Archive for October, 2017

Solomon's Temple

Solomon’s Temple

Nehemiah 12:44-47

Their Due Portion

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A reprise from October 28, 2013.

The whole of Israel used to give the cantors and gatekeepers their due portion for each day.

Nehemiah describes not only the restoration of the Temple when the exiles return from their place of deportation; Nehemiah also explains that the rites and rituals were also restored.  All those who officiate at liturgies are to receive their due portion.  In return, the Levites, the sons of Aaron and all those who make liturgy possible are to perform their duties.  Nehemiah not only rebuilt walls and external structures, he rebuilt internal structures as well.

The Second Temple

Nehemiah’s Temple

God says: Each of you deserves your due portion.  When you insist on having less or more you upset your natural balance.  When you take more than your share you deny others of the goodness I have in store for them.  When you take less, you deny the gift you are to the world.  When you corrupt yourself or others you corrupt the vessel that contains hope for the world.  When you deny yourself or others you also deny me. Carry out the task shown to you.  Fulfill the hope planted in you.  Come to me with your questions and concerns.  Rather than take more or less than is meant for you, rather than fill your barns to bursting or depleting your energies until you are fully spent . . . receive your due portion and remain in the truth.  This is where your true treasure lies.

Jesus reminds us that the measure we measure with is measured out to us.  (Luke 6:38) He also reminds us that where our heart lies, there will be our treasure.  (Luke 12:34)

For more information on the duties of gatekeepers, go to: http://prepareforthelamb.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/gatekeepers-watchmen-you-are-to-speak-out-the-lord-has-called-you-out-to-be-bold-today/

For more information on the Second Temple, click on the image of Nehemiah’s Temple or go to: http://michaelruark.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/there-is-enough-room-for-both/

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Nehemiah 12: 27-43: Dedication

Monday, October 30, 2017

Bible Encyclopedia: Dedication of the Temple

The books of Ezra and Nehemiah bring us the chronicle of returning exiled Jews who threw themselves into the work of rebuilding the protective walls of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple itself. These books relate the Jewish people’s fidelity to the Torah (The Law) and an authentic Jewish life lived in faithful adherence to their covenant with Yahweh.

Today we consider our own agreement with our Creator.

Why do we forget how much we have promised to reform once we see ourselves out of danger? Why do we work so hard to amend our ways only to fall back into the same temptations, addictions and games? Why do we, like the Jewish people who return to their old rituals after the Babylonian captivity, ardently promise to repent and repay? Why do we work diligently to reform and then, like the Jewish nation, slip back into familiar, unfaithful habits?

Because this world is a treacherous, alluring, clever place, and the only way we can hope to walk through it and still remain faithful to the covenant promise is to be in constant contact with the Creator God, the Ransomer Christ, and the Indwelling Holy Spirit. We read about the faithful followers of Yahweh who rediscover the relics of a life for which they had hoped, but which they suspected they would never live again. They have escaped bondage and now they gather to celebrate, to dedicate, to promise once again to abide by the covenant promise.

May we, like this faithful band of people, re-gather, re-collect, re-dedicate, and re-commit ourselves to a life centered around service to the New Torah – service to the Gospel – service to Christ.

Adapted from a reflection written on June 2, 2007.

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Ezra-Nehemiah: Fulfillment

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Everyone knew that the work had been done with God’s help. (Nehemiah 6:15-16)

Why is it that the antisocial cannot see that their end is in their own work?  Why is it that the Sanballats and Geshems among us do not see that the darkness in which they operate will eventually give way to the Light, to the Hope, to the Promise?  The wise do not take flight – as Nehemiah did not flee.  The wise do not fear the shameful stories, the discrediting talk, the false prophecies.  The wise remain calm and firm in their God.  Letters, tweets, posts and emails may fly, but in the end the truth will stand alone, and everyone will fully understand who has been the plotter and who has been the wrongfully blasphemed.  In God’s time and in God’s plan those who abide by the Covenant, those who strive each day to put down roots by the bank of the river and soar up to the heights, to the light will bear fruit.

Psalm 1 is a mini Bible in that it describes the person of God who suffers yet withstands the onslaught – not through their own work but by the grace and protection of God.  They flourish and prosper, despite the treachery.  They yield fruit in season.  Their leaves do not wither, and whatever they do prospers.  The Lord watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.

And so today we pray.

Lord, keep me ever in your ways.  Steer me clear of the paths of the scoffers.  Abide with me as I strive to abide with you.  I ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Adapted from a reflection written on September 16, 2007. 


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Ezra-Nehemiah: Prayer

Ezra-Nehemiah: Prayer

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Everyone knew that the work had been done with God’s help. (Nehemiah 6:15-16)

The enemies of Ezra and Nehemiah are made to look foolish by the good deeds of these two men, and by the fidelity of their God.  When we spend time with this story we find the affirmation of the knowledge that all faithful hold . . . that in God’s plan and in God’s world, the faithful need not fight – they only need to stand and avoid anyone and anything that comes between them and God.  Ezra and Nehemiah act, as priest and the administrator, as Law and City, as idea and deed.

In Nehemiah 5 we hear of the anti-social behavior of some in the community and Nehemiah’s lack of self interest.  In Chapter 6 we hear about the plots against him, and how the work concludes successfully despite the traps laid for him.  In today’s verses, we see that the plots of the wicked are as chaff which is easily blown away from the grains of wheat.  God cares for the faithful. God brings all fruit to maturity. God abides and does not disappoint. When we are honest with ourselves, we know that God has not changed in two thousand plus years. We know that we can rely on God’s protection and guidance, just as Ezra and Nehemiah do. And we know that we too, must remain in constant connection with God through prayer and reflection.

Today as we surmount obstacles and solve problems, we rest in God’s immense heart. We consider the power of our prayer and constancy.

Adapted from a reflection written on September 16, 2007. 

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Ezra-Nehemiah: Work

Ezra-Nehemiah: Work

Friday, October 27, 2017

Everyone knew that the work had been done with God’s help. (Nehemiah 6:15-16)

For nearly a month we have explored the books of Ezra and Nehemiah (Esdras in the Douay version) and with a casual glance, we see that they describe the reconstruction of the Temple and the Jerusalem city walls when the Israelites return from exile.  With a deeper look, we see that these books, together with 1 and 2 Chronicles, tell the story of how a people rise from rubble with the protection of their enemy Cyrus. Now we consider what this story might mean for each us today.

Authored by “The Chronicler,” these book describe how Ezra, a priest who traces his heritage back to Aaron, and Nehemiah, a man who reconstructs the walls of Jerusalem, collaborate as a pair: Ezra calling the post-exilic community back to the Torah, and Nehemiah organizing the work of the rebuilding of the city walls.  They work together “to make it possible for Judaism to maintain its identity during the difficult days of the Restoration.  Nehemiah was the man of action who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and introduced necessary administrative reform.  Ezra in turn was the great religious leader who succeeded in establishing the Torah as the constitution of the returned community”.  (Senior 487)

Today as we move through our daily tasks, we spend time reflecting on our spiritual and physical lives to examine what we build and why we build it. Today we consider the work of our lives.

Adapted from a reflection written on September 16, 2007. 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.487. Print.   

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Nehemiah: Rebuilding the Temple

Thursday, October 26, 2017

We have seen themes develop in our journey through the stories of Ezra & Nehemiah; and at various times in our lives we respond to God’s call to reform, rebuild and transform. And Nehemiah serves as an example to us today.

From the notes of the NAB: Nehemiah was the man of action who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and introduced necessary administrative reforms.  He was a man dedicated to the single purpose of the welfare of his people. He serves as an exemplar to lay people today.

When we are given the God-graced opportunity to begin anew, we do well to look at the upside.  Rather than view a loss as only the lack of something, we might look at ourselves in our circumstances as receivers of the gift of change, the gift of an opportunity to reform and rebuild.  We are reminded again of St Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians: to rejoice in all circumstances, for in them we see the will of Christ Jesus.

In this harvest time as we begin to snug in for winter to light candles in the dark, we might also think of ways that we can wipe slates clean, make amends where we can, thank God for all gifts given, turn over our grief about the small and large places in life where we suffer, and allow our sorrow about things lost to transform us into lights as numerous as the stars in the heavens.  We might be new Abrams and Sarais who look up at the afternoon desert sky when Yahweh says, “Your children will be as numerous as the stars in the sky”.  Abram could not see the stars because it was daylight; but he had the imagination and hope necessary to hear and understand God’s word. (Genesis 26:4)

There is great possibility present when grief visits us.  There can be great newness in the nothingness we feel at the low points in our lives.  Like Nehemiah, we must be single-minded and dedicated. And we must allow ourselves to love with a love of life that knows no bounds.

Adapted from a Favorite written on December 3, 2007.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

6648f45035a47efdafeee4d3f3f056e4_XL[1]Nehemiah 13

A Prayer for Willingness

True hope differs from waiting in that it expects the impossible to become possible through our petition and in God’s action.  Today we might reflect on a mirror image to hope and conversion that we pondered yesterday: the juxtaposition of willingness and desire.  It is this willingness – rather than our desire – that refines us as faithful.  It is this willingness – and not mere desire – that marks us as God’s disciples.

But what might we gain, we ask ourselves, from being willing rather than willful?

Perhaps it is our willingness that God nurtures patiently, waiting for our readiness to participate fully in God through Christ.  Perhaps it is this measure of willingness that indicates our full and ready understanding of who God is and why we are created in God’s image.   Perhaps is it our willingness to withstand any difficulty, our determination to be disciples of Christ that signals our preparedness to believe that God can truly make all things possible.  Do we desire to be with God but try to avoid all obstacles in our journey?  Or are we willing to travel the road, despite its roadblocks, in full willingness?

As we read about Nehemiah warning against stepping into alien and pagan territory and relationships, we might remember the Good Samaritan parable told by Jesus.  A man from Samaria, considered to be an outcast by the Jewish community, helps an injured traveler on the road to Jerusalem while the Levite, one who has special status in the Jewish community, keeps himself separate and pure.  As we mature from our Old Testament self who seeks to merely understand God and enter into our New Testament self to seek union with God we leave our desire behind . . . and we enter into willingness

We fully experience God’s presence when we give over our human desire of wishing for the end result through expedient or easy means, when we surrender our willfulness in order to become willing. But for this we need courage.

We genuinely live as God’s disciples when we cease asking for the easy route that has no brambles or pitfalls, when we take on the divine mantle of succumbing to the arduous journey of true willingness.  But for this we need strength.

And so we pray . . .

Dear and gracious God,

We hope to rest constantly in you; grant us your readiness.

We desire to follow faithfully the way of Christ; grant us your eagerness.

We expect to hurdle all obstacles that would keep us from you; grant us your strength.

We hope to respond willingly to your call no matter how difficult the journey; grant us your courage.

We ask that you hold us close to you. 

We ask that you keep us forever with you. 

We ask that you grace us with your willingness.

We ask this in Christ’s name, in unity with the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

For more information about the contrast of willingness and willfulness, click on the image above or go to the 21 February 2013 Brookhaven Retreat blog post at:  http://www.brookhavenretreat.com/cms/blog-22/item/845-willful-or-willing

Adapted from a reflection written on July 21, 2009, and posted on May 9, 2013. 

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The idol Baal

Nehemiah 12 and 13: Strength

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

This might well be the cry of any of the faithful ones who seek to do God’s will in the midst of a crazy and alluring world.  When we read the closing chapters of Nehemiah, the reformer, rebuilder and administrator, we hear the plea which might come from any of us who struggle to right a foundering ship.

Nehemiah remembers that the Empire fell when Solomon began to marry with foreign queens who were worshippers of Baal rather than followers of the Jewish faith.  He worries that after all the sorrow, pain, sweat and tears of the post-exile return and rebuilding . . . these men may be wandering back into the very life styles which brought about the downfall of the kingdom and sent them into exile in the first place.  We hear Nehemiah’s plea that the Lord remember his efforts in chapter 13 verses 14 and 31.  “Remember this to my credit!”

This plea to do God’s will in the face of easy temptations to slip into life patterns which do not witness to God’s presence among us is heard in today’s MAGNIFICAT Morning Intercessions:

When silence is more attractive than fidelity to the truth: My strength, make haste to help me!

When approval is more desirable than perseverance in good: My strength, make haste to help me

When safety is more appealing than suffering for righteous’ sake: My strength, make haste to help me!

Temple of Baal Shamen, Palmyra, Syria

When we feel ourselves or others slipping into old, comfortable but dangerous patterns, we might want to quickly utter this petition of . . . My strength, make haste to help me!  And we may want to echo Nehemiah as he says: Remember this in my favor, O my God!

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 10.5 (2008). Print.  

A Favorite from May 10, 2008.

For more on the Temple of Baal, click on the image or visit: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Baal-ancient-deity 

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Nehemiah 11: Re-Peopling

Monday, October 23, 2017

James Tissot: Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod

The list we read today is similar to the one we find in 1 Chronicles 9 with a number of differences; still it relates, and perhaps magnifies, the struggle we find when we attempt to recover after catastrophe . . . just as the Israelites re-peopled Jerusalem after exile.  It shows the people in a mode of compliance following their re-commitment to the covenant, much like a recalcitrant child who becomes manageable, and even docile, after a disturbing break with parents.  We humans seem incapable of having much memory when it comes to adhering to our promises; yet God remains always faithful . . . and God always keeps promises. There would be no need to repopulate Jerusalem if the people had adhered to their agreement with God in the first place; yet here we are with the story of a people who turn and return.

In today’s reading, we realize that there would be no need to renegotiate details or to remember who belonged to which tribe if the Israelites had remained faithful. There would be no need to redeem land, reclaim property and rebuild walls if they had lived their promise rather than pretend. Still the returnees struggle to keep balance, and to remember the details of land distribution as originally promised with God.  They tussle with one another, trying to be open and honest.

Here we see a people taking meticulous care with names, positions, professions and locations. They are intent on regaining what they have lost; yet, is it possible to restore all that is gone? The answer lies with Jesus who allows us to be present to him no matter our circumstances. Jesus always redeems.  Jesus always allows us to return.  Jesus always calls us to transformation. In today’s reflection in THE MAGNIFICAT ADVENT COMPANION by Nancy Valko, she closes with this thought: It is when we truly open our minds and our hearts that we learn Jesus never stops telling us what we need to hear. The people of Israel had stopped listening to and for God, and we see the consequence.  They lose all they have, and are taken into exile.  Upon their return, they renew their vows but, sadly, we know the rest of the story.  Shortly after the death of Christ they lose even the little we see them gain in today’s Noontime. And so we consider . . .

God is always speaking.  Do we always listen?

Jesus is always healing.  Do we always care?

The Spirit is always abiding.  Do we always feel the presence of God?

When we were growing up and might complain that “we got nothing out of going to church,” one of my parents would usually reply, “And how much did you take with you when you went?” A good question.  And it is one we will want to ask ourselves as we consider Christ’s gift, his offer to turn and return, his call to re-people the empty places in our lives, his invitation to celebrate his coming.

Adapted from a Favorite written on December 13, 2010.


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