A magical anniversary

One hundred years ago today, an English magician called Percy Thomas Tibbles literally and laboriously sawed through a sealed wooden box that contained a woman. And so was created one of the world’s best known magic act tricks. The celebrations are being streamed virtually under the auspices of The Magic Circle, “the premier magical society in the fascinating world of magic and illusion.”

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A closing prayer

Early in the morning of January 7th, at the conclusion of the congressional joint session that affirmed the electoral college results, the Senate chaplain, Barry C. Black (a Seventh-day Adventist minister and retired Navy rear admiral), closed the session with prayer

Lord of our lives and sovereign of our beloved nation, we deplore the desecration of the United States Capitol building, the shedding of innocent blood, the loss of life, and the quagmire of dysfunction that threaten our democracy.

These tragedies have reminded us that words matter and that the power of life and death is in the tongue. We have been warned that eternal vigilance continues to be freedom’s price.

Lord, you have helped us remember that we need to see in each other a common humanity that reflects your image.

You have strengthened our resolve to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies domestic as well as foreign.

Use us to bring healing and unity to our hurting and divided nation and world. Thank you for what you have blessed our lawmakers to accomplish in spite of threats to liberty.

Bless and keep us. Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to do your will and guide our feet on the path of peace. And God bless America. We pray in your sovereign name. Amen.

The last Civil War widow

At the bedside of an actively dying person with their family and friends gathered in the room, one of the points I often make is the share the stories of their loved ones life. The stories that make you laugh, long, love, roll-your-eyes and all the ones in between. There is wisdom and wonder if the stories told. And everyone has a lifetime of stories that should not be lost.

Today I ran across one of those stories. And so I share with you an article by Jim Slatter of the Associated Press on the passing of the last Civil War widow.

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Spiritual Beings

If you follow this blog you have probably deduced I am a big fan of the non-for-profit Bible Project which I promote and support. Their work to bring the Word of God to people is one of the great ministries and exmples of the possibilities of the “new evangelization.” Tomorrow has been designated “Word of God Sunday” by the Catholic Church as a day. Pope Francis, in his motu proprio “Aperuit illis, instructed that on third Sunday of Ordinary Time each year, we pause to remember and reflect upon and reawaken an awareness of the importance of Sacred Scripture for our lives as believers, beginning with its resonance in the liturgy which places us in living and permanent dialogue with God.

The mission of The Bible Project is “to help people experience the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus.” They do that through animated videos (podcasts also!) that explore books of the Bible, word studies, themes and more – sometimes in a series of videos – like the one below on Spiritual beings. You can explore their whole catalogue…. for free!

“Word of God Sunday” is a great place to start your renewed commitment to reawaken your love of God by diving into His Sacred Word.

Listening and Leadership

Today’s readings include a first reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. I am writing this on a Sunday afternoon, and it is hard not to think about the events of January 6th at the Capitol when the halls of Congress were invaded by a mob who had been encouraged by the President. The news channels are today filled with talk of a second impeachment. And the words from the author or Hebrews linger like an echo.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice,
“Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion
in the day of testing in the desert,
where your ancestors tested and tried me
and saw my works for forty years.
Because of this I was provoked with that generation
and I said, ‘They have always been of erring heart,
and they do not know my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter into my rest.’” (3:7-11; referencing Ps 95:7-11)

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Secrets

Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.” (Mark 1:41-44; from today’s gospel)

Over the many years of leading Bible studies, I have often been asked why Jesus would perform a miracle and then command the person healed and the bystanders not to tell anyone? It is a regular feature in Mark’s gospel – and it never works out. “The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter. He spread the report abroad” (Mark 1:45)

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Loyal Love

In Exodus 34, God describes himself as overflowing with khesed, or loyal love. Khesed is a rich Hebrew word describing a love overflowing with generosity and born out of commitment to relationship. Khesed is shown through actions and deep personal care for another person even when they don’t deserve it. In the Bible, no one shows more khesed than God – it’s core to who he is. God creates out of khesed. He protects his people from disaster because of his khesed. He makes them prosper because of khesed. He forgives them in a display of khesed. God continually extends his loyal love to his people, not because they deserve it but because his love is generous.

The Bible Project is a not-for-profit ministry which provides an amazing treasure trove of videos on the Word of God. This coming Sunday the Catholic Church celebrates “Word of God Sunday” – so, perhaps this would be an apropos time to support Bible Project with a donation!

Inside the camp

Today’s gospel is one that always needs 1st century context as we read, “Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He [Jesus] approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.” (Mark 1:30-31)

Over the years, in more than one Bible Study, a participant has commented, “Really, healing the woman so that she can get up and serve a bunch of men.”

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Angels and us

Angels have always been of interest in the religious sphere, the entertainment business, books, and more. There is even a baseball team that the name. In the religious realm it is simply that angels are part of the testimony of Scripture as messengers of God. They represent an “avenue” in which we can be assured that God is there, interested in us, and watching. Angels have been portrayed as warriors and as neophytes attempting to “win their wings” as they counsel humans losing their way.

In today’s readings, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews focuses on a different role – as administrators of the world – but not so the world to come. The biblical evidence for the angelic government of the world is early: it goes back to the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:8 where the establishing of the nations is described: “He set up the boundaries of the peoples after the number of the divine beings” (NAB) or as more literally translated from the Septuagint: “he set the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the angels of God.”

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