Posts Tagged ‘The Way’

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


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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Ephesians 5:8-10: Groping Through the Murk

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Dave Erickson: Fog Dome

Dave Erickson: Fog Dome

In times of trouble, we might turn to scripture.

For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. (NRSV)

In times of joy, we might share verses of praise.

You yourselves used to be in the darkness, but since you have become the Lord’s people, you are in the light. So you must live like people who belong to the light, for it is the light that brings a rich harvest of every kind of goodness, righteousness, and truth. Try to learn what pleases the Lord. (GNT)

In times of pain, we might seek Christ in The Word.

For you used to be darkness; but now, united with the Lord, you are light. Live like children of light, for the fruit of the light is in every kind of goodness, rightness and truth — try to determine what will please the Lord. (CJB)

In times of anxiety, we might flounder through our days in the Spirit.

You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it. (MSG)

In times of doubt, we know that God’s word is a light in the darkness.

stepping-stonesIn the past you were full of darkness, but now you are full of light in the Lord. So live like children who belong to the light. Light brings every kind of goodness, right living, and truth. Try to learn what pleases the Lord. (NCV)

In times of celebration, we know that Christ’s light has brought us through the murky confusion of this life, always showing us The Way to an eternity of peace.

When we compare varying translations, we begin to see that the obstacles in our lives are the stepping-stones that lead us through the murk and into the light that is Christ.

For more photographs by Erickson, click on the image above or visit: http://ericksonphotography.net/?p=130

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Jeremiah 52: The Inverted Kingdom – Part XIV

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Elamiat captives and Assyrian officer. Relief from Ashurpanibal palace Nineveh, Iraq

Elamiat captives and Assyrian officer. Relief from Ashurpanibal Palace in Nineveh, Iraq


Thus was Judah exiled from her land . . .

On January 15, 588 B.C.E. (Senior 1016) Jerusalem falls and the people of Judah are captured.  History tells us that this people later returns to Jerusalem to restore the Temple and the city – and history also tells us all will be lost again.  The human way is cyclical with valleys and peaks.  It is an inconsistent wandering of the soul in search of what it already has.  The Way that Isaiah announces, The Way we might live each day, is the constant journey of singing and rejoicing in the presence of God, a presence that is already with us.

When the enemy threatens, a highway will be there.

When capture is imminent, a holy way will be there.

When all seems lost, no lion will be there.

When darkness falls, no beast of prey will be there.

When it appears that there is no hope, there is a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk.

When we know that we have strayed from The Way, all we need do is be open to change, and we will find that . . .

A highway will be there, called the holy way . . . No lion will be there . . . nor beast of prey . . . It is for those with a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk . . . and they will be singing, crowned with everlasting joy . . . they will meet with joy and gladness . . . sorrow and mourning will flee. (Isaiah 35:2-10)

Let us join hearts and hands and souls to journey together along The Way.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1016. Print.   

Adapted from a reflection written on June 4, 2011.

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Jeremiah 52: The Inverted Kingdom – Part XIII

Monday, January 23, 2017

Jewish captives with camel and baggage on their way into exile. Detail of the Assyrian conquest of the Jewish fortified town of Lachish (battle 701 BCE) Part of a relief from the palace of Sennacherib at Niniveh, Mesopotamia (Iraq)

Jewish captives with camel and baggage on their way into exile. Detail of the Assyrian conquest of the Jewish fortified town of Lachish (battle 701 BCE) Part of a relief from the palace of Sennacherib at Niniveh, Mesopotamia (Iraq)


Thus was Judah exiled from her land . . .

In this last Chapter of Jeremiah’s prophecy, we see the capture of mind, soul and body that results from enduring neglect and refusal to do what God asks of us.  And we understand that we cannot sustain life when we practice this kind of internal death. We may want to renew ourselves with solutions we think palatable and we may believe that we know the best way to bring goodness out of evil, but we are children playing at being grown up when we prefer our ways to God’s.

Yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer included a canticle from Isaiah (35:2-4, 8-10):  [The faithful] will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.  Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!  Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.  A highway will be there, called the holy way; no one unclean may pass over it.  No lion will be there, nor beast of prey go up to be met on it.  It is for those with a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk.  Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.

We have a simple lesson here about how to live in a world that constantly runs counter to what the Lord asks of us.  The people of Judah are vanquished, their leaders captured, their possessions taken.  They become disenfranchised from all that identifies them.  They are slaves to another culture.  This capture is seen as something bleak and stark, a life without promise; but Isaiah reminds them that – as with all things involving the Living God – what appears to be loss is gain, and what seems to be gain is loss.  It is precisely when all that we have and know is taken from us that we are given the opportunity to turn to the font of life.  When we are and have little or nothing, there is only God.

Isaiah tells us that in this new life into which we have stepped  there is not darkness but rather light.  God will announce himself with reversals; and a Way will open up before us that we will only see once we have replaced our pride with humility and our desire to be independent from God with a desire to be one with him.  Nothing can threaten us when we walk along this Way for it is holy, and once we throw off the values that the darkness of the world has to offer, we will be holy, too.  Our step will be quick, our burden light for we will be carried by God.  We will also understand that we have a journey to make, a journey of redemption itself.

We, the ransomed, travel not toward the very one who has ransomed us . . . but with him.  During Advent and the Christmastide we heard Isaiah’s prophecy read out in which the prophet announces The One who is The Way.  We have revisited the results of capture and the road beyond that imprisonment. Today we Christ followers know our savior’s name as Jesus.  The ancient Judeans could only dream about Christ’s coming.  How fortunate are we to travel this highway with him.

Tomorrow, beyond the highway of capture.

Adapted from a reflection written on June 4, 2011.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 4.6 (2011). Print.

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