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Jeremiah 25:1-14: Captivity

Easter Saturday, April 27, 2019

Here Jeremiah foretells the continuing conflict between warring nations in the Middle East.  As we have observed before, the political environment has not changed much over the millennia despite the changing of political systems and figures, and the names of sovereign nations and their leaders. Cultures, religions, and peoples continue to clash.  And Jeremiah uses the round number of 70 to say that the present generation may not return – they must die and a newer, perhaps more faithful generation, will renew Hebrew history. Notes from the ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE tell us more (Zondervan 1234).

  • Since the numeric systems in this region of the world at this time were often based on ascending groups of six, the logical maximum number of measurement would be 60.  The amount of 70 indicates a number of major proportion – and importance.  In this case it represents the fact that the present generation must die out before the exile will end.
  • Jeremiah foresees a time when Judah will serve Babylon, and that following this time Babylon herself will serve another nation.  This history plays out as Jeremiah predicted.  Judah became a vassal state of Babylon in 604 B.C.E. and although the arithmetic is inexact, almost 70 years later Babylon was taken over by Persia.  The people of Israel will return home from exile under the Persian king Cyrus as recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah.
  • Another calculation that may be seen as predicted from this prophecy is the span of time between the physical destruction of the temple in 586 B.C.E. and its re-dedication in 515 B.C.E.
  • In either case, Jeremiah predicts an exile which outlasts the present generation and thus serves as a punishment for the wayward Israelites.  The exile Jeremiah describes does take place.  And exile will occur in each of our lives in some way at some time.

This we can also predict.

I have come to understand that periods of separation and loss in our lives cannot be avoided.  No amount of planning or good behavior exempts us from the sort of exile that Jeremiah forecasts for his people.  The prestige of nations will rise and fall almost whimsically; power will ebb and flow.  This is something we cannot avoid.  Our personal influence and authority will likewise rise and fall.  We may even be held captive for a time by invader ideas; new policies and procedures, new fads and crazes will overtake us.  We have only to stand still for a day in our fast-paced world and the advances of technology fly past us to leave us feeling disconnected.  Some of us self-impose this kind of exile while others are forced into it by economics and talent.

We can never have control over the cataclysmic changes that happen around and to us.  In reality we seldom control much more than the small details of our lives and for some of us even that is a reach.  We have fooled ourselves into thinking that we have made the most of life by choosing the proper career and the proper life partner when our personal and economic status is often chosen for us; our political destiny is driven by many whom we do not even know exist.

So is there anything we can do about who we are and how we live?  Absolutely.  Is there any way we can control nature?  Not much.  What are our options when it comes to our political and civic lives?  Depending on our nation of origin we have various degrees of input.  Some of us live in flourishing democracies while others live in closed societies that stifle any cry for freedom.  What do we do about improving our status and making a difference in the world?  When we join in the struggle to build God’s kingdom . . . all the rest falls into place.

Jeremiah speaks to an ancient nation but he also speaks to us when he describes the coming whirlwind that threatens on the horizon. When we see the impending peril and sense the advent of our own bitter captivity, what are we to do?

We will spend some time during the rest of this Easter Week reflecting on our options.


A re-post from Easter Week 2012.

Image from: http://thephotoexchange.wordpress.com/

“The 70 Years of Captivity.” ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. Print.

For more on the gifts that come out of captivity, go to Ultimate Fulfillment at: https://thenoontimes.com/2011/08/09/ultimate-fulfillment/

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Romans 12: The Concrete Reality of Jesus

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Adapted from a Favorite written on May 25, 2011.

In a previous post, we reflected on how and why we watch Jesus – on what and when we learn from him – on where we encounter him.  Today we reflect on the fact that The Word is not ambiguous.  The words of Jesus tell us how we are to act, and what we are to do.  Paul tells the Romans – and us – that we are to conform to the world of Jesus rather than the world we see around us.  This is as concrete as can be.  There is no doubt that we are born to be transformed in and by the Spirit.

Also in this portion of his letter, Paul reminds us that our diversity is pleasing to God.  We are to struggle against our desire to see everyone and everything conform to our will.  And we are struggle with our ego so that we make room for others in this mystical body we form with Christ.  Peace, harmony, service to others, clinging to what is good and avoiding what is not good, blessing our persecutors rather than cursing them – these are the marks of one who ardently follows the Christ.  We must put aside thoughts of revenge or even the delight in someone else’s downfall.  We are to leave all moral judgment to God.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

What a simple and elegant rule to follow. Oh so clear and clean. Oh so difficult to realize.

If we persist in looking for reasons why this rule does not work, we walk away from Jesus.  If we continue to exempt ourselves from this rule, we walk away from life.  If we persevere in seeing the world as a dark and ugly place, we walk away from the light.  If we insist on controlling everything and everyone around us, we walk away from serenity. 

Vincent Van Gogh: Wheat Field

When we watch Jesus we see the important lesson that healing and controversy are often entwined.  In the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30) we hear that God does not pull up the weeds from the garden when they appear because this disrupts the soil and damages the fruit-bearing crop before harvest time.  God trusts us to put down deep roots into the rich soil of our lives, and to lift strong arms to the sun in order that we bear fruit – no matter the circumstance of our planting.  So let us trust God to tend to the weeds in our own hearts and the weeds among as we struggle to grow, for God is trustworthy. God is capable. God is loving, generous, just and kind.

Rather than becoming overcome by the evil with which our lives are entwined, let us allow God to overcome evil through us . . . by doing good. 

For another reflection on the Parable of the Weeds, click on the image above of weeds and wheat, or visit: https://millennialpastor.net/2017/07/23/there-is-life-in-the-wheat-and-weeds/ 

To visit the Watching Jesus post, go to: https://thenoontimes.com/2015/09/04/mark-31-6-watching-jesus/

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Ezra 6:18-22: Marvels – Part II

Friday, November 11, 2016

Positive reinforcement word Miracles engraved in a rock

A Favorite from October 27, 2009.

We have recently lived through another cycle in which a few believe that not only are they beyond any human measure, they are also beyond the need of divine marvels.  We might look at these modern-day versions of corruption and believe ourselves removed.  We may look at the Israelites of Ezra’s day who return to their burned out city to work for its restoration and think that we would not have erred as they did.  We watch as they promise that never again will they forget the gift of Passover which they have received, and we will also watch as we read the New Testament story in yesterday’s Gospel in Luke 13:10-17 as we see the leader of the synagogue complain because Jesus cures a woman on the Sabbath.  On that day the whole crowd rejoiced at the splendid deeds done by him.

As humans, we easily forget our pattern of looking out for self rather than the group.  We place ourselves beyond the norm and sometimes attribute gifts to ourselves which rightly belong to God.  When we read about these exiles, we know that these Levites will centuries later have fallen into the same corruption for which this tribe now repents.  Reflecting on all of this we see that the best safety and surety we can seek is not the amount of money or power we can amass.  Our comfort and our state of mind cannot be assured by anything we ourselves command or control.  Our cleanliness and lack of corruption do not stem from any rituals we perform or any friends we might have; but rather . . . we sleep peacefully, we work willingly, we play joyfully and we love openly when we remember well the marvels the Lord has done for us. 

For more reflections on the marvels God has worked for us, explore posts in the Miracles category or on the Miracles page in this blog.   

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Psalm 115

metal-texture-silver-gold-scratchedSilver and Gold

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.

From footnotes, This is “a response to the enemy taunt, ‘Where is your God?’ . . . [I]t ridicules the lifeless idols of the nations, expresses a litany of trust of the various classes of the people in God, invokes God’s blessing  on them as they invoke the divine name, and concludes as it began with praise of God”.  (Senior 726)  True silver and gold are trust in the work of the Lord’s hands. There is no need to exact revenge.

Yesterday’s first reading at Mass was another look at the character of silver and gold.  In Wisdom 7:7-11 they are seen as useless as the lust for power and control because all truly good things come from God, and God values our prudence and humility above supremacy.  I prayed and prudence was given me; I pleaded and the spirit of wisdom came to me.  I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches as nothing in comparison with her, nor did liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and before her, silver is to be accounted mire. 

When we feel ourselves struggling to gain an upper hand or to mercilessly wield authority that has been vested in us, we must give God thanks for the goodness we have seen; and we must turn to songs like this one that remind us of our proper place in the universe: The heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth is given to us . . . It is we who bless the Lord. Hallelujah! 

Amen. 

A reflection written on October 12, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite. 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.726. Print.   

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Saturday, November 2, 2013

091212-impossible[1]Daniel 11

God as the Ultimate Power

The king shall do as he pleases, exalting himself and making himself greater than any god; he shall utter dreadful blasphemies against the God of gods.  He shall prosper only till divine wrath is ready, for what is determined must take place.  He shall have no regard for the gods of his ancestors or for the one in whom women delight; for no god shall he have regard, because he shall make himself greater than all.  (Verses 36 and 37)

This portion of Daniel’s prophecy is difficult to follow, even with a commentary, as there are varying opinions about the identity of the three kings of Persia, there are several rulers with the name of Antiochus, and kingdoms in the region are morphing and changing while dynasties rise and fall.  It is sufficient to note, however, that the writer here conveys the sense of confusion that the Hellenistic Wars bring about.  Syria and Egypt battle over who controls the Jewish kingdom and the little people wonder where and how all the conflict will end.  The foreign ruler, King Antiochus, venerated Apollo and Zeus and he even saw himself as the king of Mount Olympus, Zeus/Jupiter.  He did as he liked, including the placement of a gargantuan of a pagan god in the Jerusalem Temple.  All that once was thought immutable is now changing and here the angel of the Lord tells us, through Daniel, that the Lord God will not be manipulated, controlled or mocked; the Lord is ultimately in control of all and everyone.  Those who do not understand this will eventually come to see “this simple portrait of a tyrant, possibly even a mad one, willing and able to work his designs without being challenged even by the gods (v. 37) and yet unaware that his ultimate doom has been sealed in secret by the God who is the master of all of history and whose word is the last as well as the first”.  The closing verses of this chapter predict the future and in the following chapter we find “the most important innovation contained in the book of Daniel, the notion of resurrection in 12:1-3”.  (Mays 633)

It strikes us as odd that one who professes to lead as a servant might have so little regard for the small works of beauty and goodness that are significant to the community.  These leaders appear to place little value on benchmarks or markers or significant events that a people hold in common.  They believe themselves more important than a god like Adonis, the one who sways so many women (Jones 1447).

When we find ourselves in the hands of those who are able to work their designs without being challenged by any entity on earth, we will want to remember that God is the ultimate source of infinite power, and that this power brings with it the gift of new, eternal life.  This power generates from profound goodness and self-sacrificing love rather that brute muscle and dispassionate control.  This power determines the nature of life and even death itself.  And this power brings the gift of resurrection to those who follow faithfully.

Adapted from a reflection written on July 22, 2010.

Jones, Alexander, ed.  THE JERUSALEM BIBLE. New York, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1966. 1447. Print.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 633. Print.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012 – Psalm 4 – Joyful Confidence in God

This cannot be more simple, nor can it be more complicated. 

As humans, there is only one thing required of us – that we trust God and allow God to move in our lives.

As humans, there is only one thing we wish to have for ourselves – control of all we and others say and do.

If only we might be as ardent in our following God as we are in our building up of our self defenses. 

From the St. Joseph Psalter footnotes: Those who are well established in life delude themselves by seeking happiness in riches and worldly vanities.  The psalmist, rich in divine trust and joy, invites them to discover the price of God’s friendship: “the light of God’s face”.  This is an evening prayer (see verses 5 and 9), filled with desire for God; Christians move beyond its earthly perspectives.  Prayer brings openness of heart, assurance of God’s help, faith, divine approval, joy, and peace. 

The poor often have more confidence in God than the wealthy . . . because when there is no earthly place to fall back . . . we realize that there is only God.  The things of this world upon which we depend are only illusions.  We live in the dream that this world is real . . . even when we are told so often that this world is passing away.  Thinking in this way, we realize that our comfort may well get in the way of our spiritual development. 

From the week-end intercessions in MAGNIFICAT.

When we waver, make us firm.

When we refuse to do your will, soften our hearts.

When we forget we are your children, bring us back to you.

Amen.

For some links to music which celebrates our joyful confidence, click on the image above or go to: https://todaysworship.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/todays-worship-dailyseptember-10-2012/

THE PSALMS, NEW CATHOLIC VERSION. Saint Joseph Edition. New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 2004. 30. Print.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 9.25 (2008). Print.  

First written on September 29, 2008. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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