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Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Something Greater

Do you follow the daily readings?  I try to, but it does get away from me, especially when daily Mass is not an option with noisy little ones. Lent is always a good time to make a greater effort to clear out the obstacles that prevent us from hearing the Word of God proclaimed.

 Sometimes the readings are hard to piece together.  I find myself straining to figure out what is being proclaimed in the way the readings have been put together on a particular day.  Today's readings are obvious.  They are about hearing a call to repentance and responding with a contrite heart.  Deep and true repentance that will open your eyes and to the heights you were created for and  free your heart to be healed by the one who is beyond all understanding and is quick to console a broken heart.

But it is the Gospel of Luke that causes me to listen and reflect back on the other readings.  In this reading we here from Jesus about The Queen of Sheba who responds to the wisdom of Solomon by traveling from the ends of the earth, sparing no cost so that she can receive it.  And in this Gospel Jesus says:  "there is something greater than Solomon here."  Can you feel it?  Do those words uttered from the mouth of Christ cause you to take in a quick breath?  Does your soul ache just a little when you hear them?  Is there a stirring of desire for truth, and the deep wisdom that heals superficiality?

 Going on, the notorious Ninevites immediately respond to the preaching of a reluctant prophet by donning sackcloth and ashes, by  fasting and mourning.  Again, Jesus says, "there is something greater than Jonah here."  And again these words seem to reverberate inside me, they call me to react to Jesus in a far deeper way, to repent in a more profound way.  They are ripples in the waters of my soul that could become of tsunami of contrition if I just let them flow and wash away all the soft and fuzzy notions of the majesty of God that I have blindly allowed to accumulate in my heart. They have calcified and hardened over the years, and it is so hard to see the depravity of sin without the awesome majesty of God.   If you want to grow in love for Jesus, you have to let them go, or you will never, never realize that there is something greater in Him than is contained in all the wisdom of this world, and in all the prophets that have perceived and proclaimed the Word of God.  You will never recognize the tragedy of your sins.

I don't think this means we should turn overly scrupulous.  The two extremes of scrupulosity and presumption on the Lords mercy both block our realizing that, as it says in Sirach 2:18:   God's mercy is equal to His majesty.  However, I think that presumption is the more prevalent problem of our time.  I think our image of God is a weak and pathetic one, and so our vision for sin is treacherously myopic.  The Queen of the South will indeed condemn us for having Jesus Himself on our tongues, yet barely giving up a Sunday to celebrate Him.  Without an inkling of God's majesty it is terribly hard to recognize sin and how it works like a cancer from within our calcified hearts unless it is repented of.  As terrible as the Ninevites were they could perceive the Almighty, even through the preaching of a distant (and not very sympathetic) prophet.

So listen to the Gospel again, listen with your imagination.  These words were spoken by the Lord Himself, and they are active.  Feel that aching in your soul, let the ripples become a torrent that can wash away the debris and the blindness.  Or at least spur your awareness of what "something greater" means.  Let them break your heart so that you can offer the Lord the sacrifice He desires, and he can pour out His great mercy upon you.  "There is something greater than Jonah here." 

Peace and Grace,

Monday, February 27, 2012


As we make our way on our Lenten journey seeking to free ourselves from excessive worldly attachments Sharon Nelsen has submitted this chapter of a book by Abbot Jerome Kodell .  May it aid each of you in taking another step closer to the interior freedom that God wills for us.

by: Abbot Jerome Kodell, OSB, Life Lessons from the Monastery, Section 20, pages 89-91.

The story is told of the little boy who liked to watch his sister’s goldfish swim around in its home, a bowl of water.  But the more he thought about it, the more he didn’t like that the fish was confined to such a small space and had no real freedom.  So he got a hammer and broke the bowl to give the fish its freedom.

There is a lot of confusion about the meaning of freedom.  On the fourth of July, we speak about freedom and independence as if they were the same.  It is helpful to distinguish freedom as a condition of the person, and liberty as a condition of the environment.  There are many independent people who are not free and many dependent people who are.  Henry David Thoreau and Nelson Mandela were completely free when they were behind bars, though they did not have liberty of movement, but some of the people who put them there, though they were at liberty to come and go as they chose, were not free.

Freedom is the prize of human maturity.  It is meant for all but not achieved by all.  It permits us to live by norms that we have chosen and internalized.

For many, freedom means the ability to act without external restrictions.  This is the counterfeit of freedom that inspires bizarre ideas and activities associated with TV talk shows.  This understanding of freedom is partially true, but by missing a large part of the truth, it becomes false.

True freedom involves being unbound from internal restrictions.  Not being enslaved to those sometimes unseen masters that often drive our decisions and actions:  Those fall in the area of passions, fears, prejudices, resentments and insecurities.

These hidden internal masters can make us prey for the external masters:  opinion, fashion, social pressure, esteem of peers, influence of celebrities.

It is impossible for a human being to live without a master.  We did not create ourselves.  “You are not your own” (1Cor. 6.19).  The free person is one who has decided on and chosen God as master.  Slavery is serving a master you haven’t chosen.  St. Paul teaches that Christ has freed us from slavery to sin.  But he goes on to say, “Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6.18).  In other words, you have to choose one master or the other, sin or righteousness, or rather, sin or God.  True human freedom begins when we recognize God’s lordship over our lives and take the first steps to making god our master.  St. Augustine says, “Whoever is not bound by this chain is a slave.” 

The usual path to freedom begins from a desire for no restriction at all (better known as license); to a desire to answerable to no external norm (such as the laws and restrictions of church and society); to a desire for an internal norm that will direct our lives.

The role of the Ten Commandments or, the Ten Words, is helpful in illustrating the path to true freedom:   The Ten Words are external norms of behavior but they are meant to be far more than that. They are presented twice in the Bible:

I, the Lord, am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.”  (Opening words in Exodus 20.1-17 and in Deuteronomy 5.6-21)

Then follow the “Ten Words,” which tell us how to stay out of a deeper slavery.  The translation “Commandments” is unfortunate, because it puts a negative slant on these Ten Words of God to us.
They are meant to show us ways to live in freedom.  If internalized, they become part of our inner norm grounded in God, whom we have chosen as our master.  Until they become part of us, we are enslaved to our own egoism, living in the world as a dangerous place, where people are adversaries who must be taken advantage of and overcome.

The lack of freedom ultimately causes a deep insecurity, a void which must be filled.  It spawns jealousy and fear, and is the source of wars and quarrels, infidelities, and larcenies.  Because I am empty, I try to fill up the vacancy by control of others, by possessions, by power.  The more I receive of this kind of compensation, the more I need, because my insecurity is not being recognized and addressed at its source.

Ultimately, only God can heal us from insecurity and slavery and give us the gift of freedom, and God wants to do this—even “desperately”—and is very near and available.

In communion with the Creator who made us and loves us, we begin to know our own worth and the worth of others, and we are free to accept ourselves and everyone else as we are, knowing that we are accepted by our loving Father.   We are on the road to personal freedom.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

On Remembering

Sharon Nelsen

How does God “remember”?  In the Hebrew Scriptures there is an early use of “remember” in Genesis:  “God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark…”  How did God remember Noah? “…and God caused a wind to blow across the earth, and the waters subsided.” (Genesis 8.1 JSB)  We might interpret that as restoration; yet the Hebrew word used, zakar, is more than restoration.

When God remembers, it’s more than a cognitive exercise; it’s a bringing forward of the promise into the now.  This Hebrew verb zakar, “rkz”, is transliterated zakar (zaw-kar’), a verb whose primary definition is “to be brought to remembrance”, “to make to be remembered.” (Strong)  While personal and relational, it is an action word, a verb. 
Consider that interpretation, definition or “slant” on the word, “remember,” in this passage:  When “God remembered Rachel…God heeded her and opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son, and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.” (Genesis 30.22-23 JSB)

In Exodus and Leviticus, God brings forward the covenantal promise to the now:  “God heard their moaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.” (Exodus 2.24  JSB)  “Then will I remember My covenant with Jacob; I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham; and I will remember the land.” (Leviticus 26.42 JSB)
Zakar is the Hebrew verb used in God’s remembering.  The promise of deliverance from enemies is brought forward to the present event: “When you are at war in your land against an aggressor who attacks you, you shall sound short blasts on the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the Lord your God and be delivered from your enemies.” (Numbers 10.9 – JSB)
Is not the prophet Nehemiah calling upon God to bring forward the relationship that existed before the temple was destroyed and the Chosen people were taken into captivity?   “O my God, remember me favorably for this, and do not blot out the devotion I showed toward the house of my God and its attendants.” (Nehemiah 13.14 JSB)   “O my God, remember it to my credit!” (Nehemiah 13.31b JSB)  
God, speaking through the prophet Ezekiel, remembers and rouses remembrance in the people:  “Nevertheless, I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish it with you as an everlasting covenant;” “You shall remember your ways and feel ashamed… (Ezekiel 16.60, 61a  JSB).  “Remembering your ways” is carrying forward how you got there. 
Yet, in Isaiah we hear God saying that He does not carry our sin forward:  “It I, I who for my own sake wipe your transgressions away and remember your sins no more.”  (Isaiah 43.25 JSB)  Our sins are as far as the east is from the west in God’s mind.  How do we reconcile this with “thus you shall remember and feel shame, and you shall be too abashed to open your mouth again, when I have forgiven you for all that you did, declares the Lord God.”  (Ezekiel 16.63 JSB)
It appears that calling the people to remember, to bring forth the sense of shame that accompanied the sin, will help them refrain from repeating that sin.  They are not simply recalling their deeds; they are feeling remorse.   Perhaps God allows us to “bring forward” some past sins for the same purpose; not to beat ourselves up, but to help us refrain from repeating our destructive ways.  Do we indeed “remember” until we are converted, until we change our ways?
When Paul tells the Galatians all of the things he did against the Church of the Christ, he is naming his past deeds to illustrate how God “remembered” him:  “But when God who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me…” (Galatians 1.15-16a, NAB).  Paul talks about his former destructive deeds only to give glory to the God who brought forth His original intention to the now of Paul’s life.  In the tradition of Paul, we might recall our past destructive deeds as testimony to how God has “remembered” us.
God is called upon with the word zakar, not to just be aware, but to feel their misery and take action on their behalf—to bring forward his transforming power.  In the great give and take dialoguing of the Hebrew Scriptures, the writer of Lamentations asks that God also feel what His people are experiencing: “Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us, look, and see our disgrace.” (Lamentations 5.1-NAB).  In faith, he pleads for remembrance; that the people are given back the good they once had: “Why, then, should you forget us, abandon us so long a time? Lead us back to you, O Lord, that we may be restored; give us anew such days as we had of old.”  (Lamentations 5.20-21 –NAB)  But it is not just restoration; it’s a carrying forth of the relationship.
Hebrew Testament remembering is much more than a cerebral act.  Remembering is the bringing of the promise to the here and now.  The faith community who is the apple of His Eye, asks the Lord to bring His faithfulness and kindness to this present moment of need.

The covenant, the promise and the act are carried forward for new generations:  “The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb.  Not with our ancestors did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.”   (Deut 5.2-3 NRSV)  The writer of Deuteronomy tells us how the Lord remembers--the Lord’s promise is to this generation.

Using the Hebrew understanding of zakar, do we hear the words of Jesus, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”  (Luke 22.19b NRSV)  as,  “Bring My Presence forward to the now”?  In the faith-filled Eucharistic celebration, Jesus is truly present in the bread and wine, in the gathering, in the word proclaimed.  But it's not in the recalling, it's not in the ritual only, it's not a kind of “magic”, and it's not because we are being “obedient” to His command, as if our obedience is the cause, rather than our cooperation with the Cause.  When the faith community acts on Jesus’ words to “Do this in remembrance of Me,” Jesus' gift of Self is brought forward to the NOW.  We are able to experience Him as really, as authentically as did those gathered with Him in Jerusalem on the eve of His suffering and death.

As we age, remembering becomes more frequent in our lives, perhaps because we have more to remember and more time to remember.  When we remember as God remembers, we bring the sacramental events of our lives into the present. 

Some people remember that way as if they have never forgotten how to remember.  They remember as the Hebrew people continue to remember their liberation: (Exodus 12.14) “This day shall be to you as one of remembrance! You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord throughout the ages; you shall celebrate it as an institution for all time.” It goes from generation to generation:  “You shall observe this as an institution for all time, for you and for your descendants…And when your children ask you, ‘What do you mean by this rite?’ you shall say, “’It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, because he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when he smote the Egyptians, but saved our houses.” (Exodus 12.24, 26-27, JSB)

Ritually, the faith community brings the event forward, reliving it through all of the senses for each generation: They stand in readiness, they hear liberating words, they smell the traditional meal, they taste the food and wine, they see and touch each other gathered.  The life-giving event of a past generation is brought forward to the new generation now open to receive it, live it, and pass it on to the next generation.  

The promises, the generative deeds, the sacrifices and selfless acts are brought forward.  The sins are left behind.  The Psalmist, rejoicing in the compassion of the Lord, reminds us that in all events, we can ask the Lord to bring forward His compassion once again because “As east is far from west, so far has He removed our sins from us.”  (Psalm 103.12 JSB).

St. Ignatius of Loyola invites us to enter a scripture story imaginatively; to see ourselves in the event; to awaken and relive the sensory in the setting; to dialogue with Jesus in the story.  That is zakar.  In  imaginative prayer, the event is brought to the present.  It comes alive. It is “remembered.” The power of the Lord’s words and acts that his earthly contemporaries experienced, is carried into the now.

The Benedictine practice of Lectio Divina, inviting us to stay with our heart-response to a scriptural word or phrase, is another form of zakar.  The word becomes alive for us, it penetrates our hearts, it cuts through marrow and bone of centuries past to the present.  It becomes a living word.

Zakar describes how we remember songs. If we say, “I know a song,” and only repeat the title of the song, we simply are informing another.  If we sing it with feeling, play the music, share the song with others, we are “remembering” it, we are bringing it forward to new generations.  When the song is scriptural, we are praying indeed:  “Remember your love and your faithfulness, O Lord.  Remember your people and have mercy on us, Lord.”  (Damean Music, text based on Psalms 25, 27, 90, 130.) 

Just as God brings forward the events of our faith family, how am I invited by my scriptural, ecclesial and familial traditions to bring forward my story—the persons and the sacramental events of my life?  There are weddings, births, baptisms, the firsts—Communions and more-- confirmations, ordinations, vows, graduations, journeys, visitations, sicknesses and sufferings.  “Remembered,” these persons and events are carried to the present, live again and are entrusted to the next generation. 


JSB – Jewish Study Bible
NAB – New American bible
NRSV – New Revised Standard Version
Strong – Strong’s Definitions online

Copyright 2012 Sharon Nelsen

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Lenten Reflection

The following is a short message given by Pope Benedict XVI in Germany, September 2011. I believe this is a message we can reflect on during these 40 days of Lent.

"Dear friends, Christ is not so much interested in how often in your lives you stumble and fall, as in how often you pick yourselves up again. He does not demand glittering achievements, but he wants his light to shine in you. He does not call you because you are good and perfect, but because he is good and wants to make you his friends. Yes, you are the light of the world because Jesus is your light. You are Christians – not because you do special and extraordinary things, but because Christ is your life. You are holy because his grace is at work in you…A candle can only give light if it lets itself be consumed by the flame. It would remain useless if its wax failed to nourish the fire. Allow Christ to burn in you, even at the cost of sacrifice and renunciation. Do not be afraid that you might lose something and, so to speak, emerge empty-handed at the end. Have the courage to apply your talents and gifts for God’s kingdom and to give yourselves – like candle wax – so that the Lord can light up the darkness through you. Dare to be glowing saints, in whose eyes and hearts the love of Christ beams and who thus bring light to the world."

During Lent, let us reflect on this thought from Pope Benedict’s message…"You are holy because his grace is at work in you." Then let us “dare to be glowing saints” so that the love of Christ will be made manifest to all with whom we come in contact. Have a blessed and spirit filled Lent.

Blessing and peace,

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Which is Easier?

Sunday February 19, Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
The gospel for this Sunday is taken from the Gospel of Mark 2:1-12

"When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them. They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they
opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the
mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Child, your sins are forgiven." Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, "Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?" Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, "Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, pick up your mat and walk?' But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth he said to the paralytic, "I say to you,
rise, pick up your mat, and go home." He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this."

In this scene, Jesus is surrounded by two types of people: those who believe and have faith in Him and those who have strayed so far from God that their minds are closed to anything but blind obedience to the 600+ laws they have invented (as a replacement for the simple 10 commandments delivered to them through Moses.) When Jesus sees the paralytic, He looks not only at his feeble body but also at his soul. Jesus is touched by the faith of the man and his friends who even remove part of the roof in order to lay the paralyzed man at the feet of Jesus. Jesus has the power to heal everything; He chooses to heal the man's soul first. This act angers the scribes. Jesus presents them with a conundrum; is it easier to forgive sins or to cure the paralytic? That question goes unanswered. In response, Jesus tells the
man to "rise, pick up your mat, and go home." The man does as he is commanded and is
restored to full membership in his community. We know that when we sit before Jesus' judgment, we will be examined; not our bodies, but our souls. Jesus gives the greatest gift he has to offer us; forgiveness of our sins.

As I thought about this gospel, it struck me that the state of our souls is what is of primary importance to Jesus, not the state of our bodies. In our ego-centric world, the state of our body is of primary importance. Do we look young, are we fit, are we attractive to everyone around us, are our clothes beautiful and fashionable, do we have a great smile, etc.? Rarely do we stop to think about how our soul looks. Is it shining and full of God's light or is it covered in soot as we focus on the worldly pleasures around us? Only God has the power to remove that soot. Through prayer, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, reception of the Eucharist,
etc. we ask and receive forgiveness of our sins. Then because of our human frailties, we once again put smudges on our souls. And once again Jesus is there to forgive our sins if we but ask Him for forgiveness. This cycle of sin, forgiveness, sin, forgiveness goes on and on. I am grateful for the gifts of Faith and Hope that help me to know that Jesus loves me unconditionally and that He will forgive me if I but ask for His forgiveness and grace. As St. Claude de La Colombiere said, "I hope and I will always hope. And I will never cease hoping. When it is clear that there is no longer any reason to hope, then I will hope all the more."

Blessings to you all,

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Swept Away

The readings for this Sunday speak of repentance and new beginnings, of God's yes to our plea of "Lord have pity on me; heal me though I have sinned against you." (Responsorial from Psalm 41). It is a good place to begin as we look to Ash Wednesday and our Lenten journey this year.  I have written about Isaiah 43 before because it is one of my favorite readings in Isaiah.  But, as we all know, the way of repentance and redemption is not easy.  It is a continual baptism into a death to sin and a rising in the Spirit.

True repentance and true redemption can only begin in those terrible moments when we get an honest glimpse of our own depravity, and when we begin to understand how we cling to it, how we hide in it.  I love the Leonard Cohen song:  By The Rivers Dark and I listen to it a lot during Lent.  It perfectly captures the foreboding sense that one is being hunted,  and the fear of being found, even though you know you are hopelessly lost.

I remember once attending a talk by Deacon James Keating of the Institute for Priestly Formation on sin and redemption, the theme being "Suffer the coming of Christ.". He began speaking on the Scriptural events of the Fall, and he spoke of God's message to Adam and Eve.  With the deep menacing tone the Deacon paraphrased God's Protoevangelium in Genesis 3:15 into:   "I am coming to get you."  My first thought was, does he realize how scary that sounds?  Surely he does not mean it to be so frightening!  What happened to Jesus Loves Me?  I quickly realized that Deacon Keating intended the message to sound this way, and the shock of it quickly moved me past some highly sentimentalized notions of my Savior, a long overdue grace. His coming is a terror because, if I am to authentically receive Him, I must let go of my lifeline to things that are passing and let Him sweep me away.

And I am afraid of being swept away, of being consumed in religious zeal, and making some rash commitment that will be difficult to keep in another frame of mind.  Of confronting a sinful tendency that tenaciously rooted and will not be dealt with easily. I find it better to not try than to try and fail, or even better to plead ignorance!  I want to be cool, I want to be accepted, I don't want to be fanatical or foolish. I want to be loved by all, admired by all, in control and comfortable ectetera, blah, blah blah....... 

And I am afraid of being swept away, of being consumed in religious zeal and making some rash commitment that will be difficult to keep in another frame of mind, like confronting a sinful tendency that is tenaciously rooted and will not be dealt without sacrifice.  I find it better to plead ignorance, than to try and fail.  I want to be cool, I want to be accepted, I don't want to be fanatical, I want to be loved by all, admired by all, in control, ectetera. blah, blah, blah....If I let go of these desires, if I see that they fuel sinfulness, I will have to allow God to do what He will with me.

  I have come to realize that after the first hurdle of growing in the Christian faith -which for me was the moment when I was confronted with belief in Jesus, God Incarnate who was bodily resurrected from the dead- the next hurdle is to let the passionate love of Him completely enrapture you.  To envelope you and scour you of false attachments and hidden shame.   To understand that I am not my own and that if I yield and allow Him to sweep me away, I will have no control over where He will take me.  I am not there yet, I still hide from Him, but He is still pursuing me, and those footsteps are getting closer.  My will is getting weaker, because more and more I am seeing Hid beauty in contrast to the desert of my soul.  This Lent I hope to confront what I am clinging to and hiding behind, and plea for the Lord to have pity on me.

Behold, I am doing a new thing, can you not perceive it?

Peace and Grace,

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ice and Snow Praise the Lord!

Frost and chill, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

Ice and snow, bless the Lord; praise him above all forever.
 Daniel 3:69-70 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Scripture and the Events of My Life

One of the reasons a few of us worked to establish this blog site was so that we could continue to share in each other's reflections on scripture.

Again, we want to encourage all readers of our Journey to Wisdom site to share your stories—how your holy reading and study of scripture helps you connect God's word to your everyday life experience. 

 “We too must be capable of bringing before God our struggles, the suffering of certain situations, of certain days, the daily undertaking of following him, of being Christians, and also the weight of evil that we see without ourselves and around us, so that he may give us hope, that he may make us feel his closeness and give us a light on the path of life.” (Pope Benedict XI, general audience address, February 1, 2012).

I know of no more effective way of bringing my struggles before God than in prayerful reading of scripture passages. The combination of Lectio Divina, which embeds the word in my heart, with Ignatian prayer of the imagination which imprints the scene in my psyche, has led to hope, helped me feel the closeness of Jesus, and revealed more clearly the path God is showing me in each particular instance.  In short, I become more aware of God's will for me, and, I am more inspired, more motivated, more inclined to follow it.

Recently, on this blog site, I shared my reflection, “On Making Mistakes.”   Since then, several more errors I have made in judgment have surfaced.  Because I had reflected on this topic, invited Jesus into the wounded areas within myself, and experienced a “shift” within, I notice that I have a different response to these “new mistakes”:  All of my energy is devoted to remedying and to seeing where this too, can work to the good.  Before I consciously took my mistake-making to Jesus, I would have spent a goodly amount of time scolding myself and focusing on my short-sightedness and blundering.

 Our question,  “What difference does Jesus make in this particular event in my life?” brings light to  the Christological question, “Who is Jesus?”

Pray, reflect, discover and share your experience as did the writer of Hebrews:  “Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.” (Heb. 2.18)  As you are built up, build up the Body of Christ!  None of us knows where that mustard seed will take root; we do not know how the tiny yeast particle of personal experience may join with others and leaven a whole loaf; we do not know what treasure we will find in the field of our life events, but we do know, in faith, that Jesus came so that we may be set free==which sometimes means being set free from our own wounded perspective of ordinary happenings.  

Sharon Nelsen,
February 2, 2012

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Early Christians: Prayer and Hope by Mary Anne Cronican

The Early Christians: Prayer and Hope
Mary Anne Cronican

The early Christians, especially during the time the Book of Revelation was written and certainly beyond, were experiencing much harassment and persecution. Their newfound “Way” or faith was proving difficult to live out especially considering the secular, pagan government under which they had to live. Their rulers were cruel and demanded homage to be paid to their pagan emperor. There were required also to give worship to these rulers and were persecuted or even killed if they refused. They were under tremendous pressure and treated as criminals and subjected to wide spread persecution, indeed throughout the Roman Empire.

The Christians were entrenched in paganism, idolatry, immorality, Emperor Worship and lewd festivals. Fellow Jews were jealous of them and in particular of the ministry of St. Stephen’s preaching and its effects on the Jewish converts and conspired to bring him down—a first step in destroying the followers of Jesus. (the name Stephen in Greek=crown, in Hebrew “norm”[the way he lived was the “norm” of Christian living] or “strenue fans” meaning “speaking strongly.”)

Much of their rule of life was laid down in Roman law. The Christians developed communities so as to be “apart” form this way of life and because of this, they were not trusted by their fellow Jews or their Roman occupiers. They were treated as traitors and outcasts and subjected to rumors, accused of incest because they worshipped with children, showed outward expressions of love for one another and met secretly. Because of their beliefs, they were a threat to others.

Whenever (as is the case today) there is a massive opposition to Christians, it is never logical. It is always a spiritual attack. Luke 6:28 and Romans 12: 14 tell us what our response should be to persecution: “Bless your persecutors and do not curse them.”

They greatly needed encouragement to hold on to the beliefs they were taught and not to be seduced by the way of those outside their community. Temptation was always present and what Jesus taught most generally went against what they saw and experienced in the pagan community.

It was probably easy to slip away from Christian beliefs and practices, and adopt the pagan ways that included affluence and “modern thought”. They needed to be drawn back—lassoed, as it were—in order to become once again grounded in the Christian Way. They had seen the destruction of their Temple and all of Jerusalem and, for some, this was a definite sign of the end of the world coming soon—the Parousia.

God gave this revelation not only for the Christian community in the times of Domitian (when it was probably written) who truly needed to be once again anchored in their Christian faith, encouraged that the end was not near, and to live in faith and hope. They needed a remedy to the anxiety, confusion and, mostly, the persecution that prevailed at that time. They needed encouragement and hope.

Upon reading the Book of Revelation, one readily realizes that it is meant for Christians of all times since history always repeats itself. Persecution of Christians will be until the end of time and it is a sign that one is living out the message of Jesus the Lord Who was hated when He walked the earth.

Trials and tribulations, suffering will always be part of our human lives. Why, we ask, does God allow us to experience these difficult times. We know that, in spite of the evil in the world, God is in charge and nothing can happen to us unless He ordains it or allows it. All suffering, in the end if united with the sufferings of the Lord, brings about good. Revelation 5:3 tells us: “…and not only this, we exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance.” And, certainly the early Christians needed perseverance!

It is in our dark times that we need to turn to prayer and hope even as the darkness envelopes us. It is especially in those times that we retain our sense of hope and seek the Lord even if His presence seems so absent from our lives. Surely, the early Christians, who underwent terrible trials and tribulations, held on to the words of Jesus and His promise of eternal life as their only anchor to hope.

The need for faith in Jesus Christ and Christian hope is always and forevermore the solution for Christians.