Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Non-Catholic’s Take on Today’s Catholic Readings: Lectionary 506—Dealing with difficulty
Bold = verse commented upon
Blue = comment
Highlight = direct command
Today’s readings give us some insights into dealing with the trouble that inevitably comes into our lives:
1.        Don’t be surprised by it. Jesus told us to expect it, a dynamic that Peter also discussed. John 16:33; 1 Peter 4:12-13. 
2.    Although God does not exempt His faithful ones from the troubles of the world, He does help them through those troubles if they trustingly and faithfully cling to Him. See Sirach 2.
3.    One way get through the emotional upheavals that those troubles inevitably cause, even in God’s faithful ones, is to talk to God. We see that dynamic over and over again in the Scriptures. See e.g. Numbers 11:10-15, 21-22; Judges 6:13-16;  Acts 9:10-19 Praising God in the midst of the troubles is particularly helpful.  See e.g. Daniel 3:52-90. It calms you. Try it, you’ll see.
4.        Another way to deal with those troubles is to see them in the broader context of God’s overall plan. The individual calamities Jesus describes in the Gospel reading might make no sense as folks go through each of them, but seen in the context of God’s overall plan, they do make sense. See also Hebrews 12:1-13. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us see the broader context of the troubles that come up in our lives. See James 1:2-6 and Hebrews 4:14-16.
Some men rushed into the upper chamber of Daniel’s home and found him praying and pleading before his God. Then they went to remind the king about the prohibition: “Did you not decree, O king, that no one is to address a petition to god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king; otherwise he shall be cast into a den of lions?” The king answered them, “The decree is absolute, irrevocable under the Mede and Persian law.”
To this they replied, “Daniel, the Jewish exile, has paid no attention to you, O king, or to the decree you issued; three times a day he offers his prayer.”
The king was deeply grieved at this news and he made up his mind to save Daniel; he worked till sunset to rescue him. But these men insisted. They said, “Keep in mind, O king, that under the Mede and Persian law every royal prohibition or decree is irrevocable.” So the king ordered Daniel to be brought and cast into the lions’ den. To Daniel he said, “May your God, whom you serve so constantly, save you.” To forestall any tampering, the king sealed with his own ring and the rings of the lords the stone that had been brought to block the opening of the den.
Then the king returned to his palace for the night; he refused to eat and he dismissed the entertainers. Since sleep was impossible for him, the king rose very early the next morning and hastened to the lions’ den. As he drew near, he cried out to Daniel sorrowfully, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has the God whom you serve so constantly been able to save you from the lions?”
Daniel answered the king: “O king, live forever!  My God has sent his angel and closed the lions’ mouths so that they have not hurt me. For I have been found innocent before him; neither to you have I done any harm, O king!”
This gave the king great joy. At his order Daniel was removed from the den,
unhurt because he trusted in his God. The king then ordered the men who had accused Daniel, along with their children and their wives, to be cast into the lions’ den. Before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.
Then King Darius wrote to the nations and peoples of every language, wherever they dwell on the earth: “All peace to you! I decree that throughout my royal domain the God of Daniel is to be reverenced and feared: “For he is the living God, enduring forever; his Kingdom shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be without end. He is a deliverer and savior, working signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, and he delivered Daniel from the lions’ power.”
R. (59b) Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“Dew and rain, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“Frost and chill, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“Ice and snow, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“Nights and days, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“Light and darkness, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“Lightnings and clouds, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.
“Let the earth bless the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever.”
R. Give glory and eternal praise to him.
Stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.
Jesus said to his disciples: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies,
know that its desolation is at hand. Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. Let those within the city escape from it, and let those in the countryside not enter the city, for these days are the time of punishment when all the Scriptures are fulfilled. Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days, for a terrible calamity will come upon the earth and a wrathful judgment upon this people. They will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken as captives to all the Gentiles; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Non-Catholic Christian's Take on Today’s Catholic Readings: Lectionary 499

Bold = verse commented upon
Blue = comment
Highlight = direct command

Today’s readings make it plain that God expects us to be productive for His Kingdom. We see that in the Gospel and the Alleluia verse. The readings also tell us that we sometimes have to face opposition, push back, from others when we do that.  We see that in the first reading and the Gospel.
The good news is that God gives us ways to deal with that opposition. Today’s readings illustrate several of those ways:
1.        Look to the good that will be on the other side of the present difficulty. We see it in the Mother’s own attitude and her exhortation to her son in the first reading; she tells him (and us) that there is hope and reward on the other side of the injustice and pain they are experiencing. We see that in the response to the Psalm. We also see it in the attitude of the servants in the Gospel who went out and take care of their master’s business; they did so in spite of their master’s unpopularity because they knew that they would be rewarded. We see it throughout scripture. Psalm 37:10-11,29, 34, 37; Sirach 2:8-9;  Isaiah 52:13. 15; 53:10-12; Romans 8:16-25, 28-30; Colossians 3:1-4; Hebrews 12:2.
2.         Talk to God in the midst of your difficulties, about your difficulties and what you need. We see that in the psalm. We are instructed to do that and see it modeled in multiple places in scripture. Matthew 26:36, 39, 41, 44, 46;  Mark 14:32, 35, 39; 15:33; Luke 22:42, 43; 23:46; Acts 4:24-31; Romans 8:26-27; Ephesians 6: 18-20;  James 1:5
3.         We must control our emotions, particularly the emotion of fear. That is what the mother in the first reading is trying to do. The psalmist is “steadfast” and did “not falter.” The productive servants in the Gospel reading had to overcome their fear of their contemporaries’ hostility and of their own failure. In contrast, the unproductive servant was unproductive because he gave into fear. See Joshua 1:6-7, 9; Judges 6:23, 27; 7:11-13; Psalm 37:1, 8;  Sirach 2:6, 8; Isaiah 49:4-5; Matthew 26:38;  Matthew 28:4-5, 8, 10; Mark 16:8;  John 20:11-12, 15; Ephesians 6:16.  Talking to God about this REALLY, REALLY, helps
4.     Trust that God will eventually deal with those who are unjustly opposing His kingdom. Psalm 37:2, 9-10, 14-15, 20, 34-36, 38.
It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king, to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law.
Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother,
who saw her seven sons perish in a single day, yet bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord. Filled with a noble spirit that stirred her womanly heart with manly courage, she exhorted each of them in the language of their ancestors with these words: “I do not know how you came into existence in my womb; it was not I who gave you the breath of life, nor was it I who set in order the elements of which each of you is composed. Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe who shapes each man’s beginning, as he brings about the origin of everything, he, in his mercy, will give you back both breath and life, because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law.”
Antiochus, suspecting insult in her words, thought he was being ridiculed. As the youngest brother was still alive, the king appealed to him, not with mere words, but with promises on oath, to make him rich and happy if he would abandon his ancestral customs: he would make him his Friend and entrust him with high office.
When the youth paid no attention to him at all, the king appealed to the mother,
urging her to advise her boy to save his life. After he had urged her for a long time, she went through the motions of persuading her son. In derision of the cruel tyrant, she leaned over close to her son and said in their native language:
“Son, have pity on me, who carried you in my womb for nine months, nursed you for three years, brought you up, educated and supported you to your present age. I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth and see all that is in them; then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things; and in the same way the human race came into existence. Do not be afraid of this executioner, but be worthy of your brothers and accept death, so that in the time of mercy I may receive you again with them.”
She had scarcely finished speaking when the youth said: “What are you waiting for? I will not obey the king’s command. I obey the command of the law given to our fathers through Moses. But you, who have contrived every kind of affliction for the Hebrews, will not escape the hands of God.”

R. (15b) Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
Hear, O LORD, a just suit; attend to my outcry; hearken to my prayer from lips without deceit.
R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
My steps have been steadfast in your paths, my feet have not faltered. I call upon you, for you will answer me,
O God; incline your ear to me; hear my word.
R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.
But I in justice shall behold your face; on waking, I shall be content in your presence.
R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
I chose you from the world, to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord.
While people were listening to Jesus speak, he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the Kingdom of God
would appear there immediately. So he said, “A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return. He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.’
But when he returned after obtaining the kingship, he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money, to learn what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, ‘Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’
He replied, ‘Well done, good servant! You have been faithful in this very small matter; take charge of ten cities.’
Then the second came and reported, ‘Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’
And to this servant too he said, ‘You, take charge of five cities.’
Then the other servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your gold coin; I kept it stored away in a handkerchief, for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding man; you take up what you did not lay down and you harvest what you did not plant.’
He said to him, ‘With your own words I shall condemn you, you wicked servant. You knew I was a demanding man, taking up what I did not lay down and harvesting what I did not plant; why did you not put my money in a bank? Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.’
And to those standing by he said, ‘Take the gold coin from him and give it to the servant who has ten.’ But they said to him, ‘Sir, he has ten gold coins.’ He replied, ‘I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me.’”
After he had said this, he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.