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Posts Tagged ‘The Beatitudes’


Isaiah 58Fasting

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Many religions and cults include the practice of fasting as a form of worship; and in most cases the act of abstaining from food, drink or activities is meant to indicate one’s belief in or attitude toward some higher power.  In the case of Christians, fasting is prescribed on certain days in the liturgical calendar; the practice of denying one’s self food and drink is meant not as an outward sign or status but as an expression of interior penance.   The Catholic catechism states the following: “Fasting: Refraining from food and drink as an expression of interior penance, in imitation of the fast of Jesus for forty days in the desert.  Fasting is an ascetical practice recommended in Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers; it is sometimes prescribed by a precept of the Church, especially during the liturgical season of Lent”.  (“Glossary” 879)  Prayer and almsgiving are other forms of this interior penance described in paragraph 1434 of the catechism.

None of this should be a surprise to those who are familiar with the prophecy of Isaiah in which we hear today that this, rather, is the fasting that I [the Lord] wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bead with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.  These words are echoed beautifully in the Beatitudes spoken by Jesus in Matthew 5 . . . yet we persist in thinking that the poor are without resources because they are lazy or ignorant, victims have somehow brought their circumstances upon themselves, and the hungry and homeless just have not planned their lives well.  We continue to believe that refugees have gotten themselves in their sorry state; and immigrants need to “go back home”. It seems that many of us prefer to believe that life’s circumstances can be controlled yet . . . there but for the grace of God are we.

I am wondering if we might feel better about ourselves as a society if once a month we prepared casseroles of food and took them along with gently used clothing to shelters for women, children and men who find themselves in circumstances they do not deserve and have not asked for.  Of course, we would want to do this without judging how or why some of us need such help from others.  I am imagining how the world might be different if we stood up to corruption and the abuse of power.  I am visualizing our communities if we were to come together in small or large groups to exert all our efforts to the improvement of life for all of us and not just some of us.  I am thinking that we would be happy with the results . . . and that we might even enjoy ourselves in the process.

There are worthy organizations that build homes for the marginalized and take on legal cases for victims who cannot afford decent advocacy; there are medical and legal professionals who quietly give of themselves in pro bono work for the disadvantaged.  The least we can do is to support these groups with our own resources of time, treasure, talent and prayer.  We always receive far more than we give once we find time in our busy lives to exert ourselves and to expend our energy in true kingdom-building.

The psalmist reminds us in Psalm 40:7-8: Sacrifice and offering you do not want; but ears open to obedience you gave me.  Holocausts and sin-offerings you do not require; so I said, “Here I am . . .” 

And so we pray . . .

Here I am . . . to do your will, Lord . . . here I am.

Here I am . . . to answer your call, Lord . . . here I am.

Here I am . . . to do offer my gifts, Lord . . . here I am.

Here I am . . . to love your sheep, Lord . . . here I am.  Amen. 


A re-post from Friday, August 12, 2011.

“Glossary.” CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. 2nd ed. Vatican: Libreria Editice Vaticana, 2997. Print.

Image from: http://healthyetips.com/fasting-blood-sugar-levels-advantages-and-disadvantages/ 

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Matthew 9:32-34: The Mute

Monday, August 8, 2016

Tissot: Jesus heals a Mute Man Possessed by Demons

Tissot: Jesus heals a Mute Man Possessed by Demons

The crowds were amazed and said, “Never has anything like this been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons.”

As always, when goodness happens, evil will be lurking nearby, looking for an opportunity to douse the light, hoping that the darkness will take over. When we have no moral compass night and day look the same to us. Truth and lies have no boundaries. Deceit and honesty are difficult to discern. The innocent suffer as the wily take over. But this describes the world in which we live. In the Kingdom, the Beatitudes hold sway . . . the broken-hearted, the poor in spirit, the meek, the hungry, the thirsty, those who mourn and suffer persecution, the merciful, the pure of heart, those reviled in the name of goodness . . . all of these have value.

When we are confused or frustrated by the events around us we might turn to Matthew 5 to the new Rules for the Road that Jesus gives us so clearly. The inversion of values will not make sense to the unscrupulous or greedy, but what do we do when we are up against those who cheat a system meant for good or who look out only for themselves? How do we address such darkness? And must we speak or act when confronted by violence that takes advantage of the innocent?

Today we read about Jesus bring speech to a man who could not speak and we see that the crowds were amazed for never before had they seen such authority used to heal someone afflicted and disadvantaged. Those in power, on the other hand, are alarmed. We know the end of this story as does Jesus; still, he moves forward with his acts of healing, opening eyes that cannot see and ears that cannot hear. Are we as willing as he is to step into the darkness, bearing the light of The Word?

We are not Jesus, we tell ourselves. We are not expected to interfere with those who hold so much authority and power, we say as we comfort one another, so we will let someone else speak up. But is this the case? Are we – who have the gift of speech and the ability to use it – expected to remain mute in fear and confusion when we have the Beatitudes to guide us? Or might we use the words the Spirit gives us to bring clarity to obfuscation? Might we use our strength in Christ to shed light in the darkness? Might we use the power of Christ’s love, in solidarity with others, to bring about kingdom moments in a world waiting for freedom and honesty?

We have this to ponder today as we compare the translation above with other versions using the scripture link and drop-down menus. 

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Matthew 5: God’s Yardstick – The Law of Love – Part I

Happiness and the Beatitudeslaw-of-love

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

In these opening days of a new year, we have looked at women in scripture who see and use God’s yardstick in their lives. Over the next few days we explore how we find God’s yardstick in both Old and New Scripture.

As we move from the Old Testament to the New, God is moving us away from the external, vengeful, jealous, patriarchal God to a God of the internal. Through the prophet, God promises us a new covenant to replace the old. The Lord says, “The time is coming when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.  It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of Egypt. I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people”. (Jeremiah 31:31-33)

God who writes the covenant of love on our hearts, also comes among us a human. God who promises to redeem and save, also comes to dwell within as Spirit. In the Old Testament, God rewards good people and punishes the bad in order to gain their trust. In the New Testament, God calls us to spiritual maturity, God calls us to perfect union, to deep intimacy (Psalms 42 and 62). In the New Testament God asks that we accept the Creator, the giver . . . rather than the gifts.

love-one-anotherJeff Cavins, in his lecture on Matthew 5, outlines four levels of happiness: 1) instant gratification, 2) personal achievement, 3) philanthropy, and 4) union with God. The first two are about the self; the second two are about the other. Level one concerns the ego and what it can find, acquire or possess. Level two refers to awards we receive. Both of these levels give immediate satisfaction but are not lasting because, as scripture points out, we are created for more than this. In Level three we begin to move outside of ourselves to care about others, but this still is not lasting, not beatific. It is when we arrive at Level four that we find real happiness, real communion with our creator, intimate union with God. This is the union for which we are created. This is the Law of Love that supersedes the Mosaic Law of the Covenant. This is the measure with which God measures creation.

Tomorrow, The Sermons on the Mount and the Plain.

Adapted from a Favorite written on January 5, 2007.

Jeff Cavins visit: http://jeffcavins.com/

 

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yellow heart

Psalms 11 and 12: Prayer Against Arrogance

Sunday, November 15, 2015

In praying Psalm 11 we can be mindful that our reliance on God bolsters us and so we need not rely on our own strength. The innocent psalmist depends on the Lord’s protection for God defends those who seek asylum in God’s temple. It is good to know that we are allowed to flee when the wicked begin to hunt down those who are “upright of heart”.

The image of archers hunting birds is an apt one in Psalm 11.  The friends and advisors here are worried about the collapse of the foundation, but we are reminded in this prayer that God sees all, and that God “detests the lover of violence.”  We reflect today on the many forms of violence beyond the obvious physical violence. We remember as well the insidious and hidden deceit that wounds as deeply and as surely as the arrow meant to still the faithful heart.

Psalm 12 from THE MESSAGE: Quick, God I need your helping hand! The last decent person just went down, all the friends I depended on are gone. Everyone talks in lie language; lies slide off their oily lips. They doubletalk with forked tongues.

We do not know where to go nor whom to trust; and just when we believe there is no salvation the Psalmist speaks words that foreshadow Jesus’ Beatitudes: Into the hovels of the poor, into the dark streets where the homeless groan, God speaks: “I’ve had enough; I’m on my way to heal the ache in the heart of the wretched.” It is in this way that God rescues the small and powerless from the influence and control of the arrogant. So let us pray . . .

Good and generous God, console and comfort us as we deal with backlash from our faithful witnessing to your goodness so that we might continue to witness to you.

Good and tender God, offer us your protection when anger and violence stalk us so that we might seek refuge in the temple of your Spirit that lives in us.

Good and powerful God, provide us with a refuge for the righteous at heart when slander and gossip surround us so that we might recoup our strength in the sacred presence of your love.

Good and precious God, live in us always to deflect the arrows of the arrogant and restore our fragile hearts so that we might remain in unshakeable confidence in you.

Good and humble God, abide with us as you do with the widow and orphan, the abandoned and anxious, and transform our worries and fears with your healing hope.

We ask this in Jesus’ name in communion with the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A Favorite from July 22, 2007. 

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Good Friday, April 6, 2012 – Matthew 5:17-20 – Teaching on the Law

Joseph Mallord William Turner: A Mountain Scene, Val d'Aosta

Written on April 22, 2011 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

We might notice that the teaching on the Law finds its place among other teachings: the new Law of Love expressed in the Beatitudes, being salt and light, teachings on anger, adultery, divorce, oaths, retaliation and love of enemies.  In Chapter 6 we find teachings on almsgiving, prayer, fasting, treasure and our dependence on God.  Chapter 7 reveals more teachings on casting pearls before swine, expecting answers to prayers, judging others, the Golden Rule, the Narrow Gate, false prophets and true disciples, and finally . . . where and how to build a foundation that lasts.  These 3 chapters are an exact and simple roadmap to find our way when we are lost.  Today we focus on a portion but if there is time in your schedule to read through these chapters, you will find that you will have made an excellent investment for yourself.  You will have made another payment into your real retirement plan . . . your plan to live in the house the Father has built for you. 

My friend Lucy has given me a book for Easter which I cannot wait to read.  Because I have grandchildren fluttering under my wings during the holiday I have only read the introduction – but what a treat!  She has sent me a podcast in which the author speaks about the book.  This is not a plug to make a sale – it is a reference to today’s Noontime, and Rohr cites today’s verses in this brief podcast.  Perhaps as 3:00 nears this afternoon – the afternoon hour of prayer, the hour at which Jesus died – you might find time to listen  . . .  to read . . . and to reflect. 

http://www.americamagazine.org/content/podcast/podcast-index.cfm

Go to the year tab at the bottom of the page and select the year 2011, then scroll to the April 25 podcast – Life’s Second Half . . . and listen.

Joseph Mallord William Turner: A Sail Yacht Approaches the Coast

Once we have heard the podcast, let us ask this question on this Good Friday.  It is not about which half of our lives we believe we are in . . . rather it is this: Do we truly wish for our old systems to crash so that a new flourishing might begin?  

And Jesus says . . . I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 

If you are looking for more information on a Jungian approach to finding meaning in the second half of life, go to: http://www.psychceu.com/hollis/findingmeaning.asp

If you are looking for something that will lead you to investigate how you live God’s Law of Love, you will find a simple study guide to reflect on Rohr’s ideas in FALLING UPWARD at: http://www.cacradicalgrace.org/programs/pastwebcasts/wc-fallingupward 

To reflect on the narrow gates in your own life and how to grow from them, go The Narrow Gate page on this blog.

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