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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category


Sirach 46In Praise of Ancestors

Friday, January 27, 2017familyroots

 A Favorite from January 25, 2010.

In this Noontime we find ourselves in the chapters of the Book of Sirach in which the writer spends time praising the Hebrew ancestors for their openness to God’s message and for their fidelity in following God.  In this particular chapter, we relive the Hebrew transition from nomadic tribe to settled people.  Joshua and Caleb, two leaders who have always been loyal to Yahweh and who have followed Moses from the beginning of their journey out of Egypt, now lead the people into the place of promise – the territory God secured for his people.   The Judges are the leaders who continued to shepherd the Twelve Tribes until the time of the Davidic Kingdom.  Samuel is the last of these and we may read more about this federation at the following site if we are looking for more information.  http://www.jcpa.org/dje/articles/judges.htm

Notes will tell us that Joshua’s name means: The Lord is savior and this is apt since it is through Joshua’s wisdom and leadership that the Hebrew people are able to conquer enemies and receive their inheritance.  The Book of Joshua will give us the details of this story.  Caleb, whose name means wholehearted faith and devotion, is also appropriately named.  Here is a site with a synopsis of the interesting story these men share.  If you like espionage and are intrigued by the seamy parts of life, read about how these two friends who were able to secure a legacy for a people through some very unusual means.  http://www.bible-knowledge.com/Joshua-and-Caleb.html

Samuel’s story is well known and the books named for him will remind us of the story read out to us on Sundays during particular times of the liturgical year.  We will remember that his mother Hannah prayed for children and was rewarded for her fidelity with the birth of this child and others.  We will remember how as a boy he ran to Eli in the temple, thinking that the priest was calling him in the night when all the while it was the voice of God he was hearing.  Eli tells him to respond to this voice by replying:  Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.  Samuel serves God as a prophet, and he becomes the final judge of Israel who ushers in the kingdom by first anointing Saul and later David – all at God’s bidding.

What do these stories mean to us and for us?  They tell us about our spiritual roots.  They remind us of how and why we are created.  They are our link to a past which brings us to this present.  They are an opportunity to re-investigate who we are and what we mean.

These stories also bring another opportunity.  They are the chance to think about our own immediate ancestors – who they were and what they mean to our own lives.  Our forbears may have had a great influence on our spiritual life – either because of their dedication and fidelity to God, or perhaps because of their lack of any spiritual direction.  In either case, our predecessors are the flesh from whom we come, they have given to us the habits and gestures we have inherited.  Theirs may well be the message that we continue.  As we reflect on our roots, we will want to think about whom we praise . . . and why.

Let us take a few moments sometime during this hectic day to reflect on the stories we have heard about the people in our family tree.  What message does the story of their lives leave for us?  And what part of their story do we wish to pass on as part of the great Story of the World?  What or who will our own lives praise?

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1 Kings 21: Deception – Part II

Thursday, June 9, 2016tota_vineyard-rows-russel

Oh what tangled webs we weave, when first we practice to deceive!

My mother’s quoting of Walter Scott’s words peppered our growing-up years. Her use of Scott’s poetic words was her method of teaching the lesson of Ahab and his temper tantrum.

Ahab wants something which someone else cherishes and does not wish to give up.  Ahab goes home, puts his face to the wall and refuses to eat.  His unfortunate wife, Jezebel, colludes with him to get the coveted vineyard from their neighbor, and if we read the entire story, we see what kind of an end these two come to.  They both pay a heavy price for their egregious crimes of trumping up false charges, conniving, lying, stealing, inciting a crowd to stone to death an innocent man. Naboth’s mistake or error is merely the cherishing of something that someone else wants.

We hear Yahweh’s words through the prophet Elijah in verse 20: You have given up yourself to do evil in the Lord’s sight.

Frederick Leighton: Jezebel and Ahab met by Elijah

Frederick Leighton: Jezebel and Ahab met by Elijah

Since my childhood, and because of the wisdom of my mother, my family has not worried about belonging to a particular group.  When my family opens our home party, all are welcome. Universal hospitality, bridge building to fringe groups, invitations to include all at the table have grown out of my mother’s teaching about Naboth, Ahab and Jezebel.

In this year of presidential politics in the U.S., we have become aware of many Naboths, many Ahabs and many Jezebels in the public eye. As we take in the daily news, we recall more words Mother and Dad recited from scripture: The measure that you measure with is measured out to you.  Ostracizing others says more about you than it does about the others.  There is really nothing that can be kept secret.  The truth always comes out in the end. I hope you can stand it when it hits you in the face.

What a wonderful gift we are given in the friends and neighbors God sends to us.  What a wonderful treasure is the vocation of building community to which we are called.  What a blessing to work, play and live beside people with whom we hold things in common, and people with whom we hold little in common. We learn more from our enemies than we do from the people with whom we feel most comfortable.  We are all God’s creatures, made in God’s image.  What do our daily actions say about the relationship we have with our Creator?  Do we turn away in anger when we covet something someone else has? When we open our hearts and homes, are all welcome?  Do we extend invitations with ulterior motives?  Do we interact with only a select few and bully others to bow to our wants? And when God asks us to invite the faithful to the table, whom are we willing to invite?

From a reflection written on June 1, 2008.

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1 Kings 21: Deception – Part I

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Vineyard in Wadi Biyar

Vineyard in Wadi Biyar

Oh what tangled webs we weave, when first we practice to deceive!

These words, often mistaken attributed to William Shakespeare, are found in the epic poem, Marmion, by Walter Scott about the Battle of Flodden that took place in 1513. The poem was published in 1808 but my mother repeated the words of this poem she had read in high school any time she found any of her brood even thinking of doing something that was not above board, open, honest and fair.  The story of Naboth is one that haunted me as a child; the envy, lies and deceit go beyond anything I experienced among family and friends. But as I grew older, I began to see Naboths everywhere; and from time to time I have been Naboth myself.

Verse 4 sends a chill down our collective spine when we realize what is about to happen: Lying down on his bed, [Ahab] turned away from food and would not eat.

We were raised by parents who kept secrets on topics they did not know how to discuss or that brought pain to those already suffering too greatly; otherwise, my elders modeled honesty in every-day life whenever they could. Mother would often say, “If you are keeping something secret in order to have friends, this should tell you that there is something wrong with the people or the event you are thinking about joining”.  Of course, she was correct.  Secrets have a way of surfacing and when they do, their result is always irony.  “You better think twice about what you are thinking of doing”.  She would continue with more axioms.  “Birds of a feather flock together.  There is no honor among thieves”.  Once when I was in the sixth grade, I told my Mother that I could not invite a particular girl in my class to my birthday slumber party.  “Why not”?  Mother asked.  “Because’’, I answered with confidence, knowing that she would agree with me once she heard the terrible consequence that would follow, “If I do, the rest of my friends won’t come to the party.  And besides, she is a little weird and gets on our nerves”.  My mother turned from the stove where she was always standing, and said.  “Here is what you are going to do, or else there is no party.  You will invite all of these girls and when you do, you will all find something nice to say to this one you say gets on your nerves.  If you were paying attention as you should be, you would realize that she is worried that you don’t like her and she doesn’t know what to do about it”.  She turned back to the stove, saying over her shoulder, “And if the rest of the girls don’t come because you have invited her, they are no friends at all.  They are just people who are rude and inconsiderate.  They must have really had their own feelings hurt at some time, or they wouldn’t be acting this way.  You would think they would know better”.  And that was that.  I imagined a slumber party with me and the “weird” girl, but then I knew better than to try to outmaneuver my mother.  And she was right.  All the girls were invited.  All the girls came.  We sat crossed-legged eating popcorn until small hours, making certain that this one friend felt cared for.  We all survived the experience having learning something, and being better for it.  As for the weird girl, my mother was right.  Once she realized that we were not ostracizing her, she stopped being weird.  But really, I think it was the rest of us who stopped being weird.

That was most likely the most important lesson I learned about social interaction.  Mother did not name this bullying. She knew nothing of Mean Girls, or Queen Bees, or give it any other name than what it was: rudeness, a lack of consideration, the mean ostracizing of individuals or groups from a community.  And my mother, growing up in a family of six sisters and one brother, would not tolerate this lack in her own children.  I thank God for the careful shepherding Mother gave us as she handed us tools to handle the meanness of the world.

Tomorrow, Deception-Part II, Ahab gets his way.

For more on girls and bullying, visit: http://culturesofdignity.com/portfolio/queen-bees-and-wannabes/  

For more about Naboths, vineyard, click on on the image above or visit: http://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/passages/main-articles/naboths-vineyard-1-kgs-21.aspx 

Adapted from a reflection written on June 1, 2008.

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Ezekiel 34:23-31: One Shepherd

Wednesday, May 4, 2016shepherd

 We have reflected on God’s home and God’s foolish message. We have watched Paul and Barnabas use sinew and muscle to share the good news of God’s mercy. Today we consider how God’s goodness and love nurture and shepherd us.

Adapted from a Favorite written on April 5, 2008.

Today some of my children have gathered to help me with the chores which are too much for me to accomplish on my own, and I know that my parents are happy about this.  I also know that Mother and Dad are here in spirit, continuing to shepherd from the next world, even as they shepherded in this one.  They loved to call together “work parties” with the ostensible purpose of accomplishing some task . . . but which always resulted in more bonding than any of us could have imagined.

joshua_24_15b--full-800x800Shepherds protect and guard in many fashions.  My parents led us to the nourishing springs Ezekiel describes that rejuvenate even dead bones.  How do we lead others?  How do our actions speak to others?  How do we demonstrate our willingness to love as Jesus loves?

For my part, I will allow God to call me and mine as God sees fit . . . and I rejoice to see my children and their children live lives that are happy not because they are satisfying themselves . . . but because they are doing what they know to be the work of God.

In good times and in bad, in celebration and in sorrow, it is my constant prayer that my children, grandchildren and I might continue helping one another to keep our eyes fixed on the the one shepherd who cares for his sheep so well.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)

Click on the shepherd image above, or enter the word shepherd into the blog search bar to further explore how God leads, supports, and loves us.

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2 Timothy 4: Sound Doctrine

Monday, April 18, 2016Carroll-PopeFrancisandHisImplicitRevolution-690

Recently Pope Francis shared thoughts on the family and the Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia); his thoughts drew both praise and scorn as we might imagine. Today as I read commentary, I am drawn back to a favorite reading from 2 Timothy. Thinking about sound doctrine, I found this reflection and post it today as a Favorite.

This reading has special meaning for me as it was the first reading at my Dad’s funeral, and my son Thomas was the lector. These verses embody, for me, the lessons I was taught by my parents – and it is my hope that my own children believe that I too, teach sound doctrine. I know that many times we have “itching ears,” that often we “heap up teachers according to our lusts,” and that we “turn away [our] hearing from the truth and turn aside rather to fables.” These are the struggles we have with the little messages that constantly bombard us in this world. But I hope and pray to “be watchful in all things, bear with tribulation patiently, work as a preacher of the gospel, fulfill [my] ministry.” Every day as my students pass before me, I try to keep these things in mind while I attempt to “fight the good fight.” In the end, the children are watching us as we watched our elders. I did not miss much as a child or as a student, neither do my children or the young scholars who come into my classroom each day. These children constantly call me to my vocation of listening, learning, teaching, watching, hoping, waiting, believing, seeking and loving.

Pope Francis calls us to sound doctrine not only in his letters but in his every action. I pray that my own life might be an example of such fidelity, authenticity, joy and love.

An interesting commentary on the Pope’s recent encyclical by James Carroll can be found at the NEW YORKER site at: http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/new-morality-of-pope-francis-joy-of-love

To read the encyclical, go to: https://w2.vatican.va/content/dam/francesco/pdf/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia_en.pdf

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Mark 12:35-44: Comparison

James C Christenen: The Widow's Mite

James C. Christensen: The Widow’s Mite

Monday, August 31, 2015

As we continue to study the Gospel of Mark, we are struck again by his immediacy and precision; and we see how Jesus turns stark divisions into unifying calls. 

The widow we meet today who gives from her poverty is seen in sharp contrast to the scribes who give from their surplus.  Jesus as the son of God is also juxtaposed against those who would be servants but who are more enamored of status, money and place.  The obvious lesson here is understood quickly, even by children.  The widow’s contribution – small as it is – is worth as much and perhaps even more than the large amount given by others from their surplus; and the widow herself is as valuable, or more, as those who profess great learning and experience.  We can see that this portion of Mark’s Gospel asks us to take a deep look to examine our own status, our own motivations, our own spiritual life in Christ.  The more obscure lesson is this: We ought not to worry if we only have two cents when come forward to add to God’s treasury . . . God is counting on this small gift to appear and God has a plan for this small gift which we cannot see from where we stand.

My dad, the oldest of eleven, always used to say that when we compare ourselves to others we will always come up way short of some and way ahead of others.  He would encourage us to compare what we have done in a day to what we might have done on a good day.  He asked that we measure ourselves against our own potential.  He directed us to steer well clear of comparing ourselves to others in any way with the words: You have no way of knowing what God knows.  And when he himself became frustrated with life and with what he believed to be his own weaknesses, he would often murmur repeatedly in low words:  God only knows.  Only God knows.  God only knows.  Only God knows. 

My mother, born the seventh of eleven, was fond of telling us – when we balked at going somewhere we thought we might be bored – Did you ever stop to think that God might have need of you today?  Did it ever occur to you that your presence has a purpose even when you do not see it?  Maybe you are being asked to bring something you do not realize you have.  Go and find out what it is.  And so we would go . . . and we always found out that yes, we had two cents, and they belonged in God’s treasury.

When we believe that the efforts we make are puny in attempting to answer God’s call, we might remember the contributions of the scribes and the widow.

When we fear that we have erred in responding to God’s call, we might remember that Jesus sees all of us, knows our worth and values our gifts accordingly.

When we feel that we have somehow gotten things wrong, that we have misunderstood the instructions we think we hear, we might remember that with God, our two cents are worth worlds . . . because we have come to God, trusted God and loved God.

And so we pray.

Precious God, We know that we often misunderstand messages.  We sometimes doubt our ability to hear you clearly.  We also know that we ought to be wary of those wearing robes for the sake of show.  We sometimes become enamored of the robes ourselves.  We always know that when you destroy temples you also rebuild them in days . . . deep within our hearts.  Continue to guide us as we filter through the pageantry of life to find that which is worth more than the mere two-cent value it appears to have at first glance.  Help us to compare ourselves to our own work rather than to the work of others.  Lead us to your way of seeing and thinking.  Lead us to your way of trusting and believing.  Lead us always back to you.  Amen. 

A favorite from August 23, 2009.

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Mark 3:20-35Jesus and his Family

Tissot: Jesus Teaching in the Temple

Tissot: Jesus Teaching in the Temple

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

He came home.  Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. 

As I was growing up and moving into womanhood, my oldest brother – twelve years my senior – would come home from college, visit us when he had military leave, and then brought his family to visit from places across oceans.  When he did, the clan would gather to celebrate.  My sisters – both older than I but younger than this brother – came home often, and they brought their families from places nearby.  They believed that the celebrations for my brother were more enthusiastic than those for their own families.  Perhaps they were.  I do not remember seeing the difference.  My younger brother and I watched this curious mixture of disappointment and love, feeling that push and pull of family dynamics and understanding that this was how family functioned. A dichotomy of conflict and acceptance, worry and love. I suspect that each of us has similar family experiences.

In today’s Noontime we see Jesus return home from a pilgrimage of healing and transforming others, and so many gathered that it was impossible for them even to eat.  Jesus’ family, worried that he will come under scrutiny by the officials, declares that he is out of his mind.  The scribes, worried about losing influence with the people, decide that Jesus is possessed by the devil.  This is a confusing, jumbled juxtaposition of celebration and dangerous plotting.

Life is never a simple picture.  Reality is always a combination of highs and lows, positives and negatives, sorrows and joys.  Today’s Noontime, much like my own family memories, presents us with a picture of sadness mixed with delight, celebration with worry.  And this is as it should be.  For this is how families are.  And this family of Jesus that we read about today is very much like our own families.

All of this makes sense when we watch Jesus return home and we consider that he is, after all, our brother.

Adapted from a reflection written on August 31, 2010.

Tomorrow, Jesus of Nazareth.

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2 Kings 4:42-44: Some Left Over – Part I

Pope Francis kisses a child as he arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican June 5, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi

Pope Francis kisses a child as he arrives to lead his Wednesday general audience in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican June 5, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi

Sunday, August 2, 2015

When I was a child and company arrived unexpectedly on a warm summer afternoon, my mother would whisper to my older sisters, “Go peel another pound of potatoes, and squeeze more lemons for another batch of lemonade”. The main course would stretch, she knew; the other side dishes and desserts were ample. It was the sustaining starch and the refreshing fruit drink that our surprise summer visitors would need for their journey onward.

Each time I read about the manna and quail in the dessert I think of my mother and the trust she placed in God as she and my dad raised their large family in unpredictable times. And when I hear the story of Elisha read out during liturgy as it was last week, I pledge to affirm the faith of my parents, knowing that they understood the power of good stewardship and the gift of conserving what was left over.

“Wasting food is like stealing from the poor,” Pope Francis has told us, and it was is this spirit that I was raised. It is this spirit I have tried to pass on to my children and grandchildren. Offering food and drink to the wayfarer, my parents showed us, extending hospitality to all is a way of life worth fostering; it is a tradition we find in both the Old and New Testaments. Honoring the sudden guest is our affirmation that God always gives us enough. Inviting the lost into a safe refuge is our demonstration of belief in the mercy of God. Husbanding all that is left over is our response to God’s call that we treasure all we are given by a generous and loving God.

Over the next few days we will look at stories from scripture, both old and new, to explore God’s message about sustenance, hospitality, and something left over. Today, we read Pope Francis’ words about food and we use a search engine to find an agency that provides a means for the poor to gain a permanent food supply, and we consider giving something of our wealth left over – even if it is only a few barley loaves and fish – to this cause.

You might begin your search with these organizations, or you might conduct your own search of global or local agencies.

www.foodforthepoor.org, www.moveforhunger.org, www.feedthehungry.org, www.helpthechildren.org

If you still have no idea where to begin, consider food for the poor with the Forbes list of the 50 largest cities in the U.S.A. at http://www.forbes.com/companies/food-for-the-poor/ Or Feed the Future at www.feedthefuture.gov

Tomorrow, bread from heaven. 

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ruth 2

Julius Schnorr Von Carolsfeld; Ruth in Boaz's Field

Julius Schnorr Von Carolsfeld: Ruth in Boaz’s Field

Chesed – Part II

The story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz is a tale about family, integrity, honor, honesty and fidelity. It is also about God’s providence and love; and it is about returning to the covenant relationship we have with God that is marked by “loyalty of faithfulness arising from commitment” which in the Hebrew community is known as chesed. (Meeks 408) If there is time this weekend, read this story from beginning to end. It will warm your heart.

“The book contains a beautiful example of filial piety . . . Its aim is to demonstrate the divine reward for such piety even when practiced by a stranger . . . [Ruth] became the ancestress of David and of Christ. In this, the universality of the messianic salvation is foreshadowed”. (Senior 278)

Today we enter the drama at the point where Ruth, the stranger in this land of the one living God, goes for the first time to glean what she can so that she and her mother-in-law might survive. It is when she is in the field gathering the leftovers that she meets Boaz for the first time. Keeping in mind that a widow in ancient society was considered a burden rather than an asset, we see how well Boaz treats her. He does not take advantage of her diminished status; rather, he seeks to support and protect her from the impure, unwanted – yet legal – advances of others. He cautions her to glean only in his fields, and he warns off the men who work for him, making certain – as much as he is able – that Ruth might gather enough to support herself and her mother-in-law. He even allows her to glean among the sheaves themselves rather than just the edges of the field. It is clear that he is taken by Ruth yet he does not take advantage of her. In subsequent chapters Boaz fulfills all honor obligations so that he might marry Ruth according to the law and tradition of the time. So we see that “Ruth’s piety . . . her spirit of self-sacrifice, and her moral integrity were favored by God with the gift of faith and an illustrious marriage”. (Senior 278) But first she was widowed, followed her widowed mother-in-law to a new land, and set about doing what she might so that they both might survive.

Ruth does what she must, given what she is given. Ruth gleans where God sends her and in so doing, she harvests more than the ephahs of barley that she takes home to Naomi; she becomes the mother of Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David, king of the Jews. Ruth appears in Jesus’ genealogy: Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. (Matthew 1:5).

In the times when we feel widowed, abandoned or alone . . .

In the times when we feel the overpowering burden of providing for self or others . . .

In the times when we feel that we have arrived in a foreign land with new traditions and customs . . .

In the times that we feel exhausted from the gleaning we have done for endless days . . .

Let us remember the goodness and wisdom of Naomi . . .

Let us remember the integrity and protection of Boaz . . .

Let us remember the piety and self-sacrifice of Ruth . . .

And let us remember the merciful justice, the guidance, and the love of the Lord. For these are the things that save.

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. 404. Print.

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

Adapted from a reflection written on May 18, 2010.

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