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Friday, September 10, 2021

heart life not dullJeremiah 39

Our Lives as Booty

Jerusalem is invaded and destroyed, the enemy chases down and captures the king, the princes are murdered before the father’s eyes, and the poor are left behind to tend the farms and vineyards.  Jeremiah is released from the guard house where he had been detained for his words. He conveys the words of the Lord’ assurance to his Egyptian rescuer, Ebed-melech: Behold, I am now fulfilling the words I spoke against this city, for evil and not for good; and this before your very eyes.  But on that day I will rescue you, says the Lord, you shall not be handed over to the men of whom you are afraid.  I will make certain that you escape and do not fall by the sword.  Your life shall be spared as booty, because you trusted in me, says the Lord.

From commentary: “Jeremiah’s behavior illustrates how to survive.  By submitting to Babylon, he has escaped with his life as the prize of war and returned home.  The Eded-melech sequel lends strength to this interpretation.  Although the fate of the city is sealed, Ebed-melech will escape with his life as a prize of war because he trusted in YHWH.  It is that confidence that most exiles emulate, and they too will gain a future.  The many themes of these narratives unite in this rhetorical effort to persuade the exiles to submit to Babylon as the only avenue forward”. (Barton, and Muddiman 520)

All of this sets us to thinking about God’s justice.

From the mini-reflection in today’s MAGNIFICAT Evening Prayer: The concept of God’s justice can seem frightening.  We are aware of our own sin and fear retribution.  However, God’s justice is not about him getting back at those who offended him.  God’s justice sets things aright . . . [so] we should not dread God’s justice.  Rather we should rejoice in right order returned to his creation.

And so we pray . . .

Just, yet merciful God who sees and knows all, we return our lives to you.  We, who are created by your hand, turn back to you all that we have managed to enact in our lives in your name.  We, who have known the protection of your power, fly home to live in you.  We, who have been saved by your love, gather all that we are as booty to be taken in by you.  In your mercy, guide us.  In your kindness, guard us.  And in your great love, give us the hope, the grace and the endurance we will need to live in joyful hope for you.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 


Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 520. Print.

Image from: http://christianmotivations.weebly.com/christian-motivations-blog/archives/08-2014/3

A Favorite from February 5, 2011.

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Thursday, September 2, 2021

God's heart for the worldJeremiah 32

Pledge of Restoration

Never again shall the city be rooted up or thrown down.

These are the reassuring words we finally hear as a prelude to the description of restoration we read today. The prophet Jeremiah buys a plot of land, “to testify that Judah will be restored and the life of the past will be rescued”. (Senior cf. 989) This might seem improbable after we have heard so many predictions of death and destruction but when we hear the Lord’s pledge, we know that all is well

Is anything impossible to me?

Let us take our worries and cares to the one for whom the impossible is possible.

They shall be my people and I shall be their God.

Let us rely on the one who is the creator of all life.

One heart and one way I shall give them.

Let us rest in the peace of God’s great and generous heart.

I will make with them an eternal covenant, never to cease doing good to them.

Let us trust in God’s fidelity and outrageous hope.

I will take delight in doing good to them.

Let us answer God’s call to celebrate the joy of the kingdom.

I will replant them firmly in this land, with all my heart and soul.

Let us share God’s goodness with open and loving hearts.

Amen.  


Image from: http://www.spiritualliving360.com/index.php/discovering-gods-heart-for-the-world-47201/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.989. Print.   

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Saturday, August 21, 2021

Michaelangelo: The Prophet Jeremiah

Michaelangelo: The Prophet Jeremiah

Jeremiah 26:1-15

A Plot to Murder

This confrontation between prophet and priests occurred in the year 609 B.C.E. at a time of tremendous political upheaval; the people in today’s reading were under tremendous political, spiritual, social and personal stress. Accusations of falsehood, of miss-reading and miss-interpreting the law are symptoms of a people and leaders who no longer trust one another or themselves. The message here, however, is as clear as the arguments: Judah’s fate has been sealed by her own actions.

When we read these verses we understand why and how such a great people fell into exile.  The wayward priests and false prophets believe that if they silence Jeremiah, they will keep their secrets hidden, and they will be safe. Of course the opposite is actually the case and if those who are no longer faithful might only listen and heed this true prophet’s words they will be saved. This is not far from what also happened with Christ several hundred years later. This is also not far from what happens to the prophets among us today.

We live in a world with robots and sustain ourselves with pre-packaged food, starving for honest reality and intimacy, looking for genuine nourishment. We can manipulate images, dub sounds, pay surgeons to re-arrange our bodies, and pop psychologists to sooth our minds. We have created a false world for ourselves in which we control and are all. And, like the priests of Jeremiah’s world, we have things wrong.

Catherine of Siena recounts that God says to her: I am who am, you are she who is notThis is an idea which we must do more than merely believe, we must feel it, act it, live it. We, like Jeremiah, live in a world which is too clever, too complicated and too overcome by itself.  But the faithful need not lament for there is always refuge, always a remedy.  When false priests and false prophets rage against us, the faithful must turn away from all the trappings, the trinkets, the overblown, the super sizes, the arguments and the words. We must turn and return to God.

And so we pray . . . Good, gentle, all-encompassing Lord . . .

Remind us that our greatness is in our smallness.

Recount to us the infinite times you have shown us compassion.

Recall for us the immeasurable ways you have measured out justice on our behalf.

Revivify us with your presence.

Hold us away from the false light of the finite. 

Draw us toward the life-giving light of the eternal.

Bring us home to you.  Amen.


Adapted from a reflection written on May 11, 2008.

To learn more about Catherine of Siena, visit: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1368

For more quotes, visit: http://www.drawnbylove.com/Quotes.htm

Image from: https://dwellingintheword.wordpress.com/tag/lamentations/ 

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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJeremiah 24

The Two Baskets of Figs

From Bible footnotes: “Jeremiah, like Ezekiel, saw that no good could be expected from the people who had been left in Judah under Zedekiah or who had fled into Egypt; good was to be hoped for only from those who would pass through the purifying experience of the exile to form the new Israel.” (Senior 980)

If there is time in your day, read a bit about Jeconiah and the Chaldeans (Babylonians). If there is not much time, let us at least think about what God is asking of us when we experience exile, a time apart from places, persons or even events that are precious to us. God assures us that there is always an opportunity for distillation when we are apart. God reminds us that we experience the abiding presence of the Spirit when we are away from what we love. God tells us that those who are left behind, or sent away, are not the juicy first figs of the season; rather, they are the poor fruit that will not grace the banquet table. They are poor fruit that are loved by God nonetheless. God is the faithful, persistent harvester who nurses fruit from struggling plants. God is the hopeful, healing shepherd, going out to find the one sheep while leaving the ninety-nine behind. God is the patient, able silversmith heating metal to drain away the detritus and keeping watch that the precious ore is not poured away. God is the potter working the clay of our lives in hands that know us better than we know ourselves. As always with God, it is the inverse that proves true: those left behind are those redeemed; those sent away are the rescued.  And here in these verses of Chapter 24, Jeremiah brings us the imagery of two baskets of figs . . . one with first fruits, the other with rotten offerings.

Yahweh says: I will look after them for their good, and bring them back to this land, to build them up, not to tear them down; to plant them, not to pluck them out. 

And so we pray . . .

Good and precious God, we know that you are with us always, even when we must be apart undergoing transformation. We know that we are clay in your hands that you mold with intent and great care. Help us to abide with you as you abide with us. Guide us to hope in you as you hope in us. Teach us to love the world with you even as you love us. We know that true transformation comes with suffering, and that suffering is the path your son strode before us. But because the darkness sometimes feels too permanent, we ask that you guide us. Because the light sometimes seems as though it will never return, we ask that you lead us. Because the figs we bear are sometimes bitter, we ask that you carry us. Because the journey you ask us to walk is sometimes too perilous, we ask that you be us. For all of this we pray. Amen.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.980. Print.   

Adapted from a reflection written on June 14, 2007.

For more on Jeconiah and the Chaldeans, visit: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/711-did-jeremiah-err-regarding-jeconiah and http://biblehub.com/dictionary/c/chaldeans.htm

 Image from: http://www.wheatandtares.org/733/you-naughty-naughty-fig/

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Saturday, August 7, 2021

Jeremiah 17:14-18

search-me-oh-godThe Day Without Remedy

Jeremiah’s frustration runs high; his disappointment in the social and religious structure is enormous; his passion grows larger than his own life. The prophet cries out in a beautiful and poignant prayer for vengeance.

Heal me, O Lord, that I may be healed; save me, that I may be saved, for it is you whom I praise.

We have followed your precepts and still we suffer. The day of calamity is upon us.

See how they say to me, “Where is the word of the Lord? Let it come to pass!”

No one remembers your loving care; the number of your faithful dwindles.

Yet I did not press you to send calamity; the day without remedy I have not desired.

We have walked in The Way the Christ has shown us and we have turned the other cheek, offered clothes to the naked, fed the poor and housed the homeless.

You know what passed my lips; it is present before you.

We have refrained from gossip; we have spoken of our love for you.

Do not be my ruin, you, my refuge in the day of misfortune.

Abide with us here, remain with us now.

Let my persecutors, not me, be broken.

Bring peace to my enemies; soften the hearts of the stiff-necked.

Bring upon them the day of misfortune, crush them with repeated destruction.

Bring upon my adversaries your serenity that heals shattered hearts, your love that mends broken minds, and your peace that restores fragmented spirits.

Heal us, O Lord, that we may be healed . . .

For in this healing that we find reconciliation . . .

Save us, that we may be saved . . .

For it in this saving that we find eternal peace . . .

It is you whom we praise . . .

It is you alone who brings life that endures all things. It is you alone who brings an end to our days without remedy. Amen.


For more on asking intercession for those who harm us, enter the words Prayer for Revenge into the search bar on this blog and explore. Or go to the sidebar on the right of the blog page and scroll down to find another Prayer for Revenge based on 1 Samuel 24.

Image from: http://rodiagnusdei.wordpress.com/

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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Jeremiah 10

shepherd-in-wilderness1Christ the King

The pagan gods and cult idols must be carried about, for they cannot walk . . . but Jesus walks among us.

Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, they cannot speak . . . but our God speaks to us constantly.

Fear them not, they can do no harm, neither is it in their power to do good . . . the Holy Spirit comforts and abides with us always. 

No one is like you, O Lord, great are you, great and mighty is your name.  Who would not love you . . . for it is your due!

Today we hear a message from Jeremiah affirming all that we know to be true. False shepherds will fall away; the One True Shepherd will gather the lost to bring them home. This King of all carries us on his shoulders – rather than asking us to carry him about. This King of all accompanies us everywhere – even when we feel alone or betrayed, not only when we are happy or joy-filled. This King protects, guides, guards, and loves us – even though we stray, complain and stumble.

This King will never falter, never err, never abandon even one of the flock. This King directs our every step if we only allow it. In his Old Testament frame of mind, Jeremiah asks Yahweh to punish Israel’s enemies. In our New Testament perspective, we pray for those who harm us, we intercede and ask forgiveness. Just as Jesus does. It is when we feel the most alone that we might also most feel God’s presence. If we wish to feel in control of our lives, we must abandon ourselves to Christ. If we wish to feel inspired and passionate about all we do, we must first welcome the Spirit into our hearts to accompany our prayer. If we wish to be treasured, we must first care for those whom no one loves. If we wish to be one with our brother, Christ the King, we must first be sister and brother to our enemies. And we must ask that God show them – and us – mercy.

You know, O Lord, that man is not master of his way; man’s course is not within his choice, nor is it for him to direct his step.

Love us, O Lord, and call those who have wandered far from you.  Pour out your grace upon us, so that we might hear you and respond to your call.  We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Christ and King, together with the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 


Adapted from a reflection written on November 21, 2010, the Feast of Christ the King.

Image from: http://agapegeek.com/2011/06/26/understanding-how-to-be-led-by-the-spirit-of-god-your-introduction-to-the-good-shepherd-part-1/ 

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Monday, July 26, 2021

Jeremiah 7

Abide 2Prayer for Remaining

Reform your ways and your deeds that I might remain with you in this place . . .

Put not your trust in deceitful words . . .

If each of you deals justly with your neighbor . . .

If you no longer oppress the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow . . .

If you no longer shed innocent blood, or follow false gods to your own harm . . .

These are words we hear from God through the prophet Jeremiah sent to us over the millennia. What might we reform? How might we speak less deceitful words? When have we oppressed those living in life’s margins? Who are our false gods? Let us take notice of ourselves, our actions and our surroundings as we pray.

Gentle and Gracious God, you visit us in this place today. We thank you for your presence.

Faithful and Loyal God, you abide with us in this time today. We thank you for your mercy.

Just and Powerful God, you strengthen us when we falter. We thank you for your fidelity.

Compassionate and Generous God, you forgive us when we stray. We thank you for your understanding.

Healing and Loving God, you restore us when we fail. We thank you for your stillness.

Constant and All-knowing God, you bind up what we tear down. We thank you for your wisdom.

We praise you for abiding. We thank you for enduring. We thank you for remaining. Amen.


For more on Jeremiah 7 and words from the mystic Adrienne von Speyr on fidelity, enter the word Remaining into the post search bar and explore.

Learn more about Von Speyr at: http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/authors/adrienne_von_speyr.asp

Image from: http://unafamiliaalaskena.blogspot.com/2011_12_01_archive.html

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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

jeremiah 15Jeremiah 1

Persecution

Jeremiah’s prophecy is complex; it consists of judgment oracles, narratives about his life, and sermons. Throughout all of this his voice brings not only a constant warning but also a certain consolation to those who are willing to suffer. To the faithful remnant he says what we long to hear: that we are loved, that God’s name is written on our hearts, and that we are called. He speaks to anyone eager to find the truth embedded in each of us, the truth that is God.

Jeremiah speaks to the experience of persecution and this is a theme that resonates with all human beings for all of us at one time or at many times – either justly or unjustly – are persecuted. We all know what it feels like to be left out, over looked, betrayed, and even punished for what we believe is truth. Ultimately, only God can let us know if we are living an honest life; and God does this frequently. Only God can indicate to us that our suffering has been either self-pitying and pointless or redemptive and fruitful. We all suffer. But do we suffer well? God tells us about the truth of our suffering by pointing out to us the fruits of our labor. And God does this gently by telling us that we are wonderfully made, and that we need not fear. God tells us that there is hope.

From the HARPERCOLLINS NRSV STUDY BIBLE (Meeks 1113): Here indeed was a prophet who combined elegance of form with the ethical and redemptive content of the “word of the Lord”. And perhaps more than anyone in his time, Jeremiah provided the means by which a despairing people could hope for a new future.

Reading the first chapter of this profound prophecy is an invitation to new life and to hope, an invitation to join Christ in the kind of suffering that saves souls and that transforms itself and us into a joy-filled gift. We are invited into this redemptive mystery that is God’s love.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you . . .

You are mine. You are special. I have a particular job in mind for you.

And before you were born I consecrated you . . .

Because you are mine you are holy. You are my temple. I want to dwell within you.

I appointed you a prophet to the nations . . .

You have words to say and gestures to make in my Name.

Then I said – Ah Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a child . . .

We reply in fear to this awesome task, believing falsely that we are not up to the journey that lies before us.

But the Lord said to me – Do not say “I am only a child’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you . . .

You are my gift to the world . . . my gift of joy. I see a wonderful potential in you . . . for you are designed in love by me . . . to love me in all places and times and peoples . . . you are made to put away fear . . . in yourself and in others . . .

Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you . . .

Until the end of time . . . Amen.


Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. 1113. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on Friday, January 16, 2009.

Image from: http://maryhess.com/and-mary-pondered-jeremiah-15/

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Friday, July 16, 2021

Ruth 3

Naomi and RuthChesed Part IV – Ruth Presents Herself

The story of Ruth is a story with characters who “are presented as models who live faithful to the spirit of the covenant even in the difficult situations of life”. (Senior RG 141) It is believed to be a true story and is best read with notes in order to understand the plight of Naomi and her daughter-in-law, the customs of land ownership, the Levirate marriage contract, the tradition of allowing widows to glean food from a harvested field, the remarkable strength of Ruth’s fidelity to her mother-in-law, and the noble loyalty of Boaz who is drawn to Ruth’s kindness and piety. As we have investigated this story, we have thought about how God moves and works through people, is ever faithful and always at hand. Today we can focus on the last verse of chapter 3 when Naomi says to Ruth, “Wait here, my daughter, for the man will not rest, but will settle the matter today”. These words describe true integrity, true honesty, true clarity, and true holiness. This man will not rest until he settles a matter of honor – and he will do this before the sun sets. This man will not let anything stand in the way of doing what he knows he is called to do. This man sets aside his own humanity to do the will of the divine. Again from the Readers’ Guide page RG 145: “The double meaning [of the word for feet or genitals in Hebrew] may be intended to rouse the interest of the audience, ‘to raise a few eyebrows,’ only to show that the unusual steps taken by Ruth [and recommended by Naomi] do not end up in an illicit sexual union, but reveal the honorable character of Boaz. He does not take advantage of Ruth, but agrees to take the necessary steps to marry her. He ensures her reputation is not ruined and sends her away with six measures of barley”.

The marriage of these two honorable people results in the birth of a child, Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David, the ancestor of Jesus. It is the beautiful story of how people who respond to God’s call can transform tragedy into something blessed and holy. It is also the story of God’s constant presence in our lives as we accompany one another, share our grief, and move toward the light of truth. The action begins with emptiness which is reversed by the end of the tale. “The emptiness of the land (famine) causes Naomi to leave the land. The emptiness of the land gives way to the emptiness of Naomi in the loss first of husband and then sons. Naomi dismisses her daughters-in-law because her ‘emptiness’ cannot be cured . . .” And so she returns home so that she will not be a widow in a foreign place, but not alone. Ruth follows her. Back in Bethlehem, Naomi who finds herself empty of everything that previously had meaning, says the words in 3:18. She recognizes the goodness in Boaz and Ruth and she supports the young woman who waits for the man of integrity to do what he must do to claim her as his wife. Blessings and graces follow.

And so we pray . . .

Good and generous God, make us instruments of your work as were Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. Send us the words to say, the acts to perform, the prayers to raise as we enter the difficult situations of life and the pockets of emptiness around us. Send us your word that we may do your work to bring joy out of mourning. We ask this as always in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Image from: http://www.reformedchristianity.org/virtues/friendship/1659-ruth-and-naomi.html

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 141. Print.

Adapted from a favorite written on August 31, 2007.

 

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