Archive for September 8th, 2018

Daniel 9:1-12Ultimate Fulfillment

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Written on January 9 and posted today as a favorite . . .

Tilda Swinton as Gabriel in “Constantine”

What we see today is Daniel’s interaction with God’s messenger Gabriel who is mentioned here for the first time in scripture.  We know that scripture is not history – it is not an accurate telling of events in a sequential manner in order to set facts in place; rather, it is an inspired record of our interactions with God over thousands of years.  This is the gift of the Torah, prophets, and wisdom literature.  It is the gift of the accounts of Jesus, the Apostles and the Holy Spirit as a manifestation of God among us.

In today’s Noontime, footnotes tell us that the Darius the Mede whom we see in this prophecy is “unknown in profane history.  The Median kingdom had already been conquered by Cyrus the Persian, and it was Cyrus who captured Babylon.  Evidently the author of Daniel has deliberately adopted an apocalyptic view of history, derived from prophecy . . . according to which the Medes form the second of four world kingdoms preceding the messianic times . . . The character of Darius the Mede has probably been modeled on that of the Persian King Darius the Great (522-486 B.C.), the second successor of Cyrus”.   (Senior 1096)

Further commentary tells us that “the prophet Jeremiah (25,11; 29,10) prophesied a Babylonian captivity of seventy years, a round number signifying the complete passing away of the existing generation, Jeremiah’s prophesy was fulfilled in the capture of Babylon by Cyrus and the subsequent return of the Jews to Palestine.  However, the author of Daniel, living during the persecution of Antiochus, sees the conditions of the exile still existing; therefore in his mediation he extends Jeremiah’s number to seventy weeks of years (v 24), i.e., seven times seventy years, to characterize the Jewish victory over the Seleucids as the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy”.  (Senior 1100-1101)

What we see today is not a story about people or places we know in history.  Nor is it a story about a particular time in our human record that has little to do with us in 2011.  What we have before us is the story of how we – like Daniel – might interact with God’s messenger and with God himself.  It is the story about the ultimate fulfillment of prophecy.  It is the story of how God visits us constantly, how God interacts with us, and how God always keeps his promises.

When we flag or lose faith, when we are exhausted from the effort of our journey, when we are at the point of feeling that our exile will never end, we might – like Daniel – turn to God, acknowledge our humanity, and enter into a dialog with the divine.  For it is through our trials, when we drop our defenses against God’s presence in our lives, that we are most intimate with God.  And it is through our anguish and suffering that we encounter our divinity within.  This is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises to us – to live freely and wholly in the Spirit.

A re-post from August 9, 2011.

Image from: http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2005/02/06/arts/06devr_CA0ready.html 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1096,1100-1101. Print.   

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Judith 9The Author of Events

Friday, September 7, 2018

Caravaggio’s Judith

Commentary will tell us that Judith is an apt symbol for Israel in this story as she is a childless widow, a defenseless figure in society and one who is to be protected rather than stalked and raped.  What we read today is Judith’s Prayer, and through it we have a view of Judith’s plan to act as God’s agent.  In some way – she does not tell us exactly – Judith will use her words and her guile against the enemy.  Many wonderful lessons come from this story and one of them is that despite any action she takes herself, Judith continues to see God as the author of all events.  Judith’s ego does not claim success as her own other than her willingness to be God’s instrument.  She further identifies God through a beautiful litany as the God of the lowly, the helper of the oppressed, the supporter of the weak, the protector of the forsaken, and the savior of those without hope.  If we ever wanted a description of God, Judith gives it to us . . . with simplicity and power.

Judith is so faithful to God and knows God so well that after she calls upon the Lord she petitions this God of the humble who authors all events to allow her to act on God’s behalf – and to do so in a subtle and beguiling way.  The entire story is well worth our reading and if you have time in these hot and hazy days of summer, sit with Judith for awhile.  You will be rewarded.

Caravaggio: Judith Beheading Holofernes

THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE tells us on page 520 that although we do not know the identity of the author of this story, and although we cannot determine the reasons for its origin, we do know that it was written to strengthen the faithful in the belief that God truly lives among them.  “The book of Judith is a tract for difficult times; the reader, it was hoped, would take to heart the lesson that God was the Master of history, who could save Israel from her enemies.  Note the parallel with the time of Exodus: as God had delivered his people by the hand of Moses, so he could deliver them by the hand of the pious widow Judith . . . Any attempt to read the book directly against the backdrop of Jewish history in relation to the empires of the ancient world is bound to fail.  The story was written as a pious reflection on the meaning of the yearly Passover observance”.   Clearly Judith’s story is one that we will want to read when we feel that we stand alone before an imposing enemy; it is one we will want to read when we have lost the feeling that God is with us.  Perhaps as we read Judith’s prayer today, we will want to pray along with her . . .

All merciful and ever-tender God, take us up to cradle us away from danger.  You care for the abandoned, the betrayed and the forsaken.  Gather us up into your safety, bring us into your fold today and every day.   

All good and ever-compassionate God, you shepherd the lowly, the meek and the humble.  You defend the oppressed, the beaten, and the weak.  You allow the oppressor to succumb to their own plots.  Rescue us, heal us and restore us today and every day.

All loving and passionate God, you care for the vulnerable, the powerless and the marginalized.  You bring goodness out of all that is wicked and evil.  You turn harm back on its author.  Cure us, mend us, and renew us today and every day. 

Almighty and ever-powerful God, you know all things before they come to pass.  You see and hear all things that are beyond our comprehension.  You accomplish all things that are beyond our ability.  Remain with us, protect us and guide us today and every day.  

You who are the author of all events and lover of the lowly, hear our cry and come to our aid.  Remain with us today and every day.  Amen. 

A re-post from August 8, 2011.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.520. Print.

Image from: http://www.wpclipart.com/art/Paintings/Artists_A_to_C/Caravaggio__Judith_Beheading_Holofernes.jpg.html

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