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Zechariah 10: The New Order

Monday, June 24, 2019

When surprise springs upon us we stagger a bit in wonderment . . . and then we too often we move forward quickly, passing by the opportunity to reflect with God about how the surprise he has given us will continue to change our lives.  It is these changes and surprises that tell us we can trust God.  It is these changes and surprises that reveal God’s fidelity and care for us.  It is these changes and surprises that bring us evidence of God’s deep and abiding love.

Today we spend time thinking about the new orderZechariah predicts the newness that accompanies the Messiah.  The Pharisees do not want to hear this news.  From today’s Gospel reading from Luke: Some Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you”.  He replied, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose’”.

God brings order out of the chaotic universe.  Jesus brings order out of the corrupt hierarchy when he tells us that we are priests in our own right, the adopted daughters and sons of the creator, no longer needing the intercession of priests in the temple.  We are our own temple, Christ having destroyed the old and having become the new.  We enter into that temple when we humble ourselves, take up our assignments, and follow.

To have a deep understand of the meaning in the Book of Zechariah it is best to read notes and commentary; but even at a quick glance we can feel the newness of these words.  The Word is rain in the spring season.  The Word brings about the falling away of deceitful dreams and empty comfort.  The Word gathers up the sheep who wander searching for meaning and feeling in their lives that lasts and does not flicker and vanish with the slightest whisper of struggle.  The Word strengthens us so that we might walk in his name.

Whoever strives to be made God’s dwelling place, should strive to make himself humble and peaceable, that he may be known to be God’s servant, not by his greed for talk and pliability of mien, but by the reality of his lowliness; for goodness of heart requires no false unction of talk.  (Saint Columban, d. 615- MAGNIFICAT, Oct 30, 2008)

When I suddenly find myself swimming upstream against tremendous odds, I know that it is time to halt, to humble myself, to take stock and to listen . . . so that I might hear The Word that never fails.  When I find that I do not comprehend what is before me, I know that I have entered into a new time – an exciting time – when I am accompanied closely by Christ.  Zechariah predicts his coming to the people, his coming to each of us.  In all of our struggle and anticipation . . . we might overlook the fact that he already walks among us.

The True Word is not false.  It does not flatter.  It dies not waver.  It does not manipulate.  It frees.  It speaks truth always.  It produces good fruit in due season.  The Word is the New Order.  We have heard this story many times.  Let us act as if we believe.

Let us not forget the surprising good news that the prophet Zechariah brings us.


Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 30 October 200. Print.

Image from: http://softmoonlight.wordpress.com/2011/05/03/the-desert-flower/

Written on October 30, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

For more on surprises in our lives, go to the Ruth – Surprise page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/ruth-surprise/

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Hosea 6: The Broken-Hearted

Thursday, June 6, 2019

We frequently look at this prophecy written by one betrayed in the most intimate of ways.  We will need this lesson because in our lives we will often find suffering at the hands of those we trust.  This prophet speaks to us from the depths of sorrow in authenticity about his own intense suffering as a result of the infidelity of his wife, the harlot Gomer.

Chapter 6 begins with a verse that stands out to us because it speaks to our broken-ness as people: broken covenants, broken vows, broken oaths, broken words, broken spirits, broken hearts.  But the beauty of this prophecy and of this first verse is this: for as much as we are broken, we might heal others . . . and in so carrying and living out Christ’s message, we might ourselves be healed.

In the morning reading in Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime, we find an important reading: Mark 3:13-19.  Jesus has cured many people of their physical broken-ness and now the throngs are pressing in upon him in such a way that He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him.  This is where we come into the story.  Jesus ascends a mountain – usually a sign of moving toward God in scripture – and then he calls forth those whom he wanted.  And these came to him.  He appoints them as apostles that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.  Among these twelve is the Iscariot . . . Judas.  Even God allows betrayers to enter his camp, knowing that they will break his heart.

What an amazing God is this who comes to live among us to suffer as we do; yet this is exactly the good news that we have yearned to hear.  How will our broken hearts be mended?  How will broken oaths be healed and broken friendships fixed?  We step forward, called out of the crowd as apostles, to be sent into the world with God’s authority to drive out demons and to heal.  And how do we obtain this authority?  By participating – with Christ – in his suffering and death upon the cross.  This is what Hosea comes to understand through his own agony as he watches his wife dangle herself before any man who will take her.  This is what we can understand as we suffer at the hands of those we thought we knew . . . those in whom we trusted . . . those with whom we shared our inmost thoughts, desires and fears.

When we look at some of the images in Hosea 6 we see the depth of betrayal.  Verse 4: Your piety is like a morning cloud, like the dew that early passes away.  Verse 9: As brigands ambush a man, so do bands of priests slay on the way to Shechem, committing monstrous crimes. 

And so we pray that broken hearts be healed, that we become messengers of the good news that Christ has come to heal.  We ask for the gift of willingness to enter God’s vineyard, that we allow our suffering to be converted into the authority of an apostle . . . so that we might in turn drive out demons in Christ’s name.

Good and gracious God the Creator, God the Saver, God the Holy Spirit that lives within us:  Keep us close to you in all we suffer that we might be with you as your apostles.  Teach us your way of love that we might go forth as your apostles.  Continue to speak to us of your story that we might preach it as your apostles.  Grant us the patience to rest in your word that it might give us authority as your apostles.  Give us the power to drive out and away all the demons that settle into us without our knowing.  We ask this in Christ’s name.  Amen.


A re-post from May 23, 2012.

Image from: http://www.officialpsds.com/Glass-Shatered-From-A-Broken-Heart-PSD59964.html

Tickle, Phyllis.  THE DIVINE HOURS: PRAYERS FOR SPRINGTIME. New York: Doubleday, 2001. Print.

Rewritten from May 3, 2009 Noontime Reflection. 

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1 Kings 19God is in the Whisper of the Wind

Monday, February 11, 2019

Elijah’s Cave

Written on February 8, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Elijah has just served as God’s instrument in the destruction of the gods of Baal.  Jezebel and Ahab are furious with him and they seek revenge in the most ruthless of ways . . . and Elijah knows this.  As we read Jezebel’s words at the opening of the chapter we can see that she throws her entire existence into seeking the end of Elijah.  The prophet, exhausted, pleads to his God for his own end.  He is drained.  He has done as God has asked, and now he feels empty.  But even as he seeks escape, Elijah turns to God . . . and God sustains him with cakes and water.  Elijah rests and sleeps in the shade offered by a desert broom tree.  An angel of God abides with him.  The angel bids him to rise and go and so he walks for forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Mt. Horeb, Mt. Sinai where Yahweh spoke to Moses.  And there Elijah curls into a cave to await his end.  But the unexpected happens.  Yahweh does speak to this tired prophet . . . not in the fierce and thrusting wind, not in the powerful and destructive earthquake, not in the consuming and searing fire.  The Lord speaks in the tiny whispering wind, and he brings news of restoration and legacy.  His words bring hope.

We must still our over-active lives; find a space of quiet in our hyper-speed days.  We must each day seek out a broom tree in the desert whose roots sink deep into the earth to find the rivers that flow beneath the sun-baked and wind-blown dryness.  We must find daily sanctuary in a small cave on God’s holy mountain of our busy world.  That is where we are fed, that is where we will tune ourselves to the voice that speaks in the whisper of the wind, the voice that speaks within, the voice that calls us to unity with the creator and creation.


A re-post from February 11, 2012. 

Image from: http://www.elijahscave.org/

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Amos 1 and 2Prosperity

Friday, January 25, 2019

Written on January 24 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

The Prophet Amos

We all wish for prosperity.  We hope for fulfillment of dreams.  Yet we are also are too often willing to relax into success too soon and too quickly.  We sign up and sign on . . . without examining the source and the reason for easy wealth.  Amos warns against this kind of affluence which comes at the expense of others.  What makes us happy may, in fact, be damaging others.  What fills our plate and our purse may come to us through harm to others or to God’s creation.  When fame and money roll in unabated, we need to summons the courage to be honest about the origin and the nature of this success for the only sort of achievement that truly lasts and truly saves . . . comes to us through the heart . . . from our God.  This is what Amos’ audience does not want to hear.

During the past two or so years of Noontimes we have turned often to this brief but powerful prophecy spoken by a herdsman and aimed at the newly successful wealthy class of the northern kingdom of Israel.  The ten northern tribes had separated themselves from the two southern tribes of Judah to establish their own temple center away from Jerusalem . . . in order that they might collect their own taxes to do with as they liked.  Their wealth was largely earned on the backs of the poor.  This is what Amos calls into the open and for his effort he is expelled from Bethel where he has been preaching.  He returns to his pastoral life after speaking the words that God calls him to speak.

Amos’ words were more than officials could bear (Senior 1126) and so he was sent away for asking them to examine their individual and collective conscience.  He was silenced at that time but his words come to us today to ask the same questions.

What do our actions express about our belief in justice?  Do we relax into a life that brings easy gain?  Are we silent when we ought to speak truth to power?  Do we act with integrity, trying to match words and deeds?

The Lord will roar from Zion, and from Jerusalem raise his voice.  Yet when Christ speaks, we see that this Lion of Judah has become the Lamb of God, pardoning in mercy, acting in compassion.

Amos asks us to take inventory and to pass judgment on our own prosperity. It is hollow?  Or does it flow from and in Christ?  Do we climb over others to snatch what we think is ours?  Or do we imitate the Lamb to live a prudent and compassionate life?  Do our words match our gestures?  Do we act humbly, judge wisely, love deeply and truly?

These are the questions Amos raises as he begins his prophecy.  How do we answer them today?


A re-post from January 25, 2012.

Image from: http://www.breviary.net/martyrology/mart03/mart0331.htm

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1126. Print.   

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Habakkuk 1:2-4The Prophet’s Complaint

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Prophet Habakkuk

We visited with the prophet Habakkuk twice last year and today we open again to . . .

How long, O Lord?  I cry for help but you do not listen!

Prophets are not a happy people.  They see and foresee.  They remember and they know.  They remind us and for the most part we do not listen.

Prophets are about waiting, listening and witnessing.  They hear, they taste, and they feel.  They bring God’s word to us and for the most part we do not want to hear.

Prophets are blessed.  They have an intimate relationship with God.  God trusts them with his word.  Prophets know that they have no choice but to speak the word they hear for if they do not, they perish eternally.

Prophets are among us today just as vibrantly and as importantly as they were when Israel suffered through her separation and exile.  We cannot exist without them although many times we think we might like to silence them.

What part of my life do I live as a prophet?  Do I speak what God wants me to speak or is it my ego which speaks?

Do I shun the prophet within me?  Do I shun the prophet I see in the face of a friend?

Unless I want to live by a code of perverted justice, I must let the prophets around me speak to me and I must listen.

Unless I want to live a life with no fire, I must listen to the prophet within.

Habakkuk’s Canticle at the end of Chapter 3 tells us how to live in right relationship with God . . . and we might use these words as a daily prayer.

For though the fig tree blossom not nor fruit be on the vines, thought the yield of the olive fail and the terraces produce no nourishment, though the flocks disperse from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the Lord and exult in my saving God.  God, my strength, he makes my feet swift as those of hinds and enables me to go sit upon the heights.

Amen.


A re-post from January 22, 2012.

Image from: http://frbenedict.blogspot.com/2010/12/holy-prophet-habakkuk.html

For more on the prophet Habakkuk click the image above or go to:  http://frbenedict.blogspot.com/2010/12/holy-prophet-habakkuk.html

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Jeremiah 45Weary from Groaning

Monday, January 21, 2019

From Psalm 6, we hear a plaint from one who is weary from groaning, whose life has become a living hell.

A scribe

Do not reprove me in your anger, Lord, nor punish me in your wrath.  Have pity on me for I am weak; heal me, Lord, for my bones are trembling.  In utter terror is my soul – and you, Lord, how long . . . ?  Turn, Lord, save my life; in your mercy rescue me.  For who among the dead remembers you? Who praises you in Sheol? I am weary from sighing; all night long my tears drench my bed; my couch is soaked with weeping.  My eyes are dimmed with sorrow, worn out because all of my foes.  (Psalm 6:1-7)

In the HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE DICTIONARY Sheol is described as a biblical term for the netherworld and even, in Isaiah 5:14, a reference to a power that can destroy the living.  Sheol is another word for Hades; it is a place where departed spirits live (Proverbs 9:18).  It may also be the deepest depths of the earth (Deuteronomy 32:22 and Amos 9:2) where there is no light, no joy, and no hope.  (Achetemeier 1011)  In Sheol there is only darkness and terror; and some of us have been there . . . and back.

How do we humans climb out of the miry cistern in which we sometimes find ourselves?  What do we do to calm inner terror even though we manage to dry outward tears?  How is it possible for us to experience the happiness and warmth of a life lived in faith when all possibility of rescue seems gone?  What do we do to stop the chattering of trembling bones and chase away our too many foes?  How do we sleep on a bed that is drenched from our weeping?

Jeremiah is a Book we will want to open when we find ourselves overcome with grief.  His prophecy is one that speaks to those who have visited the depths of despair or who are even beyond the place where all hope is abandoned.  Today we are told that Jeremiah’s words were recorded by his secretary Baruch and we might wonder why the prophet wishes to terrify us.  When we reflect further we know that Jeremiah’s real message is not fear; rather, it is this: with God there is hope for the hopeless, there is gain for those who have lost all, there is rescue for the weary, and there is planting where before there was only uprooting  . . .

Jeremiah’s life and prophecy, we are told, require “us to face up more directly to the impediments and barriers along the way than to bask in the complete light at the end of the way . . . God intends prophecy to guide us through the path of human, emotional reactions, not round about them.  If we transfer this approach into New Testament thought, Jesus is ‘the way and the truth and the life’ (Jn 14,6) – therefore, as much the way through human life as its destination, as much the truth that gradually emerges along the way forward as its definitive statement, as much life in its stages of growth as it is life bearing fruit t harvest (Mt 4,26-29) . . . Jeremiah does not allow us to detour round a difficulty.  Persons gifted with keen, sensitive emotions, and thoroughly involved in their work and message, do not normally avoid the excesses of these virtues!  They plunge straight ahead”.  (Senior RG 305-306)

Jeremiah speaks his words to us today through his faithful secretary Baruch.  When we feel ourselves sinking into the profundity of his muddy cistern, when our bed is drenched from our weeping, when we are weary from all of our groaning . . . let us plunge straight ahead and move toward God, singing as the psalmist sings:

Away from me, all who do evil!  The Lord has heard my weeping.  The Lord has heard my prayer; the Lord takes up my plea.  My foes will be terrified and disgraced; all will fall back in sudden shame.  (Psalm 6:8-10)


A re-post from Monday, January 21, 2012.

Images from: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=psalm+6%3A8-10&version=GNT;NRSV;CJB;MSG and http://www.alljewishlinks.com/steps-to-becoming-a-jewish-scribe/

Achetemeier, Paul J. HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE DICTIONARY. 2nd edition. San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1996. 1011. Print.  

For more on the Book of Jeremiah see the page on this blog: Jeremiah – Person and Mesage

For more information on Jewish scribes, click the images above or go to: http://www.mmiweb.org.uk/gcsere/revision/judaism/people/importantpeople.html or http://www.alljewishlinks.com/steps-to-becoming-a-jewish-scribe/

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Amos 5:18-20: Seek Impoverishment

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Being Open in Mourning

The prophet Amos left his sheep and fig trees to speak God’s word to the faithful and unfaithful alike.  These words came at a time of prosperity, when his prognostications were easily and readily jeered by those who enjoyed luxury at the expense of the poor.  From our 21st century perspective, we can see that his audience would have done well to listen better to this simple yet eloquent man.  His sober, ardent proclamation is concise, pointed and brief . . . but carrying a deeply important message for the part of the Gospel which is eagerly forgotten by many.  It is not enough to be kind, in the New Kingdom.  We are called to be just as well.

It is easy to look at foreign countries in civil war, at the poor in our own city streets and point to the places where justice cannot flourish or even get a foothold.  What is more difficult is to look to our own lives to find the pockets of impoverishment and injustice there.  When have we walked away from a situation in which we should have given voice to God’s word?  When have we reacted in an anger that stirs the pot rather than in patience which opens doors for communication?  When have we avoided?  When have we harassed?  When have we neglected?  When have we manipulated?

Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever.  Psalm 72 calls on God to make his justice clear to those who yearn for it.

Justice shall flower . . .

May God rule . . . 

God shall rescue the poor . . .

God shall have pity on the lowly . . .

The lives of the poor God shall save . . .

We ought not to shrink from God in our poverty of spirit, for it is the poor in spirit whom God touches quickly, heals surely, abides with eternally.  We ought not shrink from confessing our lacks, from asking for our needs, for expressing our heart’s desire.  Let us offer up our impoverishment daily.

May God remember your every offering, graciously accept your holocaust, grant what is in your heart, fulfill your every plan.  (Psalm 20:4-5)

Amos reminds us when he speaks of the woes that God knows the content of our hearts.  There is nowhere we can hide our secrets.  So when we mourn, let us open our hearts fully to the God who created us.  It is with this small action that we will be healed.  It is with this openness that we best love God.  It is through this honesty that we bring about the justice that the prophet Amos yearns to witness.  Let us take our offerings of our own accord, let us seek impoverishment, and let us place them on the altar of our life.

To learn more about the prophet and his prophecy, click on the image of the shepherd above or visit: http://www.catholiclane.com/amos-the-lion-of-gods-salvation/ 

Adapted from a reflection written on December 3, 2008.

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Psalm 126: We Thought We Were Dreaming

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

When the Lord brought us back to Jerusalem,
    it was like a dream!
How we laughed, how we sang for joy! (Psalm 126:1-2)

When we find ourselves delivered from captivity or exile, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we remember the prophecy of Isaiah.

You will leave Babylon with joy;
    you will be led out of the city in peace.
The mountains and hills will burst into singing,
    and the trees will shout for joy. (Isaiah 55:10-12)

When we find ourselves recovering from loss or pain, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we remember the prophecy of Jeremiah.

See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return. (Jeremiah 31:8)

When we find ourselves delivered from loneliness or grief, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we remember the prophecy of Ezekiel.

Yet this is what the Sovereign Lord says: At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians from the nations where they were scattered.  I will bring them back from captivity and return them to Upper Egypt, the land of their ancestry. (Ezekiel 29:13-14)

When we find ourselves delivered from catastrophe or disaster, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we remember the prophecy of Joel.

Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. (Joel 2:13)

When we find ourselves delivered from anger or fear, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we remember the prophecy of Zechariah.

Therefore this is what the Lord says: “I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,” declares the Lord Almighty. (Zechariah 1:16)

When we find ourselves delivered from hunger or thirst, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we return to Psalm 126.

Those who wept as they went out carrying the seed
    will come back singing for joy,
    as they bring in the harvest. (Psalm 126:6)

When we find ourselves delivered through the goodness and grace of God, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we return to Psalm 126.

When the Lord brought us back to Jerusalem,
    it was like a dream!
How we laughed, how we sang for joy! (Psalm 126:1-2)

 

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Malachi 3: Refiningmalachi_3-10

March 7, 2015

Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek.

In several weeks we will witness again Christ’s passion and death. Let us prepare the temple of our hearts with God’s written Word. Today we choose a chapter and book in the Bible that we have never explored before. As we read, we allow the Spirit to open our ears to God’s words.

My messenger is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye. My messenger will sit refining and purifying.

In several weeks we will experience again the Easter miracle. Let us prepare our hearts and minds with the refining fire of Christ’s presence, the Living Word.  Today we compose a prayer of thanksgiving to the Living God for all that heals and sustains us each day. As we write, we allow the Spirit to open our hearts to God’s living presence.

Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek.

In several weeks we will experience again the phenomenon of Pentecost. Let us prepare ourselves to receive the Spirit in this special way. Today we spend time with someone who is suffering to allow the refining fire of God’s love to transform all mourning into joy.

For more on Malachi’s imagery of a smelter’s fire of a fuller’s lye, enter the word refiner into the blog search bar and explore.  

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