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Posts Tagged ‘reward’


Jeremiah 31:7-14None Shall Stumble

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Marc Adamus: The Cold Journey

Jeremiah encourages the faithful to keep eyes fixed on God, to remember that God is both the source and goal of our being.  Our journey here on earth is one of working in the vineyards of the Kingdom, of witnessing to injustices committed against the marginalized, and of waiting on God’s plan in God’s time.  Jeremiah tells us that the faithful are guarded and led out of exile.  He reminds us that the remnant that was scattered is gathered up in hope and loved with passion.  The blind and the lame, mothers and those with child, those who departed in tears . . . all departed in sorrow will return in an immense throng . . . and none shall stumble.  This is the best kind of news we can hope to hear.

The daily drone of life wears down our defense against pain.  The monotony of waking each morning to hope endlessly in a better day saps our resources.  The aridity of the desert dries up the wells we frequent for refreshment. The oases are further apart; our rest stops do not sustain us as they once had.  We have difficulty celebrating the good news we know is upon us . . . and it is difficult for us to believe that none shall stumble.

When the life we have arranged for ourselves fails us we have two options: we can turn away from the pain of our suffering, or we can turn toward our grief where God waits to sweep us into waiting arms.

Richard Rohr has something to tell us about this in his book Job and the Mystery of Suffering: Spiritual Reflections (pages 54-55).

“We must go through the stages of feeling, not only in the last death of anything but also in all the earlier little deaths. If we abort these emotional stages by easy answers, all they do is take a deeper form of disguise and come out in another way. So many people learn that the hard way—by getting ulcers, by all kinds of psychosomatic diseases, depression, chronic irritability, and misdirected anger—because they refuse to let their emotions run their course, honor them consciously, or find some appropriate place to share them.

“Emotions are not right or wrong, good or bad. They are merely indicators of what is happening, and must be listened to, usually in the body. People who do not feel deeply finally do not know or love deeply either. It is the price we pay for loving. Like Job we must be willing to feel our emotions and come to grips with the mystery in our head, our heart, and our body. To be honest, that takes years”.

We live in a world of instant replay, quick solutions, smiling gurus, and impatience with suffering.  Jeremiah speaks to the faithful who understand that living well is not about covering over or covering up but of delving deep and allowing the fiery furnace of pain to refine us as we witness, work and wait.  Job understands the intensity of suffering innocently.  Rohr tells us that our pain is not a punishment but an acknowledgement of our eagerness to be one with God.  We know that the journey is long and steep . . . we know that our yearning for God means that we are remnant . . . and we know that with God . . . none of the faithful shall stumble.


A re-post from November 12, 2011.

Image from: http://www.marcadamus.com/photo.php?id=37&gallery=desert

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Genesis 43The Second Journey

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Bacchiacca: Joseph receives his brothers

Just when we think we have reached a plateau in our journey where we might walk along the flatland rather than clamber up and skitter down the mountain sides . . . we find that we have to go back to repeat a leg of our passage.  Just when we have begun to relax at the oasis where we have filled our water sacks and rested in the shade from the heat of the day . . . we are told that we must move on.  Just when we are beginning to become comfortable in the little fortress where we are hiding from our foes . . . we hear the voice that calls us to make a second journey.

Today we find ourselves in the Joseph story at the point where the brothers have returned home to Jacob to tell him that they must go back to Egypt . . . and this time they must take the favored son Benjamin with them.  Just when Jacob thought his problem of famine had been resolved . . . he is told that he must relinquish the last person who brings him comfort.  Despite his age and the litany of difficulties he has undergone, Jacob must trust God and allow himself to suffer again.  The brothers who had sold Joseph into slavery know that they must make a return trip to Egypt.  Little do they know that well-hidden secrets are about to be revealed, questions will be asked and answered, truths will be spoken.  They plan to go to Egypt to purchase food for their families.  They do not plan to encounter the brother they have delivered to slavery and death.  They do not know they are about to make a further journey.  We do not hear from Benjamin, the young boy whose full brother wields power second only to Pharaoh, but we can imagine that he feels both anxiety and excitement.  Everyone in this story will suffer.  Everyone in this story will be rewarded beyond their wildest imaginings.

I am reading a book by Richard Rohr which a friend gave to me.  In FALLING UPWARD, Rohr posits that in life each of us is given the gift of a second or further journey. “[I]n my opinion, this first-half of life task is no more than finding the starting gate.  It is merely the warm-up act, not the full journey.  It is the raft but not the shore . . . There is much evidence on several levels that there are at least two major tasks to human life.  The first task is to build a strong ‘container’ or identity; the second is to find the contents that the container was meant to hold.  The first task we take for granted as the very purpose of life, which does not mean that we do it well.  The second task, I am told, is more encountered than sought; few arrive at it with much preplanning, purpose, or passion”.   (Rohr viii and xiii)

Rohr cites W. H. Auden:  We would rather be ruined than changed.  We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the present and let our illusions die.  (Rohr 65)  And on page 73 we find this from Matthew 16:25-26: Anyone who wants to save his life must lose it.  Anyone who loses her life will find it.  What gain is there if you win the whole world and lose your very self?  What can you offer in exchange for your one life?”

Jacob believed that his sons were going to Egypt to purchase food that would save the family.  He did not know that his lost son Joseph would be their savior.  Joseph’s brothers thought they were purchasing food to save their lives . . . they did not know that they would also redeem their souls.

Just when we believe that we have convinced everyone of the reality of our illusions . . . we are given the opportunity to leave our comfort zone and enter the second half of our lives.  We are blessed with the gift of seeing clearly that we are created to love honestly and suffer well.  We are created to take the second journey of our lives . . . the journey that promises far more than suffering . . . the further journey that brings us more reward than we can ever imagine.


Rohr, Richard. FALLING UPWARD: A SPIRITUALITY FOR THE TWO HALVES OF LIFE. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print.

The painting above is housed at the UK National Gallery.  To see more detail, click on the image and follow the link.  A spy glass on the museum site will allow you to see detail by zeroing in.   You will also find a link to other scenes from the life of Joseph which may interest you. 

A re-post from August 16, 2011.

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Pieter Lastman: Ruth Declares her Loyalty to Naomi

Pieter Lastman: Ruth Declares her Loyalty to Naomi

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Ruth 1:19-22

Return to Bethlehem

A Reprise

The story of Ruth is a tale of fidelity, self-sacrifice, moral integrity, faith, and divine reward for piety.  The people we read about today are in Jesus’ family tree and as always, with God, the message is clear when we look and listen: If something is bound to happen, no one can intervene, and if something is not going to happen, no one can cause it to happen . . . except God.  God is in charge.

This story shows the proper covenant relationship between the Creator and the created. God is always present – yet in the background.  We who are made in God’s image are called to act as God does, with fidelity, compassion and persistence. We see God take action through people who respond to his call and in this way God’s actions are mediated by his people.

This story shows how tragedy can be transformed when we allow ourselves to serve as conduits for God’s love to a waiting world.  It also shows how God is actualized in the lives of the faithful.  Scholars point out that the story of Ruth is very much a story of Judges in reverse. She is a woman from a pagan nation whose people battled against Israel but Ruth forsakes her little gods of Moab to faithfully serve the Living God, Yahweh.  Matthew includes Ruth in Jesus’ genealogy to remind us that God’s ultimate plan is to include diverse nations in his family tree.  Ruth is in many ways what Israel was called to be. And she is also what we are called to be.  Faithful, trusting, persistent, loving, and always returning home.

Ruth and Naomi return to Bethlehem at the start of the barley harvest – a harvest that plays an important part in the story that is unfolding – and the town celebrates this return. Recalling that women without men were less valuable than animals in these ancient times, we can only be in awe of their courage in the face of tragedy, their obedience in the face of impossibility, and their trust in the face of overwhelming odds. Ruth and Naomi return to Bethlehem, and in so doing they return to God. As we pause in our Jeremiah journey, let us consider the value of this homecoming.

Adapted from a reflection written on August 14, 2007.

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