Written in the Sky…

Diversity is a gift that can open one’s eyes to varying perspectives and bring to light the beauty of creation in all its different forms. When coupled with a sense of unity; a desire to be united and recognition that we are one, as Love calls us to be, diversity can bring out the best of the human race.

St. Albert the Great wrote, “It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for ‘God is Charity’ (1 John 4:8).” One of his students, Italian Dominican friar St. Thomas Aquinas, by influence of the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, wrote, “To love is to will the good of the other.” Whether Italian or Greek, it’s all the same. We, all humans, are created and called to love, to live in light (not darkness) and to bear witness to both. So then, what is one to do when confronted with or by those who don’t operate this way?

First and foremost, remember the truth. Who am I before God? Then, calling this to mind, stay focused and be faithful, trusting in the goodness of God.

“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen.
Because of it the ancients were well attested.” – Hebrews 11:1-2

It can be hard to trust and to stay focused when we do not see what we hope to see. All the same though, faith calls me to persevere and persist. And, in turn, if I cooperate, God enables me to do so. It is in this way, that faith beckons me to receive grace upon grace, to be strengthened and filled with hope, allowing me to trust, even when there may not be any physical signs for me to see.

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place
that he was to receive as an inheritance;
he went out, not knowing where he was to go.
By faith he sojourned in the Promised Land as in a foreign country,
dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise;
for he was looking forward to the city with foundations,
whose architect and maker is God.
By faith he received power to generate,
even though he was past the normal age
and Sarah herself was sterile,
for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy.
So it was that there came forth from one man,
himself as good as dead,
descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky
and as countless as the sands on the seashore.” – Hebrews 11:8-12

Abraham focused on being faithful to God. God took care of and provided for Abraham and his descendants. Everything else fell into place…eventually.

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Grace in the pressure…

There is nothing quite like the piercing sound of a smoke detector, never mind a whole apartment or household full of them going off. Waking to such noise, as I experienced one recent morning, is unexpected and both shocking and frightening. Yet, it is also a blessing.

An alarm is a sign that something is wrong and requires immediate attention. However, despite the shrieks of the smoke alarm and its call to action, there is also the voice of Wisdom who says, “Stay calm,” reminding one that it is important to be able to think straight, to act best, and to resist being overcome and driven by panic and fear. This is especially sage in the midst of an emergency, but also in the face of adversity.

This past week, for the 45th time in the history of the United States of America, the position and power of President was passed on to someone different. Along with this change, many people feel a great sense of uncertainty and fear. In the midst of those feelings though, is the voice of Wisdom who says, “Stay calm.”

As I think about all that has happened over the more than four decades of my existence, and then add to it the decades and centuries of those who came before me, it is interesting to recall the challenges and the way in which they were met. It causes me to reflect. What is it that really wakes me up?  It reminds me, “Look toward the Lord and be radiant; let your faces not be abashed” (Psalm 34:6).

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Waiting for dawn…

Each day, the sun rises in the east and works its way across the sky, eventually setting in the west, making way for evening. As night approaches, the moon and stars appear to light the way. Regardless of the clouds or fog…regardless of what else may be happening, this process is perpetual. One can count on it, not only based upon what we have been told and all that is written, but also based upon personal experience. It is the way it is and there is a certain rhythm to each day because of it.

It can be intriguing to consider the earth and all that is in and around it. The way it all came to be and how it works is Genius. It is also interesting to think about how our human understanding has changed throughout time as exploration has led to discovery and things that were once mystery or unknown have, over time, been revealed.

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is the one of whom I said,
‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’
I did not know him,
but the reason why I came baptizing with water
was that he might be made known to Israel.”
John testified further, saying,
“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven
and remain upon him.
I did not know him,
but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” – John 1:29-34

John the Baptist says two times, “I did not know him,” referring to Jesus. However, through both what he had been told and what he had experienced, he came to know Him. As John went about his way, fulfilling his purpose and carrying out his life’s work, the way, the truth and the life was revealed to him.

Just as the sky reveals the sun and moon, helping us to know night from day, so too does God reveal knowledge and wisdom through both darkness and light in our everyday life. John the Baptist was told by God not only his purpose, but also how to recognize the One for whom he was preparing the way. Like the sun and the moon, regardless of the clouds or fog, God is always there, faithful and steadfast, providing insight and showing us which way to go.

God waited, and waited for me,
and when I looked up and listened,
God gave me roots to stand firm,
and wings to fly free,
but most of all, God’s love gave me
gratitude on my lips,
hope in my heart,
and a desire to truly live.

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Life’s gifts…

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The magi saw the star at its rising. They followed it and when they arrived at the place where it stopped, they honored the newborn King. They payed homage and offered not only their gifts, but also their hearts. Then, having seen and been received by “the child with Mary his mother” (Mt 2:11), the newborn King to whom they were led, they went home another way. Surely it would have been easier for them to go home the way they had come to Bethlehem, but a dream warning them not to return to Herod told them different. They received it, much the same way that they received the star at its rising; with a deep desire to go where it led. They, like the shepherds, knew which authority was worth following and it led them to Life.

Kahlil Gibran wrote, “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself” (The Prophet). Similarly each journey one might embark upon or each endeavor one may seek to carry out brings with it “Life’s longing for itself.” No journey or endeavor is mine alone. No, rather each is part of a much bigger picture. However, if they become mine alone then “Life’s longing for itself,” and the joy that accompanies it, will fade away.

If the magi had stopped their journey when they reached King Herod and found no newborn king at the place where they had expected to find him, if they had not continued following the star, or if they had ignored the dream and returned home from Bethlehem the easier way…the same route, life would have been unchanged.

God is with us, it is up to us if we want to be with God. When we do, there is Life.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising and
have come to do him homage.”
When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,
for thus it has been written through the prophet:

And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod called the magi secretly
and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said,
“Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word,
that I too may go and do him homage.”
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.
– Matthew 2:1-12