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Posts Tagged ‘the kingdom’


Ascension Sunday, May 16, 2021birds-watercolor-painting-giclee-poster-gift-idea-two-sparrows-home-decor-joanna-szmerdt

Matthew 10:29-31

Every Hair

Jesus taught us, saying: Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than two sparrows”.

In this short citation of Jesus’ words, we learn all that we need to know about living life and about being watchful.

ONE: Nothing can be concealed from God. The Creator knows all that we think and do. The Creator understands our most secret motivations. Why do we try to hide anything we do or anything we think? Secrecy is futile in the kingdom.

Christ walks always with us, calling us forth in the name of the Creator. The Spirit remains in us, filling us with life eternal.

TWO: Nothing we do goes unnoted by God. The Creator marks both our pain and sorrow, our happiness and joy. Why do we persist in relying on our own small forces when we have the omnipotence and omniscience of the Creator buoying us up?  Reliance on self is meaningless in the kingdom.

Christ walks before and behind us, guiding and protecting in the name of the Creator. The Spirit hovers, abiding and consoling with love everlasting.

If God notes even the falling of a sparrow’s feather, how much can our anxiety and willfulness accomplish? How far will our stubbornness carry us in comparison with the power and strength of the Spirit?

If God numbers every hair on our heads, how much do we think we can hide what we do not like about ourselves?

How much will our separateness gain for us in comparison with the unity we have in God’s love? Secrecy and too much reliance on self will always be trumped by humility, generosity and love in the kingdom. Let us live as if we believe that God has numbered our every hair.


Image from: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/birds-watercolor-painting-giclee-poster-gift-idea-two-sparrows-home-decor-joanna-szmerdt.html?product=greeting-card

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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Mark 13:32-37

Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow: The Parable of the Ten Virgins

Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow: The Parable of the Ten Virgins

Watch!

We began our exploration of Mark 13 reminding ourselves that we preach the Gospel with each action we perform each minute of each day. What does our life say about our awareness of the importance of watchfulness? Where do our feet take us as we live out the Word? What do our hands do as we move through our days? How carefully do our ears listen to our friends and companions? How honestly do we look others in the eye? How truthfully do we live out our understanding that all temples to self will fall, all teachers and prophets are not authentic, and all tribulations bring us closer to God? Why is it essential to understand that Christ is among us now?  What have we learned from the lesson of the fig tree?

Jesus tells us the Parable of the Ten Virgins:  Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. But at midnight there was a shout, “Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him”.  Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out”. But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves”. And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, “Lord, lord, open up for us”.  But he answered, “Truly I say to you, I do not know you”. Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1-13)

virgin with lampWe are presented with the choice to be foolish or prudent. We are free to decide if we will or will not carry a flask of oil to replenish the lamp of life we have been generously given.  We have ears to hear and eyes to see; yet we do not know the hour and we do not know the day when we will be called to an accounting. What Gospel are we preaching with the days of our lives?


For a fresh perspective on this parable, click on the Bible link above and read another of the preselected versions of this story or choose one of your own . . . and discover how Jesus’ words speak to us in a new way about the old theme of watchfulness

Images from: http://timdedeaux.com/category/prayer/ 

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Friday, February 5, 2021

the-letter-sadhe[1]Psalm 119:137-144

Sadhe

I am consumed by rage, because my foes forget your words . . . Your decrees are forever just; give me discernment that I may live.

We become indignant when we believe that others do not understand the message of the Gospel; others become indignant with us when we behave in a narrow way.

God says: I really do understand how anger and frustration might consume you; but I ask that you take this negative energy and hand it to me. Together we will transform the ugliness and pettiness and cruelty you see in the world . . . to beautiful truth, inspiring authenticity and salvific love. Together we will bring goodness out of harm. Together we will build a kingdom so that all might live eternally.

Once we allow ourselves to pardon enemies we experience love as God does. We find a new tranquility and balance. And we discover that the evil around us melts into nothingness. This new serenity begins when we can bring ourselves to love our enemies as Jesus does.

Jesus says: You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy”. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly father . . . For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? (Matthew 5:43-47)

In this newest lesson presented to us in Psalm 119 we find the greatest – and perhaps the most difficult and certainly the most important – lesson of all. We find our divinity by fully and completely turning our most basic human instincts over to God. We find the kingdom that lies before us by interceding for all of. We find discernment by turning all of our rage into love. And all of this brings us serenity.


For more on how Sadhe speaks to us of faith that is found in the righteous, go to: http://www.inner.org/hebleter/tzadik.htm

For a quick view of the Hebrew letters, click on the image above and then click through the alphabet to the left, or go to: http://www.heb4you.com/hebrew-alephbet/18th-letter-of-the-hebrew-alphabet.html

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Wednesday, February 3, 2021

ayinPsalm 119:121-128

Ayin

My eyes long to see you salvation and the justice of your promise.

In the sixteenth strophe of Psalm 119 we hear a cry to see God’s kingdom now, a plea to see God’s Law of Love as promised.

God says: You need not fuss and worry that others do not try to forge the kingdom with you. You may even lose sleep and become despondent at the evil you see daily either close to you or in more distant places on the globe. I tell you that you need not fear. You need not judge. You need not burden yourself with thinking that you are responsible for all the troubles throughout all of time or throughout all places on the planet. What I ask you to do is quite simply this: Listen for my voice to guide you in whatever way you perceive me; respond to the call that I place in your heart; and remember that I have promised you the kingdom for which you pine. You are presently in my kingdom . . . although you may struggle to see it. When you are able to put down your black-and-white glasses that give you a dual vision of the world where everything is either yes or no, you will begin to see the beauty of my kingdom in which everything is either/and.

From the time that we are tiny we are given rules that plainly state consequences and our parents invoke these rules to keep us safe.  There are ways to cross the street, ways to mingle with strangers, ways to handle fire and ice and all of these rules are meant to preserve us and keep us safe.  As we mature we must continue to grow so that we might begin to see the world as God sees it, so that we might begin to experience time as God lives it. As we mature we must allow God to soften our hearts, unbend our stiff necks, and open our minds that are closed to possibility.

Jesus stands on the shore of the sea and sees his apostles in a small boat tossed on the storm swept waters. About the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out. They had all seen him and were terrified. But at once he spoke with them. “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were [completely] astounded. They had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened. (Mark 6:48-52)

For a deeper awareness of how we might miss the message of the loaves, read Mark 6:34-44 and reflect on the times we also misunderstand . . . and insist that Christ enter our foundering boat.

Tomorrow, Pe.


For more on the Hebrew alphabet, visit: http://www.biblicalhebrew.com/alphabet.htm 

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Second Sunday of Advent

jwelcom[1]December 6, 2020

Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12

Welcome

Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright by the land’s afflicted.

Isaiah shows us a vision of God’s Kingdom and of the world as it might be. We are welcome to paint our own images upon this enormous canvas of hope. The prophet describes a dominion the hunters live peacefully with their prey. A child plays near a venomous serpent; division, harm and ruin have come to an end. Our superficial system of judging and choosing no long functions. God’s justice sees what is in the heart and mind. Our empty gestures are seen for what they are, hollow hope, false hospitality and silly pandering. We forget that those who live on the margins are the closest to God’s heart. When we exclude the poorest among us we exclude Christ.

What might we do to welcome this vision of the kingdom in honesty? How might we welcome Christ as generously as he has welcomed us?

Edward Hicks: The Peaceable Kingdom

Edward Hicks: The Peaceable Kingdom

Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Paul speaks to an audience in conflict; his listeners and readers have allowed petty differences to divide them and they have openly ignored the beauty and wealth of God’s offer of this peaceable Kingdom. With clear reason Paul presents his cogent argument: God’s Kingdom is not a club with rules; rather, it is a state of being in which everyone speaks the Language of Love.

How might we examine our own actions and thoughts to root out our pettiness? How might we nurture our growth in God’s Law of Love?

Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. 

In the end there is one sure way to know if we are hearing, speaking and acting in God’s love: our personal yardstick is the fruit our labor bears. If we call on candor and patient waiting, we will quickly see how much we welcome the Christ in others and how much we exclude.

lion and lambDo we invite everyone to learn about Jesus by the way we live? Do we chase away lions and bears assuming that they do not belong in the Kingdom? Do we exclude adders and vipers because we cannot see their potential for change? Do we welcome only those who look and act and believe as we do?

On this Second Sunday of Advent we are welcomed by Christ – along with countless billions – to prepare for his arrival. Let us ready our hearts and our minds to receive the greatest gift of all time and space – the gift of an amazing Kingdom, the gift of unbelievable peace, the gift of Christ’s universal welcome.


Images from: http://users.elite.net/runner/jennifers/welcome1.htm and https://atsunnyside.blog/2019/01/14/edward-hicks-peaceable-kingdom-1833/ and http://www.abolitionist-society.com/

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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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