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peter-feed-my-sheepThursday, July 31, 2014

Psalm 125

The Lord Surrounds Us

We too often allow life’s struggles to surround us while we neglect the one who created us, the one who guides us, the only one who can protect us from the buffeting squalls of life.

The Surrounding

Those who trust in the Lord are like seeds on the heavy wind.

They know the Creator will bring them to a fertile place of rest.

The Lord surrounds the faithful as surely as the waves return to shore.

God will keep their land safe from the withering sun and not permit their fragile shoots to be washed away before they take root.

The Lord will not disappoint their fragile hope.

Reward, O Lord, those who listen to the gentle voice in the turbulence of life’s storm. Reward those who hold fast.

Peace be upon those who put down firm roots in God’s loving grace.

Return to Bethlehem


Cana-Wedding-Village-ancient-Holy-Land-pictureWednesday, July 30, 2014

Ruth 1:19-22

Return to Bethlehem

As we have mentioned earlier this week, the people in this story are part of Jesus’ family tree, and as always with Scripture, we see God in the daily living of these ordinary lives lived in an extraordinary way. The message is clear if we might only look and listen: if something is bound to happen, no one can intervene, and if something is not going to take place, no one can cause it to take place . . . except God. God is in charge.

I like this story because it shows the proper covenant relationship between God the creator and us, God’s creatures. God is always present; it is we who struggle to perceive this presence. When we pause to reflect and to look more closely, we might watch God take action through people who respond to God’s call. In this way then, we can say that we mediate God’s actions.

This story shows how tragedy can be transformed by allowing God’s love to move through us, and allowing God’s love to be actualized through us. Are we not constantly surprised by the inverted way in which God works in our lives?

Jeff Cavins writes, “The story of Ruth is almost a story of Judges in reverse: she is a woman from a pagan nation whose people were hostile to Israel (it was Moabite women who seduced Israel to worship Baal at Peor, and Moab’s king Balak who summoned Baalam to curse Israel back in Numbers 22-25). But Ruth forsakes the gods of Moab to faithfully serve Yahweh. That chapter 4 recognizes Ruth as an ancestress of David, and that Matthew includes her in the genealogy of Jesus helps us remember that God’s ultimate plan was to include all nations in His family. Ruth is in many ways what Israel was called to be.”

Today’s citation is early in Ruth’s story and follows the famous “Whither thou goest” line in verses 16 and 17. The women return to Bethlehem at the start of the barley harvest, a harvest which plays an important part in the story that is unfolding. The town celebrates this return as do we.

Recalling that women without men held little value in these ancient times, we can only stand in awe of Ruth and Naomi’s courage in the face of tragedy. We can only hope to see these ordinary lives as extraordinary models for us to follow. We can only believe that God works with us through our own tragedies and joys . . . so let us be open to God’s word in us today.

Jeff Cavins, Sarah Christmeyer and Tim Gray, THE GREAT ADVENTURE: A JOURNEY THROUGH THE BIBLE. Ascension Press, 2007.

Adapted from a Favorite written on August 14, 2007.

 


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ruth 3

Naomi and RuthChesed Part IV – Ruth Presents Herself

The story of Ruth is a story with characters who “are presented as models who live faithful to the spirit of the covenant even in the difficult situations of life”. (Senior RG 141) It is believed to be a true story and is best read with notes in order to understand the plight of Naomi and her daughter-in-law, the customs of land ownership, the Levirate marriage contract, the tradition of allowing widows to glean food from a harvested field, the remarkable strength of Ruth’s fidelity to her mother-in-law, and the noble loyalty of Boaz who is drawn to Ruth’s kindness and piety. As we have investigated this story, we have thought about how God moves and works through people, is ever faithful and always at hand. Today we can focus on the last verse of chapter 3 when Naomi says to Ruth, “Wait here, my daughter, for the man will not rest, but will settle the matter today”. These words describe true integrity, true honesty, true clarity, and true holiness. This man will not rest until he settles a matter of honor – and he will do this before the sun sets. This man will not let anything stand in the way of doing what he knows he is called to do. This man sets aside his own humanity to do the will of the divine. Again from the Readers’ Guide page RG 145: “The double meaning [of the word for feet or genitals in Hebrew] may be intended to rouse the interest of the audience, ‘to raise a few eyebrows,’ only to show that the unusual steps taken by Ruth [and recommended by Naomi] do not end up in an illicit sexual union, but reveal the honorable character of Boaz. He does not take advantage of Ruth, but agrees to take the necessary steps to marry her. He ensures her reputation is not ruined and sends her away with six measures of barley”.

The marriage of these two honorable people results in the birth of a child, Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David, the ancestor of Jesus. It is the beautiful story of how people who respond to God’s call can transform tragedy into something blessed and holy. It is also the story of God’s constant presence in our lives as we accompany one another, share our grief, and move toward the light of truth. The action begins with emptiness which is reversed by the end of the tale. “The emptiness of the land (famine) causes Naomi to leave the land. The emptiness of the land gives way to the emptiness of Naomi in the loss first of husband and then sons. Naomi dismisses her daughters-in-law because her ‘emptiness’ cannot be cured . . .” And so she returns home so that she will not be a widow in a foreign place . . . but not alone, for Ruth follows her. Back in Bethlehem, Naomi who finds herself empty of everything which previously had meaning, says the words in 3:18. She recognizes the goodness in Boaz and Ruth and she supports the young woman who waits for the man of integrity to do what he must do to claim her as his wife. Blessings and graces follow.

And so we pray . . .

Good and generous God, make us instruments of your work as were Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. Send us the words to say, the acts to perform, the prayers to raise as we enter the difficult situations of life and the pockets of emptiness around us. Send us your word that we may do your work to bring joy out of mourning. We ask this as always in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 141. Print.

Adapted from a favorite written on August 31, 2007.

 


Monday, July 28, 2014

Ruth 4

Ary Scheffer: Naomi and Ruth

Ary Scheffer: Naomi and Ruth

Chesed – Part III

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. 

This is a beautiful story about women, a happy story about what marriage is meant to be. It is also a story about constancy, fidelity, perseverance, family, ancestry, and a deep abiding love which puts the other before self. It is an image of how we might be with, and in and through Christ. It is a metaphor for the relationship we have already been gifted by our creator.

This is not a long book and still it is saturated with imagery and peopled by characters worthy of any Jane Austen novel or Shakespearean play. “The book of Ruth . . . is one of the most beautiful pieces of literature in the Bible.  The plot revolves around family relationships . . . and the role each member plays in fulfilling the needs of other members and hence the family as a whole”. (Meeks 408)

Some of us have families we might turn to; others of us do not. Some of us are born into clans that suffocate us and so we strike out on our own to build community; others find themselves in a large caring tribe that lets no one fall behind during the trek. All of us are born into the family of God and in this family there will be Naomis, and Ruths and Boazes: people who know the value of “loyalty of faithfulness arising from commitment” which in the Hebrew community is known as chesed. Naomi guides her widowed daughters-in-law (women without men were less than human in this era). Ruth abides with Naomi to share whatever destiny comes to them. Boaz preserves both the family inheritance and individual family members in a respectful and considerate way. All three understand the importance to continuity and to the fulfillment of a pledge at cost to self. (Meeks 408) All three listen for and to God. All three find a way to follow God, to preserve legacy, and to further a lineage that produces the Messiah of the human race. And all of this without accepting abuse or losing self.

We might spend some time today with this story and with our own reflection on how we embody chesed as we weave our lives. Do we respect the traditions of the clan? Do we provide for and abide with those who are marginalized? Do we do what is just and merciful even when this may be painful? Do we gather in the harvest at the expense of others? Do we leave the gleanings for those who have none and protect them as they forage? Do we listen for the voice that calls us to strange lands and yet abides? Do we intentionally commit our own acts of chesed? And if so . . . what are they?

For more information on the beautiful story of Naomi and Ruth, click on the image above or go to: http://www.womeninthebible.net/paintings_ruth.htm

Adapted from a Favorite written on October 1, 2009.

 

Chesed – Part II


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ruth 2

Julius Schnorr Von Carolsfeld; Ruth in Boaz's Field

Julius Schnorr Von Carolsfeld: Ruth in Boaz’s Field

Chesed – Part II

The story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz is a tale about family, integrity, honor, honesty and fidelity. It is also about God’s providence and love; and it is about returning to the covenant relationship we have with God that is marked by “loyalty of faithfulness arising from commitment” which in the Hebrew community is known as chesed. (Meeks 408) If there is time this weekend, read this story from beginning to end. It will warm your heart.

“The book contains a beautiful example of filial piety . . . Its aim is to demonstrate the divine reward for such piety even when practiced by a stranger . . . [Ruth] became the ancestress of David and of Christ. In this, the universality of the messianic salvation is foreshadowed”. (Senior 278)

Today we enter the drama at the point where Ruth, the stranger in this land of the one living God, goes for the first time to glean what she can so that she and her mother-in-law might survive. It is when she is in the field gathering the leftovers that she meets Boaz for the first time. Keeping in mind that a widow in ancient society was considered a burden rather than an asset, we see how well Boaz treats her. He does not take advantage of her diminished status; rather, he seeks to support and protect her from the impure, unwanted – yet legal – advances of others. He cautions her to glean only in his fields, and he warns off the men who work for him, making certain – as much as he is able – that Ruth might gather enough to support herself and her mother-in-law. He even allows her to glean among the sheaves themselves rather than just the edges of the field. It is clear that he is taken by Ruth yet he does not take advantage of her. In subsequent chapters Boaz fulfills all honor obligations so that he might marry Ruth according to the law and tradition of the time. So we see that “Ruth’s piety . . . her spirit of self-sacrifice, and her moral integrity were favored by God with the gift of faith and an illustrious marriage”. (Senior 278) But first she was widowed, followed her widowed mother-in-law to a new land, and set about doing what she might so that they both might survive.

Ruth does what she must, given what she is given. Ruth gleans where God sends her and in so doing, she harvests more than the ephahs of barley that she takes home to Naomi; she becomes the mother of Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David, king of the Jews. Ruth appears in Jesus’ genealogy: Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. (Matthew 1:5).

In the times when we feel widowed, abandoned or alone . . .

In the times when we feel the overpowering burden of providing for self or others . . .

In the times when we feel that we have arrived in a foreign land with new traditions and customs . . .

In the times that we feel exhausted from the gleaning we have done for endless days . . .

Let us remember the goodness and wisdom of Naomi . . .

Let us remember the integrity and protection of Boaz . . .

Let us remember the piety and self-sacrifice of Ruth . . .

And let us remember the merciful justice, the guidance, and the love of the Lord. For these are the things that save.

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. 404. Print.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.278. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 18, 2010.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ruth 1

Julius Hubner: Ruth and Naomi

Julius Hubner: Ruth and Naomi

Chesed – Part I – Reversal

“Famine, dislocation and death mark the beginning of the story,” we are told in notes from the HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (410). Why would we want to read any further? Because this is the story of reversal and fulfillment. It is the story of transformation and love. It is a story worth reading over and over.

In Living Faith: Catholic Devotions Winter 2010, Sr. Kathryn James Hermes tells us that “ we are forced to focus and face the overwhelmingly magnificent message of redemption: God is doing something new! It’s not that God realized he had made a mistake at first. It’s not that he had botched things up so badly that God decided to scrap everything and begin again with new people. Instead, Isaiah is painting a love that has grown so immense that it can create life, hope and a future even in the midst of mistakes, sin and death. This compassion is so divine that it straightens bent limbs, raises dead bodies and spirits, and transforms the dull and callous heart. God will stop at nothing to make right our erring ways. He doesn’t need to start over”.

In Isaiah 65:17-21 we read: Thus says the Lord: Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Instead there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create: for I create Jerusalem to be a joy and its people to be a delight; I will rejoice in Jerusalem and exult in my people.

God does not start over with Naomi and her daughters-in-law. These women did nothing to bring misfortune upon themselves. They are widows in a society which does nothing to tend to them and so they are left to fend for themselves. Yet, in following God they find themselves delivered. The message we hear in Isaiah, and the message of Lent is precisely this: God does not abandon his people, God is faithful, God turns evil to good.

We can never “botch things up” to such a degree that they are irredeemable.   God does not throw us on the scrap heap to begin again. God loves us so much that he creates a newness out of our weakness. God straightens our bent-ness and enlivens our deadness. God softens hearts and brings life out of dark corners.

Wherever we are in our journey, God meets us at that spot . . . heals us of our wounded-ness . . . and carries us home as well-loved lambs.

The story of Ruth is a rich one and worth a good deal of our time. Chapter one is the bitter opening of a story that promises to be bleak; but if we invest the effort to read through to the end, we are rewarded with a story that might be our own. It is the story of full and intimate union; it is the story of reversal, of devotion . . . and of love.

Adapted from a reflection written on March 15, 2010.

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. 410. Print.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 15.3(2010). Print.  

Gathering In


gleaningFriday, July 25, 2014

Psalm 37:1-2

Gathering In

Don’t bother your head with braggarts or wish you could succeed like the wicked. In no time they’ll shrivel like grass clippings and wilt like cut flowers in the sun.

We are reminded that we must be pruned in order to bear good fruit but this psalm tells of a different kind of harvesting: the separation of the wheat from the darnel weeds. (Matthew 13:24-30) It is true that in our present reality we too often find that the foolish lead while the wise pick up the pieces; but it is just as true that none on our gleaning goes unnoticed.

God says: I am not blind to the evil that takes place around you and I see how you struggle against it. Although I know that you look for an easier way to gain strength, this struggle against odds makes you stronger. This struggle brings you many lessons that you have no other way of learning. I know that you wish that evil might disappear entirely but consider the parable of the darnel and the wheat. These two plants are difficult to distinguish with the human eye; but my eye sees clearly. The darnel withers and is tossed on the fire. The wheat is gathered into my barn. As you grow in the field where you have been planted, allow the weeds to wilt while I harvest the good grain in you.

Each time we meet an obstacle, rather than seeing it as a hurdle to overcome, let us consider it an opportunity for us to flourish as wheat rather than wilt as darnel. Enter the words weeds among the wheat or Gleaning into the blog search bar and consider the gathering you will do today.

Jesus Taught Us


whodoyousayiamThursday, July 24, 2014

Matthew 6:19-21

Jesus Taught Us

Jesus taught us, saying, “Do not store up treasures for yourself on earth, where moth and woodwork destroy them and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworm destroys them and thieves cannot break in and steal. For wherever your treasure is, there will be your heart, too”.

We go about our days acquiring goods, storing up friends, fashion, accoutrements, money. How will these treasures serve us in the world that is everlasting? How might we change these tangible goods in a way that will matter?

We go about our days serving others, taking action that will improve our world for the better. How might we share these less noticeable goods in a way that will matter?

God says, This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Do as he does and set the world afire. Do as he does and heal those who are broken-hearted. Do as he does and stand with those on the margin. Do as he does and turn the other cheek. This is difficult for you when you measure as the world measures; but when you measure for eternity you will put away your weights and yardsticks; and you will follow my son.

Enter the word treasure into the blog search bar and as we consider what Jesus taught us . . . let us consider how we will describe our treasures.

Examine the reading Matthew 3:17  in the scripture link and compare the texts. Choose other Bible versions and consider what God means when he tells us that he is well pleased with Jesus.

The Waiting


waiting-on-the-benchWednesday, July 23, 2014

Romans 8:26-28

The Waiting

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

We so often find ourselves thinking that God’s plan is not suitable, not adequate, not timely or – worse – non-existent. If we wonder what God thinks, we do not have to look far.

God says: I know that you can never hear these words too much: Do not be afraid; I am with you always. I know that when you are weary and your resources are low that you become frightened and even panicky. I know that your patience wears thin; I know that you doubt that my plan has intelligence or design. Read the words from my Book of Wisdom in Chapter 13 verses 13, 16-19 and know that your perfection arrives not in your lack of error . . . but in your perseverance with me, your clemency toward others and your generosity in the Spirit. Consider all of this . . . and know that I love you.

Look at the other Biblical versions of today’s readings and think about how we recognize God in the patience, clemency and generosity of others. Choose four different versions from the drop down menus and consider why and how we wait for God’s justice. Consider where and when we see God’s goodness.

 

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