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Titus 2:1 to 3:7In Conflict with Reality

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Titus was one of Paul’s companions during the evangelization of the island of Crete, and Paul left his young follower to administer to the churches they established there.  In this letter, Paul encourages Titus and gives him an outline for 1) how to best minister to these new communities, and 2) how to maintain the truths brought to them by Christ in the Gospel story1.  This would have been a huge task for anyone but we can guess that it was particularly tricky for Titus who would find that every action he took and every word he spoke would be in direct conflict with the reality of the times.  We might identify with this conflict between doctrines and philosophies we know to be correct, and the accepted practices and activities in our own families, communities and workplaces.  We might want to use Paul’s words to Titus as our own manual for Christian behavior.

In a reflection posted on his website for Sunday, February 05, 2012, Fr. Richard Rohr describes living life fully while at the same time accepting reality In part he writes: “Living and accepting our own reality will not feel very spiritual. It will feel like we are on the edges rather than dealing with the essence.  Thus most [human beings] run toward more esoteric and dramatic postures instead of bearing the mystery of God’s suffering and joy inside themselves. But the edges of our lives—fully experienced, suffered, and enjoyed—lead us back to the center and the essence”.

Rohr continues to explain how we must open ourselves in order to allow God to move into us, in order to allow God to act in and through us.  He makes his point clear that we do not make our own lives but rather it is our lives that form us . . . once we allow ourselves to suffer in Christ.  He writes that as we search for God, God finds us:  “We do not find our own center; it finds us. Our own mind will not be able to figure it out. Our journeys around and through our realities, or ‘circumferences,’ lead us to the core reality, where we meet both our truest self and our truest God. We do not really know what it means to be human unless we know God. And, in turn, we do not really know God except through our broken and rejoicing humanity”.  (Adapted from Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, pp. 17-19 by Richard Rohr)

As we read Paul’s message to Titus today, we hear the encouraging words that we need as well for as we move through our own reality we will want to know how to find the courage to stand tall against the thinking of the day when we know this thinking is defective.  We will want to have the hope that God will convert false realities into kingdom promises.  We will want to know where to find the faith and patience we will need, when to act with the love and justice that we will require, and how to work with others in charity . . . even those who put obstacles in our way.

Paul describes for Titus how he might guide others as they transform their own lives and their world.  Rohr reminds us that the work is difficult and that we must stand with one foot in the reality of this world and the other in the reality of God’s Kingdom . . . just as Jesus does.

We cannot allow ourselves to be discouraged from this kingdom work for it is the only work that matters.  We must rely on God, follow Christ’s model, and live in the Spirit.  So let us bear the mystery of God’s suffering and joy inside ourselves . . .for this is the only way we will be successful when we find ourselves in conflict with the reality we see around us.


1 We will want to remember that the prescription for Christian living that Paul sends to Titus was written two thousand years ago when the treatment of women and slaves as possessions was a philosophy woven through the thinking of their times.  Slaves were seen as natural possessions of their masters; women were subject to the men in their lives.  For more on slavery and Paul, see the Philemon – The Challenge  and the Titus – Church as Community pages on this blog.

A re-post from February 6, 2012.

Image from: http://travel.ninemsn.com.au/world/655272/off-the-beach-in-crete

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1 Timothy 2: Seek Equality

Annibale Carracci: The Samaritan Woman at the Well

 Wednesday, November 22, 2017

This letter contains some clear restrictions for women – they are to be silent and not speak out.  Men are put in charge of prayer and liturgy.  Women are meant to be on the sidelines in this ancient world.  Some men today wish women to remain so – as unequal partners.  Other men today are wise enough to understand that women have equal worth before God and it is indeed a woman who brings Christ into the world.  We can allow ourselves to be contained by these sentiments or we can rise above them.  Modern commentary points out that these injunctions against women are a sign that the Holy Spirit was clearly in motion, encouraging the oppressed half of humankind to speak up and speak out.  The oppressing half of humanity responds in the way it knows best – it calls for silence.  Equality, in the end, will be gained.  Women, as the oppressed gender, have the opportunity to understand and to know that as a part of the marginalized in society they hold a special place.

John Martin Borg: Woman Caught in Adultery

In the Gospels, Jesus pays attention to women – the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), the woman (and we notice that the man is not brought forward) whom the men wish to stone for adultery (John 8), women suffering, women grieving, and his own mother at the time of his crucifixion (John 19).  Jesus makes wine of water at his Mother’s request.  Jesus includes women as his apostles.  Jesus values women as equal to men.

In Thursday’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation, Father Bede Jarrett writes: When we say God is everywhere, we mean that he is in all things because he made all things.  Not only does the whole world lie outstretched before his eye and is governed by his power, but he himself lurks at the heart of everything.  By him things have come into existence . . . Wholly is God everywhere, not as some immense being that with its hugeness fills the world, but as something that is within every creature he has made.

Rogier Van Der Weyden: Deposition or Descent from the Cross

We believe this to be so . . . and when we do, we believe that women and men are created as equals in a glorious, mysterious dance of opposites that resist and yet attract.  This marvelous tension draws us in to ponder the inscrutability of life.  This equality that is rejected by many is actually the foundation of life itself.  This union of contrasts is stronger than the binds which hold together like beings.

When the age-old conflicts of gender and sexuality surface, we might remember this: Wholly is God everywhere, not as some immense being that with its hugeness fills the world, but as something that is within every creature he has made.

Do we reject this different-ness from ourselves?  Or do we take it in and in so doing . . . welcome a Jesus we have yet to meet?

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 13.11 (2009). Print.  

Adapted from a reflection written on November 13, 2009.

 

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dad and childSecond Sunday of Advent

December 7, 2014

Joy and Proverbs

Family

The Book of Proverbs is more than a collection of mere adages we repeat in moments of confusion or stress. They are universal metaphors that serve as anchors in a bewildering and sometimes tumultuous world. In this second week of Advent we will focus on the surprising power of the proverbs to reveal God’s truth.  If this week’s exploration of Proverbs calls you to search for more ways to encounter joy, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today we find joy in our human family.

Some of us are blessed with a sturdy foundation of human relationships that begin in childhood. Others gather a family of faithful friends around them as they move through life. These acquired “family” members may come to us through our places of work or play or worship; but no matter their genesis, authentic friendships are invaluable in our lives as we look for joy. We give thanks for the joy that comes to us through people and relationships we perhaps take too much for granted.

joyIn a time when women were vulnerable to men who governed every detail of their existence, words like these held great significance. Verse 5:18: So be happy with your wife and find your joy with the woman you married – pretty and graceful as a deer. We remember that many women in today’s world have significance only through men. Seen as possessions, many women have little value as humans. We pray for women who struggle to find importance in their world, and for men who believe themselves superior.

In a time when family roles were strictly defined, the following words held great power. Verse 17:21: Wise children make their fathers happy. Only fools despise their mothers. We remember that in many cultures today household and parenting roles are clearly delineated. Barred from fulfilling work, men and women struggle against rigid parameters that too often limit the joy to be found in our homes. We pray for families everywhere as they look for joy in the simplest of ways.

During WW II the percentage of women in the U.S. workforce increased from 27% to 37%

During WW II the percentage of women in the U.S. workforce increased from 27% to 37%

We might spend time today exploring the life of Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani woman who challenges exacting restrictions placed on young women. Or we might investigate information offered by Amnesty International or The United Nations. Choose one of the links below or look for another issue that challenges us to find joy in family . . . and share your thoughts in a comment. Information about Rosie the Riveter and other women who supported the American economy during WW II, click on the image to the left or visit: 

http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/american-women-in-world-war-ii

 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-23241937http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/women-s-rightshttp://www.un.org/en/rights/

Tomorrow, finding joy in times of deceit.

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

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Fifth Sunday of Easter, April 28, 2013

Cristofano Allori: Judith With the Head of Holofernes

Cristofano Allori: Judith With the Head of Holofernes

Judith 13 – Slaying Holofernes

Judith teaches us about courage, fidelity, and divine providence.  She shows us clearly the strength of women, the power of faithfulness through duress, the results of steady, enduring, immutability . . . and the gift of God’s abiding presence.  Judith instructs us on the results of constancy and the privilege of discipleship.

In this particular chapter, we see Judith carry out the final stages of her plan . . . and I am always intrigued by the fact that none of Holofernes’ soldiers see anything suspicious about two women leaving the camp and the reason for this is that from the first night of her stay Judith makes it clear that she and her maid will go out to pray each evening.  For this reason their escape route is made through their accustomed daily commitment to God (12:5-9).

It is also clear that Holofernes’ principle error is seeing women as sexual objects.  The heart of Holofernes was in rapture over her, and his spirit was shaken.  He was burning with the desire to possess her, for he had been biding his time to seduce her from the day he saw her.  (12:16) Neither this man – nor anyone in his inner circle – sees the true significance of the presence of this quiet, beautiful, spiritual woman in their midst.  And they pay for this blindness with the loss of life and the loss of the campaign they have planned against the people of Bethulia.

What can we learn from this today?  How can we take this lesson into our own lives and honor it?  What is it about Judith’s conduct that speaks of her so well?

This story – when read from beginning to end – is full of unexpected twists.  And so is life.  This story – when we take the time to examine it more fully – can startle us and even repel us with its stark reality and violence.  And so can life.  This story – when reflected upon in the context of the coming of Christ – brings us the expectation of restoration, justice and joy.  And so does life.  This story brings us the gift of constancy, a gift we receive through our own discipleship.

Tower of David Museum, Jerusalem: Reconstruction Model of Ancient Jerusalem

Tower of David Museum, Jerusalem: Reconstruction Model of Ancient Jerusalem

What do we do against life’s twists and turns and ironies?  We remain constant, we abide with God, we fear less and we pray endlessly.  We empty ourselves of ego and pride . . . and we allow God to complete and fill us.  We act – just as Judith did – from a custom of constantly walking and praying with God.

Good, merciful and just Creator, we place ourselves in your hands each day at our rising.  We carry you with us throughout each day.  We return to you each evening just as we return to family, home and hearth.  Abide with us this day and all days, just as you accompanied Judith and her maid into the enemy’s camp.  Abide with us each evening as we walk out to the ravine to pray with you, just as Judith and her maid were accustomed to doing.  We seek you, just as Judith sought you.  We bring to you our worries and fears, just as these women did.  May we too remain constant to you in our prayers and in our actions.  May we too know the triumph and the peace which comes from abiding with you.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

If you have time to read more about Judith’s story and reflect on her importance in our lives today, enter her name in the search box on this blog and spend time with her.  Or open your Bible to this book and begin her story in Judith 8.  For background, and to better understand the context, begin reading from Chapter 1.   For an online commentary, click on the model of ancient Jerusalem above.

First written on July 27, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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