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Posts Tagged ‘transformation’


Lamentations 1: Jerusalem Abandoned and Disgraced

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Jerusalem: Old City Walls

Adapted from a Favorite written on January 15, 2008. 

Lamentations is a book written about the sixth century B.C.E., a time of reckoning for the Israelites who were taken into exile by the invading Babylonians.  These laments were composed by an eyewitness to the events involving the fall of Jerusalem, and they “combine a confession of sin, grief over the suffering and humiliation of Zion, submission to merited chastisement, and strong faith in the constancy of Yahweh’s love and power to restore”.  We have a “union of poignant grief and unquenchable hope”.  This shows how “Israel’s faith in Yahweh could survive the shattering experience of national ruin”.  (NAB 1991, page 859)

We might look at Israel as ourselves and begin to translate a time in our own lives when we have suffered grief, submitted to the events around us, relied on God’s constancy, and have at last fallen back on the only thing which sustains us. An unquenchable hope in restoration.  This is how we survive personal ruin.

The words of this opening chapter evoke such deeply sad images.  We so often steer clear of the things that make us uncomfortable that we may be tempted to skim through them quickly, passing by the pictures they create with half-closed eyes.  We may also be tempted to remind ourselves that Zion deserved the treatment she received.  We may sink into the cozy feeling of smugness about our own good fortune.  We are so eager to run from suffering in any way that we may not have learned to suffer well, and by this, I mean that we may have forgotten that there is sanctity in suffering.  There is purification.  There is rescue.  There is restoration.  So rather than flit past the descriptions of loneliness and misery, we will want to pause . . . unite our own suffering with that of these people . . . with that of the people around us today . . . with that of Jesus . . . and become co-redeemers with Christ.

We do not need to sink into maudlin or bitter wailing.  We do not want to become false martyrs.  We do not glorify ourselves by seeking suffering. We need not fear our suffering as it comes to us.

Through our relationship with Christ, we find that that transformation accompanies suffering, and turns all pain toward goodness.  We participate in this conversion by listening for God’s faithful voice, waiting for Jesus’ healing touch, and sharing the spirit of sanctity that the Holy Spirit will settle over us as we progress in our pilgrim’s way.

We need not fear the loneliness, the misery, the shame, the grief, the persecution, the weeping, the groaning, the silence, the sadness that we read about today.  We can take it in, process it with our own grief , and give it over to God who converts all harm to good.  In this way, we will suffer well, we will not suffer alone, we survive, and we live well.

To visit the land of the Bible, click on the image or go to: http://www.land-of-the-bible.com/content/old-city-jerusalem 

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Hubble Space Telescope: The Pillars of Creation

Creation: And it was Good

The Sixth Day of Christmas, December 30, 2017

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me six geese a-laying.  

Light and dark, heaven and earth, plants of many kinds, stars and heavenly bodies, creatures that live in the water and on land, humanity. With each of the six days of creation, God sees that it was good.

Arguments continue between those who believe in a literal progression and those who turn to science for a deeper understanding of our origins. No matter our perspective, the stories in the opening of Genesis bring us an opportunity for deeper intimacy with God.

And it was good. When we understand that God has created all that surrounds us, we often leap to the conclusion that this goodness must continue unchallenged and unchanging. We struggle to understand why natural and man-made catastrophes harm and even destroy the innocent. How does God allow such suffering to take place? How do we handle the stress that comes with persecution both perceived and real? The Apostle Paul writes his first letter to the people of Thessalonica as they struggle to maintain the community they established when Paul was with them.

And it was good. Paul’s letter is so brief, and so inspiring that it is easily read with commentary. Today, particularly if we struggle with the de-creation of a community we hold dear, we find a path forward through chaos with Paul’s verses. They give us an antidote for the suffering we feel when we witness the destruction of our work or the severance of ties that once sustained us. When studying Paul’s words, we remember that, despite the circumstances surrounding us, God always turns harm to good, even when it is difficult to perceive this goodness. Destruction of someone or something we have loved brings us to our knees and asks us to pass through the narrow gate of transformation when we rely on God’s promise that all things are possible. The ruination of some idea or some structure that produces goodness brings us into deeper intimacy with our creator when we realize that goodness supersedes harm always.

Charles (Charlie) Pellerin: NASA’s former director of astrophysics

And it was good. Today we ponder the loving act of creation, our willingness to believe God’s promise of love, and the belief that God will always lead us out of the darkness of de-creation.

And it was good.

Read about recovery from disaster: “What went wrong with the Hubble Space Telescope (and what managers can learn from it) NASA’s former director of astrophysics, Charlie Pellerin, has learned a thing about leadership and project failure” at https://www.cio.com.au/article/420036/what_went_wrong_hubble_space_telescope_what_managers_can_learn_from_it_/

For more information on the M16 Eagle Nebula pictured above, click on the image or visit the NASA site at: https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/hubble-goes-high-definition-to-revisit-iconic-pillars-of-creation

For notes and commentary on 1 Thessalonians, visit: http://biblehub.com/1_thessalonians/

To learn about connections between Paul’s letter and the stress produced by persecution, visit: https://bible.org/seriespage/3-stress-persecution-1-thessalonians-213-20

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Mark 5:1-17: Seek Consolation – Possession

Friday, December 22, 2017

Sebastian Bourdon: The Gerasene Demoniac

The Gerasene Demoniac

Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones. 

In ancient days, epilepsy and psychological ailments were seen as possession by fiends or dark spirits. Spells and incantations murmured by magicians were the only hope of those suffering from mysterious illness. We can understand the suspicion Jesus caused when he cast out these demons and brought joy to common people. The authorities who benefited from the plight of the desperate sought to put an end to Jesus’ constant cures.

No one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him.

Today, science often guides us as we explore disease and look for healing; yet still some of us suffer from unseen – and misunderstood – torment. When we consider the story of the man possessed by an evil he cannot see and does not comprehend, we begin to understand our own hope for consolation when we are beset by troubles large and small. Today as we read this story of the Gerasene, let us run to Christ to fall on our knees as he does. And let us surrender all our troubles to the deep, healing, transforming and abiding consolation of Christ.

He was some distance away when he saw Jesus; so he ran, and fell on his knees before him.

For more on casting out demons, visit: https://bible.org/seriespage/9-gerasene-demoniac-mark-51-20 

 

 

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Mark 7:31-37: Seek Consolation – Deafness

Jesus Heals a Deaf Man

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

How often do we listen without really hearing? How often do we pass along information we believe to be correct but which is, in fact, not true? In the enormous universe of God’s love, we find that we are given countless opportunities to be open to the voice of God.

Some people brought him a man who was deaf and could hardly speak, and they begged Jesus to place his hands on him.

How often do we believe that we cannot bear to hear the day’s news? How often do we turn away from information we cannot take in? In the infinite presence of Christ’s healing, we discover that we have endless access to understanding.

So Jesus took him off alone, away from the crowd, put his fingers in the man’s ears, spat, and touched the man’s tongue.

How often do we grope to comprehend the purpose of the conflict that surrounds us? How often do we open ourselves to healing and transformation? In the immeasurable gift that is the presence of the Spirit, we encounter consolation that changes us forever.

When we do not feel Christ’s presence in our lives, when we fear that we will not hear God’s voice, when we look for consolation we believe will never arrive, we might offer our deafness to the one who created us, in the Advent hope of the presence of God among us.

When we compare differing translations of these verses, we find that our deafness might be more gift than curse.

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1 Thessalonians 5:23-24: Seek Wholeness – Freedom

Monday, December 4, 2017

May the God who gives us peace make you holy in every way and keep your whole being—spirit, soul, and body free from every fault at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you will do it, because he is faithful.

God says: You do not need to look for the pieces you believe are missing from your life. All that you believe you lack, you have. You have only to relax into me and you will slowly perceive these missing bits of your persona. You have only to rely on Christ and you will feel the presence of the courage you believe you lack. You have only to rest in the Holy Spirit and you will sense healing and consolation. Reality is not what you see with your eyes, touch with your hands, or hear with your ears. Reality is my full and transforming presence in you that dwells in you since before your conception, and will continue in you long after your temporal death. You can trust my promise. You can trust my action in your life. You can trust my love.

When we compare varying versions of these verses, we discover a new freedom in our wholeness and oneness with God.

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Zechariah 14Apocalypse

Monday, November 6, 2017

Apocalypse, coming from the Greek for revelation, is an announcement of a truth revealed.  Apocalyptic literature is full of mystery, is usually veiled in symbolic language and is often interpreted by an angel of God (Senior 425).  It deals with the heavenly world, the future, and describes a final judgment in which there are winners and losers.  It is sometimes incomprehensible, frightening and misunderstood.  The Apocalypse we see today is the fight for Jerusalem which ushers in an era without storm, turmoil or deceit.  It brings a time of peace, unity and celebration.  It is a day when every libation pot shall be holy to the Lord.

Model of the third Temple

The last chapter of Zechariah’s prophecy makes a momentous revelation or announcement: There will be an end to prophecy.  Perhaps this is because with the coming of the Messianic age there is little need to announce the savior who is already among us – perhaps it is because prophets have lost their place of status – perhaps it is because people of all nations, including pagan ones, will now worship the Lord.  In any case, according to Zechariah, the fight will be over.  There will no longer be merchants in the house of the Lord; false shepherds will have disappeared; the tribes of the world will be reconciled; peace will reign.

The first eight chapters of Zechariah were written about the year 520 B.C.E. to exhort the people to continue the overwhelming task of reformation following their return from exile.  The last six chapters of Zechariah were written by an unknown author (or authors) whose oracles describe the Lords’ victory.  The exiled have returned from Babylon and so the prize they have been seeking has finally been gained but they have returned to a ruined city . . . and a great deal of work lies before them.  The process of restoration has only just begun and Zechariah speaks to us today to give us a moment to reflect on the meaning of our own return from our personal exile.  It gives us a framework in which to put our lives into proper perspective and to give thanks for our salvation.  It also gives us an opportunity to gather our forces for the next phase of work.

Model of the Temple during the time of Jesus

Return from exile is celebrated and the celebration is taking place amid the ruin of former glory because our newness is more important than what was because we are transformed and made anew.  This miracle of redemption that Zechariah describes already exists today in that each of us is the libation bowl poured out for Christ.  We are vessels fashioned by God’s hands and brought into existence for God’s purpose.  We each are the hope of God to the world.

The fight for Jerusalem is already begun, and we are celebrants in the newness of what is coming onto being.  Let us gather ourselves, let us find our places in God’s new city, and let us rejoice and be glad . . . for we are in the house of the Lord of hosts.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. Glossary 445. Print. 

Adapted from a reflection written on July 10, 2009.

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Romans 12: The Concrete Reality of Jesus

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Adapted from a Favorite written on May 25, 2011.

In a previous post, we reflected on how and why we watch Jesus – on what and when we learn from him – on where we encounter him.  Today we reflect on the fact that The Word is not ambiguous.  The words of Jesus tell us how we are to act, and what we are to do.  Paul tells the Romans – and us – that we are to conform to the world of Jesus rather than the world we see around us.  This is as concrete as can be.  There is no doubt that we are born to be transformed in and by the Spirit.

Also in this portion of his letter, Paul reminds us that our diversity is pleasing to God.  We are to struggle against our desire to see everyone and everything conform to our will.  And we are struggle with our ego so that we make room for others in this mystical body we form with Christ.  Peace, harmony, service to others, clinging to what is good and avoiding what is not good, blessing our persecutors rather than cursing them – these are the marks of one who ardently follows the Christ.  We must put aside thoughts of revenge or even the delight in someone else’s downfall.  We are to leave all moral judgment to God.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

What a simple and elegant rule to follow. Oh so clear and clean. Oh so difficult to realize.

If we persist in looking for reasons why this rule does not work, we walk away from Jesus.  If we continue to exempt ourselves from this rule, we walk away from life.  If we persevere in seeing the world as a dark and ugly place, we walk away from the light.  If we insist on controlling everything and everyone around us, we walk away from serenity. 

Vincent Van Gogh: Wheat Field

When we watch Jesus we see the important lesson that healing and controversy are often entwined.  In the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30) we hear that God does not pull up the weeds from the garden when they appear because this disrupts the soil and damages the fruit-bearing crop before harvest time.  God trusts us to put down deep roots into the rich soil of our lives, and to lift strong arms to the sun in order that we bear fruit – no matter the circumstance of our planting.  So let us trust God to tend to the weeds in our own hearts and the weeds among as we struggle to grow, for God is trustworthy. God is capable. God is loving, generous, just and kind.

Rather than becoming overcome by the evil with which our lives are entwined, let us allow God to overcome evil through us . . . by doing good. 

For another reflection on the Parable of the Weeds, click on the image above of weeds and wheat, or visit: https://millennialpastor.net/2017/07/23/there-is-life-in-the-wheat-and-weeds/ 

To visit the Watching Jesus post, go to: https://thenoontimes.com/2015/09/04/mark-31-6-watching-jesus/

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John 6:51-58: Body of Christ

Corpus Christi Sunday, June 18, 2017

I’m telling you the most solemn and sober truth now: Whoever believes in me has real life, eternal life. I am the Bread of Life.

We have explored Trinity as oasis, Trinity as relationship, Trinity as diversity and creation. We have examined the importance of the three-legged triad and how it generates divine energy. Yesterday we reflected on how everything is holy – even our shortcomings and sins – when we bring them to the Trinity of Father, Son and Spirit. In return we find God’s gift of uncreated grace.

“You can’t manufacture [uncreated grace] by any right conduct. You can’y make God love you one ounce more than God already loves you right now. You can’t. You can go to church every day for the rest of your life. God isn’t going to love you any more than God loves you right now. You cannot make God love you any less, either – not an ounce less . . . We can’t diminish God’s love for us. What we can do, however; is learn how to believe it, receive it, trust it, allow it, and celebrate it, accepting Trinity’s whirling invitation to join in the cosmic dance”. (Rohr and Morrell 193)

Today we celebrate the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice of self for us. Christ’s return to and for us as the embodiment of God among us. As we move through our day, let us consider how we bring into expression God’s fierce fidelity, the Spirit’s passion and Christ’s gift of uncreated grace in the elaborate yet simple divine dance of transformation.

I’m telling you the most solemn and sober truth now: Whoever believes in me has real life, eternal life. I am the Bread of Life.

To more fully understand the eternal dance of love, we might want to spend more time with Rohr’s and Morrell’s description of this dance in THE DIVINE DANCE: THE TRINITY AND YOUR TRANSFORMATION. New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 2016. Print.  

When we compare varying translation of these verses from THE MESSAGE, we open ourselves to uncreated grace, to the divine energy of  transformation.

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Ephesians 2:7-10: A Shower of Grace and Kindness

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

In faith, we abide with God, as God abides with us.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus.

In hope, we trust in God, as God trusts in us.

Saving is all God’s idea, and all God’s work. All we do is trust God enough to let God do it. 

In love, we live in God, as God lives in us.

It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing!

In faith, through hope, by love, we are images of God’s passion in a world longing for transformation.

We neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving.

In faith, through hope, by love, we are Christ’s hands and feet in the world looking for kindness.

God creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join God in the work God does, the good work God has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

In faith, through hope, by love, we are the Spirit’s healing presence among people who yearn for peace.

When we compare translations of these verses and open ourselves to God’s kindness, we encounter the transforming power of God’s grace.

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