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Psalm 79: War


Psalm 79War

Friday, December 14, 2018

A re-post from November 11, 2011.

Today is Veteran’s Day and the birthday of my littlest granddaughter who lost her sister a few short weeks ago.  I read this Psalm and think of death as we understand it – the loss of one we love – and I wonder . . .

Help us, O God, our Savior . . .

Today is also the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, a soldier who converted to Christianity and gave up the world of physical violence to enter into a spiritual life that in many ways looks much like war.  As St. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:12-13: Our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.  Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.  From the MAGNIFICAT Mini-reflection: Saint Martin translated his long military career into a campaign of spiritual warfare against the paganism and the temptations to worldly wealth which threatened the people of the Church he served as monk and bishop.  I think of evil spirits in the heavens, and warfare and death and St. Martin and I wonder . . .

May your mercy come quickly to meet us for we are in desperate need . . .

Paul writes to the Corinthians and to us in today’s Morning Prayer: The weapons of our battle are not of flesh but are enormously powerful, capable of destroying fortresses.  (2 Corinthians 10:4)  I think about how we may not recognize our own paganism, our own violence, our own falling away from God, and I wonder . . .

Help us, O God, our Savior . . .

Good women and men step forward when times are dark.  God never leaves our side when circumstances extinguish hope.  I think about warfare of all kinds and I wonder . . .

May your mercy come quickly to meet us for we are in desperate need . . .

I call upon the God who suffers with us, who abides with us, and who heals all wounds and violations shot through the faithful by the pagans who invade their inheritance, who breach the temple gates and defile holy places, and I wonder . . .

Help us, O God, our Savior . . .


Images from: http://www.themoralliberal.com/2011/11/10/veterans-day/ 

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 11 November 2011: 145. Print.


Acts 8:4-40Magic or Mystery

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Avancino Nucci: Peter’s COnflict with Simon Magus

Written on March 10 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

In today’s Noontime we have the juxtaposition of Simon the magician – who uses sleight of hand and deceit to lure in an audience – with Philip the apostle – who allows the Spirit to work through him to call others to Christ.  Which are we today?  Who are our friends, family, companions and colleagues?  What do we expect from our world?  How do we interact with all of God’s creatures and God’s creation?

Following the martyring of Stephen, the apostles scatter.  This brutal act which was meant to stifle the Spirit only carries it out into the world.  As always, God turns all harm to good . . . if we prepare ourselves to receive God’s gift of grace.

We might examine our conscience as we move into our Lenten journey.

You thought you could obtain God’s gift with money . . . Pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you . . .

Do I want to know the truth even when inconvenient?

Peter said . . . your heart is not right with God . . .

Will I accept critique, even when it is delivered unkindly?

How can I understand [the Gospel] unless someone guides me . . .?

Am I willing to listen more than I talk?

The crowds listened eagerly to what was said by Philip, hearing and seeing the signs that he did . . .

Do I consistently create time and space for God in my life no matter the circumstance?

Now those [apostles] who were scattered went from place to place . . .

Am I willing to proclaim the good news even when joy eludes me?

Philip proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus . . .

We cannot purchase or earn God’s grace in any way.  God’s grace is not a trick that fools the eye or ear.  God’s grace is the action of Spirit that moves within and through us.  The proper response to this gift is our gratitude, our fidelity, and our willingness to build the kingdom with all who are likewise called by God.

We may be tempted to worry only about ourselves and we may want to think that our relationship with God is with God alone.  We find out, once we begin to listen well, that we are to act in concord with one another despite and even because of our differences.  God’s great oneness is not a monolith but a kaleidoscope variety of his creatures and creation.  Once we begin to notice what attracts us to God, once we begin to discern our reason for seeking God . . . we will know if we are looking for magic to solve our problems . . . or the Spirit that transforms us into faithful kingdom builders.


A re-post from November 10, 2011.

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Magus


Judith 1A Lesson Worth Learning

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Benjamin Jean Joseph Constant: Judith

Just this morning I was speaking with a friend about Nebuchadnezzar and when I opened the Bible for the Noontime reflection I saw his name in the middle of the page.  I thought back to the conversation and remembered that my friend was saying how the extravagance at the Oscar awards celebration made her think of this man who demands that his subjects worship him.  We might take a lesson from this.  The beginning of the book of Judith is about how Nebuchadnezzar demands much of his vassal nations and of how he exacts his demands by making war.  This is the backdrop for the story of Judith which we have visited often.  It is an environment of violence and survival, a dangerous setting with various groups of people: the Assyrians, Persians, Medes, and Chaldeans.  Rivers familiar to us from our school studies mark borders: the Tigris and Euphrates, the Jordan.  We recognize the names of countries: Egypt and Ethiopia.  The name of King Arphaxad is new and even exotic.  The opening of this drama brings with it the known and unknown with destruction immediately announced.  Frontiers are breached, limits are exceeded.  We know that this will not be a gentle story.This dovetails, in a surprising way, with the first reading for Mass today from Sirach (17:20-24) about how one who is penitent is guided to God by God.  I am wondering if these leaders in the opening chapter of Judith would heed this kind of advice if offered to them.  I am wondering about people who believe they know the best way to do everything.  I am hoping that I have better ears and a bigger heart than the leaders we read about today.

To the penitent God provides a way back, he encourages those who are losing hope and has chosen for them the lot of truth.  Return to him and give up sin, pray to the Lord and make your offenses few. 

This is good advice to follow when we find ourselves baffled, lost or alone; but it is impossible to follow if we are actively involved in anger.  Strong, negative emotions are easy to use against others; they are difficult to put aside once they have become comfortable tools.

Who in the nether world can glorify the Most High in place of the living who offer their praise?  Dwell o longer in the error of the ungodly, but offer your praise before death.

This is good advice to follow when we are embroiled in conflict or swamped with fear.  If we can do nothing else . . . we can begin to praise God, even if we can only begin half-heartedly.

How great the mercy of the Lord, his forgiveness of those who return to him!

There is a good ending that comes to the faithful in today’s story if we want to read ahead; and this story teaches us a lesson worth learning.  “There can be no doubt that Judith was meant as didactic fiction, not factual history . . . Part 1 narrates a military and religious struggle that begins in Persia and makes its way across the western nations to the little Israelite town Bethulia . . . Part 2 tells how the God-fearing woman Judith destroys the enemies of Israel.  This ‘beautiful’ widow of Manasseh (8.7) lays aside the sackcloth of her widowhood in order to make herself ‘very beautiful, to entice the eyes of all the men who might see here’ . . . Together Parts 1 and 2 show what it means to serve only one God, to turn to this God for an easing of life’s plights, and to trust God without reserve.  The book teaches that by vocation and God’s design, the covenant people are free if they fear only God and rely wholeheartedly on the covenant”.   (Mays 1460-1461)

Repent, return and celebrate . . . This is a lesson worth learning.  It is a lesson worth enacting in our lives.


A re-post from November 9, 2011.

Image from: http://bible-women.blogspot.com/2009/07/proud-judith.html

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 1460-1461. Print.

Written on February 28 and posted today as a Favorite . . .


Psalm 19The Builder’s Craft

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

If we get away from ambient light to look into the heavens on a clear night, we will see millions of stars . . . and it is all too breath-taking.  The sky proclaims the builder’s craft.

On a clear day when we look into the skies, we see powder puffs or high horse tails of clouds; on other days the banks and streaks of clouds announce a coming storm . . . and it is all too awesome.  The sky proclaims the builder’s craft.

If we look at the one who announces God among us, Jesus, we see that . . . he is all too splendid.  He too, proclaims the builder’s craft.  He is the Lord’s law, the new law that supersedes the old and fulfills the promises made to Abraham.  The psalmist describes this law, this Christ to us.  He is . . . perfect, refreshing, trustworthy, giving wisdom, right, clear, pure, true, desirable, and sweet.  He comes to save and restore.  He is among us to transform.  He is our rock and our redeemer.

We are also the builder’s craft for we are created in God’s image, adopted as Jesus’ sisters and brothers, consoled and protected by God’s Spirit.  When we allow ourselves to be cleansed of our faults – both known and unknown – then shall we be blameless and innocent of grave sin.

Then will the words or our mouths meet with the Lord’s favor.

Then will we keep our thoughts ever before God.

Then will we fully know that we are, like the skies, the handiwork of God’s loving hands.

Then will we declare with full voice the glory of God, and like the skies, then will we . . . proclaim the builder’s craft.


A re-post from November 8, 2011.

Image from: http://www.arizonatourismcenter.com/scottsdale/index-scottsdale.php/Stargazing-Tours-14/


Jeremiah 16The Source of Life

Monday, December 10, 2018

Michaelangelo: The Prophet Jeremiah – The Sistine Chapel

Here we have the explanation for Jeremiah’s celibacy: this state has divine origin, and it announces Israel’s fate that life as they have known it has ended.  With no family, Jeremiah’s social isolation is complete; there is no future.  “The world has become utterly silent.  There will be no mourning rituals, no feasting . . . Jeremiah’s celibacy signifies the total obliteration of daily domestic life.  Vv. 10-13 ask the questions that lie at the heart of the book and belong to the experience of exile: why has God done this to us?  What is our sin?” They have abandoned God, worshiped other gods and have broken the law.  They may think that compromise and bartering will win them a reprieve but in the end there is nothing without God.  (Barton and Muddiman 503)

All is bleak . . . until we come to the end of the chapter with a liturgical song of conversion in verses 19 to 21 that serves as a model for repentance and a roadmap back to safety for the faithful who remain.  Through Jeremiah’s suffering, a remnant of the people may be saved.  Seen in this light, the chapter defends Yahweh from charges of injustice.  Seen in this way, celibacy is seen as a source of life.   Scripture is full of irony . . . what is lost is gained, what is empty is full, what is childless bears fruit.

Bernard Potthast: Woman and Children beside a Window

Genesis 11:30: Now Sarai was barren; she had no children . . .

Psalm 113:9: He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children . . .

Isaiah 54:1: Sing, O barren woman,you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy,you who were never in labor;because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord.

When we find ourselves cut off from our dreams, when we feel as though there are few options open to us, when we believe that we have nowhere to turn . . . we may want to consider our offering of suffering.  It may be the source of life for others . . . and thereby the source of life for ourselves.


A re-post from November 7, 2011.

Images from: http://inskirtsandwellies.wordpress.com/category/biblical-verses/ and http://www.artbible.info/art/large/74.html

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 503. Print.


Isaiah 48Exhortations to the Exiles

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Written on January 23 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

God’s patience, mercy and persistence are clear to us in this chapter of Isaiah.  It is unambiguous that our suffering brings spiritual growth and the refinement of our spiritual skills – I have refined you like silver, tested you in the furnace of affliction.  It is also obvious in today’s reading that God knows his creatures well – Because I know that you are stubborn and that your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead bronze, I foretold [things of the past] to you . . . before they took place . . . that you might not say, “My idol did them, my statue, my molten image commanded them”. 

God well understands how much we humans like to take credit for all that goes well, and how much we like to blame him for all that goes badly; yet God is always welcoming us home and here he asks: Now that you have heard, look at all this; must you not admit it?  The conquering armies of Babylon have themselves been conquered; now is an opportunity to escape slavery and return to Jerusalem: Go forth from Babylon, flee from Chaldea!  All those who have been patient and who have persisted in faith now reap the reward of returning from exile . . . if they can find the energy.  And so this God who loves us dearly anticipates our fatigue and he exhorts his loved ones to rise up and return to him.

Yesterday we reflected on the fact that God constantly accompanies us – even when we do not feel his presence.  Today we continue this thinking . . . God even abides with the exiles and urges them to come home to him.  God remains with us even when we turn to our little pagan ways.  God waits for us to remember that only God can restore what has been lost.  God loves us this much.

From now on I announce new things to you, hidden events of which you knew not.  How wonderful it would be if we might be open and eager for these new pronouncements.  How startled we might be to acknowledge that what God promises he always delivers.  And how joy-filled we would be if only we might believe the Good News we have heard . . . that our freedom has been gained for us, our sins have been absolved for us, and the way has been made straight for us.

Today’s MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer offers perfect petitions as we move from exile to freedom to home, from stubbornness to repentance to restoration, and from disbelief to acknowledgement to joy.  Let us allow ourselves to be encouraged by God’s eager exhortations to us, the children he loves so very much.

We seek to grow in holiness and turn away from sin.  So we pray: Bring us to repentance.

When we have strayed from the path of righteousness: Bring us to repentance. 

When we are enthralled by what is not of God: Bring us to repentance. 

When we become blind to our sins: Bring us to repentance. 

Lord our God, you are loving and merciful to all those who turn to you in humility.  Draw us ever deeper in your embrace as we seek to please you through holy lives.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen. 


A re-post from November 6, 2011.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 1.23 (2011). Print. 

Image from: http://www.modernparapsychology.com/Gamer/Moloch/Smelt.html


Deuteronomy 2God’s Presence

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Written on January 22 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

The Lord, your God, has blessed you in all undertakings; he has been concerned about your journey through this vast desert.  It is now forty years that he has been with you, and you have never been in want. 

In today’s Noontime we have an accounting of the Hebrew travels with God and we may – or may not – be astonished by the intimate conversations between these people and their Lord.  They contain both detail and emotion, and perhaps these are attributes of our own interchanges with God as well.  He advises specifically where they are to go, what – and whom – they are to avoid, what they are to purchase, and how they are to survive.  As we read we come to understand the reason for the drawn out period of time in the desert.  We impatient humans murmur to ourselves that God’s time and plan are long and intricate; but if we read carefully we understand that God is doing two things as he accompanies these tribes in their wanderings: he is refining his people through trial, and he is establishing a strong bond of trust with them.  Who can doubt this awesome God after reading these accounts?  In today’s Noontime we see the toughened and strengthened Israelites begin to experience success in battle.   I now deliver into your hands Sihon, the Amorite king of Heshbon, and his land . . . This day I will begin to put a fear and dread of you into every mouth under the heavens.

We each make a journey through the desert, anticipating the promise in which we believe.  We each have need of specific instruction.  We each must express to God our fears, wants and joys.  We each are accompanied by the Lord.  We each are at the heart of God’s plan.   We each are blessed, and we each are the holy dwelling place of God.

The Lord, your God, has blessed you in all undertakings; he has been concerned about your journey through this vast desert.  It is now forty years that he has been with you, and you have never been in want. 

We have two ways to look at life as we know it. It is either a dreadful series of difficult situations . . . or a delightful record of God’s attentive love.  My parents always told us that just because things don’t turn out they way you think they should does not mean that God has not been with you.  In fact, God has been with you.  And God is with you now to help you learn what it is you are supposed to learn.  Be open. 

We were raised to expect the best from people and from God, to practice patience and understanding, and to act in compassion and honesty.  Not all of those lessons took, to be sure, but I remember them often, especially when I feel I am in danger.

As we skirt hazards and are sometimes nipped by anxiety and dread, we must remember that just because we may not feel God’s presence at all times does mean that he is not with us.  When we forget this, we forget who we really are: the daughters and sons of God.

This is the message you  heard from the beginning:We should love one another.  Dear children,let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.  This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (1 John 3:11, 18-20)

If God knows all, then he knows who and what we ought to avoid, where we ought to go, and how we ought to proceed.  We do well to remember that the creator of all loves each of us, knows our pains and joys, and knows the best steps for us in our particular journey.  We do well to listen to God’s word . . . and to rely on him who is always with us . . . even when we might not feel his presence.


A re-post from November 5, 2011.

Images from: http://www.jewishworldreview.com/wein/wein_matos_masei.php3?printer_friendly


1 Samuel 6No Strange God

Friday, December 7, 2018

Written on January 12 and posted today as a  Favorite . . .

This is a portion of the Ark story we might find interesting.  In earlier chapters, the Philistines have taken the Ark, hoping to benefit from what they believe to be its extraordinary power.  What they do not understand is that the Ark is not an object of magic or superstition to be used as they wish.  What it does hold is this: Aaron’s staff which bloomed as a sign of God’s presence when the Hebrews were captive in Egypt, manna that sustained them in the desert as they journeyed toward the land promised to them by God, and the tablets of commandments given them by God through Moses.  It is not the Ark which now sustains the Israelites in battle as they struggle to maintain their identity in a world that wishes to eliminate them, it is God himself.  And this is something the Philistines do not understand.  Things have gone badly for them since they seized the Ark in a raid and now they wonder how to best dispose of it.

We enter the story today and watch as they determine what to do.  There are wonderful lessons to be learned from all of this.

First, God does not exist in some inanimate object.  God is within and without because God is everywhere.  We cannot hide from God, nor can we sort of summon God and put him away when we do and do not want him present.  Because God is everywhere, we need never fear that we are alone; and we must work to form our best relationship with God.

Second, we cannot somehow seize, steal or borrow someone else’s successful relationship with God.  We cannot pretend with God, nor can we fake anything with God.  Because God is authentic, it is impossible to form a false bond with him; and our best connection will be one that is open, honest, and humble.

Third, we cannot manipulate God in any way.  We cannot bargain, control or wheedle our way into God’s goodness, nor can we avoid God in any way.  Because God is omnipotent, it is impossible to out-maneuver God; and the best way to interact with him is with frankness and readiness to do God’s will.

There is, no doubt, much we might say about this reading; but the simple message is this: Our honesty, authenticity, security and humility are key to a healthy relationship with God.

In today’s MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer mini-reflection we read: Now and then, God’s people of old needed to be reminded of the care with which his love had surrounded and protected them.  Now and then we do too!  This introduces a canticle from Deuteronomy 32:3-7, 10-12.  You may want to read it today.  It concludes . . . The Lord alone was their leader, no strange god was with him.

The Philistines do not understand the true source of Israel’s power.  Believing it to come from a magic box, they do not comprehend that true power and authority comes from an honest, authentic and humble relationship with God.  We hold this in our hands and feet each day.  Our power comes from the way we act out our relationship with God.  Let us pray for the grace to accept this gift, for the meekness to allow God to work within us, and the serenity that comes from knowing that we are secure in God who has no strange gods with him.


A re-post from November 4, 2011.

Images from: http://areureallyawake.wordpress.com/tag/gods-love/page/2/ and http://www.mishkanministries.org/theark.php 

Cameron, Peter John, ed. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 12.1 (2011): Print.  


Jeremiah 47Coping With the Philistines

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Written on January 24 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Capture of the Ark by the Philistines

Jeremiah’s title is Prophet of the Nations and in chapters 46 to 51 we read the Oracles to the Nations.  In this portion of his prophecy, Jeremiah describes the coming judgment of Yahweh.  “Why Philistia is included at all in the list of enemies is not clear . . . What is certain is that the attack ultimately comes from warrior YHWH . . . The poem provides no clear reason for the attack, but it ends with “the song of the sword”.  In a poignant personification of YHWH’s weapon, an unidentified speaker begs the sword to be still but recognizes that the sword is unable to countermand YHWH’s plans for it”.  (Barton 523)

This commentary points out in the previous page that today we have an aversion to “the theological themes of vengeance, anger and retribution” (522); yet these images are meant to call Israel back to Yahweh, and to lay out a kind of case here in which God’s justice is seen for what it is. . . the natural playing out of the covenant conditions.

A few weeks ago we looked at Ezekiel’s song of the harvesting sword which held out a similar promise to the faithful: God’s justice is swift, God’s love is healing.   Today the object of this “Justice Sword” is the Philistines, a tribe of people whose history is intertwined with that of the Hebrew tribes.  More can be read about them at: http://www.bible-history.com/isbe/P/PHILISTINES/   Several weeks ago we read about the Philistines’ dilemma with the Ark of the Covenant which they had taken from the Jewish people (1 Samuel 6).  They believed that once they had physical control of this “magic” box that they could manipulate God and have him wait on them.  This, they found out, is not how God operates, and so they looked for a quick and clever way to return the Ark – the presence of God whom they did not understand.

Philistines Entering the Levant

Today we look at the prophecy Jeremiah pronounces for this Philistine people . . . and it is bleak.  When we take in all that is predicted, we realize that there is only one way to interact with Philistines: We must call on God alone for guidance and protection, and as New Testament people we will want to intercede for the Philistines in our own lives.  We will want to consider how the old covenant with Moses as mediator is fulfilled and superseded by the new covenant with Christ, the new mediator.  And so we will want to ask Christ to redeem and heal the modern Philistines . . . and the many faithful that they injure.  As we consider the implications of all of this for us today, let us pray . . .

Just and Merciful God, You know that we live side by side with those who do not revere you, and with those who believe they revere you when they do not.  Help us to step away from our anxieties and fears when we come up against the Philistines in our lives.  Teach us to take our large and small problems to you, and to trust in you alone to find the best solutions.  Encourage us as we look for ways to be faithful to you.  Help us to persevere as we place all hope in you alone.  We ask this through Jesus Christ, the New Mediator of your eternal covenant with the faithful.  Amen. 


A re-post from November 3, 2011.

Images from: http://www.goodsalt.com/details/pppas0162.html

 

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 522-523. Print.

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