  We who live in a place where food and peace are aplenty have much to be grateful for.  We who are called to labor in the vineyard of the one who knows us intimately have much to be faithful to.  We who are so well-loved and guided in the Spirit have much to be hopeful in. God’s justice, Jesus’ compassion and the Spirit’s fidelity can be counted on  . . . always  . . . this we can predict. Just as Jesus’ predicted his own passion, so too can we predict our own struggle with loved ones, colleagues and strangers . . . and our own struggle to follow Christ.

Hans Suess von Kolmbach: Mary Salome and Zebedee with their sons James the Greater and John the Evangelist

Perhaps the Sons of Zebedee today give us a picture of our relationship with Jesus, or maybe we better see ourselves as their mother, Salome.  Like the early friends and relatives of Jesus, we often do not see the consequences of our requests; and we are surprised and even angry at the twists and turns of fate that seem to us to be capricious gods that play havoc with our hopes and dreams.  We become bogged down and may even wallow in self-pity and indignation when events and people beyond our control disrupt our plans.  We see that what we had predicted for ourselves is somehow not budding, is for some reason refusing to come to fruition.  We blame all sorts of people and circumstances, all the while neglecting to give thanks for the one sure thing that we can all predict with ease:  we will be loved always, we will be cared for and rescued always, and we will live in eternal union with our brother, the Christ.  What a great, and awesome and marvelous God we have.   What a sureness.  What a constancy.  What a greatness. What a God!

The full Easter moon rides high across the skies during this extraordinary season of forgiveness.  Its cool light breaks through the darkness, telling us of the daytime sun that bathes the opposing side of the globe.  The tin-tinted orb reminds us that even when we do not feel the warmth and brilliance of Jesus he is with us anyway.

The Paschal Moon rises just as expected, just as predicted.  God guides and protects us, just as expected, just as predicted.  Jesus sacrifices self and rescues us, just as expected, just as predicted.  The Holy Spirit abides with us and graces us, just as expected, just as predicted.  Discipleship will be difficult and arduous . . . just as expected, just as predicted.  The reward for fidelity will be greater than we have ever imagined . . . just as expected . . . just as predicted.  All of this we can foretell with certainty.  The events of our lives, the time and manner of our dying, the size of our income, and the number of our days we cannot.  So tonight, if the sky is clear, step outside your door for just a moment to search the heavens for the Paschal Moon and remember all that has been predicted.  And in the hush and quiet of that moment let us recall all that we have requested and all that we have been given.  And let us pray:

Jesus dies, Jesus rises.  We are saved.  We are loved.  And all . . . just as expected . . . just as predicted.  Amen.


For an inspirational reflection on Salome and her sons, click on the image of the Zebedee family above or go to: http://teamnoah.info/Stirred/ms.html

To learn more about how the date for Easter is chosen, click on the image above or go to: http://news.yahoo.com/moon-affects-date-easter-131202555.html

For the names of the full moons and what these names mean, go to: http://www.farmersalmanac.com/full-moon-names/ 

Images from: http://news.yahoo.com/moon-affects-date-easter-131202555.html and http://teamnoah.info/Stirred/ms.html

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Colossians 1:1-14: Continued Progress

Saturday, December 29, 2018

We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you . . .

In all of our anxiety we may forget to pray for one another . . . and we may forget that others pray for us.  Let us remember and give thanks for the prayer that binds us all in Christ. For wherever two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. (Matthew 18:20)

For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the holy ones . . .

In all of our activity we may forget that faith in Christ Jesus has the power to transform . . . and the power to save.  Let us remember and give thanks for the gift of faith we share.  I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from there and it will move.   Nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20)

The Gospel is bearing fruit and growing so also is it among you . . .

In all of our frustration we may forget that despite the negative news and dire predictions Christ Jesus grows in us . . . and Christ Jesus strengthens us as we grow among the weeds. When the servants asked him, “Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds the enemy has planted among the wheat?” he answered, “No, because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest.  At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into the barn.” (Matthew 13:24-30)

Egypt: A woman carries wheat

Paul knows how difficult it is to remain faithful to the Gospel and so he offers the Colossians – and us today – a Prayer of Thanksgiving for Continued Progress . . .

We ask that you be filled with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding . . .

We wish you to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God . . .  

We ask that you be strengthened with every power, in accord with God’s glorious might . . .

We wish for you all endurance and patience . . .

With joy we give thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. 

God delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 

Let us give thanks for God’s gift of fidelity, faith.  Let us give thanks for God’s gift of endurance, patience.  Let us give thanks for God’s gift of great strength, deliverance from the darkness and the weeds.  Let us give thanks for God’s gift of our inheritance, God’s light that gathers us into the barn.

Let us give thanks for the holy ones in heaven. 

Let us give thanks for the prayer we both offer and receive. 

Let us give thanks for our continued progress in God’s love. 

At this harvest time of year, let us give thanks . . . Amen.

Glendening:Surrey Cornfield


A re-post from November 26, 2011.

Images from: http://www.faithandworship.com/Harvest_Thanksgiving_Resources_and_Prayers.htm and http://inhisfathershouse.wordpress.com/category/getting-real-not-religious/page/2/ and http://dianabuja.wordpress.com/category/egypt-ancient/page/2/ 

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1 Thessalonians 5:16-18Pray Without Ceasing

Friday, November 2, 2018

Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. 

I have come from my son’s house after spending the afternoon with their four-year old while he and his wife visit funeral homes to make plans for a service that will honor the life of their infant daughter.  Sophie died too quickly a few days ago.  And in all of the wrenching grief, there is prayer.

We sit at a meal together as night closes in.  A friend visits bearing fresh fruit and vegetables.  We laugh over small things, finding comfort in one another’s presence.  The deep sadness is just out of sight but still with us.  And in all of this quiet pain, there is prayer.

It is not the will of God that we suffer.  It is the will of God that we rejoice in spite of the pain, knowing that life here is only temporary.

It is not the will of God that we sink into darkness.  It is the will of God that we rise with him into the light, knowing that life in Christ is never-ending.

Pain cannot be erased, but with patient prayer and unswerving reliance on God it blooms into a rejoicing beyond any happiness we can imagine.  It brings firmness out of the smelting fire.  It brings purity out of the crucible.  It brings a holy presence into a place where only sadness was previously felt.  It brings a knowing that we are eternal and that we will meet again in newness despite any separation this earth can visit on us.

It is through pain that we find our true selves.  It is in pain that we kneel before God in petition.  It is after pain that we rise again in the crystalline newness of our life in Christ.

For all of these reasons . . . we must pray without ceasing.


A re-post from September 30, 2011.

Image from: http://www.holytrinitynewrochelle.org/prayer.html

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Genesis 18:1-15: Dissembling

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Because she was afraid, Sarah dissembled, saying, “I didn’t laugh”.  But he said, “Yes you did”. It seems that when we are afraid, or even uncomfortable, we hide.  Perhaps we want to protect ourselves from unwanted criticism at a time when we feel vulnerable.  Society would benefit from our willingness to put aside fear in order to practice honesty.  Our families would flourish if we might find a way to establish trust in order that we become less defensive.  Our work and play communities would prosper if we were free of ridicule.  Putting aside fear so that we might live a life of authenticity is what God asks us to do.  We all fail at this constantly . . . and this is something that God knows well.

Fear has been with us since our genesis as humans; it is not an aberration that arises after eons of human evolution.  Nor is it a modern phenomenon brought on by rapid change or sudden advances in technology.  Fear must have been with the first humans who hunted and gathered food and sought shelter.  Dissembling was likely a defense against isolation or separation from the tribe, a strategy for survival.  Is it a tool we want to use today?  Do we need to shave edges from truth?  Do we need to shape the opinion of those around us?  Are we willing to go to God and ask that we begin again . . . in total honesty . . . without dissembling?

It is good to remind ourselves that God is quick to pardon when we ask forgiveness, and that God has infinite mercy for us.  We know that all God asks is our gratitude and our willingness to do as he asks.  God constantly assures us that we are loved . . . and God asks for our love in return.  We need not fear.  We need not dissemble.  And we need not nurture this dissembling in ourselves or others.  When we are fearful . . . we know what we must do.

From today’s MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer (Cameron 129-130)

Jonah 2:3: Out of my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.

Isaiah 43:12: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine.  When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers you shall not drown.  When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned; the flames shall not consume you. 

And so we pray . . .

When we feel fear begin to consume us, rather than dissemble and begin to weave a complicated web, we must call on God to bolster us in the truth.

When we are tempted to mislead others, rather than add to the illusion, we must ask God to help us to be honest and authentic.

When we come upon a rat’s nest of lies and deceit, rather than turn away with blank face and trembling heart, we must rely on God to help us witness to what we know to be truth.

Good and honest God, you have allowed us to choose if and how we are to follow you.  Guide us to see through the clever tricks of the expert weavers of lies and lead us to be merciful with those who dissemble out of fear.  Protect us as we mark a straight path to you with the signs of our little and big sufferings.  Lead us out of the maze of confusing dissembled responses others give to us.  Give us the courage to speak candidly, to act compassionately, and to love into goodness those who would harm us with their dissembling words.  We ask this of you who has created us, you who has shown us the way of authenticity, and you who abides within us always.  Amen. 


Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 13.6 (2011): 129-130. Print.   

Image from: http://listverse.com/2007/08/20/top-10-bizarre-phobias/

A re-post from August 10, 2011.

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John 2:23-25The Interior Life

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

This reflection is adapted from thoughts written on February 23, 2009; and it reminds us that Christ is The Life we seek to live. It calls us to find our lives in Christ through prayer. 

Saints and scholars have written much about the life of the soul.  We have been told through Scripture, and through the Creator’s revelation to us, what we can expect when we enter into honest and authentic relationship with Christ.  The Holy Spirit settles into the temple nest that we prepare to abide with us with her compassionate healing.  The Creator guides us to the potential molded with us at our inception.

What more can we say about our interior life?  How do we connect with Christ to better life the life that is our hope? What can we do to improve this life, to bring ourselves to fruition so that our inner life might blossom in our exterior life of thanksgiving and joy . . . even in the face of misery?

Today’s Meditation in MAGNIFICAT is from Philoxenus, a fifth/sixth century Syriac writer and theologian.  It is about prayer and how we come to God through prayer.

Theodorus Philoxenus Sotericus

One should be secretly swallowed up in the spirit in God, and one should clothe oneself in God at the time of prayer both outwardly and inwardly, set on fire with ardent love for him, and entirely engulfed in all of him, entirely commingled in all of him, with the movements of one’s thoughts suffused with wondrous recollection of God, while the soul has gone out in love to seek him whom she loves, just as David said, “My soul has gone out to you”.

The soul goes out in wondrous recollection of God.

God enters into the soul.

The interior life becomes a dialog with God in which all worries, woes and fears can be opened in trust.

The interior blooms.

This blossoming becomes evident through the exterior.

Our actions demonstrate our wondrous recollection of God. 

This afternoon, let us raise our voices together in a communal prayer . . . that we might illuminate the world with our wondrous recollection of God. 


Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 23.2 (2009). Print.

Images from: https://www.desiringgod.org/topics/prayer and https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Theodorus_Philoxenus_Sotericus_A_01a.JPG 

For more information on Theodorus Philoxenus Sotericus, visit https://www.britannica.com/biography/Philoxenus-of-Mabbug 

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

6648f45035a47efdafeee4d3f3f056e4_XL[1]Nehemiah 13

A Prayer for Willingness

True hope differs from waiting in that it expects the impossible to become possible through our petition and in God’s action.  Today we might reflect on a mirror image to hope and conversion that we pondered yesterday: the juxtaposition of willingness and desire.  It is this willingness – rather than our desire – that refines us as faithful.  It is this willingness – and not mere desire – that marks us as God’s disciples.

But what might we gain, we ask ourselves, from being willing rather than willful?

Perhaps it is our willingness that God nurtures patiently, waiting for our readiness to participate fully in God through Christ.  Perhaps it is this measure of willingness that indicates our full and ready understanding of who God is and why we are created in God’s image.   Perhaps is it our willingness to withstand any difficulty, our determination to be disciples of Christ that signals our preparedness to believe that God can truly make all things possible.  Do we desire to be with God but try to avoid all obstacles in our journey?  Or are we willing to travel the road, despite its roadblocks, in full willingness?

As we read about Nehemiah warning against stepping into alien and pagan territory and relationships, we might remember the Good Samaritan parable told by Jesus.  A man from Samaria, considered to be an outcast by the Jewish community, helps an injured traveler on the road to Jerusalem while the Levite, one who has special status in the Jewish community, keeps himself separate and pure.  As we mature from our Old Testament self who seeks to merely understand God and enter into our New Testament self to seek union with God we leave our desire behind . . . and we enter into willingness

We fully experience God’s presence when we give over our human desire of wishing for the end result through expedient or easy means, when we surrender our willfulness in order to become willing. But for this we need courage.

We genuinely live as God’s disciples when we cease asking for the easy route that has no brambles or pitfalls, when we take on the divine mantle of succumbing to the arduous journey of true willingness.  But for this we need strength.

And so we pray . . .

Dear and gracious God,

We hope to rest constantly in you; grant us your readiness.

We desire to follow faithfully the way of Christ; grant us your eagerness.

We expect to hurdle all obstacles that would keep us from you; grant us your strength.

We hope to respond willingly to your call no matter how difficult the journey; grant us your courage.

We ask that you hold us close to you. 

We ask that you keep us forever with you. 

We ask that you grace us with your willingness.

We ask this in Christ’s name, in unity with the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

For more information about the contrast of willingness and willfulness, click on the image above or go to the 21 February 2013 Brookhaven Retreat blog post at:  http://www.brookhavenretreat.com/cms/blog-22/item/845-willful-or-willing

Adapted from a reflection written on July 21, 2009, and posted on May 9, 2013. 

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