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Ezekiel 26: Prophecy Part I

Monday, October 7, 2019

Yesterday we took a look at Ezekiel 25; today and tomorrow we spend time with Chapter 26 as we examine our own views on prophecy . . .

James Tissot: The Prophet Ezekiel

Several hundred years before Alexander the Great destroyed the city of Tyre, Ezekiel writes a nearly perfect description of the siege.  And perhaps the princes of the coastlands trembled for a while at the wrath they witnessed . . . just as we do when we see a prophecy fulfilled.  But humans quickly forget the consequences of actions taken and promises kept in their own lives.  While it is not good to dwell upon failure and misery, neither is it good to repeat the mistakes in our own history; yet this is how we so often live: learning little while recycling our pain, scoffing at prophecies brought to us by our own holy ones.

I had a dream last night that was unusual in that first, I remembered it, and second, I was with people in my present life whom I mistrust deeply.  However, in this dream I was open and frank, honest and unafraid.  I awoke before I knew the outcome.  Had they changed?  Had I changed?  Was I correct in trusting them?  Was my trust in them repaid by more violence or by genuine friendship?  I spent a bit of time wondering if this dream might be a window into the future and, more importantly, I wondered if this were perhaps a portent of things to come, of bridges mended, friendships renewed and extended, trust restored.  Was this a prophecy?  What do I do if it is?

I sometimes wish I might be as innocent as people in ancient times who put so much faith in dreams and their portent.  I think that our scientific method and our modernism may have jaded us by requiring that we seek hard evidence for beliefs.  Faith, of course, springs from the heart rather than the microscope and yet . . .

I have read somewhere that Einstein grew in his belief in a higher power and in the presence of God in creation as his knowledge of math grew.  His famous E = mc2 brought him not only a belief that the power of tiny atoms might be unleashed . . . but that there was a purpose and a plan behind that power.

Prophecy . . . what to believe . . . what to discount . . . how to act . . . false and true prophets . . . magicians and tricks . . . deception . . . fidelity . . . interlopers . . . constant friends.  Concepts converge and unravel as we examine them closely.  Who do we believe . . . and how do we believe?


A re-post from September 16, 2012.

To see other Tissot images of prophets, click on the image r visit: https://www.artbible.info/art/large/223.html


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.


1 Kings 2: Consolidation

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Ferdinand Bol: David’s Dying Charge to Solomon

Today’s reading is full of violence and intrigue – not unlike the political and social landscape in which we constantly find ourselves.  People do not hide out much in the tent of the Lord these days, nor do they order heads to be severed from bodies in retribution; but we do indeed destroy reputations, we intimidate and threaten, we use ever kind of subtle and not so subtle violence to get what we want.  We usually do this without counting the cost to others; and we also forget to measure the ultimate cost to ourselves.

In this forgetting of self and others . . . we show our forgetfulness of God.

David leaves a kingdom and a way of life to his son, Solomon because he knows how difficult it is to maintain fidelity and remain in God.  David also knows how much God loves his people and how willing God is to forgive us our faults.  The aging father tries to pass along his understanding of “the measure” to his young son and when we read this entire story we see how much Solomon is able to retain; we find out how and if he prospers from his father’s final words.

Jesus makes the rules of his kingdom clear to us: The measure that you measure with is measured out to you.  There is only one true commandment – love God and love one another, even as I have loved you.  In this week’s scripture class we are asked to re-think the yardsticks we constantly use to make decisions about what we will say and what we will do.  Do we show partiality to a special group of people or to a special idea?  How do we perceive others?  How do we perceive ourselves?  How do our actions demonstrate our perception of God?

James calls us back to the realization that we do not see as God sees, and he reminds us that when we make judgments we so often are looking at the external and forgetting that Jesus lives in everyone we meet – even those people we do not like.  James tells us in 2:1-13 that when we show deference to those with money and power, we neglect those who are poor in worldly treasures and those who are poor in spirit.  We neglect those with whom Jesus chooses to reside, the physically, emotionally and spiritually marginalized.  Jesus calls the poor and the broken-hearted to himself in order that he might heal them.  These are the people for whom Jesus demonstrates compassion.  And so ought we.  Jesus calls the rich and powerful to an accounting.  He is moved to rebuke them for their lack of regard for his poor and broken-hearted.  And so ought we to be moved if we wish to bring about the kingdom.

Today we read of all the plotting and scheming that occur as the young King Solomon consolidates his kingdom.  He lives in treacherous times.  So do we.   And so we pray . . .

Dear Lord,

It is so very difficult to trust in you alone.  We so often forget that you are watching over us and accompanying us in our journey.  The world seems so very scary and in our human survival reaction to our fears, we forget to rely on you alone.  Help us to see as you see.  Help us to look past the external.  Help us to feel as you feel.  Move us with your compassion.  Grace us with the gift of your love.  Help us to free ourselves by acting in humility, mercy and forgiveness.  Help us to see that by freeing others we also free ourselves. And when we move to consolidate our forces from our feeble human weak places, remind us to come together with others in you.  We ask this in Jesus’ name as we give ourselves over to the power of the Holy Spirit who lives and moves in us, and who calls us to unity. 

Amen. 


Adapted from a reflection written on January 30, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

For more on the story portrayed in the painting above, click on the image or go to: http://fourhandles.blogspot.com/2011/04/1-kings-23-davids-final-advise-to.html

Letters: Universality


The Catholic Letters: Universality

Friday, October 4, 2019

The New American Bible explains the inclusion of the letters of James, Peter, John and Jude in the canon of the New Testament saying that “early Christians saw the New Testament as the depository of apostolic figures to whom they are attributed”.  That being said, there is ambiguity about the authorship of some of these letters; however, they were all written during the early “apostolic age” and as such are important to us – the apostles of the twenty-first century.  What lessons can we take from them?

Scholars tell us that these letters demonstrate the true meaning of the word catholic.  They underscore the idea that Christ came for all.  Christ heals all who seek him.  Christ loves allChrist answers all who call upon him.  So it follows that if we are Christ we, too, must have a universal view of humankind.

When I think of James, I love that he reminds us to be doers of the word and not sayers only.  We cannot be saved by faith alone.

When I think of Peter, I remember that his letters did not make much sense to me until I had suffered greatly.  Peter, Cephas the Rock, writes so beautifully of the way to suffer properly, of how to make our suffering holy and thus unite ourselves with Christ through the cross so that we become co-redeemers with Christ.

John’s letters, and in particular the first two, are beautiful anthems to love.  They are surfacing as first readings at Mass this week and I am always struck by how they amplify the message of John’s lyrical Gospel, and how they give us a clear understanding that God is love and that love is God.

Jude’s one simple letter tells us how to live in a Christian community, how to beware of false teachers, and how to admonish one another properly.

Taken together or separately, there is much to be gained by sitting with a commentary and an epistle or two on a quiet afternoon to understand the allegory and the message meant for us . . . the modern apostles.

We seek God.  We seek union and intimacy with God.  This cannot be done unless we follow in the footsteps of those who shared bread with the Master.  Jesus came as God’s expression of love to us, his creatures.  He comes to us each day in the persons with whom we interact.  He calls us to be the universal church.

God seeks us.  He seeks union and intimacy with us.  This cannot be done unless we allow our hearts to be open to the potential planted in us.  We go to Jesus each day as we demonstrate our faith by loving God our creator fully.  We go out to Christ each day as we unite with Christ, becoming co-creators of love.  We become the universal church.

Jesus, breath of God, abide with us as we rise, become us as we go about our day, dream with us as we put our head upon the pillow at night.  Jesus, we seek you even as you seek us.  Amen.


Adapted from a reflection written on January 11, 2008.

Image from: https://jooinn.com/old-letter-rolls.html

Investigate the Letters of the New Testament at: http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/SFS/an0400.asp


2 Corinthians 2: Painful Circumstances

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Some of us avoid pain; some of us hesitate to inflict pain on another.  Others of us use pain as a weapon against anyone who gets in our way or even ourselves.  Today we read from Paul’s second letter to the people of Corinth and quite close to the opening, he addresses his audience to speak of painful circumstances.  Scholars speculate that either Paul had heard of an aggravating matter that needed to be addressed or that Paul had been rejected by some of the Corinthians.  In either case we are left with the aftermath and on-going effects of suffering.  The group suffers as a result of an action by a member or members of their community.  What one endures, we all endure.  This is the world of Jesus into which we wish to enter.

Paul suggests forgiveness as the central and most important tool that we might use to extricate ourselves from painful circumstances.  It is this same forgiveness that brings us the peace of Christ and assuages anxiety as we live out the after effects of painful circumstancesAs I read Paul’s words, I am reminded of the concise but excellent homily we heard this morning from Bishop Newman as he commented on the first reading at Mass from the first letter of Peter.  He said that these words are some of his favorite: You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  We are special, we are the brother and sisters of the prince of light, Christ, we are united with others God has chosen, and we are to proclaim God’s goodness to all.  As God’s chosen, royal people we will encounter painful circumstances and we will need to forgive the trespasses of others, and we will even have to forgive ourselves for our own lapses in kingdom building.

Peter tells us: Once you were no people but now you are God’s people . . . (1 Peter 2)

Paul repeats to us: God loves us so much that he created us and calls us out of darkness into the light so we must forgive as God forgives.

Peter writes to us: You had not received mercy but now you have received mercy . . .  (1 Peter 2)

Paul reminds us: God loves us so much that he forgives us endlessly, wanting us to forgive ourselves and one another . . . so that we might resolve all painful circumstances as we come together in Christ.


A re-post from September 13, 2012.

For more on how to forgive and what real forgiveness looks like, click on the image above or go to: http://www.birthpangs.org/articles/biblical/forgiveness1.html


1 Samuel 26: I have been a fool . . .

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Ernst Josephson: David and Saul

I have been a fool and I have made a serious mistake.

David and Saul had at one time a close and personal relationship and David and Saul’s son, Jonathan, become hard and fast friends; yet Saul becomes envious of the admiration the people have for the young warrior-psalm-writer, David.  Today we read a portion of the story in which we see the rupture between them – David and his followers have become fugitives; Saul rants and looks to take David’s life.

In today’s Noontime we watch as David creeps into Saul’s tent where the king sleeps surrounded by bodyguards.  Most of us would expect David to take revenge for the treacherous way Saul has treated him but this does not happen.  Instead, he takes Saul’s spear and water jar to demonstrate his presence and exits the tent.  Admonishing his companion for thinking that they might do God a favor by eliminating Saul, David shows us that he understands his proper place in God’s plan.  He is a servant.  Later, Saul admits he has been wrong and he utters the words many of us need to say to others, or wish that others might say to us: I have been a fool and I have made a serious mistake. 

We can spend our days waiting to hear these words from one who had wronged us.  We can also spend our days weaving convoluted plots in order to avoid using these words, but in the end, the effect is the same: we become exhausted.

When offenses are committed and there is no apology, we must leave the unraveling of the consequences to God.  When we offend others and find it difficult to ask for forgiveness, we must surrender our pride and ask God for the best way to repent and atone.  In this way then, our exhaustion will be transformed into a new exuberance for life.


Written on May 21, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://www.fineart-china.com/htmlimg/image-64098.html


Obadiah 1:15-21: The Measure

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

THINK team commemoration design

A favorite from September 11, 2012. Let us consider again the measure of our lives . . .

The measure that you measure with is measured out to you.  John the Evangelist speaks of the measure of God’s joy which we will know when we follow Jesus.  All three synoptic Gospels (Matthew 7:2, Mark 4:24, Luke 6:38) remind us that we are measured by our own actions; this is the same message we hear from the prophet Obadiah today; yet . . . Do we truly listen to these words? 

Countless times in the Old Testament we hear stories of how people are done in by the plans they designed for their perceived enemies.  The story of Esther is a wonderful example which I always recall because it illustrates this point in the person of Haman who is executed on the gallows he ordered constructed for Mordecai, the man he envied and wanted to eliminate.

Do we truly listen to these words?

Each time we find ourselves plotting to “teach someone a lesson”:  Do we truly listen to these words?

When we worry about the schemes of others more than we place our petitions for change in God’s hands: Do we truly listen to these words?

If we engage in gossip or enable disrespectful or abusive behavior without saying a word: Do we truly listen to these words?

If there are times that we refuse to witness as God asks: Do we truly listen to these words?

When we have given up hope and cease asking God to intercede for those who harm us: Do we truly listen to these words?

When we allow our doubts and fears about God’s love for us and the goodness of his creation to overcome his love for us: Do we truly listen to these words?

When we examine the measure with which we measure others . . . will we want to be valued by this standard?  Will we want to have others’ opinions rammed into our minds?  Will we want others to lapse into mediocrity for fear of failure?  Will we want others to give up entirely?  Will we want others to speak in compassionate truth?  Will we want to be measured with the norm we use when looking at others?

Do we truly listen to these words?

Notes from La Biblia de América: Can patience run dry?  Does the capacity to lend support have a limit?  Our Christian faith teaches us that the answer is, no.  It is necessary to forgive seven times seven times – or infinitely.  Love cannot have limits.  Is this the only message Obadiah wants to communicate . . . is he merely acting to break a cycle of violence in his own day, or does he speak to us as well?  This briefest of prophecies has as a target the Edomites, a people in constant conflict with those in Judah, the descendents of Jacob’s brother, Esau.  The abrasive conflict reaches a height when Edom backs the invading Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem and carry the Jewish people off into exile.  Obadiah speaks to the remnant left behind after the Assyrian holocaust.  Obadiah speaks to us now.

Who are the Edomites in our own lives today?  We know the land of Edom well.  It is the place where our constant adversaries live.  It is the hard heart which envies who we are and what we have.  It is the stiff-necked place from where schemes and lies and plots all spring . . . and these are the places we are asked to measure with the same measure we wish ourselves to be measured.  We are asked to measure in faith, with hope . . . and through love.  Let us go to Edom with a full measure of love in our hearts.


LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. Print.

Adapted from a post written on May 11, 2009.  

For more information on the THINK team design, click on the image above or go to:

Obadiah: Hope and Remnant


Obadiah: Hope and Remnant

Monday, September 30, 2019

We have been looking at this tiny prophecy which is packed with imagery and emotion.  Today we continue our deeper look.

From the CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE Reading Guide page 368: The oracle is really a testimony to the indomitable hope of a people who had been reduced to poverty and insignificance, and were at the mercy of their neighbors. 

While most of us do not suffer from severe fiscal poverty, we certainly skate along the edges of financial crunches from time to time . . . but that is not what I think about when I think of poverty.  The metaphor which comes to me as I read these lines of the people pleading for vengeance is one of a poverty of spirit, a state of broken-heartedness, a state of grief over the great loss of something we held near to us.  All of us at some time have suffered at the hands of those who say they love us, and it is in this light that we can identify with the prophet Obadiah.

The territory of Edom (against whose people this oracle is written) was settled by the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob who allowed himself to be tricked into giving over his birthright to his brother with indifference.  At the time of the exile and captivity, the Edomites raided Judah and pillaged what the northern invaders had left behind.  This continued what had already been a bitter animosity between Jews and Edomites, their neighbors and near kinsmen, an animosity between peoples who ought to be linked closely in friendship and blood ties.  Deception by friends and family is felt more intensely than any other, I believe; and it cuts deeply, swiftly . . . and surely.  This kind of betrayal is the most difficult to overcome.  But overcome we must . . . for we are a Remnant People . . . with a destiny for conversion, for transformation, for kingdom.

From THE ARCHEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE article on Edom, page 1467 we find that Edom (located south of the Dead Sea and north of the Gulf of Aqaba) prospered from its control of north-south trade routes and its excavations of its copper and iron mines.  Moses was unable to negotiate a peace with these people and so the Hebrews were forced to go around them on their way home to the Promised Land.  David managed to control this tribe, many of whom lived in high caves cut out of the stony faces of the mountains, but other Jewish kings were not so fortunate.  These people (later known as Idumeans) finally succumbed to Roman rule after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. and “disappeared from history”.

These are the neighbors who took advantage of Judah when she was suffering; yet we see that in the end . . . these people were the ones who disappeared . . . not the Jewish people . . . not The Remnant.

We can easily identify with the prophet and people who suffer at the hands of their neighbor.  We might as easily call for vengeance over the despicable acts of those who are near to us in body and in heart but if we are a Remnant People we must call for Hope.  We must call for the Messiah.

Let us put aside our very human desire for revenge, and let us petition our Creator God for the same peace and compassion which we have been given.  Let us ask intercession for those nearest to us who have hurt us.  And let us ask forgiveness of those nearest to us whom we may have injured.  Let us ask for restoration for all.


A re-post from September 10, 2012.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. RG368. Print.   

“Edom.” ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. Print.

Written on March 24, 2008  and posted today as a Favorite.

For more about the Edomites  (Idumeans) and their territory, click on the image above or go to: http://www.bible-history.com/maps/edomites.html or http://www.ordination.org/edomites.htm


Obadiah: Revenge and Forgiveness

Sunday, September 29, 2019

French School, 17th Century: Salomé

More thoughts on Salomé who sought revenge . . . and who asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

“We know nothing about Obadiah beyond his name, nor is the place of the book’s composition certain . . . Obadiah did not specify that his message came at the time of any specific king or event.  On the other hand Obadiah 11-14 indicates that a major calamity had struck Judah and that the Edomites had capitalized on Judah’s troubles to their own advantage . . . common sense and a broad consensus suggest that the calamity was in fact the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

“Obadiah was written to the people of Judah about the Edomites (descendents of Esau), condemning them for their treachery and violence toward the people of Judah, as well as for their arrogance and indifference toward God”.  (Zondervan 1464)

This is the kind of prophecy which makes us cringe as we understand that revenge is not something we want as part of our value complex.  Seeking vengeance is the kind of thinking my parents continually warned us against for it can never be good.  We were often reminded in our growing years that when we dig a grave for our enemy we ought to dig two: one for them and one for us.  “The truth will always come out in the end”, Dad would remind us. “Don’t worry about the other guy getting credit that is not due him, or the other guy getting away with things.  It’ll all come out in the end.  Just keep your eye on yourself and your God.  And let God handle the other guy”. Dad warned us that human depravity was too crooked and too frightening for us to correct; he knew from personal experience that only God can deal effectively with deep evil.  We humans – even when we are in the best of places and times – cannot conquer forces that have spent eons gathering strength in the dark.  It is far better, according to Dad, to go to the light and stay there.  “That way God can see you and pick you up on his way home”.

Mother always intoned her mantra of “Kill your enemies with kindness.  Pray for them and you will never be alone; because you can bet on it that when people are that naughty lots of people will be praying along with you.  Think of the message God will hear when all those voices join together”, she would remind us.   “Yes, I know you want to get back at them but just pray for them. They will need your prayers.  And besides, the results are better”. 

These simple lessons were either never delivered or they were lost on Salomé who asked for and received John the Baptist’s head on a platter.  Yesterday we spent time reflecting on her portrait and we saw her sultry stare and sullen posture, arms draped around the killing knife and the platter that would deliver the head of her enemy.  Today we  see a similar likeness; she looks out at us in apparent satisfaction yet we know that revenge is not sweet.  It does not last and it does not satisfy.  It only brings about our own destruction and doom.  These are the truths spoken by Obadiah more than two millennia ago . . . and they are truths we can still use today.  We must wipe revenge from our hearts and replace it with forgiveness for the measure that we measure with is measured out to us.

And so we pray . . .

When we are most hurt by others, we must not strike back, we must forgive.

When we are most neglected by others, we must not plot their downfall, we must forgive.

When we are most abused by others, we must ask for their redemption and we must forgive.

When we are most abandoned by others, we must not treat them in like fashion, we must forgive.

When we are most damaged by others, we must not in turn inflict damage, we must forgive.

God forgives.  God restores.  God repairs.  God cures.  We are each called to do the same.  Amen.


A re-post from September 9, 2012.

Image from: http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/20016/lot/55/

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1464. Print.

For more on the prophecy of Obadiah go to the Obadiah – Outrageous Hope page on this blog.

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