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Jeremiah 38The Miry Cistern

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Written on January 21, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

This chapter describes the place we often find ourselves – up to our knees in mud for speaking truth.  The prophet is delivered from his miry cistern to be kept in the guardhouse, but still he is persecuted.  King Zedekiah asks his advice, and then chooses to not listen to the prophet out of fear.  How does Zedekiah find himself in such a predicament?  What happens to him in the end?

Read article # 3 at http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=73&letter=Z  for some quick details.  It is an unhappy and gruesome story.

Zedekiah relies on his ability to finagle diplomatic alliances with two giant nations which are growing in power just as Judah finds itself in decline.  The Judahite king becomes a vassal first to the Babylonians; later he bargains with the Egyptians.  In the end, he is caught in the pincers of the struggle for supremacy between two super powers.  Zedekiah loses all and is blinded by the conquerors.  His life ends in an unknown prison; his legacy becomes the story of a king who lost a nation because he will not listen to his own prophet.

We have reflected on other occasions about the strangeness of God telling his faithful to save their lives by submitted to the Babylonian princes.

We have also reflected on Jeremiah’s dilemma of knowing that the truth he is asked to speak will bring pain to himself and others.

The lives of these two men are intertwined with the theme of a choice which presents truth as imprisonment and freedom as fear.  What are our dungeons today?  What miry cisterns suck us into their muddy depths?  What unnamed prisons await us?  When we are full of fear, do we – like Zedekiah, – hear the voice of the psalmist and not understand that the words of this twenty seventh psalm speak to us today?

There is one thing I ask of the Lord, for this I long, to live in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life, to savor the sweetness of the Lord, to behold his temple. 

We know that God provides safe harbor in all circumstances.  Even when we find ourselves in greatest danger.  Yet how do we act?

For there he keeps me safe in his tent in the day of evil.  He hides me in the shelter of his tent, on a rock he sets me safe.  O Lord, hear my voice when I call; have mercy and answer.  Of you my heart has spoken: “Seek his face”.

And when the word of the Lord comes to us, do we look past this face to hear different words?  Words that suit our wants rather than our needs?  Words that suit us rather than God?

It is your face, O Lord, that I seek; hide not your face.

We always know when we have heard good counsel . . . because it bears good fruit despite any pain.

I am sure I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.

And this is the land of the living when we act to make it so.

Hope in him, hold firm and take heart.  Hope in the Lord!

When we find ourselves at the bottom of the miry cistern up to our knees in mud, rather than rely on our own resources, let us long for God, let us seek God, let us be open to his words . . . and when we hear them amid the clamor and din . . . let us believe the message.


A re-post from January 20, 2019.

Image from: http://www.biblesearchers.com/yahshua/davidian/dynasty8.shtml

For more on Jeremiah the Prophet see the page on this blog: Jeremiah – Person and Message

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2 Kings 19:21-31Preparation

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Oriental Institute Museum, University of Chicago: The Sennacherib Prism

Written on April 19, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

We have spent time reflecting on Hezekiah and his story of fidelity to God.  Today we make this story our own with prayer.  We make preparation to strengthen our faith; we prepare to trust in God.

Have you not heard it?  Long ago I prepared it, from the days of old I planned it. 

Not only is God eternal, so are his plans.  This does mean to say that our lives are predetermined or predestined in any way.  What this does mean to say is this:  God in his infinite and merciful economy has devised a way . . . and this way turns all harm to good . . . for those who join his remnant in foreign lands and foreign times.  For those who return to the covenant promise, for those who remain in the Spirit of the Beatitudes, there is a certain reward: life in the light which is the Mystical Body of Christ.  This is the good news we have heard proclaimed all Easter Week.  It is the same good news we hear proclaimed today.  There is no greater story.  There is no happier word.  There is no other love that waits in this way . . . for all to turn and return.

Caravaggio: Doubting Thomas

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, or to others, Doubting Thomas Sunday in which we see one of Jesus’ own friends and disciples refuse to believe in the resurrected Christ until he is able to experience his visit with his own senses.  Out of overwhelming love and compassion, Christ returns to a locked room to comfort his remnant, to encourage his bride, the church.  As we have said before, there is no greater story.

In today’s reading, the king of Israel, Hezekiah, follows God’s advice and allows God to overcome the enemy king of Assyria, Sennacherib.  We have spent time reflecting on this incident before but today we focus on the isolated words of the Lord . . .

Have you not heard it?  Long ago I prepared it, from the days of old I planned it. 

And just as Yahweh turned harm to good in the story of Hezekiah and in the story of Jesus, so too does he move in our lives today.  We remember that the angel of the Lord struck down enemy troops.  We remember that the Lord himself came to save us on the cross.  And we also remember that even after his death he returned to the locked room where he friends hid in fear . . . to open hearts, to open minds, to open up the darkness to the light, to open up the stinginess of the world to his love.

As remnant, we do well to prepare to receive this deepest of hopes, this most powerful of forces, this irresistible love that cannot be quenched.

From the MAGNIFICAT Evening Prayer: Strengthen us in faith, O Lord!

That we may praise your power among those who are poor in faith, and encourage them by our good example.  Strengthen us in faith, O Lord!

That we may praise your love among those who do not know you, and be Christ’s ambassadors to those who seek with sincere hearts.  Strengthen us in faith, O Lord!

That we may praise your glory among those who fear death, and show them the path to life.  Strengthen us in faith, O Lord!

May God keep us firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen. 


Images from: http://bibleandarchaeology.blogspot.com/2010/12/ancient-record-of-biblical-king.html and http://concordpastor.blogspot.com/2011/04/variations-on-caravaggios-doubting.html

Cameron, Peter John. “Evening Prayer.” MAGNIFICAT. 19.4 (2009): 129-130. Print.  

For more information on the Sennacherib Prism, click on the image above or go to: http://bibleandarchaeology.blogspot.com/2010/12/ancient-record-of-biblical-king.html

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2 Kings 19Fidelity is its Own Reward

Friday, January 18, 2019

We spent time reflecting on Hezekiah on Monday, today we look at another part of his story with a Noontime from November 24, 2008 posted today as a Favorite

Rubens: The Downfall of Sennacherib

As we read today’s Noontime, where have the opportunity to think about where we stand in human history.  The Assyrians with their leader Sennacherib have conquered the northern tribes that had broken away after Solomon’s death and now they stand ready to take Jerusalem.  Hezekiah, working closely with the prophet Isaiah, listens to Yahweh’s advice . . . and Jerusalem is spared the impending invasion.  In addition, we know from contemporary documents that two factors cause Sennacherib to turn away from Jerusalem: a plague came upon his troop encampment killing 185,000 soldiers, and word reached the Assyrians that Tirhakah of Egypt was marching out against them.  Sennacherib was later killed by his two sons (Adrammalech and Sharezer) while worshiping in the temple of Nisroch.  (ARCHEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE 562.)

The themes we have seen in this portion of 2 Kings are the healing of Hezekiah, Yahweh’s intervention in human events, the importance of spiritual reform and preparation, and the high value placed on fidelity by Yahweh.

Several verses call us to deeper reflection.

Verse 4: So send up a prayer for the remnant that is here.  Hezekiah and Isaiah know that the north has been lost . . . but they do not give up hope or faith.  They petition on behalf of the faithful who remain.

Verse 6:  Do not be frightened by the words you have heard, with which the servants of the King of Assyria have blasphemed me.  The Lord replies with words of comfort for these faithful servants.  The Lord reminds them that he will not only take care of his faithful remnant, but he will also address the wrongs done to them by their enemies.

Verses 15 to 19:  You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth.  You have made the heavens and the earth.  Incline your ear, O Lord and listen!  Open your eyes, O Lord, and see!  Hezekiah prays to Yahweh in the temple.

Verse 34:  I will shield and save this city for my own sake, and for the sake of my servant David.  The Lord replies.

Verse 35: That night the angel of the Lord went forth . . .

What do we know about ourselves?  We live in a tumultuous world which is ever ready to dismiss or overrun the faithful servants of Yahweh.  We will be challenged as New Testament apostles of this one true God.  Our ideas, our families will be invaded by forces which seek to diminish the voice we carry in solidarity.

What must we do when we are under attack?  We have need of only one place of supplication . . . the temple of our inner heart where the Holy Spirit dwells.  We have need of only one name . . . Jesus Christ.   We have need of only one God . . . the one who is supreme above all others . . . and this God alone is enough.  Remaining faithful to God brings salvation.  Fidelity brings lasting justice.  Fidelity beings eventual peace.  Fidelity to God is always accompanied by its own reward.


A re-post from January 18, 2012.

Image from: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Sennacherib

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 562. Print.

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Isaiah 39Peace and Truth

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Hezekiah’s Tunnel

This chapter brings to a close the first portion of Isaiah’s prophecy and prepares us to hear what the prophet has to say in the rest of his prophecy.  We witness Hezekiah’s hospitality and hear the conversation he has with the prophet, Isaiah; and we want to know more about this man who becomes king at age 25, and who reforms his government and his people while reigning successfully for 29 years.  Today we also witness a harbinger of events to come . . . the invasion of Judah and the deportation of her people.  Hezekiah does not allow ominous omens to diminish his faith.  He does not waver from his belief that Yahweh saves.  And he makes certain to foster peace and truth in all that he proclaims and does.  To examine the story of Hezekiah more closely, we return to a reflection we shared on January 11, 2009 on 2 Kings 18 and 19 entitled Desperation. 

We have taken a look at Hezekiah, son of idolatrous Ahaz, a half-dozen times since we began our Noontime reflections; and each time we pause with him, I am always impressed by his fidelity and perseverance.  Having Ahaz as a father, Isaiah as a prophet, and Sennacherib as an adversary . . . Hezekiah seems doomed to a story of failure.  Yet he is not.  To read more about him, turn to Chronicles or go to these sites http://www.varchive.org/tac/hezekiah.htm http://www.aboutbibleprophecy.com/p82.htm and http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_hezekiah.html. Discover how the people build an amazing tunnel under his guidance to bring water to the besieged city.  Read about how he consults with the prophet Isaiah who speaks plainly about their dire straits.  Read about the odds that confront this man and this nation . . . and be amazed.  Through many trials Hezekiah is accompanied by the God who accompanies us.

We may want to review Chapter 18 of 2 Kings to understand where we are in the story.

  • Verse 3: Thus says Hezekiah: “This is a day of distress, of rebuke and of disgrace”.
  • Verse 4: So send up a prayer for the remnant that is here.
  • Verse 5: Thus says the Lord: “Do not be frightened by the words you have heard”.
  • Verses 15 – 19: Hezekiah prays in the Lord’s presence: “O Lord . . . incline your ear . . . and listen!  Open your eyes, O Lord and see!  . . . Save us . . . that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God”. 

    Pool of Siloam and the end of Hezekiah’s Tunnel

God hears the prayer and answers Hezekiah.  In Chapter 20, Hezekiah falls ill and God rescues him.  This ruler is destined to serve God and through perseverance he does so . . . and he does so quite well.  We can reflect on the life of this servant to compare it to our own.  When the Assyrians in our lives are at the gates, will we go immediately to the Lord God to ask him for help or will we rely on our own resources?  And when the Lord God has answered our prayers – no matter the response – do we give thanks and continue to trust in God?

We find ourselves in distress and disgrace . . . God hears our prayer and answers us.  Do not be frightened by the words you have heard.

We send up our prayer to God who accompanies Hezekiah and all the faithful . . . God hears our prayer and answers us.  Do not be frightened by the words you have heard.

We are desperate and tempted to turn to our own resources . . . but let us instead go up to the Temple of the Lord and enter the Holy of Holies . . . to lay our petition on the altar of the Lord our God . . . and let us say. . .

Save us . . . that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God.  Amen. 


A re-post from January 16, 2012.

Images from: http://www.hellotravel.com/israel/walking-through-hezekiahs-tunnel and http://www.wildolive.co.uk/baptism.htm

For more information on the excavation of Hezekiah’s tunnel, see: http://www.bibleplaces.com/heztunnel.htm  and http://www.hellotravel.com/israel/walking-through-hezekiahs-tunnel

For other Noontime reflections on Hezekiah, see The Book of Micah: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/micah-doom-and-hope-constancy/  and False Idols: https://thenoontimes.com/2011/10/29/false-idols/

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Hosea 8The Whirlwind

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Written on May 20, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

When they sow the wind, they shall reap the whirlwind . . .

Today’s Noontime is about thinking that we are in control and forgetting that God is the creator and manager of all.  It is about making idols of the things we choose as important.  And it is about reaping what we sow.

Psalm 126 is one of my favorites because it reminds us that nothing worthwhile comes to us without suffering; it is in the turmoil and struggle that we best meet God.  Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy.  Those who go forth weeping, carrying sacks of seed, will return with cries of joy, carrying their bundled sheaves. 

We cannot go much wrong if when we doubt we remain faithful to our relationship with God.

We cannot go much wrong when if when we are discouraged we place all hope in the timeless healing Christ brings.

We cannot go much wrong when if when we are angry we give our frustration over to the unifying force of the Spirit.

We arrive on the earth with our little bag of seed to be sown.  We search for fertile soil, sometimes forgetting that the best harvest is often reaped under our noses.  We lament the conditions in which we find ourselves; we curse injustice when we hear bad news and we weep as we sow, wondering if anything we do has any positive effect upon outcomes.

Hosea reminds us to stay clear of corruption and deceit.  He tells us clear stories of others who thought they might keep their wicked transactions secret.  He asks us to hug close to home as we labor in the fields, and he suggests that we keep the one true God ever in our hearts and minds.

The wind goes where it likes, symbolizing freedom; yet . . . it is a freedom that comes at a high cost.  Better to remain in the leeward protection of the Lord, Hosea says, so that when the reaper arrives, he will recognize us as those who have toiled long and faithfully in his fields . . . and we not be swept away by the overpowering eddies of the whirlwind.


A re-post from January 15, 2019.

Image from: http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/edu/safety/tornadoguide.html and http://www.weatherwizkids.com/weather-tornado.htm

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GalatiansLove, Faith and Works

Monday, January 14, 2019

We have reflected frequently on this letter perhaps because its brevity draws us in.  This Noontime is a revision of something we shared in May 2009.  We offer it to you today.

Paul writes to the Galatians to remind them of the reason for their initial conversion . . . the love of Christ.  Interlopers were undermining the Gospel he had preached to them and the people of Galatia had begun to waver.  This is a scenario we live again today.  We know the truths that we have heard, but when the world intervenes with its own gospel we become confused.  We forget the initial message that . . . we are saved through grace brought by Christ’s death and resurrection, not by the Law This was surprising news to the Jewish structure in Paul’s day.  It sometimes surprises us today.

We constantly and loudly hear two compelling philosophies.  It is much easier, we tell ourselves, to do well if we are just told what to do and then we do it.  It is much easier, we tell ourselves, if we can just interpret the law as we like and then we can do what we like.

These modes of thinking are reflected in our polarized political and social world.  The two ends of the spectrum on which we live pull and push at one another until the middle is either squeezed to death or has the life pulled out of it.  There is no predictable place to stand.  It is this problem that instigates Paul’s letter to the Galatians; and we can take advice from his thinking today as he reminds us that because Christ is mystery only Christ can show us the way to salvation and how to live the mystery of life.  Only Christ can model how to live the Law, because he is the Law.

As this letter opens, Paul chides us for being so quickly led astray by the world; then he reminds us that there is only one true model to follow, Jesus.  Reading further into this letter we read that we might be saved by our faith.  Various protesting Christian sects stand on the premise that faith alone saves us.  We know that this is not true because it is faith as displayed by the sacrificial love of Christ that brings us home.  Our faith must be accompanied by works because . . . Jesus is love, and if we have faith, our works must be love.  If we have one without the other we lack integrity.  When we try to live a life in which we split ourselves and allow our actions to differ widely from what we say we believe, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14, we are the gong clanging loudly signifying nothing.

Paul closes the letter with another reminder that the Galatians – and we – must return to our initial desire to follow Christ, for there is no other road to salvation.  We may surround ourselves with friends who help us create the illusion that this world answers all our needs if we can only amass enough money, fame or comfort; yet somewhere deep inside, we know that there is more.

When I feel both squeezed and pulled apart by the world, I know that it is time to return to this letter.  I look for verse 3:1: O stupid Galatians!  Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?  I re-read verse 1:6: I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you by [the] grace of Christ for a different gospel.  I look again at 5:7: You were running so well; who hindered you from following [the] truth.  I meditate on verses 2-5: Bear one another’s burdens, and so you fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deluding himself.  Each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason to boast with regard to someone else; for each will bear his own load. 

But in a world which constantly, and with expert ways, calls us away from Christ, it is with Galatians 6:9 that we will want to spend a good amount of time: Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up.


A re-post from January 14, 2012.

Image from: http://www.66clouds.com/new_testament.html

For more on this letter, see the Magnanimity page of A Book of Our Life on this blog. 

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Mark 7:24-30Rejection

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Jean Germain Drouais: Christ and the Canaanite Woman

I am always impressed by the persistence of this woman who urges Christ to heal her sick daughter.  Mark, writing to a mainly non-Jewish audience, describes her patient belief in this new message of hope and healing.  If we were as unrelenting as this woman in asking for justice and redemption, might not the entire world benefit from our prayers?  She is reminiscent of the persistent widow in Luke 18 who badgers the corrupt judge into giving her what she is due.  Her continual plea became an embarrassment for this man, and so he gave in . . . to do what ought to have been done in the first place.

How do we react to rejection?  Do we cave in to harsh criticism?  Do we evaluate the words and actions we have heard and seen?  Do we put our experience in a proper context to measure its validity?  Do we ask God for advice?  Do we ignore what has been said entirely without giving it further thought?

Jesus has gone to Tyre, the city of Jezebel, a pagan center out of reach of the influence of the Jews; and here he encounters a woman who challenges him with his own good news, reminding him that even the lowest of the low deserve respect and fair treatment.  What I like about this Greek woman, this Syrophoenician by birth, is that she enters into a dialog with the master and is not cowed by his authority.  Perhaps she has lived so long in subjugation she has nothing to lose.

There is something to be learned here: that when we experience rejection we ought to evaluate it, and take it apart to discover its origin.  Once satisfied that we have heard and understood, and once we have established that we come in justice and peace . . . then we must pursue justice.  We must be bold, we must be constant.  We must enter into a conversation with Christ to further our argument.  And if – as in the story of Job about which we thought yesterday – we bring an innocent heart to the healer, we may find that which our own heart seeks . . . justice and peace . . . in place of the offered rejection.


Image from: http://floscarmelivitisflorigera.blogspot.com/2010_08_01_archive.html

A re-post from January 13, 2019.

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Philippians 3:7-11Righteousness in Christ

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Written on January 7, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

When the cup is empty it is full.  When it is dark it is light.  When we are weak we are strong.  Christ is inversion.

We must empty ourselves of self in order to make room for Christ.  If we do not let him in, how can we belong to him?  How can we act in and for him?  Christ is constantly calling us to the openness and the selflessness that he knows we can achieve.

The reflection before Mass in MAGNIFICAT this morning is important for us to hear: Once Jesus Christ is manifested in the world in the Epiphany, once the revelation is made that the “Kingdom of heaven is at hand”, everything changes.  And the sign of it is this: we can keep Christ’s commandments.  By doing so, we remain in him, and he in us.  There is One in us who is greater than the one who is the world.  In short, we belong to God.  That belonging changes everything.

The Kingdom of God is at hand.  It is not floating in some distant future time.  It is now.  And we have work to do in this kingdom.

We belong to God.  And as God’s loving and beloved creatures, we seek to both console and be consoled.  We search for this perfect intimacy with God . . . but it has already been given to us as gift.

That belonging changes everything.  And so we must change everything.  When the cup is empty it is full. When it is dark it is light.  When we are weak we are strong.  Christ is inversion.  We must live and act in him.


IA re-post from

Images from: http://rosemaryl.blogspot.com/2010/09/light-in-darkness-blog-carnival-round-2.html and http://www.okcure.org/links__resources

Cameron, Peter John.  MAGNIFICAT. 8.1 (2008): 102. Print.  

A re-post from January 12, 2012. 

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Obadiah 1:10-14Gentleness

Friday, January 11, 2019

Written on January 10, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Growing up in a family of five with parents who came from families of more than 10 children each, and having lived and learned with siblings who tumbled over one another as puppies in a litter, I have always been fascinated by the stories in scripture of rivalry in families.  Indeed, just last evening I had dinner with a friend and we spent lots of time sharing and laughing about the “one-upping” that goes on in all families.  We so often forget that God is in charge.

Today’s reading is from Obadiah, a prophet who wrote about five centuries before Christ at a time when the Edomites were forced west out of their own territory near the gulf of Aqaba, and moved into Judah to take up Jewish land.  The Edomites and Israelites had been separated as a result of the division which occurred between brothers at the time of Jacob and Esau.  We can read about the beginning of this division in Genesis, but today we are looking at and reflecting on the long-standing feud which existed between these tribes.  Obadiah warns that we are to be gentle to our enemies, especially when they suffer.  This is an idea which fully blooms when Jesus arrives: intercession for those who do us harm is the first work of the disciple.  And it is difficult work.  Demanding, soul-searching, transforming and glorious work.  There is no other way to love.

Today’s first reading at Mass is 1 John 4:19-5:4.  It is well worth reading in light of Obadiah.  I am particularly struck by these verses:  Whoever does not love a brother whom he sees cannot love God whom he has not seen . . . His commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.  And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.

When we are up against someone or some group doing us damage, we are to “kill them with kindness” as my mother always instructed us.  We are to “let God worry about the other guy” as my Dad always told us.  When we release the anguish and anxiety about how to handle someone difficult, when we give the task over to God who converts harm to good, the pain eases, goes away, and even begins to convert to something glorious and joyful.  We begin to transform.  We may be called to rebuke our neighbor, but when we are . . . we must be gentle.  We may be called to reprove . . . and when we are we must be gentle.  We ourselves may be rebuked by a friend or an enemy . . . and when we are . . . we must listen.  For in these words may be the voice of God.  This is what Obadiah and John are both telling us.  Joy awaits those who seek healing for their brothers and sisters . . . all brothers and sisters . . . those we love . . . and those we find difficult to love.  In this way we heal not only others but ourselves.  This is the work of a disciple.

From Leviticus and Romans as cited in MAGNIFICAT in the Morning Prayer: You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart.  Though you may have to reprove your fellow-man, do not incur sin because of him.  Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the Lord.  (Leviticus 19:17-18)  Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.  (Romans 13:10)

And so we pray . . .

Awesome yet Gentle God,

Teach us your Ways.

Teach us your Precepts.

Teach us your Mercy.

Teach us your Law.

Teach us your Gentleness.

Teach us your Justice.

Teach us your Love.

Amen.


A re-post from January 11, 2012.

Image from: http://developingyourspirit.blogspot.com/2010/05/gentleness.html

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 10.1 (2008). Print.  

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