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Saturday, January 25, 2013

2 Kings 5: The Cure of Naaman

Pieter de Grebber: Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman

Pieter de Grebber: Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman

Naaman is cured of leprosy not by his faith alone but through the faith and encouragement of a small child who believes in Yahweh and the power of his prophets.  It is worth our while to read this story and examine commentary and footnotes because once we do – and this may seem unbelievable – we will find that we have a greater understanding of the modern world we live in today.

Through the child in this story we see that prophets are not the only ones among us who are called to heal, cure and serve as instruments for miracles. We see that we are also called to heal one another either with the direct laying on of hands, or by our intercessory prayers.

Jesus tells us in a very clear way that we must pray for our enemies: You have heard it said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy”.  But I tell you: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you . . . If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  (Matthew 5: 43-47)

Christ constantly presents us with a world of inversion. We die in order to be born; we give in order to receive; we sit at the lowest seat in order to be called higher; we humble ourselves so that we might be exalted.  The examples Jesus gives us are endless.   Today we hear God’s urging to heal others, even those who harm us, so that we in turn are healed.

I believe that we are called to be healers, even when wounded ourselves, because the prayers of a victim rise ever so quickly to God’s altar. God, in all of his compassion and mercy and desire to love, will reward the prayer of one who is wounded who – like God – forgives and then petitions healing for the abuser.

We must be present in spirit to our fellow pilgrims, and when we wade into the river of forgiveness, just as Naaman enters the river Jordan, we will find that the our willingness to intercede for our enemies will wash away the things of this world.  Suddenly we find ourselves present to the Spirit. And just as suddenly we will know that we, like Naaman, will “know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.”  This one God, this Yahweh, sent his son to heal us and ransom us from our dark place.   It is this God who calls us to heal one another . . . so that we in turn may be healed.


First written on May 31, 2007.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite. 

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Friday, January 24, 2020

2 Kings 4: Blindness

Leighton: Elisha Raises the Shunamite

Frederic Leighton: Elisha Raises the Shunamite

“How can I help?”  These words of the prophet Elisha are echoed by Jesus when he asks the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?”  (Matthew 20:30-34, Mark 10:46-52, Luke 18:35-43)   We might take some time today to think about what it is we want.  If Elisha visited us today, if we bumped into Jesus on our way home from work and were asked this question, what would we reply?  For what blindness of our own do we seek healing?  And once healed . . . do we wish to continue seeing Christ as the one who has done this healing?

We have many wishes hidden in our subconscious; or perhaps our secret desires are not hidden but rather have taken possession of our lives so that we think of nothing else.  In either case, if we are asked to synthesize all that we desire into one great wish . . . what will it be?  For whom will it be?

In today’s Noontime we read several stories: a widow with nothing whose children will be taken into slavery, a woman of influence whose child is brought back to life, a poisoned stew that becomes a healing meal, loaves of bread that multiply to feed many.  These stories have something in common: The saving power of a loving God wrought by a faithful servant who is not blind to the possibilities before him.

The prophet Elisha is faithful to Yahweh in every way.  He relies entirely on God’s providence for all that is necessary in living a mortal life: food, clothing, shelter.   He also relies on God for his vision of possibilities.  Most of us, when confronted by the widow, the wealthy woman, the poisoned stew and the too few barley loaves, want to turn to someone else to ask, “What am I supposed to do with this now in this moment?”  Elisha moves toward God as he allows God’s miraculous work to take place.  Elisha is not blind to the possibilities.

Jesus tells us about our own spiritual blindness (John 9:35-41) saying: If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim that you can see your guilt remains. 

What do we claim that we can see?  Is it the exasperation and desolation of life . . . or the goodness and gift of our existence?

What do we claim that we want?  Do we seek comfort and ease for ourselves . . . or the beauty of understanding how we fit into God’s plan?

Are we blind . . . or do we truly see?  When Jesus hears that the man he has cured of blindness has been thrown out of the temple precincts, he seeks the man out and asks: Do you believe in the Son of Man?  When this man asks who this Son of Man is that he may see him, Jesus replies: You have seen him and the one speaking to you is he . . . I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind. 

Jesus presents this man – and us – with an important question: Once we have seen the miracle before us, do we believe it, or do we choose to categorize it in a way that it can be explained away?   Jesus also asks us to think about this question: What is our own spiritual blindness?  What are the miracles lying just before us that we pass by because we cannot fathom their possibility?  And so we consider . . . if Elisha visited us today, if we bumped into Jesus on our way home from work, what would we reply?  For what blindness of our own do we seek healing?  And once healed . . . do we take these gifts for granted . . . do we explain them away . . . or do we give God the honor due . . . and do we see Christ as the one who has done this healing?


First written on January 21, 2010. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

To read commentary on 2 Kings 4, click on the image above or go to: http://deaconsmemorial.blogspot.com/2011/04/optional-mass-of-fifth-week-of-lent.html

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2 Kings 3: Withdrawal


Thursday, January 23, 2020

2 Kings 3: Withdrawal

imagesCAHQ96XWElijah has ascended to heaven.  Jehoram reigns over Israel.  King Mesha of Moab has decided to rebel now that Ahab is no longer king of Israel.  King Jehoram musters his troops and prepares for battle and he calls on King Jehoshaphat of Judah to join in the struggle against the Moabites.  Will you go with me to battle?

They go into Edom where that king joins them and so the three of them stand ready to fight, except . . . there is no water.  The king of Israel cries out: Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?  And Elisha, Elijah’s servant, is named and consulted.  Water arrives and the battle is engaged.  Things go badly for Mesha who immolates his son on the wall to appease his pagan god.  Commentary suggests that “the text may be implying that the anger of the Moab’s god caused the Israelites to withdraw”.  (Mays 564)  In the face of this human sacrifice, the Israelites pull back.  So might we all.

Our natural instinct may be to avoid evil; it may also be to strike out against it.  We may be inspired to form solidarity with the weak in order to empower them against the aggressor.   Or we may hide in order that we protect what little we have.  Today’s story leaves us with these words: And so they withdrew from him and returned to their own land. 

I heard a sermon recently advising Christians to be cautious when dealing with evil.  The idea that we risk too much danger when we operate in close combat with the devil is one we spent time with several weeks ago when we considered Luke 4 and the devil’s temptation of Jesus.  We noted that day that Satan departed from Jesus until an opportune time.  We concluded that: The devil never gives up . . . nor does God.

When we find ourselves shoulder deep in a situation that does not make sense, we know that somewhere someone is lying.

When we realize that betrayal is taking place on a deep and intimate level, we know that danger is quite near.

In all circumstances there is only one place to seek haven or ask for help: in God.  We may determine that we need to withdraw and return to our own land.  We may as likely determine that we need to gather troops, consult with the prophet and make a stand.  In either case, it is important that we remain in God no matter what.  For in God is our only hope of salvation.  No wickedness is too great for God to handle.  No malicious act is too horrible for God to transform.  No evil can overcome or outlast God’s love for his people.

So if we must withdraw . . . let us open our hearts . . . and withdraw into God.


Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 564. Print.

For a reflection on Matthew’s description of Christ’s temptation, go to The Temptations page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-temptations

Written on March 18, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://daleallynphoto.com/index.php/gallery/image_full/20/

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

2 Kings 2: Weathering the Whirlwind

imagesCAD24SSZThe whirlwind is something we fear – when we feel its ominous approach all we can think of is change with instability and unpredictability.  What if we were to shift our perspective slightly so that rather than be governed by fear of the future, we might be governed by trust and obedience?   What if we respond with awe at God’s power rather than fear of the unknown?  This is what we witness in the story we read today in which the mantle of prophecy passes from Elijah to Elisha in the presence of an amazing whirlwind.

Elisha wisely asks for a double portion of spirit rather than wealth or fame, and when we read to the end of the chapter we see the dimensions of the power invested in Elisha.  What he blesses is blessed many fold; what he curses is cursed harshly.  And all of this comes from his perseverance in trusting his creator.

Footnotes give us more information about Gilgal, the Jordan River, and the prophets guild; but the more important message here might be this: That when the earth shifts beneath our feet in a tectonic tremor of change, when a quick drop in barometric pressure harbingers one of life’s devastating storms, and when our hair stands on end with fear of what we suspect is coming and do not fully understand . . . we will do well to respond simply rather than rashly.  We must trust the Creator who has made us and loves us, follow the example of Jesus as the Christ who saves us and protects us, and we must hold in awe the overwhelming power of the Spirit who heals us and transforms us.  Then we too, will speak like the holy prophets to kings.


Written on August 11, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

1 Chronicles 1-9: Genealogies

Planting-a-Family-Tree-for-Parents-Day-–-iPhone-and-iPad-Genealogy-Apps[1]Past and future converging in the present.  Attempting to establish a legacy from the past that extends into the future.  Recording names in books that are passed down through generations.  Looking for links to what was.  Envisioning the future.  Living an intentional present.

We humans concern ourselves so much with time and we hold to our belief that it is a strict, tight line even when mathematics and physics tell us that it is anything but a flat presence consisting of a series of moments.  Time . . . God’s time . . . is eternal; yet we humans strive to pull it and push it until it snaps into an obedient straight plane, extending endlessly behind and in front of us.  I do not believe that God sees us or time in such a superficial way.

There is value in tracing our roots and recording our deeds.  These actions tell us who we are; they remind us of what we have done.  With hope we avoid the errors of this past.

There is value in laying plans, being stewards, husbanding resources, striding forward into an unknown future with confidence and a sense of mission.  Our faith accompanies us as we step into the mystery.

There is value in living an authentic present, seeking to move through our days with integrity, looking at our faults without condemning ourselves or others, being honest about our successes with humility.  In love we live each moment as it comes to us, pleading with God on behalf of our enemies, petitioning favors of God for all those we love, remembering all of God’s creation in our daily prayers.

Hubble Telescope: Two Galaxies Merging

Hubble Telescope: Two Galaxies Merging

I realize that when I pray I cannot help but think of time as linear when I remember with nostalgia my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who wait for me on the other side of the veil that separates the body from that place we refer to as the world of the deceased.  I also imagine the great-great-grandchildren I will never see in this life but whom I will know immediately when they rise to God.  Resisting the idea that time is a strict line of seconds that march into minutes, hours and years, I see myself in the immense, slowly whirling, spiraling strands of human beings God has created in God’s image.  I see us rising like incense in the night from the altar of our lives to bring a welcome aroma to the God who created us.  I see the embrace with which we cling to one another as we dance beneath the arms of the Spirit while she is winging us home.  I see us curling and binding with one another in an intimate union as we form the Mystical Body of this God-man walking among us.

Revelation tells us that there are many names written in the Book of Life.  The names of the faithful.  The names of the righteous.  The names of the just.  The names of the holy.  The names of those who endured.  The names of those who persevered.  The names of those who have come to understand and return God’s love.

So as we consider God’s plan and God’s time, we pray . . . Let us call one another’s names in hope as we rise together in prayer.  Let us call one another’s names in joy as we rise to meet our maker.  Let us call one another’s names in love . . . and leave no one behind.  Amen. 


This week we will examine the Second Book of Kings to see what this chronicler has to say to us . . . millennia after he first placed his words on papyrus. 

For more information about merging galaxies as captured by the Hubble telescope, click on the image above or go to: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap121019.html 

Family tree image from: http://www.octa.com/family-tree-parents-day/

First written on December 5, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Saturday, January 18, 2020

Deuteronomy 7: Blessings of Obedience

Count_blessings6[1]This is one of those portions of the Old Testament that we humans can distort to fit our own agenda; we might take it to mean that God shows partiality, or that some of us are somehow above others of us.  I do not believe this to be so, and careful reading of good commentary tells us otherwise.   The message we might better take away from today’s Noontime is this: Israel has a special function to serve in God’s plan – that of bringing other nations out of the darkness of pagan worship and into the light of mercy, justice and hope which the Living God brings to all.  From the HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY (Mays 198-199): “God has chosen Israel, not because of any special worthiness on its part, but out of God’s personal attachment based on divine love and the promises made to the ancestors (vv. 7-8).  The Exodus experience reveals that God’s essential character promises covenant loyalty over uncountable generations (vv. 8-9).  However, the integrity of God’s character also threatens individual retribution for those who are apostate (v. 10).  A further motive for wiping out Canaanite religion is offered by the promise of fertility for family, field, and flock (vv. 13-14), an especially appropriate counter to Baal’s claims to bestow fertility.  Obedience also leads to good health.  The plagues of the Exodus tradition will be reserved for enemies (v. 15)”.

When we consider this, we understand that rather than giving his chosen people an exemption from acting in God’s name, God is expecting his faithful to behave as he himself does: with justice and compassion, bringing hope, and acting in love.  This is the thinking we hear from Jesus in Luke 12:48: From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. 

Like Israel, the faithful are in a special covenant relationship with God.

Like Israel, the faithful are called to act in obedience to God’s call.

Like Israel, the faithful are graced with God’s countless blessing.

Like Israel, the faithful have not earned a “special worthiness” . . . yet are loved deeply and dearly by the Living God.


Image from: http://somewhereincraftland.blogspot.com/2011/01/count-your-blessing-subway-art.html

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 198-199. Print.

Written on October 31, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite. 

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Deuteronomy 4: Proofs

Teach them to your children, and to your children’s children . . .

Evidence%20Based%20Practice[1]Each time I read from the books of the law, the Torah, I again understand how difficult it was for Jewish leaders to take hold of and believe the words that Jesus spoke to them about the merciful love of God.  I also understand how difficult it was for these followers of the Mosaic Code to believe that anyone but God who lived in the temple and out of reach of the ordinary human could forgive sin.  These ideas were revolutionary for them, even blasphemous; yet, the man who delivered them was not only able to restore health, he was also able to calm the elements of nature.

What we read today tells us of a God who is faithful, a God who has shown his constancy, a God who continued to reveal himself to his people despite their errant ways.

Did anything so great ever happen before?  Was it heard of? 

Yahweh rescued his people, he brought them out of slavery, he nourished them and taught them who they were, how they were to be, and what their potential was.  Jesus arrived to walk the earth as God among his people.  Jesus fulfilled prophecy.  Jesus compressed the hundreds of Torah laws into one . . . the Law of Freedom, the Law of Love.  Nothing like this had ever been heard of.  Nothing like this has ever been heard of.

You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today, that you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have long life on the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you forever.

The focus in this reading is on the dichotomy between believing in God and believing in idols.  One of the rewards for following Yahweh is the gift of physical territory which God grants to his chosen people.  Other rewards are his fidelity to us, and his mercy when considering our actions.  These are all proofs of God’s love.  Further proofs of God’s goodness are that once Jesus is resurrected and returns to God, The Holy Spirit settles upon us to abide with us and to dwell in us, God’s people.  This is God’s promise and as we hear in today’s mini-reflection in MAGNIFICAT: God is true: he has a long memory for his own promises and a short memory for our failures to keep ours.  In the gift of his promised Spirit, we find our daily joy.  The prophet Isaiah reminds us the Morning Prayer: Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, my love never shall leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken, says the Lord who has mercy on you.  (54:10)  

We look for assurances and guarantees; we sign contracts and agreements that we trust more than we trust God’s love for us.  He has given us proofs . . . and this is the story that we must pass down to our children and our children’s children . . . so that it may live with us and in us . . . beyond the end of time.


Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 19 May 2010:265. Print.

Image from: http://www.caresearch.com.au/caresearch/tabid/1590/Default.aspx

Written on May 19, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Deuteronomy 3: Teaching the Children

parent-child[1]Whether we ourselves have children or not, it is beneficial to universal society for those of us who have survived cataclysm to teach those who follow us how to endure well rather than to endure at all costs.  If we hope to improve both collectively and individually we must be willing to take an honest look at how we operate, what we value, and how we enact our values.  This is what Moses calls us to today.  We are not asked to pass along stories of how others have carried on through crisis; we are asked to be earnestly on our guard not to forget the things which our own eyes have seen, not let them slip from our memory as long as we live, but teach them to our children and to our children’s children.  This is a noble vocation: to pass along a manual for how to persist through pain, fear and antagonism.

Keeping in mind that each time we read or hear the phrase “fear” in reference to the Lord in the New Testament that we might replace it with the word “love,” we can see how the arrival of Jesus is the completion of all God’s promises to the people.  God, with his expression of concern and empathy embodied in Jesus, tells us how much he loves us and wants to be with us.  God warns us often about the dangers of idolatry and encourages us to consider the advantages of fidelity.  God’s own fidelity with us is guaranteed.  God’s love proved repeatedly through the stories we can tell about his power to save and restore.   God’s hope for us and in us is spelled out clearly as he establishes – here through Moses – cities of refuge in which his people might find a second opportunity for recovery.  God never gives up on us.

Deuteronomy, perhaps more than any other book of the Bible, asks its readers to remember and to pass along our own story of how the goodness of the Lord has changed us forever.  It asks that we consider God’s goodness, and that we pass along the story of how we came through a wilderness with no road map other than our fidelity to a God who loves us so much he cannot bear to be apart from us for even the smallest of moments.  We are loved by a God who does not ever want to be without us.

And so we pray . . .

Father Creator, Jesus Saver, Holy Spirit Abider and Comforter, we see by your actions that you will never forsake the work of your own hands.  We realize that the only firm ground on which we stand is the rock of your own steadfastness in your commitment to us.  We know that you are incapable of deception, trickery or betrayal.  Give us the fortitude and courage to follow you, even when we are fearful, even when we are in pain.  We rely on your patience and mercy as always.  And we await our own restoration and peace that comes with the joy of knowing and serving you.  We thank you for your bountiful love, and we hope to return that love to you always . . . even when we are fearful or in pain.

Help us to pass along to the children and to the children of those children not only the story of your love . . . but the essence of your love as well.  Guide us in loving our enemies, in praying for the impossible, and in remaining always with you.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 


Image from: http://veronicaplace.wordpress.com/2011/02/05/our-children-are-on-loan-to-us/

Written on August 11, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Deuteronomy 1: God’s Guidance

guide[1]In this last book of the Torah, we find a reiteration of the covenant relationship between God and his creatures as mediated by the man Moses.  His aim, as we read in commentary, is to enforce with the Israelites “the Lord’s claim to their obedience, loyalty and love”.  (Senior 187)  What we see here is God establishing a firm relationship with his people; much as a parent devotes care to strong enforcement of family values with a toddler . . . knowing that the teenage and young adult years – and even the years that carry us into maturity – will be difficult ones.  God wants to leave nothing to chance where his creatures are concerned.

In verse 10 we see reference to the fact that these tribes are so multiplied they are as numerous as the stars in the sky.  And we remember the promise made to Abraham that even in their advanced years he and Sarah would be the vehicles through which God would create a people dear to him.  This is followed with a plan laid out by God for gaining the territory promised to Abraham and his family.  Scouts are chosen to reconnoiter the land.   This is when they discover that the people are stronger and taller and they have become fainthearted.  They begin to lose courage.  Moses reminds them of the countless times God saved them from death in the hostile desert . . . and we begin to see the purpose of all their wanderings and suffering.

Of course, these people disobey – as do we – and in this Old Testament story we hear how God punishes them for their lack of faith.  Moses reminds them that they have disobeyed and struck out on their own.  As observed above, God disciplines the child nation, calling them to himself with reminders that he has been faithful to them despite their rebellion.

There is no doubt that we are sustained by God’s love and intervention as we muddle through our days.  God continues to provide resting places, to shepherd us with a pillar of smoke, to guard us with a column of fire.  It is easy to become lost, distracted, anxious or discouraged and so as we put our heads to pillows this evening we might reflect on the story we have read today and look at our lives through the filter on this exodus story of God’s people.  And we might ask ourselves how we react when we lose courage . . . how we see our wanderings through the hostile desert.

What is our relationship with God like?  Do we rely on God at all times or only when we need help?

How do we celebrate God’s goodness?  Do we rejoice with others and share the good news that we are well-loved?

What is our belief system?  Are we ready . . . and are we willing to give over to God our obedience, our loyalty and our love?


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.187. Print.

Tomorrow, more on Deuteronomy.

Image from: http://restministries.com/2011/09/22/devotion-counting-on-gods-guidance-each-day/

First written on July 24, 2009. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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