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Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Psams_8_3_4[1]Psalm 8:3-5

When We Consider

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained; what is man that you take thought of us, and the son of man that you care for him?  Yet you have made him a little lower than God, and you crown him with glory and majesty!

We spend far too much time comparing ourselves with others rather than measuring ourselves against our own potential. We pass too many hours lamenting what might have been or what we wish might be instead of giving thanks for all that we are. We lament loss as a deficit rather than leaning into the grief and growing through the suffering.  We struggle to be like gods without realizing that . . . we are already members of Christ’s Mystical Body.

God says: Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if I so clothe the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will I clothe you? Oh, you of little faith! And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek my kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for I have chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. (Luke12:27-32)

Jesus enters the world as an infant in an obscure place of unremarked parents and yet Jesus is the one who supersedes all powers and principalities. With this inversion we cannot help but see that although our lives are brief in the scope of God’s time, we are precious and vital to God’s plan.

When we consider the gift of Jesus’ suffering and love . . . how can we not return so great a gift?


For a visual meditation of Psalm 8, click on the image above and look for the YouTube link, or go to: Psalm 8, A  visual meditation
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erTSh-vhuxA

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Sunday, October 4, 2020hope mugSirach 39:16-35

A Reason for Your Hope

We pause in our study of 1 Peter and turn to the wisdom of Sirach. In verses 21, 25, 33 and 34 we begin to find clarity to a question that occurs to each of us throughout our lives: why is it that the wicked do not suffer? The answer always is: God has a plan, God has infinite time, God is infinitely good, God calls us to intimacy in the Spirit, and we must go to God in the proper way, in God’s way, and in God’s time.

It occurs to me that many people who appear to “have it made” are suffering in a way that they do not express. They likely view suffering as a sign of failure, just as those living in the days of the Old Testament believed. Unlike Peter in his letters to us, they do not understand that suffering is The Way.  Suffering shows our willingness to undergo the necessary discipline which we all must experience in order to reach the next place. Suffering brings us to a place – if we allow it – where we finally and fully meet God.

A friend recently pointed out to me that bullies are often grieving and likely do not know that they are suffering. Or if they know why they suffer they do not understand that they are experiencing an undergoing or that they are constantly accompanied by God. The angry, jealous, divisive life they set up for themselves as they isolate themselves from the rest of the world is a perpetuation of their dreadful pain rather than a healing, unifying, enduring, loving expression of God made visible among us.

So if we believe that God exists and if can manage to remain faithful to God, if we hope that all of us – even our enemies – attain holiness before and with God, if we remain reverent despite the apparent ability of the wicked to escape consequences, if we strive to love our enemies into goodness and purity . . . then we are true expressions of God here on earth. These are difficult tasks, but as Jesus ben Sirach tells us, there is no wiser path in life. And as Peter writes to us, Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.  For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.

Reflecting on the wisdom of Sirach and Peter we pray . . .

Gentle and loving God, keep us prudent but joyful. Let us wear our hope upon our sleeves as we open my arms to all. We  know that you are with us and that we need not fear for you are always walking with us. Keep us persistent, keep us loving, keep us always close to you as we do your will. Keep our ears sharp, our eyes keen, our actions pure, our thoughts holy. Keep our hands and feet and mouth in accord with your will. Let our patience endure, our hope be joy-filled, and our love be infinite. Trusting in your wisdom, prudence, and love, we pledge ourselves to you this day and in this way. Amen. 


Adapted from a reflection written on September 1, 2007.

Image from: http://pbcvoice.blogspot.com/2012/06/sharing-from-my-heart.html

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Tuesday, September 29, 2020obedience[1]1 Peter 1:13-16

Obedience

Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ . . . [and] be holy as he who called you is holy . . . for it is written, “Be holy because I [am] holy”.

Peter understands the importance of living in Christ’s holiness perhaps more than any other apostle. Peter both denied Christ and witnessed that Jesus is the son of the Living God. Peter understands the real cost and gift of suffering. Peter believes in the inheritance he holds in his hands, mind and spirit.  Peter comprehends the importance of living in Christ, and the insignificance of the many small problems with which we crowd our days.

God says: Listen to our brother Peter for he has great wisdom for you. Peter understands that real freedom can only be won through obedience to the goodness I have planted in you. Peter understands that straying from my Word is normal and that suffering is unpleasant and painful. Peter also understands that cleaving to my Word can go against your desire for independence . . . but that total and true independence can only be gained through your following in The Way of Christ. There is much more that Peter understands and that he wants to convey to you but for today . . . rest with the idea of obedience. And reflect on when and how and why you have felt most free. Like Peter you will find that the obedience he preaches releases you from the small, petty worries of your days. Like Peter, you will come to more fully understand how obedience releases you from all that constrains and frightens you.

Once we decide to trust God in both large and small matters we free ourselves from energy-sapping anxiety. This is what Peter means by girding our minds and living soberly in the moment. This is the holiness to which Peter calls each of us . . . in the name of Christ.

Tomorrow, Peter tells us about reverence . . .  


Image from: http://metropraise.blogspot.com/2012/09/obedience-is-better-than-sacrifice.html

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Thursday, September 17, 2020

saint-peter-1634[1]

Guido Reni: Saint Peter

1 Peter 2:21-24

How to Suffer

“Peter is the saint in the Gospels who is most like us, the closest to our humanity, and yet also very close to Christ.  We can always follow Peter.  He always leads us to Jesus, he unites us to Jesus, because he never permitted his own frailty to separate his heart from Christ, even when he denied him”.

Dom Mauro Giuseppe Lepori, O. Cist. (Cameron)

We have been exploring the prophecy of Amos, a difficult and sometimes abrasive lesson to hear; and an even more difficult message to enact. Yet this is precisely the example that Peter provides for us today. A man who leaves all to follow the one who is all.  A man who at first disbelieves the words he hears who eventually becomes so close to that Word that he gives even his life to live in eternal union with Christ. In this canticle from Peter’s first letter we find convincing evidence that we need to take the words of Amos to heart.  We find the consummate example of how to live authentically, how to witness and how to find the narrow yet sure path that leads to God.

Let us spend some time today with Peter’s words in the first of his letters. Let us consider how these words call us to dissect the prophecy of Amos. And let us turn all of our suffering over to Christ who best knows how and when and why we suffer.

Enter the word Peter into the blog search bar to find more reflections on how this simple man calls each of us to a greatness that lasts forever.


Image from: https://www.wikiart.org/en/guido-reni/saint-peter-1634

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 5.9 (2013): 76-77. Print.  

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Friday, May 15, 2020

SF_LOGO1[1]Sirach 21

A Prayer for Steadfastness

In our Easter journey we have been exploring the idea that discipleship brings hidden gifts along with its difficulties and suffering.  We have been examining figures in the Old and New Testaments to see what we can learn from well know stories.  And we have been praying together to discern how we might better see the cross of discipleship as gift rather than burden.  Today we pray for steadfastness.

When we ask for God’s wisdom in understanding how we have found ourselves in discomfort . . . we ask for steadfastness.

When we open ourselves to hear what we may learn from our uneasiness . . . we ask for steadfastness.

When we are humble enough to learn something about God and ourselves through our suffering . . . we ask for steadfastness.

When we step forward to volunteer our lives in service of Christ in his kingdom-building . . . we ask for steadfastness.

When we resolve to learn from the anxiety and pain we have experienced . . . we ask for steadfastness.

Jesus ben Sirach tells us that when we allow this steadfastness to permeate our lives, we will find ourselves among wise women and men rather than a troop of fools; and these wise ones will bolster us when we falter.  When we allow steadfastness to govern our lives, we will experience the joy of knowing that we are one with Christ.  This is the joy and gift of walking with Christ.  It is the gift of better knowing ourselves.  It is the gift of looking in a mirror openly and honestly without having to deceive ourselves about what we actually see.   It is the gift of our divinity in and through Christ.  And so for this gift of steadfastness we pray . . .

Dear Lord, you have planted in each of us our own gifts to share.  Help us to ready the soil of our lives, make us open to the life-giving rain of your wisdom.  Help us to be builders of your kingdom rather than hearers only of your Word.  Help us to listen, reflect and pray for your presence. Bring us the steadfastness and humility that we will need to nurture the growth of your Word in us so that we may offer these gifts back to you.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

Tomorrow, as we move toward Pentecost . . . Celebration in Assembly . . .


Image from: http://www.bgumc.net/?page_id=147

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Genesis 42: The First Journey

West: Jacob Blesses His Sons

Benjamin West: Jacob Blesses His Sons

Everyone in this story is tested.

Jacob’s sons are reluctant to go to Egypt for rations of grain even though they starve.  Jacob speaks to them in this way: Why do you keep gaping at one another?  I hear that rations of grain are available in Egypt.  Go down there and buy some for us, that we may stay alive rather than die of hunger.  Later he must allow the precious smallest son, Benjamin, to return to Egypt with his brothers; this is the condition laid upon them by Joseph.  If some disaster should befall him on the journey you must make, you would send my white head down to the nether world in grief. 

Joseph suffers greatly when he sees his ten brothers who once discussed murdering him before selling him into slavery.  He speaks to them through an interpreter so as to retain his anonymity; his reaction to their conversation is one of deep sadness: Turning away from them, he wept.

As Joseph’s brothers argue over how to proceed, Reuben reminds them that they ought not to have rid themselves of Joseph years earlier: Didn’t I tell you not to do wrong to the boy?  But you wouldn’t listen!  Now comes a reckoning for his blood.

Everyone in this story suffers.

Our culture encourages us to avoid pain at all cost.  We are too often taught that failure is a negative to be circumvented . . . not an opportunity to learn something about ourselves and others.  We regard tests as ordeals . . . we do not see them as opportunities to examine our minds and hearts.  We look upon obstacles as objects to be overcome . . . we do not see constricting circumstances as a lesson plan from God.  We too often see adversity as punishment . . . and we miss the fact that hardship and strife give us an occasion to draw nearer to God.

We are all tested.  We all suffer.  This is an inherent condition of the human experience.  Later in this story (50:20) Joseph will say to his brothers: Even though you meant to harm me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people.  Joseph sees his trials for what they are . . . God’s providence and love converting all harm to good.  Joseph makes this journey first, his brothers and father follow later, completing a passage they had never imagined possible.  They experience loss and sorrow, joy and surprise yet they move forward inexorably . . . hoping to traverse their pain.

What does all our suffering and testing mean?

We might take time today with this part of the Genesis story to contemplate the sons of Jacob and the many lessons their story contains.  Let us make our own first journey to discover the gift of our misfortune.


For a reflection on Genesis 43 – The Second Journey, the journey of return, enter the words in the blog search bar and explore. 

Image from: http://www.oneyearbibleblog.com/2011/01/january-24th-one-year-bible-readings.html

 

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Jeremiah 16: Candor and Hope

Monday, November 25, 2019

We seek better things to come . . .

What are we to think of the words recorded here by the prophet Jeremiah?  A paraphrasing from the HARPERCOLLINS COMMENTARY, page 559, tells us:  This section contains reports of three symbolic actions, followed by an interpretation that puts them in the context of the Exile.  The prophet is to remain unmarried and childless since the upcoming warfare will be utterly destructive of families.  He is told not to participate in mourning rites because Yahweh intends to remove peace from the land that will undermine the normal mourning customs.  A third requirement of the prophet is that he not participate in festivities of any kind as all celebration will cease.  Following these admonitions is a justification for the punishment they are to receive, the cause is their apostasy.  So we see the domination of two concerns of the community in exile: to identify the cause of its present situation and to contemplate a more favorable future.

Suffering, as we know, is not necessarily castigation; sometimes the innocent suffer through no fault of their own because of circumstances beyond anyone’s control.  What we can take away from today’s reading is the underlined thought above.  When we feel ourselves suffering in exile, two exercises are useful: first, reflecting on our behavior prior to exile to investigate the need to change as appropriate and second, anticipating a better future in active hope.  These are hallmark characteristics of the Christian.  Candid self assessments, the search for improvement, and petitioning God for better things to come.  Even . . . and especially . . . when things seem darkest . . . and without hope of any kind.

When we find ourselves in pain or in exile, suffering either innocently or as a consequence of our own actions, we may choose to become bitter, angry, resentful, and intent on making others suffer.  This does not align with the Law of Love as described by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 when he writes that love does not brood over injury or rejoice over wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 

When we find ourselves in exile, it is best to regard the time as a period of retreat and reflection, going inward to hear the voice of truth, looking outward in expectation of the good news which will arrive.  As children of God, we benefit from knowing this good news even before it reaches us.  It is the news of our release.  The news of our freedom.  The news that we are created and held by one who loves us more than we can imagine.


Written on November 26, 2008, re-written and posted today.   To see how one community contemplates and moves toward a more favorable future, click on the image above or go to: http://www.hopeinspiredministries.org/

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 559. Print.

Image from: http://www.hopeinspiredministries.org/

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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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