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Judges 3: Leading in Christ

James Tissot: Othniel

Monday, June 26, 2017

Adapted from a March 23, 2010 Favorite.

The judges in this book “were not magistrates, but military leaders sent by God to aid and to relieve his people in time of external danger.  They exercised their activities in the interval of time between the death of Joshua and the institution of the monarchy in Israel . . . The purpose of this book is to show that the fortunes of Israel depended upon the obedience or disobedience of the people to God’s law.  Whenever they rebelled against him, they were oppressed by pagan nations; when they repented, he raised up judges to deliver them”.  (NEW AMERICAN BIBLE, 217) today we look at the first three judges, Othniel, Ehud and Shamgar.

He raised up for them a savior . . . who rescued them.

James Tissot: Eglon Slain by Ehud

In today’s Gospel we read of an encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees.  Their savior stands before them, willing to sacrifice all in order that they believe, in order that they turn back to God to enter willingly into the sheepfold.  Jesus describes the relationship he has with the creator: The one who sent me is with me.  He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him”.  (John 8:29The Pharisees are envious and plot against him; yet many others . . . Because he spoke this way . . . came to believe in him.  (John 8:30

In the time of Judges, the faithful believed that when they went astray they would be punished by God.  In the Gospel of John, we see that when we stray we suffer the consequences that we measure out to other people.  When we isolate or judge wrongly, we suffer the consequence we had meant for another.  When we forgive and seek reunion, we experience the unity Christ offers.

The Pharisees think themselves above the Law because they adhere strictly to the code Moses handed to them; they do not comprehend the New Law of Freedom and Love that Jesus presents to them and which he lives out before them.  It is for this reason that Christ says to them: You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above.  You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world.  That is why I told you that you will die in your sins.  For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.  (John 8:23-24

James Tissot: Shamgar Son of Anath

As we assess where we stand and whether our actions portray our belief in a forgiving, loving creator, we take a moment to re-read stories of long ago heroes: three men who answered God’s call to deliver a nation.  We too, are called in every day ways to lead others to freedom – for in so doing, we free ourselves from the bonds of this world.

Like the judges we read about today, we are called in Christ to become leaders.  We are called to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, and to proclaim liberty to captives.   Like those bystanders who witnessed Jesus’ interchange with the Pharisees, let us come to believe in him, and let us act as if we do.

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Judges 14 and 15: Marrying the Philistine

Sunday, June 25, 2017

José Echenagusía: Samson and Delilah

The Philistines were a war-like tribe of people who came out of the Aegean area as part of the movement of Sea Peoples to end the Hittite rule and to settle along the Mediterranean in the area of Gaza today.  In the Book of Joshua and early in the Book of Judges, we read that Yahweh allows this people to survive so that they might test the Israelites.  Through time, the nation of Israel will have to learn how to co-exist; rather than convert or kill off, this strong-willed pagan people. Some say that the modern Middle Eastern conflict dates back to these early skirmishes, and we can never know this for certain; but here is what we can and do know. This conflict and this story about a man dedicated to God from birth has many surprising twists and turns that all lead to one lesson: We must rely on God alone, no matter the circumstance, no matter the condition. 

From the notes in La Biblia de América we learn the following. Believing that they will obtain the power to decipher Samson’s riddle and somehow control his strength, the Philistines plot to bring him down. But when we examine this story closely, we see that sometimes we too, must marry the Philistine because we never know if this has been brought about by the Lord, who is providing an opportunity against the unholy in our lives who have dominion over our sacred places. 

We might learn something about our fear of failure and rejection when we listen to Jia Jiang’s Ted Talk: What I learned from 100 Days of Rejection at: https://www.ted.com/talks/jia_jiang_what_i_learned_from_100_days_of_rejection

We might also explore Jia Jiang’s book: REJECTION PROOF: HOW I BEAT FEAR AND BECAME INVINCIBLE THROUGH 100 DAYS OF REJECTION: Harmony Books, N.Y.  

LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. Print.

For more about the Philistine people, visit: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-philistines 

Adapted from a reflection written on May 8, 2009. 

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Judges 14 and 15: Philistines

Saturday, June 24, 2017 

Alexandre Cabanel: Samson and Delilah

A few days ago we reflected on the story of Samson and Delilah; today’s we consider our lack of understanding that God frequently uses surprising people and circumstances to bring God’s plan to fruition.  In Samson’s early life, we read that he wants to marry a young woman who was not a member of one of the seven non-Israelite tribes with whom the people of Israel were permitted by their Law to marry.  Looking at verse 4, we see that Samson’s desire to marry this young woman is upsetting to his parents – as it would be to a believing Jew – yet it will be used as part of God’s plan to save the faithful.  Now his father and mother did not know that this had been brought about by the Lord, who was providing an opportunity against the Philistines; for at that time they had dominion over Israel.  This story, therefore, today tells us something important which is . . . we never know how or when God will use unexpected people and circumstances in our lives to bring about his plan.  Sometimes we must marry a Philistine. 

The long story of Samson tells us about how people will want to control divinity rather than learn how to be a part of it.  We see in the unraveling of these plots to harness Samson that these people misunderstand how God works.  In the end, the wicked will fall by their own hand, and any harm they have leveled against the faithful will be used for good, but – and this is so important – with the consequences they had planned for others falling on them.

If we are patient, we begin to understand how Samson’s marriage to a Philistine woman plays out not only in Samson’s life but in the life of the community as well.  What happens to this woman, what happens to her family, and how Samson arrives at being one of a series of Israelite Judges is a story that unfolds in a string of twisting, unpredictable events.  All of this leads to the saving of a people, a nation, and a way of living that God has marked as special.  These ironies and turnings are not a jumble of calamities; rather, they are God’s plan to open us to eventual results that no one dreams possible . . . except for God and those who believe and trust in God.  Today we see that God makes the impossible possible.

Both this story of the young Samson, and the story of his relationship with Delilah are the same metaphor: Samson poses a riddle and is betrayed by someone whom he loves and trusts; the resulting reprisals end in Samson displaying his trust in God alone.  Even though he may possess the strength of a thousand, only God saves him; he cannot save himself.  Eventually with his death in Gaza, Samson kills more Philistines in one final act than he ever did in his lifetime.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 8, 2009.

Tomorrow, the Philistines in our lives.

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Judges 17: Reward in Due Season

Friday, June 23, 2017

We have just experienced the longest liturgical season of the year, Eastertide.  What will we do with the promise we have been given?  How have we examined ourselves during our Lenten desert passage, what do we do now that we have arrived at the empty tomb? How do we enact the promise of the resurrection?  Do we await the risen Christ who sits with us, dines with us, prays with us and heals us?  Do we take what we believe to be ours by force?  Or worse still, once we see that our apportioned lot has not yet arrived, will we take something from someone else as our determined recompense for what we see as an unjustified lack?  Do we allow our sense of entitlement to cause us to end our Easter joy a bit too soon?  Do we miss the risen Christ because we are busy elsewhere, making certain that “we get what is ours?”

Reward arrives in due season, when at its height to be savored best by those who wait on the Lord.  Humility and a right attitude about who we are in relation to God and to his creatures will discipline the willing heart.  The covenant is renewed.  We already have our reward, although we may not yet see it.  And so we pray for the wisdom to wait, the patience to discern, and the love to abide in Christ Jesus who walks and lives among us.  Rather than rush to the table to take our tribal place higher than what might be ours, let us await the beckoning of the king to seat us at our proper place for he is among us, and he loves us well.   We do best to wait on God’s will, rather than determine our own.

Adapted from a reflection written on April 16, 2009.

To explore different dimensions of humility, click on the image above, or visit: https://www.bigquestionsonline.com/2014/11/04/what-are-different-dimensions-humility/

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Judges 17: The Tribes


Judges 17: The Tribes 

Thursday, June 22, 2017 

The link below will take us to a map of the Middle East at the time of the twelve tribes.  A number of sites might provide similar information, or we might find solid information in a good study Bible map; but no matter the resource, we have an opportunity today to explore our own tribal instincts.

http://www.drshirley.org/geog/geog08.html

It is interesting to see where these families of Jacob settled when they returned from Egypt to cross the Jordan into their promised land.  The Levites, being priests, have no territory; they have 48 cities designated to them.  Joseph’s family has two tribes: Manasseh and Ephraim for his two sons.  The territory each clan is promised is based on the fertility of the land itself so large parcels are less fertile than the smaller ones.  Dan, we see, was never able to occupy the land his tribe was promised in the western portion of the region, so his followers scouted out a suitable city and took it by force.  Some say that this laid a foundation for this tribe’s failure in Judeo-Christian history; however, one thing we can notice is this: even when Israel has finished her desert wanderings and has come home to her promise, she struggles within. She yearns for a king who will bring justice and mercy and true peace to her existence. So might we also struggle once we have passed through a time of trial. So might we also come home from the desert to struggle when we settle into our promise.

From the HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY, page 236.  “The concluding chapters of Judges sound a recurrent theme, ‘In those days there was no king in Israel’ (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25) . . . ‘All the people did what was right in their own eyes’.  Neither judges nor deliverers appear in the concluding stories and, significantly, the threat to Israel is no longer external but internal.  Even when no foreign oppressor appears on the horizon, conditions do not improve, for Israel, left to its sinful ways, pursues a course that threatens its political and religious survival”.

Today we see that some of Jacob’s clan have yet to find their places in the promise alongside their brothers and sisters.  And we also see what action they take to rectify this situation.  We might ask ourselves what we would do in their place.

Tomorrow, Judges 17, reward in due season.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 236. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on April 16, 2009.

 

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Judges 4Deborah and Barak

Salomon deBray: Jael, Deborah and Barack

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Today’s story from Judges is different from yesterday’s, and it might show us that unity may be easier to achieve than the division into which we so easily slip.

The Book of Judges is good for us to read when we think we will never exit our cycle of sin and repentance; we see the Jewish nation struggle with independence just as we do when we mature in years.

We can find solid commentary in a good study Bible that will expland our understanding. Or we may explore http://www.Chabad.org http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/463964/jewish/Deborah-and-Barak.htm?gclid=CjwKEAjwvYPKBRCYr5GLgNCJ_jsSJABqwfw7AVII8ddJeZB3EcomDvzeudwTLpnQUYcxSrdGaV5jFBoCp0vw_wcB

We might also enter a discussion or ask questions on this site.

The stories in Judges are so often cited as a justification for holy war; yet as Christians we know and try to understand that retaliation has no place in the New Law.  As believers living in exile, we know that the faithful need not fight.  We have learned that God will make way for the faithful, and that God will be a refuge for those who try to follow in God’s Way.  As Jesus people, we will follow the voice where it leads, and we will put hands, and feet and words into the Hope that Christ calls us to live out.

From MAGNIFICAT today: The unity for which Christ lived and died is not an abstract ideal.  It is the result of hard work: suspending judgment, choosing others before self, forgiving, seeking reconciliation rather than nursing hurt pride.  In other words, it requires that we die to self in Christ.  The fruit?  The blessing of God’s peace!

This is followed by Jeremiah 31:10-14A canticle of celebration . . . the virgins will dance and strike their tambourines, young men and old will be merry, and God’s people will be filled with God’s blessing. 

The morning intercessions reflect on a message of healing the world through devotion, a message we can well use today.

Let us pray according to Christ’s will: Make us one in mind and heart.

For all the church: in the midst of difference and diversity: Make us one in mind and heart.

For all who believe in your name: in the midst of our divisions: Make us one in mind and heart.

For all who live in opposition to one another: in the midst of our conflicts and misunderstandings.  Make us one in mind and heart.

Amen.

Adapted from a reflection written on June 10, 2008.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 10.6 (2008). Print.  

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Judges 16Samson and Delilah

Peter Paul Reubens: Samson and Delilah

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

This is a familiar story to us – and when we open scripture to a comfortable place, we might look more closely, more intensely, to see if we are perhaps missing something because of the familiarity.

Samson was one of the series of Judges who protected and guided the Hebrew people before they asked for a king.  In this book we see the people of God continually repeat a cycle of dissent into separation from God . . . which causes loneliness and anguish followed by sorrow and repentance.  Yahweh always responds by forgiving and tending to his lost sheep.  There are periods of complacency and quiet when the people forget that God is central to their lives which separate the times of the judges whom God sends to lead the faithful.  Samson is one of the most famous.  We look at the following verses: 2 – And all the night they waited saying, “Tomorrow we plan to kill him”, verse 19 – Then she began to mistreat him, for his strength had left him, verse 28 – Samson cried out to the Lord and said,  “O Lord God, remember me!  Strengthen me, O God, this last time . . . let me die with the Philistines!”

Samson enters into a cycle familiar to all of us. He succumbs to Delilah and to the plot surrounding him.  He is human.  He fails.  He suffers.  He has hope.  He repents.  He makes reparation for his former action.  He is honored.  He brings the light of truth into the darkness of greed and corruption.  After closer reading, we see the cycle so familiar in our own lives. After closer reading, we do not understand the mystery of what happened more, but what we do understand is that no destruction or death can overcome the bright light of God’s goodness and mercy, and we are – we hope – a little more willing to see God’s goodness in our own lives..

From MAGNIFICAT today: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  (John 1:5God is mystery.  The maker of the universe dwells in light inaccessible, so bright that it blinds the probing eye, the questioning mind.

For those who are powerless, that they may experience your power employed on their behalf. 

For those who have abandoned hope, that they may know your mercy.

For those who fail to see you in mystery, that they may come to feel your gentle love.

Amen.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 9.4 (2008). Print.  

Adapted from a Favorite written on April 9, 2008. 

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Acts 2:42-47: Community II – Words and Gestures

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Over a year ago, we looked at this citation during Advent and at that time we remembered that our own actions in community represent our relationship with God.  I always try to remember that my actions incarnate my belief in God.  My words and gestures toward my fellow humans are my expression, my composition, my painting, my metaphor of God. 

God wishes to live in community with us.  God desires intimate union with us.  God wishes to give us the goodness our hearts desire.  Today’s citation describes people living in the way God wishes for us, living as we all might in the here and now and as we all will in the next life: in true community, providing a shelter from life’s storms, coming together in a common belief, sharing goods, worshiping God, healing one another, bringing other believers into the fold through the telling of the good news of redemption.

If this is so . . . then we might look around us at the oasis we create with our own living.  Do we provide shelter to others?  Do we bring comfort where we can?  Do we share what we have?  Do we worship God together?  Do we heal one another’s wounds?  Do we tell the good news of our rescue to others?

Do we bring the hope of Christ to the world?  Do we live our faith in the Father?  Do we provide a sheltering place where the Holy Spirit might rest with us to heal our broken-hearted and our wounded?

Oasis in Libya

What sort of oasis do we prepare together?  Do we put aside all that divides?  Do we ask forgiveness where needed?  Do we forgive fully?  Do we remain in Christ in all of our actions?  Do we love justly?  Do we hope outrageously?  Do we unclog the stagnant spring in the heart of the oasis to allow the fresh, new Easter water to flow?

Where do we pitch our tents this Easter season?  Do we choose to remain in the stale backwater of old haunts and addictive habits, or do we allow ourselves to be transformed by Christ’s redemptive suffering in order to bring a newness to our own community . . . our own oasis?

And once we experience this gift of Easter life, what do we do with it?  Do we open our heart’s doors to the others whom God sends our way?

And every day the Lord added to our number those who were being saved.  Amen.

Tomorrow, the Trinity as oasis.

Adapted from a reflection on written on April 9, 2009.

 

 

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Acts 2:42-47Community I – Bearing Fruit

Friday, June 9, 2017

Joseph Ignaz Mildorfer: Pentecost

In these days between Pentecost and Trinity Sundays we reflect on the gift of community as oasis. 

This description of the early church when the followers of Christ were still part of the Jewish community and all its tradition is one we might apply to portions of our own lives.  These are little oasis moments we experience on the harsh journey through life.  We need to stop awhile in these times to give thanks in recognition of both the gifts we have received . . . and the gifts we are to the world.

If we spend time meditating on these verses, we might experience a vision of how our own life might be if lived to the fullest.  We ask: What are the gifts we bring to our community?  Do we find our reward for bearing fruit in God’s name and for being gift in return?

As we read these verses, we explore our community of family, friends, neighbors and colleagues and we consider . . . who and what form our community? Whom and what do we include? Whom and what do we exclude?

And every day the Lord added to our number those who were being saved.  Amen.

Tomorrow, words and gestures. 

Adapted from a reflection written on April 9, 2009.

 

 

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