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Posts Tagged ‘hope’


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.   

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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/

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJeremiah 24

The Two Baskets of Figs

From Bible footnotes: “Jeremiah, like Ezekiel, saw that no good could be expected from the people who had been left in Judah under Zedekiah or who had fled into Egypt; good was to be hoped for only from those who would pass through the purifying experience of the exile to form the new Israel.” (Senior 980)

If there is time in your day, read a bit about Jeconiah and the Chaldeans (Babylonians). If there is not much time, let us at least think about what God is asking of us when we experience exile, a time apart from places, persons or even events that are precious to us.  God assures us that there is always an opportunity for distillation when we are apart. God reminds us that we experience the abiding presence of the Spirit when we are away from what we love. God tells us that those who are left behind, or sent away, are not the juicy first figs of the season; rather, they are the poor fruit that will not grace the banquet table . . . but that is loved by God nonetheless. God is the faithful, persistent harvester who nurses fruit from struggling plants. God is the hopeful, healing shepherd, going out to find the one sheep while leaving the ninety-nine behind. God is the patient, able silversmith heating metal to drain away the detritus and keeping watch that the precious ore is not poured away. God is the potter working the clay of our lives in hands that know us better than we know ourselves. As always with God, it is the inverse that proves true: those left behind are those redeemed; those sent away are the rescued.  And here in these verses of Chapter 24, Jeremiah brings us the imagery of two baskets of figs . . . one with first fruits, the other with rotten offerings.

Yahweh says: I will look after them for their good, and bring them back to this land, to build them up, not to tear them down; to plant them, not to pluck them out. 

And so we pray . . .

Good and precious God, we know that you are with us always, even when we must be apart undergoing transformation. We know that we are clay in your hands that you mold with intent and great care. Help us to abide with you as you abide with us. Guide us to hope in you as you hope in us. Teach us to love the world with you even as you love us. We know that true transformation comes with suffering, and that suffering is the path your son strode before us. But . . . because the darkness sometimes feels too permanent, we ask that you guide us. Because the light sometimes seems as though it will never return, we ask that you lead us. Because the figs we bear are sometimes bitter, we ask that you carry us. Because the journey you ask us to walk is sometimes too perilous, we ask that you be us. For all of this we pray. Amen.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.980. Print.   

Adapted from a reflection written on June 14, 2007.

For more on Jeconiah and the Chaldeans, visit: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/711-did-jeremiah-err-regarding-jeconiah and http://biblehub.com/dictionary/c/chaldeans.htm

 

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

1 Samuel 11:9-10

The Men of Jabesh-Gilead

The Men of Jabesh-Gilead

The Surrender of Jabesh

Descendants of Ammon, a son of Lot, the Ammonites lived in a territory of Ammon that extended from the Arnon to the Jabbok and Jordan. But during Moses time they had been driven to the east by the Amorites. Moses was not allowed to attack them (Deuteronomy 2:19) despite the fact that they worshiped idols, especially Molech, or the god Saturn.

Cursed by Yahweh’s prophets, this tribe had a long history of conflict with the Israelites. Today we see Saul gather three hundred thousand men from Israel and seventy thousand from Judah before he announces that he will deliver the people of Jabesh-gilead who have been overtaken by Nahash, the Ammonite. And when the messengers came and reported this to the inhabitants of Jabesh, who were jubilant, [they] said to Nahash, “Tomorrow we will surrender to you, and you may do whatever you please with us”.  They likely recognized that freedom from the enemy was upon them.

Conflict in this part of the world continues today; lessons in this ancient land reinforce division more than unity. Jeremiah’s words of prophecy pierce hearts but convert too few. Walking in hardness and obstinacy have become an engrained way of living; the day without remedy is infinite; the imagery of the potter’s flask and Topheth lie meaningless. And yet . . . the Lord is near.

In New Testament hope we recall the words of the apostle Paul: For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus . . . There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)

Would that each of us might give over our interior conflict and place our hope in God. Would that each of us might surrender to Christ and the promise given to Abraham just as the people of Jabesh surrender in jubilation their trust in God.

For more on the story of Jabesh and how they showed their gratitude to King Saul, click on the image above or go to: http://lukedockery.blogspot.com/2007/11/gratitude-men-of-jabesh-gilead.html 

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Desert Star grows in the Sonora Desert

The Desert Star grows in the Sonora Desert

Jeremiah 12

Why?

Why does the way of the godless prosper, why live all the treacherous in contentment? You planted them; they have taken root. They keep on growing and bearing fruit. You are upon their lips, but far from their inmost thoughts.

These questions are raised by each of us as we strive to do what we know to be merciful and right and good while we see the wicked prosper. Jeremiah records God’s Complaint: My beloved has turned on me like a lion in the jungle; because she roared against me . . . many shepherds have trodden my heritage underfoot; the portion that delighted me they have turned into a desert waste, desolate it lies before me . . . they have sown wheat and reaped thorns.

And so we too, question and wait for an answer that makes sense.

God says: This word of “why” is the one you raise to me most often; I know that injustice and darkness pain you as they pain me. If I were to focus on all that is wrong with the world I would have brought it to an end long ago and so I look for the faithful, the good, the merciful and patient. I wait for the persistent, the loving, and the hope-filled. And my watching and waiting is always rewarded. You who gather goodness into my great harvesting barn also gather joy into my immense heart. You who sow compassion and praise in the vineyards where you struggle also sow the tears of my goodness that salve and heal souls. You who wait patiently and keep me constantly in mind abide in my all-knowing mind and rest in my powerful arms. You are never without me. You need never be afraid. You need never wonder why. 

We are accustomed to instant news feeds and immediate search results. With the Lord we must be patient. In the Lord we must remain. For the Lord we must persist. Because the Lord is present . . . we need not wonder why.

For more on the Desert Star flower, click on the image above or go to: http://www.glamisdunes.com/invision/lofiversion/index.php?t133916.html 

To reflect more on Jeremiah 12, visit the Plots of Darkness on this blog at: http://thenoontimes.com/2013/06/13/plots-of-darkness/

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Jeremiah 11

Jeremiah-29-11Of No Avail – A Reprise

We began our study of Jeremiah looking at Chapter 11 of this prophecy and today we return again to examine if we have gained insight from the prophet’s words. Have our efforts to understand sacrifice and suffering, gift and giving been of no avail?

Jeremiah tells his community – and us – that persecution comes to all, even to the innocent. He examines false and true shepherds, insincere and sincere relationships, and how we might maintain a solid connection with our creator despite the corrupting influences of the world. In these opening chapters, Jeremiah’s basic attitude centers on “the tender love of God as manifested in the covenant in the days of Moses”. Sin brings consequence; yet punishment can be purifying and transformative, even for the innocent who suffer at the hands of corrupt leaders. Jeremiah counters a sense of hopelessness with words of encouragement. (Senior RG 311)

Then the Lord alerts the faithful servant . . . A conspiracy has been found, the Lord said to me, among the men of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem. They have returned to the crimes of their forefathers who refused to obey my words. They have also followed and served strange new gods . . .

Jeremiah speaks aloud – and he suffers for this candor – words from the Creator: the leaders and the core of the Judaic society have turned away from the Living God who shepherded the Hebrew nation out of slavery and through the desert. It is no wonder that the prophet laments and yearns to remove himself from society to find refuge in a quiet desert lodge. And it is no wonder that the temple leadership begins to plot against this prophet.

What do we do when we find ourselves in a similar situation? We have seen corruption and named it. We have prayed and made sacrifice. We have remained part of the faithful remnant; and yet rather than experience reform instituted by leaders, we find ourselves struggling to survive ever-worsening circumstances. If we find ourselves besieged in this way, we do well to turn to this prophet.

We have begun our Jeremiah journey with reflections on how the innocent find strength, wisdom and patience to accompany the Living God whom their leaders have abandoned. In the coming weeks we continue our passage from transformative suffering to redemptive understanding. We accompany Jeremiah through his travail that culminates with the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem. We wend our way through difficult circumstances, anticipating the gift of hope in God’s plan for us, and looking to our Jeremiah Journey to bring us home.

Return to the Of No Avail post on this blog at: thenoontimes.com/2014/08/01/of-no-avail/ OR return to The Desert Lodge post at: https://thenoontimes.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/the-desert-lodge/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. RG 311. Print.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Jeremiah 4

ReconciledbannerSincere Repentance – A Reprise

Just when we believe that hope is lost, a door opens. Just when we think that we will not be forgiven, word arrives. Just when we feel the end is near, life begins again. Psalm 133 celebrates the goodness to be found when adversaries determine to reconcile differences.

Assurance

How very good and pleasant it is when we see God in one another despite narrow hearts and tightened minds.

These quick moments delight as surely as a loved one’s gaze renews  . . . as ever a child’s breath blesses her mother’s cheek.

The Lord’s happily granted gift of forgiveness heals all . . . despite our reluctance to respond to God’s love.

The Lord’s freely given gift of life affirms divinity in each . . . despite our reluctance to believe in God’s promise.

Visit the Spiritual Courage post on this blog at: http://thenoontimes.com/2012/03/09/sincere-repentance-spiritual-courage/ and consider the consequence of a severe repentance. What consequences await us when we gather courage to do what we know must be done?

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An Almond Tree

An Almond Tree

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Jeremiah 1 & 2

The Watching Tree

Footnotes tell us that the watching tree in verse 11 refers to the almond tree; “the first to bloom in the springtime as though it had not slept. The Hebrew name contains a play on words with ‘I am watching’.” The opening lines here tell us of Jeremiah’s office as prophet.  We are given his credentials, so that we might hear and heed the words here offered . . . so that we might not be afraid, so that we might remember to turn to God in times of turmoil, and so that we might shun the false idols that offer themselves in place of God.

Jeremiah protests that he is too young to serve God as prophet but the Lord says to him: Have no fear . . . because I am with you to deliver you . . . It is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass . . . they will fight against you, but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you.

These are words of warning to a people who had turned away from Yahweh and back to the Baal gods. They are also words of encouragement to us. History tells us that the oracles predicted here by Jeremiah unfolded as truth; therefore, the opening words of this prophecy can serve to comfort us as we struggle to understand our role as followers of Christ. God’s words through Jeremiah are meant to console us while we remain the watching trees that remind others of the hope Christ brings, of the trust we must place in God, and of the danger in worshiping false and feeble gods.

I remember the devotion of your youth, the Lord tells us, Sacred to the Lord was Israel, the first fruits of the harvest; should anyone presume to partake of them, evil would befall him, says the Lord. As watching trees, we must have our eyes and hearts open to those who would deceive us, we must announce with a flurry of white blossoming the advent of a time of renewal and rebirth so those who have strayed may yet return. And we need not have any fear about our work of watching, for with God all things are possible. God always delivers the faithful.

When storms destroy all that we hold sacred, there is yet hope.

When trials sap our courage, there is yet strength.

When betrayals blind us to the possibility of a love that knows no bounds, there is yet God.

When suffering swallows our days, there is a place to go and there is something to be done. We are called to be watching trees that announce the hope of the human race. We are created to be watching trees that trust only their maker. We come to fruition as watching trees that offer first fruits back to God and produce good fruit in due season.

We are called by our creator to witness as we watch and wait. When pain and sorrow take over, or in gladness and celebration, let us keep watch as if we have not slept, let us be the first to burst into flower and witness to the hint of spring. And while we wait on the Lord, let us offer our work to the God who made us, God who delivers us, and God who loves us.

No matter our circumstances, sorrow or joy, let us take up our task as watching trees and announce the goodness of God.

Adapted from a reflection written on June 12, 2010.

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

jeremiah 15Jeremiah 1

Persecution

Jeremiah’s prophecy is complex; it consists of judgment oracles, narratives about his life, and sermons. Throughout all of this his voice brings not only a constant warning but also a certain consolation to those who are willing to suffer. To the faithful remnant he says what we long to hear: that we are loved, that God’s name is written on our hearts, and that we are called. He speaks to anyone eager to find the truth embedded in each of us, the truth that is God.

Jeremiah speaks to the experience of persecution and this is a theme that resonates with all human beings for all of us at one time or at many times – either justly or unjustly – are persecuted. We all know what it feels like to be left out, looked over, betrayed, and even punished for what we believe is truth. Ultimately, only God can let us know if we are living an honest life; and God does this frequently. Only God can indicate to us that our suffering has been either self-pitying and pointless or redemptive and fruitful. We all suffer. But do we suffer well? God tells us about the truth of our suffering by pointing out to us the fruits of our labor. And God does this gently . . . by telling us that we are wonderfully made . . . and that we need not fear. God tells us that there is hope.

From the HARPERCOLLINS NRSV STUDY BIBLE (Meeks 1113): Here indeed was a prophet who combined elegance of form with the ethical and redemptive content of the “word of the Lord”. And perhaps more than anyone in his time, Jeremiah provided the means by which a despairing people could hope for a new future.

Reading the first chapter of this profound prophecy is an invitation to new life and to hope, an invitation to join Christ in the kind of suffering that saves souls and that transforms itself and us into a joy-filled gift. We are invited into this redemptive mystery that is God’s love.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you . . .

You are mine. You are special. I have a particular job in mind for you.

And before you were born I consecrated you . . .

Because you are mine you are holy. You are my temple. I want to dwell within you.

I appointed you a prophet to the nations . . .

You have words to say and gestures to make in my Name.

Then I said – Ah Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a child . . .

We reply in fear to this awesome task, believing falsely that we are not up to the journey that lies before us.

But the Lord said to me – Do not say “I am only a child’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you . . .

You are my gift to the world . . . my gift of joy. I see a wonderful potential in you . . . for you are designed in love by me . . . to love me in all places and times and peoples . . . you are made to put away fear . . . in yourself and in others . . .

Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you . . .

Until the end of time . . . Amen.

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. 1113. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on Friday, January 16, 2009.

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