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Posts Tagged ‘deceit’


Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 22, 2020

Jeremiah 14:20-27: Jerusalem’s Disgrace

The remains of the southern wall of Jerusalem's Temple

The remains of the southern wall of Jerusalem’s Temple

Jerusalem, a city of promise, the holy city of God.  She has so much potential.  And she has so far to fall.  Today Jeremiah reminds us that deceit and envy will always snuggle into comfort and ease.  When we find ourselves with no problems to solve, my parents often said, we know that we do not have long to wait . . . trouble has a way of finding good fortune.

Some of the imagery in today’s reading is difficult to read and even more difficult to envision.  The image of Israel’s skirts being torn away when she is violated is such a strong one.  The idea that a flock has been entrusted to a shepherd who then abuses that trust is so insidious yet these actions play out more often than we like to think.  The realization that nothing we do is done in private is stark in these verses.  We cannot run.  We cannot hide.  As Mother and Dad always said: The truth always comes out in the end.

Yet we continue to delude ourselves and just when we are offered so much promise.  Easter with all its possibilities, draws near.  We have spent nearly forty days examining and prodding ourselves into admitting what we must change and yet we ramble forward, hoping that no one will notice that we haven’t.  How do we moderate our poor behavior?

By gently but firmly rebuking that which is secretive, that which dissembles, hides, colludes, becomes submissive because we fear someone’s anger, rejection, ridicule or abandonment.  In my extended family we have tried to live by doing not what others expect of us but rather by doing what God expects.  It is not always easy.  We need not fight, nor do we need go along with the crowd but what we must do, to the best of our abilities, is “the right thing”.

We pause over the last lines:

Your adulteries, your neighing, your shameless prostitutions: 

On the hills in the highlands I see these horrible crimes of yours.

Woe to you, Jerusalem, how long will it yet be before you come clean!

Jerusalem has so much potential and in Jeremiah today we hear a prediction of woe to come.  We only need read ancient history to know that the destruction predicted will indeed arrive.   If only Jerusalem might repair and reform.  If only Jerusalem might stand and declare what she knows to be right and good and true.

When things got a bit turbulent my Dad would always say: “Sometimes it is stand up time!”  He would elaborate: “The right thing sometimes is the lonely thing.  You might find that you are the only person in an ocean of people who has the courage to stand and be counted.  If you talk with your Creator and have heard his advice . . . and if the advice is to ‘stand up and be counted’, then you best not be found sitting down”.

Sometimes it is stand-up time.  Oh Jerusalem!  If only you might stand!


Image from: http://www.jabberwocky.com/photo/israel/jerusalem.html

First written on December 10, 2007.  Edited and posted today as a Favorite.

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Sirach 11:29-34: Guests and Strangers – Care in Choosing Friends

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Biblia de América which I have been using as a resource lately, names this citation differently from our NAB as we can see from the title above.  In addition, it has references to Proverbs 1:10-16, 5:10 and 6:1 for this citation which, if you have time to look at them, will add some depth to today’s reading.  The footnotes in this same Biblia remind us that sowers of discord are to be avoided at all cost, as their deceits create structures of illusion – they are the people of the darkness, people of deception and lies . . . with a spark he sets many coals afire.

I am thinking of a counterpoint to this image.  I am remembering the description of the souls of the just from this past Sunday’s first reading.  These souls are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.  They seemed in the view of the foolish to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction.  But they are in peace.  For if before men they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself.  As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.  In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble; they shall judge the nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord shall be their king forever.  Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect.  (Wisdom 3:1-9)  [My bold font.]

This is not a call to exclusivity; rather, it is a call to universality.  It is a universal invitation to openness, to mercy, to fidelity, to love.  We are each invited to lead lives worthy of the creator – honest and compassionate lives, faithful and constant lives, forgiving and loving lives.  Ardent lives which burn with the fire of Christ’s love.

It is also a call which carries with it a degree of heat – the fire of the gold smith’s forge – but we ought not fear this furnace.  It is the crucible of life with which God prunes and disciplines us . . . for when we are tried and tested, so then are we proved.  And when we are proved we are graced.  When we are graced we are holy.

There is a clear choice before us:  we may become like the sparks which set many tongues wagging and many hearts gossiping.  Or we may be the spark which sets souls ablaze with the fire and love of Christ.

We must take care in choosing our associates and friends for they are either strangers, sowers of discord who are to be avoided; or they are guests who are soul mates to be welcomed into our hearts.

St. Paul tells us (Romans 12:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:1, Galatians 6:4, 2 Corinthians 13:5) that we are to test the spirit for this is how we will find if travelers are either the tinder of deceit . . . or the kindling of the Pentecost.


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

Written on November 6, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Proverbs 7: Infidelity

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

In the past, we spent time reflecting on the first nine chapters of Proverbs.  Today we focus on Chapter 7 – a warning against listening to false wisdom – a warning against adultery.

I now understand that infidelity is not a single turning away.  Much like the codependent relationship of an addict and his or her enabler, the one who strays must have his or her passive aggressor, someone who – with silence and deception – encourages the leaving.  Although there are many roads to infidelity, the result is always the same – as quickly as it is born, it leaves shattered lives in its wake.

When we think of infidelity, we most often think of a fractured marriage, and that is the image evoked in today’s citation – “Come let us drink our fill of love, until morning, let us feast on love!  For my husband is not at home, he has gone on a long journey; a bag of money he took with him, not till the full moon will he return home.”  But infidelity may happen in any intimate relationship – between friends, between family members, between coworkers, between our God and our selves.  We are all susceptible to the siren call of control, self-importance, manipulation of discourse, narcissistic self-fulfillment, love of discord.  And some of us feel the ancient pull to submit, go along, deny, and maintain quiet at all costs.  This however, is not a peaceful life.  On the contrary, it is a life filled with risk, thrill-seeking, and even voyeurism.  “What if” takes the place of “This I believe”.  “If only” leaps forward to stand before “This is how it is”.  Insincerity and self-deception always precede infidelity.  Integrity and authenticity never accompany betrayal.

For many are those she has struck down dead, numerous, those she has slain.  Her house is made up of ways to the nether world, leading down into the chambers of death.

All of us – although striving to be open and loyal communicators ourselves – have an intimate knowledge of infidelity that at times has left us stunned and uncomprehending.  That is because there is nothing comprehensible about infidelity.  That is because infidelity is about indifference.  And indifference is the opponent of love.

Love acts.  Love questions.  Love perseveres.  Love does not take pleasure in anyone’s woe.  Love actively abides.  We know Paul’s description of Love from 1 Corinthians 13.  It is patient, it is kind.  Love waits upon Wisdom – the perfect – and only – antidote to betrayal.  Wisdom converts to eventual joy the stunned silence and the blurred vision of the one who suffers at the hands of the betrayer.  Wisdom and her attendant companion Understanding bring a healing balm to counteract the sting which will otherwise embitter the betrayed.

[So] my son, keep my words, and treasure my commands.  Keep my commands and live, my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart.  Say to Wisdom, “You are my sister!”  Call Understanding, “Friend!”

This is the mystery of God’s love for us.  Not that he created us in his image.  Not that he loves us; but that, despite our constant turning away from and turning to him, he remains a faithful, ardent lover – always calling, always wooing.  Calling to life.  Calling to true and lasting joy.


First written on August 30, 2008, re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://blog.beliefnet.com/beyondblue/2009/02/12-ways-to-mend-a-broken-heart.html

To read “12 Ways to Mend a Broken Heart,” click on the image above or go to: http://blog.beliefnet.com/beyondblue/2009/02/12-ways-to-mend-a-broken-heart.html

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Daniel 2:9: A False and Deceitful Interpretation

Third Sunday of Lent, March 24, 2019

When I am troubled about a relationship, when there seems to be a cloud of confusion about a particular topic, I go to scripture . . . and I always receive an answer.  Today has brought me clarity to another thorny problem, and I thank God for his quick and clear answer to my question.

Yesterday we spent some time with the second chapter of Daniel in which we discussed how our little gods insist on being carried and served while the Living God carries and serves us.  We reminded ourselves of how faithfully God turns all harm into goodness.  And we wondered if we might – like Daniel – have the courage to take a public stand on thorny issues.  We concluded our thoughts knowing that humility and fidelity will always bring us to mercy and truth.  Today we look at one verse from Daniel’s story: You have framed a false and deceitful interpretation to present me with till the crisis is past.

Too frequently we humans are tempted to throw blame for error on others.  We are too quick to fog the truth.  We are too willing to stand silent while others are persecuted; too happy to shy away from responsibility; to eager to avoid conflict.  This may be a good time to pause in our Lenten journey to evaluate ourselves and our relationship with others in order to assess how well – or how poorly – we speak for truth; and often – or how seldom – we stand for clarity and authenticity.  An examination of our relationship with God and others must be candid and deep . . . and so we ask ourselves this basic question: When or how have we framed a false and deceitful interpretation of a conversation in order to avoid accepting responsibility? 

Further questions flow from an honest evaluation.

  • What have been the consequences of stalling for time while others suffer?
  • Why have we participated in plots of lies and deception?
  • How have we contributed to crises and neglected to act in peace?
  • Who have been our companions in life’s journey: those who act in fear or those act in love?

We learn about ourselves when we take this sort of journey; and we come to know why we sleep in peace or are rattled by doubt.  When we respond honestly to this kind of inquiry we begin to reach into our best selves, and we draw nearer to God.

If our answers to these difficult questions are positive and good then we can take heart and continue to move forward.  If our answers embarrass or shame us, if we are unhappy with the way in which we rely on ourselves more than we trust God, we might take this opportunity to turn away from the little gods that insist on sapping our energy and diluting our will.  We can give all that we are and all that we do to The Living God who loves us so well and so much.

It may be a new experience for us to go to someone we have wronged to ask forgiveness, but this is how we show repentance.

It may be complicated to sort out the truth from the lies in our relationships, but is the first step toward honesty and authenticity.

It may be a difficult journey inward as we strip away pretense to arrive at our true selves, but it essential if we wish to truly know peace.

You have framed a false and deceitful interpretation to present me with till the crisis is past.

Let us pray that if or when these words are spoken about us we will have the spiritual energy to resist the lure of a life lived without blame, that we will turn away from a life lived in shadow, and that we will continue to turn to The Living God when we find ourselves among the thorns.


A re-post from March 24, 2012.

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1 John 4The Spirit of Truth

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Casting out fear, recognizing the anti-Christ, remembering that we are God’s little children, loving because we are first loved by God.  John, Peter and Paul all try to convey to the faithful the importance of remembering Jesus’ message that we follow those who live in the Spirit rather than against it.  They warn Christ’s flock about the cleverness of the darkness; they tell us that our journey through a life of narrow gates will be a refining experience that will sharpen our perception so that we better discern real truth from falsehood and deception.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of  life that God has promised to those who love him.   (James 1:12

Peter, the foundation on which Christ builds his Church on earth, describes the subtle way that darkness will intrude on our thinking, and he reminds us of the surety of the consequences for succumbing to that darkness.

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves.  Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.  In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. (2 Peter 2:1-3)

Paul tells the Thessalonians – and us – that we must stay away from even the fringes of evil; its power to deceive it is far too potent for us to combat.  Iniquity often disguises itself as goodness and we may be taken in and taken over before we even recognize that something ugly  has dressed itself up as a radiant goodness.  Paul tells us to . . .

Test everything. Hold on to the good.  Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace,sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.(1 Thessalonians 5:21-24)

Today we spend time with the Beloved Apostle as he too warns us that our faith is a powerful guardian against malevolence.  In his beautiful letters that describe the ineffable experience he has as Christ’s companion, John calls us to a faith in God that will overcome the dark enemy . . . for whatever is born of God conquers the world.  John writes these things to us who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that we may that we have eternal life.  And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the request made of him. 

This is the spirit of truth we are asked to seek and identify.

This is the Spirit of truth we are called to follow.

This is the Spirit of Truth we are invited to live.

May we answer this call, this invitation, this voice of God.  And may we follow this voice willingly for it brings us to our only sanctuary against the false teachers who roam the world dressed up in glorious garments that have the appearance of goodness and light . . . but which are in reality woven of the glittering deceit of dishonesty and fraud.


A re-post from November 17, 2011.

Image from: http://extraordinarylivingbydrscotty.blogspot.com/2011/09/running-from-hell.html 

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Genesis 27Deception

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Govert Flink: Isaac Blesses Jacob

No matter how many times I read this story I continue to be curious about Rebekah, the woman who changes the course of history when she urges Jacob to deceive his aging father in order to steal his brother’s birthright.  In her elegant yet simple scheme she takes on all culpability and allows both Jacob and Isaac to stand by passively as the story unfolds.  This dichotomy of action versus inaction is reflected in the values these family members choose; and it calls us to examine our way of relating to others in this world.

From the HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY (99): “Jacob’s disguise involves his wearing his brother Esau’s clothing; as will be seen, deception involving clothing is an important motif in the narrative about Jacob’s beloved son Joseph (37:31-33)”.  A son deceives his father . . . this son is in turn deceived by his own sons.  We can only wonder if years later Jacob sees this echo of himself in any way when he realizes what has happened to his beloved son, Joseph.   In all of this deception, the result is the same: separation from those we love and pain we had not intended.  The joy and hope we looked for cannot flourish in a life of shadows and secrets.  The irony is not lost on us that by participating in fraud, we may gain our immediate objective . . . but we will also experience a lifetime of rippling, unforeseen consequences that we may not want or like.

Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini: Rebekah at the Well

We humans struggle to climb to the top of the heap, to arrive first, to be the most liked, the best fed, shod and clothed.  Many of us use any means to justify this end while others of us reject deception of any kind to hug closely the values of integrity and honesty.  This uncomplicated choice of deceit versus honesty is presented to us in Psalm 101: Norm of Life for Rulers.  We may want to pray it today as we consider who we choose as our companions in life . . . and who we are as companions to others.

I follow the way of integrity . . . I do not allow into my presence anyone who speaks perversely . . . I shun the devious of heart; the wicked I do not tolerate . . . Those who follow the way of integrity, they alone can enter my service.  No one who practices deceit can hold a post in my court . . . I look to the faithful of the land; they alone can be my companions. 

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 99. Print.


To visit a site with art through the ages about this story, go to: http://www.bible-art.info/Rebecca.htm

Images from: https://www.artbible.info/art/large/83.html and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebecca

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 19, 2011.

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Wisdom 1:1-7: Seek Sincerity

Monday, November 20, 2017

We seek wisdom, justice, prudence and restoration of all that has been lost. Old Testament wisdom writers remind the rulers of this world that the solution to chaos lies in the wisdom that lasts forever. And we see wisdom more clearly when we conduct our lives with honesty.

Love justice, you rulers of the world. Set your minds sincerely on the Lord, and look for God with all honesty.

The writers further warn that it is quite easy to slip away from the way God calls us to walk.

Dishonest thoughts separate people from God, and if we are foolish enough to test God, God’s power will put us to shame.

How do we employ this ancient wisdom? What do we do today when we find ourselves engulfed in turmoil? How do we filter the false from the real?

Wisdom is a spirit that is friendly to people, but she will not forgive anyone who speaks against God, for God knows our feelings and thoughts, and hears our every word.

How much do we avoid believing that we can hide our dishonesty from our Creator? What do we do to follow the way of honesty and the wisdom God’s way?

Since the Lord’s spirit fills the entire world, and holds everything in it together, Wisdom knows every word that people say.

These ancient words repeat to us the importance of stripping all deceit from our lives, and the significance of cleaving always to God’s call for integrity and sincerity.

When we use the scripture link and the drop-down menus to compare other translations of these verses, we fog of confusion rises to reveal God’s way of integrity.

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1 Timothy 5:20: Scolding

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The fine line we walk to avoid scandal while revealing it with love is difficult to navegate. Do we ignore the hypocrisy we see each day? Do we hide from those who practice deceit and hope to keep ourselves safe? Do we bend to corruption hoping that we will escape unscathed?

Rebuke publicly all those who commit sins, so that the rest may be afraid. (GNT)

Actions that avoid confrontation may help us to avoid immediate conflict, but what do they set up for us later? Are these strategies effective over the long run? Are these tactics useful when we all attempt to come together for the common good?

As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest also may stand in fear. (NRSV)

Jesus tells us that if some home or town will not welcome you or listen to you, then leave that place and shake the dust off your feet. (Matthew 10)

The psalmist reminds us (Psalm 101) that we must refuse to take a second look at corrupting people and degrading things.

If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it. (MSG)

It seems better – or easier – to avoid conflict, to placate the powerful, and bow to the bully; yet, in our hearts we know that ultimately, only the fidelity of truth will conquer lies. Only the hope of goodness can combat evil. And only the light of authentic honesty can erase corruption. Today we have an opportunity to explore how we act, and how we react to an imperfect world.

To learn more about how to respond to a scolding, click on the image above, or visit: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stuck/201202/how-survive-being-scolded 

 

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Proverbs 21: Motivation

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Good leadership is a channel of water controlled by God;
     God directs it to whatever ends God chooses.

We justify our actions by appearances;
    God examines our motives.

Over the last few weeks, we have examined twenty chapters of sound advice and we have discovered much to ponder and much to celebrate. Today we remind ourselves that even when we try to deceive ourselves with appearances or quick fixes, the God who created us knows our most secret desires and motivations. We do well today to explore God’s wisdom and love in these verses.

Clean living with God and justice between neighbors are traits of wise living while arrogance and pride describe the wicked. Besides being practical, careful planning brings us more exposure to wisdom than does a hurry-scurry life. Lying and cheating lead only to smoke and death. Doing our best and preparing for the worst, learning by listening rather than talking, tending to the poor, celebrating justice, and trusting God are all signs of a wise one. An addiction to thrills brings us to a congregation of ghosts, and the evil we plot will only boomerang on us, the plotters.

Watch your words and hold your tongues.

We can easily agree with this practical advice but the proposition posed today is this: what motivates us to life authentically and to avoid deceit?

The writers of Proverbs understand that we cannot fake fidelity. We cannot pretend that we have hope. And we are incapable of loving our enemies if this love does not come from the heart.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus, we have an opportunity to explore our motivation for practical living.

For a post on God’s valentine to us, click on the image above. 

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