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Posts Tagged ‘salvation’


Friday, January 10, 2020

Jeremiah 20: Being Duped by God

You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me and you triumphed.

46564700-1246927298[1]Jeremiah is a frequent companion on our Noontime journey and today’s theme is one we have visited often: Sometimes our great fall comes as a direct result of doing precisely what God has asked us to do.  Sometimes we are duped by God.

The interior crisis – the situation in which he hope to never find ourselves – is something we all work diligently to avoid . . . and we ought not.  It is, in fact, the very reason we are here on earth.  It is our personal work.  It is the way we arrive at our highest potential.

The places within – the ones we avoid – are the places we must approach with candor and even eagerness.  They are our “working edge”.  They are our labs, our quizzes, our tests.  They are our final exam.

The interior self whom we avoid – the part of ourselves that we shun – is the very place where God dwells.  He is there waiting for us with open joy, celebrating with us that we have had the courage to take the scales from our eyes, the mask from our face, the blinders from our perspective.

God is always anticipating our arrival; God is always on the other side of the door we refuse to approach.  God is calling out to us to knock and enter.  God is waiting there patiently, always abiding.  God is our goal in all things and at all times.  There is nothing else that matters.  No other work.  No other cause.  No other person.  This is what Jesus means when he says that the dead will bury the dead.  (Matthew 8:22)  There is no thing and no one who ought to stand between us and God.  And we will surely find God when we open the dark part of ourselves to allow God’s light into the dim corners.

Each of us has “a shadow self”, the person whom we fasten away, hoping to keep shut in from ourselves and from the world.  Much like Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, each of us has a lunatic spouse we keep locked in the north tower . . . and if the metaphor holds we can see the destruction that will arrive if we try to keep that door bolted.

Suffering follows once we open the lock . . . but so does restoration.  This is the message of the prophet Jeremiah.  It is the message of St. Paul.  If we avoid the work we are called to do with and for ourselves, we avoid our personal mission.

Does God dupe us?  Yes, God does.  Why?  Because God loves us, wants us to face our fears while relying on Christ, and God wants us to trust the saving newness of the resurrection that Jesus brings to us without our even asking.

You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me and you triumphed.

When we lock ourselves away with our fears, we have no other recourse but to listen. If we open ourselves to listening to God’s voice, we have the opportunity to respond.  And once we respond, we take our first steps toward reconciliation, conversion, and salvation.

God is in charge.  There is an Economy of Salvation.  There are no mistakes in God’s plan . . . only opportunities for God’s love to triumph.

Tomorrow . . . a Prayer for those who are willing to be duped . . .


Image from: https://www.turbosquid.com/FullPreview/Index.cfm/ID/223193

First written on January 17, 2008, re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Isaiah 36-39: Crucial Link

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Climbing Snap Link

Climbing Snap Link

Commentary informs us that although these few chapters may appear to be a tangential appendix to the prophecy of Isaiah, they in fact turn out to be “a crucial link for the survival of the Isaiah tradition and its extraordinary development”.  This portion of Isaiah binds the prophecy to the original Deuteronomic Tradition – an interpretation developed in the north rather than in Jerusalem – and it focuses more on the Mosaic covenant than the Davidic dynasty and promise.  We can see how this split in thinking might have accompanied the physical rift between the northern and southern tribes.  Judah and Israel had their differences; they focused on separate symbols, developed divergent theories, and went their separate ways.  This small, apparently insignificant addition to Isaiah, which at first glance might be overlooked, does in fact give us a message we will want to hear: Salvation is universal, salvation pertains to the Gentile peoples as well as to the Jews, salvation is ours.  (Senior RG 294)

We have centuries of theory, worship and belief to mine when we open scripture and today is no exception.  In today’s Noontime we are called to look at not just a crucial link in tradition but in ourselves as well.  We are asked: What do we know?  How do we know it?  What do we believe?  Why do we believe it? What do we do to enact our belief?  How do we retain our own crucial link?

Once we begin to examine our traditions and the relationships we value, we will need to further examine what feeds and sustains us.  How do we nourish our spiritual selves?  Where do we look for sturdy places to attach our hearts to something safe and secure?  Whom do we trust as we develop our value set? 

Inevitably in each human life we come to a point of self-recognition.  Some of us manage to stay away from the bright mirror of ourselves as we journey.  Others of us seem to beat ourselves with every small flaw we glimpse in our reflection from the sharp glass of life. Inescapably – sooner or later – we are confronted with what we have forged.  We see what we have done with the gifts we have been given.  We understand that we are us and God is God . . . and that our link to God is crucial.  Our attachment to God must be full and final.  Our love of God must supersede all else . . . just as Christ’s love for us overcomes and overpowers all that would draw us into our narcissistic staring at our imagined self-image.

And so we make this our Christmas prayer today . . .

As New Testament people we believe that our salvation comes to us through Christ.  Isaiah predicts this guarantee.  Jesus fulfills this prediction.

As New Testament followers we understand that the darkness will always be pierced by the light.  Isaiah foretells this.  Christ fulfills this foretelling.

As New Testament disciples we know that the work of those who carry a belief in Jesus as savior will never be easy.  Isaiah forewarns us of this.  Jesus explains this to us.

As New Testament Children of God we cling to this crucial link who is Christ, God Among Us, Emmanuel, the Light in the Darkness, the Promise of all for all.  Isaiah tells us of the immense love which forms this crucial link.  Jesus comes to assure us of God’s love for each of his children.  Jesus binds us to himself and to the Father forever . . . so let us take hold of this crucial bond and clasp it to our hearts forever.  Amen.


Adapted from a reflection written on December 8, 2012. 

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Romans 4: Faith

Monday, December 16, 2019

Yesterday we reflected on Nicanor, a man who trusted in himself above all else; today we reflect on Abraham, a man who trusted in God above all else.  St. Paul tells us that Abraham is justified – saved – by this great faith he holds in God the Father.

Notes will tell us that this chapter is an expansion of a themes Paul also hit when writing to the Galatians in Chapter 3 of that letter: O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?  I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard? Are you so stupid?  After beginning with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?  Did you experience so many things in vain? – if indeed it was in vain. 

Paul continues in his iteration of how Abraham came to believe, and how Abraham held to his belief that God is present, compassionate and supreme.  Today in Romans, he speaks again of how the Law of Moses is empty without faith in Christ.  The Law – even if followed to the letter – cannot bring us the deep, comforting and always-present knowledge that we are the well-loved children of God.  The Law – even with all its intricacies – has nothing to offer us except when seen as fulfilled in Christ.

Jesus is our brother; he is God who walks among us still.  Given the testimony of so many witnesses at the time of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, and given our own testimony of miracles worked in us today – how can we fail to believe that the Spirit continues to comfort, the Son continues to save, and that the Father continues to love us?  Using the example of Abraham, this is the question Paul put before the Galatians two thousand years ago; it is the question he puts before us today.   Are we so stupid that we do not believe the evidence we have even in our own lives that Jesus lives, the Spirit abides, and God protects and calls?  Abraham acted on his deep, abiding faith, and so may we.

Let us pray . . .

He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body already dead . . . and neither must we weaken.

He did not doubt God’s promise in unbelief . . . and neither must we doubt.

He was fully convinced that what God had promised to do he would do . . . and so must we be convinced. 

He was empowered by faith and gave glory to God . . . and so must we.  Even when we go through dry times, even when we go through pain, even when we have become exhausted from the race . . . we must abide in faith . . . for there is no other salvation or justification. 

In this week when we celebrate the light of Christmas and the joy of faith – whether we are alone, whether we gather we loved ones or strangers – let us acknowledge that we have been redeemed, and let us lay our weariness and woes at the feet of the only one who can bring us the serenity and joy we seek.  Let us give all back to God in the belief that we are loved, that we are treasured, and that we have been saved in order to live in and with God.   We ask this in faith, Amen. 


Image from: http://kehilath-haderekh-benzi.blogspot.com/?view=flipcard

An adapted re-post first written on November 25, 2010, and posted today as a Favorite.

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Hebrews 7: Melchizedek

Monday, December 2, 2019

Reubens: The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek

The writer of this letter tells us today that with the arrival of one such as Jesus the old way of living in doubt and fear is ended.  From the resurrection forward we live by a new order, a new covenant, a new intercession.  Jesus has arrived to liberate all – no matter creed or race or origin.  Jesus supersedes all – no matter nationality or ethnicity or orientation.  Jesus fulfills all – no matter doubt or rejection or fear.  This is wonderful news for us for it means that all that is good that we might possibly hope for is now guaranteed to each of us – and this promise is foreshadowed in humanity’s earliest stories.

From the CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE: “Why is so much attention paid to a figure who appears only twice in Scripture?  Because both appearances point toward Christ.  In Genesis 14,7-20, Melchizedek is named a priest of God [although he was a Gentile!], whom even Abraham acknowledged.  Logically, then, a priest descended from him would be superior to one descended from Abraham!  And Melchizedek’s second scriptural appearance is in verse 4 of that very Psalm 110 which Christians regarded as a literal prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection.  Melchizedek’s being ‘without beginning or end’ (because Scripture records neither his birth nor his death) is therefore an anticipation of the Son of God whose priesthood is eternally valid; conversely, Jesus is a priest ‘according to the order (rank) of Melchizedek’ (Ps 110,4).  In his resurrection, Jesus became priest “by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed” (7,16).  He ‘remains forever’ (7,24).  His sacrifice is ‘once for all’ (7,27). He ‘lives forever to make intercession’ (7,25).  The Jewish priesthood descended from Abraham cannot compete.  God’s revelation in Jesus does not merely continue the former story, it raises it to a new plane.  Jesus’ death and resurrection mark an absolute beginning”. (Senior RG 545)

Melchizedek comes to us as a unique figure; we know so little about him and yet he holds so much importance.  In a way, he mirrors many of us.  History will record little about us and yet we each make an important contribution to the collective human story.  Many will argue that we are far different from Melchizedek in that he was a priest and we are not.  Yet others will reply that each of us – as followers of Christ – has the potential to sanctify, to bless and anoint.

This reflection does not present a theological argument but rather it posits a thought for us to mull and turn over.  What do we know about Melchizedek?  What does his relationship with Abraham and Jesus have to say to us today?  How will our lives – and the lives of those we touch each day – improve as a result of our reflection on this mysterious man from the distant past?  What and whom do we sanctify with our belief in the Living God?  Why and when do we make our relationships holy – even with our enemies?  How and why do we bless and anoint others with our words and actions?

What does the man Melchizedek mean to us today?  And how do we show the world what we have learned from him?


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. RG 545. Print.   

A re-post from November 11, 2012.

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GalatiansLove, Faith and Works

Monday, January 14, 2019

We have reflected frequently on this letter perhaps because its brevity draws us in.  This Noontime is a revision of something we shared in May 2009.  We offer it to you today.

Paul writes to the Galatians to remind them of the reason for their initial conversion . . . the love of Christ.  Interlopers were undermining the Gospel he had preached to them and the people of Galatia had begun to waver.  This is a scenario we live again today.  We know the truths that we have heard, but when the world intervenes with its own gospel we become confused.  We forget the initial message that . . . we are saved through grace brought by Christ’s death and resurrection, not by the Law This was surprising news to the Jewish structure in Paul’s day.  It sometimes surprises us today.

We constantly and loudly hear two compelling philosophies.  It is much easier, we tell ourselves, to do well if we are just told what to do and then we do it.  It is much easier, we tell ourselves, if we can just interpret the law as we like and then we can do what we like.

These modes of thinking are reflected in our polarized political and social world.  The two ends of the spectrum on which we live pull and push at one another until the middle is either squeezed to death or has the life pulled out of it.  There is no predictable place to stand.  It is this problem that instigates Paul’s letter to the Galatians; and we can take advice from his thinking today as he reminds us that because Christ is mystery only Christ can show us the way to salvation and how to live the mystery of life.  Only Christ can model how to live the Law, because he is the Law.

As this letter opens, Paul chides us for being so quickly led astray by the world; then he reminds us that there is only one true model to follow, Jesus.  Reading further into this letter we read that we might be saved by our faith.  Various protesting Christian sects stand on the premise that faith alone saves us.  We know that this is not true because it is faith as displayed by the sacrificial love of Christ that brings us home.  Our faith must be accompanied by works because . . . Jesus is love, and if we have faith, our works must be love.  If we have one without the other we lack integrity.  When we try to live a life in which we split ourselves and allow our actions to differ widely from what we say we believe, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14, we are the gong clanging loudly signifying nothing.

Paul closes the letter with another reminder that the Galatians – and we – must return to our initial desire to follow Christ, for there is no other road to salvation.  We may surround ourselves with friends who help us create the illusion that this world answers all our needs if we can only amass enough money, fame or comfort; yet somewhere deep inside, we know that there is more.

When I feel both squeezed and pulled apart by the world, I know that it is time to return to this letter.  I look for verse 3:1: O stupid Galatians!  Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?  I re-read verse 1:6: I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you by [the] grace of Christ for a different gospel.  I look again at 5:7: You were running so well; who hindered you from following [the] truth.  I meditate on verses 2-5: Bear one another’s burdens, and so you fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deluding himself.  Each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason to boast with regard to someone else; for each will bear his own load. 

But in a world which constantly, and with expert ways, calls us away from Christ, it is with Galatians 6:9 that we will want to spend a good amount of time: Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up.


A re-post from January 14, 2012.

Image from: http://www.66clouds.com/new_testament.html

For more on this letter, see the Magnanimity page of A Book of Our Life on this blog. 

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Galatians 2:15-21God’s Mercy

Monday, October 22, 2018

Paul’s argument in this letter is that a man does not have to submit himself to circumcision in order to follow Christ; Christ is the fulfillment of the old law and is therefore not subject to it. Christ is, in fact, its full human embodiment.  How silly we are, Paul says, to believe that The Law is more important than Christ – God’s presence among us, as one of us.  In Paul’s view the Galatians have missed the big picture.  We are saved by Christ . . . and not the Law.

We have spent time reflecting on this in a number of our Noontimes, thinking about how we are frequently caught up in following the letter of the law and completely missing its intended purpose.  Neglecting the spirit of the law in order to adhere to the permutations we have created with it is a stumbling block to living a life of justification or salvationIn short, we are missing the forest by focusing on the trees.

We worry about the future and fret over the past.  We are anxious about people and plans in the weeks and months to come; we harbor anger and guilt about offenses we or others have committed long years ago.  We carry all of this weighty negativity with us and stagger through the present – missing the joy that God has posted along the way for us.  We seem intent on suffering, and doing it badly.

In a letter to Titus, Paul writes: When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit, who he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.  (Titus 3:4-7)

With the letter of the law, we can become hyper-vigilant, struggling to maintain a safe distance from even the suggestion that we may break an order.

With the spirit of the law, we are free to explore new ways of serving God, free to express our emotions and to dialog with our creator.

With the Law, there is an immutable permanence and state of stasis that can deaden the soul.

With the Spirit, there is limitless compassion that heals, soothes, restores and replenishes the soul.

When we are intent on following the rules there is a paring down that takes place, a closing off of possibility, a temptation to finagle and maneuver.

When we are intent on following God, there is an opening up, a flourishing, a limitless opportunity for new beginnings.

With rules, we count our near occasions of sin and the number of times we have failed.

With God, we look for occasions to serve and opportunities to follow Jesus.

When we find ourselves looking for loopholes and excuses, we know we have strayed too far from Christ.  When we hear ourselves walking fine lines and arguing small points, we know we have wandered too far from the creator.  When we see ourselves safely hidden in our comfort zone fortresses rather than stepping into the unknown to witness and build up the Kingdom, we know that we have somehow forgotten that we are well-loved and ever-protected.

Paul speaks to the Galatians and he speaks to us, encouraging each of us to step into our lives with full confidence and gentle fearlessness.  He urges us to be led by the Spirit rather than be stifled by the law.  And he reminds us that God welcomes the sinner eagerly . . . for God has endless and abundant mercy.


A re-post from September 19, 2011.

Images from: http://www.biblechef.com/Indexes/Artifacts/JewishTorahSheet.html

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Romans 10: Disobedient and Contentious People

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

With this Favorite from November 17, 2010, we take a final look at Jesus as the Life we wish to live.

Paul explains here that faith has a way of saving us in a way that the Mosaic Law does not . . . and never will.  It is impossible to reach heaven or to be one with God if we live a life full of checklists that attend to the duties prescribed by a structure.  It is equally impossible to not be saved if we live our lives in Christ . . . if we live a life of acting according the Law of Love . . . even when this Law puts us in danger.

Footnotes explain the references to Old Testament verses, and they also remind us that to speak as Paul does here – or to tell and enact the Gospel story as Paul reminds us we are asked to do – often put us in danger.

In the first century, and in certain parts of the world today, being Christian brings exclusion from the wider society and even the death penalty.  We will need to rely on Christ once we respond to the call to tell the story of salvation.

Among many cliques and groups both now and in Paul’s day, living a life of faith brings scorn and derision.  We will need to rely on Christ once we commit to living a life of fidelity to Jesus’ Way.

In families, work places, schools, and any places where we humans gather, living a life of merciful justice and open trust brings ridicule and disdain.  We will need to rely on Christ once we live as fully in him as he asks.

Paul warns us about all of this today.  The easy, comfortable life spent in and for itself must fall away.  The disciplined life of service that we are called to live is not appealing to rebellious and difficult people. And so we have this clear choice before us: to opt for contention and disobedience, or to choose freedom and salvation in Christ.


Image from: http://lwccyork.com/blog/series/this-is-the-way-of-jesus/ 

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Matthew 3: Seek Newness

Sunday, November 26, 2017

As we prepare for the Advent season . . .

In becoming human, Jesus shows us that our humanity is not an obstacle to our communion with God, but rather the only path to our divine destiny . . . If my heart is not begging, “Come, Lord Jesus” in my ordinary life today, then I cannot pretend I would have recognized him when he first came, and I cannot expect truly to welcome him at is glorious return.  That is why the church gives us this season of Advent, to recognize the longing in our hearts for a salvation which we cannot give ourselves, but for which we can beg today and for ever, “Come, Lord Jesus”.  Fr. Richard Veras, November 28, 2010, THE MAGNIFICAT ADVENT COMPANION (17)

What is this newness that is ours in our humanity?

What is this divinity we have been gifted as part of our destiny?

What is this fulfillment of salvation that we cannot give ourselves?

Today our Noontime takes us to the proclamation of the new kingdom, the baptism of Jesus, and God’s announcement that he is well pleased with the beloved son.

Today we have the opportunity to think about our own place in the divine plan as a human creature.

We have the opportunity to open ourselves to the newness of the season and the cyclic beginning again of a calendar year.

We have the opportunity to make ourselves ready – as Jesus made himself ready – for the days ahead.

Let us heed the words we hear in today’s Gospel . . . So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come (Matthew 24:44) .

We will want to receive this newness that brings hope – Come, Lord Jesus.

We will want to be open to this healing that mends mortal wounds – Come, Lord Jesus.

We will want to experience this divinity that manifests in the obstacles of our humanity Come, Lord Jesus. 

And we will want to be awake and ready for the salvation with which we have been graced, the peace and serenity that are our heritage – Come, Lord Jesus . . . and fulfill this longing in our hearts . . .

Written on November 28, 2010.

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2 Chronicles 20Invasion

Jehoshaphat Defeats Moab and Ammon

Friday, September 29, 2017

A Favorite from September 24, 2009.

There are so many ways to invade, so many ways to be invaded.  None of us is impervious to others, no matter how thick or high we build walls.  And once we are pierced, once we lose what we believe to be our identity or our footing, we will need both a strong foundation to stand and recovery strategies.  Jehoshaphat today shows us what to do when even what is rightfully ours is taken away or ruined.

They rose early in the morning . . .

Oh how many times do I wish that my day did not begin before the sun rises; yet this early rising gives me the quiet edge I need to pray and reflect . . . and to begin well.

They went out into the wilderness . . .

Oh how I wish that I were not so often alone with such little sustenance; yet this leaving behind of all comfort gives me the proper feeling of dependence on God . . . a trusting child before a loving parent.

Believe in the Lord your God and you will be established . . .

Countless times do I pray the Creed – I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth . . .; yet still I need the encouragement from God to trust God’s plan.

Believe his prophets . . .

Countless times do we hear prophetic words and want to turn away from them because they call us to a place of discomfort; yet we follow for we know that there is no other Way to the eternal.

Give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast love endures forever . . .

Endlessly do we praise God for his careful providence in healing our willful ways and waywardness.

And the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around . . .

Endlessly do we shelter from the violent storm beneath the altar of sacrifice for our God . . . and after the violence has passed . . . we rise again to find that we have weathered the invasion . . . and that we are saved.

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