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The Catholic Letters: Universality

Friday, October 4, 2019

The New American Bible explains the inclusion of the letters of James, Peter, John and Jude in the canon of the New Testament saying that “early Christians saw the New Testament as the depository of apostolic figures to whom they are attributed”.  That being said, there is ambiguity about the authorship of some of these letters; however, they were all written during the early “apostolic age” and as such are important to us – the apostles of the twenty-first century.  What lessons can we take from them?

Scholars tell us that these letters demonstrate the true meaning of the word catholic.  They underscore the idea that Christ came for all.  Christ heals all who seek him.  Christ loves allChrist answers all who call upon him.  So it follows that if we are Christ we, too, must have a universal view of humankind.

When I think of James, I love that he reminds us to be doers of the word and not sayers only.  We cannot be saved by faith alone.

When I think of Peter, I remember that his letters did not make much sense to me until I had suffered greatly.  Peter, Cephas the Rock, writes so beautifully of the way to suffer properly, of how to make our suffering holy and thus unite ourselves with Christ through the cross so that we become co-redeemers with Christ.

John’s letters, and in particular the first two, are beautiful anthems to love.  They are surfacing as first readings at Mass this week and I am always struck by how they amplify the message of John’s lyrical Gospel, and how they give us a clear understanding that God is love and that love is God.

Jude’s one simple letter tells us how to live in a Christian community, how to beware of false teachers, and how to admonish one another properly.

Taken together or separately, there is much to be gained by sitting with a commentary and an epistle or two on a quiet afternoon to understand the allegory and the message meant for us . . . the modern apostles.

We seek God.  We seek union and intimacy with God.  This cannot be done unless we follow in the footsteps of those who shared bread with the Master.  Jesus came as God’s expression of love to us, his creatures.  He comes to us each day in the persons with whom we interact.  He calls us to be the universal church.

God seeks us.  He seeks union and intimacy with us.  This cannot be done unless we allow our hearts to be open to the potential planted in us.  We go to Jesus each day as we demonstrate our faith by loving God our creator fully.  We go out to Christ each day as we unite with Christ, becoming co-creators of love.  We become the universal church.

Jesus, breath of God, abide with us as we rise, become us as we go about our day, dream with us as we put our head upon the pillow at night.  Jesus, we seek you even as you seek us.  Amen.


Adapted from a reflection written on January 11, 2008.

Image from: https://jooinn.com/old-letter-rolls.html

Investigate the Letters of the New Testament at: http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/SFS/an0400.asp

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Nehemiah 1: A Vocation for Building

Friday, September 13, 2019

Jerusalem: Stones at the Temple South Wall

We have visited with this book several times during our Noontime reflections and we know that it, along with the book of Ezra, describes the restoration time of the Jewish nation.  We know that Nehemiah was the administrator who is credited with the rebuilding of the temple and walls while his friend Ezra, the priest, rebuilt the religious traditions of the Jewish people.  Together these men led their community to recovery through work, prayer and a close connection with their God.  

The survivors of the captivity there in the province are in great distress and under reproach.

We constantly bump into people who are in great distress and under reproach.  There are times when we ourselves are the victim of abuse of one kind or another, times when we too, suffer greatly in that we are separated from some one, some thing or some tradition which used to comfort us and bring us peace.  When we find ourselves in exile . . . and we yearn for reconciliation . . . the best remedy for this affliction is to do as Nehemiah did: I prayed: O Lord, God of heaven, great and awesome God, you who preserve your covenant of mercy towards those who love you and keep your commandments, may your ear be attentive, may your eyes be open, to heed the prayer which I, your servant, now offer in your presence day and night for your servants the Israelites, confessing the sins which we of Israel have committed against you, I and my father’s house included.

This was Nehemiah’s vocation, that he call together a buffeted and distracted people to bring them home to Yahweh where they might be healed and restored.  It is our vocation as well, for as Christians we too are called to help in the gathering, fishing and harvesting work of God’s kingdom.  To this we are called.  For this we are made.  Let us pray with Nehemiah . . .

O Lord, may your ear be attentive to my prayer and that of your willing servants who revere your name.  Grant success to your servant this day . . . and all days.

Our vocation is to build and rebuild, to restore, to bring unity out of chaos, to bring light into the darkness, to bring hope to the desperate.  And we are never alone in this work.  We are constantly accompanied by the one who is the light, the hope, the joy of the world.  We ask this in Jesus’, name.  Amen.


Written on September 12, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite. 

For more on Nehemiah and Ezra and the re-building of Jerusalem, go to: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/nehemiah%E2%80%93the-man-behind-the-wall/

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Matthew 11:25-30: Gentleness

Friday, June 7, 2019

Come to me, all you who labor and are weary . . .

We can use these words of encouragement as we approach at any number of times in our lives for we are frequently wearied by life’s turmoil.  We have seen the Easter story play out and we have full knowledge of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  We also know that Christ’s story is also our story.  We know that the dead rise, the weary rejoice, and the impossible becomes possible; yet despite this knowing we need support in order to move forward.  We dread the suffering we know is part of our existence . . . and we anticipate eagerly the happiness in store for us.  The Eastertide always presents us with both the terrible and wonderful as we remember Christ’s pain and joy.

In the paradox which is Christ, we see strength come from his gentleness, compassion from his understanding, empathy from his justice, love from his constancy.  In turn, we draw upon his storehouse of strength and wisdom.

When we continue to grapple with the obstacles in our lives, Jesus calls us to him to ask us if we want to be healed.  We have the choice to go to him or remain stuck in our illness.

When we are so burdened that we struggle to lift our eyes to look to the light, Jesus is there in his gentle understanding.  We have the choice to enter into a conversation with him or not.

When we are lost in the fog of turnings and wanderings that characterize our lives, Jesus offers to cure and heal.  We have the choice to continue to mourn our losses or to rejoice in our gains.

In today’s reading, gentleness has become the weapon against unchecked power; and the child-like are rewarded, for to them does God reveal himself.  Those who are “no account”, who are marginalized and who suffer know God far more intimately than do those who live in comfort and ease.  The invitation God extends through his son to the weary and to the burden-laden is an open invitation to all, but especially to those who are broken in body, spirit and heart.

Today’s message is an invitation and it is written out to us in the name of Gentleness.  Love is meek rather than submissive, peace-seeking rather than manipulative, kind rather than self-serving.  Love is gentle, just as St Paul reminds us 1 Corinthians.

When we reach the limit of our resources yet look up to see that we have miles still to go, we might lean on the gentle Jesus . . . for his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.


For more thoughts on Gentleness and for a resource of encouraging verses, click on the image above or go to: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/bible-verses-about-gentleness-10-encouraging-scriptures/

A re-post from May 24, 2012.

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Job 36: Innocence


Job 36Innocence

Friday, February 15, 2019

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

God abides with his faithful . . . God 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 . . . God 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 . . . God holds in check the water drops that filter in rain through mists.

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

God is powerful . . . In God’s hands he holds the lightning.

God is good . . . God 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 Fenruary 15, 2019.

Image from: http://jesus-photos-pictures.blogspot.com/2010/11/god-holding-world-in-his-hands-photos.html 

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2 Corinthians 4:1-6Scrupulous Honesty

Friday, December 21, 2018

Honesty: Robert E. Harney

We have renounced shameful, hidden things . . .  

Just recently in my workplace we have undergone a quality review by visitors from outside our community and we have been commended for our integrity.  This comes at no small cost.  It takes scrupulous honesty to peel away the sham and artifice in order to allow the gentle truth to emerge.  This kind of deep and searching honesty is frequently an unwelcome guest of the heart.  We shrink from repentance; we do not want to change.  We prefer the walls we have constructed that block out any fear that might cause us to change for the better.  We must move away from all hidden agendas and come into the light.

We have not acted deceitfully or falsified the word of God . . .

Just recently in my family we have suffered a soul-shattering loss and we continue to struggle with ourselves and with one another.  Truths must be pronounced but gently . . . kindly . . . mercifully.  The enormity of our grief might cause us to hide, or it may impel us to strike out at one another.  It is possible to nurse sad feelings or harbor grief; we may possibly ignore the growth that our suffering offers.  Or we might grow in wisdom as we allow the Spirit to open and heal us.  We might allow our divinity to teach us about our humanity.  In order to find union with God and mend our broken spirit, we must remove ourselves from deceit and we must allow God’s truth to guide us.  And we must do this lovingly . . . gratefully.

By the open declaration of the truth we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God . . .

As humans we tend to think that we exist in isolation.  The skin that contains our organs prevents us from physically occupying the space someone else holds.  We live in the illusion that we can hide from one another.  We allow small lies to color our stories, our perspectives and our opinions.  We forget that all that we are and all that we do are of and from God.  We live in the illusion that we create ourselves when the scrupulous truth is that we are co-creators of life with God.   When we move away from sham and artifice we can see all of this more clearly.  And when we spend time with God to sort through our sorrows, we become less frightened, less egocentric.  We become more loving, more vulnerable.  We become the promise God has hoped for us.

We do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord . . . and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus.

When we spend time worrying about ourselves and not others we have the wrong end of the stick.  God creates us to serve one another rather than be served.  God wants us to tend to one another rather than to be tended.  We are created to advocate for others . . . not to hide from, lie to, deceive or trample others. When we become slaves for the sake of Christ Jesus we begin to fulfill our potential.  We prepare ourselves in the best way possible for our union with God.

For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ.

We are created to make known God’s goodness to others, and it is our scrupulous honesty that opens us to God’s light.  It is in this way that we become a fearless, grateful, authentic revelation of God’s love.


A re-post from November 18, 2011.

Image from: http://www.robert-e-harney.com/picpages/Honesty.htm

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Jeremiah 31:7-14None Shall Stumble

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Marc Adamus: The Cold Journey

Jeremiah encourages the faithful to keep eyes fixed on God, to remember that God is both the source and goal of our being.  Our journey here on earth is one of working in the vineyards of the Kingdom, of witnessing to injustices committed against the marginalized, and of waiting on God’s plan in God’s time.  Jeremiah tells us that the faithful are guarded and led out of exile.  He reminds us that the remnant that was scattered is gathered up in hope and loved with passion.  The blind and the lame, mothers and those with child, those who departed in tears . . . all departed in sorrow will return in an immense throng . . . and none shall stumble.  This is the best kind of news we can hope to hear.

The daily drone of life wears down our defense against pain.  The monotony of waking each morning to hope endlessly in a better day saps our resources.  The aridity of the desert dries up the wells we frequent for refreshment. The oases are further apart; our rest stops do not sustain us as they once had.  We have difficulty celebrating the good news we know is upon us . . . and it is difficult for us to believe that none shall stumble.

When the life we have arranged for ourselves fails us we have two options: we can turn away from the pain of our suffering, or we can turn toward our grief where God waits to sweep us into waiting arms.

Richard Rohr has something to tell us about this in his book Job and the Mystery of Suffering: Spiritual Reflections (pages 54-55).

“We must go through the stages of feeling, not only in the last death of anything but also in all the earlier little deaths. If we abort these emotional stages by easy answers, all they do is take a deeper form of disguise and come out in another way. So many people learn that the hard way—by getting ulcers, by all kinds of psychosomatic diseases, depression, chronic irritability, and misdirected anger—because they refuse to let their emotions run their course, honor them consciously, or find some appropriate place to share them.

“Emotions are not right or wrong, good or bad. They are merely indicators of what is happening, and must be listened to, usually in the body. People who do not feel deeply finally do not know or love deeply either. It is the price we pay for loving. Like Job we must be willing to feel our emotions and come to grips with the mystery in our head, our heart, and our body. To be honest, that takes years”.

We live in a world of instant replay, quick solutions, smiling gurus, and impatience with suffering.  Jeremiah speaks to the faithful who understand that living well is not about covering over or covering up but of delving deep and allowing the fiery furnace of pain to refine us as we witness, work and wait.  Job understands the intensity of suffering innocently.  Rohr tells us that our pain is not a punishment but an acknowledgement of our eagerness to be one with God.  We know that the journey is long and steep . . . we know that our yearning for God means that we are remnant . . . and we know that with God . . . none of the faithful shall stumble.


A re-post from November 12, 2011.

Image from: http://www.marcadamus.com/photo.php?id=37&gallery=desert

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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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