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Titus 2:1 to 3:7In Conflict with Reality

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Titus was one of Paul’s companions during the evangelization of the island of Crete, and Paul left his young follower to administer to the churches they established there.  In this letter, Paul encourages Titus and gives him an outline for 1) how to best minister to these new communities, and 2) how to maintain the truths brought to them by Christ in the Gospel story1.  This would have been a huge task for anyone but we can guess that it was particularly tricky for Titus who would find that every action he took and every word he spoke would be in direct conflict with the reality of the times.  We might identify with this conflict between doctrines and philosophies we know to be correct, and the accepted practices and activities in our own families, communities and workplaces.  We might want to use Paul’s words to Titus as our own manual for Christian behavior.

In a reflection posted on his website for Sunday, February 05, 2012, Fr. Richard Rohr describes living life fully while at the same time accepting reality In part he writes: “Living and accepting our own reality will not feel very spiritual. It will feel like we are on the edges rather than dealing with the essence.  Thus most [human beings] run toward more esoteric and dramatic postures instead of bearing the mystery of God’s suffering and joy inside themselves. But the edges of our lives—fully experienced, suffered, and enjoyed—lead us back to the center and the essence”.

Rohr continues to explain how we must open ourselves in order to allow God to move into us, in order to allow God to act in and through us.  He makes his point clear that we do not make our own lives but rather it is our lives that form us . . . once we allow ourselves to suffer in Christ.  He writes that as we search for God, God finds us:  “We do not find our own center; it finds us. Our own mind will not be able to figure it out. Our journeys around and through our realities, or ‘circumferences,’ lead us to the core reality, where we meet both our truest self and our truest God. We do not really know what it means to be human unless we know God. And, in turn, we do not really know God except through our broken and rejoicing humanity”.  (Adapted from Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, pp. 17-19 by Richard Rohr)

As we read Paul’s message to Titus today, we hear the encouraging words that we need as well for as we move through our own reality we will want to know how to find the courage to stand tall against the thinking of the day when we know this thinking is defective.  We will want to have the hope that God will convert false realities into kingdom promises.  We will want to know where to find the faith and patience we will need, when to act with the love and justice that we will require, and how to work with others in charity . . . even those who put obstacles in our way.

Paul describes for Titus how he might guide others as they transform their own lives and their world.  Rohr reminds us that the work is difficult and that we must stand with one foot in the reality of this world and the other in the reality of God’s Kingdom . . . just as Jesus does.

We cannot allow ourselves to be discouraged from this kingdom work for it is the only work that matters.  We must rely on God, follow Christ’s model, and live in the Spirit.  So let us bear the mystery of God’s suffering and joy inside ourselves . . .for this is the only way we will be successful when we find ourselves in conflict with the reality we see around us.


1 We will want to remember that the prescription for Christian living that Paul sends to Titus was written two thousand years ago when the treatment of women and slaves as possessions was a philosophy woven through the thinking of their times.  Slaves were seen as natural possessions of their masters; women were subject to the men in their lives.  For more on slavery and Paul, see the Philemon – The Challenge  and the Titus – Church as Community pages on this blog.

A re-post from February 6, 2012.

Image from: http://travel.ninemsn.com.au/world/655272/off-the-beach-in-crete

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Colossians 1:21-27: True Wisdom

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Cathedral of St. Peter Claver in Cartagena, Colombia

Brother and sisters: You once were alienated and hostile in mind because of evil deeds; God has now reconciled you. God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (NRSV)

We sometimes read familiar verses quickly, thinking that we have felt their full impact and heard their divine wisdom. When we pause to consider singular words or phrases, and when we read varying translations, we open ourselves to their beauty and power. Last week was the feast day of St. Peter Claver when this citation was part of Morning Prayer; yet for some reason this portion of Colossians has stayed with me.

God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. (GNT)

St. Peter Claver

Peter Claver (1581-1654), born in Spain, traveled to the New World and landed in Cartagena – today located in Colombia – to begin his ministry to slaves brought to South America. Entering the holds of ships when they arrived in the harbor, Peter Claver managed the juxtaposition of wealthy slave traders with the plight of those they enslaved. Knowing that he could not possibly change the structures encouraging this lucrative trade, Claver moved forward to answer God’s call as he attended those in need. We might take a lesson from this young man who learned how to live a life of paradox. We might gain this divine, true wisdom of forgiveness, fidelity and love.

And the secret is this: the Messiah is united with you people! In that rests your hope of glory! (CJB)

Writing from jail, Paul tells the Colossians that despite his imprisonment, he is cheerful. As we read these verses, we realize that despite any evil we have committed, God forgives us when we are willing to put aside any harm we do so that we might return to God’s goodness. We understand that evil exists alongside goodness. We begin to appreciate the secret of true wisdom that brings goodness out of all harm.

The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. 

That is the substance of God’s plan. That is the substance of true Wisdom. Let us enjoy this gift today.

We can read more about the remarkable Peter Claver at: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-voices/16th-and-17th-century-ignatian-voices/st-peter-claver-sj

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Galatians 5:1: In and for Freedom

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Girl jumping with rose petals in air

In freedom we are created. For freedom we must live.

In a season of intense political turmoil in the U.S. and in other parts of the world, we might be tempted to commandeer the word freedom to use it as best suits our views. Today we have the opportunity to examination Paul’s letter to the Galatians, and to reflect on a spiritual meaning of this concept.

Freedom is what we have—Christ has set us free! Stand, then, as free people, and do not allow yourselves to become slaves again. (GNT: GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION)

We might ask: Slaves of and for what? Slaves to a way of living that bears much fruit for me and little for others? Does this freedom come with, or in spite of, the exclusion of others?

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (NRSV: NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION)

We might ask: Slaves of whom? The opinions of my neighbors? The viewpoints of my colleagues? Are we slaves to an affiliation that demands complete loyalty or one  that offers openness and inclusion?

Stand fast, and be not held again under the yoke of bondage. (DRA: DOUAY-RHEIMS AMERICAN VERSION)

We might ask: Freed by who and how? When did Christ set me free? Why? How was I previously enslaved?

So Christ has made us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get all tied up again in the chains of slavery to Jewish laws and ceremonies. (TLB: LIVING BIBLE)

We might reply: God has freely and lovingly chosen to create us out of God’s free will and ample heart.

Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. (MSG: THE MESSAGE)

We might reply: We are made in the image and likeness of God; and this gift God gives us to cherish or to squander.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (NASB: NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE)

We might reply: We must free one another from the constraints of gossip and plots.

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (KJV: KING JAMES VERSION)

We might reply: We must free one another from deceit and betrayal.

We have freedom now because Christ made us free. So stand strong. Do not change and go back into the slavery of the law. (ICB: INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN’S BIBLE)

freedomWe are creatures created in freedom by our fully-free and generous God to live a fully-free and fruit-bearing life. We must offer autonomy to others even as we are offered this same precious gift. We must live by true self-determination wherever we journey, break chains wherever we live and work, heal the wounds of bondage wherever we play and pray. For if we truly believe in freedom all the world will know, because we will offer one another this same generous and life-giving gift.

In freedom we are created. For freedom we must live.

Use the scripture link to compare other translations of this verse, or enter the word freedom into the blog search bar for more reflections.

 

 

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Wisdom 11:2-5: Special Providence in Exodus (more…)

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Jeremiah 52:12-30

Babylonian CaptivityThe End – Part II: Destruction

On the tenth day of the fifth month [this was in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon], Nebuzaradan, captain of the bodyguard, came to Jerusalem as the representative of the king of Babylon. He burned the house of the Lord, the palace of the king, and the houses of Jerusalem; every large building he destroyed with fire. And the Chaldean troops who were with the captain of the guard tore down all the walls that surrounded Jerusalem.

The city that was to shield them, the temple that was to house their God, and the walls that were to protect them . . . all of this is razed in fire and dust.

Then Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, led into exile the rest of the people left in the city, and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the artisans. But some of the country’s poor, Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, left behind as vinedressers and farmers.

Those who had led them, those who worshiped with them, those who served them . . . all of these are led away as slaves.

The bronze pillars that belonged to the house of the Lord, and the wheeled carts and the bronze sea in the house of the Lord, the Chaldeans broke into pieces; they carried away all the bronze to Babylon.

The columns that held them, the basin that bathed them, the wheels that bore them . . . all of this is taken into exile.

The captain of the guard also took Seriah, the high priest, Zephaniah, the second priest, and the three keepers of the entry. And from the city he too one courtier, a commander of soldiers, and seven men in the personal service of the king who were present in the city, and the scribe of the army commander, who mustered the people of the land, and sixty of the common people who were in the city. The captain of the guard, that surrounded Jerusalem, arrested these and brought them to the king of Babylon in Riblah, who had them struck down and put to death.

Those who those who served the king, those who held sacrifice, those who made rules, those who guarded the doors against them, those who fought and those who wrote out to orders to fight, even those who were ordinary among them . . . all of these are lead away to destruction.

Thus was Judah exiled from her land . . .

Tomorrow, Part III . . . Hope

To learn more about the Temple Sea of Bronze, visit: http://www.templesecrets.info/bronzesea.html

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012 – 1 Peter 2 – The Hostile World

imagesGod’s house is built with the lives of those who are rejected.  The world is hostile to those who frequent this house.  The theme of the rejected cornerstone is a familiar one, particularly at this time of year when we journey toward a celebration of Christ’s entrance into a hostile world.  Advent is a time when we await the one who frees all who are enslaved by a hostile world. 

In today’s Noontime, Peter speaks to slaves and women from his own culture, encouraging them to abide in their enslaved state, fulfilling their role as well as they might in their current culture.  In reading these passages, we are not to suppose that we need to return to this way of living; rather, we might focus on the fact that Peter speaks to these marginalized people and does not exclude them – just as we are to work to include those on the margins today.  Peter, like the other apostles, believed that Christ was returning soon to gather up the faithful to take them home to the Father.  Peter, like the other apostles, and we today are called to further the kingdom in the expectation that it exists and now and will always exist.  Through Peter, Christ calls us to live a life which demonstrates our constancy, our fidelity, our perseverance and our patience even in hostile surroundings.    He asks that we live as Christ . . . as Christians in a world which sees as alien and incongruent the idea that all are truly free

We will need to have compassion and forgiveness if we hope to be in the world but not of it.  We must do more than accept, we must intercede on behalf of those who do us harm . . . just as Jesus does.   Perhaps as a sign that we understand Jesus’ message of liberation, we might step forward this Advent and bring the presence of Christ to a hostile world. 

First written on March 9, 2010. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012 – Genesis 45:1-8 – Making Ourselves Known

Tissot: Joseph Greets his Brothers in Egypt

Today we continue our reflection on the story of Joseph whose brothers sold him into slavery . . . on the story of Joseph who forgives and saves these brothers in return. 

When we find ourselves in a place of power, do we react with anger or mercy?  Do we struggle to understand how to convert our dire circumstances into an opportunity to be close to God so that we might be able to see our grief as gift?  Do we look for ways to offer this gift back to the God to use as he sees best as he accompanies us in our travail ? 

Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and to us in this story, and so may we reveal ourselves to others.  Rather than sink to the easy move of wielding the power we find in our hands, we are to seek God in our suffering and pain.  In so doing, we will discover that God has converted the harm to good, the evil to joy.  We will also discover new depths in ourselves; we will find our best selves – our deepest potential.  Can we imagine offering this re-made self back to one who rejected us earlier . . . particularly when we have the power to reject as we have been rejected?  What greater love can we demonstrate than to turn away from vengeance to turn toward peace?  What greater act might we perform than to follow Christ in an act of forgiveness of others . . . especially the others who have harmed us greatly?

Joseph reveals himself to his brothers . . . and in so doing he bridges profound chasms of sorrow and loss . . . bringing joy and reunion.

God reveals himself to us and thus calls us to the possibilities dreamt for us at our inception.

When we reveal ourselves to others as Joseph did then we demonstrate that we understand the depth of our capacity to be God’s love in a world yearning for peace.

Reading this story we see that we have no choice . . . let us journey through loss to make ourselves known to the world.

First written on September 20, 2008. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Friday, September 21, 2012 – Genesis 45:1-8 – Making Ourselves Known

Konstantin Flavitsky: Brothers Sell Joseph into Slavery

The story of Joseph and his many-colored coat, his journey into slavery, his rise to power and his rescue of the Jewish nation are all familiar to us.  One of the most poignant moments in this long saga is when he reveals himself to his brothers . . . the very brothers who plotted his death and then – after the intercession of Reuben – decided to sell the younger favored brother into slavery. 

As I grew up the fourth of five children, it became clear to me that a position of favor usually brought more danger than safety.  Envy begins as a tiny seed when one of a group is seen as exceptional, beyond or above the rest.  In my quiet observation of older and younger siblings vying for attention in the family and in the world, it became clear to me that disfavor often follows hard on the heels of distinction – the presence of natural gifts and good works so often causes jealousy in others.  Tribal law too often wants to weed out dissimilarity, seeks to bring all denominators to a common lowness. 

Joseph is sold out by his brothers and arrives in Egypt as a slave.  Once there, his good looks and honest behavior bring him to the notice of a woman in search of an illicit, sexual relationship – which he rejects.  She falsely accuses him and he is imprisoned.  We see the pattern in Joseph’s life that he arrives in dark places as a result of his grace and blessings, and perhaps that is a pattern we find in our own lives.  If so, we might easily identify with this kind of life.  Do we find ourselves in places we do not seek through no fault of our own, even as we follow the voice of God? 

We might read with interest today’s citation and reflect on its meaning for us.  Joseph survives the treachery of his brothers, rises to a position of prestige and power, and when these brothers come to Egypt in search of food, Joseph does not react to their presence with anger or despair.  On the contrary, rather than mete out revenge on those who sent him into slavery, he recognizes that it was through this evil that he was sent ahead to prepare a place of refuge for his family and the entire Jewish nation.  A man coveting old wounds does not hear this wisdom, cannot see this good, does not meet evil with mercy.  Joseph, moving through and beyond his pain, welcomes his brothers to a new home.  This is the miracle of the story of Joseph: In the very moment when he has the power to retaliate with an eye for an eye, he chooses to respond with joy and compassion.

To read more about Joseph and his brothers, click on the image above or go to: http://freechristimages.org/biblestories/josephs_dreams.htm

First written on September 20, 2008. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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