Let Morning Come

“When roosters crow/like Nature’s alarm clocks/that rouse a resting Earth,/

let Morning come/with virginal blush that peeps/softly through Night’s dark sky./

As a genial Sun rises/to share welcome warmth/and light, let Morning come/

for owls returning to roost,/for farmers ready to labor/in their forests and fields./

Let Morning come with its promise/of beauty for ashes, joy for sorrow,/and a spirit of praise for heavy hearts.”
– “Let Morning Come” by Sandra H. Bounds (published in “Sacred Journey: The Journal of Fellowship in Prayer”)

Time to let morning come. For so long now I have been immersed in loss. Loss of innocence. Loss of wealth. Loss of my mother. Loss of an image and experience of God that was too small but made so much sense and gave so much comfort. Loss of a job. Loss of a sense of security. Loss of my children as they move on into adulthood. Loss of dreams of fame and glory. Loss of a certain degree of youthful optimism. Loss of faith in institutions and their ability to meet the pressing needs of our time. Loss of respect for a Church that prefers superficial comfort over genuine reform. Loss of respect for people who could have known better and done better but chose not to do so. Loss of self-esteem as I feel that gap between the man I am and the man I want to be grow to be a chasm. Loss and loss and loss and loss……

But enough of that now. Grief is not the same as despair. Loss is not always bad – is often good. My ego is a cramped place and does not give ground easily. Illusions were made to be shattered. People cannot break your heart unless you have a heart to break. Roaring wind and shattering earthquake and raging fire and flood will come but the Still Small Whisper remains present and distinct. She only awaits for our response.

And so I will respond. Let morning come. Into my life. Into the core of my being where the Spirit dwells. Time to turn away from the night; the sun shines so brightly, the breeze blows so gently inviting me forth to new adventures and new discoveries. How could I have not noticed?

I heard a rabbi once say that the reason the Bible exhorts the faithful to place the commandments on their hearts is so that when their hearts are broken the love of God might come in. The cross is not about suffering as an end in itself butas a means to conquer the night.

The fields are ripe for harvest. Time to take my place among the dancing, joyous laborers. I will not look back. I will not become a pillar of salt.

Let Morning come. For all of us.

Jim Philipps
3rd millennium pilgrim

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Scripture Reflections – Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

Isaiah 49:14-15; 1Cor4:1-5; Mt 6:24-34
8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

There’s a beautiful little sculpture piece I’ve seen that features a child resting in the palm of a large hand, snug and blissful. It’s a creation basedon words similar to those in today’s reading by the prophet Isaiah: ‘I will never forget you my people. I have carved you on the palm of my hand.”

There is always plenty to do and plenty to pray about as we journey through the season of Lent which begins this coming Wednesday. Leave those preparations and anticipations for another day.

For now, take a few quiet moments and imagine yourself resting blissfully and peacefully in God’s hand. Perhaps such reflections will call to mind memories of when you felt so safe and secure as a child surrounded by the love of a good family. (I pray that you are able to call upon such reflections and, if you are not, that God will lead you into a community worthy of you.) Just rest there awhile. Remember that you are loved and precious in God’s sight. That’s enough for now.

Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)

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Scripture Reflections – Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18; 1Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:35-48

One of the key themes of the Sermon on the Mount from which this week’s gospel is taken is Jesus’ exhortation (which he also lived out) to follow the spirit of the law and not just the letter. In fact, in some cases following the letter of the law too strictly could actually violate its’ spirit.

A quick primer: The “letter of the law” is what the law says. The “spirit of the law” is the value that the law is protecting or promoting. The classic scriptural example of the difference are the several miracle stories in which Jesus cures someone who is lame or blind on the Sabbath. Inevitably, this action causes tension between Jesus and some of the Pharisees. The reason: The third commandment (Keep Holy the Sabbath) strictly forbids the performing of any unnecessary work on the Sabbath day. On the seventh day of Creation, God rested from all of God’s labors. As it logically follows that we are not busier than God, so should we. The Sabbath day is reserved for worship of God and taking time to enjoy the company of others – especially those whom we love – and to enjoy the wonders of creation.

Nothing wrong with that. The problem arose, however, because the Pharisees were so focused on the letter – “unnecessary work” – that when they witnessed Jesus’ healing miracles this was the only thing they could see. Their logic ran something like this: “If the man is blind on the Sabbath, he’ll still be blind tomorrow. Cure him then.” Jesus, and all those who read the gospel accounts, see the absurdity of the argument. How could restoring one of God’s beloved to health NOT be an act of worship?

Where the Spirit vs. Letter gets more demanding for us is the way that Jesus applies it to the second part of the Great Commandment: “You shall love God with all of your heart and all of your mind and all of your strength, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” When Jesus says, “Love your enemies,” what he is really saying is that to love your neighbor as yourself is only the Letter of the law. The spirit – the experience through which we encounter the heart of the Great Commandment – is when we love that person who does not love us.

Christianity is so much easier when we stick to the letter of the law. The problem is, it has little to do with Jesus. And can a faith that clings only to the surface of discipleship be considered a faith at all?

So, this week, let’s dig in deeper. Plunge below the surface and allow the Holy Spirit to carry you into the depths of Love. Resist the temptation to come up for air, for this is an ocean filled with the waters of life.

Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
To locate book-length versions of my writings, click here: http://store.pastoralplanning.com/maroforsciin.html

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Scripture Reflections – Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Sirach15:15-20; 1Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

This Sunday’s readings feature Jesus, the boot camp sergeant:”Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” At first glance, such a statement seems downright unreasonable. The scribes and Pharisees were the recognized religious leaders and authorities among the common people who made up Jesus’ audience. The Pharisees (despite the bad press they often receive in the gospels) in particular had a reputation for devout study of the Torah and deep piety. For Jesus to demand that his followers surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees is something like saying that, unless you can play baseball better than Babe Ruth, or possess more scientific brilliance than Albert Einstein, don’t even bother trying.

St. Paul, as he reflects upon this mystery we call the kingdom of heaven, offers an insight that casts Jesus’ words in a different light: “What eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has ready for those who love him.” The kingdom of heaven – the reality of what life is like outside of time and space when we are fully and completely experiencing God’s presence – is like nothing we will experience during our earthly journeys. “Righteousness” is not so much about figuring out through much study and prayer the right path to follow – that simply isn’t possible for us to do. Righteousness is much more about how open we are to being led by the Holy Spirit down a path we can at best only catch glimpses of. And our willingness to be open to the Spirit is in direct proportion to our openness to love. In fact, it is the same thing.

Jesus’ criticism of the scribes and Pharisees is not that their efforts to learn the Torah and pray the Torah are without merit. In fact, Jesus takes his Jeish faith quite seriously as well. What gets Jesus so upset is their terribly misguided belief that it is their knowledge and prayer, and not God, which will bring them to the kingdom. Righteousness is not about what we do. It’s about what we let God do through us.

This week, let your righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. Stop leading the band. Listen to the music and play the notes, however imperfectly, with great joy.

Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)

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Scripture Reflections – Sunday, February 9th, 2014

Isaiah 58:7-10; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Matthew 5:13-16
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

All week long I have been railing at the weather forecasters here in the Northeastern United States. Twice in two weeks I went to bed hearing of the coming snow flurries and woke up to a foot of snow. Then there was the “snowpocalypse” – three big storms forecast (or so I thought – turns out one was a fraud) within a week that would leave us buried so far under the white stuff we wouldn’t see the light of day until the second coming. How can one profession be wrong so often and so badly and continue to collect paychecks?

It took awhile for me to emerge from my ego-created bubble of self-pity and self-righteousness. (Were I to begin to list the number of times I’ve missed the boat, by the way, on the levels of pain and suffering my students carry around with them on a daily basis I would need much more space than this blog to do so.) This week’s passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, I’m happy to say, has helped move that process along. Paul exhorts us to let our faith depend “not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”

The ugly truth is, no matter how educated we are or how skilled we might be in our given professions or how much people look to us for advice (more accurately, how much we THINK they should look to us for advice) when you compare the circle encompassing what we do know with the vast sphere encompassing what we don’t know, that first circle shrinks by comparison into an almost infintesimal nothingness. True human wisdom is grounded much more in recognizing how much we don’t know than in taking pride in what we do know.

The really good news, however, is that this doesn’t really matter. The faith that guides us and enables us to experience the love of God which sustains us has little to do with what is in our heads but a whole lot to do with what is in our hearts. Whatever wisdom we are able to achieve is really a small glimpse into the unfathomable wisdom of God.

Please accept my apology, you weather forecasters of America. Thank you for offering what guidance you can – which, if I’m honest, hits the mark more than it misses. Let our prayer this week be a share in the humility our forecasting sisters and brothers must have experienced during this past week when they realized that, not only can’t you fool mother nature, you sometimes can’t figure out what she’s up to.

Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
To locate book-length versions of my writings, click here: http://store.pastoralplanning.com/maroforsciin.html

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Scripture Reflections – Sunday, Feb. 2nd, 2014

Mal 3:1-4; Heb 2:14-18; Lk 2:22-40
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

It took me awhile this morning to figure out the reference the prophet Malachi makes to the “fuller’s lye.” Once I did – with a little help from a friend who teaches science- the power of the passage came through loud and clear. A fuller, in Biblical times, worked with cloth. His/her job was not to create it, but to restore it to it’ former quality. Often the job involved the use of lye – an ancient version of Chlorox bleach – in order to brighten white garments.

When you couple this image with that of the “refiner’s fire” (I remembered enough chemistry to know that heating certain metals such as gold, silver or iron was a way of removing impurities from them) a rather sobering picture of the Messiah emerges. Yes, it’s true that God makes a promise through Micah that Israel will be liberated – but the process is not going to be much fun. The purification will involve lots of cleaning and pressing and burning – all aimed at scrapping away the crud, and none of it too pleasant.

We are still a long way from Lent and I’m in no mood to start thinking about all that Repentence. (I haven’t even used all of the gift certificates I received over the Christmas holidays yet.) What Malachi reminds us about, however, is that even during these quiet, calm days of Ordinary Time God is very much at work. What appear to be merely the annoyances and struggles of daily living might also be the means that God is using to clean, press and purify us.

It’s not that God wants us to suffer, or that God sends us suffering – we do enough of that to each other. But it is true, I think, that within the challenges and trials we face- or,more accurately, in the way we face them – Christ offers us a most urgent invitation: Will you love just a little more? Will you believe just a bit more deeply that the fires which seem to be devastating the landscape of your life might actually hold within them the seeds of your rebirth?

Jim Philipps
(3rd millennium pilgrim)

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Scripture Reflections – Sunday, January 26th, 2013

Isaiah 8:23 – 9:3; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13,17; Matthew 4:12 -23
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?” Paul’s two questions addressed to the church at Corinth were prompted by reports he was getting that the community was in danger of being divided into factions – those who were led to the faith by St. Paul versus those who were influenced by Cephas (St. Peter) versus those who were brought into the Church by Apollos (another early Church leader). Paul reminds the community directly and forcefully that such divisions make no sense. There is only one Body of Christ. The Church came into being through the life, death and resurrection of Christ and lives within him, animated by the Holy Spirit. We are all in this adventure together.

One of the most important transformations in the Church to come out of the Vatican II Council was a renewed commitment to Ecumenism – the commitment of the Catholic Church to engage in dialogue and fellowship with other Christian denominations so as to fulfill Jesus’s desire that “all may be one.” Much good work has been done since then, yet something deep within our human nature continues to drag us back to our tribal origins. It is so much easier for us to notice our differences than to celebrate what we have in common. This week, as you listen to the words of St. Paul proclaimed during Mass, call to mind all of our sisters and brothers belonging to other Christian denominations who are celebrating their membership in the Body of Christ in their worship services. Say a prayer for them, and offer a prayer for all Christians, that in the ways that really matter we may fulfill Jesus’ desire.

Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
To locate book-length versions of my writings, click here: http://store.pastoralplanning.com/maroforsciin.html

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