Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Genesis 43The Second Journey

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Bacchiacca: Joseph receives his brothers

Just when we think we have reached a plateau in our journey where we might walk along the flatland rather than clamber up and skitter down the mountain sides . . . we find that we have to go back to repeat a leg of our passage.  Just when we have begun to relax at the oasis where we have filled our water sacks and rested in the shade from the heat of the day . . . we are told that we must move on.  Just when we are beginning to become comfortable in the little fortress where we are hiding from our foes . . . we hear the voice that calls us to make a second journey.

Today we find ourselves in the Joseph story at the point where the brothers have returned home to Jacob to tell him that they must go back to Egypt . . . and this time they must take the favored son Benjamin with them.  Just when Jacob thought his problem of famine had been resolved . . . he is told that he must relinquish the last person who brings him comfort.  Despite his age and the litany of difficulties he has undergone, Jacob must trust God and allow himself to suffer again.  The brothers who had sold Joseph into slavery know that they must make a return trip to Egypt.  Little do they know that well-hidden secrets are about to be revealed, questions will be asked and answered, truths will be spoken.  They plan to go to Egypt to purchase food for their families.  They do not plan to encounter the brother they have delivered to slavery and death.  They do not know they are about to make a further journey.  We do not hear from Benjamin, the young boy whose full brother wields power second only to Pharaoh, but we can imagine that he feels both anxiety and excitement.  Everyone in this story will suffer.  Everyone in this story will be rewarded beyond their wildest imaginings.

I am reading a book by Richard Rohr which a friend gave to me.  In FALLING UPWARD, Rohr posits that in life each of us is given the gift of a second or further journey. “[I]n my opinion, this first-half of life task is no more than finding the starting gate.  It is merely the warm-up act, not the full journey.  It is the raft but not the shore . . . There is much evidence on several levels that there are at least two major tasks to human life.  The first task is to build a strong ‘container’ or identity; the second is to find the contents that the container was meant to hold.  The first task we take for granted as the very purpose of life, which does not mean that we do it well.  The second task, I am told, is more encountered than sought; few arrive at it with much preplanning, purpose, or passion”.   (Rohr viii and xiii)

Rohr cites W. H. Auden:  We would rather be ruined than changed.  We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the present and let our illusions die.  (Rohr 65)  And on page 73 we find this from Matthew 16:25-26: Anyone who wants to save his life must lose it.  Anyone who loses her life will find it.  What gain is there if you win the whole world and lose your very self?  What can you offer in exchange for your one life?”

Jacob believed that his sons were going to Egypt to purchase food that would save the family.  He did not know that his lost son Joseph would be their savior.  Joseph’s brothers thought they were purchasing food to save their lives . . . they did not know that they would also redeem their souls.

Just when we believe that we have convinced everyone of the reality of our illusions . . . we are given the opportunity to leave our comfort zone and enter the second half of our lives.  We are blessed with the gift of seeing clearly that we are created to love honestly and suffer well.  We are created to take the second journey of our lives . . . the journey that promises far more than suffering . . . the further journey that brings us more reward than we can ever imagine.


Rohr, Richard. FALLING UPWARD: A SPIRITUALITY FOR THE TWO HALVES OF LIFE. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print.

The painting above is housed at the UK National Gallery.  To see more detail, click on the image and follow the link.  A spy glass on the museum site will allow you to see detail by zeroing in.   You will also find a link to other scenes from the life of Joseph which may interest you. 

A re-post from August 16, 2011.

Read Full Post »


Jeremiah 51Adjusting to Reality

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

“Jeremiah sends a ‘book’ of oracles against Babylon to Babylon with Baruch’s brother in about 594.  These are to be read publicly and then tied to a stone and cast into the Euphrates, symbolizing Babylon’s fate . . . It has been suggested that the original intention of Jeremiah’s action was to rebut the prophecies of Ahab and Zedekiah to the effect that the exile would be short (see 29:4-9, 20-23).  On this interpretation, reading and then destroying a set of anti-Babylonian prophecies would have the effect of stressing Jeremiah’s rejection of this optimistic view”.  (Mays 576)

Jeremiah knows that the exile will be long and harsh . . . yet no one believes him because it does not coincide with the false view many find easier to hold.  It seems that nothing much has changed in the intervening millennia since this story; we humans would rather cling to the falsehood that matches our view rather than change our thinking to the truth.  Today’s citation tells us that it is better to adjust ourselves to reality because no amount of manipulation or coercion will hide the obvious.   My dad liked to say: The truth comes out in the end so we might as well get used to it as soon as we can.

In today’s case, Jeremiah accurately predicts that even the conquerors will themselves be conquered and he predicts an unpleasant winnowing.   The imagery is brutal, the devastation complete.  There is no escaping the consequences that result from greed, corruption, and mollification.  The prophet Jeremiah sees collusion between his own leaders and those who of Israel’s pagan neighbors and while the “optimistic view” cited above may be popular, it is not honest. And so Jeremiah outs the lies.  He does as God asks and sends his prophecies to Babylon via the brother of his secretary, Baruch.

It is difficult to speak truth with respect, to express candor gently; and it may, in fact, even place us in danger.  When we see that everyone around us chooses to believe a myth created by the powerful and wealthy, we must speak honestly but with mercy no matter the cost to us.  It is in this way that we adjust ourselves to reality rather than follow the fashionable fairy story.  It is in this way that we honor ourselves and others who speak truth.  It is in this way that we praise and honor our God.

From today’s first reading at Mass, The Feast of Jesus’ Transfiguration, 2 Peter 1:16-19: Beloved: We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we have been eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from majestic glory, “This is my Son, my beloved with whom I am well pleased”.  We ourselves heard this voice . . . Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.  You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts”. 

Peter knows that he cannot remain silent about the story he has witnessed and, like Jeremiah, he knows that he must speak so that others might adjust to the amazing reality that what seems impossible is real, that we are created and loved by God and that God wants nothing but goodness for us and from us.  We are called to seek truth, to cling to it and to celebrate it with others who are willing to adjust their vision to be in line with God’s.

Once we cease nodding in idiotic agreement with the myths woven by those who are vested in them, we will see and know God’s truth, and we will not be silenced.  We too, will write out the prophecy that God commands . . . and we will adjust ourselves to God’s vision.


Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 576. Print.

A re-post from August 6, 2011.

Read Full Post »


Numbers 34The Lovely Paradox

Monday, September 3, 2018

We have tackled this theme before: The importance of knowing our appropriate limits.  We have reflected on the subtle ways in which vanity creeps into our lives, allowing us to believe that we do not need God or worse . . . that God does not exist at all.  We already know that if we are not prudent, humble and watchful, arrogance will make a stealthy entrance into our lives.  We preen a bit too much when we are complemented.  We allow ourselves to forget that it is God who creates us and fills us with the talents we so easily take for granted.  When we know our limits – and when we know God’s beneficence – we keep well away from the subtle snares of pride.

We may puzzle a bit over why the Lord is so particular about dividing the tribes into designated territories, and if so then we will want to recall that the land from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River Euphrates is part of God’s covenant promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:18.  The Lord understands that unless demarcations are made we humans will constantly squabble over control.  The Lord also knows that once we relinquish ourselves to God’s boundaries, we learn to rely on God rather than ourselves.   

We may object to this laying out of lines and the designation of supervisors.  We may believe that God does not really understand what it feels like to be in our shoes.  We may think that our burdens are too heavy, our challenges to great.  We may even think that God does not understand us, and in this we would be incorrect.

For the lovely paradox is this . . .

When we learn to rely on God alone for everything we are and do, we will find it easier to remain within the human limits that define us.

When we learn to thank God for all that we have and all that we are, we will find it easier to empty ourselves so that God might enter.

When we learn to ask God for help in everything we do, we will find it easier to overcome the obstacles in our path.

In doing all of this, we hand ourselves over to God.

In doing all of this, we find our own divinity . . . and this is the lovely paradox.

A re-post from Wednesday, August 3, 2011.


Image from: http://midwestpoet.wordpress.com/2008/07/03/stones/ 

Read Full Post »


2 Corinthians 1Changing Plans

Sunday, September 2, 2018

If we want to live in relationship with others, we will find it necessary to change our plans; sometimes this is quite easy to do . . . at other times we suffer change at great cost.  Events occur not as we would wish them.  They often take on a life of their own.  In today’s reading we have the opportunity to examine a model for authentic accommodation in relationship with others.  When we make room for God in every connection we make with others, we have the guarantee of God’s simplicity, sincerity, and grace.  We can be confident that no matter the change required of us, we will flourish and thrive.

When we read Paul’s two letters to the church in Corinth, we see the importance of flexibility and constancy in all relationships.  While it is important to remain authentic and faithful, it is also essential to allow for some give and take as circumstances require.  As we read through these epistles, it is clear that there are some disagreements and differences of opinion that have the potential to create permanent rifts.  Important connections have been established and nurtured; breaches must be bridged.  Cleverly, or perhaps by God’s grace, Paul begins with himself.   “Since Paul’s own conduct will be under discussion here, he prefaces this section with a statement about his habitual behavior and attitude toward the community.  He protests his openness, single-mindedness, and conformity to God’s grace; he hopes that his relationship with them will be marked by mutual understanding and pride, which will constantly increase until it reaches its climax at the judgment”.  (Senior 277)  As we read the opening chapter of 2 Corinthians we understand that a change of plans has caused anxiety and upset.  Paul addresses the problem by beginning with himself . . . and by falling back on God.

Simplicity, sincerity, and the grace of God: These qualities are given to us by God the Father; these traits are modeled for us by Jesus; these virtues are renewed in us by the Spirit.

When we must change plans we must keep things simple.  Adding more jumble to an already stressed schedule does us and those we work and live with nothing but harm.

When we must change plans we must be honest.  It is important to take the time to examine motives and look for hidden agendas.  Any plan that is not genuine is not needed. Any plan that comes from deceit brings ruin.

When we must change plans we must do so with good will, considering the common benefit.  When a community must alter plans to please only one or two of its members, morale plummets and cooperation disappears.

Simplicity, sincerity, and the grace of God.  Paul outlines for us the opening step in bridging a rift between colleagues, friends or loved ones.  We begin with ourselves.  And we look for God’s plainness.  We look for God’s straightforwardness.  We look for God’s beauty.  We look for God’s blessing in all we say and do.

A re-post from August 2, 2011.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. 277. Print.

Images from: http://www.masters-table.org/forinfo/Gods_beautyinthesky.htm 

Read Full Post »


Job: In Praise of Wisdom and Hope

Thursday, August 29, 2018

Before we leave the story of Job, we give ourselves the gift of time with this innocent sufferer who foreshadows the hope of the Messiah. Today we look at the story of “the hero . . . subjected to a divine test as a means of ascertaining whether or not he serves the deity without thinking about profiting from it.” (Barton and Muddiman 331) Just as Job enters into debate with his friends and the Lord, so do we have the invitation to deliberate with the Almighty the existential questions that plague us as humans.

Stylistically, this book presents us with a combination of poetry and prose. Does this signal our dual human yet divine essence? Does this tell us that we are called to live in the world but be not of it? Does this remind us that although we are mortal, we also live forever in Christ? The style certainly communicates the ideas that the innocent suffer. The beauty of the poetry may indicate our hope in the Spirit against the backdrop prose of our separation.

From the ARCHEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE, “[T]he reader knows from the outset that Job is suffering because of his righteousness (Job 1). Thus, when Job rails against his pain and contends that he has not deserved it (eg., ch. 31), the early reader – who had insider knowledge from the prelude – recognized that he spoke the truth. Unable to fall back on pat answers that were almost universally accepted at the time, readers were forced to wrestle with the question along with Job as they worked their way through the text to God’s final answer. The resultant new understanding of the meaning of suffering and the justice of God, contrary as it was to the conventional wisdom of the day, must have astonished them.” (Zondervan 732)

Wisdom and hope are the gifts Job brings us through his suffering, questioning, persistence and fidelity. Wisdom and hope are gifts of the Spirit of God. Wisdom and hope are embodied in the life of Christ who abides with us still. Today we give thanks for these matchless gifts. Today we share the good news that are recipients of such generous mercy. Today we praise God for the healing wisdom of the Spirit, and the lessons Job brings us of hope.


Images from https://chicago.suntimes.com/health/mind-over-body-new-book-tells-how-to-tap-into-wisdom-and-grow-with-age/

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 732. Print.

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 331. Print.

Read Full Post »


Job 42: Humbled and Satisfied

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

If we sit patiently with Job to read his story, we are rewarded . . . just as Job is rewarded for sitting with the Lord through suffering.

If we take in the ideas Job exchanged with his friends, we are healed . . . just as Job is healed when he remains in God.

If we live in fidelity to God as Job does, we experience humility . . . just as Job does when he hears the Lord speak.

If we seek wisdom as Job does, we find satisfaction . . . just as Job does when he hears the Lord address his friends. After God had finished addressing Job, he turned to Eliphaz the Temanite and said, “I’ve had it with you and your two friends. I’m fed up! You haven’t been honest either with me or about me—not the way my friend Job has.”

Honesty, authenticity, perseverance, courage, fidelity. These are the signposts we might follow as we move through life. They are antecedents of the meekness and fulfilment we see in Christ nearly a thousand years later. They are the presence of the consolation and healing we encounter in the Holy Spirit we experience in our own lives. They are the wisdom and peace we seek today.


Image from: https://lamountaincoaching.com/humility/can-promote-humility/

Read Full Post »


Job 29-31: Making Our Defense

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Too often when truth speaks to us, we begin to defend our position without listening. Our natural human reflex, when we hear words we do not want to hear, is to survive as we are. Comfort lies in predictability; control of others and our environment brings stability; our actions may not speak clearly enough, we say to ourselves. We believe we must make our own defense because others do not see us as well as we do.

Those who listen actively, or deeply, experts tell us, have arrived at a level of maturity we all might wish to find. In the story of Job, an innocent man suffers. His family and friends hound him to confess to his wrongdoings that have brought about his pain. Job refuses because he has no information to share with them. As we have observed, he is innocent.

Too often when we attempt to speak truth to a power that has no interest in hearing, we are ignored, diminished, or – at worst – vilified and silenced without cause. Our reaction to this mistreatment can be varied. We may restate our case, we may withdraw in fear or anger, we may enlist the help of others, or we may retire for a time to take God’s counsel. There are times when only the wisdom and patience of God’s plan can address the obstacles that limit our relationships.

Whether we are those who do not listen, or those who hope to be heard, we always have the example of Jesus to explore. The Gospels are full of encounters between the Messiah and those who refuse to hear, and when we study them we know that the best way to move forward as we make our defense is to listen, and to rely on the Creator. As we consider Job’s defense of his circumstances, we might want to look at our own actions to consider how well we listen . . . and how we make our own defense.


Image from: https://leveragelms.com/www/index.php?ctg=details&id=27/Active-Listening/Lesson

For more information on deep listening, visit: https://www.deeplistening.org/

Find information about mindful listening at: https://www.umsystem.edu/newscentral/mindfuleating/2013/02/19/what-did-you-say-or-the-importance-of-mindful-listening/

To learn about active listening, go to: https://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/ActiveListening.htm

Read Full Post »


Romans 8:38-39

July 2018ClockClipArtNoon

For the next several days there will be no Noontimes posts but I will continue to pray with you each day at noon and record thoughts in an old-fashioned paper journal to share later.  In place of receiving a daily post, you may want to explore ideas on the Connecting at Noontime page offered in the hope that you find a suggestion to feed the soul and strengthen your bond with and in Christ.

Our spiritual life is always about Call and Response God creates and calls us.  We listen, and then return God’s word.  This blog is one small way for us to listen, to seek, to discern, to come together, to puzzle through and to respond in full voice to God’s mysterious and beautiful invitation to life in the Spirit.  It is our daily visit with God that nourishes and sustains us.  It is our persistent connecting with the one who created us that reminds us of who and why we are.  It is our constant hope and our fervent prayer that buoy us up when the road is difficult.  And it is Christ’s love for each of us that keeps us on The Narrow Way.  Thank you for taking part in our Noontimes journey.  We are creatures meant to travel together and, like Paul writing to the Romans, I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus the Lord. 

sundial-3New posts will return later this month.  In the meantime, may you each know and experience Christ’s peace.  May you seek and discover God’s Wisdom.  And may you be fortified in the Love and Counsel of the Spirit.  I hold each of you in prayer as always.  S

 

Read Full Post »


Tobit 2: Mockery

Friday, July 13, 2018

It is so easy to say that the story of Tobit is about healing and reparation and then move on to another story; yet today’s Noontime gives us the opportunity to sit with a portion of this narrative and to reflect on its meaning in our own lives.  We see Tobit’s virtue and courage in the first chapter where he is introduced; and we understand that he is a Jewish man who practices his faith and lives with his family in exile in Nineveh, Assyria.  Tobit is unusual, however, in that he shares his meal and his clothes with the poor, and he buries the dead bodies of those slain by the enemy and left for the birds and animals to consume.  On this particular day, Tobit has brought back the corpse of a man that was left in the market.

Commentary will point out that Tobit enters the house after a simple ablution and does not wait for the ritual seven days as is required in Numbers 19:11-19. He washes himself, eats his meal, and while he waits for sunset so that he might bury the unknown man, he meditates on Amos 5:11 and 8:4-6 from the prophecy which criticizes the wealthy who trample the poor and steal their grain rather than feeding or helping them.  Tobit cries at all of this sadness and finally he buries the dead man once the sun has gone down.  As a consequence of all of this goodness, he is mocked by his neighbors . . . and even his wife.  We do not know if Tobit sleeps outdoors because of the heat or because he has been in contact with a dead body, but in either case, the consequence is the same . . . he becomes blind.  In this way, the writer sets up the story for us: “The pious Israelite suffers because he attends to the needs of others”.  (Mays 722)

When we reflect on Tobit’s circumstances we might find ourselves in his story.  How often do we follow the rules – even at great emotional and fiscal cost – yet we feel blind to the success others enjoy and are even made to feel foolish?  We know that others do not adhere to the basic requirements of life and yet they seem to suffer no negative consequences.  We may find ourselves wondering why we do what God asks if all we receive in return is the disdain of others.  We see that ridicule and derision are the tools most frequently used by those who operate in cliques.  Respect for one another, a sense of fair play, and reward for doing as God asks seem at first to bring fierce suffering rather than reward and The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men. (Psalm 12:8The good man suffers because he attends to the needs of others.  So why try to do as God asks if the reward is . . . mockery?

We cannot in one day hope to understand why bad things happen to good people and why bad people seem to live free of consequence.   We can, however, begin to take small steps toward the understanding that God brings goodness out of evil . . . always . . . that the wicked only appear to escape consequence . . . always . . . that goodness brings a reward from God far greater than any we can devise for ourselves . . . always . . . and that it is in union with God that we experience true and lasting happiness . . . always.

Jesus himself is ignored and mocked by many.  Why should we be excluded from this treatment at the hands of those who fear goodness?  From childhood I was taught that self respect is the only respect we need earn.  I learned from my parents that cliques are formed by those who need them most.  I was taught to see that blindness comes in many forms and that what we call disability can actually be a boon.

As an adult I have come to understand how wise my parents were, and I try to pass this wisdom on to my children and grandchildren.  I have come to know that the only good opinion that matters is God’s; and that I need not unravel all the evil in the world or convert all the wicked.  I recognize that God has asked me to play a role in his kingdom building . . . and this I try to do as well as I am able each day, trying to see creation as God does – as the dawning of something new and beautiful each day.  So this is how I have arrived at responding to anyone who may ridicule me for conforming to God’s will: I live in the belief that those who practice exclusion rather than inclusion live in fear . . . and that those who mock us most are most in need of our understanding, our patience, our prayer and our love.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 722. Print.


Image from: https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/earth-from-space-15-amazing-things-in-15-years

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 22, 2011.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: