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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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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

will-religion-become-a-thing-of-the-past.jpg.crop_display[1]Amos 8:11

A Famine of Hearing

Yes, days are coming, says the Lord God, when I will send famine upon the land; not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord.

The Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 begins: Hear, O Israel!  And yet, do we listen? In 1 Samuel 3:11 we are told: The Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle”.  The prophet Isaiah tells us Isaiah 30:21: Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left. From Jeremiah 19:3: Hear the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Behold I am about to bring a calamity upon this place, at which the ears of everyone that hears of it will tingle.  And Ezekiel 12:2: Son of man, you live in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear; for they are a rebellious house.  Zechariah 7:11: But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears from hearing.  And Jesus in Mark 4:23: He who has ears to hear, let him hear.  And yet . . . do we listen? What is the origin of our famine of hearing?

God says: When a large crowd was coming together, and those from the various cities were journeying to him, he spoke by way of a parable: “The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled underfoot and the birds of the air ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out.  Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great.” As he said these things, he would call out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  (Luke 8:4-8)

For millennia God has spoken to us. We humans have the spiritual ears to hear. Let us be bearers of the word, witnesses of the kingdom, and carriers of the Good News. And let us do all that we can to end this famine of hearing.


For more information about The Shema, visit: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/shema.html or enter the word Shema in the blog search bar and explore.

For a commentary on the famine of the word (“Will Religion Become a Thing of the Past”), click on the image above or go to: http://www.ucg.org/commentary/will-religion-become-thing-past/

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Isaiah 5: The Vineyard Song

Pentecost Sunday, May 20, 2018

With this adapted Favorite from February 13, 2011, we give thanks for the presence of The Spirit as we struggle against all that would hold us down, all that would keep us from remaining on The Vine.

From the MAGNIFICAT Evening Prayer for Saturday, February 12: A good person brings forth good out of a store of goodness, but an evil person brings for the evil out of a store of evil.  (Matthew 12:35)

The power of evil is insidious.  It conceals itself within our lives posing as good. Discernment is the process of determining what is the counterfeit of good and what is true good.  Let us apply ourselves wholeheartedly to discernment and to living godly lives.  (MAGNIFICAT Mini-reflection, 168)

The power of evil is insidious  . . . There is so much around us locally and globally that discourages us.  We feel as though evil has taken over the world and that God does nothing to prevent this evil; yet here is a reminder that God is not evil, that God invites goodness, and that God is goodness.

Evil conceals itself within our lives posing as good . . . Matthew reminds us (6:12) that where our treasure lies there also is our heart. Jesus tells the rich young man, and us, that if we seek perfection we must sell what we have, give it to the poor and follow him (Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21 and Luke 12:33-34 and 18:22).  Not many of us have the confidence to follow God in this way.  Not many of us trust God enough to believe that God will truly care for our needs.  We too often are planted in well-prepared soil and produce little fruit, and then we blame God for the evil in the world.  We trick ourselves into thinking that we have done all that can be humanly done.  Or we convince ourselves that we are powerless.

Discernment is the process of determining what is the counterfeit of good and what is true good . . . Over the past weeks and days we have witnessed the will of thousands to overcome oppression in northern African countries.  I am imagining how the world might be different if all of us were to speak out against evil in our families and communities.  The vineyard in which we are growing might then grow the beautiful, full and nourishing grapes which the vineyard keeper has planted rather than the puny, wild grapes of unpredictable quality we allow to grow.  It is not difficult to distinguish what is good from what is evil, what is true and what is false.  When we begin to trust God to lead us, our sensitivity to goodness heightens and  it becomes easier with practice to distinguish what we are to do and what we are to say.

Let us apply ourselves wholeheartedly to discernment and to living godly lives . . . Isaiah’s Vineyard Song is followed by descriptions of the “doom of the unjust” and the subsequent invasion.   Woe to those who are wise in their own sight, and prudent in their own esteem!  If we are vague about who or what indicates wild grapes, Isaiah provides us with an exact listing.  We cannot say that we have not been told or that we do not understand what evil is and does.  We cannot say that we do not know what goodness is and what goodness does.  We ought not be surprised, therefore, at our fate.

Israel turned away from the God who saved and nurtured her and we are given the same choice to choose our own fate.  In today’s reading for Mass we have a clear description in Sirach 15:15-20, 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 and Matthew 5:17-27.  We have a clear road map with clear markers along the way.  When we join in singing Isaiah’s Vineyard Song, do we sing with full throat and heart?  We will want our voices to join with those who yearn to live in the kingdom.

The power of evil is insidious.  It conceals itself within our lives posing as good. Discernment is the process of determining what is the counterfeit of good and what is true good.  Let us apply ourselves wholeheartedly to discernment and to living godly lives. 


Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 12 February 2011. Print.

Tomorrow, Naboth’s vineyard. 

Image from: http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2017/05/deacon-bickerstaff-daily-reflection-vine-and-branches/

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Psalm 89: A Hymn in Time of National Struggle – Part VI

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Finding the Servant

James Tissot: David Dances Before the Ark

In 2 Samuel we continue to learn how God finds the faithful servant . . . and how we might become a constant follower of Christ. In this Book we find more vibrant lessons for living.

If we look at the Books of Samuel more closely, and the vivid characters who tell their stories so well, we see clear lessons for living.

How do we react when goodness and evil enter our lives? Do we recognize God’s hand when our lives go well? Do we blame others when our lives are difficult? How much do we credit God? How much credit to give ourselves?

The Ark of the Covenant returns to Jerusalem. Are we willing to leap for joy as David does? (2 Samuel 4)

We experience success in work and at home. Are we willing to thank God in prayer as David does? (2 Samuel 7)

William Brassey Hole: The Sorrow of King David

We stumble and stray. Where do we turn for guidance and pardon? (2 Samuel 11-12)

God searches for a faithful servant and finds a dedicated follower in the flawed leader of Israel. God works with a corrupt and immoral political and religious structure. God guides and protects the faithful followers of the Word. God walks among us as one of us. Today we spend a bit of time with 2 Samuel as we find our place in God’s kingdom of the faithful.

We hear this story . . . we take it in . . . and then we reply with the psalmist and King David . . . O Lord, I will always sing of your constant love; I will proclaim your faithfulness forever.

Tomorrow, praying with David, a faithful servant.

When we examine these verses using the scripture link, we discover the faithful servant in each of us.

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Order: The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments

The Tenth Day of Christmas, January 3, 2018

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gives to me ten lords a-leaping.

Many of us are familiar with The Ten Commandments that Yahweh gives to Moses, but how often do we pause to think of the fact the God, through Moses, not only gives us a simple set of rules to follow, but that he explains the effect these rules will have on our lives. God sees our authenticity by the way we live, and by the way we do or do not say, “Yes,” in response to God’s call. Today the old Christmas carol poses these questions to us: do we see the Gospel stories as a fulfillment of God’s hope in the covenant God establishes with us in the promise of the Ten Commandments?

This part of the Exodus story is bracketed by two convergent episodes: the provision of quail, manna and water by God to the Israelites, and the planning and building of a desert temple-tent for Yahweh by the Israelites. We see actions by both God and the Chosen People that speak of their desire to live in a covenant relationship. And the actual agreement, along with its explanations and implications, lies between these two actions in chapters 20 to 24.

The Holy Spirit

God takes the Israelites out of bondage – just as Jesus later does for all when he comes to live among us and to institute the Kingdom (in Luke 4:14-30). With the giving of the commandments, God foresees the struggle of the people in the desert. God’s preservation and protection of these people bring to God not only fame, glory and praise, but also an arrogant, contemptuous rejection by us. So too does Jesus arrive among God’s people to fulfill the Mosaic Law, to provide and protect us, and then to suffer at our hands; yet ultimately, God the Father and God the Son both offer their compassion and mercy to us when we are wayward. All that is required of us is that we repent of our past transgressions and then respond to the call. Just as God sent an angel to guard the Israelites and bring them to the place God had in mind for them (23: 20-33), so too does Jesus send the Holy Spirit to dwell with us after Jesus’ resurrection – to guide and protect, and to lead us to the holy place he has prepared for us. Of course, later in Chapter 32 of Exodus, the people tire of waiting for Moses to descend Mt. Sinai, so they create and worship the Golden Calf. Moses returns, breaks the tablets and loses his patience. The people repent, agree to do as Yahweh asks and Yahweh restores the tablets. A familiar story that we repeat today – we only need to read and compare history and current events. And it is no wonder that we stray – no wonder that the Israelites strayed. When we look at chapters 20 to 24 of Exodus, we see the social implications of the Mosaic Law. We might pay special attention to some of the verses that hold ideas difficult to take, verses that call for us to respect ourselves and one another: 22:15, 23:1, 22: 1-3, 22: 20, 21:35-36.

So on this day when we continue our celebration of God’s truest gift of love, we take a few moments to recollect our experiences in covenant relationships with others. We might mediate for a bit on how we might remain faithful to the one central covenant in our lives. And we might decide how best to renew that covenant each day with our Creator.

Adapted from a reflection on The Ten Commandments written February 14, 2007.

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Gifts . . . freely given

Jean Restout: The Paraclete

The Seventh Day of Christmas, December 31, 2017

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me seven swans a-swimming.  

Wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of God. These seven gifts freely given by the Spirit reside with us – whether we know it or not, and whether we believe it or not. When we least expect it, the Spirit rises to provide us with the tools we need for the circumstances we experience.

Wisdom comes to us with patience and with waiting on the LORD. When we reflect on the persons who hold wisdom, we realize that they listen more than they speak, praise more than they berate, and love more than they disparage. These gifted ones share their wisdom with us, and we do well to share God’s wisdom with others.

Understanding is more than comprehending, more than accepting, and more than believing. Understanding pierces darkness, brings lights, nurtures love in others and enacts love in all. When we practice understanding, we receive more than we expect, and more than we can hold. Understanding grows wherever it resides.

Counsel allows each of us to respond to God’s call no matter how challenging, no matter how awkward, no matter how uncomfortable we may feel. Counsel converts fear into courage. Counsel transforms hatred into love. Those who are open to God’s counsel are better able to see The Way of Christ and to follow.

Fortitude brings us the strength to do what needs to be done when few others will do it. Fortitude brings us the resolution to endure suffering, and to allow God’s hand to convert our suffering into joy. When we allow God’s fortitude to support us in difficult times, we remember Psalm 126: they go out weeping and return rejoicing.

Knowledge of the LORD brings us the foundation on which to stand as we enact the work God calls us to do in this world that struggles to be Kingdom here and now. This gift, perhaps more than any other, allows us to speak and act with authority as Jesus does. Knowledge instructs our decisions, lives in our words, and guides our actions. Knowledge informs our sense of justice and mercy, brings order out of confusion, and love out of hate.

Piety is not a saccharine, duty-bound quality of sweetness; rather, it is love bolstered by God’s power, fidelity strengthened by God’s steadfastness, and hope empowered by God’s promise. Piety is faithful because it makes the choice to persist in God’s love and to believe in God’s covenant. Piety does more than just show up. Piety acts with compassion and patience; and piety is unshakable.

Fear of God is not the experience of anxiety or alarm; it is instead love of God for God’s sake. It demonstrates respect, seeks to worship, and shares joy in the experience of God. One who fears the LORD, stands in awe of God’s goodness and is eager to share the Good News of our rescue from pain and worry.

These seven gifts are more than words. They are tangible forces in our lives. They are stones with which we lay the foundation for our relationship with God. Those who would be wise, are also understanding. Those who give counsel also provide fortitude. Those with knowledge and piety live in awe of God who loves us into creation, and who abides with us even beyond the end of time. On this eve of a new year, we do well to open ourselves to these gifts freely given.

Isaiah 11 describes the Spirit’s gifts as does Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 12.

To learn more about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, visit: http://catholicstraightanswers.com/gifts-holy-spirit/

 

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Torah: Law and Covenant

Torah being read at a Bar Mitzvah

The Fifth Day of Christmas, December 29, 2017

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me five gold rings.

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Our origins and beginnings, God’s redemption and deliverance, our holiness and worship, service and work, God’s law and covenant with the people. The first five books of the Old Testament are five gold rings that we might wear on our fingers as we remember how God has acted in our lives, and has called us to a holy way of life.

We might take time today to read stories of creation and the patriarchs whose lives bring us vivid examples of how we might – or might not – respond to God’s call. On the other hand, we might want to explore the exodus story that we re-live during Lent and Eastertide each year. Some of us might be interested in the minutiae of the law or in the early Temple rites. Finally, we may want to explore the Christian perspective of these ancient Jewish scriptures because for Christians, “the Pentateuch portrays the pilgrim people waiting for the full realization of the kingdom of God.”

No matter our perspective, no matter our circumstances, these five golden rings bring us a foundation and a vision for the kingdom we know is already among us.

For more about the Torah, or Pentateuch, visit: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-written-law-torah or http://www.usccb.org/bible/scripture.cfm?src=_intros/pentateuch-intro.htm

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Proverbs 12: If You Love Learning

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The school in which I teach has a front portico with seven columns as a direct, overt message that we seek knowledge. (See Proverbs 9.) The school motto is: Veritatem prosequimur – Pursue truth. For an institution of learning, the image of Wisdom building her house is apt. Today we explore several verses from Chapter 12 as we reflect on the value of taking advice.

If you love learning, you love the discipline that goes with it—
    how shortsighted to refuse correction!

Acceptance of a valid critique is a sign of strength rather than weakness.

You can’t find firm footing in a swamp,
    but life rooted in God stands firm.

Building our spiritual house on Christ is a sign of our confidence in The Word.

The words of the wicked kill;
    the speech of the upright saves.

The gossip of bad people gets them in trouble;
    the conversation of good people keeps them out of it.

Sharing The Word with others is an invitation to the Spirit.

Fools have short fuses and explode all too quickly;
    the prudent quietly shrug off insults.

Living The Word brings us fortitude rather than fear.

Evil scheming distorts the schemer;
    peace-planning brings joy to the planner.

No evil can overwhelm a good person,
    but the wicked have their hands full of it.

Living as Jesus teaches is a sign of courage rather than submission.

Prudent people don’t flaunt their knowledge;
    talkative fools broadcast their silliness.

Sharing The Word in the Spirit is a sign that the Kingdom of God is here. The Kingdom of God is now.

When we compare other translations of these verses, we find that a love of learning is essential for workers in the Kingdom.

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Proverbs 10: Honesty, Discipline and Expansion

Sunday, July 30, 2017

God won’t starve an honest soul,
    but God frustrates the appetites of the wicked.

Sloth makes you poor;
    diligence brings wealth.

The writers of Proverbs focus on practical advice that speaks of life honestly.

Make hay while the sun shines—that’s smart;
    go fishing during harvest—that’s stupid.

Blessings accrue on a good and honest life,
    but the mouth of the wicked is a dark cave of abuse.

These verses point to truisms that make us smile.

Honesty lives confident and carefree,
    but Shifty is sure to be exposed.

An evasive eye is a sign of trouble ahead,
    but an open, face-to-face meeting results in peace.

These words remind us that discipline paves the way of a happy life.

The road to life is a disciplined life;
    ignore correction and you’re lost for good.

 Liars secretly hoard hatred;
    fools openly spread slander.

We remember that balance and compromise are basic elements of discipline.

The more talk, the less truth;
    the wise measure their words.

The speech of a good person is worth waiting for;
    the blabber of the wicked is worthless.

We reflect on our acts of kindness and realize that they return to us a hundred-fold.

God’s blessing makes life rich;
    nothing we do can improve on God.

The nightmares of the wicked come true;
    what the good people desire, they get.

When we are patient, forgiving, and open, we arrive at seeing the reality of the Kingdom.

When the storm is over, there’s nothing left of the wicked;
    good people, firm on their rock foundation, aren’t even fazed.

The aspirations of good people end in celebration;
    the ambitions of bad people crash.

When we are faithful, hope-filled and loving, we join others who look for the expansion of the Kingdom.

When we use the scripture link and the drop-down menus to explore different translations of these verses, we begin to see that honesty and discipline bring about the expansion of the Kingdom.

 

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