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Posts Tagged ‘The Way’


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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Psalm 27: Seek Trust – God’s Face

Morgan Weistling: Kissing the Face of God

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

This is one of my favorite Psalms. The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom should I fear?  The Lord is my life’s refuge, of whom am I afraid?

We all seek God’s face.  This is what we miss so much in our pilgrimage on this planet.  Where do we find this face? The psalmist tells us: In the temple. 

This week’s Mass readings are from Exodus and we hear again the story of how Moses erected a desert tent as the temple that housed the covenant promise that the people held with God.  And God came down to speak with Moses and to the people in the form of a fiery column of smoke.  This column was both guide and protector.  The temple eventually traveled to various cities in the Kingdom of Israel, Jericho, Shiloh, and others, until it eventually rested in Jerusalem – where it ceased to travel and became permanent . . . and corrupt.

The Messiah arrived to replace that temple and to tell us that each one of us is a temple – to be kept holy and sacred for the Spirit’s in-dwelling, to be God’s presence in a struggling world.  And this is what we agree to as part of our own personal covenant with our creator.  That we will trust God and live in accordance with God’s statutes, that we will love God and practice the Greatest Commandment daily, that we will do our best to be People of Hope as we follow The Way that Jesus walked while here on earth.  As the psalmist says, I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy. And the sacrifices I offer are the little and big trials which I undergo daily.

We are all apostles sent forth with this message.  We are journeying together with a clear map to follow.  Again the psalmist, aware that enemies lurk along the roadside, says, Lord, show me your way; lead me on a level path because of my enemies.

The final exhortation sung by the psalmist is, Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord!

And the people say . . . Amen.

Adapted from a Favorite written on August 2, 2007.

 

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John 14:12-14: Seek Wholeness – The Work

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

If we cannot believe Christ’s presence in our lives today, we can at least do the works we see Jesus doing in the Gospels. Over time, we will discover that Jesus brings us hope.

I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works.

If we do not trust God with the enormous events of our lives, we can at least trust God with small actions. Over time, we will discover that God is faithful.

The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing.

If we do not allow the Spirit to heal us through transformation, we can at least open ourselves to the possibility of renewal. Over time, we will discover the Spirit’s deep and abiding love for us.

You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do.

God says: Despite your doubts, despite your fears, despite your anxieties, you are already whole. I breathe in you. I rest in you. I work and play and pray in you. If you seek wholeness, know that you already possess it. And this possession becomes evident if you can only do the works you see Jesus doing. When you step into my Way, you discover that you are loved into a wholeness that you recognize readily. Trust me. You can count on it.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore versions of these verses, we discover that we are already whole in our Gospel work of Christ’s Way.

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1 Samuel 17: The Way of Christ

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Caravaggio: David and Goliath

A Favorite from August 16, 2009.

This is a story we know well, and yet we might want to pause in order to spend time with a few details.

  • Battle armor and brave words do not protect Goliath from the truth of David’s one small stone. We might reflect that . . . bluster, barricades and weapons do not serve us as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • While David’s oldest brothers go off to fight against the Philistines with Saul, David tends his father’s sheep in Bethlehem. We might reflect that . . . although our work may often seem insignificant, it is always on target when we obey God as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David leaves his flock with another shepherd when he takes roasted grain and cheeses to the battlefield for the troops. We might reflect that . . . even in the midst of our work, we must remember to shepherd those who follow us as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David’s brothers are jealous not only of the bravery which stems from David’s special relationship with Yahweh but also because David comes to Saul’s attention for the question he repeatedly asks: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should insult the armies of the living king?” We might reflect that . . . we are often the target of jealousy when we are faithful and courageous as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David says with confidence to Saul: “The Lord, who delivered me from the claws of the lion and the bear, will also keep me safe from the clutches of this Philistine”. We might reflect that . . . we too, may place our hope in God’s promises as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David rejects Saul’s unwieldy warrior garments and tools so that he might take up and use the tools he knows best: smooth stones and his slingshot. We might reflect that . . . rather than arms and physical strength, our petitions of intercession on behalf of our enemies are our most powerful weapons as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David answers the enemy’s challenge with these famous words: “You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of armies of Israel that you have insulted . . . All this multitude, too, shall learn that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he shall deliver you into our hands”. We might reflect that . . . when the crowd jeers and when we appear to be defeated, we too serve as an example of how God saves and restores as we travel along The Way of Christ.  When we rise after apparent defeat, we are justified by God as we travel along The Way of Christ.

This is an old and familiar story against a backdrop of violence, yet it holds simple and valuable lessons for us today.  They are . . .

  • we must believe the story we have heard,
  • we must hope in the promise we have been given, and
  • we must enact love in the world as a sign that . . .
  • we travel along The Way of Christ.

In so doing, the many false and boasting Goliaths who confront us will fall permanently as we journey along The Way of Christ.

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Proverbs 2: The Blessings of Wisdom

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Wisdom – The Pearl of Great Price

A shield guarding the paths of justice. In our current world climate, we can surely use a defense against the onslaught of too much dark news.

Awe of God and an appreciation of God’s knowledge. In our present day, we eagerly welcome God’s power and enlightenment.

Righteousness, justice and equity. In our present circumstances, we look with hope for God’s compassion and mercy.

The writer of Proverbs shows us loose women as temptresses who lead young men astray; but he uses this image as a metaphor for any alluring idea, object or person who would lead us away from the path God lays out for us and The Way Jesus shows us. Today we might ask also about the handlers and users of these women who take advantage of God’s creation for fiscal and physical power and domination, and the role they play in the corruption of God’s creation.

And so, we reckon with God’s presence and assess the value of God’s influence in our lives, and we take stock of all that detracts, and all that brings us value. Where else might we find a safeguard that protects us against every ill wind? Where else might we discover such a deep well of awareness that keeps us eternally secure? And where else might we discern the bottomless empathy, kindness and love of the Lord? The writer of Proverbs opens wisdom for us today.

Other translations of this chapter title are The Value of Wisdom, The Rewards of Wisdom, Make Insight your Priority. When we compare different versions of these verses, we might see more clearly the worth, insight and blessings of the time we spend with Lady Wisdom.

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Proverbs 1:8-19: Greed and Violence

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The writer of these verses is clear and explicit about the wiles of those who might entice us to lie in wait for the honest man or woman who sets our teeth on edge, or who stirs our yearning for some thing or some quality we do not have but want. The writer wants us to remain alert for those who delight in setting traps for the innocent in their search for wealth and power. The wily ones are always looking for new members to swell their ranks.

Walk not in the way with them . . . it may be difficult to see that actions appearing harmless can lead us to dark paths we want to avoid. And so we must be watchful.

These lie in wait for their own blood . . . it may be difficult to see that family, friends or colleagues engage in activities that lead too easily to the ways of violence. And so we must be prudent.

These set a trap for their own lives . . . it is worth more than we can say to step away from plots and schemes that bring down the innocent for our own gain. And so we must be faithful to God.

This is the fate of everyone greedy for loot . . . it is worth more than we can judge to live a life that is void of even the beginning stirrings of envy or greed. And so we must be compassionate and loving.

These are words meant to instruct and warn us. These are verses meant to steer us into The Way Jesus later lays out so clearly. Are these words we can trust? Can we put aside our anxieties when we realize that for millennia traps have been laid for the innocent? Can we hand over our anger to God even as we pray for our enemies? Might we quiet our fears and tame our anxieties while we wait in joyful anticipation of God’s justice? Might we step away from the violence that grows from our human greed, and follow The Way of Christ?

When we compare different versions of these verses, we discover new truth about the violence of greed and the holiness of the innocents who trust in God.

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Isaiah 61-63: The Mission of the Afflicted . . . Restoration

Saturday, May 27, 2017CLF - Olmstead Parks

Oaks of Justice

The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication from our God, to comfort all who mourn; to place on those who mourn in Zion a diadem of ashes, to give them oil of gladness in place of mourning, a glorious mantle instead of a listless spirit.  They will be called oaks of justice, planted by the Lord to show his glory.

These are the words Jesus reads out in the synagogue in Capernaum to initiate the Kingdom of God on earth; and for delivering this message of hope and freedom, he was accused of heresy and nearly killed by his audience.

Those who suffer well, who offer their pain for the salvation of others, suffer with Christ, in Christ, and through Christ.  They make their pain salvific and in this way, together with Christ, they offer to save the world.  These sufferers become co-redeemers.

In the old days, we wore white and red robes and caps when we were confirmed as a sign that we were willing to step into the ranks of those who suffered for Christ and for the world.  We became “soldiers” for Christ. Today we see the confirmandi as disciples who work for and in Christ, followers who build the Kingdom of God in order to bring transformation to the world, aid to the afflicted, and restoration to the Kingdom.

They shall rebuild the ancient ruins, the former wastes they shall raise up and restore the ruined cities, desolate now for generations.  Strangers shall stand by ready to pasture your flocks, foreigners shall be your farmers and vinedressers.  You yourselves shall be named priests of the Lord, ministers of our God you shall be called.  You shall eat the wealth of the nations and boast of riches from them.  Since their shame was double and disgrace and spittle were their portion, they shall have a double inheritance in their land, everlasting joy shall be theirs. 

The faithful who suffer are well rewarded for the work they do in Christ’s name, because Jesus knows how difficult it is to walk The Way. The faithful who suffer are transformed when pain brings them closer to God. The faithful who suffer must not remain silent and thus indicate their assent with all that causes their suffering.

For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch . . . No more shall men call you “Forsaken”, or your land “Desolate”, but you shall be called “My Delight”, and your land “Espoused”.  For the Lord delights in you, and makes your land his spouse.  As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder will marry you; as a Bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.

God will not let these faithful, suffering servants come to harm when they speak out to witness to what is unjust and unloving. God cares for these Oaks of Justice constantly, tending to the littlest of details in their lives even when the earth trembles beneath them and the skies darken above them. God sheds favor upon the faithful, urges them to set down deep roots into the richness of The Word, and persistently calls them to stay focused on the light so that they might bear God’s light into the world.

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you.

Tomorrow . . . a prayer for the return of God’s favor.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 24, 2008.

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Acts 2: Raising His Voice

Monday, May 1, 2017

peter-preaching-masolino

Tommaso Masolino da Panicale: Peter Preaching

If we want to have more context around Peter’s first sermon, we will want to begin our Noontime reading at verse 1 of Chapter 2, Acts. With the opening words of this story, the miracle of Pentecost opens before us like the beginning scene of a film. A rushing, violent wind. Startled disciples speaking languages they cannot comprehend. We might at first doubt the truth of this scene but then while some bystanders marvel, others proclaim, “They are filled with new wine”.

We register our own viewpoint as we take this story in. Are these disciples of Jesus actually filled by the Spirit, or are we watching drunken men stagger into the street? We wonder how we would have viewed this scene had we been present so today we take the opportunity to reflect on Peter’s words and courage. And we imagine that we are truly there.

Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd.

We hear Peter’s crisp words describe the story of Jesus’ life, passion, and death. We hear the miracle of resurrection and the coming of the Messiah as predicted by David. How does the crowd respond?

Luke describes their response simply: They were cut to the heart . . . Those who welcomed Peter’s message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

As we reflect on this story, we also consider our own reaction to Peter’s first sermon, and we ask ourselves: Do we remain faithful to The Way that Christ teaches us? How do we witness to this story of hope and love? And do we raise our own voices with Peter so that a world waiting for salvation might hear this good news?

The verses cited above are from THE NRSV. To compare these words with those in other translations, use the scripture link and the drop-down menus to witness Peter’s courage as he raises his voice to deliver his message of a Living Hope.

Tomorrow, Peter’s second sermon following Pentecost.

 

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Luke 24:13-35: The Road to Emmaus – Part I

Fifth Sunday of Lent, April 2, 2017

Fritz von Uhde: The Road to Emmaus

We are quickly approaching Eastertide, my favorite time of year when we want to believe that the story we have heard is true:  we are truly free, the miracle of restoration and resurrection exists, we are already building the kingdom.  Today’s reading is The Road to Emmaus, a story we hear read out to us at Mass following Easter when our hearts are heavy from witnessing the crucifixion but light because the tomb is empty.  If only we might realize that we are Emmaus People, a people who hold a truth too wonderful to keep secret.

I imagine that I have spent much of my life in the same way as these two disciples who leave Jerusalem after the events surrounding Christ’s Passion and Crucifixion.  Things have gotten too hot to handle.  Disappointment at the squashing of a ground swell movement and the execution of its leader has overcome any sense of joy they have previously experienced.  It seems that all good has been wiped from the face of the earth; all light has been sucked from the world.  And yet . . . they journey home in hope, sharing stories of the heady glory days when all possibilities were actually possible.  They meet a fellow traveler and journey with him, drink in his words feeling oddly satisfied and content . . . they invite him to linger.

Léon-Augustin Lhermitte: Friend of the Humble (Supper at Emmaus)

In an intense flash, at the breaking of the bread, they suddenly become fully aware of the identity of this companion.  They abruptly comprehend why they have felt so light and happy as they made their way to Emmaus.  They realize that the hopes they had put away may be taken back out.  The faith they had placed in God’s plan was still valid.  The love they wished to share was still viable.  The Teacher had not lied to them in some silly attempt to ease the pain of their days.  The Teacher had offered – still offered – an opportunity of intimacy with him previously unknown to humankind.  And these two disciples who had left Jerusalem in fear and sadness . . . now retrace their steps to return to the crucible of conflict which their Way of living brought them.  They are transformed.  They are no longer allowing fear to overcome courage.  They do what Paul urges the Ephesians and all of us to do; they have put on Christ, the only protection they need.

We can put ourselves into this story because Luke has left these protagonists nameless.

Things have gotten too hot to handle.  Disappointment at the squashing of a ground swell movement and the execution of its leader has overcome any sense of joy we have previously experienced.  It seems that all good has been wiped from the face of the earth; all light has been sucked from the world.  And yet . . . we journey home in hope, sharing stories of the heady glory days when all possibilities were actually possible.  We meet a fellow traveler and journey with him, drink in his words feeling oddly satisfied and content . . . we invite him to linger. 

Tomorrow, imagine . . .

A Favorite from March 31, 2009.

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