Saturday, July 21, 2018

“His Heart Was Moved” by Jim Bayne

“His Heart Was Moved” by Jim Bayne

I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have banished them and bring them back to their folds; there they shall be fruitful and multiply.  
(Jer 23:3)

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.  (Ps. 23:1)

He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 
(Ephesians 2:17-18)

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
(Mark 6:34)

Lord our God, help us to love You with all our hearts
and to love all people as You love them.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
One God, forever and ever. Amen.


What consoling readings we have for today!!  At a time when so much of our world seems upended, it is very comforting to know that God is with us at every moment and in every circumstance.

In Jeremiah God tells us that He himself will gather us together.  Paul reminds us that Jesus - God Himself - came and preached peace to us and gathered us together as one in the Father.

In the gospel, we see Jesus and his disciples coming together to reflect on their evangelical activities and then trying to get away for a little rest.  But there is still so much more to do.  No time for rest for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

A commentary on today's readings from the Irish Association of Catholic Priests:
But Jesus did not just give the people His words.  He gave them himself in His way of relating with people.  Jesus was a welcoming person (Mk 6: 34).  He wanted the good of the people.  The goodness and the love which came from His words formed part of the content.  They were His temperament.  A good content without goodness and kindness would be like milk poured on the floor. 

Jesus’ teaching manifested itself in a thousand ways.  Jesus accepts as disciples not only men but also women.  He does not only teach in the synagogue but also in any place where there were people to listen to Him:  in the synagogue, in the house, on the shore, on the mountain, on the plain, in the boat, in the desert.  It was not the relationship of pupil-teacher, but of the disciple to Master.

The professor teaches and the pupil is with him during the time of the class. The Master gives witness and the disciple lives with Him 24 hours a day. It is more difficult to be a Master than a teacher! We are not pupils of Jesus, we are His disciples! The teaching of Jesus was a communication that came from the abundance of His heart in the most varied forms: like a conversation by which He tries to clarify the facts (Mk 9: 9-13), like a comparison or parable that invites people to think and to participate (Mk 4: 33), like an explanation of what He Himself thought and did (Mk 7: 17-23), like a discussion which does not necessarily avoid polemics (Mk 2: 6-12), like a criticism that denounces what is false and mistaken (Mk 12: 38-40). It was always a witness of what He Himself lived, an expression of His love! (Mt 11: 28-30).


What do you do when you want to teach others something about your faith and your religion?  Do you imitate Jesus?

As one of the guys in my Tuesday group puts it, "People would much rather see a sermon than hear one."

Are you a walking, breathing sermon?  Who needs you to be a sermon for them this week?

You Are the Helper

You Are the Helper

Woe to those who plan iniquity and work out evil on their couches;
In the morning light, they accomplish it when it lies within their power.
They covet fields, and seize them; houses and they take them; They cheat an owner of his house, a man of his inheritance. Therefore, thus says the LORD: Behold, I am planning against this race an evil from which you shall not withdraw your necks; Nor shall you walk with head high, for it will be a time of evil.  Micah 2:1-3

The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. When Jesus realized this, he withdrew from that place. Many people followed him, and he cured them all, but he warned them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through Isaiah. Matthew 12:14-15

You do see, for you behold misery and sorrow,
taking them in your hands.
On you the unfortunate man depends;
of the fatherless you are the helper.
R. Do not forget the poor, O Lord! Psalm 10:14

Sometimes, the connection between the first reading and the Good News is a little harder to discern.  Rather than condemn the Pharisees who are acting more like those warned by the prophet Micah, Jesus takes a subtler approach.

The story related by St. Matthew described the withdrawal, the healings, and the command for silence from Jesus to his disciples, students, and followers. To this, he adds a fulfillment citation from the first Servant Song (Isaiah 42:1-4). 

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased.
Upon him I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry out, nor shout,
nor make his voice heard in the street.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench.
He will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow dim or be bruised
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

The prophet Isaiah stresses that “He will not cry out, nor shout, nor make his voice heard in the street.”  After working openly in the temple and in the cities, now Jesus takes the gentle manner of his divine mission away from the plotting Pharisees.  Like others he cured, he warns these not to say anything about his work. Jesus fulfills his role as the helper, the servant.

We have already seen the Pharisees objecting to what Jesus and his disciples were doing. Rather than further arouse them, Jesus keeps working quietly to establish justice on the earth until the time comes for his passion.

Although the Psalmist prayers for the Lord not to forget the poor, it also falls to us to take the poor into our hands and help them. 

What can you do this week to help those “in misery and sorrow?”  You are the helper. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Something Greater

Something Greater

Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: "Go, tell Hezekiah: Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you: in three days you shall go up to the LORD's temple; I will add fifteen years to your life. I will rescue you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; I will be a shield to this city."  Isaiah 38:4-6

Jesus was going through a field of grain on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the Sabbath…I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." Matthew 12:1-2

Prayers offered during a walk with migrants in south Texas:
“God hears our prayers. We’re gathered here tonight. We may come from different countries. We may come from different faith tradition. We may even come from a different place in a political or ideological spectrum.  But we are here because something very special brings us together and that is Love of God and Love of neighbor.” (Opening remarks of Miguel Santos, an organizer for the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville)

"We thank God for this gathering, this moment of prayer. We put our trust in God’s promise as we recognize that God puts us on the road that other people travel so that we might help them. That is the spirit of this walk. That God puts us really today on the road that helps us to be servants of those who walk. We thank God for the grace and the continued hope we have for a better way of life for all people, especially those who are most vulnerable."
(Prayer shared by Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville during the walk)

Sickness and recovery.  Hunger.  Overcoming the physical challenges of everyday life are central to both readings today. 

We discover there are steps within our control as well as within our faith that can both work to overcome the physical obstacles we face.

The prophet Isaiah points out that faith and prayer are critical.  Putting the recovery into God’s hands “will rescue you.”  But also, we can strengthen ourselves for the journey by making sure we work with what is at hand.  In the case of the disciples in the field, they were hungry and there was grain in the field.  Rather than ignore the gift from God that was at hand, the disciples picked it and ate it.

Some Pharisees objected to what they saw in front of them by using the old law.  Matthew shows us again how Jesus turned over the old law and replaced it with a new interpretation. Just like with Job, there is “something greater” here.  Rather than sentencing the disciples to another day of hunger, Jesus preached the Gospel of Mercy again. 

He addressed the Pharisees not just as the humble carpenter’s son from Nazareth.  Rather, he addressed them with the familiarity with the law as one who was the actual author of it. Thus, the lesson of justice and mercy over sacrifice comes through as the new ways overcome the old ways.     

Who do you need to deal with in mercy today? The last thing in Jesus’ mind when dealing with the Pharisees is “zero tolerance.”

Maryknoll Sisters Ann Hayden and Patricia "Pat" Edmiston are on mission in PeƱitas, a small, rural border town in deep south Texas, fourteen miles west of the city of McAllen, home of the largest immigration processing center in the United States where currently thousands of undocumented adults and immigrant children separated from their parents by U.S. Border Patrol are detained. 
They conclude with this:
We hope this act of solidarity (the walk and the pastoral care they offer) demonstrates our support for the migrant community here and for all those who seek refuge and asylum, who are being treated with disdain and disregard for their human rights and dignity.  The suffering is immense.  
Yes, there are those, even in the Rio Grande Valley, who feel we must keep our borders 'safe' no matter the human cost. But we pray that grace may touch the hearts of all those involved to right this wrong and restore the heart of our immigrant nation to compassion and justice for the 'stranger' in need of refuge and welcome in our midst.   
Thank you for all you do to champion the cause of refugees and migrants around the world.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

My Soul Yearns for You” by Beth DeCristofaro

My Soul Yearns for You” by Beth DeCristofaro

When your judgment dawns upon the earth, the world's inhabitants learn justice. O LORD, you mete out peace to us, for it is you who have accomplished all we have done. Isaiah 26:9, 12)

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."  (Matthew 11:29-30)

My soul yearns for you in the night,
yes, my spirit within me keeps vigil for you
(Isaiah 26:9)

As a (very, very young!) child of the 60’s, I grew up distrusting authority.  On TV I watched protests against a murderous war, fire hoses turned on peaceful Black civil rights marchers, and the lead up to a President caught lying and obstructing justice. In church, the punishment was meted out more frequently than peace.  I sat in detention because a boy snatched the beanie off my head at Catholic school, throwing it onto a roof; fidgeting too much during Mass would result in Sister whacking heads with a ruler; and hellfire would reign down on any Catholic teen who dared to commit French-kissing (what was that anyway?)  Later, after receiving an MA in Pastoral Ministry, it was difficult to find a parish who knew what that meant or how to invest in a woman professional.  All this led me to have a difficult time with the image of God as supreme being or king – authority.

It has taken much prayer, study, discernment, and acknowledgment of my unbelief to realize how different is God’s authority from the civil.  In the notes on the reading from Isaiah, we learn that God’s authority is justice and adheres fully to the covenant made with Abraham. Times were tough due to foreign dominance over the Chosen people but God’s promise to be their God still held.  “This text is a mixture of praise for the salvation that will take place, a confession of Judah’s inability to achieve deliverance on its own, and earnest prayer that God may quickly bring about the longed-for salvation.”[i]

Jesus’ words are in accord with these and other Scriptures.  As he turned always to God for the source of his nourishment and action, Jesus offers to be that source for any who believe.  This verse comes at the end of a passage dealing with unbelief and the unwillingness of temple leaders to accept Jesus’ authority given by God.  Unlike civil authority which is often sidetracked by personal or national gain/power, God’s authority is the root of all of our successes and our very being.

A yoke allows two oxen to equally share the burden of labor.  Jesus offers to share our labor, our struggle, our failures and, of course, our joys and hopes.  

In what ways do I still resist turning over completely his end of the yoke in order to share in his peace?  Why do I resist freedom?  How do I restrict others from experiencing God’s freedom?

“Childlike Trust” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“Childlike Trust” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Thus says the LORD:  Woe to Assyria! my rod in anger, my staff in wrath.  Against an impious nation I send him, and against a people under my wrath, I order him to seize plunder, carry off loot, and tread them down like the mud of the streets.  But this is not what he intends, nor does he have this in mind; Rather, it is in his heart to destroy, to make an end of nations, not a few. (Isaiah 10:5-7)

At that time Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.  Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. (Matthew 11:25-26)

“Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus
Just to take Him at His Word
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”
"Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, Louisa M. R. Stead, c. 1880-1882, sung by Casting Crowns

The trust in a child’s eyes.  Little else so humbles and terrifies me.  Those big blue eyes looking at me with absolute faith that I will not let any harm come to him, with the certainty that I will rescue him from every tight corner into which he scooches, that I will pick him up when he loses his balance, kiss him and make it all better. 
He imitates the faces I make.  He absorbs the names I give to objects.  He tries, with increasing success, to repeat words I have uttered.   When a stranger approaches his stroller, he turns and looks at me to see if this is a friend.

Over nine months of caring for him, I have learned a great deal from my great-nephew about trust and about being the recipient of such utter faith in my power to keep him safe.  Life hasn’t yet given him cause for doubt or reason to become cynical.

And that’s exactly the sort of childlike openness and trust Jesus says we need in order to receive what God offers us.  Jesus says it’s no use for his Father to reveal the truth to those who consider themselves already wise and learned.  They will not listen.  They are already marching to a different drummer.

As we see in today’s first reading, whether it’s God’s people who have gone astray or the Assyrians God hoped to use to correct Israel, once we’ve become wealthy, powerful, or arrogant, we tend to forget that every good thing we have comes from God.  And, according to St. Ignatius of Loyola, the root of all sin is ingratitude.

Pray for the gifts of simple trust and an open heart in response to whatever God seeks to reveal to you. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

“Unless Your Faith Is Firm” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

“Unless Your Faith Is Firm” by Melanie Rigney

But within sixty years and five, Ephraim shall be crushed, no longer a nation. Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm! (Isaiah 7:9)

God upholds his city forever. (Psalm 48:9)

“For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” (Matthew 11:23-24)

Stand, o stand firm/Stand, o stand firm/Stand, o stand firm/And see what the Lord can do. –Cameroon traditional song.

Let’s be honest. Firm faith is a lot easier to have when everyone’s healthy, when you have enough food and money (and maybe even more than enough), and when your world is tooling around just as it should. It’s easy to give thanks and spew out platitudes about the Lord’s goodness.

Credit: geralt (
But when people you love are in hospice, you’ve been out of work for months, and anxiety and worry are taking up what seems to be permanent residence in your head and soul, it’s like being in quicksand. If the Almighty is all-powerful, why doesn’t He chase away the bad? Don’t all those years of rosaries and Mass attendance count for something?

And of course, they do. It’s just hard to remember that we’ve been in these places before, and His grace has guided us through them. Not necessarily the way we would have liked, but we get through it.

Several years ago, I was on a Cursillo team. For another team member, the Weekend fell on the first anniversary of her husband’s death, a man to whom she’d been married for decades. When she gave her talk, she brought up the anniversary and how difficult it was for her. Then she raised her arms straight over her head and said, “Sometimes, all you can do is stand firm.”

Giving into the demons happens. It happened to those in Sodom. It happened to some of the Israelites. It happens to us. But the Lord is always, always there waiting for when we manage to breathe deeply—or bottom out—and start anew by standing firm with Him.

Identify a demon that’s feeding on your fears. Pray for the faith to starve it to death.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Make Justice Your Aim

Make Justice Your Aim

When you spread out your hands, I close my eyes to you; Though you pray the more, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood! Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.  Isaiah 1:15-17

“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple – amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”   Matthew 10:40-42

A Prayer for Immigrant Children
Loving Father, in your infinite compassion, we seek your divine protection for refugee children who are often alone and afraid. Provide solace to those who have been witnesses to violence and destruction, who have lost parents, family, friends, home, and all they cherish due to war or persecution. Comfort them in their sorrow and bring help in their time of need. Show mercy to unaccompanied migrant children, too, Lord. Reunite them with their families and loved ones.

Guide those children who are strangers in a foreign land to a place of peace and safety. Comfort them in their sorrow and bring help in their time of need. Show us how we might reach out to these precious and vulnerable children.

Open our hearts to migrant and refugee children in need, so that we might see in them your own migrant Son. Give us the courage to stand up in their defense against those who would do them harm. For this, we pray through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Whoa!  Isaiah pulls no punches in taking on the hypocrisy of the people.  Early on in his book (which is among the longest of the Hebrew Bible), the prophet Isaiah delivers a powerful indictment of the religious hypocrisy of rulers and others who neglect just judgment and oppress the weaker members yet believe they can please God with sacrifices and other external forms of worship. We should heed such words today.  The list goes on and on my friend.  For such sacrifices, the Lord has no tolerance.

We do not need physical blood on our hands. Oppression of the poor is likened to violence that bloodies the hands, which explains why the hands spread out in prayer might be ignored by the Lord.

All is not lost.  The prophet also offers some positive suggestions for reversing the status quo.

Cease doing evil.

Learn to do good.

Make justice your aim.

Redress the wronged.

If Isaiah delivers the stick, Matthew delivers the carrot with his focus on the rewards for doing good.  Again, Matthew has moved far away from burnt offerings as the sign of God’s reward. The path the reward is rooted in action.

Whoever receives you

Whoever receives me

Whoever receives a prophet

Whoever receives a righteous man

Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink

Whoever receives you, receives me.  Yet how prepared are we (really) to welcome the stranger in word and deed?  Or might we face the same charge of hypocrisy that Isaiah leveled?   

Although current events have pushed the plight of Central American refugees off the front pages and the TV news, thousands of children remain separated from their parents despite a judicial order and long past the court-imposed deadline for the government to grant relief. 

"As we have long done, CCUSA and Migration and Refugee Services of USCCB are lending our experience and expertise to support Catholic Charities agencies in their efforts to reunite families and care for immigrant children during this sensitive time. While we strongly oppose the policies that led to these families being separated, we remain committed to working to ensure their safe reunification. Protection of families is a foundational element of Catholic Social Teaching and this moment calls on all people of good will to lend a hand to reunite these children with their parents."

To learn more about how you can help visit: Justice for Immigrants and Catholic Charities USA. . .

Five Ways To Help Stop Family Separation
(1) Pray: You can find a prayer for migrant children in the Piety section above.  This is from the Justice for Immigrants website.  

(2) Speak Up: Sign our Action Alert and share with your networks. Also consider contacting your senators and representative directly by phone to voice your concern. You can find the number for your representative here and your senators here.

(3) Take Action: Contact your local Catholic Charities affiliate to learn about their material/volunteer needs, consider fostering an unaccompanied child, or join the Share the Journey global solidarity campaign with migrants and refugees.

(4) Give: To support agencies that are helping families and children impacted by the crisis. (100% of your donation will go to the 21 Catholic Charities agencies assisting unaccompanied children)

(5) Learn More: To learn more about Family Separation, visit the Justice For Immigrants (JFI) “Family Separation Web page” to review backgrounders, educational material, and a webinar.

All families are Holy.  

Families belong wholly together.

“So They Went Off” by Phil Russell

“So They Went Off” by Phil Russell

In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:10

“He instructed them........So they went off and preached repentance.” Mark 6:7-13

“The Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go prophesy to my people Israel.” Amos 7:12-15

So here we are
(it’s NO ordinary time!)....... it’s Summertime and each week’s “First Reading” we are hearing the Lord God, calling the simple person to “GO” and do “His” bidding, if you will. We are each called by the very nature of our Baptism to the same task; each of us “anointed Prophet, Priest, and King.”


God was not calling these to “Go and tell the future”; He was calling them to “GO” and speak TRUTH on HIS behalf. Why would this day in the “Year of Our Lord 2018“ be any different?

Aren’t we, also members of that very “school of prophets”: Called to speak TRUTH?

And none of them, including Jesus, himself in that very same role was any more accepted by those to whom he was sent.

So, do we “cower”, when we know that we have that internal “unction to function” on the Lord’s behalf?

Jesus sent them out “two by two” ..... gotta believe that that was part of a Divine part of the plan.. I, personally, have to believe that being grounded in Group Reunion helps to better me for that role and task of, evangelizing “the Environment”. It’s part of the Gospel mandate, not just a “Cursillo” exercise.
“GO”...Jesus says!

Just a word about Paul, I saw the Movie “Paul Apostle of Christ” earlier this Spring. I watched it at one of the most difficult times of my life to date. Just weeks after my son’s death. I was stunned by the movie’s last scene when Paul hands Luke a rolled up piece of parchment. On it is his words to Timothy. He says, “ I have fought the good fight......”. I had selected that as the second reading for Michael’s Mass. I want it for my own, one day. I have since learned that it is not “our job” to fight and win the race, but it is in our very own dependency on relying on “FAITH” the Gift of God that we run that very race. It is the Faith, thanks be to God....... that brings us to the Finish!

In Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, he begins with this long thanksgiving to the Trinity. In his time as was the Greek style of letter writing; the greeting was usually followed by a thanksgiving and a wish for the health of the recipient. Paul’s letter have lengthened the thanksgiving to address the “FAITH” of the reader. He is thanking God and praising Him for the benefits that are conferred on “US” in Christ Jesus. Therefore...........

STUDY & ACTION: take time to read this Letter again. Try it in “Lectio Divina” fashion. 

Pray it as if you were receiving this Letter yourself for the first time, (Ordinary Time)!

This Word is living! “First you gotta read it, then you gotta heed it, you never know when you’re gonna need it.” ..... as the song from Godspell goes.

Paul is speaking to us today!

Amos is speaking to us today!

The Spirit is speaking to us today!

Jesus is speaking to us today..........”GO, prophesy to my people!” (Study your environment.)

Christ is Counting on You!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Send Me

Send Me

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it and said, “See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!”  Isaiah 6:6-8

“Therefore, do not be afraid of them. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” Matthew 10:26-27

Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” 6:5

The ember flown to Isaiah symbolically purifies him of sin in preparation for his mission as God’s prophet. The ember touching his sinful lips cleanses him.  When he agrees to be set forth on the mission, he can be silent no longer.  Those lips, once unclean are now clean. Thus, he can speak the message that God sends him to deliver.

Jesus also sends the disciples on a mission where they need to make the same transition – from silence.  They need to take what God reveals to them and pass it on.   

How does this relate to the short life of today’s saint – Kateri Tekakwitha, The “Lily of the Mohawks,” and patroness of the environment and ecologists? According to a series of messages posted by the Maryknoll Missioners (@MaryknollFrsBrs), here is one view:

Pock-marked & nearly blind from smallpox at age 4, #Tekakwitha means “Bumps Into Things” Native Americans pronounce her name “Ga-de-lee De-Ga-Gwi-Ta” She walked from her village in Upstate NY to a Montreal settlement (215 miles) to escape further persecution for her faith.  (1/3)

She impressed all with her humility, kindness, courage & piety. At her death at 24, attending Jesuit missionary & others testified her skin became smooth, clear & radiant. She’d once made a rosary of stones when her stepfather deprived her of that devotion. (2/3)

#KateriTekakwitha demonstrates that who we are might be determined by outside forces, but what we become is up to God and us. St Kateri pray for us as we pray for all native peoples of the Americas! (3/3)

What the Lord revealed to St. Kateri had to be passed on.  Despite persecution, he continued to pursue her mission across the miles and across the hardships she faced.  Rather than thinking she was doomed or destined to silence, she persisted. #shepersisted

What we become is up to us and God. Isaiah persisted. Matthew persisted. Kateri persisted. You persist. I persist.

What is God asking you to become today?  

Friday, July 13, 2018

Like A Verdant Cypress Tree

Like A Verdant Cypress Tree

I will heal their defection, says the LORD,
I will love them freely;
for my wrath is turned away from them.
I will be like the dew for Israel:
he shall blossom like the lily;
He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar,
and put forth his shoots.
His splendor shall be like the olive tree
and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar.
Again they shall dwell in his shade
and raise grain;
They shall blossom like the vine,
and his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
Hosea 14:5-8

Jesus said to his Apostles: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. Matthew 10:16-19

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you to all truth. (John 16:13) 

The poetic image from the wisdom literature offered by the Prophet Hosea reminds us of relationship.  Not only is God repairing the relationship with humanity, Hosea puts that into very concrete images that people understand.

Life was a daily struggle in the desert between the people and the environment. Hosea promises that when we have a right relationship with God, it is like when we have a right relationship with the environment.  The images reflect that: a verdant cypress tree, a lily in bloom, a fragrant cedar in Lebanon, productive fields that yield grain and grapes. 

The “verdant cypress tree” from today’s reading in the Hebrew Bible presents us with a symbol of lasting life.  This is the opposite of the sacred trees of the Baal cult which is a site of prostitution and sin. 

The notes in the NABRE remind us that these good intentions promise a reversal of Israel’s sins: no more reliance on “Assyria,” i.e., on foreign alliances, on human power, and on idolatry.  If Israel will just trust in the Lord alone, all things will be put in order. The Lord provides the “fruit” (peri) to Israel.

The Gospel drives home that we can only trust in the Lord because people will turn on us.  God will not.

When I am in South Florida, I usually will make a point of visiting one of the galleries that exhibit the photographic prints of Clyde Butcher.  Dubbed the “Ansel Adams of the East,” Clyde’s work celebrates his one-ness with the environment where he lives: The Everglades, the Florida Keys, Big Cypress National Park and more.

In a gallery when you see these images enlarged to the size of a wall, it is almost like driving through the parks or the Keys.

In 1986, Clyde’s 17-year-old son Ted was killed by a drunk driver. After which Clyde found solace in the wilderness of the Big Cypress National Preserve, where the mysterious, spiritual experience of being close to nature helped to restore his soul. Resolving to relinquish his ties to color photography, he destroyed his color work and vowed to use only black and white film. He purchased an 8″x10″ view camera and enlarger.

Big Cypress National Preserve by Clyde Butcher
When I think about someone who is at one with his environment, Clyde Butcher comes to mind.  His comments about the above picture are indicative of the connection:
Big Cypress National Preserve is my home, so I’m very partial to its beauty. No matter where I go in the Big Cypress, photographic opportunities abound. On this summer day, when Niki and I were hiking out in the grassy plains, the beauty of the water, grass and cypress trees all seemed to express what the whole ecosystem of South Florida is about. I couldn’t resist taking a photograph of the place I care about so much.[i]

When have you felt that connection with the environment?  Were you hiking up the side of Old Rag Mountain?  Were you looking up at the stars from the side of a lake?  Were enjoying the sun and waves on the side of a beach?  Were you picking ripe tomatoes from your garden?

When have you felt that connection with the Lord?  Inside church during the sacraments or beyond?