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Ezekiel 27: Tyre

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Hot Springs and Arena in Ancient Tyre

Tyre is a city off the southern coast of present day Lebanon and it is linked to the mainland by a causeway, or siege ramp, built by Alexander the Great at the end of the fourth BCE.  It consists of both a mainland city and an island, has two harbors and most likely because of its vantage point, it was the leading city of Phoenicia in the millennium before Christ.  One can read about the early kings of Tyre in the works of the Jewish historian Josephus but it becomes important for scripture readers when Hiram, the king of Tyre, provides pine and the renowned tall cedars to David and Solomon for use in the construction of the Jerusalem palace and temple.  Tyre is eventually invaded and destroyed by the Babylonians.

Tyre is also famous as the hometown of Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, who convinced her husband to take over the vineyards of the peaceful man Naboth, who persecuted prophets, lured her husband into worshiping the gods of the Baals, and who came to an ugly death . . . just as had been predicted by prophets.  (1 Kings Chapters 16, 18, 19, 21 and 2 Kings 9)  Hers is a fascinating story of meteoric beauty, power and fame.  She was a princess of Tyre, rising and falling in a quick but dramatic arc across ancient history.

In today’s reading we read a lament for Tyre and a prediction of her downfall, with the wreck of the ship and all she carries as allegory.  The HARPER COLLINS COMMENTARY describes this oracle as beautifully crafted, and Ezekiel laments the anticipated destruction of Tyre at the hands of the Babylonians.   This perfect, proud and stately beauty is lost to the storm and settles forever at the bottom of the sea. Thou art brought to nothing, and thou shalt never be anymore.

So much pride lost, so much sorrow experienced, so much pain endured.  Yet in today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation we read: The heart of man, so deep for misery, is deeper far for happiness!  Misery comes to him from accident, happiness from his nature and his predestination.  Father Henri-Dominique Lacordaire

We are creatures meant for joy, not for sorrow.  We are children meant for resurrection, not for darkness.  We brothers and sisters of the same father meant for life, not for death.


Written on April 12, 2008  and posted today as a Favorite. 

To learn more about ancient Tyre click on the image above or go to: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/611914/Tyre

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 1203. Print.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation for the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 4.12 (2008): 129-130. Print.  

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Ezekiel 25: Against the Nations

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Bridge over the Drina in Mostar, Bosnia

As we read this chapter of Ezekiel we might be lured into what Richard Rohr – and many others – calls dualistic thinking.  Decisions are made in a yes/no, black/white, off/on world.  If we are able to step outside of our small perspective and move into a greater view of the world we understand that this kind of reasoning is dangerous in that it limits our vision . . . and therefore limits us.  Rohr examines how life is a paradox in his blog posts at http://richardrohr.wordpress.com They are worth visiting as are his CD lectures, the webcasts and other resources on his Rohr Institute site at http://www.cac.org/ as we reflect on the way we think, the way we respond to conflict, and the way we seek resolutions to the difficult passages in our lives.

The portion of Ezekiel that we read today may be used as fuel for the fire of prejudice . . . if we allow the voice of revenge and conquest to go unchecked.  As the recent events in our global community unfold, we are reminded that fanaticism can never be good. As my siblings and I grew, my Dad intoned to us regularly: Anything is a bad thing when taken to extremes . . . even a good thing.  He understood that words like the ones we read today can be taken out of context, can be blown out of context and morphed in importance. Any single verse, Dad would say, when taken in isolation does not tell the whole story. Read the story.  When my father and grandfather told us to read the whole story what they meant was this: stop, think, pray, listen, think, read, think, pray, share ideas, pray, think, pray . . . and act.  We want to take this method with us as we plunge into Ezekiel’s words against the nations.  To what does he call us?

The Old Testament Yahweh can be seen here as a god of vengeance and when we read these verses with anger in our hearts we might believe that God himself justifies the revenge we feel against those who have injured us; but we are also reminded that Yahweh’s love for creation knows no bounds.

The Old Testament Yahweh can be seen here as a god who exacts precise payment for wrongs committed; but we know that Yahweh’s generosity and compassion cannot be outdone when we remember his care for the enslaved and powerless.

The New Testament Jesus fulfills the promise of reunion and union first uttered by Yahweh.

The New Testament Jesus brings human hands and feet and voice to the mercy and compassion first shown by Yahweh.

When we find ourselves in turmoil and wishing to take revenge against the people who have injured us we must not let dualistic thinking close off possibilities of healing, reconciliation and union.

When we find ourselves in deep sorrow over a loss we have suffered we must not let simplistic rule-following to replace decision-making by a well-formed conscience.

When we feel ourselves being pulled into the vortex of darkness that would have us chant slogans that condemn, that would lead us to take an eye for an eye, that would ask us to rail against the nations . . . we must first stop to think and to pray, and to seek so that we might find . . . the forgiving, open, healing way of Christ.  For it is Christ who embodies all that is good.  It is Christ who brings us the outrageous hope that even the most dire circumstances may be righted. It is Christ who will help us to build bridges to the nations.


A re-post from September 15, 2012.

The name “Mostar” means “the city of bridges”.  To read more about what happened to the bridges in Bosnia during the most recent Balkan wars, click on the image above or go to: http://balkansnet.org/mostar.html  Follow more links on that page to read and reflect on reconciliation and revenge.

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Daniel 4: Nebuchadnezzar

Thursday, September 26, 2019

British Museum, London, England: Cuneiform tablet with part of the Babylonian Chronicle

God’s ways are just, and those who walk in pride will be brought low.  Those who humble themselves for and in God will be rewarded.  This is the lesson we read about today.  The great and mighty Nebuchadnezzar realizes that the God of the Jewish nation is more powerful than anything known to humankind, and he wisely bows to the supremacy of this God.

Nebuchadnezzar ruled Babylon at the peak of its power, from 605 to 562 B.C.E. and he took pride in the building of temples and city fortifications.  He is mentioned more than any other monarch in the Old Testament.  He led several campaigns against Israel (in 604, in 597 and in 586) and succeeded in capturing Judah, ransacking the temple, and deporting thousands of the Jewish people.  Nebuchadnezzar fought and won battles against the Middle Eastern powers in Egypt, Israel and Judah, and he consolidated this power to form a formidable empire; yet this powerful man bowed to the power of the God esteemed by Daniel, the bright young Jewish man whose God was stronger than any other power on earth. (http://www.biblehistory.net/Nebuchadnezzar.pdf)


For an amazing digital reconstruction of Babylon go to http://formerthings.com/nebuchadnezzar.htm

Look for the video link labeled Babylon 612 B.C.  The virtual tours are fantastic and the music inspiring.  You will first have to play the “Processional Tour” and then fifteen other video clips will be available to you.  I found myself watching for nearly an hour as I imagined the young Jewish men who had been taken captive and carried away to this foreign, exotic and beautiful court.  How difficult it must have been to remain loyal to Yahweh and to not be drawn in by this grandeur and glory . . . and how difficult it must have been for the “madman” Nebuchadnezzar to bow to this unseen God when he controlled all he could see.  This is truly a powerful God.

Written on April 12, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite. 

For more on Daniel and his prophecy, go to the Daniel – God Calls the Faithful and Faithless page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-prophets/

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1 Kings 16: Legacy

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Ruins of Samaria

King Omri was successful in his political career and for this reason he appears in the ancient documents of several cultures.  He wielded his military power well, winning battles, capturing cities, and establishing the new capital of Samaria.  It seemed that anything he put his hand to was bound to do well, and yet . . . “Omri was an enormously famous and successful king, yet the Bible pays him virtually no attention. Political success, the eyes of the Biblical writers, counted for very little if an individual had turned away from God”.  (Zondervan 512) We might remember Omri more if we paused to remember that he fathered the man often considered the wickedest king in Israel history, Ahab.  The legacy of Omri then is this . . . he founded a major city that came to symbolize corruption, and his son numbered with the vilest of men.  We may want to reflect on this a bit today.

We humans focus too often on controlling the story we hope will be told of us once we have left this earth.

We humans put too much energy in building monuments to ourselves that will eventually crumble.

We humans expend our energy and talent gathering fortune and fame while we neglect the nurturing of heart and soul.

When we consider the legacy of King Omri, founder of Samaria and father of Ahab, we see that he has a great deal to teach us from the grave.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay will destroy, and thieves break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Jesus reminds his apostles – and he reminds us – that there is no point in gathering wealth and power; there is nothing eternal about building memorials to ourselves.  The testimonials that are everlasting are the many small acts we commit as we love our enemies and help one another to reach the fulfillment of our true potential – our potential in Christ.

No one can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and Mammon. (Matthew 6:24)

Jesus reminds his followers – and he reminds us – that we cannot try to live in both worlds.  We cannot be “just a little dishonest”.  We cannot turn a blind eye to corruption.  We cannot tell “just one little lie” for once we begin our journey into the world of Omri the lure of false success is too strong.  The end of that journey will be the monument we build to ourselves – an evil dwelling and wicked offspring.

Seek first the kingdom of God and all things will be given to you besides.  (Matthew 6:33) 

Once we learn to rely on God rather than the world of reputation and affluence . . . we will have taken the first steps in securing a legacy that will serve us forever.


A re-post from August 25, 2012.

Image from: http://www.ancientworlds.net/aw/Places/Place/339792

“Omri and Samaria.” ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 512. Print.

For more information about the ancient city of Samaria, click on the image above or go to: http://www.ancientworlds.net/aw/Places/Place/339792

For more information about Omri and Ahab, go to: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2005/10/omri-king-of-israel.aspx#Article  or http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2006/01/02/Ahab-the-Israelite.aspx#Article

 

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Nehemiah 1: A Vocation for Building

Friday, September 13, 2019

Jerusalem: Stones at the Temple South Wall

We have visited with this book several times during our Noontime reflections and we know that it, along with the book of Ezra, describes the restoration time of the Jewish nation.  We know that Nehemiah was the administrator who is credited with the rebuilding of the temple and walls while his friend Ezra, the priest, rebuilt the religious traditions of the Jewish people.  Together these men led their community to recovery through work, prayer and a close connection with their God.  

The survivors of the captivity there in the province are in great distress and under reproach.

We constantly bump into people who are in great distress and under reproach.  There are times when we ourselves are the victim of abuse of one kind or another, times when we too, suffer greatly in that we are separated from some one, some thing or some tradition which used to comfort us and bring us peace.  When we find ourselves in exile . . . and we yearn for reconciliation . . . the best remedy for this affliction is to do as Nehemiah did: I prayed: O Lord, God of heaven, great and awesome God, you who preserve your covenant of mercy towards those who love you and keep your commandments, may your ear be attentive, may your eyes be open, to heed the prayer which I, your servant, now offer in your presence day and night for your servants the Israelites, confessing the sins which we of Israel have committed against you, I and my father’s house included.

This was Nehemiah’s vocation, that he call together a buffeted and distracted people to bring them home to Yahweh where they might be healed and restored.  It is our vocation as well, for as Christians we too are called to help in the gathering, fishing and harvesting work of God’s kingdom.  To this we are called.  For this we are made.  Let us pray with Nehemiah . . .

O Lord, may your ear be attentive to my prayer and that of your willing servants who revere your name.  Grant success to your servant this day . . . and all days.

Our vocation is to build and rebuild, to restore, to bring unity out of chaos, to bring light into the darkness, to bring hope to the desperate.  And we are never alone in this work.  We are constantly accompanied by the one who is the light, the hope, the joy of the world.  We ask this in Jesus’, name.  Amen.


Written on September 12, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite. 

For more on Nehemiah and Ezra and the re-building of Jerusalem, go to: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/nehemiah%E2%80%93the-man-behind-the-wall/

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Haggai 1: Hurrying

Thursday, September 12, 2019

In this brief but important prophecy we hear a vital message; Haggai exhorts us to look to our behaviors to see what we value.  And the prophet asks us to re-build the fallen Jerusalem of our hearts.  From the CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE (1157): “At this critical moment, when defeatism and a certain lethargy had overtaken his repatriated countrymen, Haggai came forward with the exhortations to them to complete their great task . . . The call to rebuild the temple.  The economic distress so apparent in Judah is due to the Jews’ neglect of the Lord while they provide for their own needs”.

And we pause to reflect on this verse 1:9: You expected much, but it came to little; and what you brought home, I blew away.  For what cause? says the Lord of hosts.  Because my house lies in ruins, while each of you hurries to your own house.

This is not a petulant or childish God who sweeps away all that we have gathered around us in retaliation for some slight we may have delivered.  No. This is the call of a God who loves his creatures and who wishes them to rise to the potential gifted to them at their inception. This is not an angry and selfish God who destroys all that does not please him.  No. This is a God who knows that we have become enamored of that which drains us rather than saves us.  These are not the words of a fickle and deceitful lover. No. They are words that encourage, words that animate, words that ask us to focus on what is truly important.

Those who had been deported have returned home to ruins and they know they must come together to rebuild that which has been lost through their own folly.  God calls them to himself and asks them to evaluate what they hurry toward and what they hurry away from.

Do we bustle home each evening to get on with our own agenda without including God in our plans?

Do we scurry out each morning to complete our own list of chores without taking God along?

Do we work harder on our own dreams without considering the common good and the call from God?

We seem to always be in a hurry . . . toward what . . . away from whom . . . in answer to what call?


A re-post from September 5, 2012.

For more thoughts on the prophecy of Haggai visit the Haggai – The Great Task page of this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-prophets/haggai-the-great-task/

For more on setting priorities, prospering in tough economical times and taking the words of the prophet Haggai to heart, click on the image above or go to http://www.barryclingan.org/index.cfm/pageid/584

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1157. Print.   

 

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Ezekiel 8:3-6: Abominations in the Temple

Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Desecration of the Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes

Footnotes tell us that there truly was an abomination set in the temple by King Manasseh (see 2 Kings 21 and 2 Chronicles 33) and later removed by King Josiah (2 Kings 23).  It was a statue of Asherah, a Syrian goddess.  (If you want to read about her, you can go to www.jewishencyclopedia.com.)  Footnotes also tell us that although the statue had been removed, it was likely re-established with the re-paganization of Jerusalem when Josiah died.  In any event, the point is that something sacred, the dwelling place of Yahweh, is profaned by the very people who should be protecting and honoring it.  Do we do this from time to time in our own lives?  Do we allow sacred places and sacred people to be invaded or desecrated?  Do we worship symbols that make us feel good rather than God who brings us joy?  Are we paralyzed in our old and comfortable habits rather than learning to live in the newness of Christ?  Are we blind to the needs of others?  Do we have deafness of heart?  Or do we hear the cry of poor and the broken-hearted?

From the morning and evening MAGNIFICAT intercessions:

Free those who are paralyzed by sinful ways, and teach them to run with joy in the way of your commandments.

Give sight to those who are blinded by self-centeredness, and teach them to see the beauty of those around them.

Grant hearing to those who are deaf of heart, and teach them to rejoice in your word.

You build us into a dwelling place in the Spirit: fill us with the glory of your presence.

We are human.  We find comfort in things which bring us immediate satisfaction.  But this comfort is not lasting.

We are divine.  We find serenity in things that spring from God.  And this serenity is everlasting.


Written on April 21, 2008  and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://www.biblesearchers.com/yahshua/passovertrial/cosmicdrama.shtml

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning” and “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 4.11 (2008). Print.  

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Luke 10:38-42: Martha and Mary

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Vermeer: Martha and Mary

There is only need of one thing.

There is a time for action and a time for reflection.  This well-known story of Martha and Mary reminds us of the opening of Chapter 3 in Ecclesiastes: There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.  And frequently these times occur at once, leaving us a bit dizzy and exhausted.  We need not worry that we have missed an opportunity, for God always allows us another opportunity to amend.  What we must do is to allow ourselves enough action time balanced with quiet time . . . in order that we both witness and wait.

There is only need of one thing.

This story is followed by the time when Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray to the Father.  I always think it must have been startling for his followers to hear that he encouraged them to address the creator with the name of Abba . . . Father, a name of endearment and intimacy.  This relationship with God that Jesus urges is quite different from the one which Israel had experienced as chosen tribe.  This new relationship is one in which we are loved beyond measure, it is one in which we are urged to ask so that we might receive.  It is one in which we are encouraged to petition so that we might be answered.

There is only need of one thing.

In the midst of so many seasons, so many turnings, so many routes, so many options . . . There is only need of one thing . . . to listen to the voice of God, to witness and to wait, to petition and to ask . . . Abba, Father . . .

There is only need of one thing.


Image from: http://www.womeninthebible.net/2.3.Martha_and_Mary.htm

For a wonderful site that tells us so much about Martha and Mary, click on the image above or go to: http://www.womeninthebible.net/2.3.Martha_and_Mary.htm

Also you may like this reflection on The Greatest Vocation at: http://newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2010/07/greatest-vocation.html

Written on June 9, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Judith 7: The Heart of the Just

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Titian: Judith and the Head of Holofernes

This is one of my favorite stories – perhaps because the protagonist is a woman.  A good commentary will let us know that there were Hebrew, Latin and Greek versions of this story and that while no one knows the actual events which this narrative describes, it is meant as a text that will bolster the peoples’ faith in the presence of God among them.  It is “a tract for difficult times; the reader, it is hoped, would take to heart the lesson that God was still the Master of history, who would save Israel from her enemies.  Note the parallel with the time of Exodus: as God had delivered his people by the hands of Moses, so he could deliver them by the hand of the pious widow Judith”.  (Senior 520)

Chapter 7 tells of the siege of the town Bethulia by the Assyrian troops of King Nebuchadnezzar under the military leadership of Holofernes together with local tribes; and it sets the story.  If you have time today or this evening, read the entire story.  I promise you will not be disappointed.

It is fascinating to read about these two groups of men who take into account both the small details and the broad strategies in order to lay out the best plans.  They reconnoiter approaches, locate water sources, assess troop strength, close off escape routes, and store up resources.  Meanwhile, the Israelites watch and pray.  Their leader tells them: Let us wait five days more for the Lord our God, to show his mercy toward us; he will not utterly forsake us.  Still, because the odds were so stacked against them, the Hebrew people of Bethulia mourned.  They saw no hope of deliverance and believed they would all be killed or enslaved.

They were in a desperate place with desperate circumstances, yet they hoped.  And a woman acts to save them.  As we have observed, it is a great story.

As we reflect on this story we arrive at this thought: If we always turned to God at the first moment an army amassed itself against us, and if we would be willing to trust an unlikely agent – such as the widow Judith – we might find ourselves less anxious and more joyful.

Today’s Psalm at Mass is 112 with the repeated antiphon: The heart of the just one is firm, trusting in the Lord.  One of the stanzas reads: An evil report he shall not fear; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.  His heart is steadfast; he shall not fear till he looks down upon his foes.

If we might trust as Judith trusts, if we might steady our hearts to make them steadfast and focused on Christ – the rescuer who rescues all who turn to him – we might find more success and less war.  When we hear evil reports as we do each day when we tune into the news, we would tremble less.  When we hear rumors about family, friends and colleagues, we might wait five days or so and petition God for advice in the meantime.  When we fear that we have gone wrong and have lost our way, we might rely on God’s mercy, knowing that he will not forsake us.

If you have time today to spend with some ancient people who thought they faced extinction and yet were saved, you will be rewarded with a story about a pious widow who saves a town . . . and your heart may move closer to firmness, to justice, to trust in the Lord.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.520. Print.

Written on June 2, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://www.artbible.info/art/large/499.html

Visit A Historical Commentary on the Book of Judith at: http://kinghezekiahofjudah2.blogspot.com/2008/06/location-of-judiths-town-of-bethulia.html

For more about this amazing woman’s story, go to Judith – Sublime Faith, Heroic Love at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/judith-sublime-faith-heroic-love/ or use the search the name Judith on this blog. 

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