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Jeremiah 31:31-34: Certainty

Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 18, 2018

This week as we near Palm Sunday, we spend time with each morning’s first reading for daily liturgy. Today we explore our hearts as we look at our commitment to our covenant with God.

We ask . . . Do I feel present to others in God’s love? How do I act on the promises I have made to God? How does God interact with me? How do I interact with others – both those who follow Christ and those who do not? Am I aware of The Law written within? And if not, what do I do to open myself to the Spirit?

Visit The Certainty of God’s Covenant reflection on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2018/01/18/jeremiah-3135-37-the-certainty-of-gods-covenant/

Image from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/401664860493772170/ 

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Job 40:1-5: Arguing with the Almighty – Part IV

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Laurent de La Hyre:
Job Restored to Prosperity

Looking forward to the end of Job’s story we have the choice of thinking that Job’s happy ending is the result of fantasy, or we may choose to believe that God abides and keeps promises.  This choice to believe or doubt is entirely up to us; and I choose to believe that the story is not a fairy tale.  I choose to believe that God abides.

THE MESSAGE translation of Job 40 begins with words from God, “I run the universe”. After we struggle with Job through his long story of loss and pain, we understand that although he – and we – long for specific answers to our specific questions, we must be content to rely on God’s goodness and love for us. We must be content to depend on God’s gift of hope and covenant. And we must be content to trust God’s steadfastness and mercy.

How do we do this? We have a model in Job whose fidelity through deep travail brings us a pearl of wisdom that we might employ to see our worries and anxieties through a lens of patience. Job’s persistence, as he journeys through the obstacle course of woe visited on him by Satan, gives us new eyes to refocus our own worldview.

When we spend time with Job 40, we have a fresh appreciation of his steadfastness; and we have a transformative moment to argue with the Almighty that opens us to the possibility of resurrection.

Today we use the scripture links and drop-down menus to help us argue with the Almighty. 

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Jeremiah 31:35-37: The Certainty of God’s Covenant

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Shepherd and Flock

A Favorite from January 3, 2008.

We have seen this chapter of Jeremiah before – the beautiful promise of the New Covenant – the gift of God’s eternal and all-saving love for us, God’s bride.  We have only to invoke God’s name to think of this covenant.

Today is the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus and the Meditation in MAGNIFICAT is apropos.  Here is a piece of the citation from Fr. Raneiro Cantalmessa, O.F.M.CAP., the preacher to the papal household.

The invocation of the name Jesus helps, above all, to crush at the onset thoughts of pride, self-gratification, anger or impure thoughts.  All we have to do is observe our own thoughts as if they weren’t ours and follow their development. . .  What really spoils our heart is our self-seeking and the search for our own glory.  Those who contemplate God turn away from themselves: they are obliged to forget themselves and lose sight of themselves.  Those who contemplate God do not contemplate themselves!

Of course, we can swing too far in this direction as well . . . refusing to think about what needs sorting out about ourselves.  We can choose to ignore the things we need to work on and we can use the contemplation of God as an excuse.  Balance.  Spiritual and personal maturity always has balance.

Jesus himself spent days in the desert balanced by days wading among the people as he cured and healed them both physically and spiritually.  We can follow his example.  We can set aside a time during our activity-packed day to – as Jeremiah urges – contemplate the evil and good we see around us . . . and to meditate on the goodness of our God whom we call Lord of Hosts.

Dearest, abiding Lord, 

You who are greater than the natural laws, the foundations of the earth and the people . . .

You who are more immense than skies which contain the sun, the moon and the stars . . .

You who stir the waves of the sea to roar, who protects forever his people . . .

You who promise to hold us forever, who forgives us when we turn to you . . .

You maintain the balance of your immense universe yet you remember each one of us each day.

Fortify us in the certainty of your promise . . .

Bless us with the light of your love . . .

Answer us when we invoke your holy name . . .

Bring us the fire of your spirit. Amen.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 3.1 (2008). Print.  

Click on the shepherd and flock image to find more about God’s covenant with the people.

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Order: The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments

The Tenth Day of Christmas, January 3, 2018

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gives to me ten lords a-leaping.

Many of us are familiar with The Ten Commandments that Yahweh gives to Moses, but how often do we pause to think of the fact the God, through Moses, not only gives us a simple set of rules to follow, but that he explains the effect these rules will have on our lives. God sees our authenticity by the way we live, and by the way we do or do not say, “Yes,” in response to God’s call. Today the old Christmas carol poses these questions to us: do we see the Gospel stories as a fulfillment of God’s hope in the covenant God establishes with us in the promise of the Ten Commandments?

This part of the Exodus story is bracketed by two convergent episodes: the provision of quail, manna and water by God to the Israelites, and the planning and building of a desert temple-tent for Yahweh by the Israelites. We see actions by both God and the Chosen People that speak of their desire to live in a covenant relationship. And the actual agreement, along with its explanations and implications, lies between these two actions in chapters 20 to 24.

The Holy Spirit

God takes the Israelites out of bondage – just as Jesus later does for all when he comes to live among us and to institute the Kingdom (in Luke 4:14-30). With the giving of the commandments, God foresees the struggle of the people in the desert. God’s preservation and protection of these people bring to God not only fame, glory and praise, but also an arrogant, contemptuous rejection by us. So too does Jesus arrive among God’s people to fulfill the Mosaic Law, to provide and protect us, and then to suffer at our hands; yet ultimately, God the Father and God the Son both offer their compassion and mercy to us when we are wayward. All that is required of us is that we repent of our past transgressions and then respond to the call. Just as God sent an angel to guard the Israelites and bring them to the place God had in mind for them (23: 20-33), so too does Jesus send the Holy Spirit to dwell with us after Jesus’ resurrection – to guide and protect, and to lead us to the holy place he has prepared for us. Of course, later in Chapter 32 of Exodus, the people tire of waiting for Moses to descend Mt. Sinai, so they create and worship the Golden Calf. Moses returns, breaks the tablets and loses his patience. The people repent, agree to do as Yahweh asks and Yahweh restores the tablets. A familiar story that we repeat today – we only need to read and compare history and current events. And it is no wonder that we stray – no wonder that the Israelites strayed. When we look at chapters 20 to 24 of Exodus, we see the social implications of the Mosaic Law. We might pay special attention to some of the verses that hold ideas difficult to take, verses that call for us to respect ourselves and one another: 22:15, 23:1, 22: 1-3, 22: 20, 21:35-36.

So on this day when we continue our celebration of God’s truest gift of love, we take a few moments to recollect our experiences in covenant relationships with others. We might mediate for a bit on how we might remain faithful to the one central covenant in our lives. And we might decide how best to renew that covenant each day with our Creator.

Adapted from a reflection on The Ten Commandments written February 14, 2007.

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Nehemiah 7: Families of Return

Thursday, October 19, 2017

M. Teichart: Return of Captive Israel

How can we assess the measure of joy as the peoples returned to a fortified city with the Temple that housed the presence of the Lord? Millennia later, we have no video or sound recordings, but we do have the listing of the clans who returned from exile jubilant and grateful. And we have their story recorded in Scripture.

God inspired me to assemble the people and their leaders and officials and to check their family records. I located the records of those who had first returned from captivity, and this is the information I found.

What do we find when we examine these verses? What do we find when we examine our own fidelity to God?

Many of the exiles left the province of Babylon and returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own hometown. Their families had been living in exile in Babylonia ever since King Nebuchadnezzar had taken them there as prisoners.

After making drastic changes in our lives in order to survive, are we willing to return to the living God who brings us out of dark deserts of our lives to sustain us daily?

This is the list of the priestly clans that returned from exile, clans of Temple workers who returned from exile, Clans of Solomon’s servants who returned from exile. many people who contributed to help pay the cost of restoring the Temple, 42,360 in all.

After great schism, are we eager to count ourselves among the families of return?

The priests, the Levites, the Temple guards, the musicians, many of the ordinary people, the Temple workers—all the people of Israel—settled in the towns and cities of Judah.

After great sorrow, are we open to the promise of the Covenant of Love that promises healing and transformation?

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Judges 17: Reward in Due Season

Friday, June 23, 2017

We have just experienced the longest liturgical season of the year, Eastertide.  What will we do with the promise we have been given?  How have we examined ourselves during our Lenten desert passage, what do we do now that we have arrived at the empty tomb? How do we enact the promise of the resurrection?  Do we await the risen Christ who sits with us, dines with us, prays with us and heals us?  Do we take what we believe to be ours by force?  Or worse still, once we see that our apportioned lot has not yet arrived, will we take something from someone else as our determined recompense for what we see as an unjustified lack?  Do we allow our sense of entitlement to cause us to end our Easter joy a bit too soon?  Do we miss the risen Christ because we are busy elsewhere, making certain that “we get what is ours?”

Reward arrives in due season, when at its height to be savored best by those who wait on the Lord.  Humility and a right attitude about who we are in relation to God and to his creatures will discipline the willing heart.  The covenant is renewed.  We already have our reward, although we may not yet see it.  And so we pray for the wisdom to wait, the patience to discern, and the love to abide in Christ Jesus who walks and lives among us.  Rather than rush to the table to take our tribal place higher than what might be ours, let us await the beckoning of the king to seat us at our proper place for he is among us, and he loves us well.   We do best to wait on God’s will, rather than determine our own.

Adapted from a reflection written on April 16, 2009.

To explore different dimensions of humility, click on the image above, or visit: https://www.bigquestionsonline.com/2014/11/04/what-are-different-dimensions-humility/

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Ezekiel 43: God’s Glory Returns

archway-roman-ruins-tyre-lebanon_12240_600x450

National Geographic: Ruins of Roman Archway in Tyre, Lebanon

Thursday, May 25, 2017

As a counterbalance to the description of the downfall of Tyre on which we have reflected before, today we have a description of the temple in the New Jerusalem. What we see described here is God living with all of the Israelites forever. The man leading the prophet through this beautiful scenario says: Describe the temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins. Let them consider the plan, and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple – its arrangements, its exits and entrances – its whole design and all its regulations and laws. Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations. This portion of Ezekiel’s prophecy is full of detailed descriptions of the place and the people who make up this new city where God dwells forever with his people. It was meant to both instruct and to bring comfort to those who lived in exile with this prophet. The footnotes in the NAB point out that in the new Israel the temple is free, even physically, from civil jurisdiction – moving away from the habit of corrupt kings like Ahaz and Manasseh who treated it as a private chapel for pagan rites.

Jerusalem _ Old City Walls _ Noam Chen_IMOT

Noam Chen: Old City of  Jerusalem

When Jesus arrived on the scene hundreds of years later as the true Messiah, he upset much of this separatist and purist thinking. It was for his openness and universality that he was hunted down, condemned and put to death.  Because his new Law of Love fulfilled and superseded the old Law of Moses, he and his apostles were hounded out of towns and executed. Even in the early Christian church we see the struggle with this idea of openness and universality with the first Council which convened in Jerusalem to determine the importance of circumcision as a requirement for church membership. After discussion, and when the dust settles, we read in Acts that circumcision was not determined necessary.  God’s church is open to Gentile and Jew, slave or free, woman or man – to all those who will be faithful to the Covenant first established with Adam and Eve.

This is how we see the New Temple and the New Jerusalem as revealed by Ezekiel millennia ago. This place of worship where God dwells is where we live even today . . . if we might only choose to open our eyes and ears to it. This prophet was painting a picture of radiance for his exiled peope, and they must have taken heart at the memories these words stirred of how it is to gather together as Yahweh’s faithful to repent, to petition, to give thanks, to worship.

As Easter people who believe in the Resurrected Jesus, we too, can relax into these images and make them our own. We can carry them into the world with us each day as we encounter and then counter the darkness that wishes to prevail. We can arm ourselves with these pictures of the universal gathering of all of God’s People . . . the Faithful to the Covenant . . . the Hopeful in all things hopeless . . . the Truthful in all relationships . . . the Struggling with the cares of this world . . . the Freed who have escaped the chains of doubt and anxiety. For we are Easter people who live the Resurrection even now. For God’s Glory has returned in us . . . in our willingness to serve . . . our willingness to be vulnerable . . . our willingness to witness . . . our willingness to be Christ and Light and Truth to a world struggling to be free of the darkness.

This is God’s Plan. This is God’s Design. This is God’s Law.

Amen.  Alleluia!

A Favorite from April 13, 2008.

For a Noontime reflection on Tyre, visit: https://thenoontimes.com/2012/09/18/tyre/ 

For more National Geographic images of Lebanon, click on the image above. 

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2 Chronicles 34Serving the Lord

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Leonaert Bramer: The Scribe Shaphan Reading the Book of the Law to King Josiah

Leonaert Bramer: The Scribe Shaphan Reading the Book of the Law to King Josiah

A Favorite from October 10, 2009.

Several years ago we looked at a portion of this chapter in which we see the story of a leader and a people who come back to Yahweh, back to a life of honesty and integrity.  Here is the brief reflection.

2 Chronicles 34:14 to the end – This is where the young king Josiah ushers in reforms after the corruption which causes the Jewish kingdom to be invaded.  They find the book of the law left with them by Moses and this young king realizes how derelict he and his people have been.  He tries to make reparations and is rewarded with a new covenant.

We might think about how we try to balance making reparations without enabling people to continue bad behavior.  It is such a tight-wire walk.

The tight-wire is the razor’s edge we call living a life in Christ.  Nepotism, a coveting of power, and a desire to live life as we see best rather than as God sees, always leads to downfall.  Downfall often leads to exile.  Return from exile is a gift sometimes granted by God; and we ought not miss the opportunity it brings us to reform, transform and restore.

Josiah cleanses the temple.  He and the people weep as they hear the law read out which ought to govern their lives; they acknowledge that they have strayed.  They work faithfully to restore the structures of the temple that housed the God who chose to live with them.  They put aside their desire for comfort, they turn away from a life in which they idolized themselves, and they renew their covenant agreement with God.

The tight-wire walk re-commences, and a people once lost in themselves returns to serve the Lord.

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1 Kings 8Dedication

Wednesday, May 18,2016

Jerusalem: Olivier Pichat

Jerusalem: Olivier Pichat

In this chapter of 1 Kings we see the beautiful temple built by Solomon dedicated to God.  We read Solomon’s prayer, said in the presence of the whole community of Israel.  And we see a king and a people commit themselves to living a life as their God would have them live it: in accordance with the terms of the covenant first struck with Abraham.  We might want to reflect today on how we dedicate ourselves to God, and to the terms of the covenant into which we ourselves have entered.

As he begins his prayer, Solomon intones, Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below; you keep your covenant of kindness with your servants who are faithful to you with your whole heart.  Later he prays, May your eyes watch day and night over this temple, the place where you have decreed you shall be honored; may you heed the prayer which I, your servant, offer in this place.  Listen to the petitions of your servant and of your people Israel which they offer in this place.  Listen from your heavenly dwelling and grant pardon.

The beautiful part of this story arrives with the New Testament when God’s people become the temple through Christ, the priest and intercessor, and when we fully realize the magnitude and depth of God’s compassion and mercy, his willingness – even eagerness – to forgive our waywardness.

From the MAGNIFICAT Morning Prayer: In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.   If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? (John 14:2And from the mini-reflection: In the house of Jesus’ Father, the temple, there were many courts and rooms provided for the use of different groups of people in their desire to enter God’s presence and worship him in the place where he dwelt.  According to John’s Gospel, which we read during Easter, Jesus is the new and eternal Temple where God dwells among us.  In his heart, opened to all peoples on the cross, there is a place for everyone who seeks God.

Have we fully dedicated our lives to the service of God?  Have we established the rituals and the offerings?  Do we intone our own prayer morning, noon and night?  If we say we are dedicated and committed, to what, to whom, why, how, when and where?  If we cannot answer these questions quickly and with certainty, we may want to look again at the care with which Solomon and his people build and dedicate a place to a God who is goodness itself, a God who loves and saves.  If we answer these questions quickly and surely, let us take this moment in this present Easter season to re-dedicate ourselves to this gracious and marvelous God.

From the Magnificat Morning Intercessions:

You are in our midst; your name we bear: make us a fit dwelling place for your love.

You have made us temples of your Spirit: cleanse our hearts and make of them a house of prayer.

You have chosen us as your resting place for ever: grant us peace in your presence.

Amen.

A favorite from April 30, 2010.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 30.4 (2010). Print.  

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