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Wednesday, October 14, 2020

you are forgivenPsalm 32:1-2

Remission

Happy the one whose fault is forgiven, whose sin is blotted out; happy the one whom Yahweh accuses of no guilt, whose spirit is incapable of deceit!

Each of us knows that we are imperfect. Each day we struggle with the temptation to react in anger, to share gossip, to judge, to allow envy to take us over. And yet we also hope to stand blameless before the creator. The miracle of God’s goodness and greatness brings us this opportunity for redemption, this offer of remission.

God says: I do not want you to hide from me because you know you have been unpleasant, unhelpful or even angry with others. I do not want you to believe that the obstacles you see between you and me are insurmountable. Rather, I want you to bring your fears, your worries and your imperfections to  me. Together we will lift them. I promise to take on the heaviest of loads. There is no wrong you can describe to me that will make me shudder. My patience and forgiveness are bottomless; my love and hope are limitless; my yearning to have you close to me is unbearable. Come to me so that we can lay aside all that bothers and frightens you. 

God knows us too well to expect that we will never err. God loves too well to leave us by the wayside.

Christ loves us so well that he removes all guilt with a healing look. Christ seeks us so fervently that all blemish and all imperfection fall away with a healing touch.

No threat of guile or deceit is too much for the Spirit to transform. No rumor of sin is so enduring that the Spirit will not outlast it.

Let us put aside our fear and go to God that we might receive the gift of remission.

Tomorrow, the effects of remaining silent.


Image from: https://holycrossrumson.typepad.com/pastor/2018/08/forgive-us-our-trespasses-as-we-forgive-those.html

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Genesis 4: A Demon Lurking


Genesis 4: A Demon Lurking

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tissot: Cain Leads Abel

It is likely that we each have our own definition for sin and we may want to compare it with what we find in Genesis 4 when we hear the Creator warning Cain: Why are you so resentful and crestfallen?  If you do well, you can hold up you head; but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door; his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.

We are only a few pages into the Bible and God describes to us what sin is and how it can steal into our hearts almost without our knowing. How is it that we miss the personal implications for our own development when we hear this story?  Cain is told what sin is and is cautioned about sin.  God does not withdraw his love yet Cain seems to feel slighted and he appears to think only of himself and his own sadness; he does not celebrate Abel’s good fortune but instead takes Abel out into the fields to murder him.  The ground that Cain had tilled now becomes a killing field; and the innocent Abel dies without reproducing his own family.  As this chapter unfolds, we see that the chain of violence begun by Cain continues through his descendants and, we suppose, continues through time even to us.  Sin that has been unleashed in the world continues to be a demon lurking at the door which we have the power to master yet somehow do not.

Commentary will elucidate further for us.  Although Cain and Abel may represent nomadic versus sedentary farmers, or rival ways of life, Cain’s act of violence represents “an attack on the integrity of the family, an offense against the divinely intended order of creation expressed in the command to reproduce.  But Cain’s sin is more than a rejection of the divinely established order; in arrogating to himself the divine sovereignty over life in ending a life, Cain has repeated the sin of his parents by making himself ‘like God’.”  (Mays 887)

When we think of sin we are accustomed to feeling less worthy, less hope-filled, more culpable, more ashamed.  When we think of sin we think of turning away from God, of being self-centered and un-controlled and we forget about God’s grace and God’s love.  Rather than give ourselves an overwhelming obstacle to overcome, how much better we might fare if we focused instead on how God loves us and wants to help us.  In short, rather than fuss with ourselves about how poorly we are doing we might feel more successful if we focus instead on giving our feelings of resentment, disappointment and anger over to God.  Knowing that we may too easily succumb to the devil that prowls at the door, let us give our negativity to the one who converts it into goodness.  Let us acknowledge the negative emotions that sneak up on us, and then instead of acting on them . . . let us turn them over to God.

Sin has been described as the willful turning away from God, and in turn this means a turning away from hope.  In this season of Advent, as we prepare ourselves for the coming of the light into the darkness of the world, let us take a journey inward to uncover the Cain in each of us.  And rather than take our brother into the fields to kill him in the place where we have harvested goodness in God’s name, let us celebrate the good fortune of others . . . and turn over all resentment to God.  In this way we easily and happily turn the tables on the demon who constantly lurks at our door.


A re-post from December 4, 2011.

Image from: http://www.artfire.com/ext/shop/product_view/vintagecharming/3784014/Cain_and_Abel_1904_James_Tissot_Chromolithograph_Print/Ephemera

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 887. Print.

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Matthew 9:1-8: Gossipy Whispering

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Mathieu Ignace van Bree: Christ Heals the Paralytic

Mathieu Ignace van Bree: Christ Heals the Paralytic

Too often when we come into contact with those among us who suffer physical or mental differences, we turn away in alarm or surprise. Or worse, we give in to the temptation to whisper about someone’s condition without realizing that our behavior is clearly visible. Our gossipy whispering is audible.

Jesus teaches us a difficult lesson today.

Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why this gossipy whispering? Which do you think is simpler: to say, ‘I forgive your sins,’ or, ‘Get up and walk’?” 

We know that in ancient times – and still in some cultures today – afflictions are seen as divine punishment for sin. Jesus forgives with the authority given him by the Creator.

Jesus teaches us how to measure our compassion today.

“Get up. Take your bed and go home”.

In our hearts and minds we are grateful when we do not suffer, grateful when we walk in bounty. We also know that God’s grace blesses us with the gifts that make it possible for us to earn a living, to afford a roof, food and clothing. Although in many societies we believe that everyone is entitled to an equal opportunity, we also must know that not everyone is equally endowed.

Jesus teaches us how to heal today.

And the man did it. The crowd was awestruck, amazed and pleased that God had authorized Jesus to work among them this way.

In a world that is strangely topsy-turvy, we know that we are responsible for our response to God’s call more than we are responsible for our fame, wealth or power. Jesus calls us to put aside our gossipy whispering and invite those among us who are paralyzed in any way to join us. Jesus invites all to come together with whatever gifts we have to build the infinite and boundless kingdom.

Jesus teaches us about goodness today.

When we use the scripture link above and the drop-down menus to explore other translations of this story, we hear God’s call as healing and compassionate kingdom-builders.

To learn more about Jesus’ miracles, click on the image above or visit: http://iconsandimagery.blogspot.com/2012_10_01_archive.html  

Tomorrow, withering the fig tree. 

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jeremiah oracleFriday, October 10, 2014

Jeremiah 46-51

An Intimate Neighbor

God is the most intimate neighbor of the soul; no other power can creep so close to the heart and tangle itself so cunningly with the roots of our desire . . . Man, in other words, was made for love, the diviner part of him for divine love.  By sin is all this love dried up.  The parched and thirsty soul feels, therefore, the need of the dew of God, and rushes madly as the beasts that wander in the jungle looking for the water they cannot find . . . When I am feeling particularly the loneliness of life, perhaps the cause is that I lean too little upon God; perhaps it is that my sins will not let me feel that inward presence that is the sole real source of peace here below.  I was created for Love by love, and when by sin I act contrary to Love, my heart must necessarily feel his absence. 

This is a portion of the MAGNIFICAT Meditation for September 2 written by Father Bede Jarrett, a Dominican priest from England known for his lectures and writings on theology and spirituality.  Jarrett’s words ask us to look more deeply at Jeremiah 46 through 51, these oracles that pronounce doom against many peoples who had turned from God to become self-worshipers.  It is a litany of many ancient nations and yet today we might substitute individual names, the names of neighborhoods, sects, or communities of any kind.  We might even insert our own name into this list on days when we have gone too far into the world of darkness that so quietly, softly and persistently calls. Blessedly, we also have an intimate friend, an intimate neighbor who calls more persistently than darkness; yet we so often forgot this force for compassion and justice in the hubbub of the day and the weariness of the night.

When we feel parched and thirsty, let us depend on the dew of God’s word and learn to lean on God a little more rather than a little less. In this time of the solar year when days and nights are nearly equal in length, let us balance our lives and review this litany of those who have condemned themselves by their own actions. As we move from one season to another, let us turn to God who is our most intimate neighbor of the soul, and let us remind ourselves and one another that . . . perhaps we lean too little upon God

Adapted from a reflection written on September 7, 2010.

Cameron, Peter John, ed. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 7.9 (2010). Print.  

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jeremiah5Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Jeremiah 45

Anguish of the Heart

“Issues of messianic hope, centering on the Davidic dynasty and the Temple, were highlighted much more in the prophetic school of Isaiah. Other prophets like Amos and Micah felt more keenly about social justice. The touch of Jeremiah shows up rather in compassion and prayer as well as in fidelity to a covenant inscribed upon the heart”. (Senior RG 314-315)

Notes from The Catholic Study Bible focus on four themes found in this prophecy.

The New Covenant: “Jeremiah’s covenant was ‘new’ only to the extent that it newly emphasized what the people were neglecting. Jeremiah was not eliminating teachers and preachers . . . but it was rejecting authoritarian styles of leadership”. (Senior RG 315)

God says: In your homes and in your workplaces, take care to deal with one another in a collegial and open manner. Include all. Exclude none. Listen to the voices you may not want to hear. They bring you a “new” truth.

Sin and Atonement: “The prophet declares realistically that sin inevitably brings its own sorrow. If the people ‘went after empty idols, [then they] became empty themselves . . . In this movement from sin to suffering, Jeremiah was never far removed from the suffering of the people . . . Hope is always stirring with the barren earth”. (Senior RG 316)

God says: When you have erred, it is best to ask forgiveness. If you have not erred and still you suffer, it is best that you bring this pain to me. Joy is always a possible result of sorrow. Hope is always present for I am always with you. Particularly when your days are dark.  

Faith and Prayer: “Jeremiah is constantly laying bare the anguish of his heart . . . God never answers Jeremiah’s question but rather expects his faith to become even sturdier. Symbolically Jeremiah is admitting that things must get worse before they get better. He will still plunge ahead”. (Senior RG 316-317)

God says: Once you ask for my help I will deliver it. This is always my promise. The difficulty arises when circumstances worsen before they improve. It is impossible for you to see what I see, hear what I hear, and know what I know. My plan takes all peoples and all times into account. You must trust me when the night darkens before the dawn. Pray with me as I pray with you. Prayer is a gift we give to one another. 

heart-cloud-2True and False Prophecy: “Jeremiah defies all pat answers for determining the credentials of an authentic prophet . . . In calling the priests and temple prophets adulterers, Jeremiah is speaking metaphorically; in their ministry they have betrayed the supreme and intimate love of God. To justify their own halfhearted and wicked ways”. (Senior RG 317)

God says: Remember to test the Spirit to see from where it comes. Remember to rely on me when doubt visits you. Remember to remain constant to the covenant promise we have gifted to one another. Each obstacle you hurdle brings you closer to me. Each burden you hand over to me brings you my compassion. Each sorrow you willingly offer to me brings you hope. Listen to my prophet. And listen to your own prophetic voice that I have planted in you. Speak and share. Act and commit. You are mine and I love you still. Do not be afraid to live in me . . . for when you live in me, you give to me all the anguish of your heart.

For a Jeremiah study guide, click on the image above or go to: http://www.webquestdirect.com.au/prophets/process_activity3_group3.htm

Tomorrow . . . oracles against the nations.

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