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Zephaniah 1: De-Creation – Part V

Holy Thursday, April 13, 2017

Leonardo da Vinci: Last Supper

At that time I will explore Jerusalem with lamps . . . Today we commemorate the last meal Jesus shared with his followers, the Last Supper that signals the initiation of the Eucharist, the gift of God’s presence among us. Today we spend time with the Gospels as we move closer to the fulfillment of the Easter promise that we are created in and for love.

Matthew 26:17-30 describes this last meal to his Jewish audience. The story told by Mark 14:12-26 is concise yet evocative. Luke 22:1-39 records the last conversations Jesus shares with his followers; we may find these inspiring as we prepare for the Easter Triduum. These accounts conclude with an accounting that Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives. Finally, with beautiful, soaring language, John 13-17 prepares us for the events that loom in the next few days. We spend our time wisely if we spend time with one, several, or even all of the accountings.

As we consider the gift and promise of de-creation, we have the opportunity to share the gift of God’s presence each day, and we consider . . . Do we celebrate our creation with joy? Do we willingly open our hearts to welcome God’s holy in-dwelling? Do we share the good news that we are free to choose a life in and with Christ? Do we bring the lamp of Christ’s promise of redemptive love into the darkest corners of our world?

This evening we see the arrest  of the Teacher. Tomorrow, his crucifixion. And on the third day . . . the lamps we carry into a darkened Jerusalem come together with the strength of the sun. On this Holy Thursday, let us spend time with the recounting of Jesus’ last supper with us as he opens the promise before our eyes. Let us determine to remain patient and watchful.

And let us resolve to be Remnant for God.

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Zephaniah 1: De-Creation – Part IV

Holy Wednesday, April 12, 2017

James Tissot: The Chaldees Destroy the Brazen Sea

At that time I will explore Jerusalem with lamps . . .

So often we see Christ as the light of the world, forcing shadows back into corners, bringing corruption into the open, asking for transparency and clarity. The prophet Zephaniah shows us a world the has fallen in on itself, a holy city that has crumbled, a holy people that has scattered, a holy message that is lost in the winds of change.

We can see the de-creation that is taking place and we know how to identify the end of a people; but do we know how to identify the new beginning that God offers each of us each day? Does our pride inhibit us from accepting God’s gift of grace? Is our need to control an obstacle for growth? Does guilt or shame prohibit our stepping into the light Christ offers to the world? Does fear paralyze us? Do we retreat inwardly, using absolute logic and reason in a futile attempt to explore the mystery that is Christ? Do we see and accept the gifts of faith, hope and love that God proffers? Does a need for perfection force us back into darkness? Does a yearning for status and wealth overstep God’s call to love?

We fear the turmoil and chaos that looms when we see that we need to take ourselves apart before we can allow God to put ourselves back together in a new and refreshing way. Zephaniah shows us a city and a people in the shadows, waiting for the right moment to respond to God’s call to the light. As we wait in Easter hope and maintain hope in God’s promise, as we persist in moving forward in love, as we remain faithful to God who loves us much, we move toward the light that shatters the darkness. We move toward the lamp of God’s love and call.

On this Holy Wednesday, let us be Remnant for God.

 

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Zephaniah 1: De-Creation – Part III

Let us give God praise, and intercede for those who harm us, for it is easy to intercede for those we love.

Holy Tuesday, April 11, 2017

At that time I will explore Jerusalem with lamps . . .

We cannot judge others.  We can only gauge ourselves based on our own daily rate of improvement.  My Dad always used to say: Don’t ever compare yourself to anyone else.  You will always come up short.  You will be far better or far worse than everyone else, and you will have not learned anything about yourself.  He would continue:  Compare yourself to yourself.  Are you a better person today than you were yesterday?  If so, good.  Keep on going!  If not, you need to change; you better do something about it!

Today we read about God’s wish to de-create all that God has created.  Let us be like Abraham who pleaded for time to find a good man in Sodom.  Let us be like Moses who pointed out to Yahweh that it would not look so good if Yahweh saved people only to destroy them.  Let us be like Ruth who remains faithful against odds and all possibility. Let us be like Mary who said yes to God’s outrageous proposal to bring new life to a dead world through the promise of a child.

Let us ask intercession for all those who harm, those who hate, those who de-construct our world with their anger or indifference. Let us give thanks for creation; and let us give thanks for the de-creation that brings us to redemption. Let us praise God’s name.  Let us celebrate the goodness and mercy of God.  Let us intercede for one another.

Let us be co-creators and co-redeemers with God.  Let us ask to participate in miracles.  Let us believe in the fullness of God’s plan.  Let us love all those who have abandoned God.  Let us bring light in to the darkness. For this is the work of the remnant.

On this Holy Tuesday, let us be Remnant for God.

Adapted from a Favorite written on Palm Sunday, March 16, 2008.

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Zephaniah 1: De-Creation – Part II

Holy Monday, April 10, 2017

At that time I will explore Jerusalem with lamps . . .

Many times the early apostles shook the dust of an un-hearing town or people from their feet and their cloaks.  When they offered peace and that peace did not return to them, they moved on but remained open to the possibility of change, knowing that the work of conversion in these unbelievers was God’s work and not theirs.  If they were to play a part in a particular person’s transformation, they trusted the Holy Spirit to lead them to that spot in time and space, to that person into whose life they would enter . . . to be Christ at a moment of crisis or conversion.  This is how the Trinity functions in us.  This is the Mystery of Creation that works to transform the forces of de-creation into forces of restoration, healing and kingdom building.

God reveals the nature of God to each creature in a time known best only to God.  I like to think of the image of God searching through the tiniest streets of Jerusalem, holding a lamp high in search of the unbelievers who hide in dark places.  I also like to think of God’s modern apostles being the light that streams from this lantern.  We do nothing on our own.  We emanate from God . . . for God . . . in God . . . for the economy of salvation.  We can be a part of that salvation as co-redeemers, or we can be de-creators.  We have a choice to make.  Are we those who lurk in dark places, hiding from the light of truth, feeling comfort in the darkness?  Are we those who hunger for mercy and truth, feeling comfort only in the light?

On this Holy Monday, let us be Remnant for God.

Adapted from a Favorite written on Palm Sunday, March 16, 2008.

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Zephaniah 1: De-Creation – Part I

Palm Sunday, April 9, 2017

For a week, we have traveled the road to Emmaus, Jesus at our side as we look for joy. Like the disciples, we may be immersed in our sorrow, and we may not know that joy walks with us. Today the prophet Zephaniah tells us that we must de-create before we can renew the image of God we bring to the world. In this holiest of weeks, we pledge to remain faithful to Christ who guides us. We persist in stepping into the world embodying the love the Spirit nurtures in us. And we promise to remain in Christ as the hope-filled remnant of God.

At that time I will explore Jerusalem with lamps . . .

The prophet Zephaniah lived in a time when many Jews had returned to polytheism.  Here we have a description of how Yahweh will undo his beautiful creation which has been profaned.  He will even take a lamp and search the nooks and crannies of Jerusalem’s streets in order to find the last of the unfaithful.  Thank goodness we hear at the end of this prophecy that a remnant of the faithful will remain, but in this first chapter, there is nothing happy to hear.

How painful it must be for God to watch as we de-construct what is given to us in love.  Not only do we abuse the wondrous gift of Nature and Mother Earth, but we abuse one another and ourselves as well.  What do we do when we discover that we are in relationships that pollute our thinking and our hearts?

At that time I will explore Jerusalem with lamps . . .

First, we turn to the one who created us and who knows us so well.  We turn and return to God.  Then, we pray and we act.  We pray for the personal strength to see us through the trials that lie in our path.  We pray for those who wreck damage on themselves and others.  We ask for forgiveness, both personal and communal.  We practice justice and compassion as best we can, wherever we can. And we ask for the gift of forgiveness and healing for the world.

On this Palm Sunday, let us follow the steps of the Master Teacher; and let us be Remnant for God.

Adapted from a Favorite written on Palm Sunday, March 16, 2008.

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Micah: The Promise of the Shepherd

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A shepherd at his sheep gate near Nazareth

A shepherd at his sheep gate near Nazareth

We have examined the construct of deception and how envy and hope show us divergent journeys through life. We have spent time with the prophet Micah who speaks to both fraudulent leaders and God’s vulnerable, faithful followers. With Micah, we have examined the true path to perfection and celebrated the promise of restoration offered us each day by the Creator.

“With burning eloquence [Micah] attacked the rich exploiters of the poor, fraudulent merchants, venal judges, corrupt priests and prophets”. (Senior 1140) The prophet’s testimony foreshadows Jesus’ words. Do we believe that God comes to live among us? And what does God’s presence look like? And how will we recognize this consoling presence?

Through Micah, God says: Woe to those who plan iniquity, and work our evil on their couches.” (2:1)

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says: Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:24)

Through Micah, God says: I will assemble all the remnant of Israel; I will group them like a flock in the fold, like a herd in the midst of the corral; they shall not be thrown I to a panic by men. With a leader to break the path they will burst open the gate and go out through it; their king shall go through before them, and the Lord at their head”. (2:12-13)

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says: Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good – a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it. (John 10:1-6)

Those who were listening to Jesus’ voice: had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good – sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for – will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. ( John 10:7-10)

The Creator speaks to us through the prophet Micah. The Creator visits us in the person of Jesus. The Creator lives in us as the healing presence of the Holy Spirit. Let us listen to the promise given us this day; let us share this gift of hope and redemption with others; and let us persist in listening for and following the voice of the genuine shepherd.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1140. Print.   

Enter the word promise into the blog search bar and explore.

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Haggai 2: Promise of Immediate Blessing

Tuesday, June 7, 2016rainbow3

Perhaps we believe that we ought to postpone grace and blessings, that we ought to wait for the reward of our hard work for the day we move from this world to the next; but this thinking forgets that the kingdom is here, the kingdom is now. And it forgets that we are called to witness to the kingdom each day, to experience its joy and to spread its good news.  Our problem is that it is so difficult to see the kingdom through the smoke screen of life. The confusion of un-kept vows and broken people obscures our view of God’s plan for the world; but God’s promise is with us just as are the stars that scatter across the sky. We cannot see these heavenly bodies in the fierce light of the sun but still they are there, guiding us when night is the darkest.

One moment yet, a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land.  I will shake the nations, and all the treasures of all the nations will come in, and I will fill this house with glory.

What will happen when the shaking begins?  Where will we be?  Where will we and our loved ones tumble?  Will we still able to hear the voice of God?

Haggai and Zechariah speak to the tired remnant, calling them to rebuild the fallen city of hope.  They look upon ruin and dream of what might be.  When we listen to these prophets, we have the choice to follow the admonition to build or to lapse into a self-serving life.  Our action – or our inaction – determines our ability to hear The Word when spoken.

And I will set you as a signet ring; for I have chosen you, says the Lord of hosts.

Life is tumultuous and the only words of clarity that come to us come from the Creator.  All else is illusion and obfuscation.

I will shake the heavens and the earth; I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms, destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations. 

God overthrows power and comforts the powerless.  God rebukes those who take what they want and saves the broken-hearted.  God chooses the damaged and wounded, the betrayed and the abandoned and he heals them . . . for I have chosen you, says the Lord of hosts.

God pledges to fulfill promises, and this kingdom of hope and promise is now.  Amid the cacophony and the haze, we must keep our ear tuned to the Voice which can be trusted. We must keep our eye on the One sent to lead us from the confusion. We must rely on the Spirit that dwells within . . .  for I have chosen you, says the Lord of hosts.

From a reflection written on May 28, 2008.

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Isaiah 10Social Injustice

 Thursday, June 2, 2016renewal

Isaiah 10 is book-ended by words that we hear so often during the Advent season: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom.  These words remind us that someone is coming great enough to take all of us in . . . and indeed, this one is already among us.  Today’s Noontime reminds us of what pulls us away from God and it draws clear imagery with Assyria and Sennacherib as vehicles not only of pain and loss, but ultimate transformation . . . if we but follow the Light, the Christ.  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom. 

Isaiah tells us clearly that when we trust the Lord we need not tremble before overwhelming odds.  If we move out of the darkness to stand in the light and obey the voice within, we have nothing to fear.  Do not fear the Assyrian, though he strikes you with a rod, and raises his staff against you. 

Isaiah reminds us that though we are small, we are also mighty . . . when we place our fear where it is best handled, in God’s capable hands.  The tall of stature are felled, and the lofty ones brought low; the forest thickets are felled with the axe. 

Isaiah repeats a theme often heard with the prophets: those who can remain faithful through the holocaust will be standing when all others have blown away like chaff in the wind.  The remnant of Israel, the survivors of the house of Jacob, will no more lean upon him who struck them; but they will lean upon the Lord . . . a remnant will return . . . only a remnant will return.

Allowing injustice to happen without speaking or witnessing is the broad path taken by many; but it is not the marrow path taken by the remnant.  As Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:3 and Luke 13:24, most of us will succumb to a system that allows injustice for many the sake of the comfort of a few.  This remnant that remains in God will have to bend before the force of the storm, but all of this bending will be worthwhile.  This is the message that Isaiah brings to us: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom.

A Favorite from June 10, 2009.

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Luke 15:11-32: Squandering Our Inheritance

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo: Return of the Prodigal Son - National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo: Return of the Prodigal Son – National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

There is a portion of Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 10: 20-27) which speaks to us about holding on to the tiniest thread of hope even when everyone else has walked away, has given up and given in. When all is dark and seems lost forever to the dark ways, somewhere deep, and often hidden, there is a tiny grain of hope. And these tiny grains of hope are Christ who is in each one of us, and in every part of creation.  This Christ is hope.

In the image of the The Return of the Prodigal Son by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo we see the return of the errant son, and the darkness on the face of the envious son who remains. We also see abundant joy on the face of the father who has persisted in remnant hope and love.

This story is familiar to us and yet we benefit from reflecting with the words and the image.

Both sons of this loving father struggle – whether or not they physically or spiritually separate from him.  Both want to inherit the Father’s gifts, both want to experience life and its joys . . . yet are they willing to be remnant? And are we?

Today we reflect on the meaning of remaining, the meaning of hope, and how we too often squander both of these gifts in our own lives.

Do we remain?  Do we abide?  Are we faithful?  Do we offer God our constancy?  Do we embody hope? Do we examine our motives and our conscience?  Do we seek enablers in our lives or do we gather honest, authentic friends around us who love us enough to be careful mirrors?  

We are imperfect creatures, framed by time and space.  Our souls either languish or flourish. They rely on the food and drink we bring them.  They burgeon with prayer.  They wither when they lack Eucharist, Scripture and dialog with Christ.

Our innermost heart is our core which either collapses with neglect or flowers with grace.  Our minds are fed by the images and words we select as most worthy of holding and remembering.  Our bodies weary from their world journey, yet hum with joy when we nourish them well.

Being remnant is a difficult task.  It makes the decision to return after waywardness.  It makes the decision to strengthen its bonds even if it has remained.

Being remnant is an arduous task.  It calls for holding on in the face of impossibility.  It requires that we turn away from the hectic social demands on our time and space.

Being remnant is a beautiful gift. It demands that we make a refuge each moment of every day  to reconnect with God. And it obliges us to look at Murillo’s painting to ask and answer the questions: Who am I?  One of the Sons?  The Forgiving Parent?  The Obliging Servant?  Am I Remnant?  Am I Hope?

Adapted from a Favorite written on June 7, 2008.

We remember our Lenten practice. Rather than thinking: “Let us make three tents to contain the joy of God’s wisdom,” let us think instead, “Let us share the joy of God’s great gift of love”.

Some ancient manuscripts contain verse 44 while others lack it. For commentary on this verse and parable, visit: http://biblehub.com/commentaries/matthew/21-44.htm

Tomorrow, the Samaritan woman. 

 

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