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Holy Wednesday, March 31, 2021

good and faithful servantAmos 7-9

A Prayer for Faithful Servants

The prophet Amos has accompanied us on our Lenten journey over these past several weeks to bring us the Words of God, to force us to look at the Woes of the world, and to show us stark warnings through his Visions for the future.

Amos is often described as the angry prophet with no tolerance for the corrupt rich who subjugate the poor. This will also be our impression of him if we do not linger with the last images of his prophecy. We will miss the gift Amos brings to us if we do not stay for a while with these ending verses in which we see the beauty of Amos unfold, for it is in these final chapters that we experience his Messianic perspective and promise. It is here in the last pages of Amos’ prophecy that we understand the stories in the New Testament, and fully come to terms with what it means to be faithful servants of God.

And so we pray.

When we feel unimportant and are dwarfed by the colossal forces around us, we petition God as we say with Amos: How can we stand? We are so small!

And God replies: What do you see?

We remember the many times God has rescued us from sure destruction, and we reply: Evil will not reach or overtake us.

And God replies: I will raise you up!

We recall the occasions when only God was able to pull us together after we have been so battered that we can not imagine how we will ever be whole again, and together we ask: Will you wall up our breaches?

And God replies: I will raise your ruins!

We feel frustration and fear when we see all the good that we have built begin to crumble, and so together we ask: Will you rebuild us as in days of old?

And God replies: I will bring about your restoration!

We remember all the work we have done to build your Kingdom. We look into the future and fear for the work yet to be completed, and so together we ask: Who will rebuild and inhabit our ruined cities? Who will plant vineyards and drink the wine? Who will set out gardens and eat the fruits?

And God replies: I will plant you upon your own ground; never again shall you be plucked from the land I have given you. This is my promise. I have spoken. I am the Lord, your God.

And we reply: We who struggle to be your faithful servants thank you. We who strive to follow in the steps of Jesus rely on you alone. We who long to always live in the Spirit look to you for guidance as we say, Amen!

And God replies: Well done, my good and faithful servant.  (Matthew 25:21)


To purchase the plaque above, click on the image.

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Thursday, February 11, 2021

imagesCAJ3N3X3Psalm 119:169-176

Taw

Let my cry come before you, Lord; in keeping with your word give me discernment. Let my prayer come before you; rescue me according to your promise.

In this last stanza the psalmist finally leads us to the understanding that our cry becomes a prayer when we call out to God; the Law becomes a beautiful unfolding of God’s promise of rescue.  The Law of Love, once we take it into our lives to enact it fully, imprints on our hearts and minds and souls the mark of God’s own creation.

God says: So do you now see that my laws bring you to me when you see them as expressions of my love?  Do you understand that when you regard my precepts, testimonies and statutes as commandments to confine and categorize yourself and others you miss the meaning of my message? All of my decrees ask you to intercede for those who have harmed you. Each of the many rules you have created are as dust before me if they close you in revenge and anger. I do not ask for burnt sacrifices; I ask for an open heart and mind. Once you open your heart to me you begin to understand; and the sweet gift of discernment is yours. So ponder what you have heard . . . and prepare to receive the full impact of my Word.

God gives us a joyful invitation in Psalm 119. It is an invitation to accept the gifts of freedom, grace and peace. It is an invitation we may accept or turn down. It is an invitation we will want to consider with care.

One of the scribes . . . asked [Jesus], “Which is the first of all commandments?”  Jesus replied, “The first is this, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)


To understand more about the letter Taw and how it represents the seal of creation, go to: http://www.inner.org/hebleter/tav.htm

Image from: http://www.osfphila.org/about/tau

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Tuesday, February 9, 2021

images[1]Psalm 119:153-160

Resh

Rescue me . . . Take up my cause . . . Redeem me . . . Give me life . . . Give me life.

As we near the close of this psalm we have come to understand that real and permanent rescue lies only in God.

God says: You have spent many days exploring this longest of Psalms and through your persistent study and faithful prayer a new clarification begins to seep into your bones and sinews. Take me with you in your heart and mind, your body and soul as you go about your work, rest and play. Invoke me when you are frightened. Celebrate with me when you experience joy. Remember always that I love you and that my love for you erases all wrong and rights all injustice. With me comes the dawn of a new light, the breaking in of a new wineskin, the shifting away from old habits and customs that tie you down and do not bring the lasting freedom of the heart as I do. Remain in me always and everywhere, for only in me do you find clarity.

We are sometimes quite stubborn and refuse to believe that contentment might be gained by examining our old traditions to jettison those that hamper our development. We are sometimes quite slow in taking up the gift of new life. We are often not willing to die . . . so that we might live.

For if we have grown into union with [Christ] through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. (Romans 6:5-6)

Living in Christ is never easy for we must be willing to examine our thoughts, words and deeds and we must be willing to live in a new way. We ask for clarity when we already have it . . . but refuse to understand it . . . because our understanding will call for action on our part. Yet, living in Christ is always rewarding for we are quickly forgiven, always loved, and always blessed. We ask for clarity and we already have it . . . let us be willing to understand the gift of new life that we hold in our hands.

Tomorrow, Fallen Sparks.


For more on how Resh speaks to us of clarification and God’s difficult yet wonderful call, go to: http://www.inner.org/hebleter/reish.htm

Image from: http://houseofjoseph.net/alef-bet_download_page.htm

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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Fifth Day of Christmas

zephaniah-3-17[1]Zephaniah 3:15-18

Among Us

The Lord, your God, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear . . . The Lord your God is in your midst a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.

Misfortune becomes blessing. Sorrow becomes gladness. Fear becomes joy.  One who renews his vow to rescue us is in our midst. And he is filled with joy at this union.

Read the Zephaniah – God’s Balance page on this blog and think about God’s promise to be with us always.

Enter the words In Our Midst in the blog search bar and spend some time reflecting on how we know that God is among us . . . and consider why we are Christmas people.


Image from: http://heisourstrongtower.wordpress.com/2012/08/30/jesus-calling-august-30th/zephaniah-3-17/

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Tuesday, July 7, 2020

76d2ce62177a139a96b48d628d63c470[1]1 John 5:13-14

Simple Truths

I write these things to you so that you may know that you have eternal life . . . And we have this confidence in the Son of God, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 

This week we have highlighted several verses from the first letter of John and we have examined the words he records to remind us of how much and how well we are loved.  Today, if there is time in our busy schedules, we might spend time with the entire letter. As we continue to journey through the COVID-19 pandemic, we find wisdom here.

John experienced friendship with Jesus first hand.  He was present at the Transfiguration.  John is the Beloved Apostle to whom Jesus gave over care of his mother, Mary.  He is the faithful disciple who writes the beautifully soaring Gospel defining Jesus as the Word that has been from the beginning and will be to the end.  We do well to spend time with this letter written directly to each of us today.

“The purpose of this letter is to combat certain false ideas, especially about Jesus, and to deepen the spiritual and social awareness of the Christian community . . . The author affirms that authentic Christian love, ethics, and faith take place only within the historical revelation and sacrifice of Jesus Christ . . . The author sets forth the striking contrasts between light and darkness, Christians and the world, and truth and error to illustrate the threats and responsibilities of Christian life.  The result is not one of theological argument but one of intense religious conviction expressed in simple truths”.  (Senior 387)

Why are we so reluctant to believe the good news that each of us has a personal invitation to be as close to Jesus as John is?  Do we cherish the idea that some of us are more special or less special to Christ?  In believing this we would be straying from the lesson Jesus teaches us.

When are we ever happy with the story of salvation?  When it is the version we have dreamed for ourselves?  In thinking this we would be missing the lesson Jesus taught us.

How will we come to grips with the fact that following Christ requires intense religious conviction?  Or are we hoping to write our own plan for salvation and telling God how we best fit into this plan for the world?  In this desire we illustrate that we have missed all that Jesus has taught us.

John reminds us in his first letter that we are Children of God, that we suffer threats and share responsibilities as Christ’s followers, and that we reap gifts beyond imagining when we allow ourselves to be one with the Mystical Christ.  These simple truths bring forth complex emotions and intense reactions.  They call us out of ourselves and into the world for others.  They carry the weight of the world yet raise us in freedom and salvation.  These simple truths are lived out for us by Christ each day and they bring us the message of our rescue from darkness that we long to hear: that Christ hears our petitions and holds them as dearly as he holds each of us. May we hold one another in Christ as we listen to and take heed of God’s simple truth.


Image from: http://pinterest.com/alinekd/god-is-cool/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.387. Print.

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Psalm 28: http://www.ehow.com/info_8087024_deserts-drive-through.htmlThe Rock

Monday, December 30, 2019

In today’s Gospel John the Baptist tells us that he went out to the desert and there he encountered God; we are reminded that we must go apart, from time to time, as Jesus did to recoup, to re-focus, to re-listen.  Even the one who heals all wounds and mends all brokenness goes off to pray for a little while.

Today’s Noontime focuses us on the origin of our strength.

To you, My Lord, I call; my Rock, do not be deaf to me.  It is in the heat of desert days that we find an unyielding foundation on which to put our feet.  Our foundation is the Rock, the Lord.

The Lord is my strength and my shield, in whom my heart trusted and found help.  It is in the chill of the desert nights that we discover we need constant protection from the buffets of the world. We find this protection in the Rock, the Lord.

If you fail to answer me, I will join those who go down to the pit.  It is in the desert extremes that we realize we are nothing, our puny resources are for naught without the Rock, the Lord.

So my heart rejoices; with my song I praise my God.  It is in the harsh, desert reality, with all resources stripped away, that we come to understand the value of our relationship with the Rock, the Lord.

Lord, you are the strength of your people, the saving refuge of your anointed king.  It is in the beauty of the desert simplicity that we come to believe that the Rock, our Lord, loves us more than we have imagined.

Rather than fear loss we must be open to its message, for although God is our constant companion we do not feel God’s true presence because we have filled our days with our own activity.

Rather than lament a world that is woefully off course, we might instead turn to the Rock, the Lord, for sustenance and hope.

Rather than funnel our energy into petty arguments and the useless struggle over power we do not even possess, we might rely instead on the Rock, the Lord, for clarity of vision and purity of intent.

Rather than hide our envy and resentment over the good fortune of others, we might look to the Rock, the Lord, for a steadfast spirit and a constant heart.

Picture1Prepare the way of the Lord, The Baptist calls out the words of the prophet Isaiah.  Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill made low.  When we journey into the desert to better hear the Lord, our way will be smoothed out for us by the Lord.  No more will we skitter down steep slopes as we travel. No more will we exhaust ourselves as we climb over the huge problems that appear before us.  The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth.  No more will we worry which way to turn and which way to go.  And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.  The Lord, our Rock, assures us of our rescue.

As we reflect and pray in this Christmastide, let us return with The Baptist to the desert, let us listen again to the familiar words of Isaiah, and let us build our permanent home on the only Rock that both rescues and sustains.  Let us wait on the Lord.

 


Adapted from a reflection first posted on December 9, 2012.

Image from: http://www.ehow.com/info_8087024_deserts-drive-through.html

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Genesis 47Willingness

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Konstantin Flavitsky: Brothers Sell Joseph into Slavery

In Genesis 45:5-8 we hear the beautiful words of forgiveness which Joseph speaks to his brothers who colluded to exterminate him . . . do not be distressed, and do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here.  It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me ahead of you . . . for you are a remnant on earth and to save your lives is an extraordinary deliverance.  So it was not really you but God who had me come here . . . Joseph understands how God’s plan arrives at benefit for all through the suffering of some.  He believes – because he has witnessed it in his own life – that God turns harm to good, envy to love.  Today we reflect on his action of interceding with Pharaoh on behalf of his brothers who sold him into slavery.  This is a message of willing obedience . . . open readiness . . . faith in goodness . . . hope in the outrageous . . . and love for the unlovable.  It is a story of fidelity in its truest sense.  Fidelity to God, to the remnant people, to self.  Joseph lives up to his true potential, to God’s best hope for and in him.

I love this story of a joy-filled child who invokes envy in his siblings, of a handsome youth who innocently stirs lust in his mistress, of a young man who continues to believe in his God despite his apparent ill luck.  I am moved by the willingness in which he lives.  I am encouraged by the honesty with which he treats not only others but himself.  I am inspired by the magnitude of his gestures, the purity of his thinking.  Joseph carries no rancor.  He is not bitter.  He refuses to be discouraged.  He rejects complicity and deception.  He is cautious and prudent; yet giving and tender.  Joseph is one of my favorite figures of Scripture.  His story is a good one; and it is one to which we ought to refer when we find ourselves in endless turmoil or deep grief.

Joseph knows how to mourn.  He knows that when he waits in God, goodness will follow on the heels of evil.  He knows how to sacrifice in honest willingness.

Joseph knows how to keep his word.  He knows how to abide in patient loving, just as God has abided with him.  He knows how to wait for fruition and fulfillment.

Joseph Bourgeois: Joseph Recognized by his Brothers

Joseph knows how to share.  He knows with a keen understanding that his success is sweetest when given back to God.  He knows that God is the source and summit of all that is good and that to hoard this goodness for himself is counter to the action of God’s mercy which he himself has experienced.

Joseph knows how to celebrate.  He knows that he cannot take credit for the goodness he experiences.  He knows that humility conquers pride and that littleness is greatness, for he sees this in the actions of God in his own life.

Joseph knows how to praise God.  He knows that even when success finally arrives, he must continue to follow God’s lead.  He knows that all that he has and all that he is belong to God alone.

Joseph waits, he witnesses, and then he acts out of his own salvation.  He allows his own conversion in God to convert others . . . and so in this way he allows his willingness to save more than himself.  He helps to save the very people who would have seen his destruction.

We might want to sit with the story of Joseph for a bit today to ponder our own willingness to enter into God’s plan . . . to examine our own willingness to intercede with Pharaoh for those who would have eliminated us, but who have begun their own conversion.


A re-post from February 14, 2012.

Images from: http://freechristimages.org/biblestories/josephs_dreams.htm and http://www.biblical-art.com/biblicalsubject.asp?id_biblicalsubject=92&pagenum=1

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Esther 1The Race of the Just

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Like Mordecai, the faithful will have a sense of impending doom.  Like Mordecai, they will discover plots against power.  Like Mordecai, the just are rewarded for their fidelity and courage.  It will be this very reward that puts them in danger; yet they be saved from destruction, tribulation and distress.  And there will always be Haman lurking behind the curtain . . . hoping to destroy the just.  When we act in and for God, we must anticipate jealousy and envy.  And we must rely on God alone to save us from annihilation.

Mordecai receives information in a dream and although he trusts this information he does not understand its deeper meaning and its long-range implication.  And so he kept it mind, and tried in every way, until night, to understand its meaning.  I am wondering how much energy we put into understanding a message we receive darkly.  I am thinking that Mordecai shows us how to remain in and with God despite intense, justified fear.

Yesterday’s Gospel also has something to teach us about fear and the race of the just.  Jesus sends out seventy-two of his disciples and instructs them: The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so . . . go on your way: behold, I am sending you like lambs among the wolves.  Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way.  Into whatever house you enter, say first, ‘Peace to this household.’  If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you”.  (Luke 10:1-9)

Jesus also sends us into the fields as laborers.  We are also sheep among wolves as was Mordecai.  I believe that we cannot stop evil, but I also believe that when we remain in and with God, we are protected in his strength and guided out of harm’s way.  We are loved beyond measure and we must learn to trust this love.  We must learn to give over to God the clawing fear that grabs at us when we feel alone in a hostile world.  We must remember to lay our turmoil in God’s capable hands when there is tribulation and distress, evil and great confusion.  We must carry our burdens – whether they be light or heavy, small or great – to the one who knows all and to the only one who can confront and even annihilate evil.

The psalmist says in Psalm 27: The Lord is my light and my help; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; before whom shall I shrink?  When evil-doers draw near to devour my flesh, it is they, my enemies and foes, who stumble and fall.  Though an enemy encamp against me even then would I trust.  It is your face, O Lord, I seek; hide not your face . . .

God has shown us his face and it is the face of Jesus.

God has rescued his people and he abides among them.

God has brought us into his eternal Spirit and he dwells within us.

The race of the just will always be saved.  Let us gather ourselves – we the lambs among wolves – and go quickly and surely to the only sanctuary there is that can withstand the darkness of evil.  Let us run to greet the newness we are granted by the one who loves us so well.  Let us find refuge in the power and presence of the one who will always save the race of the just.


A re-post from October 19, 2011.

Image from: http://bibletodaykids.com/Esther.html

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Job 40:1-5: Arguing with the Almighty – Part III

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Fresco from the Cathedral of the Annunciation depicting Job and his friends.

Ought we to argue with God?  Absolutely.  Will we receive unusual and even vague answers?  Precisely.  Is this the path to wisdom and eventual serenity?  Without a doubt.  And this brings us to the point of this reading:  when we assume a proper relationship with God, all else falls into place.  When we turn to God only, when we believe in God only, when we act through God only, then we find the peace promised to us.

In the scope of the universe, we are quite small; but even in our smallness, each of us is important to God.  We never once hear the Maker say to Job, “I will get back to you in a minute after I finish dealing with a world war, genocide in a number of places, two hurricanes and an earthquake, along with an outbreak of a dread disease and thirteen governments gone bad with corruption”.  God does not put us aside or put us on hold.  God is attentive and present all through this story.  And what we see is God’s constancy, fidelity, and willingness to listen to Job’s complaint.  We can be assured that, like Job, we send our petitions upward. Like Job, we discover that God will hear us because God is always abiding.

When the whirlwind surrounds us, we remember that this is where God speaks most clearly. When the tempest envelops us, we summon the courage and openness to hear what God has to say. When terrors overpower us, we learn how to forbear, hope, and remain faithful to the promise that God and we hold together, the promise of rescue, healing and restoration.

Tomorrow, the end of Job’s story.

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