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Posts Tagged ‘unity’


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Sauvignon_blanc_vlasotince_vineyards[1]Matthew 21:33-46

When Vintage Time Arrives

In this parable we see wicked people kill the owner’s son so that they can take over the land.  We humans tend to interpret our own actions in the best light in order that they suit our own ends.  We explain our lack of unity by calling up examples that support our own version of a story. By our lack of generosity and honesty, we demonstrate our belief that God is not good enough or big enough to help all of us.  Our own stinginess and need to control demonstrate a belief that God is limited in some way.  When we create division, confusion and disunity we forget that God brings order out of chaos and good out of harm.  And we also forget that Jesus calls each of us to do the same. Jesus shows us how to heal with a touch rather than ostracize with a look, yet we reject Jesus as the cornerstone when we refuse to see God’s presence in the least of us.

In this story the wicked men answer their own question in verse 41: [The landowner] will put those wretched men to death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper time.  There is no doubt about the message here: Fruit at the proper time – this is what we called to bear.

God wishes nothing more than for all of us go to him in unity. So let us ask for forgiveness and forgive.  Let us make reparations and accept a reparation being made.  Let us heal and be healed.  Let us pray our enemies into goodness so that all of us might bear fruit.

God wants to include all of us in the work of the vintage time.  God calls each of us to our seat at the great feast.  God calls the slow as well as the swift, the unfaithful as well as the faithful, the lame as well as the walking.  God makes a Universal Call . . . What will be our response?

Dearest God, we know that you will continue to beckon, continue to wait, continue to love, and continue to unfold your plan.  We know that you ask each of us to bear fruit in your time rather than our own.  Send us your wisdom, perseverance and generosity.  Send us your love and strength.  Speak clearly to us so that we might more readily hear your words as the landowner who sends his messengers to us.  Grant that we come forward willingly with the fruit of your harvest.  Grant that we find the courage to help even our enemies so that they might rise and go to you.  And grant that we be alert and ready when the vintage time arrives.  Amen.


To reflect more on The Wedding Feast and The Wedding Garment, enter these phrases into the blog search bar and explore. 

Adapted from a reflection written on September 13, 2007.

Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loire_Valley_(wine)

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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

John 13:21-30: Betrayal

Caravaggio: Taking of Christ in the Garden

Caravaggio: Taking of Christ in the Garden

Often during our Noontimes we have explored the theme of infidelity and the effects it has upon our intimate relationships and our collective experience as a people of God.  We have spent time thinking about how an act of betrayal never has a single secret effect.  We have prayed for those who deceive and harm us.  We have pondered how to handle an act of betrayal when it slices through our lives.  Today we see God himself allow each of us to make a choice for freedom and life or slavery and death.  Judas has become a slave to an idea which leaves his soul open to darkness.  Jesus allows him to proceed along the path he has chosen: What you are going to do, do quickly.  Yesterday we reflected on Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.  Today we explore John 13 more closely.

Today’s citation comes from the portion of John’s Gospel often called The Book of Glory; Chapters 13 to 20 tell the story of the passion, death and transformation of Jesus.  Here he has just delivered his discourse on the relationship he has with the Father – one of deepest intimacy.  And he has just told his followers – his followers of that evening and his followers today – that the same intimacy is open to each of us, that God yearns to hold us and to possess us more than anything we can imagine from our human experience.  Yet this citation begins with: Jesus was deeply troubled . . .

Able to read our inmost thoughts, Jesus understands that Judas is disappointed, disgruntled, and about to act on his envy and anger.  Judas Iscariot, despite so much time spent with the Master, is unable to enter into this intimacy offered.  And so he strikes at that which he cannot experience.

Jesus dipped a morsel and handed it to Judas . . . extending an ultimate invitation . . . knowing that it and he will be rejected; for after Judas took the morsel . . . Satan entered him. 

Who and what are Satan?  I believe that this force of negativity cleverly appeals to the narcissistic child in each of us; and I believe that it is present always.  Only through our fidelity to God and the light . . . do we evade that which relishes the night.  The risen Christ offers this invitation to unity constantly.  How do we respond?

Jesus shares a last meal with a man who believes that he operates in secret and who has likely convinced himself that his actions are for some greater good.  Judas’ actions will set a course of events into motion which cannot be recalled.  The calculus has been set much earlier than this through a series of moments of discontent, of wounded pride, of self-importance.  Judas resists the call to goodness and falls to the darkness.

So he took the morsel and left at once.  And it was night.

In an understatement of fact, the writer John tells us all we need to know about betrayal and the evil on which it feeds.  Envy, willfulness, desire for control of self and others, attendance to our own needs at the expense of others . . . these are signs that lead only to darkness.  And it was night.  Goodness, mercy, kindness, gentleness, prudence, courage, openness, perseverance . . . these are the signs that lead to light and life.

Heavenly Father, keep us always open to Christ, your Word among us.  Count us among your faithful.  Create in us a spirit that will always recognize you and welcome you . . . even in the most surprising places and unexpected people. 

Today we receive you; we receive your word.  Keep us ever mindful of your love for us.  Call us always to the light that is you.  Amen.


Written on January 27, 2009.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/his/CoreArt/art/bar_cvggo_taking.html

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Daniel 14: Bel and the Dragon

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Rembrandt: Daniel and Cyrus Before the Idol Bel

“These stories are caricatures.  They should not be taken as accurate descriptions of Babylonian religion . . . The Babylonians in the stories are excessively stupid, and their devices are too easily exposed.  The story of the dragon shares the Daniel 6 the motif of the lions’ den, but does not necessarily depend on the earlier chapter.  All we can say is that Daniel was associated with the lions’ den in oral tradition, and that both these stories make use of the motif.  Bel and the Dragon is more fantastic than Daniel 6 . . . These fantastic elements give the story a light-hearted quality, but the background here is more tense than in Daniel 1 – 6.  Daniel confronts the Babylonian religion a way that he never does in the earlier chapters . . . There is a sense here that Judaism and paganism are fundamentally incompatible”.  (Senior RG 351)

We humans always want a contest; we look for heroes to champion and causes to support.  We are willing – and even eager – to take sides and create divisions.  We cry out for peace and unity but too often we fight for separation, isolation, and a sense of superiority or elite privilege.  We seem to be comfortable with a certain degree of “clubiness” in the circles of friends and family that we form.  Someone is always “in” or “out” depending on a morphing list of requirements that we often keep secret even from the “members” of our circle.  We are reluctant to embrace the universal model that Jesus lives.  We shun those who are different and give lip service to diversity.  The stories we read today – with their hyperbole and stereotypes – might be fodder for our late night comics or talk show political pundits and in that sense they are too extreme to be true; yet they hold a mirror up to us that we might see ourselves not so much as the character of Daniel but as those who would dupe the King.  The corrupt priests and the families take advantage of a generous monarch; those who worship the dragon become consumed by their jealousy and passion.  We might take a lesson from all of this.

False gods, false priests, jealous colleagues, spiteful associates are plentiful in our lives.  The lions’ den may suddenly be found in our home, our place of worship or work.  Dragons haunt the lonely places of the heart; yet . . . The true and living God is ever-present; but we seem to forget this.  The one all-powerful and infinite God is always with us; but we often fail to show that we believe this.  The merciful and intimate one and only God is within us; but we behave us as though we do not believe this.

And so we pray.

Good and generous God, keep us from any elitism that separates us from the world around us; guide us in welcoming others into our hearts.

Dear and loving God, help us to guard against the temptation to exclude or eliminate others from our lives; show us how to welcome those who are different from ourselves.

Wise and abiding God, remind us that none of us can afford to isolate ourselves from others; tell us often that wounds heal, anxieties ebb away, and love stitches up the empty places in our lives.  Amen.


A re-post from November 17, 2012.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. RG 351. Print.   

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Revelation 4: Heavenly Worship

Monday, September 2, 2019

Written on August 2, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

Footnotes tell us that much of this imagery can also be found in Ezekiel, where God is seen as surrounded by worshiping figures.  All of these creatures and people are symbolic; and good footnotes or a good commentary are helpful when sorting and understanding all of these ideas.  What makes so much sense to me is the idea that it is right and good to live a life in constant praise of God.  I like this thought.  It brings me comfort to know that the angels, saints and all creatures celebrate God in heaven just as we do here on earth.  I think that being in God’s presence necessitates a willingness to worship, to praise, to thank and to petition.  What will we do in heaven if we have not practiced coming together to be near to God?  How can we expect to understand any heavenly rite if we do not accustom ourselves to ritual here on earth?  Why would we think that we might get along with lambs who frolic among lions . . . if we cannot live in harmony here on earth?

We have many earthly opportunities to demonstrate our willingness to be humble, to build bridges between ourselves and our enemies, to be peacemakers.  Where do expect to stand when we arrive at the heavenly throne room?  How do we expect to know how to behave?  Why do we expect that in another place we will suddenly be able to love . . . when we have not learned to do so here?

We have this idea so often that God is in his heaven while we are in the world.  We have forgotten the lesson of this story . . . that the kingdom is now, the kingdom is here.  We are every waking and sleeping moment in God’s presence . . . and how do we behave?

Today we might begin anew with our lessons for Heavenly Worship.  We might begin anew in our lessons of Love and Unity.


Image from: http://epitemnein-epitomic.blogspot.com/2012/06/gods-institutes-of-praise-prayer-and.html

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2 Corinthians 2:5-11: Seek Pardon

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The surest way to fend off the forces of darkness is to pardon one another.  This is how the world, God, and we ourselves will know that we truly love.

From La Biblia de América: Apostles must be compassionate and know how to pardon.  This is not discipline for the sake of discipline itself, nor is it a punishment leveled by the church, the community.  Nor is it acceptable to allow permissiveness or anarchy.  There are even tines when the church – we – must make decisions which may be painful for us.  But the last word will always be love, reunion and pardon.

We have said this before in our Noontime reflections: Permissiveness leads to a further lack of obedience before God.  A community of Christians is called to rebuke one another in mercy . . . first alone and if not heard, then with another member of the community and again if not heard . . . finally, before the assembly.  This kind of discipline is what brings unity out of diversity.

This is the time of year when we have recently celebrated the Feast of the Ascension and remember that Christ – when he rises to God – carries our humanity with himself.  He opens the door to the possibility that we too, may unite with God in the most intimate of ways.

This intimacy is what we all seek.  It is what we yearn for, what we crave.  It is what we feel lacking in our lives.  And it is a thirst that will only be quenched if we first find it within ourselves to seek pardon and to pardon . . . to love and be loved . . . to unite with all that is . . . even if it is different from what we know.  We are people who long for reunion.  Let us open the door of forgiveness and enter into love.


LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. Print.

Images from: http://thrivingwithneurofibromatosis.blogspot.com/2012/05/forgiveness.html and http://youthspeaknews.org/2011/11/29/the-gift-of-forgiveness-this-advent-season/

A re-post from May 30, 2012.

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2 Samuel 16Making Mistakes

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Michelangelo: David

Written on January 30 and posted today as a Favorite . . . 

Today we see a part of the story of David that might be difficult to understand if we view life as a series of good decisions.  When we view life as it really is, however – as series of decisions we make both bad and good – we have less anxiety and fear, we experience more hope and serenity.  I heard a radio preacher recently say: When you live your life in the Spirit, you can’t make a mistake.  “This is incorrect”, we might say to ourselves.  “How can a good life have bad decisions in it?  How can a life of flawed decisions be good?”  If this is our thinking, we have forgotten something and it is this : If we are living in the Spirit, we will have arrived at understanding how God operates; we will fully comprehend that God turns all harm to good.  So whether we err accidentally or whether we mean to inflict harm in any way, God will use these flawed acts to work in his favor for – God turns all harm to good.  And this is part of the story we see today.

David has been a good leader and faithful to God, but he has also sinned and erred.  What sets David apart is the way in which he reacts when others urge him to take revenge.  When he was younger, his soldiers encouraged him to murder the sleeping Saul when he had the opportunity.  David instead makes it obvious that he has breached the enemy’s lines and yet has not taken a life where he could.  David lives in the Spirit.  David later becomes infatuated with Bathsheba and plots her husband’s death; he confesses this sin when confronted by Nathan and sings a beautiful lament of repentance that we still sing today during the Lenten season (Psalm 51).  Even though he has erred, David lives in the Spirit.

David does not use his good standing with God to ignore what he has done; instead he confesses and atones.  He lives his life in the Spirit and does not try to avoid culpability for his actions or gain immunity so that he might do whatever he likes.  Rather, David praises and obeys God.  Living in the Spirit has become part of who he is and what he does.

Today we read of some of the intrigue that mounted as David aged and the time came for one of his sons to rule Israel.  The sibling rivalry, the palace intrigue, and the political plotting are fascinating to see but what is most interesting is the way we see David living in the Spirit.  In verse 10 he speaks the wisdom we can all use today: What business is it of mine or of yours, sons of Zeruiah, that he curses?  Suppose the Lord has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, “Why are you doing this?” 

We can read commentary to sort through who is aligned with whom, who is against whom, but today we have the opportunity to see another way to step away from revenge, anger and violence and move toward hope and serenity.  We see another opportunity to step away from fear and anxiety and move toward peace and unity.

When we live our lives in the Spirit, we cannot make a mistake.  Do we believe this?  If not, we must study, we must seek, we must be patient, and we must be persistent in living lives directed fully for, in, and to God.

When we live our lives in the Spirit, we cannot make a mistake.  Do we believe this?  If not, we must witness, we must watch, we must wait, and we must insist on living lives governed fully for, in, and to God.

When we live our lives in the Spirit, we cannot make a mistake.  When we believe this, the fretfulness and panic drop away . . . for we have focused our lives on God, we have learned to trust in God, we have begun to love like God . . . and we know that God will turn all harm to good.  We will not worry or fret for we, like David, will reply to a challenge . . . Suppose the Lord has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, “Why are you doing this?”  We will be truly living in and of the Spirit.


A re-post from August 26, 2011.

Images from: http://ambassadorsforthekingdom.net/2011/07/23/gratitude-verses/ and http://ambassadorsforthekingdom.net/2011/07/23/gratitude-verses/

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Job 12:7-10: Wisdom of Earth, Sky, and Sea

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Why has the state of Hawaii banned the use of some sunscreens?

Even birds and animals have much they could teach you.

We are surrounded with wisdom . . . if only we might see.

Ask the creatures of earth and sea for their wisdom.

We are immersed in knowledge . . . if only we might hear.

All of the creatures know that the Lord‘s hand made them.

We are one with all of creation . . . if only we might learn.

It is God who directs the lives of the creatures.

How might we protect endangered species while nurturing human life?

We are made in the image and likeness of the one who creates all goodness . . . if only we might unite with all, even those with who we differ greatly.

Everyone’s life is in God’s power.

We are called in the divinity of Christ . . . if only we might heal.

Birds and animals have much they could teach us.

How might we make it possible for millions of creatures to co-exist?

We are complete in the confidence of the Spirit . . . if only we might love.

We must ask the creatures of earth, sky, and sea for their wisdom.


When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to compare other translations with these GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION, we learn much from the creatures of the earth, sea and sky. 

Images from: https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/nature/hawaii-just-banned-some-types-sunscreen-protect-coral-reefs and https://greentumble.com/poaching-endangered-species/ and http://www.takepart.com/photos/endangered-species-then-now/bald-eagle-delisted-recovered

 

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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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