20th Sunday Ordinary Time (Year A)

There used to be a popular catch phrase in response to people who didn’t seem to get what they prayed for….

God always answers prayer; but sometimes the answer is ‘No’.”

In my experience though, and reading the lives and writings of numerous mystics and saints, I would offer that this is actually false. The response should be more, “God always answers prayer; often though, not the way we want or expect. God answers prayer in God’s own way and time.”

Today’s gospel passage is a real challenge, and is sometimes a difficult one to come to terms with, especially in a country and culture that promotes tolerance and inclusiveness. It’s the story of a Canaanite woman apparently being ignored by Jesus in the midst of her need. The portrayal of Jesus and his disciples as cold and uncaring is not very flattering in this particular excerpt from St. Matthew’s gospel. Yet it is that very portrayal that scholars point to as proof of the accuracy of this event. If a person was writing a book to encourage others to join a movement, they certainly would never portray the ‘hero’ in an unflattering light, or in a manner which appears contrary or opposite to the message of his movement. Her we have Jesus, the Lord of love, portrayed at the very least as stingy with his miracles, or at the very worst, a racist- giving a cold reply to someone not of his race.

On a surface reading, Jesus may come across as callous, uncaring; the woman is begging him to help her child, and Jesus initially doesn’t answer her at all; the disciples come off looking just as bad if not worse – they demand Jesus ‘send her away’ so she will stop bothering them.

Imagine being in the position of this woman; her child is possessed, and her own medical people have been unable to heal her, and she is coming to this healer and preacher from a people who forced her own people from their homeland centuries before – in fact, Jesus is in the region of Tyre and Sidon in southern Lebanon – he’s out of his own territory. He is in a heavily pagan region.

When I reflect on passages like this, I try to identify with them in my own experience or imagination. My child is seriously afflicted. I’ve tried everything and I’m desperate; I am on a mission of love for my child, and I need help – I go to this stranger whom I have heard a bit about, particularly as a healer, and I am begging him for help. His followers tell him to ‘send me away’ because I’m becoming a nuisance – I’m bothering them. I’m not ‘one of them.”

And Jesus’ initial response sounds pretty cold too; “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ – to which she answers, pleading “Lord, help me”…Jesus’ subsequent response sounds even more harsh; “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

And she doesn’t give up and go away; she sticks to her request, and answers, ‘even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table”

The story of course has a happy ending with Jesus healing the woman’s daughter, because, as Jesus tells the woman who persists in her pleading, ‘great is your faith. Let it be done for you as you wish.” This woman persisted for love of her daughter; and because she obviously believed – really believed – that Jesus could provide the healing that no one else could. She didn’t say if you heal my daughter I will believe you or follow you or love you.

This passage requires a very careful reading to see the truths Jesus teaches all of us; with the woman’s initial requests, ‘Have mercy on me Lord” Jesus doesn’t immediately answer her – but he doesn’t say ‘no’. When the disciples are annoyed with her shouting and pleading, again he doesn’t immediately respond to her cries, but he doesn’t say ‘no’. Even when she gets into the exchange with him about the ‘dogs’ and the ‘master’s table’, Jesus still is not saying ‘no’. He draws out her faith, almost as if he is challenging her to reach further, to persist, to stand firm in her belief that she can approach Him and ask for His healing and grace. He answers her in his own time, in his own way.

This is also an opportunity for Jesus to illustrate to his disciples that the kingdom of God is open to all.

In his gospel account, St. Matthew is chiefly writing for a Jewish audience, trying throughout to show Jesus’ words and actions against the backdrop of the Prophets and Jewish tradition, and how this fits together to show that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah. Most of his healings and miracles are of Jewish people, in synagogues, near the Temple, and the like. There are very few instances where Jesus heals a Gentile – a non-Jew or pagan – several chapters earlier, he heals the Roman centurion’s servant; so it is clear that these healings of Gentiles are exceptions in Matthew’s Gospel.

Exceptions, but they are there. These exceptions are a reminder that the gift of salvation, given by God freely, and offered through the person of Jesus, is open to all people. This offer; this understanding is a theme that runs through all of our readings today: our first reading from Isaiah, “and the foreigners (meaning the Gentiles) who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to Him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, … these I will bring to my holy mountain….”

My house will be a house of prayer for all peoples.”

And in our second reading, from St. Paul to the Romans; he addresses the Gentiles saying that salvation is likewise open to them (not just the Jews) through Christ: “God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all

Jesus uses the persistence of this woman, a Gentile, to show his followers, that it is not by birthright or by belonging to a specific group that people automatically receive the grace of God, the gift of His love. Prayer is not simply a matter of just ‘saying’ a few words of request without the motivation of love or trust. Prayer is not muttering a specific phrase without meaning as if the words themselves are some kind of magic formula. Prayer is also not making a demand and attaching conditions to God’s reply. And if it seems at first that because we don’t get an immediate answer or get the answer we demand or expect, it does not mean that God is not listening.

It is by being persistent in faith; in trusting, that God provides answers to our prayers; it is in refusing to let setbacks or apparent lack of success prevent us from persevering in our prayer; and it is in being motivated by love that we approach God in prayer in the first place. But in all of it, it is about hearing and accepting whatever response God gives us; conforming our will to God’s will…because God always answers true prayer- in God’s own time and in God’s own way.

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Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

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17th Sunday Ordinary Time (Year C)

No other word in the English language speaks more to relationship that the word, ’our’.

Whether it is in terms of recognizing the resources of this earth are to be shared; that technological achievements are never accomplished solely by individuals in isolation; that improvements in the living conditions of people in impoverished regions are brought about by the actions of group effort.

The word, ‘our’  reflects the simple reality that we are social beings; that we do not exist on this planet only for our own benefit and gratification; that we are not to look after ourselves alone and let the rest of the human race ‘get by’ as best it can.  Not only is this ‘unproductive’. It is actually quite ‘destructive.’

This lesson is not something new; it is really quite old; and it shows up sometimes in the most unexpected places.

Take for example, this week’s passage from St. Luke’s gospel, in which Jesus’ disciples ask Him to teach them ‘how to’ pray.  This passage, like its parallel in St. Matthew, is the only instance in the Gospels where Jesus teaches a prayer ‘formula’ or ‘structure’ for a specific prayer.  At first glance, He is simply giving them a formula prayer which has become known in most circles as ‘the Lord’s Prayer,’ or simply, ‘the Our Father.’

However, there is much more here than simply a formula for prayer.  There is much that can be gleaned from each and every part of this prayer, but I would like to focus on what, if I may suggest, is the crucial point from which the entire prayer – and really the message of the Gospels- proceeds.

The beginning of this prayer is the vital point in all of it: Jesus starts with the word ‘Our’. He says ,”OUR Father”.  We need to let that sink in a bit. 

He doesn’t say, “My Father” or begin with a generalized or generic ‘Lord God’.  He begins by addressing God with the term ‘Our Father’.

Using that turn of phrase, Jesus leads us to the understanding of an intimate relationship of us, the created beings, with God the creator as ‘Father’.  This is not an image of some celestial being who simply ‘waves His hands’ and people spring up all over the place.  This calls to mind a deeply involved, loving and close relationship between a father and child. 

But in the use of this word, there is even more: God is ‘our’ Father.  There is a relationship on the one hand between the Father and all of His children; and there is automatically (although not spoken) a relationship between all of the children as siblings.  There is a truth and an expectation implied in this pairing of words; that all who call God ‘Father’ are in fact children of that same God, brothers and sisters; members of the same family – and as such, they are expected to act as brothers and sisters, members of the same family, children of the one true God.

Those two words, “Our Father’ really summarize the two greatest commandments, which as Jesus pointed out, are the key to salvation.  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength,” and, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

I cannot call God ‘my’ Father if I am not open to recognizing, loving and serving His ‘other’ children.  I cannot serve His ‘other’ children if I do not first recognize them as ‘His’ children, and therefore my brothers and sisters.  There is a permanence and unity built in the service of ‘family’ when we recognize ‘family’ – and that begins with recognizing that this ‘family’ begins with God the Father, and involves all of our ‘brothers and sisters’. 

There is an even more profound point in this wording as well.  It is Jesus Himself who says, “Our Father”.  In using those words, not only is He –the second person of the Holy Trinity – calling on the Father, the first person of the Holy Trinity: He is also placing himself squarely in the middle of the human race, identifying Himself with all of us His own brothers and sisters.  He, in His divinity, unites Himself completely with us in our humanity, so that we too can have some share in His divine life. 

This sharing, this unity, this profound relationship with God and each other, is what we are all called to, and should be the hallmark of all Christians.  Ours should not be an existence of ‘looking out for number one’ but should be recognized by its concern and care for each other centred on a deep and loving relationship with God. It is a lifestyle marked by a trust in the promise of an eternity in the embrace of the Creator of all.

This is ‘our’ inheritance from ‘our’ Father, to be shared with ‘our’ family – the human race – promised and given to all of us by ‘our’ brother, Jesus Christ.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

16th Sunday Ordinary Time (Year C)

Imagine visiting a friend, whom you haven’t seen in a while. There are things to talk about, stories to share, different events to reminisce or share memories about; you are all set to sit and talk about a whole host of topics, and your friend is busy preparing a meal for you to share, or perhaps to get some refreshments…they leave you in the living room or parlour, and go out to the kitchen; we hear all sorts of noises – ice clinking in glasses, pots and pans banging together, food being chopped and washed – the sounds and smells of cooking – but our friend is too busy preparing this meal that they don’t have time to sit and talk with us.

Maybe we would go out to the kitchen and offer to help, only to be met with a response of ‘no, you’re a guest – I’m taking care of this – you go sit and relax – honest, I’ll be there soon” But maybe after a considerable length of time, our friend hasn’t emerged from the kitchen, finding more and more ‘things’ to do – one more item to cook, one more dish to prepare, one more cup to clean; and by the time they come out of the kitchen, we have to be on our way.  There has been alot of food prepared, and there was an intention to have a great conversation, but ‘things’ just kind of got in the way;   in our lives, we may find that to be the case, not just with visits with old friends, but in time with our spouses, or our children, or our parents – that we just have so many ‘things’ to do, that we just don’t have time to sit and talk. 

Sadly, that can even happen to all of us in our relationship with God; we have too many ‘things’ to do, many distractions, many concerns, many anxieties.  The events that unfold in that home in Bethany as related in today’s Gospel passage from St. Luke, can unfold in the lives of each and every one of us. There may be a bit of Martha and a bit of Mary in each one of us.

Jesus visits Martha and Mary – the sisters of Lazarus – at their home.  When we look at all the Gospels, this is one of three encounters Jesus has with Martha and Mary; the Gospels don’t show many repeat encounters between Jesus and particular people, so this relationship Jesus had with the members of this particular family must have been very important. Jesus must have been considered by this family to be, among other things, a close friend as well as a teacher.

Jesus enters their home and begins to speak – and of the two sisters, only Mary sits at His feet to listen to what He has to say.  This posture ‘sitting at the feet’ of Jesus is loaded with meaning and would have been startling to the people of Jesus’ time:  this posture would have been the typical position of a disciple learning from a teacher; except in first century Palestine, women didn’t sit at the feet of a rabbi as a disciple; but this doesn’t seem to concern Jesus.  He welcomes Mary’s attention to His words and his presence.  She has chosen to be open to His words.

Martha, the Gospel says, “was distracted by her many tasks”:  she begins bustling about, working and preparing food and refreshments, maybe going ‘all out’ to impress this honoured Guest.  But instead of offering some light refreshment and then returning, or even just sitting to find out what Jesus has to say to her, Martha starts bemoaning the fact that she has ‘so much work’ to do, and demands that Jesus tell Mary to get up from her place at His feet and come help her.   She says, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?  Tell her then to help me.”

This sounds rather whiney, doesn’t it?  Imagine being the guest in this house – how comfortable would any of us feel in the midst of this ‘sibling rivalry’?  It almost sounds as if Martha is angry at her sister and by implication is blaming her Guest for all the extra work she has to do.   The phrase that Martha uses,  speaks volumes of where all her distractions leads to – where all these ‘tasks’ are centred – she may think her work is for her Guest, but her attention is not on her Guest:

 – my sister has left me to do all the work by myself  – tell her to help me

Caught up in all of her work, Martha doesn’t seem to notice that she is ignoring Jesus, present in her home.  And yet, Jesus doesn’t respond with sharp or angry words; his response shows his compassion and caring for Martha, but points to the error of her actions. 

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Mary’s attentiveness to Jesus’ presence and His words are the ‘better part’ that Mary has chosen.  This pondering of Jesus in stillness and silence will not be taken away from her.  Jesus is saying to Martha (and us) that those who have their attention focused on Him have an awareness of His presence to them, and that is a gift that they will not be separated from.

There is a sense of inner peace that comes from a deepened prayer life and a deeper awareness of the presence of Christ in our lives.  This comes from spending time like Mary, at the ‘feet of the master’; whether it be at Mass, in receiving the Sacraments; in listening to and studying Scripture; in taking the time to spend in prayer – it is in this way and others that we are attentive to the presence of Jesus in our own lives. 

From this focus, our works and efforts grow outward; when there is work to be done, we do it – when there are responsibilities to be faced, we face them; but as Christians, we do these things with an awareness that Jesus is present to us in everyone we meet.

Or we can react as Martha in this particular story;  we can allow our worries and cares to distract us, to worry us, even to overwhelm us, causing us to lose sight of what is truly important in our lives.  Martha was doing her best to serve Jesus at her home in Bethany, but she was so caught up in the service, she lost sight of her Guest: 

We can get so caught up in ‘doing’ things, that we have no time to spend with Christ; even in church or in parish life – we may have so many other thoughts running through our minds, that we can’t concentrate at Mass – or we can’t be open to hearing what God is calling us to in our lives because we are too” busy” to listen.  Our works become an end in themselves, rather than an extension of our love for Jesus.  We might even find ourselves offering to work for Jesus, but like Martha, end up centred on ourselves, even feeling a little ‘put out’ for doing extra work that we have brought upon ourselves, trying to please God, and almost blaming God or others for our struggles in that work.  

When our work is centred on Jesus, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy or simple; but it changes the whole attitude with which we do everything; in order to properly serve Jesus, we need to be focussed on Jesus.  To do that, we need to take time to ‘sit at the feet’ of the Master – receiving Him in the Sacraments; being attentive to Him in our individual prayer lives; gathering in His presence at Mass –  from there, all of our work to serve Him will flow outward.

We will have chosen the ‘better part’.

And as He said about Mary, He promises each and every one of us, that this ‘better part’ – this awareness of His presence in our lives – will not be taken from us.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

Am I present to God?

I have sometimes thought perhaps our terminology, how we describe and define concepts , in and of itself, creates its own sense of confusion.  This was reinforced when I was discussing spirituality and prayer with a Jesuit spiritual director, while I used terms from my studies as a spiritual director with the Carmelites.  He suggested, ‘maybe we need a ‘concordance’ to cross-reference terms so we each know what the other is talking about!’

Recently, this has been brought more directly to me in the phrase, ‘in God’s presence’ when discussing prayer.  How often do we hear this?  How often do we ourselves use this phrase to explain the principal involved when connecting to God in prayer. ‘Placing ourselves in God’s presence’?

I think, just perhaps, in using this phrase we unconsciously invent a scenario where God is somewhere we are not, and through some combination of practices and words, we ‘transport’ ourselves from where we are, to wherever we conceive God ‘happens to be’.  There is a hidden spiritual danger in this, of course, in that it can lead to somehow thinking there are times when God ‘isn’t watching’; or can lead to a denial of God’s omnipresence.

God is most certainly everywhere; God’s glory is most certainly reflected in all of creation (and no, I am not saying God is in the wind and the trees, etc…); most definitely there are places and settings that are far more conducive to sensing God’s presence than others. 

God is present to us all the time.  The trouble is, quite often, we are not present to Him.

I guess it would be more accurate to suggest that in prayer, we ‘make ourselves aware of God’s presence’.  Or at least, we attempt to become conscious of God’s presence to us.

(Yes I am aware analogies are never accurate – but sometimes they are helpful) It is as if we need reading glasses to read our favourite book; we can’t make out the words at all no matter how much we strain our eyes; but if we put on our glasses the words become clear and we can enter into the text, understanding concepts or perhaps embarking on a grand adventure.  It is not as if the words were not on the page all along – it was that we were unable to see them until we took the necessary step of putting on our glasses.

Or again, it is as if we are trying to have a conversation with someone in a room that has a television blaring, the telephone ringing, and traffic noise coming through an open window.  We need to turn off the television, return that phone call later, and close the window to the outside noise so that we can hear what that person in the room is saying to us; to be able to enter into that communication through listening and responding to what our friend has to say.  It is not as if our friend ‘magically appears’ in the room when we remove those distractions – they were there in the midst of all of that noise.

I sometimes think of God’s presence as a radio playing in the background all day long.  Sometimes I sing along with a favourite or familiar tune; sometimes I engage in manual labour and the music helps with it’s cadence and beat; sometimes I relax to the soothing sounds of a delicate and warm piece; and yes, sometimes I even forget that the music is playing. 

But it is always there, whether I am ‘attuned’ to it or not.

So as you engage in prayer, don’t think of it as entering God’s presence. 

Think of it as acknowledging the Presence of the One who is always there.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

…pray and work…

I love yard work, particularly gardening in the spring.  There is something very therapeutic and nurturing about digging in the dirt, clearing away debris, and pruning off deadwood. 

I have found though, in my own pilgrim journey, a very practical, prayerful side to this as well – and I draw upon two spiritual greats to bridge a couple of practices in deepening my own spirituality.

St. Benedict and St. Ignatius of Loyola.

While they lived in different times and under completely different circumstances, there is something from each that I have found quite helpful; hopefully this combination of practices will help you – if not, maybe someone you know.

Be forewarned, however; this will actually take a little effort and some reflection!

Ignatius, in his ‘Exercises’ has a practice that is essentially this: make a chart listing the days of the week.  Draw a line across the chart, dividing the days into morning and evening.  Now comes the effort and reflection part.

Each day, pause at some point mid-day and examine your conscience from your waking moments to that mid-day point. If you are aware of any major sins, make a large dot for each one.  If you are aware of any minor sins, make a small dot for each one.  Then, in the evening, examine your conscience again from mid-day to that evening, and do the same on the second half of the day on your chart (large dots and small dots).

At the end of the week, sit, reflect and review your chart; you will notice there are patterns there – perhaps one point where there are a lot of dots; or a point where there were very few or maybe even none at all.  Reflect on your week, and see if you can determine what you were doing or where you were (your circumstances) when you had these patterns of a lot or few dots. 

This gives you an idea of the areas in life you need to avoid, or the areas in life that require a greater reliance on God in your activities.

Now that’s Ignatian – but what does that have to do with St. Benedict?

Well, as I said, I used this technique a number of years ago, during the spring gardening season; and I found those times when I actually had no dots to be times when I had prayed my liturgy of the hours, worked in the garden or the yard, and prayed my rosary at the same time…it was , for me, a very liberating experience (almost like a mini-retreat each time I was outside).  And it reminded me of the maxim of St. Benedict:

‘Ora et labora’….pray and work.

It doesn’t have to be outside physical manual labour; it could be any of a million daily chores or activities each of us is involved in (but physical work provides a more ‘human’ balance I think).  If we approach it in a balance with prayer (and balance is the key here), any of our daily efforts can become an exercise in deepening our spirituality and thus, our relationship with God and the world around us.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to be going now – Someone is waiting to talk to me in the garden.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

…people are funny…

People are funny.  There’s no other word that I can think of at the moment that would be as charitable.  Where circumstances seek or demand that ( at the very least out of respect for another) we are attentive to a situation or inconvenience ourselves for a few minutes, increasingly people seem to be either woefully or wilfully ignorant.

Among the ministries I am blessed to be able to participate in, I am sometimes called upon to lead funeral vigils, according to the Rite of Christian Burial. These take place at the funeral homes, most often the evening before a funeral. The vigil is generally at the beginning or near the end of the period of ‘visitation’ when people come to pay their respects and share their condolences with those grieving the loss of the deceased.

While it doesn’t always happen, it has occured often enough that I have come to almost expect this: when there are people lined up to pay their respects, and the room where the visitation is ocurring is quite full, there is a noticeable ‘exodus’ as soon as the ‘guy with the collar’ shows up, or when someone announces, ‘we will be offering prayers shortly’.

It’s as if this is a signal to get out ‘while the getting is good’. I’ve seen parents rush through the visitation line, dragging pre-adolescent kids along, to get out before prayers begin. I’ve taken note of people in the lineup (one or two by some distinguishing fashion or hairstyle), only to notice their absence during prayers, but to see them sitting in their cars in the funeral home parking lot when I exit after the vigil is done (and when they see me get in my car, they exit theirs and return to the funeral home).

Sometimes these group ‘disappearances’ occur with the majority of people at the visitation leaving during prayers, and coming back in when the prayers are over. Seriously.

As I recounted several of these episodes recently with a friend, I suggested that in my previous employment as a police officer, had I known it was that easy to clear a room, then I could have saved a whole lot of effort when walking into a barfight or domestic disturbance I simply shouted, ‘we will be praying shortly’ and everyone would have just left. Problem solved!

Now don’t get me wrong. I understand how everyone grieves differently. I understand how some might even be ‘uncomfortable’ praying in public.

But at the very least, out of respect for the dead or to offer comfort to the grieving, would it really be too much to ask folks to just spend just 10 minutes out of their day in prayer (or thought, or silence) out of respect or sympathy? They are already at the funeral home presumably out of some sense of necessity or support for the deceased or their families.

It is one of these things that we should feel strongly about, as part of our humanity, that those around us who experience loss need the support and love of a caring community of friends, relatives and acquaintances.  Those who claim to be people of faith are doubly responsible to provide that support and love. This is indeed part of the two great commandments, of loving God and loving neighbour.  Something as simple as remaining present while a grieving family prays for their dearly departed loved one and themselves, is a strong witness to the depth of feeling a person has for the deceased, their survivors, or both.  It is also a powerful witness to hope – a hope that says I know that my Redeemer lives and I shall see Him on the last day – a hope that says this world is not all there is. Staying and praying with others will most certainly not take you away from something more important – besides, you’re there already.

And who knows – talking to God with a group on behalf of someone else, just might do you some good too. It certainly can’t hurt.

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Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

…as morning breaks I look to you O Lord…

There are those times in our daily lives when things just seem to fall into place; times when the world around us gives us examples that reinforce something that we have read or heard; times when we see or hear something that gives us one of those, ‘Aha’ moments – enabling us to experience in our hearts what we have learned with our intellect. Moments, when we become aware of God’s presence and in His glory reflected in the world around us.

Those moments happen, I think, more often and more frequently than most of us would imagine or expect. Certainly there are those major revelatory moments, when a deep theological truth almost hits us between the eyes! However, I think those moments happen daily, perhaps many times each day, in small and simple and seemingly quite ordinary things. We might tend to discount them, because (we might think) these are ‘ordinary’ things of no consequence or importance to anyone else. The truth is, though, that any moment that thoughts of God move from our minds to our hearts, that is something of consequence and importance.

This morning I had one of those moments.  I was in my car, driving into the parish office along my daily route which runs from a rural area, along a country road past farms and woodlots. The sky was an intense blue, without a single cloud, and I was listening to a version of Psalm 63 adapted and written by John Michael Talbot (it’s from his CD ‘Come to the Quiet’…but I digress)

This particular version adds an antiphon, ‘As morning breaks I look to you O Lord to be my strength this day’, and is taken from the Liturgy of the Hours.Through the cycle of the Liturgy of the Hours, psalms and particular scriptural texts are read, and re-read as the cycle repeats.  On the first Sunday of the four week cycle, during morning prayer, Psalm 63 is prayed with this antiphon.

As I drove along, and noticed the brightness of the sun, and the clear skies, I was struck by the beauty of this route I travel each day. At the same time, I was mindful of the words in the psalm,

‘so I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory’

I’m not saying that God is ‘in’ His creations in nature, but that His glory is reflected in His creation. The simple, daily beauty that was before me as I travelled on this road became an apparent and clear reminder to me of the beauty and goodness and glory of God.

And that led me further along the psalm;

‘my soul shall be filled as with a banquet, my mouth shall praise you with joy.’

Needless to say, that set the tone for the rest of the morning.

I certainly am not holding myself up as any kind of ‘guru’, or suggesting that there is any kind of magical ‘formula’ for bringing about an awareness of the presence of God each day.  I am suggesting though, that when we spend time sincerely praying and reflecting on the psalms, scripture, and sound spiritual reading, God will make Himself known to us in the most surprising of ways – perhaps surprising in their ‘ordinariness’; or in our daily routines where we have failed to notice His many gifts and blessings.  One way to express that openness is to take the time and make the effort, no matter how small, to pray and read and reflect; the reward for that effort can only lead to those ‘aha’ moments – even if it is only during a morning drive to the office. 

Because any morning where we feel that God has filled our souls, ‘…as with a banquet’, well, that just has to be a great start to the day!

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Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!