Archive for February, 2015

Ruth : Devotion

Ruth : Devotion

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld: Ruth in Boaz's Field

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld: Ruth in Boaz’s Field

February 28, 2015

If you have not read the story of Ruth, a Moabite woman who joins the Israelite people by marriage and lives out her life of fidelity in a remarkable manner, take some time today with this short book. It will be well worth the time spent. “The book contains a beautiful example of piety . . . [and] its aim is to demonstrate the divine reward for such piety . . . [Ruth’s] spirit of self-sacrifice, and her moral integrity were favored by God with the gift of faith and an illustrious marriage whereby she became the ancestress of David and of Christ”. (Senior 278)

Begin in Moab where Naomi has migrated with Elimelech and their sons Mahlon and Chilion. Find out why Naomi, Orpah and Ruth find themselves alone and seeking help. Return to Bethlehem with Naomi and Ruth. Meet Boaz, Naomi’s cousin, and discover how he lives out a life of fidelity that dovetails with Ruth’s piety.

Ruth says to her mother-in-law Naomi, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go with her, she said no more to her. (Ruth 1:16-18)

Reflect on the concept of piety and spend time this weekend to re-define the quality. Explore its many meanings and determine how Ruth brings this beautiful essence to bloom in a life that showed only the promise of abandonment and ruin. Then we might explore what kind of devotion this story inspires in each of us.

For more reflections, enter the word Ruth in the blog search bar and explore. 

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

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1 Samuel 9:16: Plightfishes and loaves

February 27, 2015

The Lord said to Samuel, “For I have witnessed their misery and accept their cry for help”.

Yahweh leads the Hebrew nation from slavery to freedom. The Lord guides Joshua as the tribes move into a promised land. God continues to abide with the faithful as they struggle through cycles in which they abandon God and return. We see God’s infinite capacity to heal and restore throughout the Old Testament. When Jesus arrives to incarnate God’s Word we are given a leader to follow, a brother to lean on, a vision of the world as it might be.

Matthew tells us in his Gospel: Seeing the people, Jesus felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

Mark tells us how Jesus feeds thousands from very little because of the compassion he feels for the faithful. In those days, when there was again a large crowd and they had nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples and said to them, “I feel compassion for the people because they have remained with me now three days and have nothing to eat.  If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come from a great distance.” (Mark 8:1-3. Read more of this story at Mark 8:1-13)

The message is clear. When we suffer distress, we must call on God. When we see others who suffer, we must do all that we can to relieve their plight. In this way we deepen our relationships with others and with God. In this way we prepare for the Easter promise. In this way we become Christ for one another.

If there is time today, read more of the story about how Samuel listens to God’s word. Or spend time with the Gospels looking for signs of God’s care for us today. 

To learn more about the plight of the homeless and how we might feed them, click on the image above or visit: http://www.mohmsplace.org/2012/06/feeding-multitude.html 

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Judges 16: The Strength of Samson

Reubens: Samson and Delilah

Reubens: Samson and Delilah

February 26, 2015

Then Delilah said to Samson, “How can you say that you love me when you do not confide in me?”

In this often-told Old Testament story we see how words can be used to deceive and conceal. Words of love can manipulate and destroy as well us build up and restore.

So he took her completely into his confidence and told her, “No razor has touched my head, for I have been consecrated to God from my mother’s womb”.

In this well-told Old Testament story we see how trust and betrayal both tug on the body, mind and soul.  Acts of deceit become preludes to acts of greatness when God is central to our lives.

Delilah had Samson sleep in her lap, and called for a man who shaved off his seven locks or hair. Then she began to mistreat him, for his strength had left him.

In this familiar Old Testament story we see how intimacy and revenge are dichotomous sisters in our modern lives. But always, as in this story, malice is superseded by God’s love.

Samson cried out to the Lord and said, “Oh Lord God, remember me! Strengthen me, O God.

In any array of negative emotion we call on God for strength; and so our fear, anger, and desire for revenge become hope, mercy and love.

Jesus reminds us: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

In this often-told Old Testament story we see how words can be used to deceive and conceal. In this often-told New Testament story we see how words of love can build up and restore. As we journey toward the Easter promise, let us reflect on the actions and words of Samson, Delilah and Jesus. Let us determine the source of our strength; and let us determine who we choose to follow and why.

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Joshua 1:9: Wherever You Go  

joshua1February 25, 2015

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

We need not doubt that the Lord our God abides in and with us. Throughout human history we hear the constant message of God’s fidelity and love.

That night the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham”. (Genesis 25:24)

In our darkest hours on our darkest days God is with us. God wants to bolster us when we falter. God wants to bring us blessings greater than we can imagine.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Not only does the Spirit abide in us, she brings us strength and courage and stamina to live in God’s word.

“Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.  (Jeremiah 1:8) Then Haggai, the LORD’S messenger, gave this message of the LORD to the people: “I am with you,” declares the LORD. (Haggai 1:13)

God’s prophets are keenly aware of God’s presence. Let us remain in God as these prophets remain, despite any fear or anxiety.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

God sends the Living Word to live among us as one of us. So great is God’s love hat he sacrifices himself that we might be rescued.

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” (Acts 18:9-10)

The resurrected Christ continues to walk with us as we work and play and pray. When we reflect on these verses we are reminded of God’s fidelity and strength and love. Let us give thanks for God’s presence as we continue our Lenten journey.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Use the scripture links above to compare various versions of these verses; and let us listen . . .

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Numbers 14:1-4: Back to Egypt

Jozef Molnar: Moses Leading the Israelites Out of Egypt

Jozef Molnar: Moses Leading the Israelites Out of Egypt

February 24, 2015

Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. And all the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron; the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become booty; would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us choose a captain, and go back to Egypt.”

We so frequently look at our circumstances and assume that conditions cannot get worse; yet the story of our lives proves that most of the devils we dread do not manifest themselves as we suspected. We too often over-react to what we experience and underplay God’s capacity and willingness to bring good out of harm.

We so frequently demand signs and assume that if God does not reply in the manner and time we have laid out that we are misunderstood; yet the story of our lives proves that God’s plans are far better than any we might devise. We too often over-look the many small miracles that crowd our days and underplay God’s generosity and love.

The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?(Matthew 16:1-4)

When we use the scripture links to read various versions of these verses, we allow God’s mercy and fidelity to sink into our bones. We may discover that we do not, after all, want to return to Egypt . . . and we have ample signs of God’s love before us.

For an interesting post on how we might stop complaining, click on the Molnar image above or visit: http://thewellnesswife.com/stop-complaining-gods-got-you-covered/

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Deuteronomy 4:1-2: I am Charging Youscroll shema

February 23, 2015

Moses says to his people: So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the Lord your God with which I am charging you.

Jesus tells the hypocritical leaders of his time, and he tells us today, that no matter the number of religious rules and practices we might proscribe, with God there is one Law that supersedes all others. But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

God says: When you find yourself caught up in the details of my Law, you can be certain that what you have focused on is something I do not have in mind. My kingdom is one of forgiveness, of healing and of love for all – even, and especially, our enemies. Do as I do – call to those who would harm you. Do as Jesus does – witness to the hypocrisy in the world. Do as the Spirit does – heal the suffering and anxiety you see in your world. With all of this, you will find great peace. Through all this, you will experience deep serenity. Because of all this, you are my great love in the world.

When we spend time today with these verses and reflect on their meaning, we may discover what portion of our lives we withhold from God. And we may also discover how we honestly and fully love God with all we think, all we believe, all we say and all we do.

To learn more about the mezuzah above and The Shema, the most sacred of Jewish prayers, visit: http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/Torah/The_Shema/the_shema.html 

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Exodus 13:21-22: The Lord Precedes UsPillarOfFire (2)

First Sunday of Lent, February 22, 2015

In our Noontime reflections we have frequently written about the pillar of smoke and fire that lead the Hebrew people in their faith-journey through desert trials in their search for the land they had been promised.

The Lord preceded them, in the daytime by means of a column of cloud to show them the way, and by night by means of a column of fire to give them light. This they could travel by both day and night. Neither the column of cloud by day nor the column of fire by night ever left its place in front of the people.

Today we reflect on our own Lenten journey, our own penitent search and we ask ourselves a few essential questions.

  • What is it we seek?
  • Is there any part of ourselves we hope to change?
  • Is there a relationship we must amend before healing can take place?
  • Are there actions we need to take before moving forward in our journey?
  • When confused, where do we look for guidance?
  • When alarmed, how do we find peace?
  • Are we as eager to follow God’s lead as we are to ask for God’s protection and help?
  • Is it possible that we cannot see the column of smoke and the pillar of fire even though it constantly precedes us?

If we cannot see ourselves as the Hebrew people who wander in the desert hoping and looking for the covenant promise, we might see ourselves as the Children of God who are well loved and well guided by God. In times of fear, pain and confusion, we might remember that after returning from death to commission his disciples, Jesus comforts and assures them. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”.  (Matthew 28:19-20)

floatingcloud-440x300God is with us always in the person of Jesus and in the healing person of the Spirit. When we consider our worst trials and suffering, we do well to look for the presence of the column of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night. We do well to allow the Lord to precede us. As we spend time with these verses today, let us be open to the presence of the Spirit.

To read Rabbi Sigal Asher’s thoughts of the column of cloud and fire, click on the cloud image above or visit: http://rhr.org.il/eng/2014/01/finding-our-pillar-of-cloud-and-fire/ 

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0014 - tour negev night fire tree

Night Camp in the Negev Desert

Leviticus 13: Outside the Camp

February 21, 2015

In the Book of Leviticus we find hundreds of laws that are meant to regulate a faith-governed Jewish life. Ironically, these rules created by men to assure fidelity too often create a world that our divine creator did not intend. Just so is the admonition we read today.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch which appears to be the sore of leprosy, he shall be brought to Aaron, the priest, or to one of the priests among his descendants. If the man is leprous and unclean, the priest shall declare him unclean by reason of the sore on his head. (13:1-2)

We might argue that this quarantine preserves the human race and that the separation is necessary. But what might we say about our obligation to tend to the needs of this isolated community?

The one who bears the sore of leprosy shall keep his garments rent and his head bare, and shall muffle his beard; he shall cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as the sore is on him he shall declare himself unclean, since he is in fact unclean. He shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp”. (44-46)

How might we see our own beliefs and actions in our daily lives when we encounter people, places and themes that we see as unclean?

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish you can make me clean”. Move with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean”. The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. (Mark 1:40-42)

As we continue our Lenten journey, we pause for a time today to reflect on these verses and to consider how we enact Christ’s actions in our lives. How do see those who are set apart? How do we deal with themes, places and persons segregated from our own careful societies? How do we interact with those outside our clearly delineated camp?

For further reflection, read about Fr. Damien and the U.S. National Historic Site on the Hawaiian island of Molokai and those who suffer from Hansen’s Disease at: http://visitmolokai.com/kala.html

For information on biking tours in the Negev Desert, click on the image above or visit: http://www.veredgo.com/dynamic/tours/about/Biking+through+the+Negev+Desert/ 

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Genesis 1:27-28: Dominion

Jan Brueghel: The Temptation in the Garden of Eden

Jan Brueghel: The Temptation in the Garden of Eden

February 20, 2015

God created humans in God’ image; male and female God created them. God blessed them saying, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it”.

On this first Friday in Lent, we contemplate the abundant gifts and mysteries of our planet. We ask for wisdom to use Mother Earth’s resources prudently. Today as we reflect we might read about or watch part of a Frontline episode and determine how we can improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay or the world’s rain forests.

When Jesus stills a sudden storm, his followers ask in amazement, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?” Read this story in Matthew 8:23-27 or in Luke 8:22-25 and consider our complex relationship with the natural world and how we characterize our human dominion over earth’s resources.

Read or watch one the Frontline episodes Carbon Watch or Poisoned Waters at: http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/carbonwatch/moneytree/ or http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/poisonedwaters/view/

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