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Posts Tagged ‘St. Paul’


Acts 26:1-23: Agrippa Hears Paul

Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 19, 2019

Nikolai Bodarevsky: Paul’s Trial before King Agrippa

One of the things we notice about Paul is that he is so intelligent he customizes his words for his particular audience.  We see him in Greek cities where there are few Jews but where the people are open to new thoughts and new ideas.  He appeals to their affinity to mythology by relating to their willingness to have a shrine to an unknown God.  He tells these people that there is such a god, and his name is Jesus.  He captures many in his apostolic net.  When he travels to towns populated by people accustomed to reading scripture (towns more heavily populated with Jews) he bases his oratory on Hebrew Scripture.  Both Paul and the Holy Spirit work mightily to bring all into the church, into Christ’s mystical body.

Last year when we read about the reaction to Paul’s speech we reflected and concluded the following: Having people believe that we are crazy is often the cost of discipleship.

We read his words today and see that he has given them a layman’s version of the Creed, this is what Paul believes, it is what we believe.  And like Paul, when we speak truth and light to power, corruption and darkness . . . we can rest in the understanding that people will think we are crazy!

There are so many places in our lives when this happens.  My parents would always say that you know you are doing God’s work when the establishment gets a bit uncomfortable . . . when the status quo resists change . . . not just any change . . . change that comes from the Spirit.  They would emphasis, as we hear so many times in scripture, if God speaks to you . . . and you do not speak, you do not move, you will have to answer for your omission of action and voice.

This labeling of disciples as crazy numbers us among the brokenhearted, so let us pray the morning intercessions from MAGNIFICAT.

You sent your Son to bring glad tidings to the lowly: may the lowly in our midst read the Gospel in your peoples’ acts of love.

            Make your Church a living sign of your love.

You sent your Son to heal the brokenhearted: may the brokenhearted of our world find relief in your peoples’ compassion.

            Make your Church a living sign of your love.

You sent your Son to proclaim liberty to captives: may those imprisoned in addiction, loneliness, and despair find hope in your peoples’ active concern.

            Make your Church a living sign of your love.

We are Church.  We are Jesus’ Mystical Body.  We are adopted sisters and brothers of the Christ.  We are disciples.  Let us read the words which Paul spoke to power.  Let us take them in.  Let us be The Word that moves into the world.  Let us remember and hold close . . . the knowledge that we are the brokenhearted, but we are not alone.  Amen.


A re-post from May 4, 2012.

Tomorrow we will see how Paul gives a succinct accounting of his work as a disciple to Agrippa.

For more on Paul’s speech before Agrippa including a video clip, click on the image above or go to: http://tyotb.blogspot.com/2012/03/pauls-trial-before-king-agrippa-acts-26.html

Written on March 11, 2008  and posted today as a Favorite.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 3.11 (2008). Print.  

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Acts 27: Shipwreck

Thursday, May 16, 2019

This week we spend time reflecting on St. Paul and his role in kingdom building.  We take this opportunity to think about the number of times Paul came up against overwhelming odds . . . and was rescued by God.  We take confidence in this knowledge for we too, are rescued from the shipwrecks of life.

We have all been tossed onto the shoals of an island, sometimes with friends, sometimes with captors, and sometimes with both . . . rarely do we find ourselves alone in shipwreck.

If you can find the time, spend a dedicated portion of your day or evening with this chapter because it reveals much to us.  In my view, the most significant lines are the last . . . [The centurion] ordered those on board who could swim to jump overboard first and get to the shore, and then the rest, some on planks, others on debris from the ship.  In this way, they all arrived safely to the shore.

Sometimes we are ordered to go to Rome, to the center of the universe, to the place where all things and all people go – to the place where all roads meet, where all communications converge.  Sometimes we go willingly; sometimes we are taken in shackles.  Life is at times a forced march, and at other times it is freedom which can be more frightening than captivity.  Paul and his companions find themselves en route to the capital city of the empire – Paul wants to have his say before the highest court in order to bring Christ to his largest audience yet.

When we read the description of the storm and its effect upon the travelers, we can liken it to the voyage of our lives – an unpredictable passage through uncertain and open waters.  As the ship takes on water and threatens to disintegrate beneath these travelers with their Roman guards, the sailors want to kill the prisoners before they jump to escape the break-up of the foundering boat.  I am fascinated by Paul’s calm amidst the chaos of his physical and spiritual life.  He has – as a willing servant of the Lord – been thrust into difficult waters and into dangerous arguments . . . yet he continues the journey.  He does as he is asked.

The Roman centurion, who had beforehand paid more attention to the pilot and the owner of the ship than to Paul, now re-assesses the situation and does not choose to kill the prisoners; rather he orders those who can swim to go overboard first, the rest to follow.  Before this part of the story, Paul exhorts all aboard to take heart; and he relates the dream he had the night before – an angel has told him that all will be well.  He outwits the sailors who would abandon ship to leave them adrift to die.  He encourages everyone to eat in order to keep up their strength.  He offers them the communion of bread to share.  Paul ministers to both his captors and his would-be executioners.  This is the role of a true apostle.

As my Dad used to say, “If we are taking on water and we are all in the same boat, why are we all not bailing?”

When we find the ship breaking beneath us, as followers of Christ we do not fend for ourselves, we do not accuse or abandon.  We are to bring Christ to one another.  We are to rebuke those who need rebuking, listen to any admonition a fellow Christian might offer us, tend to those who are weakest, bring all together in Christ and for Christ . . . for Christ knows what lies ahead.  Then surely, as loyal and faith-filled servants, we will jump into the surging waters and grab hold of the flotsam of the wreck . . . and riding the roller coaster of the waves of life . . . all will arrive safely to the shore.

Amen.


A re-post from May 1, 2012.

Images from: http://twistedsifter.com/2011/04/25-haunting-shipwrecks-around-the-world/

Written on September 16, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

For 25 haunting images of shipwrecks around the world, click on the images above or go to: http://twistedsifter.com/2011/04/25-haunting-shipwrecks-around-the-world/

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Luke 17:1-4: Temptation

Easter Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Jesus is well aware of how difficult it is to live in this world.  Jesus understands the human tendency to take the comfortable route.  Jesus knows all about temptationAnd he also knows about union and resurrection.

Matthew records Jesus as saying that if our right eye offends we are to pluck it out (5:29).  This is a harsh saying but Jesus gives us more advice to help our understanding.  He gives us a prescription for mending walls and building bridges; it is advice that we often ignore. On this day of celebration in new life, let us take a moment to pause and ponder the goodness of God’s word to us, the compassion Jesus shows to us, the love the Spirit bestows on us.

Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, Jesus tells us today.  And when they do, here is a path to follow.

If a brother sins [against you] go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  (Matthew 18:15)  It is so difficult to take this first step.  Our pride and our fear of rejection get in the way; yet it is what Jesus suggests to us.

If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that “every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses”.  (Matthew 18:16)  Jesus enacts the old Mosaic Law spelled out in Deuteronomy 19:15 that witnesses are needed to establish guilt.   He understands how our refusal to accept a truth that others see is common; yet he asks us to remove the beam from our own eyes before we point out splinters in others.

If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.  (Matthew 18:17)  We must use caution in taking this final step and it is one with which I struggle.  We must be certain not to allow our own ego to take over and we must not step over the mark into gossip, libel and slander.  Social dynamics are difficult and we must exercise patience and kindness more than stir up scandal.  Jesus understands our inability to see the big picture and for that reason he also tells us to turn the other check when we are offended. (Matthew 5:39 and Luke 6:29)  He knows too well the slippery slope of false accusation; he has seen the crowds whipped up in frenzy.  He shows us how to stand as truth against falsehood.

During this Holy Week we have heard the Passion read out to us several times.  We have journeyed from Genesis to Revelation and what we hear is a single message: There is only one Law; it is the Law of Love.

The apostle Paul describes to the Ephesians – and to us – how to bridge gaps and forgive offenses: All bitterness, fury, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.  [And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.  (4:31-32)

Paul tells the Colossians – and us – the mindset we must have in order to build these bridges: Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.   (3:13)

On this Easter Day we celebrate the gift of newness that we receive through no goodness of our own, but solely through the goodness and generosity of God.  What a fitting gift is might be if on this day we ask the Creator for the strength to follow his Word, and for the determination to enact his Law of Love.  Let us become Easter People who acknowledge that even when we walk away from solutions we are not so lost that Jesus cannot find us; our sins are not so great that God does not forgive them; and we are never so alone that the Holy Spirit does not accompany us on our journey home.


A re-post from Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012.

For more on building bridges and reconciliation, see The Jesus Bridge page on this blog. 

For a reflection on Jesus’ temptations, see the Temptations page on this blog.

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Acts 13:13-43Summary

Monday, January 7, 2019

Pisidian Antioch Church of Saint Peter

What we read today is Paul’s summary of salvation history to the people who have gathered in the synagogue in PisidiaThe synagogue officials sent word to [Paul and his companions]. “My brothers, if one of you has a word of exhortation for the people, please speak”.  And so Paul rises to address the assembly.

If we allow ourselves to pause with these verses we will easily see that what Paul delineates as the history of the Jewish people can also serve as the outline of our own life of conversion.

God chose our ancestors and exalted the people during their sojourn in Egypt.  We too are chosen and exalted by God.  We too are the apple of God’s eye, the desire of God’s heart.  Let us rejoice and be glad in this news.

With uplifted arm he led them out of [Egypt] and for about forty years he put up with them in the desert.  We too, have been led by God.  We too have been protected; we are guided by the Spirit.  Let us rejoice and be glad that God has the patience to put up with us.

When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance at the end of about four hundred and fifty years.  We too, once we have grown and matured in the Spirit, have come to see that our inheritance of God’s love has been within our reach since the beginning of time.  Let us rejoice and be grateful in this gift.

Artifact from Pisidian Antioch

After these things he provided judges . . . then they asked for a king.  God gave them Saul . . . then he removed him and gave up David as their king.  We too have been given leaders along the path of our spiritual journey.  We too have been guided by those who seek God persistently and who tell the stories of their own conversion.  Let us rejoice and be grateful for their willingness to share their life-giving experiences.

From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus.  John heralded his coming.  We too have been given this savior. We too have heard the heralding of Jesus’ coming. Let us rejoice and be glad in the promise of the Christ Child.

The inhabitants of Jerusalem and their leaders failed to recognize him, and by condemning him they fulfilled the oracles of the prophets . . . They asked Pilate to put him to death . . . they took him down from the tree and put him in a tomb.  We too have lived through trial and travail.  We too have suffered disappointment and betrayal.  Let us rejoice in the knowledge that we are not alone and that our God accompanies us in our journey of sorrow.

But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem.  These are [now] his witnesses before the people.  We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you that what God promised our ancestors he has brought to fulfillment for us [their] children, by raising up Jesus.  We too have seen the fulfillment of these oracles.  We too have witnessed this death and this rising.  Let us rejoice and proclaim the good news that God has fulfilled and continues to fulfill the promises he makes to us.

El Greco: St. Paul

Today we reflect on the summary of our lives and we wonder . . . can it be true that all we have hoped for has been given?  Can we suppose that what others have witnessed is the promise fulfilled that we have longed for through long and lonely nights?  Can we believe that the Christ humbles himself to birth in a stable?  Can we believe that although we believe him gone . . . he loves us still?

Can we act on this summary of our lives . . . and go forward to tell the Good News?


Tomorrow we will reflect on Paul’s words to the gentile people.  For more on Pisidia, go to the Bible Places link: http://www.bibleplaces.com/pantioch.htm

A re-post from January 7, 2012. 

Images from: http://www.bibleplaces.com/pantioch.htm and http://www.holylandphotos.org/browse.asp?s=1,3,8,21,96 and http://faculty.saintleo.edu/reynolds/HON250-F03/projects/culture/Tinturetto.htm

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2 Corinthians 1Changing Plans

Sunday, September 2, 2018

If we want to live in relationship with others, we will find it necessary to change our plans; sometimes this is quite easy to do . . . at other times we suffer change at great cost.  Events occur not as we would wish them.  They often take on a life of their own.  In today’s reading we have the opportunity to examine a model for authentic accommodation in relationship with others.  When we make room for God in every connection we make with others, we have the guarantee of God’s simplicity, sincerity, and grace.  We can be confident that no matter the change required of us, we will flourish and thrive.

When we read Paul’s two letters to the church in Corinth, we see the importance of flexibility and constancy in all relationships.  While it is important to remain authentic and faithful, it is also essential to allow for some give and take as circumstances require.  As we read through these epistles, it is clear that there are some disagreements and differences of opinion that have the potential to create permanent rifts.  Important connections have been established and nurtured; breaches must be bridged.  Cleverly, or perhaps by God’s grace, Paul begins with himself.   “Since Paul’s own conduct will be under discussion here, he prefaces this section with a statement about his habitual behavior and attitude toward the community.  He protests his openness, single-mindedness, and conformity to God’s grace; he hopes that his relationship with them will be marked by mutual understanding and pride, which will constantly increase until it reaches its climax at the judgment”.  (Senior 277)  As we read the opening chapter of 2 Corinthians we understand that a change of plans has caused anxiety and upset.  Paul addresses the problem by beginning with himself . . . and by falling back on God.

Simplicity, sincerity, and the grace of God: These qualities are given to us by God the Father; these traits are modeled for us by Jesus; these virtues are renewed in us by the Spirit.

When we must change plans we must keep things simple.  Adding more jumble to an already stressed schedule does us and those we work and live with nothing but harm.

When we must change plans we must be honest.  It is important to take the time to examine motives and look for hidden agendas.  Any plan that is not genuine is not needed. Any plan that comes from deceit brings ruin.

When we must change plans we must do so with good will, considering the common benefit.  When a community must alter plans to please only one or two of its members, morale plummets and cooperation disappears.

Simplicity, sincerity, and the grace of God.  Paul outlines for us the opening step in bridging a rift between colleagues, friends or loved ones.  We begin with ourselves.  And we look for God’s plainness.  We look for God’s straightforwardness.  We look for God’s beauty.  We look for God’s blessing in all we say and do.

A re-post from August 2, 2011.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. 277. Print.

Images from: http://www.masters-table.org/forinfo/Gods_beautyinthesky.htm 

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Colossians 3:15-17: Be Thankful

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Colossae Ruins

Colossae Ruins

Today we take a portion of Paul’s letter to the people of Colossae and we apply it to our own lives as we once again learn to . . .

Be thankful.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly and . . . be thankful.

Teach and admonish one another in wisdom and . . . be thankful.

Sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs and . . . be thankful.

Live with gratitude in your hearts and . . . be thankful.

In word and deed and in everything you do . . . be thankful.

In the name of the Lord, Christ Jesus . . . be thankful.

Amen.

When we explore other translations of these verses, we discover that a new sense of gratitude settles into our bones and sinews . . . so that we might live out God’s call to thanksgiving each day.

For more posts on gratitude, enter the word into the blog search bar.

Click on the post photograph to see more images and to learn more about Colossae

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2 Samuel 11 and 12: Conversion – Part II

Friday, February 3, 2017

Jean Restout: Ananias Restoring the Sight of St. Paul

Jean Restout: Ananias Restoring the Sight of St. Paul

Two interesting readings from Acts tell the story of Saul/Paul’s conversion: 9:1-22 and 22:3-16.  Again, we see the figure who serves as an instrument of God in the surprising kind of turnabout that can happen when we trust God enough to place ourselves in his hands.  This man, like Nathan in the story of David, communes regularly with God so that when he finds himself in a situation that rightfully causes fear, he has the resources to step into the waiting hand of God . . . to go beyond the fear . . . and into his own conversion of vocation.

Nathan, Ananais, and countless other harvesters in God’s vineyard hear and answer this call by trusting in God.  In the Acts readings we see Ananais hesitate, saying to God: Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem.  And the Lord replies: Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.

In today’s story, we do not read of any trepidation Nathan may have felt on going before the King to give the man an opportunity to repent.  What we do read in verse 12:5 is how David reacted in anger to Nathan’s parable.  Yet Nathan stands his ground, firm in his knowing that he has been sent.

We might spend time this afternoon wondering about our own Nathan parable.  What story might the prophet stand before us to pronounce?  How might we react?  We also might also spend time thinking about our own role as truth-revealer.  When we hear the voice tell us what is required of us, are we willing to do what is required?

We might question as Ananais does, or we might immediately – like Nathan – speak a truth we know others who are far stronger and far more powerful than ourselves wish to keep hidden.  In any case, as children of light we are asked to stand in the truth and to bring truth to others . . . as is required of us by our God . . . according to our vocation.

We notice today that Ananais and Nathan respond to God’s call in kindness and with mercy, prepared and even expecting that their work will bear fruit.  As we go about the rest of our day, we might want to think about which role we play in today’s drama.  Are we David?  Are we Bathsheba?  Are we Nathan?  Are we truly converted by our vocation?  Do we act from God?  Do we act with God?  Do we act in God’s love?  Do we act at all on what we know to be our own conversions . . . one of the heart . . . the other of our vocation?

Adapted from a January 25, 2009 Favorite.

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2 Samuel 11 and 12: Conversion – Part I

Thursday, February 2, 2017jesus-and-paul

We visit this story about once a year as we journey together at Noontime, and here it is again.  We have reflected on the narrative and how Psalm 51 – the beautiful song of contrition and yearning – rises from this account of lust, adultery and murder.  We have also spent time thinking about how David succumbs to very human emotions only to later rise to his divine best self by finally facing the truth about his own actions.  We have spent a bit of time with Bathsheba, wondering what more we might learn from her if only we had more details of her life.  Today we meditate a bit on the role that Nathan plays in this drama: the truth-revealer who is wise with words and strong with God, the prophet who becomes the instrument of David’s conversion.

This is a fitting path to continue as today we celebrate the conversion of St. Paul, the devout Pharisee who was known for his persecution of the followers of The Way . . . who becomes one of the most fearless defenders of the Christ story.  A wonderful book to read about Paul’s conversion, particularly as it parallels the life of Christ, is Jesus and Paul: Parallel Lives by Jerome Murphy-O’Conner.  The writer delineates for us the thesis that both Paul and Christ experience not one but two major conversions: a conversion of heart and a conversion of vocation.  Using scripture and other ancient texts, Murphy-O’Conner supports this idea to lead us through his thinking that understanding our conversion is one thing . . . acting on it is another.

For a reflection on Paul’s conversion with an audio link, visit: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/conversion-of-saint-paul/ 

Tomorrow, from Saul to Paul.

Adapted from a January 25, 2009 Favorite.

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Joy and Libation


Attributed to Valentin de Boulogne: St. Paul Writing his Epistles

Attributed to Valentin de Boulogne: St. Paul Writing his Epistles

Friday

January 2, 2015

Joy and Libation

Philippians

 The New Testament Letters bring us the good news that the risen Christ still walks with us each day. Paul, Peter, James, John and Jude remind the faithful that although much has been asked of Christ’s followers, much is also given. With them, we remember that there is always hope when we sink into doubt, always light when we walk in darkness, and always joy, even when we suffer sorrow.

Imprisoned when writing this letter to the Philippians, Paul maintains confidence in the power of Christ to rescue and heal. “This beautiful letter is rich in insights into Paul’s theology and his apostolic love and concern for the gospel and his converts. [Paul] reveals his human sensitivity and tenderness, his enthusiasm for Christ as the key to life and death, and his deep feeling for those in Christ who dwell in Philippi. With them he shares his hope and convictions, his anxieties and fears, revealing the total confidence in Christ that constitutes faith”. (Senior 311-312)

It is likely that Paul’s letter brought concern for his welfare to the little Jewish community that Paul had established in this important Roman town in what is today northeastern Greece. It is also likely that his words brought the Philippians a bit of discomfort as he exhorts them to think of others before selves and to put aside disagreements in favor of unity; yet his energy and passion are undeniable.

Paul writes: (1:25): This I know with confidence, that I shall remain and continue in the service of all of you for your progress and joy in the faith. (2:1-3) If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves. (2:17-18) But, even if I am poured out as a libation upon the sacrificial service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with all of you. In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me.

joyPaul writes to the followers in Philippi and he writes to us. United in heart. Living from selflessness rather than ego. Passionate in our response to Christ’s call. Pouring ourselves out as libations for Christ just as Christ empties himself to rescue us. In his time of trial, fear and weariness, Paul calls us to unity, service, and a deep giving of self with undeniable enthusiasm. What will we do today as a libation for Christ? How do we extend to others this same passionate call to unity and service?

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.311-312. Print.   

If this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urges you to investigate the New Testament, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar. You may want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com

For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

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