Katrina, 9/11, the Challenger explosion, Kennedy's death. These are some events in recent US history by which people in the States date things. Every generation, every country has their own seminal event. No doubt for Cubans now an important date will be "the year Castro died." For refugees, it's "before we left our home."
Isaiah was using such a reference when he said, "In the year that King Uzziah died." Everyone to whom he was speaking knew when that was. It was a precise date, not once upon a time. And it told the people that it was a period of transition. One king had died; another ascended to the throne. Change was in the wind.
In the States we find ourselves in this same position as we approach a new year and the inauguration of a new President. It is the "last year of Obama"; "the first year of Trump." As important as the President of the U.S. is in world affairs, as Christians we do not place our faith in him. He is not worthy of our faith; only God is. Presidents can be used by God, nevertheless we don't put our trust in them. We put our trust in God. And though we hope that each President will do a better job than the last, our hope is not in them. Our hope is in God alone. He alone is our Savior. He alone is worthy of our faith, our trust, our hope.
Let us pray. Father, you alone are worthy. You alone deserve our faith, our hope, our trust. Jesus, you are our Savior, you are our King.
We ask you again, over and over, to bless our country, to give wisdom to our leaders, to lead us in ways of righteousness.
Sometimes when we read the Scriptures it is easy to think that one verse doesn't follow another, or a paragraph is out of place. Perhaps the author was interrupted and forgot where he was going with that thought. Perhaps not and we need to try to get into the mind of the author.
One such passage for me (and there are many!) is Isaiah 40:10-11. "Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by his strong arm; here is his reward with him, his recompense before him. Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care." My first thought is, "What does being a shepherd have to do with God ruling with power?" But it seems that being a shepherd goes with the second part of verse 10, "here is his reward with him, his recompense before him." The flock is his reward and he guards it with his strong arm, particularly the ewes and the baby lambs.
We know that we are that flock. He guards us, especially the mothers and young children, with his strength, his power. And he who created the world and all that is in it (vv. 12-14) is eminently capable of providing for the flock.
What is there that we need that God cannot provide? Nothing.
Let us pray. You measured the waters in the hollow of your hand. You marked off the heavens with the breadth of your hand. You held the dust of the earth in a basket and weighed the mountains on scales. You call each star by name. We are like a drop in a bucket, like grasshoppers, yet we cannot hide from you. You are the everlasting God, the Creator who does not grow tired but gives strength to the weary and power to the weak. You renew our strength through hope in you and we soar on wings like eagles.
(based on Isaiah 40)
Jesus proclaimed his marching orders when he stood up in the temple of Nazareth and read from Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18-19).
These are the orders given to him by the Father and enabled by the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew why he was sent. He had a mission, a purpose. He also had help. He had his Father's authority behind him and Holy Spirit with him always. He embodied the Trinity. He was never alone in living out and accomplishing his mission.
For Reflection: If Jesus needed the Father's authority and the Spirit's anointing, how can we expect to get by without them?
Let us pray. Jesus, I see the mission you had and I want to follow your example. I too need the Father's authority and the Spirit's anointing. I want to embody the Trinity to the extent that I can because there are still people who have not heard the good news, who have not been set free, who have not been healed, who do not know of your favor. I need your help to walk in your footsteps and continue your mission of bringing the kingdom of God on earth.
Our weapon against Satan is words, so what we have is a war of words. Some might not consider words to be very powerful. But we are not speaking of words of diplomacy. These are not the words of Secretary of State. We are speaking words with the same power as God's words of creation. When we speak, all of creation listens.
God's word did not go forth at the time of creation without effecting what he set forth to do. His word does not go forth void now (Isaiah 55:11). No, the word of God is living, active and sharp. It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart and applies to all of creation (Hebrews 4:12).
Since we are praying again today on behalf of the persecuted Christians around the world, how then ought we to pray? We need to pray aloud and our words might be something like the following. As always, please feel free to add your own prayers.
We command all man-made weapons to be silenced and broken and to never work again (Isaiah 54:17).
We send the word of God into the hearts and minds of those who have a murdering spirit: you shall not kill (Exodus 20:13).
We proclaim the word of God to all who worship false gods: you shall worship the Lord, the God who brought the Hebrew people out of the land of Egypt (Exodus 20;2-3).
We command those with a spirit of hatred and covetousness: you shall not rape women, nor evict people from their homes (Exodus 20:14-17).
We proclaim the word of God for all to hear: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Mark 12:29). You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:13).
We have been looking at Matthew 5:11-30 since March 5, the beginning of Lent. We have been using these verses as a protracted examination of conscience in preparation for Easter which is April 20 this year. The purpose of the examination of conscience is to confess our sins to God and be set free from all the things that hold us back from progressing in our relationship with Jesus. Jesus said that he came to set the captives free and I think we should take him up on that offer.
With two weeks until Easter, let's look at what Jesus said about swearing (Matthew 5:33-37). Taking the Lord's name in vain, as we used to call it, has become so common that there is now an abbreviation for it: OMG. And you hear and see it everywhere. In fact, I saw it used in a novel I was reading and "God" was spelled "god". I'm not sure if that was better or worse. But this use of God's name has no relationship to praising God.
For reflection: Has any kind of swearing slipped into my speech?
Let us pray. "'I am ruined! for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.'
"Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, 'See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.'" (Isaiah 6:5-8)
Let's look at another prophet who didn't exactly make an excuse to God, but who recognized his deficiency before he answered a call from God. Isaiah has a vivid vision in which he sees the throne room of God Almighty with angels worshipping in full voice. The room shook and was filled with smoke. The magnificence of the vision terrorizes Isaiah, who cries out, "Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty" (Isaiah 6:1-5).
One of the angels flies to Isaiah and touches a live coal to his lips as an act of atonement for his sin and remission of his guilt. Being cleansed, he is no longer a man of unclean lips. So when God asks, "Whom shall I send?" Isaiah is able to answer, "Send me" (Isaiah 6:6-8).
Does Isaiah even know what he is volunteering for? Perhaps not. But by cleansing him God has equipped him to speak to a nation where justice is perverted, the poor are oppressed, idols are worshipped and the government looks to pagan nations for help rather than to God. But we see that just as God gave words to Moses and Jeremiah, God supplied words of prophecy to Isaiah. God does not call anyone without equipping them to do the job.
For reflection: To what mission has God called me? How has God equipped me for that mission?
Le us pray. Lord, we bow before your holiness and acknowledge that we too are a people of unclean lips. We see justice perverted and don't speak up. We see the poor oppressed and expect someone else to do something. We see our nation turn for help to anyone but you. Cleanse us of our sin, equip us with your words, and help us to proclaim your righteousness in the land. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Let's return to the post of a few days ago about "Big Air". I'm still pondering the questions I posted for reflection: What is the new normal to which God is calling me? Where have I settled for less than God wants? What new moves does God want me to develop?
Personally, I don't have any answers for those questions yet, but I feel like they are coming. I just need to be persistent in asking those questions of God and the answers will come.
The scary thing about a new normal is that it means change. We always hope change is for the better, but sometimes it is not. Life changes bring a new normal: graduations, marriages, children, divorces, deaths, new jobs or no jobs. Storms can bring a new normal too, whether it's a tornado, hurricane, flood or drought. I believe, though, that we can trust that any new normal to which God calls us is ultimately for the better.
For reflection: Let us continue to listen for the new normal to which God is calling us. Where does he want us to soar when we have only walked before? "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" (Isaiah 43:18-19)
Let us pray. Jesus, to what new things are you calling me? I want your normal to be my normal.
"O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people" begins the last of the O Antiphons. Emmanuel means "God is with us." God has been here with us in a way he never was in the days of Isaiah. God sent his son, Jesus, Emmanuel, to be with us physically, to show us the way, to be our light, our key, our Lord, to be the fulfillment of his promise to us.
This last of the O Antiphons brings us to the end of our reflections for the Christmas season. Let's enjoy the music and artwork below for our reflection and prayer today.
"O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart" begins the sixth O Antiphon. Since we looked at the kingship and Kingdom of God in November and December, we won't spend much time on it today except to say that he is not the usual type of earthly king. The Israelites expected a king in the mold of David who would wage wars against their enemies. Isaiah says, "Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a child is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever" (Isaiah 9:5-7).
Our God is not a God of war, but a God of peace. His weapons, our weapons, are spiritual because people are not our enemy. Our enemy, God's enemy, is Satan and his works. When we complete the defeat of Satan, full peace will be restored in the Kingdom of God on earth. Our weapons are prayer, forgiveness, reconciliation, healing, salvation, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 13). All of these destroy Satan's stronghold and deliver people into the Kingdom of God. For God wants everyone to be saved and to join him in his Kingdom.
For Reflection: Have I slipped into the mindset of considering any person to be my enemy?
Let us pray. Jesus, you are Messiah, King, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God and Prince of Peace. The government of justice and righteousness is on your shoulders. Change my mindset and give me eyes to see my true enemy. Let me be a warrior using your weapons to bring peace and justice.
"O Radiant Dawn" is the next title for Christ in the O Antiphons. It is especially appropriate, for those of us in the northern hemisphere where Christmas comes during the darker time of winter, to think of Jesus as our bright light. He is the light of salvation that overcomes the darkness of sin and death. He is the light for our path that leads us in his ways. He is the light of a new day, a new beginning, a new era.
The star of Bethlehem signified his arrival and darkness overtook the earth at his death. But now he is the light of the resurrection which will never fade. He is the perpetual, radiant dawn.
The Scripture citation today is from Isaiah 9:1, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."
For Reflection: What dark thoughts am I hiding from God? It is time to bring them to the Light.
Let us pray. O Wisdom, O Lord, O Flower of Jesse, O Key of David, O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice, come, shine on me and in my life today.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.