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Posts Tagged ‘darkness versus light’


Psalms 35 – 37Seek Justice

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Favorite from November 12, 2009.

Yesterday we reflected on the value of seeking wisdom in times of trial.  Today we focus on seeking justice in times of injustice and these three psalms serve as a kind of trilogy of prayer.  I am struck by the titles of these songs in English first and then in Spanish.

35 – An Appeal for Help against Injustice, I am Your Salvation

36 – Human Weakness and Divine Goodness, By Your Light we see Light

37 – Fate of the Wicked and reward of the Righteous, The Humble Shall Inherit the Earth

We are lead from naming injustice, through seeking God in order that we see what is good about our situation, to arrive at the result of God’s way of being.  In God’s world, the wicked suffer consequences for their descent into darkness and secrecy while the faithful are rewarded for their perseverance and patience.  When we feel pummeled by life we might want to turn to these three prayers and give them our full focus.

Rescue me from these ravening beasts; preserve my precious life from these lions.

If we can identify the wicked ways of others then we know when and where to step cautiously.

Do not allow my treacherous enemies to gloat over me; do not permit those who hate me without reason to wink their eyes at me.

Humans fear that the darkness will encompass them; yet we have been promised the light.

Sin speaks to the wicked one in the heart; . . . there is no fear of God.  He deludes himself with the idea that his guilt will not be discovered and hated.

In the end, nothing remains hidden.  Those who engage in darkness forget that the light will reveal all.

Oh Lord, your kindness extends to the heavens; your faithfulness to the skies . . . With you is the fountain of life, and by your light we see light.

We must appeal to God to show us how to find strength through our kindness.

Do not fume because of evildoers or envy those who do wrong.  They will wither quickly like the grass and fade away like the green herb.  Put your trust in the Lord and do good . . .

Sinking to the level of the wicked only makes the darkness more intense and brings it closer.

In a short while, the wicked will be no more; no matter how diligently you search, you will not be able to find him. 

We must not allow our anxieties and preoccupations to close in on us.  Seek God in order to find stillness and quiet.

But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy an abundance of peace. 

We must be meek as Jesus is meek, humble as The Lamb is humble.

Two words struck me from today’s closing prayer at Mass which I will carry with me for awhile: Courage and Peace.  If we have these two, we have all.  This Psalm Trilogy today is a roadmap for our exodus out of fear and our arrival at promised serenity.  We must have Courage in our God, for this is where we find a small pocket or a tiny island of tranquility . . . even amidst the trials and darkness that we suffer because of the wicked.    When we find ourselves in pain at the hand of evil, we must take courage and seek justice . . . in order to arrive at peace.

 

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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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Leviticus & Matthew: Do Notclay-oil-lamp-burning_1154631_inl

Monday, March 13, 2017

Do not abandon, do not cut, do not steal, or cheat or lie, do not hold back, do not bear, do not take, or curse or go. Do not, do not, do not. In the Old Testament, we hear litanies of what we ought not do. There are positive commandments woven throughout Leviticus – Love your neighbors as you love yourself. I am the Lord, (see Leviticus 19:1-18) – but the majority of God’s commandments are negative warnings. The Old Testament God gives us a dark image of our relationship with God. Jesus brings a light to this darkness as the incarnation of God’s Word.

Matthew records Jesus’ words: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and the most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ The whole Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

We continue our Lenten journey and know that as Jesus grew in the Jewish tradition, he moves away from the negative and toward the positive. We might follow this example today as we reflect on our social, religious and political leaders who present their images of the world to us.

Do they – and do we – focus on the darkness? Or do they – and do we – focus on the light? And what does Jesus call us to do in response?

When we use the scripture links today to compare varying translations of these verses, we begin to find answers to these questions.

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Matthew 5:13-16: Salt and Light – A Reprise

pope-francis

Pope Francis

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Jesus tells us that we must be salt for the earth, adding flavor, bringing joy; and we are to share this salt of our faith with others.

Jesus tells us that we must be light for the world, slicing through the darkness, bringing hope; and we are to shine this light on the margins and into the corners.

To hear Pope Francis’ words on how we might be both salt and light, visit Vatican Radio at: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/06/07/pope_on_how_to_be_salt_of_the_earth_and_light_of_the_world/1235417

 

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Isaiah 58:7-10: A Prayer for Dissenters

Sunday, February 12, 2017dissent

Isaiah’s words might be spoken to one who teaches the very young.

Share your food . . .

Isaiah’s words might be heard in a meeting of those who sponsor refugees.

Open your home . . .

Isaiah’s words might be spoken in a classroom where tomorrow’s adults are formed.

Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear . . .

17320284-abstract-word-cloud-for-understanding-with-related-tags-and-terms-stock-photoIsaiah’s words might be heard in a workshop offered on how to embody scripture.

Do not refuse to help your own relatives . . .

Isaiah’s words might be brought to life by anyone who hopes to incarnate The Word, to follow The Word, to live, breathe and be The Word among us.

Put an end to oppression, to every gesture of contempt . . . 

Isaiah’s words might be spoken on a picket line.

Put an end to every evil word . . .

Isaiah’s words are a rubric to measure our actions, a template to codify life, a handbook for those who yearn to walk in the land of the living.

If you satisfy those who are in need, then the darkness around you will turn to the brightness of noon.

And so we pray with Isaiah.

history-lessonsGood, and holy and generous God, guide us as we struggle with our fears of darkness and evil. Direct us as we look for the best way to become your Word. Remain with us as we gather in dissent against the tactics of bullies who hope to divide us. Walk with us as we navigate the thin line between resistance and violence. Abide with us in our struggle for clarity, compassion and peace. For we wish to do your will. We wish to be light to the world. We wish to bring hope to the marginalized. We wish to be the eyes and ears, the voice and heart, the hands and feet of Christ for you. We ask this in Jesus’ name, together with the Holy Spirit. Amen.

When we compare varying versions of these words, we find patience, clarity, and the beginnings of peace for a troubled heart.

For ten lessons history teaches us about leadership with exemplars like Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln, click on the image of the clasped hands, or visit: http://www.andysowards.com/blog/2016/10-lessons-history-teaches-us-about-leadership/

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Ezra 6:18-22Marvels – Part I

2ndtemple

Depiction of the Second Temple

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Favorite from October 27, 2009.

It must have seemed unreal to the Israelites – after praying for years – to not only return to Jerusalem but also to receive safe passage and assistance from the dynasty which had first overtaken them and then carried them into exile.  The people who had been in darkness were finally seeing a light; the tears they had sown in mourning were about to be harvested in joy.  The dream expressed in Psalm 126 – the response in today’s liturgy – was finally arriving in full force: The Lord has done marvels for us . . . Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the torrents in the southern desert.  Those that sow in tears shall reap rejoicing . . . The Lord has done marvels for us . . . Although they go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown, they shall come back rejoicing, carrying their sheaves . . . The Lord has done marvels for us.

I recently saw a documentary about the men of Wall Street who in the 1920’s first initiated revenue pools with which they manipulated the markets to make exorbitant profits at the expense of small investors.  These wild and risky patterns once unleashed and initially controlled became – as these things always do – beyond all human control.  Ruin and devastation were the result.  What struck me about the information presented was the outcome for two men: one – the original founder of GM – was one who of those really thought that they were in control of the markets.  When he came into NY from his home, the police made certain that all the traffic lights stayed green so that his car would not have to pause on his way to the Exchange.  Everyone was poised to do his bidding and it was perhaps this fawning and deference that deceived him rather than his own pride.  This man ended in complete ruin, still trying to begin a number of small businesses, hoping to “get his game back”.  This man had not seen that his initial success was not his own.  He did not understand that The Lord has done marvels for us. 

A second man was featured who was able to avoid the bursting of the bubble by not only conserving his crookedly gotten treasure but by becoming even wealthier as the world around him collapsed.  But this did not assure his comfort or safety.  Rules were put into place to prevent the gaming of the market and this man became so despondent at the lack of risk and danger in his daily routine that although he died with a mass of money stored up . . . he died at his own hands in a bathroom.  He did not realize that The Lord has done marvels for us.

Tomorrow, the crowd rejoices.

For more about Ezra and the second Temple, click on the image above or visit: http://www.foundationsforfreedom.net/References/OT/Historical/Ezra/Ezra00Intro.html

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Isaiah 10Social Injustice

 Thursday, June 2, 2016renewal

Isaiah 10 is book-ended by words that we hear so often during the Advent season: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom.  These words remind us that someone is coming great enough to take all of us in . . . and indeed, this one is already among us.  Today’s Noontime reminds us of what pulls us away from God and it draws clear imagery with Assyria and Sennacherib as vehicles not only of pain and loss, but ultimate transformation . . . if we but follow the Light, the Christ.  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom. 

Isaiah tells us clearly that when we trust the Lord we need not tremble before overwhelming odds.  If we move out of the darkness to stand in the light and obey the voice within, we have nothing to fear.  Do not fear the Assyrian, though he strikes you with a rod, and raises his staff against you. 

Isaiah reminds us that though we are small, we are also mighty . . . when we place our fear where it is best handled, in God’s capable hands.  The tall of stature are felled, and the lofty ones brought low; the forest thickets are felled with the axe. 

Isaiah repeats a theme often heard with the prophets: those who can remain faithful through the holocaust will be standing when all others have blown away like chaff in the wind.  The remnant of Israel, the survivors of the house of Jacob, will no more lean upon him who struck them; but they will lean upon the Lord . . . a remnant will return . . . only a remnant will return.

Allowing injustice to happen without speaking or witnessing is the broad path taken by many; but it is not the marrow path taken by the remnant.  As Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:3 and Luke 13:24, most of us will succumb to a system that allows injustice for many the sake of the comfort of a few.  This remnant that remains in God will have to bend before the force of the storm, but all of this bending will be worthwhile.  This is the message that Isaiah brings to us: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light . . . But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from this root a bud shall blossom.

A Favorite from June 10, 2009.

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Ezekiel 13False Prophets

Tuesday, May 31, 2016wolf_in_sheeps_clothing

Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

Yesterday we reflected on evil leaders.  Today we spend time praying and thinking about false prophets.  Who are they in our lives?  How have we been false prophets ourselves?

Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

Yesterday we reflected on how evil leaders operate, how they appear to working for good and may even use the vocabulary we come to expect from those who walk in the light.  Today we meditate on how we might be lured into following the broad road rather than the narrow path.

Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

Yesterday we reflected on those who surround evil leaders to enable them in their dark work.  Today we think and pray about those whose gestures and actions appear to have divine inspiration but do not.

Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

We notice that God does not remain silent when evil operates.  We see that God speaks to darkness.  We understand that even the dark ones are offered the opportunity to allow their pain to transform them.

Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

When we are doubtful about false and true leaders and prophets, we might remember that our courage, strength and perseverance lie in and with God.  When we read scripture, when we join in liturgy, when we try to do as Jesus does, when we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit . . . this is how we will know what to think, what to say, and how to act.  And so we pray.

When silence is more attractive than fidelity to the truth: Our God, remember us.

When approval is more desirable than perseverance in good: Our strength, abide with us.

When safety is more appealing than suffering for righteousness’ sake: Our Lord, transform and heal us. 

When we celebrate and commemorate the gift of the Holy Spirit, we remember that it is impossible for us to discern  false and true leaders and prophets on our own.  We can only maneuver life’s treacherous waters when we rely on the Spirit who will tell us where to go and what to say.  If we want to live with less fear, if we want to transform the lives of our enemies and even our own lives, we might remember: Say to those who prophesy their own thought: hear the word of the Lord . . . I am coming to you, says the Lord God. 

This is a promise worth remembering.

Adapted from a favorite written on May 31, 2009.

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Mark 1:14-34: The Beginning

Abbot Handerson Thayer: Mary, Jesus and John the Baptist

Abbot Handerson Thayer: Mary, Jesus and John the Baptist

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

We have spent a number of days reflecting on the Gospel of Mark and today we remember the struggle of darkness and light that Jesus endures as he brings freedom, light and the good news to the faithful.  Today we see how Jesus began.

We are accustomed to associating the words in the beginning with the opening words of Genesis of the soaring Gospel of John; today we see it and hear it in connection with the shortest and possibly the most powerful of the Gospels.  Mark recounts that Jesus began his ministry when John the Baptizer was executed, when he saw that God’s plan was ready for the Good News, when he knew that fulfillment of God’s promise was at hand . . . through him.

In Luke’s Gospel we are told of how the people attending a service where Jesus proclaims God’s promise fulfilled in himself rose up, drove him out of town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.  But he passed away through the midst of them and went away.  Luke 4:29-30

Many of us may have decided that the world is too crazy and too volatile to try to bring the message of hope to cranky and churlish people; yet these Gospels both record that after Jesus escaped this ugly mob, he went out among the people and immediately cured a “demoniac” in Capernaum.  He then healed Simon’s mother and finally . . . at sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases brought them to him.  (Luke 4:40)  When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons.  The whole town was gathered at his door.  He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove our many demons, not permitting them to speak because he knew them.  (Mark 1:32-34)

We today are grateful that Jesus does not give up in the beginning when he was rejected by the rabble.

And so we pray . . .

We today are grateful that God never turns away from us when we have gone astray. 

We today are grateful that the Spirit always resides in us to bring comfort as we confront our hectic days.

We today are grateful that Jesus is constantly beside us to rescue us from the coming whirlwind. 

We today are grateful that from the beginning there is a plan, and that this plan is good and solid . . . even though we cannot fully comprehend its height, and breadth and depth. 

We today are grateful that from the beginning there is a plan, and that this plan is authentic and beautiful . . . even though we cannot fully comprehend its present, past or future.

We today are grateful that from the beginning there is a plan, and that this plan is, and was and always will be . . . one which turns all harm to good, all darkness to light, all anger to peace, all deception to fidelity, all fear to trust, and all hatred to love . . . if we only allow it. 

Amen.

A favorite from September 11, 2010.

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