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Archive for August, 2017


1 Samuel 17: The Way of Christ

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Caravaggio: David and Goliath

A Favorite from August 16, 2009.

This is a story we know well, and yet we might want to pause in order to spend time with a few details.

  • Battle armor and brave words do not protect Goliath from the truth of David’s one small stone. We might reflect that . . . bluster, barricades and weapons do not serve us as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • While David’s oldest brothers go off to fight against the Philistines with Saul, David tends his father’s sheep in Bethlehem. We might reflect that . . . although our work may often seem insignificant, it is always on target when we obey God as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David leaves his flock with another shepherd when he takes roasted grain and cheeses to the battlefield for the troops. We might reflect that . . . even in the midst of our work, we must remember to shepherd those who follow us as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David’s brothers are jealous not only of the bravery which stems from David’s special relationship with Yahweh but also because David comes to Saul’s attention for the question he repeatedly asks: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should insult the armies of the living king?” We might reflect that . . . we are often the target of jealousy when we are faithful and courageous as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David says with confidence to Saul: “The Lord, who delivered me from the claws of the lion and the bear, will also keep me safe from the clutches of this Philistine”. We might reflect that . . . we too, may place our hope in God’s promises as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David rejects Saul’s unwieldy warrior garments and tools so that he might take up and use the tools he knows best: smooth stones and his slingshot. We might reflect that . . . rather than arms and physical strength, our petitions of intercession on behalf of our enemies are our most powerful weapons as we travel along The Way of Christ.
  • David answers the enemy’s challenge with these famous words: “You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of armies of Israel that you have insulted . . . All this multitude, too, shall learn that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he shall deliver you into our hands”. We might reflect that . . . when the crowd jeers and when we appear to be defeated, we too serve as an example of how God saves and restores as we travel along The Way of Christ.  When we rise after apparent defeat, we are justified by God as we travel along The Way of Christ.

This is an old and familiar story against a backdrop of violence, yet it holds simple and valuable lessons for us today.  They are . . .

  • we must believe the story we have heard,
  • we must hope in the promise we have been given, and
  • we must enact love in the world as a sign that . . .
  • we travel along The Way of Christ.

In so doing, the many false and boasting Goliaths who confront us will fall permanently as we journey along The Way of Christ.

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Sirach 27 & 28: Being Blessed

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Malice, anger, vengeance, the evil tongue – these are the topics that Jesus Ben Sirach addressed in these two chapters from this Wisdom Book.  They contain such a treasure of gold!

For the sake of profit many sin, and the struggle for wealth blinds the eye.

We might think of the many kinds of profit we hoard besides financial profit – credit for work done, joy in the good fortune of others, the gifts of prophecy and witness, the understanding of faith, the healing balm of hope, and love of God.  We might think of the times we have been tempted to keep these things for ourselves in the event we run out of energy; and we might thank God that we have always shared the gifts sent. We might marvel at how we receive more energy from this sharing than we ever would from hoarding.

When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do a man’s faults when he speaks . . . The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had; so too does a man’s speech disclose the bent of his mind.

We might think of how often we reveal ourselves in our words, and in our lack of words.

If you strive after justice you will attain it, and put it on like a splendid robe.

We might think of the so many times in our lives when we have made the decision to not seek revenge, to pray for our enemies, to seek justice.  We are always rewarded.  God always delivers a better, more far-reaching justice than we could ever devise on our own or with others.

As a lion crouches in wait for prey, so do sins for evildoers.

We might think of the story of Haman who built a scaffold on which to hang Mordecai, the man he envied . . . and in the end Haman and his entire household meet death on this gallows. Rather than witness the execution of his supposed enemy from the comfort of his home, Haman and his family come to an unexpected and untimely end. I remember how my mother always reminded us that our deeds always “come home to roost just like the chickens do at night”.  The bad deeds along with the good deeds.

Cherish your friend, keep faith with him; but if you betray his confidence follow him not; for s an enemy might kill a man, you have killed your neighbor’s friendship.

We might think of the times we have been betrayed by someone we trusted, and how the depth of our grief was immeasurable.  And we might also think of the times we have been consoled and uplifted by authentic, genuine, abiding friendship.

A blow from a whip raises a welt, but a blow from the tongue smashes bones; many have fallen by the edge of the sword, but not as many as by the tongue.

We might think of the times when words have caused us physical pain, a pain that can only be healed by God.  We might hope that we have not inflicted this kind of pain on another.

And as we read on and on and on . . . we might think about how we are blessed.  We are blessed to have these words of wisdom before us, blessed to have a mind which comprehends, a heart that heals and a soul that turns to God.  We might give thanks that God is good, that God in the end wins over all those who turn toward and away from goodness.  We might think of how we are blessed . . . and so blessed be God forever.

Adapted from a Favorite written on August 22, 2008.

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Romans 8:35-39: Nothing

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What can cut us off from the love of Christ?  Hardships, crises, distress, lack of food or clothes, threats or violence?  No, we move through all of these things by the power of the Christ.  For I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God . . . God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This version of verses from Romans appears in today’s Noonday prayer in THE DIVINE HOURS: PRAYERS FOR SUMMERTIME by Phyllis Tickle.  It reminds us that in times of trouble there is nothing more we need say or think. There is nothing more we need do but attempt to live a life that communicates this belief to others.  At times, this Love of Christ is lived in our compassion as we abide with a loved one who is in pain.  At other times, it is lived in our witness to injustice.  At still other times, it is demonstrated when we must rebuke or step away from a situation or relationship.  Always it is experienced by our enemies when we intercede for them in Jesus’ name.

This Love of Christ is complex yet simple.  It is difficult for us to walk away from our inherited and learned behaviors that lead us away from Christ.  It is simple to put all anxieties aside and take on the new robe of Christ that empowers us to follow the new law, the Law of Love.

When we are in doubt, we can always turn to scripture, to the Christ-Written-as Story-for-Us.  When we open scripture, lines of The Story leap out at us and always these lines show us the way we must take, The Way, The Love of Christ.  Nothing must keep us from this Love.

Tickle, Phyllis.  THE DIVINE HOURS: PRAYERS FOR SUMMERTIME. New York: Doubleday, 2000. Print.

A Favorite from August 20, 2008.

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Micah 5:4: Reflecting God’s Mercy

Monday, August 28, 2017

Achille Tominetti: Downpour in the Mountains of Italy with Herd

We have heard the advice given to us by ancient sages; we know the advice we hear today; yet struggling with the reality that surrounds us is difficult. Sapping our energies and challenging our individual and collective imagination, current events ask for our fidelity to God’s Law of Love. Christ’s simple call to love our enemies asks us to stretch beyond the goals we set for ourselves. The Spirit rests in us and guides us always and all times. This is mercy we will want to take in for our own transformation. This is mercy we will want to reflect to the world.

Even in the rains that drench our enthusiasm when the Shepherd leads us.

And the people will have a good and safe home,
    for the whole world will hold him in respect—
    Peacemaker of the world! (MSG)

Even in the mountains that challenge our resources when God is with us.

And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
    to the ends of the earth. (NRSV)

Achille Tominetti: Returning from the Pasture

Even in the moments that take all our energies when Christ carries us.

When God comes, God will rule the people with the strength that comes from the Lord and with the majesty of the Lord God. God’s people will live in safety because people all over the earth will acknowledge God’s greatness. (GNT)

Even in the places and with people who ask too much of us when the Spirit abides.

And this will be peace. (CJB)

When we compare translations of these verses, we find the strength to reflect God’s mercy. 

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John 8:1-11: Contemplating God’s Mercy

Sunday, August 27, 2017

“God is a riverbed of mercy that underlies all the flotsam and jetsam that flows over it and soon passes away. It is vast, silent, restful, and resourceful, and it receives and also releases all the comings and goings. It is awareness itself (as opposed to judgement), and awareness is not the same as ‘thinking’. It refuses to be pulled into the emotional and mental tugs-of-war that form most of human life. To look out from this untouchable silence is what we mean by contemplation”. (Rohr 187)

Richard Rohr, OFM, tells us that if there is one characteristic to assign to God, it is mercy. This life-giving quality of forgiveness, fidelity, and love is God’s signature characteristic. Rohr quotes St. Teresa of Ávila from her book THE INTERIOR CASTLE. “The soul is spacious, plentiful, and its amplitude is impossible to exaggerate . . . the sun her radiates to every part . . . and nothing can diminish its beauty”. Rohr continues, “This is your soul. It is God-in-you. This is your True Self”. (Rohr 187)

Pope Francis tells us that THE NAME OF GOD IS MERCY in his signature work published in 2016.  He, like Rohr and St. Teresa, reminds us that in order to understand and experience mercy, we must first acknowledge that we are in need of mercy ourselves. Just as Jesus forgives the condemned woman in John 8, God wants to forgive each of us. Just as Jesus does not reproach the woman in John 8, God refuses to reproach each of us. Just as Jesus contemplates the possibility that God’s kingdom is now, God gives us the gift of mercy and insists that the kingdom is here.

“We live in a society that encourages us to discard the habit of recognizing and assuming our responsibilities: It is always others who make mistakes. It is always others who are immoral. It’s always someone else’s fault, never our own”. (Pope Francis, 2)

We live in a place and time when blame and fault are assigned, credit is taken, and deep divisions grow. We live in a place and time when mercy and love are needed, stories are believed, and bridges are built over deep chasms. St. Teresa, Rohr and Pope Francis tell us that God is a riverbed of mercy. They remind us that God’s generosity and love have no bounds. Once we begin to contemplate God as seen through the actions of Jesus, we know all of this to be true. Once we allow God’s Spirit to enter our lives, we allow ourselves to slide into the mighty flow of mercy that washes away all that separates us.

Richard Rohr, OFM. A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations. Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016.

Pope Francis, THE NAME OF GOD IS MERCY: A Conversation with Andrea Tornielli

 

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Proverbs: Sharing God’s Wisdom, Building God’s Kingdom

Saturday, August 26, 2017

“The book of Proverbs is a collection of collections, all on the subject of wisdom. There are several major compilations in the book, including ‘the provers of Solomon son of David, king of Israel’ (Pr 1-24), “more proverbs of Solomon, copied by the men of Hezekiah king of Judah’ (chs. 25-29), ‘the sayings of Agur son of Jakah” (ch 30) and ‘the sayings of King Lemuel – an oracle his mother taught him’ (ch. 31)”. There are also a few sub-collections (chps. 22:17-24:22, 24:23-23), a prologue (1:1-7) and an epilogue (31:10-31 that were likely added later. (Zondervan 957)

These verses brought to the people of Israel – and they bring to us – a methodology for the inclusion of divine wisdom into everyday living. These words give us a window into the mind of God, a preview of Christ as the Incarnate Word, and a taste of the Spirit present in each of us.

We may scoff at the simple wisdom of Proverbs because these words describe a well-defined path of knowledge leading to an ideal world in which most are comfortable and few struggle. As we explore these verses, we allow ourselves to remain open not to any prophetic value they hold, but to the simple orderly, stable, reliable guidance they impart, and to the description of God’s kingdom we are called to build. We do well to seek Lady Wisdom among these words.

When we choose a favorite chapter to explore in depth, we have an opportunity to acquire – and to share – the tools we need as builders of the Kingdom. 

A final note on Proverbs, modern scholars believe that while there were many compilations of sayings of and for the wise in ancient times, it is unlikely that Solomon had any connection these particular sayings. Most likely composed after the Babylonian exile, the 30 sayings in chapters 22-24 are quite similar to an Egyptian collection written before Solomon’s era.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 957. Print.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. RG 263-264. Print.

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Proverbs 31: Speak Out for Justice

Friday, August 25, 2017

As we close the Book of Proverbs, we remember the practical advice we hear that has the power to guide us in living a fruitful, God-like life. We know that we have the help of Lady Wisdom and God the Creator whenever we are confused, frightened or anxious. And we know that this wisdom lies within each of us, waiting to burgeon into good works that support the common good, nurture goodness in society, and bring about the serenity we seek. The formula is simple. We go to the margins rather than the powerful of society. We remember to include the diverse rather than the few or elite. We keep in mind that God sees all, hears all, and holds all in the heart of Christ. And we rest in the Spirit that not only consoles and heals, but also sustains, guides, and transforms.

Speak up for the people who have no voice,
    for the rights of all the down-and-outers.
Speak out for justice!
    Stand up for the poor and destitute!

Before the writers of Proverbs close their book of advice, they include a last ode to the virtues of the ideal woman. Although these words describe a world in which each woman saw her worth through the men in her life, they also describe God’s intention to include women’s quiet compassion as an important influence in a world that looks for peace.

Tomorrow we look at the writers of Proverbs to examine the timelessness of their words.

When we compare THE MESSAGE translation of these verses with other versions, we realize the importance of speaking out for justice.

For an additional post on the Ideal Wife, visit Sirach 25-27 on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2012/03/27/the-ideal-wife/

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Proverbs 30: Who Needs God?

Thursday, August 24, 2017

We never seem to learn that God is infinite and loving, and so the writers of Proverbs want to assure us of God’s compassion before they end their lesson plan of practical advice.

No God!—I can do anything I want! (MSG)

Knowing that, like small children, we want to believe we are gods, and also knowing that God offers us divinity itself, the writers of Proverbs remind us that God’s wisdom brings us peace.

I have not learned wisdom,
    nor have I knowledge of the holy ones. (NRSV)

Understanding that we often are too frightened or too stressed to feel God’s presence, the writers of Proverbs provide us with lists of mysteries, wonders, and symbols to guide us on our way.

I have not learned enough wisdom
    to know the Holy One. (CJB)

Believing that God has nothing but goodness in store for us, the writers of Proverbs remind us that despite any darkness that threatens our security, the light of God’s promise lies in each of us.

I am more like an animal than a human being;
    I do not have the sense we humans should have. (GNT)

Assuring us that God’s promise is true, the writers of Proverbs tell us that we only need run to God with open and honest hearts when we have lost our way.

When we compare varying translations of these verses, we come to more fully know that each of us holds an essential portion of God’s promise to humanity, and that each of us mist come to truly know our God.

Tomorrow, applying all we have learned.

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Proverbs 29: Seeing What We Are Doing

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

NASA: The Americas at night

We have moved through Proverbs absorbing the wisdom God reveals to us; but have we allowed ourselves to open to the mystery of transformation? What have we learned? Do we fully acknowledge that God sees that all we are doing?

Stubbornness versus discipline, obfuscation versus clarity, stasis and status quo versus dynamism and change. These are dichotomies God opens for us to explore. Do we take advantage of God’s carefully laid lesson plan?

For people who hate discipline
    and only get more stubborn,
There’ll come a day when life tumbles in and they break,
    but by then it’ll be too late to help them.

When we balk at the notion that God is in charge, we might remember that every obstacle is an opportunity to hone skills, and every closed door is an invitation to newness. We must ask ourselves to explore the unfamiliar and new rather than remain in the comfort of what we know. For God sees all that we are doing.

NASA: Asia at night

Today’s verses point out the value of honest friends versus the danger of flattering neighbors, and again we hear the warning against scheming, remembering that those who plot become the victims of their own plans. We recall God’s familiar call to soften our hearts and unstiffen our necks. Through all of this, do we remember that God sees all we are doing?

Evil people fall into their own traps;
    good people run the other way, glad to escape.

The good-hearted understand what it’s like to be poor;
    the hardhearted haven’t the faintest idea.

Sage versus cynic, cooperation versus sarcasm, gossip versus respect, and the irony of goodness against evil. In a black-and-white world of duality, we want simple answers but we also know the difficulty of seeing what we are doing.

Good people can’t stand the sight of deliberate evil;
    the wicked can’t stand the sight of well-chosen goodness.

NASA: Planet Earth

The world surrounding us is full of complex circumstances that challenge us to look for complex solutions. When we consider the mystery of God’s wisdom, we remember God’s loving providence. With time and study, we open ourselves to God’s compassionate correction. With time and care, we begin to welcome the knowing that God sees all we are doing. With time and love, we grow in our capacity to see for ourselves all that we are doing . . . while giving thanks that God sees all as well.

When we explore varying translations of these verses, we open the mystery of how we might see what we ourselves are doing.

For more NASA shots of earth, click on the images above and explore, or visit: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/earthday/gall_earth_night.html 

 

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