Feb 062005
 

Your Daily Tripod

"Your Daily Tripod" reflects the personal Fourth Day journeys of its authors and editors. We are happy to have companions like you share in this project. Our prayer is that these reflections will invite and inspire your Fourth Day journey of Piety, Study and Action as much as writing or editing them inspires our journey and brings us all close moments with Jesus and our neighbors.

“Eat What I Shall Give You” by Melanie Rigney

Memorial of Saint Clare, Virgin

The Lord GOD said to me: As for you, son of man, obey me when I speak to you: be not rebellious like this house of rebellion, but open your mouth and eat what I shall give you. (Ezekiel 2:18)

How sweet to my taste is your promise! (Psalm 119:103a)

He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-3)

Piety

The bitter with the sweet, the sour with the honied—God, help me to savor it all.

Study

Weeknight supper was predictable in the Rigney household: pork cutlets on Mondays; hamburger casserole on Tuesdays; beef stew or pot roast on Wednesdays; some sort of chicken on Thursdays; and Fridays, creamed salmon on toast, or some other fish. When my siblings and I got into our teens and had after-school activities, we did our best to be out on Monday nights—and to be home Friday nights. Our mother wasn’t an inspired cook, but she did fish better than anyone else I’ve ever known.

But if you did happen to be home on Monday night, there was no making a grilled cheese sandwich or anything else for yourself. You were going to eat those awful pork cutlets. You didn’t have to like them, but you were going to eat them because that’s what was served.

God’s kind of the same way. Not every day of our lives brings the food we like. It may bring sorrow or disappointment or loss. It may bring joy and bliss and wonder. Accepting what God offers, confident in the Lord’s plan, is really, really hard sometimes. But we submit and put ourselves into His hands, believing He knows better than we do the food that will sustain us for the journey.

Action

Journal about your least-favorite meal from childhood and what eating it taught you.

“Where I Am, There Also Will My Servant Be” by Rev. Paul Berghout

Feast of Saint Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

Piety

Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:6

Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.” John 12:24-26

Study

IN THAT BOAT, which the Church has always identified as herself, is where we want to be because it can provide the sure way for us to get to the other shore, to heaven, and, in this life, take us to new horizons. But along the way, we are caught in a storm and face danger.

Perhaps most importantly, we need to pray always.  In 1940, the journalist Edward R. Murrow stood in a church in England while the country endured German bombers night after night. Inside the Church was a crudely written sign which read, “If your knees knock, kneel on them.”

Yesterday, in the readings for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Elijah finds God, not in the thunder and driving wind, but in a gentle breeze. Peter’s fear gets the best of him when Jesus calls him out of his boat in a stormy sea. Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus and would have perished without Jesus’ rescuing him.

Throughout this week, Matthew’s Gospel offers us several familiar and compelling stories as we reflect upon the power of God’s mercy and our call to imitate God’s love.  As we reflect on these stories, let’s remember how Jesus called Elijah out of the cave and Peter out of the boat.  Both of them responded, and in the stories reveal God’s love and mercy to those willing to take the risk to follow.

Jesus has absolute dominance over the sea and the troubles of life. Peter cried out in the Sunday Gospel, “Lord, save me!”  This week, let’s continue considering what do I need Jesus to save me? What burdens make me feel like I might sink?

For over a thousand years, the Church has greeted Mary, the Mother of God, as “Star of the Sea.” (Spe Salvi 49).  She is a star guiding us through the Rosary by her intercession.

As we heard Sunday, Peter gets out of the boat, starts walking on water, and comes toward Jesus.

In Greek and Roman mythology, it was common for men, women, gods, and beasts to run or fly over water. Still, water walking has no parallel in other extant mythological tradition.[i]

“We walk not according to the flesh,” St. Paul writes, “but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:4); “Not by sight, but by faith” (2 Cor. 5:7).

I saw a cartoon of two penguins walking on ice, and one is reading a bible as he walks and says, “What am I missing here? We walk on water all the time!”

Action 

Have YOU ever walked on water? I think I have If walking on water truly means enduring the storms and disturbances of life do not define our self-understanding. I believe many others have, too, because walking on water means stepping out in faith, walking in obedience, and surrender.

There is an element of a test in Peter’s condition, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” The fact that Peter asked Jesus “to command him” suggests the Peter was willing to align his will with the will of the Lord.

Our hearts have a powerful connection to our feet: “Our hearts have not turned back, nor have our steps strayed from your path” (Psalm 44:19).

When have I tested the Lord’s love for me? What do I need to find the courage to do?

Even though our emotional life and spiritual life are distinct, they are both parts of us, and so they inform and influence each other. Obedience to God is what keeps our spiritual life from becoming subject to the windswept waves of emotions.

For example, in Psalm 42:8, we pray, “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your torrents, and all your waves and breakers sweep over me.”

When we have difficult emotions, there are two simple tools we can use called “listen-in” and “listen-out.”

In our First Reading Sunday from 1 Kings 19, Elijah heard and experienced God in a “tiny whispering sound,” as in contemplative prayer, which is listening-in after we pause when reading a Scripture verse that captures our attention.

Perhaps, in the utter stillness that FOLLOWED THE STORM, Elijah heard a voice and YHWH’s speaking to him, as Elijah “listened out.”

Even more, notice that he heard God after the storm. I call that “Through-ing” -- the only way out is through.

We get through strong emotions by realizing that emotions get interwoven into stories. However, the story is just information. Don’t get lost in the story.  Instead, try locating the associated feeling in your body that the story produces. It is not only an emotional storm raging in us but also a story and belief. However, when we identify the feeling in our body, like a tight jaw or tension in the forehead, we will notice that the feeling will change in intensity, or the feeling may move to another place in our body. The grip of the story in our minds may lessen.

Your insight and understanding of the situation might change, or you might see a bigger picture.

Peter is distracted for a moment as he walks on water. He shifts his focus away from Christ and notices the strong wind. Peter becomes frightened, and he starts to sink.

The feeling of fear is sometimes the tax that conscience pays to guilt as in Genesis 3:9, Adam said, after he fell from grace, “I was afraid.”

Jesus does not rebuke Peter’s feelings. Jesus did not say, “Do not be afraid; it is I. Take courage.” He said, “Take courage. It is I; do not be afraid.”

Befriending our fear means to tame them by inviting God in.  Don’t banish your fears.  Hug the monster. Don’t push away the feeling. The message is not to let our experiences of life overwhelm our experiences of faith.

We can transform our anxiety with Christian hope. The grace of God is with us in each particular moment, and with the courage to affirm the present, because God affirmed it. Amen.



[i] (BL 135 no. 4 (2016)777 Walk, Don’t Run: Jesus’s Water Walking Is Unparalleled in Greco-Roman Mythology BRIAN D. MCPHEE, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC.)

“Go Outside and Stand on The Mountain” by Phil Russell

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Piety

“When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.  1 Kings 19:13

[Peter cried out], “Lord, save me.”  Matthew 14:30

Study

“Elijah came to a cave where he took shelter, then the Lord said to him, “Go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will be passing by.”1 Kings 19 

“During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them walking on the sea.”  Matthew 14:25

Action

“There was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.”  1 Kings 19

“Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying: “Truly you are the Son of God.”  Matthew 14:33

There is a song with compelling lyrics for today from back in the last millennium, composed by Samuel Barber and recorded by John Michael Talbot called “Cave of the Heart.”[i]

This Elijah is one of my earliest recollections, so long ago now, I am not sure if it was my Dad, or my Grandfather, who told it more and how often. That experience indelibly imprinted the story of Elijah on my heart and soul.

How things have changed over my lifetime of these seventy years, and how some things remain the same.

Life comes at us; often, we run, sometimes we find shelter and sometimes the storm just pounds away at us.

My watershed, the most savage storm of my life, came that Sunday morning two years ago when I got the call that my youngest son, my baby was dead.

The storm came at me like the iconic scene from Disney’s The Little Mermaid, when Ursula, the sea-witch rises with rage and creates colossal tempest, seeking to destroy.

Elijah had to feel something like that, as did Peter and others in the boat. The Lord asked both of these men to “come out” of their comfort zone.  They cannot let the Lord pass by ignored. 

Often it is in the “raging” that forces us to take those steps of faith actively.  Whether Jesus asks us to look outside of the cave or to get out of the boat, we must rely upon Faith to take sure-footed steps forward, onward.  

It is the Lord who reaches into the depths of our loss, our sorrows, our fears, our whatever, to take our hand and lead us to Peace.

Not unlike either Elijah or Peter, I want to do the just thing, whether that is to serve or to seek.  However, like both these “giants” of Faith, I get caught up in the “human”!

I fall. I retreat.  Only to have to listen to that still small voice, gently call to me in the cave of my heart.

We seem to be living in times, not unlike the times we read of in Scripture. I believe that every emotion that both these people experienced, we too, are suffering.  In some sense, we also have become “cave dwellers.”

We cover our faces with our masks, and yet we peer out from behind them, gazing with fear. The storm of this pandemic separates families, unable to bury our loved ones properly; to appropriately celebrate the marriage’s and graduations of our children; to collectively educate or children, least of which to socialize them.

We are living in a time when we, too, are witnessing division and distrust and even hatred for our neighbors.

Today is not just an ordinary Sunday in Ordinary Time. Today is an extraordinary time for Faith, for Hope, for Trust – and Jesus!


[i] John Michael Talbot - Cave of the Heart from "Nothing Is Impossible" DVD (Introduction, Meditation and Song)

Rise, Do not be Afraid by Beth DeCristofaro

 

His clothing was bright as snow, and the hair on his head as white as wool; his throne was flames of fire, with wheels of burning fire. A surging stream of fire flowed out from where he sat; Thousands upon thousands were ministering to him, and myriads upon myriads attended him. (Daniel 7:9)

 

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father (2 Peter 1:16-17)

 

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. … a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” (Mathew 17:1-2, 5-7)

 

Piety

Lord, help me not fear but willingly say yes and then follow your guidance to the heart of God.

 

Study

It is so very difficult to encounter and describe mystery.  Daniel’s vision blazes with power and raging, uncontrolled authority. Moses’ face whitened and shone by his encounter with God on the holy mountain.  Elijah covered his face as the gentle God breeze passed.  Jesus’ appearance changed and the disciples collapsed at the sound of a divine voice.

 

Jesus then tells them not to be afraid and I want to respond, “But how can I not be afraid?  What just happened is unexplainable and too extreme for me, Lord.”  Most of Jesus’ ministry is ordinary.  He cures, feeds, forgives in the streets of poor towns to people of no consequence or even questionable background.  “Don’t be afraid.”  He comes to us. Also, when invited onto the mountain with him, he accompanies us back down to our dusty, convoluted lives and invites us to rise with him.  Yet even then, I fear.  I fear the change he asks of me on a heart and spirit level to accept the mystery, accept the unknown with Jesus as my only guide.  And I want to cling to those byways I know so well of my life defined and planned (as I want to believe) by me alone.  “Come,” Jesus says to me, “see your sisterhood/brotherhood in me and choose me.”

 

Action

Where can we see God today in new, dull, dusty places of no consequence?  How can we share and make Him known to others there?

“Age-Old Love” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Wednesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

With age-old love, I have loved you; so, I have kept my mercy toward you.  Again, I will restore you, and you shall be rebuilt O virgin Israel; Carrying your festive tambourines, you shall go forth dancing with the merrymakers.  Again, you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; those who plant them shall enjoy the fruits.  Yes, a day will come when the watchmen will call out on Mount Ephraim: “Rise up, let us go to Zion, to the LORD, our God.” (Jeremiah 31:3b-6)

 

Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, proclaim it on distant isles, and say:  He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together, he guards them as a shepherd his flock. (Jeremiah 31:10)

 

Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.  (Matthew 15:28)

Piety

O Lord, thank you for loving us not only when we stand before you in adoration but also for your mercy on those days when we have wandered far away into any kind of exile.

For prayerful listening:  I Have Loved You With An Everlasting Love, Michael Joncas

Study


Ludovico Carracci, Christ and the Canaanite Woman,
c. 1593, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In our first reading today from the prophet Jeremiah, we hear words of mercy and hope from the Lord.  God’s people have been in exile far from home for many years.  Long ago, they had turned their backs on God and refused to listen to the prophets who attempted to steer them onto the right path.  The people thought they knew better.  One day, as a result, they found themselves forcibly carried away from their homeland and made to live as captives in Babylon. 

Today we hear God assuring them that they are not forgotten.  “With age-old love, I have loved you…”  I am going to bring you home, where once again you can plant vineyards and enjoy the fruits of your work.  It will be just a remnant of Israel who will return, but this, nevertheless, will be cause for rejoicing.

The Gospel reading for today has always been a bit of a puzzle to me.  A Canaanite woman approaches Jesus and begs for healing for her daughter.  The disciples want Jesus to send her away.  Jesus at first tells her that he came only for the lost sheep of Israel.  But she doesn’t back down.  She knows she’s little better than a dog in their eyes, but she continues to plead with Jesus.  Don’t even dogs get the scraps that fall to the ground? 

Her faith moves Jesus emotionally.  Perhaps it is at this moment that he realizes she has more faith than many of his fellow Jews.  Or perhaps Jesus’ Father whispers to him:  Son, open your heart to anyone who trusts in you.  At least that’s how I like to interpret this aberration in the way Jesus generally treats those he encounters.  It’s an eye-opening moment for God’s Son.  God’s love is not just for the Jews but is for anyone who trusts in the Lord.

Action

God never purposely inflicts suffering on us, but God certainly often allows us to reap the consequences of our actions or sometimes even the consequences of others’ actions toward us.  And so often it’s in this reaping – in the wilderness, in exile - that we find ourselves smashed and remolded by the Potter, all the while held in God’s everlasting love.  Maybe we emerge converted to something more closely resembling the image of God.  Or perhaps we come to see God more clearly and to desire God with a more profound longing.   At least that’s been my experience.  Exile is an uncomfortable place to find ourselves, but once transformed, the homecoming is sweet. 

When you are praying today, think back over your life and recall any exile experiences you may have had.  How were you reshaped in the wilderness?  Did you feel God’s love while you were there?  Was your homecoming joy-filled?  Give thanks to God for whatever God has accomplished in you.


“If a Blind Man Leads a Blind Man” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)


Thus, says the LORD: See! I will restore the fortunes of Jacob’s tents; on his dwellings I will have compassion; A city shall be rebuilt upon its own ruins, a citadel restored where it should be. From them will come praise, the sound of people rejoicing. I will increase them, and they will not decrease, I will glorify them, they will not be insignificant. His children shall be as of old; his assembly shall stand firm in my presence; I will punish all his oppressors. His leader shall be one of his own, and his ruler shall emerge from his ranks. He shall approach me when I summon him; Why else would he dare approach me? —oracle of the LORD. You shall be my people, and I will be your God. (Jeremiah 30:18-22)

The Lord will build up Zion again, and appear in all his glory. (Psalm 102:17)

He summoned the crowd and said to them, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles the man, but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.” Then his disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” He said in reply, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:10:14)

Piety
Jesus, let me not be led astray by those who don’t need You to lead the way.

Study
I’m reading Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar, which explains the Soviet ruler’s rise and viselike grip by illuming the sycophants around him—some downright evil, some not, all of whom were ready to take out the long knives on anyone they perceived threatened their access to or standing with Stalin. You might say it was a case of evil leading or fomenting evil, blind to anything but how to keep favor, at least for the moment, with Stalin even if that meant turning on each other, friends, and family members. And people followed, and followed, and followed.

Stalin’s been dead for nearly seventy years, but I’m not so sure the world and human nature are that much different. We all have our blind spots. Some of us want power; others, visibility; others, money; still others, a bevy of admiring friends and coworkers. But the thing is, someone always has more power, more money, more friends, a bigger house or car. Taking it away from them, at which those around Stalin excelled, provides momentary satisfaction. But after that moment, we go back to eyeing those who have more—and those who threaten what we do have. When we follow those who promise to fulfill all those holes, we are blind to the fact that they are just as blind as we are.

Someone once told me that Stalin, who declared himself an atheist during his five years in a pre-Russian Revolution seminary, just before he breathed his last looked upward and clenched his fist at God. I like to think at that moment, he realized how extraordinarily blind he had been, convincing himself and so many others that he, not God, had all the power.

And I pray that when I die, I will reach out an open hand to the True Leader—not a fear clenched in fear or anger because I finally see my blindness.

Action
Open your eyes, hands, and soul to God.


“Command Me to Come to You on the Water” by Rev. Paul Berghout (@FatherPB)


Piety
Amen! Thus, may the LORD do! May he fulfill the things you have prophesied
by bringing the vessels of the house of the LORD and all the exiles back from Babylon to this place! But now, listen to what I am about to state in your hearing and the hearing of all the people. From of old, the prophets who were before you and me prophesied war, woe, and pestilence against many lands and mighty kingdoms. But the prophet who prophesies peace is recognized as truly sent by the LORD only when his prophetic prediction is fulfilled. Jeremiah 28:6-9

“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”  He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was, he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”  Matthew 14:28-33

Study
Yesterday, on the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we celebrated Jesus feeding the crowds by making it possible for the disciples to give the people what they had. It was not enough but became enough because of the compassion Jesus had for the people. Isaiah 55 invited us to come to the water when we are thirsty, to come and eat though we have no money. We can stop spending on what fails to satisfy. Paul consoles us, too, by reminding us that nothing can "separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

As we enter our weekday readings, we will finish the selections from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah. Saturday has the consoling reading from the Prophet Habakkuk, "the vision still has its time."  The disciples continue to watch Jesus and walk with him, even if they have to reach out across a storm.  These readings guide us to ask, in a variety of ways, that our eyes might be opened to see Jesus as he really is - glorified, with the Father, and ready to renew our faith and trust in him.

David G. Forney draws on conflict theory when he studies Walter Brueggemann's article "Liturgy of Abundance [and] the Myth of Scarcity." Forney contrasts the myth of scarcity in the Book of Exodus with a liturgy of generosity in the New Testament. His evidence is when Jesus multiplied the bread and fish with all its Eucharistic overtones of blessing, breaking, and distributing.

Father Denis J. Hanly, a Maryknoll Missionary for over 55 years, said: “Many years ago, at the seminary in Hong Kong, I was teaching the deacons about to be ordained. Deacons about to be ordained are very enthusiastic. And, of course, I’m an old cynic from Brooklyn, so I tried my best to maintain their incredible positive outlook at the time.”

About two weeks after the diaconate ordination, I met one of the seminarians in the hallway, and I said, “Harry, how are you doing?”

And he said, “Father Hanly, when I stood and knelt at that altar with my head down, and I was filled with joy, and I was filled with peace, and I gave my whole life to Him, it was a wonderful moment.” And then he stops. “And now, three weeks later, each day, I take a little back. “Do you understand? I take a little back.”

“Taking a little back” speaks of the tension that the new deacon felt between the perceived scarcity and lack of abundance regarding time and generosity in serving.

The tension goes back to the Hebrews wandering for 40 years in the desert; at every new campsite, they whined to Moses about perceived scarcity:  "Give us water to drink, and food to eat.  Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?" (Exod. 17:3).

But, as David G. Forney notes, “Their memory was selective. They never had it this good in Egypt. There, bread was a reward of food and drink contingent on their productivity. It was always received and eaten with fearful anxiety that it might be cut off.” The bread was a “mechanism of imperial control.”

Yet, “it’s a wonder, it's a miracle, it's an embarrassment, it's irrational, but God's abundance transcends the market economy."

Forney notes that at the heart of the Hebrew's wilderness experience is the question, "Is the Lord among us or not?" (Exod. 17: 7). Does God provide in sufficient ways, or is Pharaoh correct that there is not enough? And it is that question that lies behind many situations of conflict. Do we have to fight to get ahead, to advance our agendas, to prove God is on my side, or does God really provide for all that we need?”[i]

When Jesus says to us, as in our Sunday Gospel, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves,” what I hear Jesus saying is, “Don’t wait for someone else to do it.” “Don’t pretend you’re not qualified or capable.” “Don’t delay it.”

Our Sunday Gospel reminded us that Jesus fed five-thousand hungry people when all he really wanted was to be alone to grieve after learning that his cousin and friend, John the Baptist, had just been killed by Herod.

Alyce McKenzie puts it this way: Jesus' words, “You give them something to eat” are “a daily dare.” He's saying: "I dare you to take me at my word. And see what happens.”

Jesus sprang into action because seeing the hungry crowd moved his heart to compassion.  The word ‘compassion’ comes from a Greek word, which means the ‘inner parts’ of the body, your guts. Compassion refers to something profound inside of us. So, to have compassion indicates a strong inner feeling.

Action
And that’s our cue.

Just Feel.

Observe your somatic (bodily) experience and your feelings. If you feel compassion in your gut, that is a call from God to help someone. God will multiply your efforts.

He will multiply my tiny offerings to do His work like five loaves and two fish.  He is only asking me to be a part of His work.  But it’s also a challenge for me to be compassionate and generous when I don’t feel like it, but know it’s God’s will. Like the disciples, just let me follow your instructions, and to entrust the miracles that need to happen to you.

There were 12 baskets of leftovers, one basket personalized for each apostle. They had picked up the fragments with their own hands; they had seen the miracle of multiplication with their very eyes.

Minister from God’s abundance—and you will fill more baskets than you can carry by yourself.

Amen.


[i](Source: David G. Forney, Journal of Religious Leadership, Vol. 2, No. 2, Spring 2003).

 Posted by at 8:28 am

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