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Matthew 15:21-28: Moving Mountains

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Juan de Flandes: Christ and the Canaanite Woman

“When Jesus goes to the region of Tyre and Sidon – two cities with evil reputations (Ezekiel 28) – he meets a Canaanite woman.  ‘Canaanite’ adds to the negative connotation of ‘Tyre and Sidon’ . . . The evangelist speaks against the woman, that he may show forth her marvelous act, and celebrate her praise the more . . . The woman addressed Jesus as Lord and Son of David and asks for mercy for her daughter, who suffers from a demon.  Jesus’ response is silence – he is ether turning her down or testing her faith.  The disciples then want her dismissed.  Jesus . . . declares her commitment to Israel [and] . . . he thus promotes a biblical doctrine of election . . . salvation comes to those outside Israel in response to their faith in Jesus”.  (Barton and Muddiman 864)

God redeems those who seek him. 

In today’s Noontime, we watch Jesus go to non-Jewish territory to interact with a woman who is not a believer in the Mosaic Law.  She is a Canaanite and does not believe that Yahweh is the one true God; yet she understands that God is present in Jesus in a singular way.  She believes in miracles.

With God all things are possible.

“A distinctive feature of Matthew’s Gospel is that it frequently portrays Jesus as a recipient of worship . . . For Matthew, this motif is connected to the belief that God is present in Jesus and present in others through him.  Matthew does not think it appropriate to worship anyone other than the Lord God (4:10), but God is present in Jesus to such an extent that worshiping Jesus counts as worshiping God”.  (Mays 872) 

God sent God’s Word to live among God’s people.

In this episode, as with the story of Jesus’ healing the centurion’s servant in Matthew 8, we see Jesus heal from a distance because of faith enacted by one outside of Yahweh’s covenant.  What are we to think about this, and in Jesus’ first reply to the woman?  It is not right to take the food of children and throw it to the dogs.  The woman in today’s reading believes that Jesus can make her daughter whole.  She believes that Jesus is God and so says boldly:  Even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters. Her persistence pays off and her distant daughter is healed.

Not a hair of your head shall fall that God does not mark it.

This episode is followed by stories of Jesus healing and feeding the many lost sheep who follow him seeking wholeness.  We are these sheep.  We are the centurion and the Canaanite woman.  We have the power to ask and to have our requests fulfilled . . . when we persist . . . when we worship . . . when we acknowledge that God is God.

Ask and you will receive.  Knock and the door will be opened.  By faith you will move mountains.


A re-post from June 4, 2012.

Image from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Juan_de_Flandes_-_Christ_and_the_Canaanite_Woman_-_WGA12050.jpg

Enter the word Rejection into the blog search bar to further reflect. 

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 864. Print.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 872. Print.

Written on June 3, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.


Hebrews 11:1: The Dogwood Tree

Monday, June 17, 2019

Today’s Noontime is a reflection written for the dedication of a dogwood tree in the memory of Sophie Myers who was born and died on September 25, 2011.   It springs from the first verse of Hebrews 11.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

I share with you today some thoughts about how the small and beautiful dogwood tree is a symbol of life and faith – a reminder that despite the fact that we cannot see or hear or smell or touch someone . . . she does, indeed, exist.

The dogwood tree is one of the smallest in the forest but just because it is small does not mean it is any less alive.  Older, taller, more substantial trees tower over her but it is the dogwood – even when quite young – that dresses nature with airy pastel blossoms. She brings beauty and lightness and hope to the otherwise darkened forest.  Despite her size, the dogwood tree is an integral part of the woods.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

My son Will reminded us on the day of Sophie’s funeral that the shortness of her life does not diminish her significance.  That shortness does not mean that we love her any less and in fact, her quick coming and going make her existence all the more powerful.  This brevity reminds us to tell and show the people we love that we do, indeed, love them.  This brevity calls us forward to live our own lives in the assurance and in the conviction that Sophie is here with us today despite the fact that we cannot see or touch her.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The urn that contains the earth-held remains of Sophia Josephine Myers is decorated with four dogwood flowers.  Each of these flowers has four petals that symbolize her family: Gabby, Will, Vivian . . . and Sophie.  On the prayer card created for Sophia’s funeral there is a photograph of one small, green dogwood leaf floating as it moves along the surface of a crystal clear stream.  A sunbeam glints off the rippling water.  One tiny droplet rides on the leaf and is carried downstream to an unknown destination.  We do not see the end . . . yet the journey takes place.  We do not know the moment of arrival . . . yet the arrival happens.  Of this we are assured.  Of this we are convicted.  This we know.  This we live . . . in faith.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Sophie died in her transit to this world and yet . . . still she lives.  We pause to reflect today – in faith – on what that might mean.  We pause to reflect today on the beauty and the power and the importance . . . of the Dogwood Tree.

Amen.


A re-post from June 3, 2012.

Image of dogwood flower from: http://www.ridgewoodcameraclub.org/steinmeyer.html

To discover how to create a garden as a living memory of a loved one click on the dogwood tree image above or go to: http://www.recover-from-grief.com/memorial-garden.html


1 Corinthians 15:1-11: The Teaching

Trinity Sunday, June 16, 2019

Modern Corinth

We have before us today the story of who and what we are, what we believe, and how and why we came into being.  This story tells us everything we need to know about why we exist.  It is the teaching that Paul received from Christ, and it is the teaching that he preaches constantly, both to the people of his time and to us today.  Sometimes I need to re-read the story often, especially at the times when the world tests my stamina.  Paul teaches.  We are called to believe.

For a capsule view of the teaching Paul repeats so often we can go to Acts 17 and 18 when he is in Athens and about to depart for Corinth.  He delivers his message as he always does, telling the marvelous story of how we only need to rely on God, how God has come among us to live and suffer and die and rejoice as one of us, and of how we are all brothers and sisters of this God who has risen and who wishes to have us with him in intimate union.  This wonderful message is received in three ways: some scoff, some say they like the idea but are too busy at the moment to hear more, others believe . . . and join Paul in his mission.

We are offered this same opportunity each day as we rise, as we pray, as we work, as we play.  We choose whether we want to poke fun, to be lukewarm, or to become fervent in our dedication to this simple yet amazing story.

From the MAGNIFICAT evening reflection on Acts 16:26 when the disciples are freed from shackles by an earthquake: Just as the disciples were delivered from prison, so were all of us delivered from the prison of sin and death by the resurrection of Christ and the gift of the Spirit.  In moments of discouragement, let us remember the hope that lights our way to a goal far more wonderful than we can imagine even now. 

The other citations all direct us to reflect on what to do when we are discouraged.  Psalm 126, along with Baruch 4:22-23 (I have trusted in the Eternal God for your welfare, and joy has come to me from the Holy One . . . With mourning and lament I sent you forth, but God will give you back to me with enduring gladness and joy) and Isaiah 55:11 (My word shall not return to me void but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it).

When we become discouraged we only need to remember The Teaching: God has come among us to walk with us, to bring us release and peace and even joy.

They go out, they go out, full of tears, carrying seed for the sowing: they come back, they come back, full of song, carrying their sheaves.  (Psalm 126:5-6)

Let us join Christ in the song, let us join Paul in the harvest, and let us join one another in peace and joy.

Amen.


Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 20.5 (2009). Print.

For more on Paul in Corinth click on the image above or go to: http://members.bib-arch.org/publication.asp?PubID=BSBA&Volume=14&Issue=3&ArticleID=1

Written on May 20, 2009 and re-posted today.

Esther 6: Reward


Esther 6: Reward

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Rembrandt: Ahauserus and Haman at Esther’s Feast

We cannot determine God’s timeline and when we watch how his plans unfold in our space and time we see that God has refined the shepherding of billions of souls to a mysterious art.  And it is something that he practices well.  Life is complicated.  God knows that rewarding one creature stirs envy in another.  This is the story of Satan and the fallen angels who succumb to their jealousy.  God knows that giving his creatures the choice to opt for darkness or light means that some of them will fall; but God also knows that his loving compassion leaves many opportunities for reform and changes in outlooks, and so he leaves his plans open . . . in order to work with the creations he so loves.

God is fully aware that his show of mercy stirs jealousy in the hearts of others, and so he prepares plans for these contingences.  We have seen and we have been told and we have experienced the fact that God will always turn harm to good.  The extremity or numbers or layers in any given situation are never too much for God to handle.  He is more than up to the challenge . . . for he is the creator of all we see and experience.

Today’s reading – another of my favorites – takes us to the beginning of another story of how a woman saves a nation.  It takes us to the place in the narrative where we see how the seed of envy blooms into a fully-blown narcissistic tantrum which in the end brings down the initiator rather than the intended victim.  Mordecai, a Jewish man living in the Persian court of King Xerxes (or Ahauserus), and his niece Esther, who is married to this King, have submitted their plea for justice.  The King has responded and now we await the sentence he will deliver.  As the king struggles with the plots that surround him and the information which has been brought to him, he goes back to a former event – a time when Mordecai saved his life by warning him of an assassination plot.  When we read today, we see how the evil plotted against goodness has a way – in God’s plan and in God’s timeline – of returning to visit itself upon the perpetrator.  What happens next to Haman is the very consequence he had wished to deliver to Mordecai and Esther – it is a punishment born out of the darkness of envy, and it goes home to exterminate its originator.

If you have time today, read this story through.  Different Bibles have different methods of presenting the material that was later inserted to flesh out the story but it is worth the trouble of sorting through all of this.  The story of Esther who would rather hide than confront evil with goodness and truth is its own reward.  Today’s lesson that we cannot understand how things will unravel around us is a story to carry in our hearts.  It both cautions us against entertaining ideas of revenge and it bolsters us in our hope that ultimately the light will overcome the darkness.  All is revealed.  All accounts are paid.  In full.  And this is what we have the opportunity to ponder today.

Reward often carries with it the fact that some human beings will covet the good fortune of others.  Some human beings will wish destruction for those who receive gifts from the king.  It remains with us to wait patiently for the ultimate outcome which the just king always delivers.  Those who plot in the darkness are done in by the very mechanism they set into motion.  This is divine justice at its best.  It is for the follower of Christ to discern his or her place in God’s plan, to be patient as events unfold, and to pray for the redemption of those who delight in the darkness.


Written on June 4, 2009 and re-posted today.

Image from: http://www.artbible.info/art/large/94.html


Proverbs 23:26-35: Private and Public Transgression

Friday, June 14, 2019

Infidelity, prostitution and alcoholism.  It is easy to brush these three nouns aside to say that they have nothing to do with us; but we might want to ask ourselves:  Do we remain constant to principles that flow from the Gospel, are we willing to sell ourselves for something we know has little value, do we numb our senses in an attempt to live a life of denial rather than reality.

These words represent not only private or individual separations from God; they are transgressions against the whole, the entire Mystical Body.  We have reflected on this concept before during our Noontimes that we fool ourselves if we believe the often repeated sentence: I’m not hurting anybody but myself – so leave me alone and stop judging.

It is true that we ought not judge one another, for judging is left to God alone.  But it is also true that as members of Christ’s Body we are called to speak and to listen to one another.  We are called to rebuke.  We are called to show mercy.  We are called to forgive and to be forgiven.  We are called to unite in the hope that all will be whole, that all will be one.

Where do we find pleasure?  Where do we find joy?  In a conversation with a friend over the week end, this topic held us for fifteen minutes or so.  Pleasure is temporary, sense-numbing thrill-seeking.  Joy is eternal, magnifying, uniting with goodness.  St. Paul reminds us in Romans 14:17-19 from the morning prayer in  MAGNIFICAT: The kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Spirit; whoever serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by others.  Let us then pursue what leads to peace and to building up one another.

In today’s Gospel from John 17 we hear Jesus say in prayer to the Father: Father, the hour has come . . . I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world.  They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.  Now they know that everything they gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me.  I pray for them.

Paul speaks to us, and the Corinthians, and then he poses a question (1 Corinthians 6:12-20): The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body . . . Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? . . . Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you have been purchased at a price.  Therefore glorify God in your body.

We are not our own . . . when we hurt one, even ourselves, we hurt all.  We have been purchased at great sacrifice.  We are greatly loved.  When we hide in the shadows and seek temporal pleasure . . . we throw away a gift of great value . . . the gift of eternal life.  So let us call ourselves and let us call one another to joyful union that satisfies for an eternity.  Let us forgo pleasure and seek joy.  Let us give up that which satisfies today for that which will fill us for eternity.


Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 5.26 (2009). Print.

Written on May 26, 2009 and re-posted today.

Images fro: http://dalyplanet.blogspot.com/2011/02/tv-police-fox-handcuffed-in-daytona.html and http://coachdawnwrites.com/2011/11/j-is-for-joy-6-things-i-love-about-coaching/joy-jump/


2 Corinthians 2:5-11: Seek Pardon

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The surest way to fend off the forces of darkness is to pardon one another.  This is how the world, God, and we ourselves will know that we truly love.

From La Biblia de América: Apostles must be compassionate and know how to pardon.  This is not discipline for the sake of discipline itself, nor is it a punishment leveled by the church, the community.  Nor is it acceptable to allow permissiveness or anarchy.  There are even tines when the church – we – must make decisions which may be painful for us.  But the last word will always be love, reunion and pardon.

We have said this before in our Noontime reflections: Permissiveness leads to a further lack of obedience before God.  A community of Christians is called to rebuke one another in mercy . . . first alone and if not heard, then with another member of the community and again if not heard . . . finally, before the assembly.  This kind of discipline is what brings unity out of diversity.

This is the time of year when we have recently celebrated the Feast of the Ascension and remember that Christ – when he rises to God – carries our humanity with himself.  He opens the door to the possibility that we too, may unite with God in the most intimate of ways.

This intimacy is what we all seek.  It is what we yearn for, what we crave.  It is what we feel lacking in our lives.  And it is a thirst that will only be quenched if we first find it within ourselves to seek pardon and to pardon . . . to love and be loved . . . to unite with all that is . . . even if it is different from what we know.  We are people who long for reunion.  Let us open the door of forgiveness and enter into love.


LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. Print.

Images from: http://thrivingwithneurofibromatosis.blogspot.com/2012/05/forgiveness.html and http://youthspeaknews.org/2011/11/29/the-gift-of-forgiveness-this-advent-season/

A re-post from May 30, 2012.

Matthew 23: Woe


Matthew 23: Woe

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Shema

Frequently during our Noontime reflecting we have observed how Jesus both promises and warns the world that there is a clear choice before us always: we may choose Beatitude or we may choose Woe.  Jesus also warns us frequently about true and false prophets, the difficulties and gifts we receive from entering into self-knowledge, the presence of evil in the most intimate and holy of places, the importance of praying the Shema in all our actions, and the peace of heart that arrives when we give over everything to the following of God above all else.  Today we look at perhaps the strongest indictment of false leadership present in the whole of scripture in which Jesus – at the height of his success among the people – steps into the comfort zone of church leaders to condemn their collusion in the corruption of God’s beautiful creation.  If we are in doubt as to whom Jesus might be seeing as false when he looks at us today, we have only to read the opening lines to see if we are his target for remediation: Those who preach but do not practice, those who tie up heavy burdens to lay on others’ shoulders but lift no finger to help,  those who perform works to be seen, those who love places of honor at banquets and seats of honor in places of worship, greetings in market places, those who widen their phylacteries and lengthen tassels.   Phylacteries are little black, leather prayer boxes worn on the upper left arm and forehead that carry the Shema prayer we thought about just several days ago.  Tassles are also prescribed in the Shema and they are the blue border or the blue and white fringe or threads at the four corners of the outer garment that would remind practicing Jews to adhere to the Law as prescribed in Numbers 15:38 – with their body, mind, heart and soul. Gospel-followers today wear crosses and medallions, frequent religious places and ceremonies, practice peace and justice in their work and play.  We can put ourselves under the same examination that we give to the scribes and Pharisees we read about today.

Bender Stanislaw: Laying Phylacteries at a Barmitzvah

Hypocrites, blind guides and fools, whitewashed tombs all beautiful outside and sparkling in the bright sun . . . but dark and empty on the inside, full of death and filth.  Jesus proclaims woe on and to the people who stubbornly believe that they are immune from scrutiny.  Jesus calls out to all of us to turn a discerning eye on what we say to see if it matches what we do.  Jesus laments the loss of so much potential in the closing verses of this chapter as he predicts the end of their present life.

When Jesus visits with each of us, he confronts our own hypocrisy and false fronts; yet he also comforts where he finds hurt, he heals where he finds damage, he cures where he finds regret, and he restores where he finds a conversion of heart.  This conversion is evidenced when we ask forgiveness.  It is witnessed by our willingness to accept responsibility for our missteps and our honest attempts to make amends.  This conversion is seen in our openness to what we have thought to be impossible – that we might both change and be changed by the blessed one who comes as an expression of God’s love to and in the world.  We have only to let the Christ enter our lives . . . and then to give our lives over to him.


A re-post from May 29, 2012.

Stanislaw image from: http://www.allposters.com/-sp/Rabbi-Tying-the-Phylacteries-to-the-Arm-of-a-Boy-Posters_i4047644_.htm

To read more about the importance of the Shema click The Shema image above or go to: http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/Torah/The_Shema/the_shema.html

For more information on the The Shema prayer go to: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/shema.html

To read The Shema prayer go to: http://www.jewfaq.org/prayer/shema.htm

Re-written and posted on October 28, 2009 as a Favorite.


Song of Songs 8: Found

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

“The Song of Songs, meaning the greatest of songs (1,1), contains in exquisite poetic form the sublime portrayal and praise of the mutual love of the Lord and his people.  The Lord is the Lover and his people the beloved.  Describing this relationship in terms of human love, the author simply follows Israel’s tradition.  Isaiah (5, 1-7; 54, 4-8), Jeremiah (2, 2f.32, and Ezekiel (16; 23) all characterize the covenant between the Lord and Israel as a marriage.  Hosea the prophet sees the idolatry of Israel in the adultery of Gomer (1-3).  He also represents the Lord speaking to Israel’s heart (2, 16) and changing her into a new spiritual people, purified by the Babylonian captivity and betrothed anew to her divine Lover ‘in justice and uprightness, in love and mercy’ (2,21) . . . [The Song] is an allegory in which each remark, e.g., in the dialogue of the lovers, has a higher meaning.  It is a parable in which the true meaning of mutual love comes from the poem as a whole . . . In Christian tradition, the Song has been interpreted in terms of the union between Christ and the Church and, particularly by St. Bernard, of the union between Christ and the individual soul”.  (Senior 791-792)

In this last chapter, we see the young lovers walking toward home; and the seal in verse 6 is a reference to a ring or emblem with which one marked, signed or identified an object.  In this poem, love is seen as the force that conquers all else. “In human experience, death and the nether world are inevitable, unrelenting; in the end they always triumph.  Love, which is just as certain of its victory, matches its strength against the natural enemies of life; waters cannot extinguish it nor floods carry it away.  It is more priceless than all riches”.  (798)

The Bride, the Church, the soul, remains chaste.  Her rich dowry is kept under watchful eyes until the time when she has matured, until the time she will be given in marriage and the dowry handed over to the groom who waits.

We are this bride.  We are this beloved.

We – like this bride – have suffered, have wandered, have searched, and have found.  We have also been found by the one who treasures us, the one who knows that we are a pearl of great price . . . the one who values us.  A dowry has been set aside for us to assure our redemption.  We are the seal set upon the heart.  Knowing this, having endured much, we still thirst.

This evening, as we wander home through the garden with its intense and alluring aromas, we are accompanied by the one who waits for us as we grow and mature.  We continue our journey up from the desert, leaning upon the lover.  We awaken under the apple trees where we were once conceived.  And when we open our eyes, we know that we have been found once again.  And we look into the eyes of our creator . . . who calls us anew to rise with the new day.

 


A re-post from May 28, 2012.

Images from http://blog.tuscandream.com/tuscany-italian-garden-wedding-estate-304/italian-garden-bride-groom/ and http://www.rebeccaatthewell.org/youtube.html

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

For more on this beautiful poem, visit The Song of Songs – Tryst in the Spring page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/song-of-songs-tryst-in-the-spring/

Written on January 29, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.


Pentecost

Micah 6:8: Loving, Just and Wise

Monday, June 10, 2019

A re-post of thoughts from Pentecost Sunday 2012.

You have been told what is good . . .

Yet we endlessly seek the opinion of others about what we are to do and say.

This is what the Lord requires of you . . .

There is no need to ever be in doubt about what we are to do or what we are to say if we can only place our head and heart into the hands of the Holy Spirit.

Do what is right . . .

When we look for excuses that pardon our actions and words, we know that we are moving in the wrong direction.

Love goodness . . .

When we find ourselves splitting hairs to win arguments, we know that we are loving the darkness.

Walk humbly with God . . .

When our feeling are hurt because we are not noticed enough for our accomplishments, we know that pride is ruling our words and actions.

As we celebrate the arrival of the Holy Spirit in our lives this Pentecost Sunday, let us remember these words from Isaiah 30:20-21The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst.  No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you will see your Teacher, while from behind a voice shall sound in your ears; “This is the way; walk in it,” when you turn to the right or to the left”. 

As we celebrate the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit in our hearts this Pentecost Sunday, let us remember these words from Matthew 10:16-20When they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it.  At that time you will be given what to say for it will not be you speaking but the spirit of your Father speaking through you, Mark 13:11: When you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say.  Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking but the Holy Spirit.

If when we ponder what is loving, what is just and what is wise, we come up with no answers, we have only to turn ourselves over and to open ourselves up to the Spirit, for it is in this Spirit that we find our God.  It is in this Spirit that we find ourselves. It is in this Spirit that we will know what to say and what to do.

It is the same Spirit that comes to abide with us that we hear about today . . . on this day after Pentecost Sunday.


Written on Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2012 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://orderofcenturions.org/documents/whitsunday.html

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