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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Hosea 5:1-15: Affliction

Hear this, O priests, pay attention, O house of Israel . . . 

This is a sad picture – a people turned away from God in such a way that they have eliminated any possibility of return.  In today’s Noontime, the leaders in particular are held to judgment since they have been given the gift of office – yet they abuse it.  The priests celebrate their own harlotry.  Arrogance bears witness against itself.  There is political upheaval and insincere conversion.  All appears to be lost.

O household of the king, give ear . . . 

Hosea predicts an all-consuming whirlwind later in his prophecy, a coming storm that the prophet Ezekiel also predicts.  It is fascinating that no matter how much we are warned of our own coming fall, and no matter how much we learn about ourselves, we continue to walk toward and even tumble over the precipice that is clearly labeled with warnings.  There is something about us that wants to self-destruct.

And yet there is more to this story. We are graced to be New Testament people who know that God forgives us when we return to God’s call – even when this turning comes at the last moment. And so we look for salvation from our affliction. Do we know that what we truly seek is our own transformation? And do we know that we hold the key to this redemption and rebirth within?

As we move through our Lenten journey, we are called to return to God. Called to turn back to a time when we accepted God’s love with childlike glee. With this turning, we find an openness to change and possibility for healing from our own afflictions. We find a newness of change in Christ.

So although our leaders may have fallen into deep affliction, we need not follow. God’s persistent love – if only we open ourselves to its healing power – brings with it an invitation to wisdom, an offer of grace, a measure of humility, a taste of fidelity and strength, and the enduring gift of un-imagined freedom. Today we ask that God’s persistent love convert our deep affliction to the abiding hope and love that Hosea foretells.


Adapted from a Favorite written on September 8, 2010.

To find prayers for those who suffer during the Easter season, click on the image above or visit: https://newtonpresbytery.org/2019/04/25/prayers-for-those-suffering-in-this-season-of-easter/ 

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Monday, February 3, 2020

Psalm 37: Humility and Patience – Part II

psalm-37-28-lord-loves[1]

Psalm 37:28

Continued from yesterday’s Noontime . . .

LAMEDH, we see the contrast between generosity and greed:  The wicked borrow but so not repay; the just are generous in giving.

MEM, we are told that failure is not to be feared: Those guided by the Lord may stumble, but they will never fall, for the Lord holds their hand.

NUN, we remember that we are an important part of God’s plan and that we are more than ourselves: The just always lend generously, and their children become a blessing. 

SAMEKH, we are asked to opt for the road less traveled: Turn from evil and do good.

AYIN, we are reminded of God’s gift to us of infinite serenity: The just will possess the land and live in it forever.

PE, we recall that wisdom and justice are inextricably intertwined: The mouths of the just utter wisdom.

SADHE, we know that schemes cannot replace good works: The wicked spy on the just and seek to kill them.  But the Lord does not leave the just in their power.

OOPH, we return to the message of humility and patience: Wait eagerly for the Lord, and keep to the way.

RESH, we remember the fleeting power of the wicked: I have seen ruthless scoundrels, strong as flourishing cedars.  When I passed by again, they were gone; though I searched, they could not be found.

SHIN, we are given direct examples that leave no doubt: Observe the honest, mark the upright’ those at peace with God have a future.

TAW, we remember that God alone is a refuge that lasts, a shelter that does not crumble: The salvation of the just is from the Lord, their refuge in time of distress.  The Lord helps and rescues them, rescues and saves them from the wicked, because in God they take refuge.

Humility: the opposite of arrogance, a lack of pretension, the state of deference to another . . . in this case, the spirit of reverence, esteem and respect for the Lord.

Patience: the bearing of trials calmly and without complaint, a lack of hastiness or impetuosity, the state of steadfastness despite opposition or obstacles . . . in this case, the spirit of persistence, loyalty and fidelity to the Lord.

Humility: If we put aside our competitive weapons that bruise those who journey with us we will find humility.

Patience: If we can manage to remember that God has a plan the fear and anxiety ebb away.

This past week we journeyed through the emotions that accompany betrayal.  Anger roils or fear takes over.  Deep disappointment or a sense of abandonment cripples us and brings us a sense of separation and loss.  All of this can be washed away if we practice humility and patience.  All our grief might transform our anguish when humility and patience become our way of being.  All our sorrow and all our pain vanish . . . when we delight in the Lord . . . when we wait on the Lord . . . when we stand humbly before our God.

Let us spend time today with Psalm 37.


Image from: http://loveforliana.com/i-am-surrounded-by-his-amazing-grace-and-love/psalm-37-28-lord-loves/

A re-post from February 3, 2013. 

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Sunday, February 2, 2020

Psalm 37: Humility and Patience – Part I

From Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation for February 2, 2013: “When you truly know, the giveaway is that you know that you do not know! Truly holy people are always humble. If you are not humble, you have not experienced the Holy One. If you don’t see humility and patience in religion, you know it’s not on the right course”.

Adapted from CAC Foundation Set: Gospel Call to Compassionate Action
(Bias from the Bottom) and Contemplative Prayer
(CD, DVD, MP3)

psalm-37-4[1]I have been thinking about this all morning and today at noon scripture fell open at Psalm 37, a song that “responds to the problem of evil, which the Old Testament often expresses as a question: Why do the wicked and the good suffer? The psalm answers that the situation is only temporary.  God will reverse things, rewarding the good and punishing the wicked here on earth.  The perspective is concrete and earthbound: people’s very actions place them among the ranks of the good or wicked.  Each group or ‘way’ has its own inherent dynamism – eventual frustration for the wicked, eventual reward for the just”.  (Senior cf. 670)

The word EVENTUAL leaps out at us.  We want all solutions immediately.  We want to bend time and space to our will as we believe God does.  Our humanity brings us limitation and may spur us to lust after power and prestige.  Our divinity offers us infinity and calls us to humility and patience.  With this hymn of answers God invites us this weekend to explore the puzzle of human suffering.  Let us examine the images and logic of this acrostic psalm to see what it says to us about patience and humility.

The first stanza, ALEPH, leaps into a suggestion for how to handle evil: Do not be provoked by evildoers; do not envy those who do wrong.

The second, BETH, describes how to do away with our anger or anxiety: Find your delight in the Lord who will give you your heart’s desire.

The third, GIMEL, tells us what to aim for: Make your integrity shine like the dawn.

The fourth, DALETH, is specific: Be still before the Lord; wait for God.

The fifth, HE, tells us the consequence of anger: Give up your anger, abandon your wrath; do not be provoked; it brings only harm.

The sixth, WAW, leaves no doubt about outcomes: Wait a little, and the wicked will be no more; look for them and they will not be there.  But the poor will possess the land, will delight in great prosperity.

The seventh, ZAYIN, tells us that it is really the wicked who are envious: The wicked plot against the just and grind their teeth at them.

The eighth, HETH, describes how the plots turn back on the plotters: Their swords will pierce their own hearts; their bows will be broken.

The ninth, TETH, keeps us focused: The Lord will sustain the just.

The tenth, YODH, tells us that suffering can lead to everlasting peace: The Lord watches over the days of the blameless; their heritage lasts forever.

The eleventh, KAPH, reminds us that those who impose suffering fade away: Like the beauty of meadows the wicked perish; like smoke they disappear. 

Spend some time with this psalm today and open the acrostic.  The message within is a letter of love from God to us.  In humility . . . let us accept it.  With patience . . . let us live it.


Image from: http://ingridschlueter.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/gods-counsel-in-the-midst-of-trouble/

Tomorrow, more reflection on Psalm 37.  Find a good commentary and explore.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.670. Print.

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Monday, January 27, 2020

Ezekiel 5: Our Image of God – Part II

shepherd%20leading%20sheep[1]

Yesterday we reflected on an image of God that we may derive from the words of Ezekiel and we saw how easy it was to focus more on what frightens us rather than on what saves and heals us.  We came to understand that when we isolate these images of God we see only the spectacle of God’s supreme power and the inevitability and absoluteness of God’s decisions.  We leave no room for Jesus who said . . .

Judge not lest you yourself be judged.  (Matthew 7:1, Luke 6:37)

I tell you to forgive [your brother] not seven but seventy-seven times.  (Matthew 18:22)

If [your brother] sins against you seven times in a day and seven times comes back to you and says, “I repent,” forgive him.  (Luke 17:4)

Everything is possible for him who believes.  (Mark 9:23)

A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you so must you love one another.  (John 13:34)

With Jesus’ words – and with Jesus’ actions – we begin to see the possibility that there is a Christ-like way to perceive this prophecy.  When the world is viewed through the values Jesus brings to us – and the lessons Jesus teaches us – we see plainly that in our attempt to avoid pain, suffering and eternal damnation we avoid self-examination.  This evasion of suffering at any price and the search for happiness at all cost will tempt us to engage in vigorous judgment and even condemnation of others for when we respond to interior panic we ignore the call to empathy.   In our headlong rush to please and appease the angry God we see on the surface of Ezekiel’s prophecy, we do not examine the prophet’s words closely.  We take flight and trample our neighbors in our feeble attempt to save ourselves . . . and we fly away past the shepherd who stands before us, waiting to save.

Picture1It is possible that Jesus drew his imagery of the Good Shepherd from Ezekiel.  Once we spend time with these verses we begin to see connections.

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.  I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.  (John 10: 14-16)

I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land.  . . . I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land . . .  I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. (Ezekiel 34:13-15)  

This is the image of God that Jesus brings to us from Ezekiel.  This is an image of God we do well to consider today.


A re-post from January 27, 2013. 

Image from: http://sermonreflections.blogspot.com/2012_01_01_archive.html

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Friday, January 17, 2013

Deuteronomy 5: Speaking with God

We have heard his voice from the midst of the fire and we have found out today that a man can still live after God has spoken with him.

Reubens: Teresa of Ávila

Reubens: Teresa of Ávila

Moses acts as mediator for the Chosen People because they believe that anyone who sees the face of God and hears his voice must live no more. This thinking changes when Jesus acts and moves among his people to heal their wounds and cure their anxieties.  This thinking is altered with Jesus’ death and resurrection.  This new idea of a God among us transforms our human fear if we only allow it.  Christ becomes our new arbiter with God, interceding for us with our petitions before the Father.

Like the Hebrews, we also have the opportunity to hear the voice of God.  We might see his face in those who live as Christ asks; but perhaps like the Hebrews, we are a bit afraid to approach the Holy Presence to petition favor.  What we read today tells us that we need not dread God’s presence, and we need not hesitate to ask Jesus for his help . . . this is what he awaits – our realization that he loves us more than we can imagine.

Prayer is the best way to hear the voice of the Creator, Redeemer, and Consoler, and God has advice for us that is better than any offered by any human.   We may not have time for formal, liturgical prayer.  We may not feel comfortable in communal prayer.  We may find that individual prayer lacks direction and intensity.  However, whatever our condition or opinion regarding prayer, we must address all obstacles to it . . . for this is the only way to reach the serenity that God promises, the peace that Christ purchases, and the love that the Holy Spirit offers.

Today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation is taken from words of Teresa of Ávila regarding prayer.  The good that one who practices prayer possesses . . . is that in spite of any wrong they who practice prayer do, they must not abandon prayer since it is the means by which they remedy the situation; and to remedy it without prayer would be much more difficult.

This does not mean to say that those who pray each day have a magical entrée to God’s presence and favor; but what it does say to us is that people who pray daily have a place to take the stresses that come to bear on them as they maneuver their daily obstacle course . . . and that place is God.

We might wish that God would show us a physical smoking presence with a loud booming voice as the Lord does with the Hebrews in today’s reading . . . but would this be more helpful than that quiet voice which speaks to us from behind to which Isaiah refers in 30:21?

We might wish we had stone tablets on which are written God’s words clearly . . . but is this more loving than God’s writing on our hearts as Jeremiah predicts in 31:33?

Teresa of Ávila tells us that she trusts in God’s mercy and love; she perseveres in prayer through the dry times in order to maintain contact with this God of compassion and peace.  When we struggle with our own desire to know God intimately and to commune with him daily, we will know that we are not unique . . . for holy and saintly people have their doubts, their fears and their anxiety when they speak with God.  We can do no worse and no better than this then, to listen for the voice of God . . . a God who loves us in spite of any wrong we commit.


Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 28.5(2010): 385-386. Print.

Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teresa_of_%C3%81vila

Written on May 28, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Genesis 42: The First Journey

West: Jacob Blesses His Sons

Benjamin West: Jacob Blesses His Sons

Everyone in this story is tested.

Jacob’s sons are reluctant to go to Egypt for rations of grain even though they starve.  Jacob speaks to them in this way: Why do you keep gaping at one another?  I hear that rations of grain are available in Egypt.  Go down there and buy some for us, that we may stay alive rather than die of hunger.  Later he must allow the precious smallest son, Benjamin, to return to Egypt with his brothers; this is the condition laid upon them by Joseph.  If some disaster should befall him on the journey you must make, you would send my white head down to the nether world in grief. 

Joseph suffers greatly when he sees his ten brothers who once discussed murdering him before selling him into slavery.  He speaks to them through an interpreter so as to retain his anonymity; his reaction to their conversation is one of deep sadness: Turning away from them, he wept.

As Joseph’s brothers argue over how to proceed, Reuben reminds them that they ought not to have rid themselves of Joseph years earlier: Didn’t I tell you not to do wrong to the boy?  But you wouldn’t listen!  Now comes a reckoning for his blood.

Everyone in this story suffers.

Our culture encourages us to avoid pain at all cost.  We are too often taught that failure is a negative to be circumvented . . . not an opportunity to learn something about ourselves and others.  We regard tests as ordeals . . . we do not see them as opportunities to examine our minds and hearts.  We look upon obstacles as objects to be overcome . . . we do not see constricting circumstances as a lesson plan from God.  We too often see adversity as punishment . . . and we miss the fact that hardship and strife give us an occasion to draw nearer to God.

We are all tested.  We all suffer.  This is an inherent condition of the human experience.  Later in this story (50:20) Joseph will say to his brothers: Even though you meant to harm me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people.  Joseph sees his trials for what they are . . . God’s providence and love converting all harm to good.  Joseph makes this journey first, his brothers and father follow later, completing a passage they had never imagined possible.  They experience loss and sorrow, joy and surprise yet they move forward inexorably . . . hoping to traverse their pain.

What does all our suffering and testing mean?

We might take time today with this part of the Genesis story to contemplate the sons of Jacob and the many lessons their story contains.  Let us make our own first journey to discover the gift of our misfortune.


For a reflection on Genesis 43 – The Second Journey, the journey of return, enter the words in the blog search bar and explore. 

Image from: http://www.oneyearbibleblog.com/2011/01/january-24th-one-year-bible-readings.html

 

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Friday, January 3, 2020

1 John 5: Victory

reclaiming_gods_hope[1]For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.  And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.  Who [indeed] is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

We are so often told – and we so often forget – that once we place ourselves in God’s hands we need not struggle.  From the first books of the Torah to the final words of Revelation we hear this message and yet we fight with and against the world.

Sometimes we fear one another.  We hoard money, goods, guns, plots and any object or idea we believe keeps us special . . . and this is sad because we are already special.

Sometimes we fear the past or the future.  We look over our shoulders constantly or peer into the coming days looking for clues about how we should act and decide . . . and this is so senseless because these preoccupations takes us away from the holy present.

Sometimes we fear God.  We look for full comprehension or we want total control; we deny, cajole, and make bargains . . . and this is so little of us because as John tells us today: The surest victory over the world comes not from our actions or thoughts but through our faith in God.

I write these things to you so that you may know you have eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God.  And we have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything in accordance with his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked of him is ours. 

John cannot speak more plainly to us.  In his Gospel he tells us quite clearly that Jesus is the unique Son of God.  He reminds us that salvation comes through our belief in the Son.  He explains that “Jesus is not the victim of human injustice even though those who killed him were evil people.  Jesus chose to offer his life for others so that they could see God’s love revealed on the cross.  When we see God’s love on the cross, we are reminded that God identifies with the lowly, suffering people of the world by joining with them”. And finally, John’s Gospel describes for us how mutual love and unity express God’s love.  (Senior RG 450-451)   All of this is explained to us and yet our fears overcome our faith; we allow the turmoil of the world to overcome us; we forget that victory comes through our faith in the story that we witness through John and the other apostles.

John tells in his writings that he has witnessed all that he recounts – we are not reading a second, third or fourth-hand accounting.  In his first letter, John intertwines the very real with the ideal and we may become confused with this fusion of two perspectives; yet in is this dance between two opposites and the synthesis they present, John describes a world of universal acceptance and love that we seek.

Jesus tells us endlessly that God’s simple commandment to us is his call to love.  We struggle with this for we do not see it in the world we occupy.

John tells us endlessly that Jesus’ simple commandment to love comes directly from God the creator.  We struggle with this and we let doubt and fear and a desire to control our world to take us over.

As we begin a new year in our western calendar, let us decide to put aside our anxieties about the world.  Let us spend time reflecting with John, a man who accompanied Christ – God Among Us.  And let us place all our fears and hopes in the hands of a God who loves us deeply and always . . . for it is in that place alone that we experience victory that conquers the world.


A re-post from December 31, 2012.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 450-451. Print.   

For more on the First Letter of John, visit the 1 John – Testimony page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-new-testament-revising-our-suffering/1-john-testimony/

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Thursday, January 2, 2020

Acts 4:23-31: With Boldness  

aaa[2]There is something for each of us to learn as we watch this fledgling spiritual community find a way to maneuver the overt threats to the community’s existence.  There is something for each of us to learn as we struggle to speak the word of God in a culture that does not want to hear truth about itself.  In today’s Noontime we see – if we look – a road map for traversing a tricky patch of the path we call life.  When brambles arise, when authorities menace, when we are filled with doubt . . . we must pluck up our courage and move forward with boldness. 

They went back to their own people . . . we must always surround ourselves with spiritual pilgrims who seek truth and authenticity.

They raised their voices to God with one accord . . . we must always petition God in solidarity with others who seek justice and mercy.

They were all filled with the Holy Spirit . . . we must always keep ready our dwelling place so that it is realizes the presence of God.

They continued to speak the word of God with boldness . . . we must always move forward in God rather than at God.

It is easy to look back over the difficult parts of our lives to assess our actions and non-actions and yet when we do, we find reward.  We see that when we cannot muster strength, God provides it.  When we cannot summon courage, Jesus brings it.  And we find that when we look for love, the Spirit instills it.

They continued to speak the word of God with boldness . . . The apostles moved forward through their fear by gathering together with boldness.  They decided that the fear of negative consequences would be outweighed by the boldness they brought together.  When we cower before a menacing threat let us remember the lesson we learn today: Return to what you know to be truth, find solidarity with those of like mind, be receptive to the in-dwelling of the Spirit . . . and continue to speak with boldness,

There is nothing to fear.  There is nothing to lose.  There is everything to gain.


For another blogger’s perspective on Boldness, click on the image above or go to: http://ladycougs.blogspot.com/2012/01/boldness-acts-1342-52.html

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Psalm 118:19-29: Open the Gates

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Open the gates of victory; I will enter and thank the Lord.

locked_gates[1]Today we are reminded that we labor in vain if the Lord himself does not build the house in which we shelter.  (Psalm 127:1) If our relationships – personal and professional – are based on fear rather than truth, all our efforts are futile. If our goals – individual and collective – aim at preservation of self rather than the common good, all of our secrets hide nothing.  If our strategies – emotional and spiritual – rely on anything but God, we are doomed.  We have failed to open the gates; we have failed to thank the Lord; our house is built in vain.

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

Catherine of Siena knows about the building of houses and the strength it takes to endure tribulation while we work.  She reminds us that as we allow God to build with us, we will be ridiculed and even scorned.  In today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation of the Day Catherine gives us a view of how the divine builder operates; she gives us a window to open that pierces our own darkness with the light of GodI give and permit everything out of love, and they are constantly scandalized in me.  Yet I patiently endure and put up with them because I loved them without their having loved me.  They are always harassing me with impatience, hatred, complaints, and with all sorts of infidelity.  They want to set themselves up to investigate with their own blind sight and opinion of my hidden judgments, which are all made justly and lovingly.  They don’t yet know themselves, and so they see falsely.  For those who do not know themselves cannot know me or my judgments in truth.  (Cameron 33)

We are often frustrated by the idiocy of ourselves and others. We do not understand why or how God allows falsehood and deception to take hold in our hearts.  We see God’s world as an imperfect place and we watch as cornerstones are rebuffed; doors and windows close tightly; hidden judgments and injustice overpower goodness and right.  We become discouraged when we believe that we have labored in vain and yet it is precisely when the obstacles are the greatest that we best see God at work.

142799-bigthumbnail[1]If we become disheartened by our tribulations we have forgotten what God has told us – that we die to be born, that the lowly are exalted, that the meek reign and the humble rise.  We become perfect in our efforts to love eternally as God loves.  We build strong houses when we build them through and in the Lord.  We let in God’s mercy and justice when we open the gates of our hearts.

Open the gates of victory; I will enter and thank the Lord.


Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 1.12 (2012): 33. Print. 

Images from http://nature.desktopnexus.com/wallpaper/142799/ and http://www.proactivesafetytraining.co.uk/Key-Holding-and-Alarm-Response(2006254).htm

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