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Face To Face


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Francois Xavier Fabre: Nabuchodonosor Has Zedekiah's Children Killed before his Eyes

Francois Xavier Fabre: Nabuchodonosor Has Zedekiah’s Children Killed before his Eyes

Jeremiah 34

Face to Face

Many of us shrink from speaking openly in conflict or disagreement, or to anyone with whom there is a potential for argument. We avoid situations that may cause us discomfort when we speak or hear truth. Today the Lord foretells Zedekiah’s difficult future. And it is news that the last king of Judah does not want to receive.

I am handing this city [Jerusalem] over to the king of Babylon; he will destroy it with fire. Neither shall you escape his hand; rather you will be captured and fall into his hands. You shall see the king of Babylon and speak to him face to face. Then you shall be taken to Babylon.

How might we react if we were to know the details of the last years of our lives? What might we do differently? What fences might we mend and with whom might we reconcile?

How do feel about confronting a grave illness, a sudden job loss, an unexpected death? We so often put reality aside until we can interact with it . . . face to face.

Zedekiah is given an opportunity to experience exile in a semi-dignified way but he reneges on his part of the bargain. Zedekiah made an agreement with all the people in Jerusalem to issue an edict of emancipation. Everyone was to free his Hebrew slaves, male and female. All the princes and leaders consented . . . But though they agreed and freed them, afterward they took back their male and female slaves whom they had set free and forced them into service again.

If we want to know about Zedekiah’s last days, we can turn to 2 Kings 25 or click on the image above. The story is horrific, especially when we know that a merciful God had prepared a smoother way. The story is tragic, especially when we see that he suffers a fate he had parsed out to others. The story is cautionary, especially when we come to understand that God wants nothing more than to ease our burden.

Within each of us is the potential to become a new Zedekiah, one who has much and who sacrifices all. Also within is the latent slave who exults in freedom only to be brought back into bondage. Zedekiah retreats from a face to face encounter with the conquering king only to lose his progeny and his sight. Zedekiah plots the oppression of innocents and ends his days suffering in a way he had never imagined.

When the Lord asks us to come face to face with a person or an event that stirs fear within us, when God calls us to someone or some thing for which we feel only dread . . . let us consider the story of Zedekiah, and determine to rely on God’s company as we stand toe to toe with our fears.

For more on Zedekiah’s fate, click on the image above or visit: http://www.spiritandtruth.org/teaching/Book_of_Daniel/commentary/htm/0209030405.htm

From the Prison


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

jeremiah 33Jeremiah 33

From the Prison

From his prison Jeremiah continues to cry out the word of God.

Call to me, and I will answer you; I will tell you things great beyond reach of your knowledge.

From our own prisons of unhappiness, illness, anxiety or fear, we might also listen for the word of God.

Through his prophecy, Jeremiah continues to console the lost.

Behold, I will heal them, and reveal to them an abundance of lasting peace.

From our own sadness or sorrow, we might also offer a word or gesture of solidarity.

Through the promise of redemption, Jeremiah continues to call us to God.

I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. I will raise up a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land.

From our yearning for seeking, we might also bring God to all that we say and all that we do.

Spend time today with Jeremiah 33. Study other Bible versions of these verses by clicking on the scripture verse here or above. Compare translations and listen. Like Jeremiah, we will hear God’s word. And also like Jeremiah, from our prison, we will send it on.

Pledge of Restoration


Monday, September 15, 2014

God's heart for the worldJeremiah 32

Pledge of Restoration

Never again shall the city be rooted up or thrown down.

These are the reassuring words we finally hear as a prelude to the description of restoration we read today. The prophet Jeremiah buys a plot of land, “to testify that Judah will be restored and the life of the past will be rescued”. (Senior cf. 989) This might seem improbable after we have heard so many predictions of death and destruction but when we hear the Lord’s pledge, we know that all is well

Is anything impossible to me?

Let us take our worries and cares to the one for whom the impossible is possible.

They shall be my people and I shall be their God.

Let us rely on the one who is the creator of all life.

One heart and one way I shall give them.

Let us rest in the peace of God’s great and generous heart.

I will make with them an eternal covenant, never to cease doing good to them.

Let us trust in God’s fidelity and outrageous hope.

I will take delight in doing good to them.

Let us answer God’s call to celebrate the joy of the kingdom.

I will replant them firmly in this land, with all my heart and soul.

Let us share God’s goodness with open and loving hearts.

Amen.  

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.989. Print.   

Saving Souls


Sunday, September 14, 2014

hands childressEzekiel 33:7-9

Saving Souls

We turn to the words of the prophet Ezekiel as we react to Jeremiah’s indictment of evil in the world. Yesterday we reflected on how God calls each of us to kingdom-building. Today we reflect on how this kingdom might come about.

If I tell the wicked, “O wicked one, you shall surely die”, and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked one from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself.

Saint James tells us: If anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death. (James 5:19-20)

Saint Paul reminds the Romans and us: Love does no evil to the neighbor. (Romans 13:10)

God says: I see many of you undermining the kingdom; yet I see many more of you working to build it up. I want each of you to find her way, or his way to work for and with me. For many of you it is to speak aloud the words I send to you. For others it is to quietly and persistently implement the simple words of my Law of Love. For still others it is to make a loud and banging noise about injustice. And for yet others it is to untiringly appear wherever the wicked tear down vineyard walls to plant new vines again. This is not complicated. It is, in fact, simple. What is complicated is bringing all that you are and all that you have to bear on this one point: there is no greater kingdom than mine; there is no greater love than mine; there is no greater joy than mine . . . in you. Again I invite you to the tireless but rewarding work of the kingdom, for when you join me, you save your soul . . . and those of countless others.

Rather than hide in despair, we step into the light. Rather than wail in sorrow, we take up our task. Rather than gnash our teeth and beat our chests . . . we trust God, pray for those who need our intercession, and join all those whom God has called to the saving of souls.

The Hope of the Poor


Saturday, September 13, 2014

PovertyPsalms 9:15-20

The Hope of the Poor

Jeremiah has given us so much to process; he lays out before us a reason for righteous anger . . . and he also proposes that a new order is coming.

The ungodly have fallen into the pit they dug, and in the snare they set is their own foot caught.

Our own life experience tells us that the innocent suffer and the ungodly hold the upper hand.

The Lord is known by acts of justice; the wicked are trapped in the works of their own hands.

And our spiritual life tells us that we must leave judging and condemnation to God.

The wicked shall be given over to the grave, and also all the peoples who forget God.

Rather than preoccupy ourselves with the sins of the ungodly, let us work together to bring all peoples to God.

For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.

God sees even the smallest of us and it is our great work to join God in solidarity with the poor.

Rise up, O Lord, let not the ungodly have the upper hand; let them be judged before you.

God sees even the smallest of our actions to remedy the plight of the poor.

Put fear upon them, O Lord; let the ungodly know they are but mortal.

Rather than pray for the end of our enemies, let us pray for their great conversion of heart.

God says: I realize that you live in a world of injustice. I understand that you want me to remedy even unbalance, each inequality, all corruption and lack of integrity. And that is the great work to which I call each of you. Join me in kingdom-building, in forgiveness and reconciliation. Join me in the greatest and most important work of your lives. Feed the physically poor. Tend to the spiritually poor. Aide the mentally poor. It is in so doing that you will come to see the beauty and worth of my kingdom. It is in so doing that you will put aside your anger and fear. It is in so doing that you will discover the serenity and peace of the kingdom. This is my new covenant with you. Reconcile yourself to me and begin anew, for in this is the hope of the poor. 

And the people reply . . . The Lord is known by acts of justice. Let us join the Lord in the great work of The Kingdom. Let us become, with the Lord, the hope of the poor.

Enter the word kingdom-building into the blog search bar and explore what kingdom-building work God might have in mind for each of us.

For information about poverty and health in the USA, click on the image above or go to: http://blog.oup.com/2013/11/poverty-public-health-united-states/

For a world rural poverty map, visit: http://www.ruralpovertyportal.org/region 

Good News!


Friday, September 12, 2014

The Old Temple Housing the Old Covenant

The Old Temple Housing the Old Covenant

Jeremiah 31:21-40

Good News!

Watered gardens, priests with souls of abundance, shouts of joy, radiance at the generosity of the Lord, new wine and new oil, virgins dancing, old and young men rejoicing together, return from the land of the enemy. Surely all will rejoice with this good news!

Set up road marks, place guideposts, turn and return to God.

Days are coming when the Lord will write a new covenant on our hearts rather than on tablets of stone in the desert. I will be their God and they will be my people. There will be no need for instruction each to his neighbor for all will know the Lord.

Days are coming . . . and indeed they are already here. We have every reason to rejoice!

covenant_black+on+redThis is the Good News of the Return from Exile. It is the description of The Road we must travel. It is the reminder that there is An End to Our Mourning. It is The Summons Home.  It is the Certainty of God’s Promise. And it is the prediction of the Rebuilding of Jerusalem.

We are a people in exile who yearn for the running water which flows through Jerusalem.

We are a pilgrim people who travel The Way laid out for us by Jesus, the Savior.

We are a chastened people who wish to cease mourning.

We are a hopeful people who respond to the Call to turn and return.

We are a faithful people who remember our Covenant with the Creator.

hands in hands

The New Covenant: Our hands in God’s hands . . . our hearts in God’s heart.

We are a loving and love-filled people who tremble with the anticipation of the Holy Spirit.

We are a holy people who witness, work and wait.

For the days are coming and, indeed . . . they are already here!

Adapted from a reflection written on October 24, 2007

 

Slaughter


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Francois-Joseph Navez: The Massacre of the Innocents

Francois-Joseph Navez: The Massacre of the Innocents

Jeremiah 31

Slaughter

In these tragic but beautiful verses Jeremiah laments the slaughter of innocents. Footnotes will tell us that “Ramah is a village about five miles north of Jerusalem, where Rachel was buried (1Sm 10, 2). Rachel: said to mourn for her children since she was the ancestress of Ephraim, the chief of the northern tribes. Mt 2, 18 applies this verse to the slaughter of the innocents by Herod”. (Senior cf. 988)

We know that Rachel refuses to be consoled because her children are no more. And we also know that the Lord replies: cease your cries of mourning, wipe the tears from your eyes. The sorrow you have sown will be its reward . . . they shall return from the enemy’s land. There is hope for your future.

In later verses Ephraim replies: I have come to myself, I strike my breast; I blush with shame, I bear the disgrace of my youth.

As we have observed in our Noontime reflections, not all suffering is a result of our actions, and it is a fact that much of the world’s pain is endured by innocents who have committed no wrong and have nothing to repent. Yet still slaughter and mayhem walk among us and we struggle to pray for those schemers who plot chaos. We rally ourselves to stand in solidarity with the faithful who witness to injustice. We keep vigil, we begin campaigns to change corruption, we witness, watch and wait, we petition God, we pray, we form support groups and action packs . . . and we hope for better outcomes.

Despite the fact that we believe there may be a genetic cause for much of the violence in society, science is a long way from understanding the intricate dance the human mind must perform in order to avoid admitting to the sociopathy of evil. In an interview with the author of Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight, M.E. Thomas tells Baltimore columnist and talk show host Dan Rodricks about the frightening territory of those who observe or commit harm without remorse. The podcast is worth our listening time if we struggle with someone close to us who has little or no empathy for others.

Today Jeremiah tells us that slaughter will take place, and that mourning and wailing will have little effect on those among us who lack an emotional response to others. But he also tells us that amid the tears and pain there is always hope offered by the Living God who accompanies us in our exile. There is always mercy for those who suffer as there also is for those who cause turmoil and violence.  There is always the possibility to turn and return to God . . . despite of, and even in the face of, a great slaughter.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.cf. 988.Print.   

For more on the anger gene, visit: http://www.bio.davidson.edu/genomics/2004/Cobain/angergene.html 

To hear Dan Rodrick’s Midday podcast with M.E. Thomas, the author of Confessions of a Sociopath, go to: http://wypr.org/post/confessions-sociopath 

For another reflection on these verses, click on the image above or go to: http://signoftherose.org/2014/04/15/jeremiah-31-out-of-the-nightmare-a-dream-for-a-new-future/

Age-Old Love


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

gods_love3Jeremiah 31:1-14

Finally a respite from the torrent appears in Jeremiah’s prophecy.

With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you. Again I will restore you and you will be rebuilt.

There comes a moment when we can stand no more; and it is, gratefully, at that moment when the light pierces the darkness. It is, thankfully, at that moment when we hear our reprieve; and it is, mercifully, in that moment that there comes an awakening. Gates that held back emotion at last fly open . . . and we hear the good news of return.

Age-Old Love

Weary from the road, the faithful take refuge.

Worn by the journey, the remnant tumbles into uncertain shelter.

Still cowering beneath the whip of the uncaring, the dry-eyed seek cover to wait as the worst of the nightmares arrives.

Roaring winds of flying bits torment the skin and yet . . . 

From the maelstrom comes the smallest of voices announcing the greatest of loves.

Seeking, searching, never tiring.

Calling, looking, always enduring.

For thus says the Lord . . . words whisper against the rising wind . . . 

Again you will plant vineyards and gather in the wheat.

Once more you will strike the festal tambourine. 

With dance and with song you will celebrate.

With reconciliation and with joy you will finally rest.

Behold, says the Lord . . . words curl into ears longing for respite . . .

I will bring you back.

I will deliver my faithful remnant.

I will heal your wounds and restore you to your place.

This I promise!

For with grain and with wine I restore you.

With infinite mercy I redeem you.

With an age-old love I have loved you.

As I love you still.

A Cry of Dismay


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bedouin Tent in the Sahara

Bedouin Tent in the Sahara

Jeremiah 30

A Cry of Dismay

In this portion of Jeremiah’s prophecy we have a reprise of oracles already spoken. Perhaps we need to hear this message once more. We have heard and read these words and yet . . . do we fully comprehend God’s promise?

The Old Testament God unleashes the storm upon those who have fallen away from the covenant. God guides, admonishes and protects. The New Testament God lives our trial with us. Jesus heals, restores and redeems. The Spirit comes to live within each of us to console, fortify and counsel.

Let us spend some time today with these verses so that we might more fully understand. Read the four Bible versions on the scripture link above, or choose others from the drop-down menus on the scripture site. Listen for God’s unique response to our own cry of dismay, and determine to rest in the peace that only God can give.

A cry of dismay we hear; fear reigns, not peace.

Be not dismayed. Behold, I will deliver you from the far-off land.

You shall again find rest, for I am with you.

“The outcast” they have called you, “with no avenger”.

See! I will restore the tents of Jacob.

When I summon you, you will approach me.

You shall be my people, and I will be your God.

See, the storm of the Lord!

When the time comes . . . you will fully understand.

To read a blog post on women in scripture dwelling in tents, click on the image above or go to: http://www.womeninthescriptures.com/2012/05/dwelling-in-tent.html

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