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Posts Tagged ‘Spirit’


Sirach 30:14-25: Health of Body and Soul

Saturday, November 23, 2019

There are so many ways to be joyful, and the list which Jesus Ben Sirach imparts to us today is worthy of our time.  I like the way the writer juxtaposes bitterness with joy, cheerfulness with brooding, courage with resentment, good health with a wasted frame.  Verse 20 is particularly interesting as we may know people who are determined to be sad.  Verse 25 is also fun – especially when we look ahead at 31:12-31 and 32:1-13, table etiquette.

Cheerful hospitality is a hallmark of Gospel living.  Offering of hearth and family are a sign of our willingness to be open and vulnerable to God through those whom he sends to enter our homes and our sacred places of the heart.  For the hearth of the family and the heart of the individual – these are the places where God dwells, where the Holy Spirit abides . . . and it is for this reason that we must seek composure of the heart.

Contentment of spirit, writes Sirach, better this than precious coral.

God wants us to be happy and to revel in our happiness.  God wishes us well, urges us to live cheerfully, to let him take on our worries and anxieties.  Through discipline, through doing well and doing right, through acting with mercy and justice . . . this is how we reach true contentment, true softening . . . and composure of the heart. 

The words of Sirach remind us well of this.


Written on January 23, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://moochuk.com/index.php?showimage=328

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Psalm 30:6: At night there are tears, but joy comes with the dawn.  

The darkness of night seems to magnify our fears; demons multiply when shadows fall.  The morning light dispels our aches, pains and fears.  If only we might live constantly in those moments of first light.

God says: I understand why you fear the darkness; it is where the wicked spend their time.  I appreciate how much you love the light and how hard you work to bring light into the darkness.  Jesus comes to you each day in both obvious and subtle ways to replenish and nourish the energy that drains as you struggle with your dark hours.  My Spirit abides with you endlessly to lift you when you are down, to animate you when you are discouraged.  I defend, protect, call and unite you.  The darkness is empty and hollow . . . and has no power over you. Live in me and you will have the light with you always.  With me joy abides. In me the Spirit lives.  For me Jesus saves.  Come . . . and remain in me.

It is possible to live in the light even though we are surrounded by darkness.

For more reflections about dispelling the dark, type the word Light in the blog search box and see where the light leads you.  Click on the image above to read a story about two brothers and the lesson that the “first light” brought to them. 


A re-post from August 30, 2012.

Image from: http://nandini-j.blogspot.com/2012/01/two-brothers-chinese-story-on-respect.html

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Friday, September 20, 2019

1 Corinthians 2:10: The Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.

When a political, social or religious structure prohibits us from asking questions we need to be wary.

When friends, relatives or colleagues tell us to keep secrets we must not go along with the group.

When we are tempted to conceal truth, to fog reality or look the other way we are obliged to seek clarity and advocate for openness.

God says: Do not be afraid to scrutinize your surroundings; honest questions bring you to the truth.  Many will attempt to keep you far from me and away from the light but I can and do permeate all space.  I am present in all times.  I penetrate closed doors and I enter hard hearts. I soften stiff necks and I convert the most twisted sinner.  So do not fear inquiry; it becomes you.  Do not be afraid to allow your doubts to generate questions that will free you from fear.  I am open to each of you.  I have told you who I am and how I am.  I know all about you for I have created you in my image.  Scrutinize everything, even me.  I long to hold you within my own heart.

For more reflections, type the word Ask God or Asking God into the blog search box to see where the Spirit leads you.


A re-post from August 28, 2012.

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2 Maccabees 1 and 2: The Ark Hidden During Captivity

Second Sunday of Easter, April 28, 2019

The Ark of the Covenant

Written on July 19, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

The HARPERCOLLINS COMMENTARY gives a wonderful exegesis of all four books of the Maccabees, but today we look at just these first 2 chapters of 2 Maccabees which the Douay Version refers to as the incident of the hidden temple fire or as “The Hidden Ark during the Captivity”.  All of this sets me to thinking about the wonder of our creation, about the mystery of our personal and collective evolution, and about how and when we go into captivity . . . how and when we return from exile.

We all experience captivity.  Some say that life here on earth is nothing more than that – an exile, a place of suffering and pain.  Optimists see life as a series of experiences, gifts, blessings and celebrations.  Still others see life as a combination of many opposites, dichotomies, bifurcations and amalgamations.  From any of these perspectives, when we look honestly and carefully, we see that each life has its own Captivity with its own Ark in which reposes the Fire of the Spirit.  This fire is the very breath of God at our creation, the mission for which we are destined, the karma for which we are to live, the potential gift God offers to the world as an act of love.  And when we are led away into captivity, all of this is held hidden for a time to be called forth at a precise moment.

Recently I have come to understand that Captivity is not all bad.  It can be a time of suffering and separateness, and it can also be a time of forced retreat, a time of letting go and giving over to God, a time of healing and restoration.  Taken this way, we understand that exile is a time to be hidden, to be held confined for a time away from something we have thought we desired, to be held safely just long enough that we reach the precise point in our pilgrimage where we see something clearly for the first time.  Captivity of the Spirit endures long enough for us to cease thrashing against the world and against ourselves.  It lasts to the precise tipping point at which we jettison all that has pained us . . . because there is nothing else to do.

And all the while that we have been apart and away, the spark of our creation has burned as brightly as ever even though it appears – as we read today in Maccabees – to be mud and water.  Nothing has diminished; rather, all has been clarified, magnified.  All that was captive and hidden now glorifies God more than before.  Imagine our surprise when we, like the Jews who rededicated their temple, lay the tinder to offer holocausts to our God and we realize that we have ignited the offering with the mud from the hidden place of our exile.  Suddenly we see our captivity as gift rather than punishment.

There is a need from time to time to go into exile, to find the place that is to remain unknown and to hide away in this secret place the tent and tabernacle, the altar of incense and fire, and the ark.  We are meant to block this place off and to seal it up so that the hidden spirit and temple fire might be rediscovered when God calls it forth.  And this tabernacle, with its sacred fire appearing as mud, is meant to be reopened and rededicated.

We have learned to fear captivity and the restriction it symbolizes.  How much better we will be when we come to see it as a quiet time in which the living fire of our soul learns to rekindle in God.  Like the people in today’s reading, once we begin to look for resurrection in loss, we will be amazed that the fire of our spirit comes forth from the mud and we will see as gift what we thought to be punishment.  We will marvel that God again resides in the Ark of our lives and we will finally come to understand . . . that he was never truly gone.


A re-post from Easter Week 2012.

Image from: http://www.mishkanministries.org/theark.php

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

Tomorrow we will reflect on Captivity Ended

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Acts 6Into the Maelstrom

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

St. Stephen

This reading may strike home for many of us today.  Our work is going well.  So well, in fact, that it is clear that more workers are needed.  The call goes out, workers are vetted and taken in . . . and then the grumbling begins.  Camps and sides form quickly.  The Old Guard feels the need to protect certain traditions and practices against the ideas of the Newcomers.  The newest workers push against the reactions of the old timers.  Protocols and policies change.  There is discontent.  We divide ourselves into factions or sects.  We either protect what we know or we tear down what we believe to be stale.  The story we read today teaches us how to behave when we enter the maelstrom.

Footnotes help us to understand the different factions.  “The Hellenists were not necessarily Jews from the diaspora, but were more probably Palestinian Jews who spoke only Greek.  The Hebrews were Palestinian Jews who spoke Hebrew or Aramaic and who may also have spoken Greek.  Both groups belong to the Jerusalem Christian community.  The conflict between them leads to a restructuring of the community that will better serve the community’s needs. The real purpose of the whole episode, however, is to introduce Stephen as a prominent figure in the community whose long speech and martyrdom will be recounted in ch. 7”. (Senior 193)

We notice almost immediately that jealousy brews against Stephen and commentary further helps us to understand the further implications of the conflict we hear today.  “The charges that Stephen depreciated the importance of the temple and the Mosaic law and elevated Jesus to a stature above Moses (6, 13-14) were in fact true.  Before the Sanhedrin, no defense against them was possible.  With Stephen, who thus perceived the fuller implications of the teachings of Jesus, the differences between Judaism and Christianity began to appear.  Luke’s account of Stephen’s martyrdom and its aftermath shows how the major impetus behind the Christian movement passed from Jerusalem, where the temple and law prevailed, to Antioch in Syria, where these influences were less pressing”.  (Senior 193)

Verse 10 tells us all: They could not withstand the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke. 

I am thinking of an article I read just last night of a similar conflict in the National Catholic reporter.  Written by Tom Roberts and entitled, “Seismic shifts reshape US Catholicism,” it investigates the inevitability of change that happens when humans form a community.  Liberals find that the change taking place is happening too slowly.  Conservatives believe that the change they see happening must be halted.  Moderates find themselves squeezed between these two inexorable forces.  The conflict will ebb and flow with the natural social, political and fiscal movements and everyone begins to gather their own opinions in defense of a stance.  Tensions ratchet upward.  Wisdom and the Spirit – rather than clearing the air – are shoved into oblivion and the inevitable explosion takes place.  As Christians, rather than succumb to the temptation to splinter into groups we must find a way to come together.

When we read this story in Acts we have the opportunity to look at ourselves to see how we fit into God’s plan for the world today.  When we read the story in Acts we have the chance to examine how we witness to Jesus today.  When we read the story in Acts we are called to examine how we allow Wisdom and the Spirit to influence our daily interactions with others.

When we are called to speak as Stephen speaks we must also be prepared to disappear into the maelstrom that will follow.

When we hear another speak as Stephen speaks we must be prepared to be open to the voice of Wisdom and the power of the Spirit.

When we enter the place where a conflict is raging we are called to witness as Christians must . . . with grace, and mercy, and wisdom . . . and always in the Spirit of God.


A re-post from January 22, 2012.

Image from: http://frbenedict.blogspot.com/2010_12_01_archive.html 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.193. Print.

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Ezra 6Rebuilding

Friday, September 14, 2018

Written on January 8 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

The house is to be rebuilt . . .  

We are so often exhausted by life’s demands that we cannot experience joy when we hear good news . . . the house is to be rebuilt.

In today’s Noontime, King Darius reiterates the original command given by King Cyrus . . . the house is to be rebuilt.  Nehemiah, the administrator, and Ezra, the priest, set about restoring the city and temple in Jerusalem.  They travel through dangerous territory and carry with them a letter of safe-passage from their former enemy.  They arrive in Jerusalem to find a pile of rubble so dense that horses cannot find a pathway – they must pick their way on foot through toppled stone.  They return from exile most likely drained of energy . . . but there is hope and even joy because . . . the house is to be rebuilt.

I am struck by the concordance of the instructions in the decree we read today with the original description of the temple that Solomon built which we read in 1 Kings 7.  God does not forget his promise to the Jewish nation that . . . the house is to be rebuilt.

Nor does God forget all that he has promised us, his daughters and his sons.  Just like the destroyed temple, we too will be rebuilt and in fact are being rebuilt each day.  We are the temple in which the Spirit dwells, and as the cares of the world tear at its pillars and nibble at is foundation, Jesus becomes the master planner who constantly offers to help us reconstruct.  His constant attention and love remind us that . . . the house is to be rebuilt.

I am thinking of Psalms 126 and 127.  Those who go out weeping return singing . . . we labor in vain unless the Lord is the master builder of our house.

Whatever our flaws, whatever our sorrows, all will be converted to joy for we are promised that . . . the house is to be rebuilt.

Whatever our obstacles, whatever our fears, they become our stepping stones to serenity once we remember that . . . the house is to be rebuilt. 


A re-post from August 14, 2011.

Image from: http://www.amazon.com/Rebuilding-House-Laurie-Graham/dp/0140123385/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1313344601&sr=8-2 

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1 Maccabees 8: Pax Romana

Sunday, October 9, 2016pax

Adapted from a favorite written on February 15, 2009.

Stories of the Maccabees family are interwoven with those of various powers vying for control of the eastern bowl of the Mediterranean Sea.  The dreams of Daniel long ago foretold the series of empires that would rule the land of God’s people.  Today we see them reach out to the mighty Roman Empire to strike a treaty in an attempt to throw off their Greek rulers.  The Jewish nation seeks to restore the protection it lost at the fall of its own empire.  The Jewish people want to shelter under the umbrella of the Pax Romana, the Roman Peace.  They look for political stability, for predictability, for an end to oppression and enslavement.  We know how this story evolves. Within the century the Jewish people groan under the control shared by the Roman Emperor and their own puppet Kings, Herod the Great from 73 B.C.E. to 4 C.E. and Herod Antipas from 4 to 39 C.E.  What do they really gain when they enter into this earthly Pax?  What do they forfeit?

Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who opposed the Nzai regime

Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who opposed the Nazi regime

We fool ourselves when we seek peace at all costs, for the price of some bargains can be too dear.  The only force we ought to seek is that of the Spirit, the Spirit that resides with the Father and Son, the Spirit that counsels, guides and saves.

Too many times we have heard the phrases: I just wanted to keep the peace, I didn’t want to get into it with him, I didn’t want to upset her, I didn’t want to rock the boat, I did not have the energy to speak, I just went along, I don’t think I can make a difference. We know the outcome of those stories and the results are always the same when we settle. The cost is great. Greater than we will want to pay in the end.

To learn more about the Pax Romana, click on the image above or visit: https://wilsonancientrome.wikispaces.com/Pax+Romana

Read Martin Niemöller’s poem by clicking on his image or visiting: https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007392

Tomorrow, God’s peace.

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Ephesians 3:8-11: The Mystery of ChristJesus_07_MysteryFiles

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

With humility, Paul tells us that although he does not understand why he is chosen to pass along God’s word, he does understand that we can never fully understand the mystery of God’s love for us. Nor can we plumb the depths of Christ’s impassioned love for us as God’s children.

God says: I do not expect that you will comprehend all that I do for you each moment of your existence. I do not ask that you understand the breadth or depth of my plan, my mind or my heart. Nor do I ask that you fend off the “principalities and authorities” that my servant Paul names. But what I do ask of you is simply this: that you follow the Way laid out by Jesus, and that you prepare a place for my Spirit to dwell within you. Jesus comes to you as your brother to take your hand and lead you into the narrow path that leads to peace. My Spirit flutters about you with a desire to heal and transform. You need not grasp my intention for you with full knowledge; only trust that I have plans for your joy and not your woe. All that is required is that you remain open and willing to my Spirit, open and hopeful in Christ, open and determined in the Creator. All that is required is love, my love for you . . . and your love for me. This is the great mystery of Christ that you need not understand but from which you nonetheless benefit. I come to you as Christ your brother who willingly gives over a life so that you may live.

God knows that we cannot take in the height and depth and breadth of Jesus’ love for us, and God does not ask that we understand this mystery before we partake of its benefit. All that God asks is our dedication and fidelity.

jaw-dropping-views-from-the-hubbEnter the word Fidelity into the blog search bar and explore this quality. Consider how we might better show our understanding of the mystery we find in Jesus, and how we might return own faithful love for and to Christ.

Use a web browser to search for Hubble images and reflect on how they might represent the mystery of Christ as the incarnation of the God among us. 

Click on the image from Hubble above to visit the Jaw Dropping Views from the Hubble site, or go to:  http://www.goodnewspost.net/jaw-dropping-views-from-the-hubble-telescope/ 

To explore National Geographic Mystery episodes, click on the image of Jesus above or go to: http://natgeotv.com.au/tv/mystery-files/episodes.aspx?series=1 

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joyFriday, November 14, 2014

Ezra 3

Joy and Worship

We move further into scripture looking for stories of joy that continue to surprise us. To explore other stories, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today our story is taken from the Book of Ezra.

After the Babylonian captivity and exile, after the scattering of the twelve tribes to the corners of the known earth, after the loss of hope that those who go out weeping will return rejoicing . . . the faithful receive word that they are to return to Jerusalem.  Two leaders, Ezra and Nehemiah, the priest and the administrator, lead the faithful in a journey of reunion and transformation. As with all people who remain open to the power of the Spirit and the healing of God’s presence, these returning exiles gather to worship Yahweh once again. And they know great joy in abundance.

Ezra 3:12: Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard far away.

scroll_610x300Can we imagine the sound of joy that might rise to the skies if we were to thank God for all that we have and all that we are? Can we fathom the power we already hold in our minds and hands if we give all our great and petty worries over to Christ? Can we picture the compassion and healing that we might experience and then share with the world if we open our hearts to the Spirit that already dwells within?

God says: You are rightly focused on the daily task of survival but imagine if you were to trust me more and your own resources less? Do you see how much you have already gained? Can you imagine how much you are yet to receive? My servant Paul reminds my followers in Corinth that “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”. (1 Corinthians 2:9) And this is so. Today you read about how the faithful returned to me and celebrated with liturgy. Do you know how much it means to me when you join my Son, our Spirit and me in beautiful liturgies of Word and Eucharist? Do you know that I have wonderful plans for you? Plans for joy and not for woe? When you doubt, open scripture to see how many times I have already rescued my people. Open your lives and remember how often I have already saved you. Will I not love you even more as our relationship deepens? Will I not bring you even more joy? Have I not already told you that all of this is so?

scroll-mAs we consider today’s Noontime, let us also consider how we might approach liturgies with a new energy. If we do not belong to a worship community, let us explore the possibility of finding or creating one. And if we long to find union that lasts, let us commit to entering fully into our worship community with a new expectation of finding great joy.

To learn more about Ezra and Nehemiah, spend time with the stories in these two books. Enter their names in the blog search bar and explore. Click on the images for other reflections. Or use the scripture link to compare different Bible versions of these verses. 

For a better understanding of these Books, go to: http://biblehub.com/dictionary/e/ezra-nehemiah.htm 

For more about anxiety and joy, click on the image above or visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

 

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