Saturday, February 28, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: A Sense of Excitement

Psalms 30, 32 * 42, 43; Deuteronomy 7:17-26; Titus 3:1-15; John 1:43-51

Lent does not have to be a time of sadness, glumness or forced dourness. If that works to deepen self-reflection, well then have at it. I prefer to think about Lent as a time of exciting exploration: What's around this next corner? What's behind that curtain I'm about to draw back?

This season can be a time of renewal. Sure there is hard work involved in this, but that does not mean that work has to be depressing. There are people who feed on being Debbie Downer: that is not a healthy model to adopt though. Look at our reading from John today, there is such a sense of excitement. Philip and Nathanael and Jesus are our main characters on the stage today. Philip and Jesus are excited from the get-go, Nathanael takes a bit of convincing, but he gets there eventually - he turns from being Dougie Downer to Merry Mary once he starts to open himself and listens to Jesus. 

Lent can be like that for us. Our exploration, self-reflection and evaluation can lead us into that loving embrace that Jesus holds ready for us. The journey may have some bumps along the way, but that is not where we should dwell, nor is the purpose of the journey. Walking into the unknown with a sense of excitement makes the journey a different one. Can't you just see the smile on Jesus' face as he holds out his hand inviting each of us to: Follow Me.....Come and See.

Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved

Friday, February 27, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Fridays in Lent - Come & See

Psalms 95, 31 *35; Deuteronomy 7:12-16; Titus 2:1-15; John 1:35-42

In some denominations, Fridays in Lent have historically been thought of as days of fasting and abstinence. Meals necessary to retain strength only, and abstinence from meat. I do not follow these "rules", but do try and spend "extra" time opening myself to God on Fridays. One way I do this is participating in a worship service called The Way of the Cross. This is a service that involves light chanting and movement through the nave of the church stopping and saying prayers and having readings at the Stations of the Cross that have been installed around the church space. We end it in celebrating Holy Eucharist.

People often ask: But what do you believe as Episcopalians? Long chats can ensue about theology and ecclesiology and liturgy and spirituality. Sometimes I take a short-cut and use what Jesus says today in our reading from John: Come and see. Come and see what we do, how we pray, how we worship, for our communal prayers embody what we believe and who we are.

Find a prayer service on Fridays during Lent. Come and see!

Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Lenten Fasts

Psalms: 37:1-18 * 37:19-42; Deuteronomy 7:6-11; Titus 1:1-16; John 1:29-34

When I was growing up, my family would always make a point of sharing with each other what we were giving up for Lent: ice cream, candy, soda, dessert. On Fridays we never ate meat. To this day I can't look at or tolerate the smell of those frozen fish sticks we used to have to suffer through for dinner. 

I have carried this idea of giving something up through my adult life. When I was living in NY I always gave up beer and wine during Lent. Seeing that I do love my beer and wine, that was a sacrifice. But I can't say that I "got" anything out of giving up that beer and wine, that it aided my spiritual experience of exploring what Lent is all about. I did that fast out of habit and form.

As I have reflected on Lent and fasting, I wonder if what we are called to do is more about taking us out of the ordinary, putting us on edge, making more aware. Lent should be a time where we can slow down, explore ourselves, explore what is really important in life and what is not. Lent should be a time to shed ourselves of those things that get in the way of talking to, communing with, opening ourselves to God. Lent should not be a time to, by rote, give something up simply because that is what we are expected to do. 

Perhaps instead of giving something up, we take something on. What is getting in our way of living the life we are called to live? This is not about self-flagellation or self-castigation. This is a season about deepening our relationship with God. Perhaps one of the questions we can ask ourselves is: Is there something getting in our way of achieving this? Another is: How do I simplify my life so I can hear God?

Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Ash Wednesday

Psalms 95, 32, 143 * 102, 130; Jonah 3:1-4:11; Hebrews 12:1-14; Luke 18:9-14

What a gift of readings we are given this Ash Wednesday! We have the second part of the Jonah account (post-whale), we are exhorted in Hebrews to remember that great cloud of witnesses and to run with perseverance, and via Luke, Jesus compares the dutiful (but smug) Pharisee and the woeful tax collector. Each of these selections are worthy of (and have had) treatises written about them.

When we walk up to the altar today to have ashes smeared on our forehead in the sign of a cross, and have those humbling words spoken to us, Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return, take these readings with you. Ash Wednesday is one of those "come to Jesus moments" in life where, if we really open ourselves, make ourselves vulnerable, we can change the course of our life. At the root of this altered course is God's love for us, as we have been created. This love is a sure and confident anchor which can provide us a strong hold in the turbulent seas we all find ourselves in. 

Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who walk the way with us, so be swift to love and make haste to be kind...... God's Blessings on all of us this Lent. May it be a season of true reflection and transformation.

Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Humble Honesty

Psalms 26, 28 * 36, 39; Deuteronomy 6:16-25; Hebrews 2:1-10; John 1:19-28

John the Baptist is such an interesting character in our New Testament stories. Many times he is painted as a cartoon of a human being. We see him angry, acting crazed out by the Jordan, ranting at those who will listen to him, baptizing any and all who come to him, railing against the status quo, warning about the judgment of the one who is to follow him. And although he can be seen as all of these things in their individual vignettes, if we take a step back and look at the whole picture, the whole forest and not the individual trees, we see something quite different. 

Yes, John the Baptist can be quite confrontational and outrageous, but there is also a directness about him. There is an honesty about what he believes and who he is. There is a deep humbleness to him. The harshness of his rhetoric can sometimes overwhelm our understanding of this deep place of understanding John had for himself and his ministry. 

John answered, I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me. I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.

What a great verse to take us into Lent: to reflect upon during this season of self-examination. Whom do we not know among us? Who is greater than us?

Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Beginnings and Endings

Psalms: 25 * 9, 15; Deuteronomy 6:10-15; Hebrews 1:1-14; John 1:1-18

We are at the end of the Epiphany Season this week: only today and tomorrow before we leap into Lent on Ash Wednesday. I find it interesting that we are given the Prologue of John's Gospel for us today, the beginning of John's great love story of Jesus, here at the end of the "A-Ha" season. That is how I think of the Epiphany Season - a series of a-ha moments in our readings, all giving us things to think about and reflect upon and explore during Lent. So as we wind down in Epiphany and wind ourselves up (or gird our loins) for the seemingly long Lenten Season, perhaps remembering this poetic beginning of the fourth Gospel will assist in reflecting on these Epiphany moments we have been dwelling on, these A-ha moments to help us reconcile our own humanness to:
  From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace, and
  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.


Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Dishonest Traps

Psalms 105:1-22; 105:23-45; Isaiah 65:1-12; 1Timothy 4:1-16; Mark 12:13-27

Self-righteous and closed minded religious leaders approach Jesus falsely, hoping to trap him into saying something that will get him into trouble with either secular leaders or the religious. Before asking Jesus two different questions they say something pretty insulting: We know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. On face value that doesn't sound so bad, but boy-oh-boy are they jabbing at him: they are pissed off that he is not showing deference to them, and I read in the last phrase that they do not believe Jesus is being truthful.  Jesus responds with equanimity to not only these jabs but also to their two questions: one about paying Roman taxes and the other about death and remarriage.

Jesus replies to the first saying: Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's. He replies to the second: Is this not the reason that you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?.....God said to Moses "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob"? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong

These responses by Jesus give me such hope and confidence that the folks who are misleading so many in The Episcopal Church, and actually leading them away from TEC, would receive the same response from Jesus, for they do not know scripture or the power of God, and in fact are abusing it's interpretation for their own personal gains. I used to give these folks the benefit of the doubt, that they truly believed what they were saying. The last few months have proven to me that their moves are about raw power. These dishonest former bishops and former priests of TEC, and priests and bishops from other provinces in the Anglican Communion, are exactly like the Pharisees and Herodians and Sadducces who question Jesus today. They truly do not understand the scriptures nor the power of God. They are truly dishonest in their entire affect and demeanor and approach to scripture. They truly do not know what God's love is. This hope and confidence that these responses of Jesus gives me, does not lessen the sadness I feel for the people who are being purposefully misled, who are being fed hatred and spite. Although my hope and belief in the power of God is such that I do believe that many of those who have been fooled will return once they see these fraudulent individuals for who and what they truly are.

Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Set Ways

Psalms 101, 109:1-4,(5-9)20-30 * 119:121-144; Isaiah 63:15-64:9; 1Timothy 3:1-16; Mark 11:27-12:12

Chief priests and scribes and elders, now that is a scary sounding bunch! They approach Jesus demanding some answers and he flummoxes them twice. Once he asks a question they are afraid to answer about John and second he tells them, through a parable, that their gig is basically up. The leaders of the temple in Jerusalem had a rhythm in their life going and it was pretty good, for them. And here is this unknown upstart, taking the same scriptures and teaching something very different. He was taking something that was set, that was stable for some, and turning it on its head and saying, there, that's how it should be!

In what are we too comfortable? What has become so ritualized in our lives that we believe it sacrosanct to change? What do we need to do to get ourselves out of set habits, set ways, enabling us to see the world in a different light? Everyone likes and desires comfort, and security and familiarity. When too much of life enters into that realm, we are at a danger point and need to upset the apple cart. Some of those apples may get bruised. They are still edible though.

Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Forgiving

Psalms 97, 99, (100) * 94, (95); Isaiah 63:7-14; 1Timothy 1:18-2:8; Mark 11:12-26

I wonder what it is about being human that makes it so very hard, sometimes, to forgive. Is there something in our DNA that makes us hold grudges, want to get even, show someone up? Forgiveness is something everyone has to find a way to. We are clearly reminded of that in today's Gospel passage from Mark. 

This is a complex passage with Jesus cursing a fig tree for not bearing fruit outside of it's blooming season, tearing up the temple's market place, predicting that if we but believe and have faith God will move mountains for us, and ends this rather mad dash around Jerusalem and its surrounds with an order that whenever we pray we must forgive anyone whom we are holding something against. If we take out the fig tree conundrum (an allegory by Mark about the Jerusalem leadership?) and the temple tirade and the moving mountains phenomenon, we come to this forgiveness thing.

Jesus is trying to get us to think about forgiveness and praying because if our minds are clouded with anger, or distracted by thoughts of conquest, winning, getting even, we cannot open ourselves to God, we cannot truly be available to hear God's whisper, God's loving caress. This is because not only are we distracted but we are our lesser selves when we are concentrating on vengeance. We are not loving ourselves, but actually hurting ourselves. Forgiveness does not mean trust, or liking, or making everything like it was before the breach. But forgiveness is linked to love: love of self, love of the world, love of God and God's love for us. Perhaps this is why Jesus focuses on forgiveness so often....because it is so hard to accomplish but it is also so vital for our lives.

Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Different Kingdoms

Psalms 89:1-18 8 89:19-52; Isaiah 63:1-6; 1Timothy 1:1-17; Mark 11:1-11

When I graduated from law school and got my first job as a lawyer, I was remarkably sure of myself. Although I had been a high school history teacher before going to law school, this post-law school job was my first corporate job. More than being remarkably sure of myself, I was pretty damn cocky. I remember approaching the office building that summer day, as well as the excitement of the previous period of time prior to my starting, and being quite sure that I was going to be running that company, showing them how to do things, if not right away, but quite soon after my arrival. Cocky, young, immature, inexperienced, all of those words applied to my attitude. I also clearly remember having very different feelings a few days later: uncertainty, disappointment, confusion being prevalent ones. I did remain at that company for seven years and slowly but steadily crawled up the ladder of corporate titles, but that surety of vision that I had when I started working never came back: a different understanding grew in its place.

We are provided Mark's account of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem today. He is greeted and presented into Jerusalem like an anointed king: cloaks spread on the ground as well as leafy branches and people shouting hosannas and blessings and announcing a new kingdom by an ancestor of King David. Jesus doesn't proceed to the palace to demand being seated in the ruler's seat, instead he goes to the temple. We are told it was late and he looked around at everything and then proceeded to another place to rest. Jesus has a different kingdom in mind, one vastly at odds from the expectations of those who escorted him into Jerusalem. 

How do we manage our expectations? What if the way we have imagined things could or should be turn out differently? How do we accept the hard and cold truth that God's ways are not ours and that we need to be continually ready to accept a different kingdom than the one we have imagined? Can we do that?

Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Asking

Psalms 87, 90 * 136; Isaiah 61:10-62:5; 1Timothy 4:1-8; Mark 10:46-52

There is something different about our Gospel reading today. In many of the healing stories Mark gives us, the receiver is unnamed. But our recipient today is provided a name beyond the simple description of his ailment: a blind beggar, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus

Bartimaeus was clear and insistent in his asking, in his plea to Jesus. He did not sit at his spot on the side of the road waiting for someone to help him: he asked when the opportunity presented itself. I think that is an important lesson to take away from today's Gospel reading. I find myself in situations at times where I think people should simply know what I want, what I need and I don't ask. The result is much as you might expect, I don't get what I want or need. People aren't mind readers (most of the time) and there is a time and a place for the asking in many situations. 

Perhaps on this Valentine's Day, remembering to ask for what we want, for what we need, isn't such a bad thing to consider.

Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: A Centering Verse

Psalms 88 * 91, 92; Isaiah 61:1-9; 1Timothy 3:1-17; Mark 10:32-45

Many theologians and New Testament scholars believe that Mark 10:45 summarizes all of Mark's Gospel, all of Mark's Christology, all of what Mark is trying to express in this short and intense Gospel. They believe this verse is at the center of it all. That's a lot to expect from one verse. That verse says For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Whether I buy into the centrality of this verse, I am still thinking about that. Although we can trace our sacramental worship, our sacramental identity to this one verse. Jesus says this to the twelve after he has made another prediction of his suffering, death and resurrection and just following James and John's request to sit at his right and left side when he comes into his glory, as well as Jesus' statement that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. We have a tremendously powerful and jam-packed Gospel reading this morning. So much of what we do, so much of what we believe, so much of how we worship comes from these verses.

There is a gift to being dedicated to reading The Daily Office, because we are granted the opportunity to reflect, on a regular basis, about these central verses to our belief structure. By that simple act of reflection they become a part of us, they get into our system and we cannot help ourselves: we start acting differently. They become a central part of who and what we are. What a wonderful gift to give ourselves and to those around us.

Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Balance?

Psalms (83) or 146, 147 * 85, 86; Isaiah 60:1-17; 1Timothy 2:14-26; Mark 10:17-31

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said....... Here was an individual who kept all the commandments and lived a "good" life according to that time's customs and traditions and yet he still knew something was missing, he thought he was ready for something more. And Jess realizes this and gives him a HUGE challenge: sell all your possessions, give the proceeds to those in need and then you can follow me. Ouch. 

Possessions can take over our lives, they can rule them, "forcing" us to make certain decisions which allow us to: retain those possessions and/or gather more. I love a number of the possessions that I own and would prefer not to give them up. There a bunch of things I want to get (but can't afford to at the present time), such as: a rug for my bedroom, new golf clubs, a fun/funky entry hall table I saw, a new car, painting supplies. Do I need any of these? No. Do I want them? YES. Have I made decisions in the past, sacrificing a better usage of my money to buy something I wanted and didn't really need? Yes.

Jesus is challenging the wealthy individual today to re-think the priorities governing life. Is there a better balance that we can strike to reduce our selfishness and our own personal needs against those of what we are called to fulfill in our short life?

Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: What do we do with violent metaphors?

Psalms 78:1-39 * 78:40-72; Isaiah 59:1-15a; 1Timothy 1:1-14; Mark 9:42-50

I am not a big fan of violent imagery. I went to see the movie Taken this past Saturday. From approximately 5 minutes after the film began and for the next ninety minutes, there was non-stop action and violence: death, maiming, fighting, shooting, car chases, and more death. I walked out of the movie kind of exhausted. The deaths were portrayed in a fairly casual manner and I could not help but wonder if all these images of violence and death have inured us to the finality of death, the sadness of death, the hurt that goes along with death. 

I couldn't help but this of this movie as I read our Gospel passage today with Jesus using the metaphors of removing hands and feet and eyes if they are causing us to stumble or are causing someone else to stumble. Those metaphors make me cringe. Perhaps that is part of Jesus' purpose in saying them: to make us cringe, to make us pause, think, take notice. Is there a way to take these violent metaphors, of cutting off hands and feet and carving out eyes, and making us utilize these metaphors in evaluating our actions with others and with ourselves? What can we change about our actions that is negatively impacting others as well as ourselves?

Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Belief and Unbelief

Psalms 75, 76 * 21, 27; Isaiah 57:3-13; Galatians 5:25-6:10; Mark 9:14-29

I believe; help my unbelief! Such a plaintive cry we hear today from the child's father begging Jesus to help his son. I think that phrase sums up almost every thinking Episcopalian I know. We want to believe but we have doubts. We want to believe but we see such strife and hardship in the world. We want to believe but our prayers seem to go unanswered. We want to believe but we are faced with skeptics on all sides of us. We want to believe but we see and hear from global leaders in the Anglican Communion a bigoted, prejudiced, exclusionary Gospel as opposed to an inclusive and open one preached by many here in the United States. We want to believe but there are so many times we just don't understand.

I believe; help my unbelief! Jesus tags his response to this man's plea, after he rids the child of the demon, with the explanation that prayer is essential. In those dark times of unbelief, prayer, an ongoing conversation with God, can be the only thing that pulls us through. We may not understand it at the time, but that action of prayer is a necessary kernel of strength to help us through. We may not always believe, we may not always understand, but that juxtaposition between believing and not, is a critical part of all of our journeys on this earth. It is in that place of reasoning, of question, of doubt, that we many times can and do find God's patient presence and love waiting to shelter and hold us. Our belief and our unbelief are a natural part of our journey together.

Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Dazzled

Psalms 69:1-23(24-30) * 73; Isaiah 56:1-8; Galatians 5:16-24; Mark 9:2-13

Today in Mark, Jesus is transformed in front of Peter, James and John. His clothes became dazzling white, such as no on on earth could bleach them. Now that's white and bright! Mark is making multiple points with this phrase, chief among them is that Jesus is different from those who surround him. 

We lose a bit in the translation from the Greek for Mark's description. The word in Greek is egastrapon (transliteration) which literally means lightening bolts shooting out. Think about how bright white lightning is, how blindingly bright. We can't help but look at it, yet it blinds us and leaves an after-image almost burned onto our retinas. It is unearthly and doesn't hang around long but that lightning bolt is something burned into our memory. 

That is what Jesus is like when we experience his presence: ethereal, immediately demanding our attention, blinding us to everything else around us, leaving an after-image burned onto our hearts and souls, and it is dangerous. Because we see and understand the world differently after. We are different.

Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Identity

Psalms (70), 71 * 74; Isaiah 55:1-13; Galatians 5:1-15; Mark 8:27-9:1

How people identify themselves, who they think they are, is being specifically challenged because of the free-fall our economy is experiencing. People who thought they were secure in their job, a lawyer or a banker or an investment adviser, have lost their jobs, are now questioning their identity. People who thought they had wisely invested and were financially secure have found a substantial portion of that security, if not all of it, has disappeared. All of their world views have dramatically shifted making many of their human presumptions and understandings about who they are questionable. These are hugely hurtful and stressful times in people's lives for the ground they thought they were solidly standing on has dramatically shifted.

Peter identifies Jesus as Messiah today in our Gospel reading from Mark. Jesus responds by telling them to keep quiet about that and then proceeds to tell his disciples about what is coming: his torture, death and resurrection. They don't respond overwhelmingly well to this news: the ground they thought they were securely standing on was moving under their feet. Jesus then tells the crowd and his disciples to redirect their focus in life, to think about the world differently. He tells them they must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow. That they must lose their life in order to save it. These are painful decisions Jesus is demanding of his followers; they must change how they understand the world and not rely on and try to gain the whole world for Jesus says there is the strong risk that we will forfeit our life if that is our focus.

Greed has been with us from the beginning or our creation. This human desire on our part is something innate within us and Jesus recognizes that and is telling us to understand that part of our human nature. Yet Jesus gives us something to hold onto in that desire's place when he says Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power. Jesus is announcing today the arrival of the kingdom of God because of what is going to happen to him in Jerusalem. We are in the kingdom of God right now....all of us. That kingdom can only be formed, continued, tasted, by our active involvement and understanding that earthly things fade away, this kingdom does not. It's up to us. This is not an easy refocusing of our lives that Jesus demands today, but this is a necessary refocusing for many of us if we are to try and make any sense of what is happening all around us and pick ourselves up and follow.

Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Signs, Both Public & Private

Psalms 72 * 119:73-96; Isaiah 54:1-10(11-17); Galatians 4:21-31; Mark 8:11-26

Jesus sighs deeply in his spirit today. His frustration is palatable. These friggin' Pharisees! These dense disciples! What do you mean you want a SIGN! Wasn't feeding 9000 people enough! What about all those healings and miracles beforehand? And just what do you mean we don't have enough bread!?!?! ARGHHHH!!  Well, that's how a interpret Jesus' reactions in our Gospel today....perhaps a bit dramatic, but that drama proves a point.

Jesus has done many public signs of his authority and power given to him from birth. And yet people don't see, don't understand. Even those closest to him still don't get it. They arrive in Bethsaida and a blind man is brought to him for healing. Jesus leads him, by hand, out of the town and does a "double" healing. The first time things are cloudy, and the second time Jesus lays hands on this individual's eyes he saw everything clearly. Jesus sends him home, not thru the city....this was a private healing. 

I often wonder if Mark is talking about physical blindness or spiritual blindness. I have really bad uncorrected eyesight (20/400 in one eye and 20/450 in the other). I wear contacts and reading glasses during the day, and glasses early in the morning when I rise from sleeping. When I do not have my contacts in, or my glasses on, anything that is less than 4 inches from my nose is completely blurry, indistinct, undefinable. I have always wanted to do a series of paintings called "Uncorrected Sight" so people can "see" what I see without corrective lenses. I have yet to be able to effectuate that vision on canvas. Perhaps someday I will. 

But when I don't have my glasses on, and I need to hold something very close to see it....I can see remarkable detail, things I cannot discern when I have the corrective lenses on. I wonder if spiritual blindness can be akin to that. I wonder if the man who couldn't see, or the disciples, needed a different kind of corrective lens to understand what Jesus was doing, what his ministry was accomplishing and the miracle, the healing, is the spiritual awakening of the individual whom Jesus touches. Are we looking through the wrong lens thereby not being able to really see? Are we missing both the public and private signs?

Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: Repeated Newness

Psalms 61, 62 * 68:1-20(21-23)24-36; Isaiah 52:1-12; Galatians 4:12-20; Mark 8:1-10

We are given the second feeding of thousands in the Gospel of Mark today. This time there were 4000 fed by Jesus. It seems like we just had this reading in Mark for the other feeding. Why the repeat so soon? What are we supposed to "get" from this one that we didn't "get" from the other one?'

Perhaps one thing to consider is that for those 4000, in those days as our Gospel selection begins today, perhaps for those this wasn't a repeat, this was something new. Perhaps this repeat of a mass feeding, both of which are precursors to, hints of, The Last Supper which is yet to come in the story, is meant to provide one of the answers to the perennially asked question and statement: Why do I go to church each week and receive communion? It's the same thing over and over again! We can ask in return, is it really the same thing

Perhaps Mark is telling us that this is not a "repeat" but an important aspect of table fellowship: a repeated newness, a constant reminder of God's great love for us, a deepening of our relationship with each other and with God. A remaking of us each and every time we gather around a common meal together to strengthen, renew, make new again the Body of Christ we all are in the world. That's really not a repeat, this is something new.

Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Daily Office Reflection: The Presentation

MP: Psalms 42, 43; Samuel 2:1-10; John 8:11-16
EP: Psalms 48, 87; Haggai 2:1-9; 1John 3:1-8

In the Psalms for MP we have verses that are some of my favorites in all the Psalter:

  As a deer longs for the water-brooks
     so longs my soul for you, O God.

  My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God;
     when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?

   Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?
     and why are you so disquieted within me?

   Put your trust in God;
     for I will yet give God thanks,
     who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

I think about these particular verses quite often during the day and find myself repeating them at odd times. I take great solace as well as strength from hearing these verses and thinking about them.

Although I am glad to have these Psalms in today's Daily Office selection, in our readings today we are not given the portion of Luke (2:22-40) which details the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple. That reading is in the Lesser Feasts and Fasts Eucharistic lectionary. We do have a portion of this account of Mary and Joseph doing their duty in presenting and offering their infant child to God in MP: in Canticle 17, the Nunc dimittis. I often imagine, when saying or singing Canticle 17, the joy and tear-filled eyes of Simeon as he held Jesus and beheld and understood who and what was in his hands. These words in this Canticle present a solid rock onto which we can plant our feet and begin to realize the enormity of God's gift to us and how our thirst can be quenched.

Lord, you now have set your servant free
   to go in peace as you have promised.
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior,
   whom you have prepared for all the world to see.
A Light to enlighten the nations,
   and the glory of your people Israel.

For our thirst for God, our thirst to understand this mystery of God in human form, is slackened some by Simeon's joy. Simeon's thirst was quenched when he held that baby in his hands. Although it is unlikely that we will be granted that privilege in our lifetime, we can and do experience that closeness of God, a quenching of that thirst for God, each and every time we share our common Eucharistic table together. Next time we gather at our common table, knowing that people around the world are sharing the same meal, we should think about Simeon and consider how our thirst for God is slackened some by sharing that holy meal.

Copyright 2009, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.