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No Obstacles for God


On this Monday of the Third Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

Today’s reading focuses on the story of Joseph, Jacob’s son, and God’s faithfulness throughout Joseph’s struggles.  This is the perfect opportunity for a shout-out to my nieces in their recent production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  I wish I could have made it to the performance!

“When it rains, it pours.”

“Bad things happen in threes.”

Just a couple of adages that make the point that when a situation goes sour, it tends to do so in a cascading fashion.

Joseph experienced this phenomenon.  He was the favored son of a powerful man.  But then things went south in a hurry.  His jealous brothers stripped him—of the beautiful garment his father bought especially for him!—and threw him in a cistern.  Then they sold Joseph into slavery.  To make matters worse, when his situation appeared to improve he was falsely accused of attempted rape by his master’s wife and thrown into prison!

But God did not leave Joseph in prison.  He had blessed Joseph with the gift of interpreting dreams, which Joseph used faithfully, recognizing God as the source of his gift.  And because Joseph was faithful with his talents, God blessed him as Pharoah’s right hand man.

Along with the ability to interpret dreams, one of Joseph’s greatest talents was his ability to recognize his blessings throughout his hardships—those blessings he currently enjoyed and those he knew God was yet to provide.

A friend of mine once explained the Jewish song Dayenu, which is sung to celebrate Passover.  I think this song well reflects the attitude of gratitude that helps survive difficulties in life.

Dayenu means “it would have been enough“, or “it suffices.”  The song lists fifteen gifts from God to His people and after each gift, Dayenu.  So for example,

If He had brought us out from Egypt,

and had not carried out judgments against them

— Dayenu, it would have sufficed!

Instead of grieving a perceived slight—“if only God would have . . . “—it focuses on the abundance of blessings God pours out.  “If you had stopped short of the wonderful blessings you’ve given me, Lord, that would have been enough!”

But for me it does more than that—it also reminds me that God has proven, day after day after day, that He can deliver me from my difficulties and that He does, often in wonderful ways!

Day 20-1

The Passover song lists fifteen gifts God gave His people in delivering them from Egypt.  What countless blessings has God given me that I should recognize in a similar way?  I think the ultimate stanza might be:  “If You had only given me Your only begotten Son who suffered, died and rose again for my sins, Dayenu!”  All else means nothing.Day 20-2

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Crown of Thorns


20130212-072904-220130212-072826.jpgI usually find it very easy to feel slighted by my fellow sufferer.  Take this morning.  My typical morning route takes me on a road that expands and constricts along the route. At one intersection there are two lanes each way plus a turn lane, but a short distance beyond the traffic signal it quickly narrows to one lane in each direction. Most motorists seem to recognize this fact and patiently line up in the left of the two west-bound lanes. But occasionally—and it happened this morning—a car will pull up in the right lane when the light is red, obviously intending to continue forward and, at least from my perspective, cut in front of the patient motorists waiting in the left lane. This always irks me.

Or take last night.  I ran to the local drugstore for Tylenol for my ailing son.  It was ugly out.  I had just finished my evening treadmill run and was feeling dirty in my sweats.  I’m standing in the pain reliever aisle looking for something I later find out they don’t have when this woman cuts in front of me without so much as an “excuse me.”  Admittedly, I was already in a foul mood so it didn’t take much to get under my skin, but in hindsight I’m glad I didn’t vocalize my irritation.  But I was irked!

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When I catch myself thinking bad things about the other motorist or the [marginally] rude shopper, I try to remind myself of the Lord’s Prayer admonition, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.not that I would call either “affront” a trespass. But this exercise isn’t always easy for me and the hard feelings don’t always disappear quickly.

But later this morning, while praying the Rosary, I snagged on the third Mystery, the crowning with thorns, and it forced my selfishness into a glaring spotlight. The reflection talked about Jesus’ suffering:

Think of the indignity, outrage, pain, and humiliation that Jesus suffered. They stripped Him of every dignity, He was treated as the guilt of our worst sins.

Imagine Jesus through the Sorrowful Mysteries:  He Suffered His Agony in the Garden, was Scourged at the Pillar and then Crowned with Thorns, all the while anticipating the long and arduous journey to His execution under the burden of the Cross and then, ultimately, Crucifixion.  And all for me.  It really puts things into their proper perspective.  So this guy gets to move ahead an extra four or five cars. So what!  And what if that woman—she had been sniffling—was in a hurry to take care of a child sicker than mine or had her own health issues?

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In the light of Christ’s suffering, these minor inconveniences—tiny slights—should be easy to bear if I take on the mantle of humility and accept small bits of suffering.

Let us ask the gift of patience to accept all humiliations, thinking of how Jesus suffered for us.

Final Sale


My lips are dry; a sun-parched waste
Long forgotten; longing for the life-giving kiss of clouds.
The Breath of life, a sand blast
Scathing; gouging deep long scars of pink.

The cracks; etched patches whipped
By moans and screeches, robbing healing fluids.
Screaming silence stripping moisture barren sand;
A rugged figure, struggling in the glare;
He stands, glancing at the molten-dripping Sun.

He drops; and struggles, reaching toward a vision:
A hand stretched, a beautiful brunette—the Ice Queen;
An evil laugh; a promise; Roar! the sound of Water
Falling, tumbling, spilling forth to disappear at his feet.

Thoughts of water, struggling through his mind;
A drop, a gift to bribe; his hand, it reaches
Ever to his wallet; he opens it, pulls out one piece of paper,
Crying, he hands it to the woman.

“My soul,” he blurts, and grabs a glass of Water,
And turns to flee, leaving behind all memory of God;
But, miles away he turns for one last glance, and spies
A figure, gliding toward him, dashing in the sand:
The woman, calling him to stop.

She grins at him, reaching out her hand,
A piece of paper, illegible print, she forces into his.
She smiles, a wry smile; bellows forth a laugh;
Curtly, “Your receipt, sir.”

First published in Labyrinth, vol. IX no. 2 (USNA, 1984) under the pseudonym Samson Flanders.

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