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.
|The saint holds the dagger with which |
she was ultimately executed and the lamp,
her attribute. Lucia of Syracuse (283–304),
also known as Saint Lucy
If you would hearken to my commandments, your prosperity would be like a river, and your vindication like the waves of the sea; Your descendants would be like the sand, and those born of your stock like its grains, their name never cut off or blotted out from my presence. Isaiah 48:18-19
“…But wisdom is vindicated by her works." Matthew 11:19
St. Lucy, in this season of hope as we wait for the fulfillment of promises, we ask you to intervene for our sakes with the Lord of all kindness. Help us to accept what comes our way as you did – with faith, not fear. Pray with us that God will open our eyes to appreciate the beauty of this world; open our ears to hear His word; open our mouths that we may spread the Word; and open our hearts to act on His commands.
Yesterday, we saw in the sky the last Full Moon of the decade. (Actually, I was not awake at night but saw it in the darkness of dawn while commuting to work). It was as if St. Lucy sent us a morning light to remind us of her feast day.
Santa Lucia is the patron saint of the mariners in Naples (“O dolce Napoli”) and the gondoliers in Venice. Roman authorities executed her after Lucy pledged her dowry to protect the poor of Sicily and refused to enter into an arranged marriage with a non-Christian.
The familiar (to some) Italian song, Santa Lucia, is a tribute to her. The song (sung by Caruso, Pavarotti, Perry Como, and Elvis Presley, among others) is an invitation from a sailor in Naples to welcome people to board his boat and enjoy the view of the town during sunsets.
The song celebrates the evening light that casts the bay of Naples into a beautiful scene. St. Lucy is known as the “Queen of the Lights” because her feast day traditionally falls on or near the shortest day of the year (Winter Solstice). Shortly after her feast, the days start to lengthen and light becomes more plentiful than in the late autumn days.
Just as the Full Moon-light better illuminated the world, Isaiah shares with us how the Lord turns wastelands into luminous landscapes. No matter how humanity tries to avoid or delay the inevitable coming of the Kingdom, we are as powerless to stop it as we are to stop the sun and moon from rising and setting.
Nothing can stop prophecies from becoming a reality. Jesus, too, reminds us to accept it what we cannot change. Just as St. Lucy did not fear her fate at the hands of civil authorities, Jesus tells us, too, not to worry about the coming of the kingdom which John the Baptist announced.
However, there is “no peace for the wicked,” says the LORD. The news grants peace to the people as a whole. This “peace,” which can represent the fullness of God’s blessings, however, is not extended to all regardless of disposition.
Saint Lucy did not hide her light under a basket, but let it shine for the whole world, for all the centuries to see. We may not suffer torture in our lives the way that she did, but others experience it today. Still, Jesus calls us to let the light of our Christianity illumine our daily lives. Ask Lucy to give you the courage to bring your Christianity into your work, your play, your relationships, and your conversations -- every corner of your day.
“I Am Coming To Dwell Among You” by Beth DeCristofaro
Sing and rejoice, O daughter Zion! See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the LORD. … Silence, all mankind, in the presence of the LORD! For he stirs forth from his holy dwelling. (Zachariah 2:14, 17)
And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:35-38)
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God, my savior.” (Luke 1:47)
“Sing and rejoice” exhorts Zachariah because God is coming! Can we imagine the singing and rejoicing among the poor, indigenous residents in the region of Mexico City as they realized that, indeed, the Mother of God had come to them? These people were dispirited and oppressed -- relegated to an underclass even by their church institution. God’s Mother revealed herself to one of their own. She showed gentle caring and solidarity with Juan Diego and his people. She did not present herself as an authority but as embracing, maternal nurturing. A tremendous spiritual revival occurred in Mexico as a result of her giving voice through the least. Zachariah also prophesied to the potential spiritual renewal in his prophecy to the People.
In this season of abundant, marvelous music, the hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” comes to mind. The music, with its mournful, minor key, fills us with a longing for liberation and the loneliness of a soul separated from its Creator. Yet its lyrics are filled with a patient, confident hope. It awaits freedom from captivity and fullness to replace emptiness. It is a song of Advent yet it might also be an anthem for the human condition as we live in the building-but-not-yet Kingdom of God.
It might seem counter-intuitive and contradictory to live in joy when the state of our humanity’s reality is often so joyless. In Advent, we renew our joy again. We refresh our confidence in the Word Made Flesh, who Dwelt Among Us, who bestows profuse love and mercy. This passage from Zechariah ends in a contradiction as well: Silence, all mankind, in the presence of the LORD! It is in the silence of our prayer, the time spent within our hearts, that we can hear the joy of God. The suffering which is the human condition is mitigated and endured by our sure knowledge that God’s blessing is already within us for the taking.
Mary’s Magnificat and Mary’s visitation at Guadalupe show us how we can hold the tension between joy and the fragility of being human. Mary’s “yes” would not change the circumstances of her life. She still had to face the gossip of her town and living under the rule of Rome. Her “yes” recognized the immensity of God’s graces available for her above that reality.
Fostering a spirit of gratefulness and rejoicing puts us in touch with the silence of God’s presence. Listening to the voice of the poor to whom Jesus came and to whom Mary spoke at Guadalupe can help us translate that silent joyfulness into singing and dancing for liberation, justice, and peace.
“Waiting With Joyful Expectation” by Colleen O’Sullivan
Do you not know, or have you not heard? The Lord is the eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint nor grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny. He gives strength to the fainting; for the weak, he makes vigor abound. Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)
Jesus said to the crowds: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. 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 11:28-30)
Lord, help us take time this Advent to rest in you and to gratefully trust in your promise to walk beside us, taking upon your shoulders some of the weight of our burdens.
If you have time, take a few minutes to prayerfully listen to this beautiful choral rendition of Jesus’ promise by Chris de Silva, which I learned in the New Spirit Singers: Come to Me and Rest.
For many in our fast-paced society, waiting is difficult. We are ever impatient to get on to the next thing. However, Advent is a season that invites us to slow down amid secular, frenzied busyness, to wait on the Lord with joyful expectation, not always an easy thing to do. Look at God’s people, in exile for generations, addressed in today’s first reading. Their hearts are heavy, watching generations dying and new ones being born in this foreign land, not sure when, or if, they will ever see their homeland again. Yet God asks them, and sometimes asks us, to be patient, to have hope and trust in our hearts that God has always been and always will be with us in every trial.
Maybe some of us are undergoing exile experiences of some sort. I know that as I look around, I can see many others who are. In spite of television advertising showing happy faces, people Christmas shopping and families decorating their trees, many people feel isolated, lonely and forgotten, even by God, at this time of year. It’s a myth that during December and the run-up to Christmas that everyone is having a good time.
Isaiah reminds us that even though God is the awesome Creator of the stars, God also cares very intimately for each of us and what is going on in our lives. When we are weak and feeling faint, the prophet assures us that God will renew us, enabling us to soar like eagles, to run without tiring, and to walk through life without fainting.
Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that he will be the one to yoke himself to us, that he will help us with the weight of whatever burdens we are carrying. God sent his only Son into our midst, to be one of us, to share in all the trials and tribulations we endure. Jesus knows what it’s like to be you or me. God never has and never will leave us forsaken in our human weakness.
It is for the coming of this very Savior that we prepare this Advent. We ready our hearts to remember his coming into our world in Bethlehem as humanly frail as any of us, except for sin. We open our hearts every day to welcome Jesus through our prayer lives. And during this season, we also look with joyful hope for Christ’s return as King in glory!
What are you doing to be ready?
“Feeding the Flock” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)
Like a shepherd, he feeds his flock; in his arms, he gathers the lambs, Carrying them in his bosom, leading the ewes with care. (Isaiah 40:11)
The Lord, our God, comes with power. (Isaiah 40:10ab)
“In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost." (Luke 18:14)
Jesus, bless all those who shepherd, unknowingly or unknowingly.
It was fourteen years ago this month that I first met Karen, though I don’t remember hearing her name at the time. I was close to coming back to the Church after decades away, and my pastor had told me to attend the parish evening Advent retreats. Karen was in my group the first night. She talked about feeling stressed and overworked—but still praying in the car with her son and daughter as she drove them to school. I was impressed that a working woman close to my age, with a husband and kids to boot, still managed to find moments of grace in her busy day. It gave me hope.
About a year later, we ended up in the same prayer group. And ever since then, our paths have intersected in ways large and small. Every Advent, we’re among the organizers of a large, predawn breakfast at our old parish. We’ve been in Bible studies together. I hope I’ve been a listening ear in some of her times of trouble. I appreciate that whatever idea the Lord puts into my head for a book or event, Karen lends her support.
Fourteen years later, I’m still learning from Karen’s strength, bravery, and hospitality. She’s still giving me hope—and isn’t that what a true shepherd does?
Gather up a lamb in danger of being lost.
Sing a New Song” by Rev. Paul Berghout
The man called his wife Eve because she became the mother of all the living. Genesis 3:20
Sing a new song to the LORD. Psalm 98:1
In love, he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved. Ephesians 1:4C-6
And the angel said to her in reply, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God." Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Luke 1:35-38
Since December 8 was the Second Sunday of Advent, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary moved to today. The Church celebrates the conception of the Virgin Mary within the womb of her mother, St. Anne. Mary’s birth comes precisely nine months later in the liturgical calendar.
But during Advent, if we were going to live out the message of the Sunday readings, Mary may be the only better person we could use as our role model than John the Baptist. Think about the message we got about John in Sunday Mass and consider how it resonates in our life if we would only let God’s word be done instead of our own like we hear today in the retelling of the Annunciation story.
Matthew's Sunday Gospel brought us the excellent Advent reading of John the Baptist as the voice of one crying out in the desert, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” Today, Mary’s resounding “Yes” brings us the example of one living out that reality.
How would you like to receive a Christmas card with the figure of John the Baptist on it, saying— You “brood of vipers” (Matthew 3:7)?
The expression means malice.
He reminded them of God’s wrath, which is not the emotion of anger, but God’s holiness that brings judgment in its train of glory. He says to the Pharisees and Sadducees: Don’t presume or rely on the privilege that you have Abraham as your father—because a changed life that produces good fruit is the only thing that shows evidence of God in your life.
The evidence of God in your life is a turning away from the “old us,” a letting go of things as we know them to be sinful or harmful or not beneficial, and waking up to ideas as God sees them for us.
The only thing that will count at the judgment will be bearing fruit worthy of repentance, that is good deeds issuing from a converted heart.
Sue Kidd, in her book, All Things Are Possible, says that when she reads the news, she often encounters a headline, characterized by “words in big letters shouting about a world threat, a crisis, another crime.” But, one day, she read this remarkable headline: “I Asked Jesus into My Heart.” Here is the story:
“During the night, dogs had begun to bark furiously around the home of a local couple. Usually, the dogs’ barking signaled something amiss, that perhaps prowlers lurked nearby. But the next morning, the couple discovered nothing missing. Instead, someone returned something. Outside the front door were two car speakers someone stole six weeks earlier. A note attached to them read like this: ‘I’m sorry that I took your speakers, but now I have repented my sins and asked Jesus to forgive me. I hope you will forgive me too. I no longer take other people’s belongings. God changed me. I’m a new creature since I asked Jesus into my heart.’
It was signed simply, ‘Saved.'” It could have been signed, “Baptized.” I like “baptized” better. “Saved” connotes that Jesus delivered us from the power of sin, but Baptism is more than that. Baptism means that we have put on a new life in Christ. And we are walking in it and renewing it and renewing it.
James 2:13 teaches that judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. No amount of good works can compensate for an unforgiving spirit.
Of course, on a Christmas card featuring John the Baptist, he would be wearing clothing made of camel’s hair with a leather belt—
An author named Craig Barnes said that the rule of St. Benedict, which is the famously written norms for the way that Benedictine monks live, states that when the monastic community welcomes a new novice, they take the person’s street clothes and dress the newcomer in the novice’s Benedictine robe. But they hang the person’s street clothes in an unlocked closet so that each morning the person has to make a decision anew: What identity will I put on? Whom will I be? Whom will I serve?
On the Christmas card, there also would have to be a drawing of some locus and wild honey as John the Baptist’s food. I hear that the vitamin content of locusts is high.
We have disordered appetites by the consequences of original sin, which is why we daily need God’s grace to help us. Do you think eating grasshoppers is gross? Then, consider what the Catholic writer Flannery O’Conner wrote:
“What people don’t realize is how much religion cost. They think faith is a big electric blanket when, of course, it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keeping asking for it, and leave the rest to God.”
Sometimes all you can do is hold hope for someone who has no hope until they can take it and keep it for themselves—people call this being a "hope-holder."
Lastly, John the Baptist is a wild character, the last of the Old Testament prophets. He’d be entirely at home in a survival show, with his camel hair gear and his diet of locusts and wild honey.
He doesn’t mince words either. He calls for repentance.
He takes the religious leaders to the prophetic woodshed for their insincerity, and he calls all of us to repent.
So, if our Christmas card of John the Baptist played music or sound—it would speak just one word, “Repent!”
The word “repent” means “to change one’s mind.”
Repent was the first word of John the Baptist’s preaching (Matthew 3:1-2).
Repent was the first word of Jesus’ gospel (Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:14-15).
Repent was the first word in the preaching ministry of the twelve disciples (Mark 6:12).
Repent was the first word that Jesus gave to His disciples after His resurrection (Luke 24:46).
Repent was the first word of exhortation in the first Christian sermon (Acts 2:38)
Repent was the first word in the mouth of the Apostle Paul through his ministry (Acts 26:19).
Repentance is about restoring our relationship with God
The modern ear and the defensive ego that's listening with it hears the word "repent" and fails to recognize the voice of God's grace. It sounds like guilt (William J. Sappenfield).
To repent is about hope. That is God's answer to our need for on-going conversion and sometimes incapacitating, tears, and guilt.
Repentance means to “go beyond the mind that you have” (Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan).
Repentance asks us to consider the ways we have become captive to outmoded ways of thinking. Repentance frees us from our will, like Mary, to accept and to do God’s will and to sing a new song, God’s song, unto the Lord.
How does the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ confront the status quo in our lives?
Persistent Loving! By Wayne Miller
“…for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the LORD...” (Isiah 11:1-10)
“For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out, and the afflicted when he has no one to help him. He shall pity the lowly and the poor; the lives of the poor he shall save. Psalm 72
“Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I say that Christ became a minister of the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, to confirm the promises to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.” Romans 15:4-9
John the Baptist: “… Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.” Matthew 3:1-12
Father God, give me the eyes to see, ears to hear, and heart to know and rejoice at Your indwelling Presence and Love among my brothers and sisters. And thank you for always being at my side, even when I don’t choose to be with you.
Isaiah spoke of a future filled with retribution for the wicked and earth filled with the knowledge of the Lord. I believe the latter is here, and now, the former is not within my power or purview to accomplish. The Psalmist promises that the poor will be protected and uplifted. With the awareness and wisdom of the Triune God as my guide, I believe I can help with that. St. Paul describes God choosing to become a man and minister to a people that would not recognize or accept him, explicitly so the Gentiles could see God’s everlasting acceptance and faithfulness and know that God would never abandon them, either.
And Jesus’ cousin, John, upbraids the Pharisees for their pretense, smug attitude, and righteous certainty while ignoring the True Christ walking among them. The eccentric evangelist cries pending doom on the pompous leaders. But of course, both he and his cousin lost their lives for living their relationship with God and loving God’s poor above mindless conformance to ritual piety. I hope that my relationship will be strong enough to do the same if that time ever comes.
I’m hearing much distress expressed in this “time of waiting” concerning all the evil abroad and in our land. I choose to believe and act on the abundant Love that exists in my brothers and sisters, notwithstanding the bad choices that some continue to make. Free Will/Choice” was God’s Primary Gift to each of us and He is big enough to Love us through the worst muddles that we can create for ourselves. If I am to wait in anticipation of Christ’s coming, I choose to celebrate and act upon the everyday comings with which He blesses me, trying to be always ready to open my heart to let His Love flow through me to the next poor person I meet. Maybe that “poor” person is the obstinate, neighbor who is utterly convinced that the only way to save the world is an immediate return to the rigorous pre-Vatican II good old days and rejection of Pope Francis as our Shepherd. How do I welcome such a single-minded person “as Christ welcomed me?”
We only love God as much as we love the most unlovable person in our life. I also heard just today that “every person I meet knows something that I don’t!” Can I allow the Grace freely given to me to sustain a genuinely open dialogue with the Grinch? I hope so, and you’re invited to join me in the quest to Makea Friend, Be a Friend, and Bring Christ to our Friends.
May we all experience His Presence in this special season, encouraging and leading us to Love all His Children.
The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst. No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes, you shall see your Teacher. While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: "This is the way; walk in it," when you would turn to the right or the left. Isaiah 30:20-21
Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest." Matthew 9:35
As we sit in the darkness of Advent awaiting the light, Isaiah continues to hold the lit candle of hope. Our God is a God of abundance. We get blessings we don’t deserve. We have a God of Compassion, and we see evidence of that in both readings today.
I need to hear that above the cackle of the headlines. We hear the mind-numbing news of more mass shootings. In just a few days, there was one at Pearl Harbor the week of the 78th anniversary of the attack that pulled our nation into war. Two more followed in Florida: one at the naval base in Pensacola and the other shootout in Miami that took the life of a UPS driver after he was hijacked and kidnapped doing his job.
But God does not have the market cornered on compassion. He needs us to help heal the world. “[T]he fields ripe for the harvest.”
This map is part of "All In," A Wider Circle's (www.awidercircle.org) new national plan to end poverty. It’s CEO Mark Bergel has developed new income standards (AWC Income Standards) to replace the Federal Poverty Line for every county in the United States and produced an accurate count of those living in need of assistance across the country.
In February of 2020, AWC will release its new online action guide - the heart of the plan - that will provide clear and specific ways that every person and every sector can engage in the movement to end poverty. You and your company or organization can lead the way. If you want to learn more, please contact AWC and stay tuned! You can connect with the Founder and CEO via LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-bergel-1264b415/)
Mark is one those rare people you meet in life who truly walk the walk. Mark has dedicated his life to helping those among us most in need and he has done so with grace, dignity and humility. I feel honored to know him and to support A Wider Circle.
You can be a part of making Scripture come to life. That is what is means when Isaiah preaches that “The Lord will give you bread in adversity and water in affliction.” We are the hands and feet to make this happen. The fields are ripe for us to assist in this harvest one census tract at a time.
Christ is counting on you to be among the harvesters.