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COME & SEE

Week of February 4th, 2024

5th SUNDAY


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The Word …

 

“Is not man's life on earth a drudgery? Are not his days those of hirelings?
He is a slave who longs for the shade…”
(from Jb 7:1-4, 6-7).
 

“Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all”

(from 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23).

 

"Let us go that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come”
(from Mk 1:29-39).
 


Pondering the Word …

Three different people, three different views of their lives. First, we have Job, moaning and groaning again about the condition of his life, calling himself—and the rest of humanity as well—a slave, not by his own choice, but as forced upon him. (I always wonder about the expression, “to have the patience of Job.” Yes, he was patient, but he sure didn’t suffer in silence!)

Then, we hear Paul declare himself a slave by his own choice. Not that he is boasting or anything.
😉 But there are times when he grumbles a bit to remind us of his sacrifice (e.g., 2 Cor 11:24-28, 1 Thes 2:9).

And lastly, we have Jesus: “This is why I have come: to preach the Good News.” This role is not forced upon him. It is not a choice he makes. It is, without a doubt, his call, his vocation, his destiny. By his commitment to his call, he consecrates his suffering.

Living the Word …

We’ve all been in Job and Paul’s sandals. Pain and suffering come out of nowhere, catching us off-guard. We face the daily drudgery of our life choices. And of course, we cry out to God! Jesus cried out to God! It is not written anywhere that we should not be like Job! But then what? How do we consecrate our suffering?

I subscribe to the daily reflections from The Center for Action & Contemplation, Richard Rohr’s organization. If you do not yet receive these, consider signing up—they are inspiring and often challenging. Last Monday’s reflection is pertinent to our readings today: https://cac.org/daily-meditations/consecrating-the-chaos/: “When you take on the confusion and the violence and you refine them, purify them into something new, you are doing what in the vocabulary of faith we call consecrating your chaos. To consecrate is to make holy, to put it into service for good. In consecrating chaos, you engage it, tame it, name it, take what seemed out of control and charge it with a duty” Otis Moss III, Dancing in the Darkness: Spiritual Lessons for Thriving in Turbulent Times (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2023).

This takes courage, faith, and lots of prayer. Is there suffering in your life? Confusion or chaos? Don’t run away from it. Name it, claim it. Ask the Spirit to shine her light upon it to help you consecrate it as ground for growth and compassion. Ask Jesus to accompany you as you transform your suffering, as he did, into service for good.


Mon, Feb 5: Solomon said, "The LORD intends to dwell in the dark cloud” (1 Kgs 8:1-7, 9-13). In Hebrew, it’s a “thick fog” or “thick darkness.” This is God’s M.O. in the Old Testament: God accompanied the Israelites in Exodus as a column of clouds or a column of fire (13:21). Provision: The older I get, the more comfortable I am with this vision of God. To touch the mystery is what I long for in prayer. The anonymous author of The Cloud of the Unknowing writes: “The first time you practice contemplation, you’ll experience a darkness, like a cloud of unknowing…You must know this darkness will always be between you and God…. make your home there. It is the closest you can get to God here on earth… St. Dionysius said the most divine knowledge of God is that which is known by not-knowing” (Translation by C. Butcher). The crux of our prayer occurs in the gentle darkness of a cloud of mystery. Will you give yourself time today to encounter this mystery? Will you be patient?

Tue, Feb 6: “Look kindly on the prayer and petition of your servant, O LORD…May your eyes watch night and day over this temple” (1 Kgs 8:22-23, 27-30). Provision: Let’s start with this question: Do you believe Paul’s words from
1 Cor 6:19, that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? I hope so. I try to live that belief, although I don’t always treat it as such. It could use some repair work and maintenance! But wouldn’t it be just beautiful to say these words of King Solomon, asking God to watch over the temple of our bodies and souls? You might ask God from his vantage point if he has some suggestions about overdue maintenance! Pray for God’s protection of your temple exactly how it is, but also for the courage and strength to make any needed improvements.

Wed, Feb 7: “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile” (Mk 7:14-23). It’s important to understand the context of this reading. In yesterday’s gospel, Jesus tells us human traditions and doctrines shall not supersede God’s commandment to love. Jesus is not suggesting we make poor decisions for our bodies, those temples of the Spirit we prayed for yesterday. He wants us to understand real dis-ease comes from a heart that is hard, angry, fearful, sinful. Provision: I’ve suggested we should all adopt Jesus’ Wellness Program: he fasted, ate a Mediterranean diet, and walked everywhere! He took time for meditation and prayer in nature and was willing to learn new things. He feasted on good food and wine and enjoyed himself in the company of friends. Oh yes, and he loved: everyone and everything and was compassionate. He also knew he was beloved and gifted by God. I can’t think of a better plan for living!  Which part of Jesus’ program will you incorporate in your life?

Thu, Feb 8: “When Solomon was old, his wives had turned his heart to strange gods, and his heart was not entirely with the LORD” (1 Kgs 11:4-13). Yet another example from the Bible of women being blamed for a man’s transgression. At least David, Solomon’s father, took responsibility for his sinfulness! Solomon had the gift of wisdom, but maybe he forgot about it in his own life. Provision: Don’t we all do this from time to time? We preach and encourage others, we share great wisdom, but fail to apply it when it comes to ourselves. (Guilty as charged: I should follow my own advice and allow more time for quiet prayer.) “Physician, heal thyself” (Lk 4:23). Reflect today on what areas of your life might benefit from the wisdom you share with others.

Fri, Feb 9: “So I gave them up to the hardness of their hearts; they walked according to their own counsels” (Ps 81). Provision: “So I gave them up.” It’s important to note: God doesn’t say, “I gave up on them.” God never gives up on us. God is true to his covenant. We may choose to walk our own way at times, we may harden our hearts to God’s word, but remember: God will not give up on us, so we must not give up on others or on ourselves.

Sat, Feb 3: Jeroboam thought: "The kingdom will return to David's house…the hearts of the people will return…and they will kill me." The king made two calves of gold…and made priests from among the people” (1Kgs12:26-32; 13:33-34). Jeroboam is Solomon’s servant who, due to Solomon’s sin, is given the kingship of ten tribes of Israel. He’s worried about his own survival here, so what does he do? He sins as well. He doesn’t learn from Solomon’s downfall, just like we may fail to learn from mistakes, our own or those of others. Provision: The humorist Sam Levenson quipped, “You must learn from other people’s mistakes. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.” Reflect on your life as it is today: are there lessons from the past that you struggle to incorporate? Pray to the Spirit to help you see these lessons clearly.

(Yes, Lent starts on Wednesday, so we begin Provisions for the Journey again for the next few months.)
 


Elaine Ireland has a passion for working with parents and anyone who struggles to maintain a sense of God’s love and peace amid the day-to-day challenges of life. She has a master’s degree in Spiritual and Pastoral Care from the Pastoral Counseling department at Loyola, Maryland, with a focus on developmental psychology and spiritual guidance.  Rooted in Ignatian spirituality, she is a writer, retreat and workshop leader, and presenter on topics such as pastoral parenting, “letting go,” and finding the spiritual in the midst of everyday life. She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland with her husband, Mark and children, David and Maggie.


We hope you enjoy "Come and See!" and we welcome your input. Please contact Elaine Ireland at ehireland@gmail.com with questions, comments, and responses.


© 2009 - 2023, Elaine H. Ireland - Images@FaithClipart.com


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