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140620_refugeegraphicrevisedThursday, September 23, 2021

Jeremiah 44

Scattered Refugees

Only scattered refugees will return.

This reflection was written in 2014 and is posted again today when the world now has 82.4 million refugees as reported by the United Nations Refugee Agency. Today we consider not only the millions of people who search for security and peace, but the forces in our world that increase rather than decrease this human tragedy. 

Through Jeremiah, Yahweh tells the people once again that their journey to Egypt has been futile. In seeking an alliance with Pharoah Hophra, Zedekiah and his followers have not found refuge; rather, they have further incurred the anger of Nebuchadnezzar. Yahweh promises that those who smugly thought to avoid the consequences of their actions will, in due time, fall to the armies of Babylon. And if we doubt the outcome here, history tells us what happened to those who went down to Egypt.

In the New Testament, Jesus’ family escaped Herod’s wrath by fleeing to Egypt.  (Matthew 2:13-23) Upon their return, Joseph takes his wife and child to Nazareth in Galilee. The ruler Archelaus was a leader who did not inspire confidence.

In our world today there are millions of refugees who flee home for political, social or religious reasons. The office of the United Nations Commission on Refugees gives us facts and figures and tells us that there are over 51 million refugees in the world today.

refugeeOn the Foreign Policy blog we learn that these millions of refugees could stretch around the world more than twice if they were holding hands.

And the Catholic Charities site gives us a definition that ought to make it clear that any one of us might be a refugee if the circumstances were right.

Today Jeremiah brings us these words from God: Though I kept sending to you all my servants the prophets . . . you would not listen or accept the warning to turn away from evil.

Let us hope that we hear God’s voice today. Let us have faith that we might become instruments for peace and justice through our small but not insignificant acts today. And let us lovingly seek intercession for those who engage in evil with no concern for the safety or welfare of others.

God’s position is clear. God resides with the homeless, the hungry, the rejected and the outcast. Jesus accompanies the displaced, the starving and those who have no shelter or help. The Spirit remains in the hearts and souls of the scattered refugees who sit on our borders asking for help. Let us inform ourselves today, and resolve to commit an act of kindness for the outcast. For it is only by God’s grace that we are not now among their number.

TentsExplore the United Nations, Foreign Policy and Catholic Charities links and share what you learn with others. Then commit to a healing act of solidarity through an offer of help in some way to those who so desperately need it. If you are a U.S. citizen, also consider contacting those who represent you in state, local or federal government to ask that they come together to address the needs of a the world in which more than 51 million of us seek refuge. Images from:  

http://www.unhcr.org.uk/about-us/key-facts-and-figures.html

http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/06/20/there_are_as_many_refugees_in_the_world_as_justin_bieber_twitter_followers

and http://www.catholiccharitiesscc.org/refugee-resettlement

 

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Saturday, September 11, 2021

mizpah

Ruins of Mizpah

Jeremiah 40

Today we remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. And we also remember all those who have died in the twenty years since. We continue to work for justice as we seek peace. We also reflect on how the present day reflects the past as we consider . . . 

Points of View

More intrigue follows as the Babylonians establish their control over the city and her people.

“The Judeans who remained in Palestine rallied around Gedaliah, who as governor stood for a policy of obedience to Babylon, and prospered. But their prospects were undermined by his assassination. Especially because Babylonian soldiers were among those slain, this act had the appearance of rebellion. It caused consternation among the survivors because of the reaction they expected from the Babylonians.

“What motivated the assassination? The perpetrator, Ishmael, was a member of the Judean royal house and during the war had been a freedom fighter . . . Thus, it is possible that this act was a last gasp of the old party struggle. Given the magnitude of Judah’s defeat in 587, this was less likely am attempt to assume leadership than an act of revenge. From one point of view, Gedaliah, like Jeremiah, could be considered a traitor”. (Mays 573)

It is likely that each of us has lived through an overthrow of some kind. A takeover may have occurred in our workplace, with our family, or perhaps in our civil community. No matter the size of the revolution or occupation, a traitor and hero may be one in the same person; collaborators and companions may be difficult to discern. In the end, our point of view will determine how we record an event and how we react afterward.

As Jesus walks among us he constantly asks that we consider the other point of view, listen to the other voice, make room for the other perspective. God’s kingdom is inclusive of all – even those we believe to be our enemies. So as we go about our daily life, let us consider the point of view in which we have planted ourselves. And let us be open to the Gedeliahs and the Ishmaels in our midst.


For more on the murder of Gedaliah, visit: http://professorwillis.blogspot.com/2011/07/ishmael-and-ammonites-murder-gedaliah.html 

For more on Gedaliah, a little known figure, click on the image of Mizpah above, or visit: http://obscurecharacters.com/2013/11/11/gedaliah-nebuchadnezzars-governor/ 

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 573. Print.

Image from: http://holyland-sites.blogspot.com/2013/01/mizpah.html

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Friday, September 10, 2021

heart life not dullJeremiah 39

Our Lives as Booty

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

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

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

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

And so we pray . . .

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


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

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

A Favorite from February 5, 2011.

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Thursday, September 9, 2021

up from the cisternJeremiah 38

The Miry Cistern: A Reprise

What do we do when we find ourselves in a situation that drags us down as though we were encased in mud up to our necks? How do we handle our fear when confronted with an unpredictable, cowardly or inconsistent leader? Why do we take on the world as if we alone have responsibility for all that takes place?

We reflected on these and other thoughts a number of months ago when we visited Jeremiah in the miry cistern. Today we return to this portion of his prophecy, but rather than focus on the king and prophet, we take a look at Ebed-melech, the Cushite courtier who intercedes on Jeremiah’s behalf.  (Verses 7:13)

What do we know about Ebed-melech? Resources tell us that he was an Ethiopian eunuch serving at Zedekiah’s court. Scripture tells us that he heard that [political leaders] had put Jeremiah into the cistern. Now the king was sitting in the Gate of Benjamin; and Ebed-melech went out from the king’s palace and spoke to the king, saying, “My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet whom they have cast into the cistern; and he will die right where he is because of the famine, for there is no more bread in the city.”

We also know that the king ordered Ebed-melech to retrieve the prophet, and  we might notice a detail provided for us: So Ebed-melech took the men under his authority and went into the king’s palace to a place beneath the storeroom and took from there worn-out clothes and worn-out rags and let them down by ropes into the cistern to Jeremiah. Then Ebed-melech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, “Now put these worn-out clothes and rags under your armpits under the ropes”; and Jeremiah did so. So they pulled Jeremiah up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern, and Jeremiah stayed in the court of the guardhouse.

Today as we wonder how to extricate ourselves from difficult situations, let us remember the courage of Ebed-melech who acted when he encountered injustice.

When we wonder with what intensity we might react when confronted with dangerous circumstances, let us recall the tenderness of Ebed-melech who thought to provide Jeremiah with cushioning as he and his men eased the prophet from the muddy hole.

When we wonder who might save us when we find ourselves in the bottom of a pit with no means of escape, let us recall the Ebed-melechs in our lives who have risked their own safety to rescue us.

And let us thank God for the small, tender moments of surprise when we have been delivered from the bottom of our own miry cisterns.


For another reflection on this chapter, inter the words The Miry Cistern into the search bar on this blog and explore.

Image from: http://mygodmorning.weebly.com/devotionals/category/friendship

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Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Tough-love1-300x256Ezekiel 33

Fidelity of the Sentinel

In ancient societies the role of the watchman was seminal; city-states and even towns relied on watch towers and wakeful sentinels to warn their community of impending danger. Today we have replaced this watchfulness with electronic stealth weapons that often divide us about their necessity or efficacy. With today’s Noontime, we might learn something about our human need to be alert so as to survive. We might also learn something about our own fidelity to God.

Although Israel has already been sent into exile, Ezekiel warns his people of continuing disaster and, as we have seen with Jeremiah, the community’s response to his warning is lukewarm. This was a people skilled in the art of denial and enabling. It seems that God’s prophets, or sentinels, nearly always receive a tepid response; but this does not deter them from speaking. Today our modern prophets, like those of old, continue to call out to us about the importance of hearing the warning from the sentinels we ourselves have posted. They also call on us to be faithful to God in our response to the warning call.

My parents often reminded us that what hurts the individual also hurts the group. They also admitted that sometimes as parents it is difficult to discern when love is nurturing and when it is enabling. Tough love is a term that was coined in the late 1960s by Bill Milliken to describe how families and institutions must intervene in addicted behaviors and cycles. Too often we are swayed by our fear of rejection by an individual or group to gently yet firmly interact with others in loving sternness.  And this is what God is saying to Ezekiel and Jeremiah. I have appointed you watchman of the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.

When we hear the sentinel warning, we know that it is the hour to pause and reflect as individuals and as communities about the message of that call. We are obliged to listen to other voices, to pray with other hearts, and to share with other minds the meaning of the warning. And we must remain faithful to God’s call as do the prophets. Although the tide of many be against us, we must persist in developing our willingness to step out of all that is comfortable to remain faithful in our relationship with the creator God.  For after all, the end of this story is good news. The end of this story is restoration and resurrection. The end of this story is about our preparedness to receive the blessing that is already ours.


Image from: http://drmommyonline.com/what-is-tough-love-and-when-to-use-it

Adapted from a reflection written on December 27, 2006.

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Monday, September 6, 2021

hebrew-bibleJeremiah 36

Panic

Jeremiah is restricted – he can no longer visit the Temple – and so he sends his secretary to read out the words of prophecy. Baruch writes out the words sent by God and they are delivered to the King and his collaborators.  They listen . . . and then the King burns the scroll, thinking that he might manipulate God by obliterating his word. He is, of course, wrong.  And Jeremiah, in faithful dedication to God, re-dictates the message he has been asked to deliver. We might well wonder what emotion Jeremiah experiences most deeply. Is it anger, sadness, regret, anxiety, a sense of uselessness? Does he believe that he has failed? Or is he able to calm any negative emotion as he complies with God’s plan of guiding the people to the place they need to be? Does he somehow reach serenity about his predicament? Does he believe that he has failed God in some way?

When we believe we have fallen short in a task that God has put before us, we must turn back to God when we experience regret.  We must look for consolation, and God – being goodness itself – will always bring us back, even when we doubt that God constantly makes even the impossible possible. The mini-reflection in MAGNIFICAT yesterday evening puts things in its proper perspective: Peace lies in surrendering to the Lord in trust and living by his love, not in fretting over the wrongs done by others.  Undue concern over evils we cannot mend prevents us in taking true delight in him.  “By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust your strength lies”.  Isaiah 30:15.  Commit your life to the Lord, trust in him and he will act . . . Be still before the Lord and wait in patience; do not fret at the one who prospers; one who makes evil plots to bring down the needy and the poor.  Calm your anger and forget your rage; do not fret, it only leads to evil . . . A little while longer – and the wicked shall have gone.  Look at his place, he is not there.  Psalm 37

These verses bring us relief when we believe that we have failed; they offer us a refuge of calm when terror grips us. When we witness the king burning God’s message brought by a faithful servant, when we believe that pain and anguish have been experienced for nothing . . . when the panic descends to seize our senses, these are the verses that are God’s very breath upon us.  These are the verses we share today . . . hoping that we will not need them often.


Image from: http://www.catholic-convert.com/blog/2014/04/30/why-protestants-reject-7-books-of-the-bible-the-short-answer/

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 27.1 (2010). Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on January 28, 2010.  

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Sunday, September 5, 2021

Tibetan Nomads

Tibetan Nomads

Jeremiah 35

Wayfarers

Build no house and sow no seed; neither plant nor own a vineyard. You shall dwell in tents all your life, so that you may live long on the earth where you are wayfarers.

Many of us in the developed world live a life of storing up and putting away, of saving for an emergency or the unexpected event. When we read today’s Noontime verses we have the opportunity to assess our level of trust in the creator who knows every detail about us, of our willingness to follow Christ who knows each strength and weakness within us, of our openness to the Spirit who dwells in the heart of each of us to cure, to heal and to console.

We might take this opportunity today to examine our readiness to trust God more than possessions or status. We might also open our minds to the possibility that in many ways we are called to be wayfarers.

God says: I do not ask that you free yourself of your shelter and your stores; rather, I ask that you share them with those who have nothing. I do not ask that you rely on others to provide for your welfare when I have given you gifts with which you might care for yourself and those who live on the margins of your busy life. I ask that you consider your relationships with others in your life as valuable pearls of great price. You are created a social creature and I ask that even your smallest interactions and the briefest of encounters be held as sacred moments in which you meet me. I do not ask that you live as nomads with no purpose or mission; rather, I ask that you put down willing roots into the soil of my kingdom. For there you will flourish and bear fruit in my name. There you will journey with me to experience the mystery and gift and surprise of new life in me. And you will discover the plans for peace that I have in mind for you. You will celebrate with timbrel and dance and tambourine. You will sing and cry and laugh with me. And you will realize just how great my love is for you.

As we reflect on Jeremiah and the Rechabites, let us consider what we store up, what we share, and what we love. Let us consider our life as a wayfarer in God’s kingdom.


To learn about Tibetan nomads, click on the image above or visit: http://www.traveladventures.org/continents/asia/tibetan-nomads.html

For more on Jeremiah 35, enter the words Taking Correction into the blog search bar and explore.

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Saturday, September 4, 2021

Francois Xavier Fabre: Nabuchodonosor Has Zedekiah's Children Killed before his Eyes

Francois Xavier Fabre: Nabuchodonosor Has Zedekiah’s Children Killed before his Eyes

Jeremiah 34

Face to Face

Many of us shrink from speaking openly in conflict or disagreement, or to anyone with whom there is a potential for argument. We avoid situations that may cause us discomfort when we speak or hear truth. Today the Lord foretells Zedekiah’s difficult future. And it is news that the last king of Judah does not want to receive.

I am handing this city [Jerusalem] over to the king of Babylon; he will destroy it with fire. Neither shall you escape his hand; rather you will be captured and fall into his hands. You shall see the king of Babylon and speak to him face to face. Then you shall be taken to Babylon.

How might we react if we were to know the details of the last years of our lives? What might we do differently? What fences might we mend and with whom might we reconcile?

How do feel about confronting a grave illness, a sudden job loss, an unexpected death? We so often put reality aside until we can interact with it face to face.

Zedekiah is given an opportunity to experience exile in a semi-dignified way but he reneges on his part of the bargain. Zedekiah made an agreement with all the people in Jerusalem to issue an edict of emancipation. Everyone was to free his Hebrew slaves, male and female. All the princes and leaders consented . . . But though they agreed and freed them, afterward they took back their male and female slaves whom they had set free and forced them into service again.

If we want to know about Zedekiah’s last days, we can turn to 2 Kings 25 or click on the image above. The story is horrific, especially when we know that a merciful God had prepared a smoother way. The story is tragic, especially when we see that he suffers a fate he had parsed out to others. The story is cautionary, especially when we come to understand that God wants nothing more than to ease our burden.

Within each of us is the potential to become a new Zedekiah, one who has much and who sacrifices all. Also within is the latent slave who exults in freedom only to be brought back into bondage. Zedekiah retreats from a face to face encounter with the conquering king only to lose his progeny and his sight. Zedekiah plots the oppression of innocents and ends his days suffering in a way he had never imagined.

When the Lord asks us to come face to face with a person or an event that stirs fear within us, when God calls us to someone or some thing for which we feel only dread . . . let us consider the story of Zedekiah, and determine to rely on God’s company as we stand toe to toe with our fears.


For more on Zedekiah’s fate, click on the image above or visit: http://www.spiritandtruth.org/teaching/Book_of_Daniel/commentary/htm/0209030405.htm

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Sunday, August 29, 2021

Francois-Joseph Navez: The Massacre of the Innocents

Francois-Joseph Navez: The Massacre of the Innocents

Jeremiah 31

Slaughter

In these tragic but beautiful verses Jeremiah laments the slaughter of innocents. Footnotes will tell us that “Ramah is a village about five miles north of Jerusalem, where Rachel was buried (1Sm 10, 2). Rachel: said to mourn for her children since she was the ancestress of Ephraim, the chief of the northern tribes. Mt 2, 18 applies this verse to the slaughter of the innocents by Herod”. (Senior cf. 988)

We know that Rachel refuses to be consoled because her children are no more. And we also know that the Lord replies: cease your cries of mourning, wipe the tears from your eyes. The sorrow you have sown will be its reward . . . they shall return from the enemy’s land. There is hope for your future.

In later verses Ephraim replies: I have come to myself, I strike my breast; I blush with shame, I bear the disgrace of my youth.

As we have observed in our Noontime reflections, not all suffering is a result of our actions, and it is a fact that much of the world’s pain is endured by innocents who have committed no wrong and have nothing to repent. Yet still slaughter and mayhem walk among us and we struggle to pray for those schemers who plot chaos. We rally ourselves to stand in solidarity with the faithful who witness to injustice. We keep vigil, we begin campaigns to change corruption, we witness, watch and wait, we petition God, we pray, we form support groups and action pacts, and and we hope for better outcomes.

Despite the fact that we believe there may be a genetic cause for much of the violence in society, science is a long way from understanding the intricate dance the human mind must perform in order to avoid admitting to the sociopathy of evil. In an interview with the author of Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight, M.E. Thomas tells Baltimore columnist and former talk show host Dan Rodricks about the frightening territory of those who observe or commit harm without remorse. The podcast is worth our listening time if we struggle with someone close to us who has little or no empathy for others.

Today Jeremiah tells us that slaughter will take place, and that mourning and wailing will have little effect on those among us who lack an emotional response to others. But he also tells us that amid the tears and pain there is always hope offered by the Living God who accompanies us in our exile. There is always mercy for those who suffer as there also is for those who cause turmoil and violence.  There is always the possibility to turn and return to God despite of, and even in the face of, a great slaughter.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.cf. 988.Print.   

For more on the anger gene, visit: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/code-rage-the-warrior-gene-makes-me-mad-whether-i-have-it-or-not/

To hear Dan Rodrick’s Midday podcast with M.E. Thomas, the author of Confessions of a Sociopath, go to: http://wypr.org/post/confessions-sociopath 

For another reflection on these verses, click on the image above or go to: http://signoftherose.org/2014/04/15/jeremiah-31-out-of-the-nightmare-a-dream-for-a-new-future/

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