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Posts Tagged ‘unity’


2 Maccabees 15: Battle – Part III

Peter Paul Rubens and workshop: The Triumph of Judas Macccabee

Peter paul Rubens, “The Triumph of Judas Maccabee” Museum of Fine Arts in Nantes

Thursday, March 8, 2018

It is not through arms but through the Lord’s decision that victory is won by those who deserve it. 

The arms we carry into battle need only be Christ.  When we see the oncoming storm of conflict, we only need put on the armor of God. When we enter into the battle that threatens to erase the values we hold as true, we turn to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

We are to be prisoners for the Lord and live in a manner worthy of the call we have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace; one body, and one Spirit, as we were also called to the one hope of our call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  (Ephesians 4:1-6)

This, then, is how we move forward as a witness in Christ. This, then, is how we act in the Spirit. With understanding, humility, patience, and a deep-seated wish for unity.

It is not through arms but through the Lord’s decision that victory is won by those who deserve it. 

The only battle worth entering, is one we enter with God not as a righteous banner, but with Christ as a loving guide, the Spirit as a healing force. When we exercise our full understanding and our full force of love, we will have entered the battle enjoined by God.

It is not through arms but through the Lord’s decision that victory is won by those who deserve it. 

The only war worth waging, the only love worth winning, the only peace worth gaining, is the battle we enter with, and in, and for our loving God.

It is not through arms but through the Lord’s decision that victory is won by those who deserve it. 

Adapted from a reflection written on February 28, 2009.

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judas_Maccabeus#/media/File:Peter_Paul_Rubens_and_workshop_002.jpg 

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Esther: On the Fringes

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The survival of a minority is central to the story we have explored over the last two weeks; and the threats and schemes we see in Esther’s story speak to many among us today. The reality of vulnerability rises as power corrupts. Those who live in the shadows of affluence live without the security taken for granted by the privileged. We excuse discrimination. We nurse prejudices. Rather than find root causes for the demons that stalk us, we build protective walls around our comfort zone and describe “the other” as someone to fear. Esther tells us of the danger we invite when we nurture our contentment to overlook the powerful effects of envy. None of this is limited to ancient times. Indeed, too often we live this way today.

Haman was furious when he realized that Mordecai was not going to kneel and bow to him, and when he learned that Mordecai was a Jew, he decided to do more than punish Mordecai alone. He made plans to kill every Jew in the whole Persian Empire. (3:5-6)

When we re-read these verses and insert the names we see in our headlines, we bring this story into focus. Dislike for “the other” we do not know – or whom we do not understand – plants seeds of hatred. In contemporary society, a torrent of news loops waters nascent loathing, while social media filter bubbles create hothouses that spur growth of hatred. Those along the fringes of society find themselves far from any possible avenue of inclusion.

Haman hurried home, covering his face in embarrassment. He told his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then she and those wise friends of his told him, “You are beginning to lose power to Mordecai. He is a Jew, and you cannot overcome him. He will certainly defeat you.” (6:12-13)

If we hope to build the bridges God asks us to build, we must open ourselves to the fear of others to offer assurance. Only then will we find the tools to create unity.

If we hope to inspire the compassion Christ asks us to nurture, we must ask gentle questions with patience and understanding. Only then will we find the courage to respond to God’s call.

If we hope to build peace in a world longing for harmony, we must act in the Spirit to include, to heal, to love. Only then will we begin to erase the lines that create the margins on which too many live.

Tomorrow, a final word from Esther as e move through our Lenten journey.

When we compare other translations of these verses, we begin to find our way through the fog of hatred. 

To learn more about filter bubbles, visit: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2113246-how-can-facebook-and-its-users-burst-the-filter-bubble/ 

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Judges 4Deborah and Barak

Salomon deBray: Jael, Deborah and Barack

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Today’s story from Judges is different from yesterday’s, and it might show us that unity may be easier to achieve than the division into which we so easily slip.

The Book of Judges is good for us to read when we think we will never exit our cycle of sin and repentance; we see the Jewish nation struggle with independence just as we do when we mature in years.

We can find solid commentary in a good study Bible that will expland our understanding. Or we may explore http://www.Chabad.org http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/463964/jewish/Deborah-and-Barak.htm?gclid=CjwKEAjwvYPKBRCYr5GLgNCJ_jsSJABqwfw7AVII8ddJeZB3EcomDvzeudwTLpnQUYcxSrdGaV5jFBoCp0vw_wcB

We might also enter a discussion or ask questions on this site.

The stories in Judges are so often cited as a justification for holy war; yet as Christians we know and try to understand that retaliation has no place in the New Law.  As believers living in exile, we know that the faithful need not fight.  We have learned that God will make way for the faithful, and that God will be a refuge for those who try to follow in God’s Way.  As Jesus people, we will follow the voice where it leads, and we will put hands, and feet and words into the Hope that Christ calls us to live out.

From MAGNIFICAT today: The unity for which Christ lived and died is not an abstract ideal.  It is the result of hard work: suspending judgment, choosing others before self, forgiving, seeking reconciliation rather than nursing hurt pride.  In other words, it requires that we die to self in Christ.  The fruit?  The blessing of God’s peace!

This is followed by Jeremiah 31:10-14A canticle of celebration . . . the virgins will dance and strike their tambourines, young men and old will be merry, and God’s people will be filled with God’s blessing. 

The morning intercessions reflect on a message of healing the world through devotion, a message we can well use today.

Let us pray according to Christ’s will: Make us one in mind and heart.

For all the church: in the midst of difference and diversity: Make us one in mind and heart.

For all who believe in your name: in the midst of our divisions: Make us one in mind and heart.

For all who live in opposition to one another: in the midst of our conflicts and misunderstandings.  Make us one in mind and heart.

Amen.

Adapted from a reflection written on June 10, 2008.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 10.6 (2008). Print.  

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Job 6The Reply of the Innocent

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Favorite from September 6, 2009.job-innocent-suffering-300x225

It is true that sometimes we are completely innocent of any wrongdoing and yet we suffer.  One of the primary questions we ask as human beings is this:  Why is it that things sometimes go so wrong for us and so right for others?  We also ask: What have we done to deserve suffering and how do we cope without falling apart entirely?  Some of us even ask: How long can I go on?  Is life worth living?

Today we hear from Job, the man who suffers through no fault of his own.  His fidelity attracts Satan’s notice and so he becomes an object of play in the devil’s evil game.  Job describes with beautiful metaphors how quickly his friends abandon him, being undependable as a brook, as watercourses that run dry in wadies . . . [they are] caravans [that] turn aside from their routes [to] go into the desert and perish. 

In today’s Gospel (Mark 7:31-37) we hear the story of how Jesus opens ears and a throat when he says words that he also says to us: Be open!  In MAGNIFICAT, the mini-reflection for Morning Prayer reads: Jesus opened the ear of the deaf man that he might hear in a new startling way the word of salvation.  What we hear as good news, we proclaim as good news: that is our task as disciples.

How we arrive at not hearing is not important; nor is the question about why we have become silent in our isolation.  What is important is this: That one has come who releases all of us from our bondage – whether these chains have been acquired through our own action or inaction, or whether we are innocent slaves.  One has come to call us to unity, and this one calls to each of us: Be open!

Be open to a surprising newness.  Be open to pardoning and being pardoned.  Be open to miracles in our lives.  Be open to the amazing potential we possess.  Be open to proclaiming the good news that we are free and need not toil futilely.  Be open to the life of discipleship.  Be open to union in Christ, with Christ himself.  Be open . . .

This is easy to hear but difficult to do.  We might turn again to Job who knows the pain of separation . . . and also the joy of reunion.

Whether we suffer in innocence or through our own action or inaction, our reply to the one who created us can be the same.  When we hear the voice that calls, let us all answer:  We are open to the possibility that we might live again!  This is our best human reply to the divine.

And this is the greatest miracle of all . . . that whether we suffer through guilt or whether we are innocent . . . we can all be open to God . . . for we are all sought by God for to each of us he says: Be open!

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 6.9 (2009). Print.  

Click on the image above for more on the suffering of the innocent, or visit: http://www.thelakesanglican.org.au/why-does-god-allow-suffering/ 

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John 7: In Harmony with God

Third Sunday of Easter, April 10, 2016child at beach

I have returned from a trip to New York with children and grandchildren and I stumble upon this reflection written after a summertime visit to the beach. It seems appropriate again in this springtime of 2016 when so many hearts grow weary from the news of a troubled world, to return to the basic truth that we will continue to struggle to live together until we agree to live in harmony with God.  

After spending a number of days with children and grandchildren who love to vacation at the ocean together in a jumble of towels, wet bathing suits, games, snacks, sleeping bags and favorite toys, I marvel again at how these families can come together to find a common way of approaching life’s small and big obstacles.  They do not do my will or their own; they return to what has brought them together in the first place and they act in accord with the values they hold in common.  They know their origin and they know their worth.  They know that when they live in harmony with a something greater than themselves that sees only good . . . they cannot fail to enjoy one another’s company.  As I open scripture today, I am grateful for this gift we hold in common and I am thankful for an opportunity to reflect on how we bloom as humans when we try to live a life of harmony with God.

John 7 is “a discrete literary unit, with a clear beginning point at 7:1 where the locus of Jesus’ activity is discussed.  The episode reaches a culmination with the appearance of Nicodemus and the official rejection of Jesus in Jerusalem.  Unlike chap. 6, chap. 7 has few points of contact with the Synoptics [Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke] . . . Chapter 7 is a carefully constructed narrative containing dialogue”.  In this chapter we see the “deadly intent” of Jesus’ enemies.  “The Jews who are there seeking Jesus (v.11) are apparently hostile and to be distinguished from the crowds of people who are divided but for fear of the Jews keep quiet (vv. 12-13); on the motif of the fear of the Jews see 9:22; 12:42; cf. 20:19)”.  (Mays 969)

In verses 14 through 31 we see “the characteristic attempt to explain Jesus on the basis of inadequate knowledge of his origin (cf. 1:46; 6:42).  Jesus immediately sets matters straight (7:16).  That Jesus’ will is in complete harmony with God’s has already been stated (6:38); now the very recognition of the fact is said to depend upon the intention to do God’s will.  As Jesus’ unity with God is a unity of will, unity with Jesus depends on a similar unity with God’s will”.  (Mays 970)

We see the official response in verses 31 through 52.  The authorities, believing that they are the chosen people who have entered into a covenant with God mediated by Moses, do not believe Jesus to be the Messiah.  Jesus’ acts and words are viewed as divisive, in this sense, because they do not coincide with the acts and words of the leadership and so . . .  “The division over Jesus among the Jewish people falls more or less along the lines between officialdom and general populace”.  (Mays 971)

We know how this story ends, with Jesus praying in the garden that his task might pass him by, but with Jesus’ will in complete harmony with God’s.

We know how this story ends, with Jesus suffering as the sacrificial lamb, yet with Jesus’ will in complete harmony with God’s.

We know how this story ends, with Jesus rising from death to live again, and with Jesus’ will in complete harmony with God’s.

We know how this story ends, with Jesus sharing his transformation with those who have eyes to see and ears to listen . . . with those who hope to live as Jesus does . . . striving to bring their will into harmony with God’s.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 969-971. Print.

For insight into the connection between science and religion, click on the image above or visit: http://themuslimtimes.info/2016/03/16/six-scientists-on-the-relationship-between-science-and-religion/ 

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Luke 5:27-32: The Great Banquet

Saturday, February 13, 2016luke 5

Jesus tells us many times that his kingdom is like a boundless wedding feast where all come together at the abundant table of God’s love. How can we see ourselves in this gathering where all will be equal, where the little divisions we set up no longer exist, when only unity and charity abide? Jesus calls the tax collector Levi to follow him and then he attends a party in Levi’s home.

Luke sets the stage: Everybody was there, tax men and other disreputable characters as guests at the dinner. 

The scholars ask: What is he doing eating and drinking with crooks and sinners?

Jesus says: Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders—an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.

God says: When you come to my feast you need only focus on your own transformation. If you want to join this banquet of love you must learn to speak its language and to live and act in its culture. Remember your Lenten practice and when you feel that you are asked to do the impossible, remember that with me all things are possible. Put out into deeper waters and shed your fear. No matter the elements or obstacles, my love is great than all of these.

We may be Levi, called to follow and called to celebrate. We may be the Pharisees, sticking to The Law and abiding with the details. No matter our identity, we must allow Jesus to enter into our hearts, and we must allow ourselves to serve as welcome and inviting guests at the wedding feast that is the kingdom of God.

We take care to remember our Lenten practice for the week: Rather than thinking, “This will not work,” let us say instead, “If you say so, Lord”.

Tomorrow, temptation.

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Ephesians 4:3-6: The Mystery of the Spiritwhat_is_the_holy_spirit_cover

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Strive to preserve the mystery of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and father of all, who is over all and through and in all.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul explains that the pagan gods of the Greek and Roman societies are indifferent, distant, and selfish; and they operate in a manner that runs counter to the Law of Love that Jesus describes for us.

God says: With these verses, my servant delivers a plea for unity. In your disparate lives you will too often move away from one another and away from yourselves for it is in the encounter with others that you best discover yourself. This is the mystery of my Spirit. She dwells within each of you, whispering words of comfort, healing physical and psychological pain. Yet she also dwells as a binding, calling voice to all of you. No one is left aside. No one is abandoned or left alone. All are welcome. All are loved. This is the great mystery of my love and of your life. Do not struggle against it; rather, lean into it. This love that wants to heal and transform is all you need to save you from turmoil and sorrow. When you live in me, you will constantly be surprised by my presence in unusual places. When you live through me you will consistently find the strength you will need as you work for me. My Spirit is in each. My Spirit is in all. My Spirit cannot be extinguished. My Spirit cannot be resisted. Allow the miracle and mystery of my love to live in and through you. Bring my presence to the world.

digital-hope-750x422When we believe that one small action on the part of one person cannot make a difference, we have separated ourselves from the mystery and possibility of God’s love. Explore the work of Street Sense, an organization that works with the homeless to bring to fruition in a surprising way the healing and unifying work of the Spirit. Click on the image above to learn more about how the Digital Hope program is helping the homeless and unemployed. Consider how the Spirit moves among us to bring all of us together when visiting: http://streetsense.org/digitalhope/#.VW8sCM9Viko 

 

 

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Monday, February 9, 2015watchmanforjerusalem

Ezekiel 3:17-27

The Prophet as Watchman: Studying the Stumbling Block

We are all called to be prophets in the Messianic Age, a time when we each have a personal relationship with Christ . . . the one who calls us to sound the trumpet that he is already among us.

Christ is among us.  Yet we do not see.  We are the body of Christ.  Yet we do not come together.  We are called to do Christ’s work in the vineyard.  Yet we are stiff-necked and hard-hearted.  We lament over our stumbling blocks rather than rejoice in them.

When we read Ezekiel we realize that we are called by God as prophets, and we are also asked to call one another to this same office.  We are to announce the coming that is taking place now.  We are called to be sentinel to one another.  We are called to unbend our own necks and to rebuke the stiff-necked among us.  We are called to soften our hard hearts and to reprove the hard-hearted in the midst of us.  We are called to listen for the sentinel’s cry from our brothers and sisters.  We are called to give the cry of the Word we see and hear.  We are called to respond to the virtue in one another, to warn and to be warned.  We are God’s church, the body of Christ, the Spirit that dwells within seeking harmony, unity and peace.

How do we attain this peaceful unity?  Verse 20: If a virtuous man turns away from virtue and does wrong when I place a stumbling block before him, he shall die.  He shall die for his sin, but his deeds shall not be remembered; but I will hold you responsible for his death if you did not warn him.  When, on the other hand, you have warned a virtuous man not to sin, and he has in fact not sinned, he shall surely live because of the warning, and you shall save your own life.

Let us spend a bit of time with this verse today and imagine the possibilities of God’s call.

Tomorrow, understanding the stumbling block.

Adapted from a reflection written on January 19, 2008.

 

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A papyrus of John 1:1-14

A papyrus of John 1:1-14

Monday

January 5, 2015

Joy and Completion

John’s Letters

The New Testament Letters bring us the good news that the risen Christ still walks with us each day. Paul, Peter, James, John and Jude remind the faithful that although much has been asked of Christ’s followers, much is also given. With them, we remember that there is always hope when we are overcome by doubt, always light that will pierce the darkness, and always joy, even in days of deep and unrelenting grief. Today John reminds us that without Christ, not only is there no opportunity for lasting joy . . . but what joy we have will always be incomplete.

John’s first letter was written toward the end of the first century and its purpose was to deepen the spiritual and social awareness of the Christian community. (Senior 387) Today we reflect on John’s words as we near the end of this present year.

1 John 1: 4: We are writing this so that our joy may be complete.

God says: I will never abandon you, never leave you without a guide, never allow you to fall into the darkness that you fear. I have great joy in mind for you.

John’s second letter is quite brief and scholars believe that its length was restricted to what might be contained on one piece of papyrus; yet, its brevity expands rather than restricts the possibilities for great joy. Today we reflect on John’s words as we prepare to enter into the new year. (Senior 393)

2 John 1:12: Although I have much to write to you, I do not intend to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and to speak face to face so that our joy may be complete.

God says: I am with you every instant of every day. I never leave your side although you sometimes believe that I am far away and uncaring. When you call on me, I bring you great joy and completion. Did I not come to live as one of you millennia ago in the town of Bethlehem? I am with you still. Did I not rescue you on Calvary in order that you might live in eternal joy? I rescue you each day. Did I not enter fully into the apostles in Jerusalem so that they might carry my word and my joy to those who had no means of knowing it? I dwell within you still. 

John’s third letter is addressed to Gaius and is less theological in content and purpose. Although we know little about the details in the lives of these early Christians, we understand from this letter that there was much division and turmoil in the early church. John writes to Gaius and he writes to us to remind us that we ought not fear conflict. He reminds us that despite the divisions we create, God brings us together in an authentic, relentless and all-forgiving unity. Today we reflect on John’s words as we enter into a newness of life, love and joy. (Senior 394-395)

3 John 1:4: Nothing gives me greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

joyGod says: My Spirit is in the tiniest fiber of your being. It is also in the immensity of creation. This creation is one with you and you are one with my creation. All of my works – and these include each of you – demonstrate my great love and my great joy. Open you mind and ears and heart to this joy today. Choose to live and walk, work, play and pray in and with me. In this way, you bring great joy to yourself and to others. In this way your everlasting joy is made complete.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.387 & 393-395. Print.   

To learn about the earliest Bible papyri, click on the word Papyrus or go to: http://earlybible.com/ Click on the links to the left of the copy to view bits of the New Testament. To enlarge the writing, move the computer’s cursor over the sample.  Click on the papyrus image above to read John 1:14.

If this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urges you to investigate the New Testament, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar. You may want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com

For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

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