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Posts Tagged ‘suffering’


1 ThessaloniansRejoice Always!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

As frequently happens with the Noontimes a theme is re-cycled to us; today it is the message that we are to rejoice in all circumstances – even when events indicate that we ought to be mourning.  A few weeks ago we visited the fifth chapter of this letter (Noontime September 30, 2011 – Pray Without Ceasing).  Today a portion of Chapter 1 serves as the second Mass reading in which Paul complements his followers in Thessalonica for their fidelity even through dark times, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers.  It is all too easy to turn away from God when dark events crush in on us.  And the joy we experience can be likewise all so rewarding when we turn to God when in the midst of suffering.

Recently an essay by James Martin, S.J. was published in AMERICA magazine and we may want to spend time reflecting on this oldest of books in the New Testament.  The photograph on today’s post is from that article and I encourage you to spend with it today.  We always welcome any word that shows us how to convert our mourning into dancing; we look for any guideposts that help us to Rejoice Always! http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=13046


A re-post from October 23, 2011.

Images from http://www.yourlocalweb.co.uk/cheshire/gallantry-bank/pictures/ and http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=13046

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Matthew 25-26: Jesus Heals

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

We are reminded by these simple verses that just as Jesus touches the people in this reading he also touches us . . . daily.  He knows our sorrows and pain . . . and so when we are open to his touch . . . he heals the greatest and smallest ache.  When we suffer too deeply to even call on him for help . . . he abides to await our awakening to him.  And when we are yet too anxious about the difficulties of life to even formulate our petitions to God . . . Jesus soothes us and eases our way.

The MAGNIFICAT Monday Morning and Evening Prayers are centered on Psalms 84 and 94 and they are apt for today’s NoontimeThey speak to the human need to know that God acts in our lives and that God’s promises are real.  They assure us that we are best healed when we travel lightly . . . and when we seek God persistently.

Prayer before Psalm 84: Jesus instructed the disciples to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick – no food, no sack, no money in their belts. (Mark 6:8)  We are a pilgrim people, journeying through the varied landscapes of life, on our way to the heavenly Jerusalem.  Let us travel light, unburdened by useless baggage – material or spiritual – and sing this pilgrim psalm to the God who has given us such a glorious goal in life. 

Prayer before Psalm 94: God does not withdraw his mercy, nor permit even one of his promises to fail.  (Sirach 47:22)  Uncertainty is an ever-present reality to the Christian believer. Is God really there?  Is he really interested?  Can he really hear prayers? Does he really act in today’s world?  Does he still keep his promises even now?  The Psalmist faced the same questions with a courageous, “Yes”!

God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

The promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.  (Acts 2:39)

With faith in God who keeps all promises, let us pray. We place our trust in you!

For those who do not believe in God: grant them the gift of faith.  We place our trust in you!

For those who do not believe in Jesus Christ: grant them the gift of faith. We place our trust in you!

For those who do not trust in your love or your promises: grant them the gift of faith. We place our trust in you!

Amen. 


A re-post from October 5, 2011. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 3.10 (2011): 57-68. Print.

Image from: http://revphil2011.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/

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1 Thessalonians 5:16-18Pray Without Ceasing

Friday, November 2, 2018

Rejoice always.  Pray without ceasing.  In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. 

I have come from my son’s house after spending the afternoon with their four-year old while he and his wife visit funeral homes to make plans for a service that will honor the life of their infant daughter.  Sophie died too quickly a few days ago.  And in all of the wrenching grief, there is prayer.

We sit at a meal together as night closes in.  A friend visits bearing fresh fruit and vegetables.  We laugh over small things, finding comfort in one another’s presence.  The deep sadness is just out of sight but still with us.  And in all of this quiet pain, there is prayer.

It is not the will of God that we suffer.  It is the will of God that we rejoice in spite of the pain, knowing that life here is only temporary.

It is not the will of God that we sink into darkness.  It is the will of God that we rise with him into the light, knowing that life in Christ is never-ending.

Pain cannot be erased, but with patient prayer and unswerving reliance on God it blooms into a rejoicing beyond any happiness we can imagine.  It brings firmness out of the smelting fire.  It brings purity out of the crucible.  It brings a holy presence into a place where only sadness was previously felt.  It brings a knowing that we are eternal and that we will meet again in newness despite any separation this earth can visit on us.

It is through pain that we find our true selves.  It is in pain that we kneel before God in petition.  It is after pain that we rise again in the crystalline newness of our life in Christ.

For all of these reasons . . . we must pray without ceasing.


A re-post from September 30, 2011.

Image from: http://www.holytrinitynewrochelle.org/prayer.html

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Isaiah 51When We Feel Abandoned

Saturday, October 20, 2018

These are the first words that greeted me this morning in my email inbox.  They are from the Richard Rohr site to which I subscribe and currently Rohr is sending messages from his newest book, BREATHING UNDER WATER.  The title – and the meditation message below – speaks to anyone who has suffered deeply . . . and to anyone who longs to suffer well.

“Only people who have suffered in some way can save one anotherexactly as the Twelve Step program discovered. Deep communion and dear compassion is formed much more by shared pain than by shared pleasure. Only those who have tried to breathe under water know how important breathing really is, and will never take it for granted again. They are the ones who do not take shipwreck or drowning lightly, who can name “healing” correctly, who know what they are being saved from, and who develop the patience and humility to ask the right questions of God and of themselves.

“You see, only the survivors know the full terror of the passage, the arms that held them through it all, and the power of the obstacles that were overcome. Those who have passed over eventually find a much bigger world of endurance, meaning, hope, self-esteem, deeper and true desire, but most especially, a bottomless pool of love both within and without”.

From BREATHING UNDER WATER: SPIRITUALITY AND THE TWELVE STEPS, pp. 123,124,125 http://cacradicalgrace.org/resources/breathing-under-water

Here we have clear instructions for what to do when we are deeply troubled, for when we believe that we do not fully understand God’s plan, for when we may even feel abandoned by God.

Listen to me . . . we are instructed.  I will help you to breathe under water.  I will sustain you in a world that feels foreign to you.

Look to the rock from which you are hewn . . . God says to us.  You are made in my image.  I love you dearly.  I will never leave you.

Be attentive to me . . . God calls out to us.  I exist through all time and space as do you.  I speak to you now.  I am telling you that you will never fail.

Raise your eyes to the heavens and look at the earth below . . . we are challenged.  Choose life or death.  Choose your own plan or mine. 

Fear not the reproach of others . . . we are cautioned.  Their opinion means nothing in the light of eternity.  Follow the law rather than the whimsical judgment of those who chase after power, status and reputation.

Awake, awake, put on strength . . . God urges us.  I know that you are weary but my burden is light and my shoulders are broad.  I carry many but I long to carry you.

Hear me, you who know justice, you who have my teaching in your heart . . . God does not waver, God does not give up.  I, it is I who comfort you.  I am the Lord you God.  I have put my words into your mouth.  I have shielded you in the shadow of my hand.  I stretched out the heavens; I laid the foundations of the earth.  I am here to rescue you.

So when we are fear-filled, we must remember to ask for the grace, patience, and wisdom to discern God’s hand in all that happens around us.  When we feel abandoned, we must keep the arms of Jesus wrapped round us.  When it seems that all is hopeless, we must abide in the faith that God the Father knows all and keeps his promises.  When we are deeply troubled, we must ask intercession for those who have harmed us and done us damage.  When we feel utterly alone, we rest in the understanding and solace of the Holy Spirit.  And when we are healed . . . we turn to others to pass along the wonder of God’s love.


A re-post from September 17, 2011.

Images from http://www.flippersmack.com/ and http://recdive.com/2010/07/29/the-wonders-of-scuba-diving/

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Job 36: Innocence


Job 36Innocence

Friday, October 19, 2018

Written on February 10, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Too many times the innocent suffer.  Too often the blameless stand accused unjustly.  What do we do when this happens?  What wisdom supports us?  What hope sustains us?  What love overcomes the insurmountable object that blocks the path?

God does not listen to lies . . . God rejects the obstinate in heart . . . even when we lie to ourselves.

God does not defend the wicked . . . he preserves not the life of the wicked . . . even when it appears that the wicked have won.

God abides with his faithful . . . he withholds not the just man’s rights, but grants vindication to the oppressed . . . even when we arrive at a place of hopelessness.

God always listens to the broken hearted . . . he saves the  unfortunate through their affliction, and instructs them through distress . . . even though we do not feel his presence . . . God is there.

Behold, God is sublime in his power . . . God is great beyond our knowledge . . .

God is miniscule . . . He holds in check the waterdrops that filter in rain through mists.

God is vast . . . He nourishes the nations and gives them sustenance.

God is powerful . . . In his hands he holds the lightning.

God is good . . . He spreads the clouds in layers as the carpets of his tent.

In our innocence we stand before this awesome God.

In our innocence we are vindicated in our faith in God.

In our innocence we are saved by our hope in God.

In our innocence we are justified by our love for God.

In our innocence we are redeemed by our patient waiting on God.

Be still and know that God is God . . .


A re-post from September 16, 2011.

Image from: http://moderncountry.blogspot.com/2011/07/image-via-foundryshow-today-my-heart.html 

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Genesis 43The Second Journey

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Bacchiacca: Joseph receives his brothers

Just when we think we have reached a plateau in our journey where we might walk along the flatland rather than clamber up and skitter down the mountain sides . . . we find that we have to go back to repeat a leg of our passage.  Just when we have begun to relax at the oasis where we have filled our water sacks and rested in the shade from the heat of the day . . . we are told that we must move on.  Just when we are beginning to become comfortable in the little fortress where we are hiding from our foes . . . we hear the voice that calls us to make a second journey.

Today we find ourselves in the Joseph story at the point where the brothers have returned home to Jacob to tell him that they must go back to Egypt . . . and this time they must take the favored son Benjamin with them.  Just when Jacob thought his problem of famine had been resolved . . . he is told that he must relinquish the last person who brings him comfort.  Despite his age and the litany of difficulties he has undergone, Jacob must trust God and allow himself to suffer again.  The brothers who had sold Joseph into slavery know that they must make a return trip to Egypt.  Little do they know that well-hidden secrets are about to be revealed, questions will be asked and answered, truths will be spoken.  They plan to go to Egypt to purchase food for their families.  They do not plan to encounter the brother they have delivered to slavery and death.  They do not know they are about to make a further journey.  We do not hear from Benjamin, the young boy whose full brother wields power second only to Pharaoh, but we can imagine that he feels both anxiety and excitement.  Everyone in this story will suffer.  Everyone in this story will be rewarded beyond their wildest imaginings.

I am reading a book by Richard Rohr which a friend gave to me.  In FALLING UPWARD, Rohr posits that in life each of us is given the gift of a second or further journey. “[I]n my opinion, this first-half of life task is no more than finding the starting gate.  It is merely the warm-up act, not the full journey.  It is the raft but not the shore . . . There is much evidence on several levels that there are at least two major tasks to human life.  The first task is to build a strong ‘container’ or identity; the second is to find the contents that the container was meant to hold.  The first task we take for granted as the very purpose of life, which does not mean that we do it well.  The second task, I am told, is more encountered than sought; few arrive at it with much preplanning, purpose, or passion”.   (Rohr viii and xiii)

Rohr cites W. H. Auden:  We would rather be ruined than changed.  We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the present and let our illusions die.  (Rohr 65)  And on page 73 we find this from Matthew 16:25-26: Anyone who wants to save his life must lose it.  Anyone who loses her life will find it.  What gain is there if you win the whole world and lose your very self?  What can you offer in exchange for your one life?”

Jacob believed that his sons were going to Egypt to purchase food that would save the family.  He did not know that his lost son Joseph would be their savior.  Joseph’s brothers thought they were purchasing food to save their lives . . . they did not know that they would also redeem their souls.

Just when we believe that we have convinced everyone of the reality of our illusions . . . we are given the opportunity to leave our comfort zone and enter the second half of our lives.  We are blessed with the gift of seeing clearly that we are created to love honestly and suffer well.  We are created to take the second journey of our lives . . . the journey that promises far more than suffering . . . the further journey that brings us more reward than we can ever imagine.


Rohr, Richard. FALLING UPWARD: A SPIRITUALITY FOR THE TWO HALVES OF LIFE. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print.

The painting above is housed at the UK National Gallery.  To see more detail, click on the image and follow the link.  A spy glass on the museum site will allow you to see detail by zeroing in.   You will also find a link to other scenes from the life of Joseph which may interest you. 

A re-post from August 16, 2011.

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LamentationsSurviving Ruin

Friday, August 31, 2018

When we reflect on national, local and international news reports, we might believe that our world is falling apart. When we do, we might want to revisit this post from July 17, 2011. And for more reflections on the books of the Bible, visit the Book of Our Life page on this blog.

“The sixth century B.C. was an age of crisis, a turning point in the history of Israel.  With the destruction of the temple and the interruption of its ritual, the exile of the leaders and loss of national sovereignty, an era came to an end.  Not long after the fall of Jerusalem (587) an eyewitness of the national humiliation of Zion, submission to merited chastisement, and strong faith in the constancy of Yahweh’s love and power to restore.  The union of poignant grief and unquenchable hope reflects the constant prophetic vision of the weakness of man and the strength of God’s love; it also shows how Israel’s faith in Yahweh could survive the shattering experience of national ruin”.  (Senior 1017)

We might not want to reflect on a time of crisis in our personal lives when all we knew had been destroyed or lost, when a time of happiness and prosperity ended.  We may want to avoid thinking about any humiliation or chastisement we have experienced.  The memories of our personal shattering may be too difficult to handle, too painful to live with.  The Book of Lamentations written by Baruch, the prophet Jeremiah’s secretary, is a small one and may be easily overlooked; yet it holds so much that is vital to living happily.  In Lamentations we find the important lesson that while we do not want to center our lives on suffering, neither do we want to circumvent its message.  Focusing a life on the avoidance of pain only leads to more obstacles, more grief, more distress and, eventually, even more pain.  Learning how to pass through pain patiently, placing our trust in God as we navigate the grief also allows the transforming touch of God to bring us the serenity we yearn to experience . . . despite the sorrow we feel.  When we allow God to alter our attitude about the losses we suffer, we also consent to God’s transformation.  We enter into life’s shattering experiences, and then exit with a new view of the world, a renewed sense of compassion, and a serenity that cannot be shaken.  Lamentations gives us an opportunity to examine our attitude toward pain and God’s deep and abiding love for us.

Today’s Mass readings provide a road map for healing through pain: Wisdom 12:13, 16-19, Psalm 86, Romans 8:26-27 and Matthew 13:24-43 all outline the same lesson: God has infinite patience, compassion, mercy and love . . . enough to heal any breach or restore any loss.  From today’s MAGNIFICAT mini-reflection: “God in his providence will use even the apparent evil that attends us in life to some perfecting purpose; out of our littleness, our emptiness, our nothingness Gods greatness will flower in an astonishing way”.  (Cameron, 251)  Rather than curse our loss as punishment or the end of an era, when we rely on God we learn to celebrate each shattering experience as the beginning of something new.  And so we pray . . .

Good and patient God,

For all the times we forget to call on you when we suffer and for those times we lose patience with ourselves and others . . . continue to be patient with us.

For all the times we show anger instead of compassion and for those times we commit acts of vengeance rather than love . . . continue to be merciful with us.

For all those times we are anxious about evil in the world and for those times we forget that you always pull goodness out of wickedness . . . continue to abide in us.

For all those times we grow weary of the daily struggles and for those times we waver in our trust . . . continue to be with us.  Amen. 


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1017. Print. 

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 17 July 2011: 251. Print.

Image from: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/ancient/isis-hasnt-destroyed-ancient-palmyra-ruins-yet/

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Job: In Praise of Wisdom and Hope

Thursday, August 29, 2018

Before we leave the story of Job, we give ourselves the gift of time with this innocent sufferer who foreshadows the hope of the Messiah. Today we look at the story of “the hero . . . subjected to a divine test as a means of ascertaining whether or not he serves the deity without thinking about profiting from it.” (Barton and Muddiman 331) Just as Job enters into debate with his friends and the Lord, so do we have the invitation to deliberate with the Almighty the existential questions that plague us as humans.

Stylistically, this book presents us with a combination of poetry and prose. Does this signal our dual human yet divine essence? Does this tell us that we are called to live in the world but be not of it? Does this remind us that although we are mortal, we also live forever in Christ? The style certainly communicates the ideas that the innocent suffer. The beauty of the poetry may indicate our hope in the Spirit against the backdrop prose of our separation.

From the ARCHEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE, “[T]he reader knows from the outset that Job is suffering because of his righteousness (Job 1). Thus, when Job rails against his pain and contends that he has not deserved it (eg., ch. 31), the early reader – who had insider knowledge from the prelude – recognized that he spoke the truth. Unable to fall back on pat answers that were almost universally accepted at the time, readers were forced to wrestle with the question along with Job as they worked their way through the text to God’s final answer. The resultant new understanding of the meaning of suffering and the justice of God, contrary as it was to the conventional wisdom of the day, must have astonished them.” (Zondervan 732)

Wisdom and hope are the gifts Job brings us through his suffering, questioning, persistence and fidelity. Wisdom and hope are gifts of the Spirit of God. Wisdom and hope are embodied in the life of Christ who abides with us still. Today we give thanks for these matchless gifts. Today we share the good news that are recipients of such generous mercy. Today we praise God for the healing wisdom of the Spirit, and the lessons Job brings us of hope.


Images from https://chicago.suntimes.com/health/mind-over-body-new-book-tells-how-to-tap-into-wisdom-and-grow-with-age/

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 732. Print.

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 331. Print.

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Job 24: Violence on Earth

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Yesterday we reflected on Job’s desire to sit with the Creator in order to engage in an intimate conversation. In an age when suffering is connected with sin, Job suffers doubly, having to endure pain while at the same time defending his innocence to his family and friends. Yet he persists, remains faithful, and recognizes the small pearls of hope that come to him. When God has tested me, I shall come out like gold.

Today we watch as Job asks:

Why doesn’t God set a time for judging,
    a day of justice for those who serve him?

He observes a litany of violence taking place around him.

People move property lines to get more land;
    they steal sheep and put them with their own flocks.
They take donkeys that belong to orphans,
    and keep a widow’s ox till she pays her debts.
They prevent the poor from getting their rights
    and force the needy to run and hide. So the poor, like wild donkeys,
    search for food in the dry wilderness.

Evil people make slaves of fatherless infants
    and take the children of the poor in payment for debts.

The litany continues until Job’s friend Zophar intercedes with his own assertions and questions.

For a while the wicked prosper,
    but then they wither like weeds,
    like stalks of grain that have been cut down.
Can anyone deny that this is so?
Can anyone prove that my words are not true?

As Job struggles to understand the conflict between good and evil, so do we. We may be like Zophar who accepts the assumption that all evildoers suffer in God’s time rather than our own. Or we may be more like Job who wants a conversation with the Almighty as he looks for authentic answers to his questions. Zophar seems content with allowing evil to proceed unchecked and unchallenged while Job goes deeper. Perhaps this is because Job, the innocent, faithful, hopeful one, suffers while Zophar continues in a comfortable world that makes sense to him.

The lesson we might take away today is this . . . even if we cannot change the evil around us, we might still question God. Even if we do not engender or encourage the violence that surrounds us, we might still commit our own small acts of mercy and justice. And even if we cannot make sense of the world’s great economy and plan, we might keep in mind that all belongs to and is of God.

In La Biblia de América, Chapters 23 & 24 of Job bear a title that translates to: Between Desire and Fear of the Encounter. Not only do these words describe the viewpoints we see today, they also present us with significant questions . . . Are we content to remain in our comfort zone of knowing, or are we willing to step into the world’s violence to represent a path of peace? Do we look for an intimate encounter with God despite the suffering we see and experience, or do we fear this marvelous gift of intimacy with God? What is it we seek?

Job asks: Why doesn’t God set a time for judging, a day of justice for those who serve him?

Perhaps that time is now.


Tomorrow, Bildad asks, how can a mortal be righteous before God?

When we compare various translations with the citations from THE GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION above, we open a dialog with God. 

LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. Print.

Image from: https://www.sapiens.org/evolution/human-violence-evolution/

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