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Acts 6Into the Maelstrom

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

St. Stephen

This reading may strike home for many of us today.  Our work is going well.  So well, in fact, that it is clear that more workers are needed.  The call goes out, workers are vetted and taken in . . . and then the grumbling begins.  Camps and sides form quickly.  The Old Guard feels the need to protect certain traditions and practices against the ideas of the Newcomers.  The newest workers push against the reactions of the old timers.  Protocols and policies change.  There is discontent.  We divide ourselves into factions or sects.  We either protect what we know or we tear down what we believe to be stale.  The story we read today teaches us how to behave when we enter the maelstrom.

Footnotes help us to understand the different factions.  “The Hellenists were not necessarily Jews from the diaspora, but were more probably Palestinian Jews who spoke only Greek.  The Hebrews were Palestinian Jews who spoke Hebrew or Aramaic and who may also have spoken Greek.  Both groups belong to the Jerusalem Christian community.  The conflict between them leads to a restructuring of the community that will better serve the community’s needs. The real purpose of the whole episode, however, is to introduce Stephen as a prominent figure in the community whose long speech and martyrdom will be recounted in ch. 7”. (Senior 193)

We notice almost immediately that jealousy brews against Stephen and commentary further helps us to understand the further implications of the conflict we hear today.  “The charges that Stephen depreciated the importance of the temple and the Mosaic law and elevated Jesus to a stature above Moses (6, 13-14) were in fact true.  Before the Sanhedrin, no defense against them was possible.  With Stephen, who thus perceived the fuller implications of the teachings of Jesus, the differences between Judaism and Christianity began to appear.  Luke’s account of Stephen’s martyrdom and its aftermath shows how the major impetus behind the Christian movement passed from Jerusalem, where the temple and law prevailed, to Antioch in Syria, where these influences were less pressing”.  (Senior 193)

Verse 10 tells us all: They could not withstand the wisdom and spirit with which he spoke. 

I am thinking of an article I read just last night of a similar conflict in the National Catholic reporter.  Written by Tom Roberts and entitled, “Seismic shifts reshape US Catholicism,” it investigates the inevitability of change that happens when humans form a community.  Liberals find that the change taking place is happening too slowly.  Conservatives believe that the change they see happening must be halted.  Moderates find themselves squeezed between these two inexorable forces.  The conflict will ebb and flow with the natural social, political and fiscal movements and everyone begins to gather their own opinions in defense of a stance.  Tensions ratchet upward.  Wisdom and the Spirit – rather than clearing the air – are shoved into oblivion and the inevitable explosion takes place.  As Christians, rather than succumb to the temptation to splinter into groups we must find a way to come together.

When we read this story in Acts we have the opportunity to look at ourselves to see how we fit into God’s plan for the world today.  When we read the story in Acts we have the chance to examine how we witness to Jesus today.  When we read the story in Acts we are called to examine how we allow Wisdom and the Spirit to influence our daily interactions with others.

When we are called to speak as Stephen speaks we must also be prepared to disappear into the maelstrom that will follow.

When we hear another speak as Stephen speaks we must be prepared to be open to the voice of Wisdom and the power of the Spirit.

When we enter the place where a conflict is raging we are called to witness as Christians must . . . with grace, and mercy, and wisdom . . . and always in the Spirit of God.


A re-post from January 22, 2012.

Image from: http://frbenedict.blogspot.com/2010_12_01_archive.html 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.193. Print.

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Wisdom 15:1-6God’s Wrath

Thursday, December 27, 2018

But you, our God, are good and true, slow to anger, and governing with all mercy.

It is easy to believe that God is full of wrath when we read the Old Testament; the New Testament tells us that this is not so.   Yesterday’s Mass and MAGNIFICAT readings and prayers all tell us that we have much to be grateful for in God.  They tell us that we have much to be happy about with God.  They tell us that we have much to love through God.

God is our constant shepherd – even when we do not feel God’s presence, God is with us.

From the MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer: The angel of God, who had been leading Israel’s camp, now moved and went around behind them. (Exodus 14:19)

The angel of the Lord . . . stood between the fleeing Israelites and their Egyptian pursuers during the exodus, and hid them from sight.  God goes with us, guards us and guides us today with the same protective love. 

The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst.  No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher.  While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: “This is the way; walk in it,” when you would turn to the right and to the left.  (Isaiah 30:20-21)

Yesterday’s first reading was from Daniel 5 in which King Belshazzar asks advice of Daniel, the Jewish exile in whom the spirit of God rests.  Daniel interprets “the writing on the wall” and brings God’s wisdom to those who would worship idols rather than the living God.

Yesterday’s Gospel from Luke 21:12-19: Jesus said to the crowd: “They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name.  It will lead to your giving testimony.  Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to refute.  You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  You will b heated because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.  By your perseverance you will secure your lives.

We may find all of this frightening . . . yet this is the work of Christ’s disciples.

We may find all of this exhausting . . . yet we draw strength from Christ.

We may find all of this overwhelming . . . yet we as disciples persist through Christ.

If we find all of this too confusing and too difficult, we will want to remember that Christ is God among us who comes to live as one of us . . . who brings us wisdom and strength.

If we find all of this too baffling and too crushing, we will want to remember that our perfection lies in our persistence . . . and that this is all that God asks of us.

If we find that all of this causes anger to rise within, we will want to remember that what we see as God’s wrath is God’s love.

And so we pray . . .

Dear God, From time to time our sight is blurred and our hearing dimmed and we must retreat for a time to take a journey inward, to ask your counsel, and to seek your wisdom.  Bring us your comfort and strength.  Set us on the right path.  Teach us to put aside our anger and our ridiculous idols.  Teach us to listen for you.  Teach us to trust in you alone.  Call us home to you.  Amen.


A re-blog from November 24, 2011.

Image from: http://cldefelice.blogspot.com/2009_04_01_archive.html

If we come to this hectic holiday season with too much anger, we may want to take a journey inward to examine who we are and how we behave.  To take a journey in which we examine our own use of anger go to the Journey of Transformation page on this blog. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 23.11 (2011): 317-318. Print.  

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Psalm 19The Builder’s Craft

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

If we get away from ambient light to look into the heavens on a clear night, we will see millions of stars . . . and it is all too breath-taking.  The sky proclaims the builder’s craft.

On a clear day when we look into the skies, we see powder puffs or high horse tails of clouds; on other days the banks and streaks of clouds announce a coming storm . . . and it is all too awesome.  The sky proclaims the builder’s craft.

If we look at the one who announces God among us, Jesus, we see that . . . he is all too splendid.  He too, proclaims the builder’s craft.  He is the Lord’s law, the new law that supersedes the old and fulfills the promises made to Abraham.  The psalmist describes this law, this Christ to us.  He is . . . perfect, refreshing, trustworthy, giving wisdom, right, clear, pure, true, desirable, and sweet.  He comes to save and restore.  He is among us to transform.  He is our rock and our redeemer.

We are also the builder’s craft for we are created in God’s image, adopted as Jesus’ sisters and brothers, consoled and protected by God’s Spirit.  When we allow ourselves to be cleansed of our faults – both known and unknown – then shall we be blameless and innocent of grave sin.

Then will the words or our mouths meet with the Lord’s favor.

Then will we keep our thoughts ever before God.

Then will we fully know that we are, like the skies, the handiwork of God’s loving hands.

Then will we declare with full voice the glory of God, and like the skies, then will we . . . proclaim the builder’s craft.


A re-post from November 8, 2011.

Image from: http://www.arizonatourismcenter.com/scottsdale/index-scottsdale.php/Stargazing-Tours-14/

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1 Samuel 24Escape

Monday, November 19, 2018

Rembrandt: Saul and David

Several weeks ago, we reflected on celebrating escape from something or someone who would have brought us great ruin or harm.  Yesterday’s Gospel gave us the opportunity to examine how Jesus is able to escape the traps laid for him by those who hated him.  Today we take a look at a small portion of the story of David, the young man who is designated as King of Israel by Samuel but who waits his turn as leader of God’s chosen people by resisting the temptation to fight against Saul.  David does not deny that he has been chosen King, nor does he murder Saul in order to take what is his; rather, he abides in God’s will and God’s time . . . and he takes the routes of escape that God offers while he actively waits on the fulfillment of God’s plan.

Today we read the story of how God saved his imperfect yet faithful servant and we are no less than David.

Today we read the story of how David relied on his God’s constancy . . . and he did not allow fear to turn him toward revenge or cowardice.

In yesterday’s Gospel (Matthew 22:15-21) we read the story of how Jesus confronted prejudice and hatred and we do well to follow his example.

In yesterday’s Gospel we were given a road map for how to escape manipulation and scheming.  We must rely on God always, remain faithful to the covenant God shares with us, and always act in love and for love of God.  In this way we will always know escape from anything danger or evil that hopes to overtake us.

And so we pray . . .

When the call to do God’s work pulls us into alien and dangerous territory, we must rely on God’s wisdom and not our own.

When the hand of God heals us and then sends us out to do God’s work, we must rely on God’s fidelity and nurture our own.

When the voice of God urges us to work in fields are that unfamiliar to us and that sap our energy, we must rely on God’s strength and conserve our own.

When the heart of God sends us to work with those who would do us harm, we must rely on God’s love and hope for redemption.   Amen.


A re-post from October 17, 2011. 

Images from: http://www.aaroneberline.com/blog/tag/david/ and http://www.artbible.info/art/large/378.html

 

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Job 36: Innocence


Job 36Innocence

Friday, October 19, 2018

Written on February 10, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Too many times the innocent suffer.  Too often the blameless stand accused unjustly.  What do we do when this happens?  What wisdom supports us?  What hope sustains us?  What love overcomes the insurmountable object that blocks the path?

God does not listen to lies . . . God rejects the obstinate in heart . . . even when we lie to ourselves.

God does not defend the wicked . . . he preserves not the life of the wicked . . . even when it appears that the wicked have won.

God abides with his faithful . . . he withholds not the just man’s rights, but grants vindication to the oppressed . . . even when we arrive at a place of hopelessness.

God always listens to the broken hearted . . . he saves the  unfortunate through their affliction, and instructs them through distress . . . even though we do not feel his presence . . . God is there.

Behold, God is sublime in his power . . . God is great beyond our knowledge . . .

God is miniscule . . . He holds in check the waterdrops that filter in rain through mists.

God is vast . . . He nourishes the nations and gives them sustenance.

God is powerful . . . In his hands he holds the lightning.

God is good . . . He spreads the clouds in layers as the carpets of his tent.

In our innocence we stand before this awesome God.

In our innocence we are vindicated in our faith in God.

In our innocence we are saved by our hope in God.

In our innocence we are justified by our love for God.

In our innocence we are redeemed by our patient waiting on God.

Be still and know that God is God . . .


A re-post from September 16, 2011.

Image from: http://moderncountry.blogspot.com/2011/07/image-via-foundryshow-today-my-heart.html 

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Proverbs 1-9Wisdom

Tuesday, September, 25, 2018

Written on July 26, 2008 and posted as a Favorite today . . .

Raphael: The Cherubim Putti Angels of the Madonna

Wisdom is patience, and the honing of the interior ear . . . the ear that listens to the Voice of God.  There is nothing more, really.  In these first nine chapters of Proverbs, we find a beautiful yet practical guide of where Wisdom is to be found, how we are to remain open to Wisdom, and how important it is to pass Wisdom along to others.  We cannot pass on this Wisdom per se – for she chooses where she harbors – but rather, we pass on the knowledge of where she is found, how she may be wooed, and how she loves those who love her.  These are simple ideas that unlock the mysteries of a complex world.

Wisdom saves us from fear.  She brings us to understanding.  She soothes, she scolds, she hugs, she warms, she enfolds us in her protecting wings.

Several days ago, we remembered the description of the winged Cherubim that arch over the Ark in the Holy of Holies (1 Kings), that guard the eastern gate of Eden (Genesis), and watch over the desert Ark of the Covenant. (Exodus and Numbers). The Cherubim remain with the Ark and the desert people through David’s time (1 Samuel) until a permanent kingdom is established when we see them in Solomon’s temple. In Psalms and prayers, the Lord is often seen as seated among or between Cherubim; and in the New Testament the writer of the letter to the Hebrews (9) recalls this image to his audience. The Cherubim guard the wisdom God wants to extend to us.

Wisdom also goes out along the byways, looking for those who seek her, calling into her house those who want to be close to God.  She sets up tables, lays out banquets, sends her maidens to accompany us to her place of Understanding.  Wisdom seeks to bring us Completion and Fullness . . .  not perfection, for she knows that it is impossible for us to be perfect.  Wisdom resides in God’s glory, and it is this she wishes to teach us.  Wisdom takes in and returns God’s love, and it is this she wishes to open to us.  Wisdom wishes us to be fully alive . . . just as Jesus is fully alive.  It is this opening, this blessing, this gift she offers us on open hands . . . this gift from God . . . this gift of God.

If you can find time in this busy, busy life . . . spend it with Wisdom today.


Adapted from a August 24, 2011 post.

Image from: http://www.amazon.com/Cherubim-Angels-Sistine-Madonna-Raphael/dp/B0044P7XDO

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Ezekiel 1Cherubim

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Written on March 4, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

More than a year ago we looked at the Cherubim in one of our Noontimes in connection with the opening nine chapters of the Book of Wisdom.

When I think of Wisdom I often think of the description we have read of the winged Cherubim that arch over the Ark in the Holy of Holies (1 Kings 6-8), that place in the deepest interior of the Jerusalem temple, that place reserved for men only, that place to which Wisdom drew her priests.  Scripture describes these creatures as guarding the eastern gate of Eden (Genesis 3:24).  The Hebrews fashion Cherubim that watch over the desert Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25, 26, 36, 37 and Numbers 7), and later in the New Testament the writer of the letter to the Hebrews (9) recalls this image to his audience.  The Cherubim remain with the Ark and with these desert people through David’s time (1 Samuel 4) until a permanent kingdom is established when we see them in Solomon’s temple as glorious guardians and companions of the place where God takes up residence.  In Psalms and prayers, the Lord is often seen as seated among or between Cherubim; and in these songs when we place ourselves “beneath the wing” or “in the shadow of the wing” of God, this is the place we find ourselves.  I like to think of these Cherubim as Wisdom, living close by God but calling to us to sit in praise of God . . . for this is where Wisdom finds her most comfortable nest. 

When we look at this opening chapter of Ezekiel, we see that God sits on a throne carried by winged Cherubim.  To read more about the mythological and physical origin of these creatures we can go to: http://www.pantheon.org/articles/c/cherubim.html  or to http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03646c.htm .

Creatures that live this close to God must be special indeed; yet these beings are no more important to God than each of us.  If we might think about being as close to God as the Cherubim, if we might create an image of the power needed to pull any chariot large enough to encompass our God, if we can imagine the magnitude of wisdom that these creatures symbolize . . . we are well on our way to comprehending the love that God has for us.

As the NEW ADVENT website points out, to Catholics these creatures are more than symbolic.  They are ministers who have an intimate and intense understanding of who God is and how he moves in our lives.  In the fullness of this knowledge they have become “sublime hosts” to God’s presence.

We see these creatures again in Revelation and still they have their fantastic and unique place in God’s kingdom, they are the wheels of God, the wisdom with which and through which God operates.  They are in constant praise of God, and they continually glory in his being and presence.

We might put ourselves in the place of these creatures for a few moments this afternoon and we might contemplate our own imagery of wisdom.  What is it exactly?  How does it operate?  Where does it take us?  To what does it call us?  Why do we seek it?

And then we might sit with these verses for awhile to meditate on them and on what drives our own lives: Wherever the spirit wished to go, there the wheels went . . . such was the vision of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. 


A re-post from August 22, 2011.

Image from: http://www.bibleorigins.net/CherubimColossalinHolyofHolies.html

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Job 42: Humbled and Satisfied

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

If we sit patiently with Job to read his story, we are rewarded . . . just as Job is rewarded for sitting with the Lord through suffering.

If we take in the ideas Job exchanged with his friends, we are healed . . . just as Job is healed when he remains in God.

If we live in fidelity to God as Job does, we experience humility . . . just as Job does when he hears the Lord speak.

If we seek wisdom as Job does, we find satisfaction . . . just as Job does when he hears the Lord address his friends. After God had finished addressing Job, he turned to Eliphaz the Temanite and said, “I’ve had it with you and your two friends. I’m fed up! You haven’t been honest either with me or about me—not the way my friend Job has.”

Honesty, authenticity, perseverance, courage, fidelity. These are the signposts we might follow as we move through life. They are antecedents of the meekness and fulfilment we see in Christ nearly a thousand years later. They are the presence of the consolation and healing we encounter in the Holy Spirit we experience in our own lives. They are the wisdom and peace we seek today.


Image from: https://lamountaincoaching.com/humility/can-promote-humility/

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Proverbs 2:1-5: My Child

Monday, August 13, 2018

I have always liked the simple wisdom of Proverbs for Lady Wisdom has much to teach us.

My child, learn what I teach you and never forget what I tell you to do. Listen to what is wise and try to understand it. Yes, beg for knowledge; plead for insight. Look for it as hard as you would for silver or some hidden treasure. If you do, you will know what it means to fear the Lord and you will succeed in learning about God. (GNT)

As a child, I never understood why we were to fear God. As I grew, I came to recognize fear as a sense of awe. As an adult, the verses of Proverbs bring God’s overwhelming love to our hearts.

Good friend, take to heart what I’m telling you;
    collect my counsels and guard them with your life.
Tune your ears to the world of Wisdom;
    set your heart on a life of Understanding.
That’s right—if you make Insight your priority,
    and won’t take no for an answer,
Searching for it like a prospector panning for gold,
    like an adventurer on a treasure hunt,
Believe me, before you know it Fear-of-God will be yours;
    you’ll have come upon the Knowledge of God. (MSG)

Friends offer words of advice, Wisdom found close to home and near to the heart. I take in the wisdom my own friends offer. And as a friend to others, I search for counsel in this practical, and often humorous, book of instruction.

My son, if you will receive my words
and store my commands inside you,
paying attention to wisdom
inclining your mind toward understanding —
yes, if you will call for insight
and raise your voice for discernment,
if you seek it as you would silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure —
then you will understand the fear of Adonai
and find knowledge of God. (CJB)

Ancient words are frequently apt, gathering past and future into a fruitful present when we share them with our children. Old axioms bring pearls of wisdom, offering respite in the storm, refuge in combat.

Good friend, take to heart what I’m telling you;
    collect my counsels and guard them with your life.
Tune your ears to the world of Wisdom;
    set your heart on a life of Understanding.
That’s right—if you make Insight your priority,
    and won’t take no for an answer,
Searching for it like a prospector panning for gold,
    like an adventurer on a treasure hunt,
Believe me, before you know it Fear-of-God will be yours;
    you’ll have come upon the Knowledge of God. (MSG)

Wisdom, Understanding, Insight. These are the gems we unearth when we spend time with these sayings. Searching, prospecting, seeking. These are the actions we take as children of God. Counsels, gold, gems. These are the treasures we unearth when we answer the call of Christ. Beseeching, learning, healing. This is the transformation we experience when we rest in the Spirit of the Lord.

My child, learn what I teach you and never forget what I tell you . . .


When we compare translations of these verses, we find safety in the Lord’s awesome love. We find refuge as children of God.

Image from: http://www.heartandsoulcompany.com/ 

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