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2 Kings 4:1-7Deep Trust

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Written on March 20 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

A reflection I read recently pointed out that genuine faith is not blind obedience; rather it is a deep trust in the revealed Christ.  When we receive the Gospel story as coming from God – and not just as a narrative from one of Jesus’ followers – we will naturally raise our limbs to the light to welcome the Spirit into our hearts, and we will put down deep roots in the conviction that God can neither deceive nor be deceived.  Once we allow ourselves to risk believing that God’s love precludes deceit, overcomes all pain, and converts all suffering, we begin to feel the growth of an enduring and unshakable trust deep within.

The widow who complains to Elisha in today’s Noontime acts in faith – not blindly in obedience, but actively trusting, certain that God will fulfill her needs through the prophet.  “Bring me another vessel,” she says to her son; yet when none arrives and when the oil stops, there is enough oil for her to eliminate her debt and feed her children.  God provides.

From Jeremiah 17:7-8: Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord.  He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit. 

From Psalm 1:1-3: Happy those who do not follow the counsel of the wicked, nor go the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers.  Rather, the law of the Lord is their joy; God’s law they study day and night. They are like a tree planted near streams of water that yields its fruit in season; its leaves never wither; whatever they do prospers.

Job 18:16 describes the wicked man as one whose roots dry up below and branches wither above.

Maxfield Parrish: Riverbank in Autumn

Ezekiel 47:12 describes the fruit trees that will grow by the banks of the river that flows from the new, restored temple: Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail.  Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them.  Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing. 

Sirach 11:20-21: Hold fast to your duty, busy yourself with it, grow old while doing your task.  Admire not how sinners live, but trust in the Lord and wait for his light.

The desert is a dry and barren place yet even in the arid terrain there is life – for God is everywhere.   The widow in today’s story understands this fact.  She has so little that she and her children will perish.  Elisha speaks to her and through this prophet God works a miracle that rescues her not only for that one day, but for all of her days.  The widow allows her life and the lives of her children to be transformed, not merely changed.  She stays close to God, the living water.  She puts down deep, trusting roots.  She shelters her children beneath the leaves that spring forth in a dry season.

God provides . . . even, and especially, in the desert.  God transforms . . . even, and especially, when we feel that all is lost.   God reveals himself . . . even, and especially, when we are at our lowest point.

From yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT Evening Prayer Mini-reflection: God is very present in the deserts of our lives.  It is in the desert that God revealed himself to Abraham.  It is in our dryness and desolation that God is often working the most marvelous transformations.  Let us rejoice in this blessed desert of Lent where Christ reveals himself. 


A re-post from August 28, 2011.

Images from: http://frankordaz.blogspot.com/2011/04/on-easter.html

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 19 March 2011. Print.

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Exodus 12:1-28: The Servant’s Exodus

Holy Thursday, March 29, 2018

James Tissot: The Waters are Divided

We are familiar with the elements of this story: the birth of Moses, the call from the burning bush, the killing plagues, crossing the Red Sea, wandering in the desert, and finally a glimpse of the Promised Land. This is Moses’ story, it is Jesus’ story, it is the story of the faithful servant, and it is our own.

From DAILY REFLECTIONS FOR LENT: NOT BY BREAD ALONE 2018 written by Michelle Francl-Donnay. Exodus reminds us we are not to settle into our pews, to watch events unfold like an epic movie in which the hero rises in the very last scene, only to pour back out into the lobby at intermission, tossing our crumpled worship aids into the recycling bins. No, sit on the edge of your seats, and be ready to fly forth with only what you have in hand”. (Francl-Donnay 92-93)

Francl-Donnay reminds us that as faithful servants, we must be ready for flight.

The Eucharist is fast food, trail food. This is not a private feast, a family dinner to be lingered over, however reverent, and beautiful the liturgy is. This is a public meal, food for those in flight, food for those about to be dispatched on a mission. (Francl-Donnay 92-93)

James Tissot: The Last Supper

Francl-Donnay reminds us that as faithful servants, we must be prepared to receive God’s promise in the person of Jesus.

Tonight we will do as Jesus commanded at the Last Supper. We will wash each other’s feet, to show each other in the presence of the faithful what we have vowed to do. (Francl-Donnay 92-93)

Francl-Donnay reminds us that as faithful servants, we must go into the world with words and acts of peace.

So now we wrap Christ around us, and kneel before the hungry child, the homeless mother, the refugee whose shoes are worn through, to care tenderly for what the world would trample underfoot. (Francl-Donnay 92-93)

Francl-Donnay reminds us that as faithful servants – and no matter the sorrow or pain we suffer – we must make our exodus into the world with words and acts of joy.

Wishing each of you Christ’s peace on Maundy Thursday 2018.

Tomorrow, the goodness of Good Friday.

For a reflection on the Exodus story, visit the Exodus page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-torah/exodus-the-story/ 


Francl-Donnay, Michelle. DAILY REFLECTIONS FOR LENT: NOT BY BREAD ALONE. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2017. 92-93. Print.

Images are from: http://www.jesuswalk.com/moses/3_passover.htm  and https://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-last-supper-tissot.html 

To better understand the word “maudy,” visit: https://www.christianity.com/christian-life/what-is-maundy-thursday-11628350.html

 

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Esther F: The River is Esther

Edward Armitage: The Feast of Esther

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

It has been a week since Ash Wednesday when we began our Lenten journey of discovery, renewal, and transformation. We have had seven days to contemplate the state of our world and our personal circumstances. We have reflected on the violence in Esther’s world and in our own. Today, amidst bloodshed and reversals, and despite our fears, we find a way to give thanks.

In the apocryphal verses of this story, we hear Mordecai declare his praise for God’s providence. We too, might announce our acclaim.

Then Mordecai said: “This is the work of God. I recall the dream I had about these very things, and not a single detail has been left unfulfilled – the tiny spring that grew into a river, and there was light, and sun, and many waters”.

In the apocryphal verses of this story, we hear Mordecai describe God’s river of compassion, and the river is Esther. We too, might affirm God’s love.

“The river is Esther, whom the king married and made queen”.

In the apocryphal verses of this story, we hear Mordecai announce his gratitude for God’s power. We too, might proclaim our appreciation.

“The Lord saved his people and delivered us from all these evils. God worked signs and great wonders, such as have not occurred among the nations”.

In the apocryphal verses of this story, we hear Mordecai assert his joy for God’s presence. We too, might broadcast to anyone who will listen our confidence that God also abides.

“Gathering together with joy and happiness before God, they shall celebrate these days on the fourteenth and fifteenth of the month Adar throughout all future generations of his people Israel”.

With these apocryphal verses, we experience the river that is God’s power, fidelity, hope and mercy. And this river is Esther.

 Tomorrow,, Esther on the fringes of society.  

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Esther 8: Bloodshed

Rembrandt: Haman Begging the Mercy of Esther

First Sunday of Lent, February 18, 2018

Esther 7 concludes abruptly with the hanging of Haman. We have perhaps looked for this outcome, hoping for the justice we desire in our own lives. We suspected that inversion will take place and that the plotter will suffer the fate he planned for others; but these outcomes have not halted the plot to annihilate the Jewish nation. Today we watch as Esther and Mordecai take steps to stop the impending slaughter.

With New Testament thinking, we shrink from the violence of fighting back. Revenge has no place in the Pax Christi kingdom of Jesus where we forgive, and even intervene for our enemies. So it is with sadness that we read this chapter’s closing verse.

In fact, many other people became Jews, because they were afraid of them now.

On this first Sunday of Lent, we take time to reflect on the power of egocentric living. Experts tell us that when we acquiesce to narcissists, we give them power; and that the key to escaping one like Haman is to detach, observe, protect ourselves, and plan an escape. Esther and Mordecai stand quietly against injustice; yet they leave their own trail of bloodshed, as we will see tomorrow. Rather than establish peace for all, the envy and narcissism that haunt Esther and Mordecai continue to nurture division, suspicion, and old hatred. They may have escaped the power of the narcissist, but the power of unilateral thinking remains. The murder of the Jewish nation is averted, but slaughter nonetheless takes place.

Tomorrow, our modern Purim.

When we compare translations of this chapter, we look for ways to undo the bloodshed that happens too frequently in our lives. 

For more on the meaning of Pax Christi, visit the February 7, 2018 post by Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM at: https://cac.org/children-of-god-2018-02-07/

For more on dealing with narcissists, visit: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/201711/the-catch-22-dealing-narcissist

 

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Esther 6: Narcissism

Paul Alexander Leroy: Haman and Mordecai

Friday, February 16, 2018

Me, of course.

Our current national stage, with its cast of actors, asks us to explore the concept of narcissism. Unless we are professional in the field of psychoanalysis, we must consult those who have expertise and experience in discovering and handling those among us who suffer from this disorder of unilateral listening. For the layperson, an article from Psychology Today outlines six signs of narcissism, contains a quiz with which readers might assess themselves, and offers strategies to become less self-centered. Today’s reading from Esther gives us another template with which to measure ourselves.

Have royal robes brought for this man—robes that you yourself wear.

Are we able to use the criticism we receive in a positive manner? Are we willing to see that we are sometimes wrong?

Have a royal ornament put on your own horse.

Can we see that a world exists beyond our person? Do we believe that others hold truths that are, at the least, equal to our own?

Then have one of your highest noblemen dress the man in these robes and lead him, mounted on the horse, through the city square.

Are we willing to abide by the guidelines set by the group? Do we see ourselves as so special that rules do not apply to us?

Have the nobleman announce as they go: “See how the king rewards someone he wishes to honor!”

Are we willing to give others the praise we wish to have ourselves? Are we comfortable when others receive praise we seek?

Haman hurried home, covering his face in embarrassment.

Are we quick to anger? What do we do with our negative feelings? How do we manage resentment and bitterness?

Haman, his family and friends have much to teach us about ourselves; our current national and local politics ask much of us. As we move through these opening days of Lent, are we willing to explore the concept of narcissism, and how it affects us personally and collectively?

Tomorrow, dealing with the narcissists in our lives.

When we read varying translations of this story by using the scripture link and the drop-down menus, we offer ourselves an opportunity to move away from our own narcissism.

Read the article cited above posted on October 25, 2012 at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201210/are-you-narcissist-6-sure-signs-narcissism

Why does Mordecai not bow to Haman? Click on the image above or visit: http://thetorah.com/why-did-mordecai-not-bow-down-to-haman/  

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Esther 4: “They came for me . . .”

Ash Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Today we hear a portion of Esther’s story that resonates with humans in every age. Mordecai puts on sackcloth and ashes as he mourns an impending holocaust. He warns Esther that her future is in danger whether she takes action or not. He reminds her that her thinking that there is safety for her in the palace is a false one. And he suggests that perhaps she is queen for precisely this moment in history. His words force her into action once she realizes that inertia only invites evil. Apathy or disinterest are no protection against malicious intent.

Do not think that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this. 

On this Ash Wednesday, as we wear ashen crosses on our foreheads at the beginning of the season of Lent, we explore our own role in human history; we examine our own fears and hopes. We pause in our journey through Esther to reflect on words from the 20th Century.

From the Holocaust Encyclopedia site: “Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps”.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

A Catholic nun uses ash to mark a cross on the forehead of a child in observance of Ash Wednesday at The Redemptorist Church at suburban Paranaque city south of Manila, Philippines Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015. Ash Wednesday marks the start of the Lent, a season of prayer and fasting before Easter. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Both Mordecai and Niemöller invite us to examine our hearts. Esther invites us to consider our response to God’s call.

Tomorrow, an invitation.

Who celebrates Ash Wednesday? Click on the image of the woman and child receiving ashes to learn more. 

Visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to learn how Niemöller dealt with his own anti-semitism: https://www.ushmm.org/

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Esther 1: Susa

Jacopo del Sellaio: The Banquet of Ahasuerus

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Over the next few days, we will explore the story of Esther, a recounting of how a brave young woman saves a nation of people by mustering the courage to respond to God’s call. Polar forces place her in grave danger; yet Esther survives to rejoice in God’s guidance and protection. As we accompany her on this journey from fear to joy, we move from ordinary time through Ash Wednesday to Lent to discover the potential for transformation. Esther invites us to move away from typical days of activity into a more quiet life of introspection. Like Esther, we examine our relationship with God to see how fear manipulates us. And like Esther, we arrive at a new level of understanding of God’s love.

This is the story of something that happened in the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled from India to Ethiopia – 127 provinces in all. King Xerxes ruled from his royal throne in the palace complex of Susa. 

UNESCO has declared Susa a World Heritage Site as one of the oldest cities in the world. Rebuilt by the Persian King Darius, inhabited by the monarch Xerxes in the Book of Esther, and later conquered by Alexander the Great, Susa represented a city where many cultures and peoples came together.

In this opening chapter of Esther’s story, we learn about Xerxes’ court. As a soldier and builder, he made his mark in the ancient world, and his famous Tukta banquets were reknown. It is at one of these feasts that our story begins.

The king gave for all the people present in the citadel of Susa, both great and small, a banquet lasting for seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. There were white cotton curtains and blue hangings tied with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and colored stones. Drinks were served in golden goblets, goblets of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king. Drinking was by flagons, without restraint; for the king had given orders to all the officials of his palace to do as each one desired. Furthermore, Queen Vashti gave a banquet for the women in the palace of King Ahasuerus.

Queen Vashti refuses to do as King Xerxes asks and so is banished from court. Into this scenario steps the innocent, beautiful young Jewish woman, Esther. We observe the wealthy and famous in this ancient world and we reflect on our world today. Celebrities and sports figures hold our interest, while the lower classes serve as the invisible support to a lavish life. The powerful command while the powerless live on the margins of society.  What questions come to us as we reflect on this opening chapter of Esther’s story?

Tomorrow, Esther becomes queen.

For another reflection on Esther 1, visit The Race of the Just post on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2011/10/19/the-race-of-the-just/ 

King Xerxes is also known as Ahasuerus or Achashverosh. For more information on the people in this story, visit http://www.iranchamber.com/history/susa/susa.php, http://www.livius.org/articles/place/susa/, https://www.britannica.com/place/Susa, https://www.ancient.eu/Xerxes_I/, https://amazingbibletimeline.com/blog/esther-and-mordecai-under-xerxes-of-persia/,or http://www.womeninthebible.net/women-bible-old-new-testaments/queen-vashti/

 

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Titus 3:4-7:In Partnership with God

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Michelangelo: Creation of Eve

From the Letter of Paul to Titus: It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. (MSG)

Father Alfred Delp, S.. was hanged for high treason against Hitler’s Nazi Reich just a few months before the end of WW II. Hitler hoped to erase Delp from history by ordering that his body be cremated and his ashes scattered; but despite this effort, Delp and his words are remembered today. We might take them in as part of our Lenten journey. From Prison Writings,

Toil, heat, and grief express fundamental conditions of human nature which always make themselves felt as long as one is on one’s journey through life. They are not always so abnormally prevalent as they are today but they are nevertheless an indispensable part of our existence. And only when we fail to go through life in partnership with God do these things get the upper hand, bursting all bounds and overwhelming us with trouble of all kinds.

Can we imagine ourselves in partnership with God? What is it like to have an intimate relationship with one who is capable of great authority and great love?

Paul to Titus: But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, God saved us from all that. It was all God’s doing; we had nothing to do with it. God gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit.

How might we use these verses in our Lenten journey toward Easter peace?

Michelangelo: Creation of Adam – Detail

More from Delp: I am not concerned here with the material needs of humankind but with our own degeneration, our blunted faculties and spiritual poverty – all the burdens in fact which the kind of existence one leads have introduced into one’s life and which have now become characteristic of one’s nature. Just as there are virtues that can be acquired so also there are faults that result from repetition such as habitual unawareness of individuality, perpetual relinquishment of powers of decision, permanent weakening of the sense of reality, and so on. Faced with these shortcomings we find ourselves under a terrible strain and utterly helpless.

Do we see Delp’s description of his society reflected in our own? Are there any parallels to discern or lessons to learn? What do we do when we feel helpless or under great strain? Whose counsel do we seek? What transformation do we hope to experience?

Delp: One must accept responsibility for the misuse of one’s free will. Being prone to such errors of judgment the only thing one can do is to turn again and again to God praying earnestly that the Holy Spirit may take pity on one’s failings and let the healing current flow freely through one’s life.

Where do we turn when we are overwhelmed by our own shortcomings or those of others? What are the prayers we offer to God? How often do we allow the Spirit’s healing current to flow freely through our lives?

Both Delp and Paul remind us of the great partnership we are offered, and the consequences of this gift.

Paul to Titus: God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.

Partnership with God is the eternal transformation we seek. It is the gift we already hold. We are even now beloved children in God’s kingdom of mercy, forgiveness, redemption and love. Let us move forward in our Lenten journey, and forward into the world, transformed in this belief. Let us behave as if we hold these truths in our hearts. And let us be eager to share with others the promise and goodness of God’s love.

Delp, Alfred. Prison Writings. Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2004. To learn more about Delp, visit: http://www.americamagazine.org/issue/642/article/martyr-nazis  

For more on Michelangelo, the Italian Renaissance, and his paintings in the Sistine Chapel, click: http://www.italianrenaissance.org/a-closer-look-michelangelos-painting-of-the-sistine-chapel-ceiling/ 

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 17.3 (2017): 260-261. Print.  

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Psalm 118: God Saves Those in Distress

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Favorite from March 13, 2008.

We can never hear this too often, especially during the Lenten tide.  If you have the opportunity, make a space of time to pray this psalm today.  It will fill your empty spaces to overflowing. It will make sense of all hardship. It will remind us that life is good, that God is mercy, that God and we are one.

Whoever is wise will ponder these things, will ponder the merciful deeds of the Lord.

We wander the path of this life yearning for something that will move us, stir us, create a fire within us; yet not consume us. We can so often lose our way in this search for the fire that does not consume.

Some had lost their way in a barren desert . . .

We have wandered so far, looking for constancy, fidelity, healing. Our lives feel so like a desert. We hunger. We thirst. We feel as though we have lost ourselves, as though something is missing.

They were hungry and thirsty; their life was ebbing away . . .

We have longed for peace, for happiness, for calm, for serenity. Our lives can feel so useless when the search seems futile.

Some lived in darkness and gloom . . .

We hold so many secrets, think of our sins as private errors, separate ourselves from all that is holy. Our lives need compassion rather than anger and despair, love rather than indifference.

In their distress they cried to the Lord . . . who saved them in their peril . . .

We think that we can handle things so much better than you, God because we are here and so often we feel as though you are so distant . . . yet we are not alone. You are always with us. You save us in our distress. You humble us with hardship. You call us to turn and return to you.

Let them thank the Lord for such kindness, such wondrous deeds for mere mortals.  Let them offer a sacrifice in thanks, declare his works with shouts of joy.

When we pause to breathe, when we still the frenzy. We feel you with us. We feel that fire that does not consume. We see the miracles you bring forth through us. We believe that you are mercy. We see the wonder of all you have created. We know that there is no greater God than you.

Whoever is wise will ponder these things, will ponder the merciful deeds of the Lord.

Amen.

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