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Holy Thursday, April 1, 2021

MADAME~1

Christopher Turner: On the Couch

 Amos 6

The Cost of Prosperity

Before we leave Amos we reflect once more on his theme of the wealthy and comfortable taking advantage of the poor and voiceless. Like his contemporaries Hosea and Joel, Amos spoke out against those who lay upon couches plotting to keep what they had gathered rather than share their prosperity. He brought to light the corruption too often found in those who hoard possessions and power rather than tend to those on the margins who have few or no resources.

Amos spoke so well and so boldly that he was finally expelled by Amaziah, the priest in charge of the royal sanctuary. His delineation of “hollow prosperity” was too much for the power structure and rather than spend time with the prophet’s words, leadership chose to shut down this man who gave their work a “sweeping indictment” of the injustice and idolatry Amos saw everywhere. The prophet is known for his fiery words but also his offering of a messianic perspective of hope. He knows that “divine punishment is never completely destructive; it is part of the hidden plan of God to bring salvation to men. The perversity of the human will may retard, but it cannot totally frustrate, this design of a loving God”. (Senior 1126)

As we read these verses today, we might think of a time when either we too lay upon couches at the expense of others or we were those laboring within a corrupt system. In the modern world, some of us have a the freedom to express our views in the public arena. Sometimes this voice is small, sometimes it carries weight; but no matter the strength of our words we know that when we stand in God’s plan all will be well. All will right itself.

Today’s reading is full of Old Testament ire; yet we can bring our New Testament eyes and ears to this story to put it into context. When we find ourselves in our own Samaria or northern Kingdom, when we see corruption in our holy Bethel city, when our prophets preach caution to a power structure carried away with its own authority, we might pause to remember what Amos tells us: Woe to the complacent, leaders of a favored nation, lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches . . . they devise their own accompaniment.

On this day when we celebrate the Lord’s Last Supper, we examine ourselves, our motives, our hopes and desires. We evaluate where and how and why we stand; and we look at those with whom we choose to spend time on idle couches.

When we find ourselves unsatisfied with all we see around us, or when we are content with only our own accompaniment, perhaps it is a warning that we need to look to ourselves and to our companions. Perhaps, on this holy day of celebrated sacrifice, it is time for us to consider the cost of our prosperity.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1126. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on September 7, 2009.

Tomorrow, Unlimited Mercy.

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Asherah is seen as Isis in ancient Egypt

Asherah is seen as Isis in ancient Egypt

Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 14, 2021

Amos 6

Third Woe

Amos tries to reach us for a third time with his vivid images that paint a scene we cannot ignore, with wonderfully descriptive words that create sights we see even with eyes closed.

The complacent . . . The overconfident . . .

Calneh was a winter residence of the Parthian kings. Nothing now remains but the ruins of a palace and mounds of rubbish.

Hastening the reign of violence . . .

Hamath the Great was a fortress capital of one of the kingdoms of Upper Syria.  Its greatness has now faded.

Lying upon beds of ivory. Stretching comfortably on couches.

Gath one of the five royal cities of the Philistines and the native place of the giant Goliath. Its original site has long been lost.

Eating the lambs and calves. Improvising music. Devising their own accompaniment.

Lodebar a place on the east side of the Jordan River whose exact location is not known today.

Drinking wine from bowls. Anointing themselves with the best oils. Not made ill by the collapse Joseph. These shall go first into exile.

Karnaim, originally the city of Og, king of Bashan, appears in Books of Genesis, Joshua, and 1 and 2 Chronicles.  The name denotes a place associated with the worship of the goddess Asherah. These ancient names of peoples and places no longer influence our world.

Only a few shall be left. The remnant will remain to bury the dead and to stare out over the rubble.

From Labo of Hamath to the Wadi of Arabah . . . from one end of our kingdom to the other . . . all that is known to us . . . our entire world . . . all this shall be gone.

Can horses run across a cliff? Can one plow the sea with oxen?

What do we do with these woes of Amos? As we continue our Lenten journey, we may want to sit with these images awhile and determine what it is we worship today, what places and people do we think will never fade, what acts do believe God does not see, and how do we ready ourselves to be remnant?


For more on Asherah and her various manifestations in ancient and modern cultures, click on the image above or go to: http://www.ascensionministries.net/theJezebelSpirit/theSpiritOfJezebel.php

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Friday, June 12, 2020

Francesco del Cairo: Judith with the Head of Holofernes

Francesco del Cairo: Judith with the Head of Holofernes

Judith 12:16Holofernes’ Banquet

As we continue our series of reflections on the nature of schemers and their plots, how to avoid them and how to rebuke those who lie on couches to conspire, we return to the story of Judith.

Holofernes is a man accustomed to using power and he also knows how to bide his time, lay traps, and bring others into his schemes.  What he has never encountered in his powerful life is a woman who is as beautiful, God-centered, and determined as Judith. And Holofernes’ lust is no match for Judith’s constant, prayerful attendance on God.  This story is worth reading from beginning to end but if there is time for only one verse, it is 12:16 for it teaches us how to deal with schemers, seducers and plot-builders.

“The story of Judith is full of unexpected turns.  The first and most obvious . . . was that a woman – and not a man – saved Judah in its time of severe distress.  Judith is more faithful and resourceful than any of the men of BethuliaShe is more eloquent than the king and more courageous than any of the leading citizens of the city, yet Judith is a very unlikely heroine”.  (Senior RG 213)

The story of Judith is full of the detail which we might overlook if we rush through the reading; and it is the kind of detail that a good writer uses to describe the depth of one’s personality, the reason for one’s perversion, the cause of one’s sociopathy.  It is the kind of writing which brings us up sharply when we experience the shuddering reality that human beings often spend more time trying to lure others into a personal agenda than they do honestly working at the task God assigned to them.  The image of this man “burning with desire . . . yet biding his time” is one that haunts me.  I cannot shake it.  And it returns in the written word on a day like most others  . . . packed with activity . . . with so little time for reflection about what is real and not real.

This story tells of how God delivers the faithful through a crushing crisis . . . and how God does this through a woman.  The Reader’s Guide of the CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE tells us that Judith destroys the enemy not through might but by “her beguiling charm and disarming beauty.  The Bible sometimes portrays a woman’s beauty negatively as a snare, but here it is the means of deliverance”.  (Senior RG 213)

And so we hear this story which has been retold so many times through history and in so many ways.  It is a story that teaches us how to combat the lavish allure of the banquets staged by those who plot against innocents and of a woman who answers God’s call with the only tools left to her.  It is a story rife with irony and inversion.  It is a story of how God moves in our lives if we but allow God to enter.

May we all take a lesson from Judith.


To see and study more paintings of  Judith and Holofernes, visit: https://www.dailyartmagazine.com/best-judith-head-holofernes-paintings/

To read more Noontimes reflections on Judith, enter her name in the blog search bar, seek . . . and find.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 213. Print.   

Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Judith_with_the_Head_of_Holofernes,_by_Francesco_del_Cairo,_c._1633-1637,_oil_on_canvas_-_John_and_Mable_Ringling_Museum_of_Art_-_Sarasota,_FL_-_DSC00631.jpg

A Favorite from October 3, 2007. 

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Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Normand: Esther Denouncing Haman

Ernest Normand: Esther Denouncing Haman

Esther 9 – Reversal

Yesterday we reflected on how God foils perfect plots . . . today we examine the turning point in the story of Esther and look for clues about how we might expect the same reversal of evil when we place ourselves fully in God’s hands.

As humans we too often see or experience the hunting down and destroying of either an innocent or someone we believe “deserves what she gets”.  Regardless of guilt or blamelessness, the brutal pack mentality of an attack on another human being is something to be avoided and we must work at turning others away from this ugly thinking.  We may have been a peripheral or integral part of a plot to bring someone down and if this is the case then we must go to that victim to ask forgiveness.  Association with those whose goal it is to establish an us against them mentality is dangerous for it sets us on a path that descends into darkness.  Escape from these associations can be difficult and is always permeated with its own special fear; yet it is imperative that we escape because – as we see repeatedly in scripture and in life – God will always, later or sooner, reverse the plots that schemers have conjured in dark corners on their well-worn couches.

When the day arrived on which the order decreed by the king was to be carried out . . . on which the enemies of the Jews had expected to become masters of them, the situation was reversed: the Jews became masters of their enemies.

King Ahasuerus allows a great violence to erupt against Haman and his family and this is not the sort of outcome that the New Testament faithful will want to see.  What Christ-followers will ask for is that light penetrate the darkness, that hard hearts be softened, and that stiff necks begin to bend.  And so we pray . . .

Just yet merciful God, you give us the opportunity to ask for our enemies’ conversion, grant us also the charity to intercede on their behalf.

Gentle and beautiful God, you make each one of us in your loving image, make also in each of us the patience to wait for reversal at your hand. 

Strong yet gentle God, you bless us with the capacity to forgive, bless us always with your constant guidance and care for without you we are too easily led into the darkness.

Wonderful and awesome God, you surprise us constantly with your merciful justice, help us to see that in each of our calamities we might anticipate your sweet reversal.

We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Spend some time with these characters and the scripture citations and study the characters in this story.  What more do we see in this story that we might apply to our own lives?

Tomorrow, what ditches are we digging?


A re-post from June 10, 2013. 

To learn more about the feast of Purim, visit: https://www.jhi.pl/en/blog/2019-03-18-purim-the-festival-of-lots

For another reflection on this story, go to the Esther – From Calamity to Rejoicing page on this blog at:  https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-historical-books/esther-from-calamity-to-rejoicing/

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Micah: The Promise of the Shepherd

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A shepherd at his sheep gate near Nazareth

A shepherd at his sheep gate near Nazareth

We have examined the construct of deception and how envy and hope show us divergent journeys through life. We have spent time with the prophet Micah who speaks to both fraudulent leaders and God’s vulnerable, faithful followers. With Micah, we have examined the true path to perfection and celebrated the promise of restoration offered us each day by the Creator.

“With burning eloquence [Micah] attacked the rich exploiters of the poor, fraudulent merchants, venal judges, corrupt priests and prophets”. (Senior 1140) The prophet’s testimony foreshadows Jesus’ words. Do we believe that God comes to live among us? And what does God’s presence look like? And how will we recognize this consoling presence?

Through Micah, God says: Woe to those who plan iniquity, and work our evil on their couches.” (2:1)

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says: Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:24)

Through Micah, God says: I will assemble all the remnant of Israel; I will group them like a flock in the fold, like a herd in the midst of the corral; they shall not be thrown I to a panic by men. With a leader to break the path they will burst open the gate and go out through it; their king shall go through before them, and the Lord at their head”. (2:12-13)

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says: Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good – a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it. (John 10:1-6)

Those who were listening to Jesus’ voice: had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good – sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for – will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. ( John 10:7-10)

The Creator speaks to us through the prophet Micah. The Creator visits us in the person of Jesus. The Creator lives in us as the healing presence of the Holy Spirit. Let us listen to the promise given us this day; let us share this gift of hope and redemption with others; and let us persist in listening for and following the voice of the genuine shepherd.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1140. Print.   

Enter the word promise into the blog search bar and explore.

sheepfold2-417206_623x200

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