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Monday, May 25, 2020

tr-trinity-symbol1[1]Ecclesiastes 9:11-12

Calamities – Part III

We do not like to think of the calamities that happen to us, or of the ones yet to come; yet we realize that the human condition is precisely this: the learning to survive in a healthy way when disaster strikes – as it always will.

This week we have reflected on how we handle calamity when we live in discipleship.  Today we reflect on calamity as seen from the center of the loving Trinity that embraces us.

The evil time is not known . . . but the time of goodness is – it is now, and we make it so by our words and deeds.

The evil time falls suddenly upon them . . . but the goodness is always with us – and we live out this goodness to others by our words and deeds.

A time of calamity comes to all alike . . . and a time of redemption through the goodness of God, the deeds and words of Christ, and the gifts of the Spirit.

Pole or North Star

The Pole or North Star guides those who watch and witness . . .

The race is not won by the swift, nor the battle by the valiant, nor a livelihood by the wise, nor riches by the shrewd, nor favor by the experts . . . yet we are given all of this and more when we live in Christ rather than in the world.

Amid all of the uncertainties of life, this we know for certain: calamity does arrive.  And when it does, we will want to be wearing Christ as our armor, following God as our polestar, and living in the eternal peace of the Spirit.


Images from: http://thinkingthoughtful.wordpress.com/2012/05/ and https://www.farmersalmanac.com/north-star-brightest-star-19822

Adapted from a reflection written on September 28, 2010.

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2 Kings 3: Withdrawal


Thursday, January 23, 2020

2 Kings 3: Withdrawal

imagesCAHQ96XWElijah has ascended to heaven.  Jehoram reigns over Israel.  King Mesha of Moab has decided to rebel now that Ahab is no longer king of Israel.  King Jehoram musters his troops and prepares for battle and he calls on King Jehoshaphat of Judah to join in the struggle against the Moabites.  Will you go with me to battle?

They go into Edom where that king joins them and so the three of them stand ready to fight, except . . . there is no water.  The king of Israel cries out: Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?  And Elisha, Elijah’s servant, is named and consulted.  Water arrives and the battle is engaged.  Things go badly for Mesha who immolates his son on the wall to appease his pagan god.  Commentary suggests that “the text may be implying that the anger of the Moab’s god caused the Israelites to withdraw”.  (Mays 564)  In the face of this human sacrifice, the Israelites pull back.  So might we all.

Our natural instinct may be to avoid evil; it may also be to strike out against it.  We may be inspired to form solidarity with the weak in order to empower them against the aggressor.   Or we may hide in order that we protect what little we have.  Today’s story leaves us with these words: And so they withdrew from him and returned to their own land. 

I heard a sermon recently advising Christians to be cautious when dealing with evil.  The idea that we risk too much danger when we operate in close combat with the devil is one we spent time with several weeks ago when we considered Luke 4 and the devil’s temptation of Jesus.  We noted that day that Satan departed from Jesus until an opportune time.  We concluded that: The devil never gives up . . . nor does God.

When we find ourselves shoulder deep in a situation that does not make sense, we know that somewhere someone is lying.

When we realize that betrayal is taking place on a deep and intimate level, we know that danger is quite near.

In all circumstances there is only one place to seek haven or ask for help: in God.  We may determine that we need to withdraw and return to our own land.  We may as likely determine that we need to gather troops, consult with the prophet and make a stand.  In either case, it is important that we remain in God no matter what.  For in God is our only hope of salvation.  No wickedness is too great for God to handle.  No malicious act is too horrible for God to transform.  No evil can overcome or outlast God’s love for his people.

So if we must withdraw . . . let us open our hearts . . . and withdraw into God.


Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 564. Print.

For a reflection on Matthew’s description of Christ’s temptation, go to The Temptations page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-temptations

Written on March 18, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://daleallynphoto.com/index.php/gallery/image_full/20/

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Proverbs 27: Perceiving Evil

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Woven among the threads of practical advice in these proverbs are many other strands that alert us to the presence of evil in our lives.  The alarms are not strident and can be easily missed – just as evil itself can approach us disguised as goodness.  Evil is seen as being present everywhere: in nature as well as humans.

Friendship is feigned in order to gain some end, intimacies are betrayed, decency is imitated.  Only the crucible of life can test the value of the silver and gold we see before us; and only the passion of living life honestly will save us from the fire of life’s furnace.  Fools are portrayed as both perpetrators and receivers of evil.

Where do we turn in a place where so much evil abounds?  What do we do about evil that knows no limits or boundaries?

Good stewardship is praised and seen as a worthy foil for evil’s assault on the faithful.  Striving for unity rather than putting up with division is another antidote.  Honesty is encouraged, as is the nurturing of relationships.

But perhaps the most telling piece of advice that speaks to the power of evil is this: The shrewd man perceives evil and hides; simpletons continue on and suffer the penalty.  And we are reminded that: As one face differs from another, so does one human heart from another . . .Though you should pound the fool to bits [with the pestle, amid the grits in the mortar], his folly would not go out of him.

Fools and evil keep ready company.  So do the faithful and their God.  As we near the end of this Book of Common Sense, we might return to earlier chapters where Wisdom is praised for her instruction; power of God is seen as the only vaccination against evil – and these are tools which only work as well as we able to implement them.  This is why it is essential to spend time with God each day – because evil is everywhere.  It is why it is imperative that we seek God’s counsel in all we do – because only God can deal with the kind of evil that imitates goodness in order to take over the soul.

Evil is described as being omniscient – and even hiding in the most intimate and most cherished places: families, neighborhoods, the closest of relationships.  The only surety we have against being invaded by this silent intruder is the defense we are offered by our God.  We do well to remember this and to take the proffered gift gladly.


Image from: http://www.kenlauher.com/daily-wisdom/

For more on this Book of  Common Sense, go to the Proverbs – Courage page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/wisdom/proverbs-courage/

Written on October 18, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

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2 Kings 9:30-37: Death of Jezebel

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

We have looked at Jezebel and the role she played in the death of Naboth (1 Kings 21); several weeks ago we reflected on the city of Tyre, the birthplace of Jezebel.  Today we pause to think about her end.  It is not a pleasant story.   In fact, it is dreadful.

My sister passed along to me a recipe for an appetizer which combines horseradish, apple jelly, yellow mustard, and pineapple preserves.  This concoction – generously spiced with ground pepper and served over cream cheese, is spread on crackers.  It sounds dreadful, but it is divine.  Every time I take it to a party – or place it on my own front porch table when my family gathers – it disappears in a flash.  It stimulates and tantalizes, is piquant but lovely.  It does not remain long on the table.  It is called Jezebel.  And without fail, each time I put jam and jelly in my shopping cart, I think of this story.  What is about this woman who so enamored some and so enraged others?  Do we have modern-day Jezebels?  How do they rise to power?  What draws us to them?  What repels us from them?

When we are lured by the Jezebels in our lives to enter into their games of deceit and lies, it is difficult to pull ourselves away.  Even after we have escaped their siren call we find them seated next to us in church, working by our side . . . living in our home.  There is only one sure way to avoid the luring call of the dark and exciting killer game of Jezebels.  We must put all our decisions about this portion of our lives into the hands of God.  God creates us . . . God creates the Jezebels.  God understands these people . . . we do not.

Life consists of opposites attracting and repelling, pulling and pushing.  This much we can expect.  And when Jezebel moves in next door and covets what we have, we can only turn to God.  When she whispers lies to friends to bring about our end, we can only turn to God.  Only God can understand her inmost workings.

Our work with Jezebel is that we witness to her schemes.  Our plan with Jezebel is that we keep God close while she is near.  For in the end, we of ourselves can do nothing on our own but to listen to the voice within which tells us how to behave, what to say and do.  And in the end . . . when we find that we have sailed dangerously close to the Jezebels in our lives and have escaped with our souls, we will know that God has been watching, protecting and guiding.  We will know that the sum and total of their worth is that they are no longer among us.  Only God can pronounce with authority the judgment that wipes out their existence so that no one might say . . .  This was Jezebel.


Written on September 24, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://onpoint.wbur.org/2007/11/06/defending-jezebel

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Saturday, September 21, 2019

Psalm 18:26-27: With the faithful you show yourself faithful, O God; with the forthright you show yourself forthright.  With the pure you show yourself pure, but with the wicked you are wily.  

God is greater than any evil we encounter in our lives.  God is more forgiving than any compassion we may be shown.  God is more gentle, more kind, more persevering and forgiving than we can imagine.  God endures.  God does not give up or give in.

God says: Do you find it difficult to think of me as wily when I deal with the wicked?  I am prudent with them just as I ask you to be. I know that the wicked believe in themselves more than they believe in me.  I know that many of the wicked are fearful and so I call them to serenity just as I call you.  I have created all of humanity and my hope is that each of you will rise to the fidelity, the purity, the forthrightness and holiness that calls you.  When you meet the wicked and do not know how to handle them . . . call on me.  My wiliness is far greater than their evil.

The practices of the wicked lead us away from life eternal.

The practices of fidelity lead us to a life of purity.

The practice of forthrightness leads us to a life of honesty.

The practice of prudence leads us always back to God.


For some additional thoughts on Purity click on the image above or go to: http://acelebrationofwomen.org/2012/07/shirlee-hall-what-is-purity/

A re-post from August 29, 2012.

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Isaiah 5: The Vineyard Song

Pentecost Sunday, May 20, 2018

With this adapted Favorite from February 13, 2011, we give thanks for the presence of The Spirit as we struggle against all that would hold us down, all that would keep us from remaining on The Vine.

From the MAGNIFICAT Evening Prayer for Saturday, February 12: A good person brings forth good out of a store of goodness, but an evil person brings for the evil out of a store of evil.  (Matthew 12:35)

The power of evil is insidious.  It conceals itself within our lives posing as good. Discernment is the process of determining what is the counterfeit of good and what is true good.  Let us apply ourselves wholeheartedly to discernment and to living godly lives.  (MAGNIFICAT Mini-reflection, 168)

The power of evil is insidious  . . . There is so much around us locally and globally that discourages us.  We feel as though evil has taken over the world and that God does nothing to prevent this evil; yet here is a reminder that God is not evil, that God invites goodness, and that God is goodness.

Evil conceals itself within our lives posing as good . . . Matthew reminds us (6:12) that where our treasure lies there also is our heart. Jesus tells the rich young man, and us, that if we seek perfection we must sell what we have, give it to the poor and follow him (Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21 and Luke 12:33-34 and 18:22).  Not many of us have the confidence to follow God in this way.  Not many of us trust God enough to believe that God will truly care for our needs.  We too often are planted in well-prepared soil and produce little fruit, and then we blame God for the evil in the world.  We trick ourselves into thinking that we have done all that can be humanly done.  Or we convince ourselves that we are powerless.

Discernment is the process of determining what is the counterfeit of good and what is true good . . . Over the past weeks and days we have witnessed the will of thousands to overcome oppression in northern African countries.  I am imagining how the world might be different if all of us were to speak out against evil in our families and communities.  The vineyard in which we are growing might then grow the beautiful, full and nourishing grapes which the vineyard keeper has planted rather than the puny, wild grapes of unpredictable quality we allow to grow.  It is not difficult to distinguish what is good from what is evil, what is true and what is false.  When we begin to trust God to lead us, our sensitivity to goodness heightens and  it becomes easier with practice to distinguish what we are to do and what we are to say.

Let us apply ourselves wholeheartedly to discernment and to living godly lives . . . Isaiah’s Vineyard Song is followed by descriptions of the “doom of the unjust” and the subsequent invasion.   Woe to those who are wise in their own sight, and prudent in their own esteem!  If we are vague about who or what indicates wild grapes, Isaiah provides us with an exact listing.  We cannot say that we have not been told or that we do not understand what evil is and does.  We cannot say that we do not know what goodness is and what goodness does.  We ought not be surprised, therefore, at our fate.

Israel turned away from the God who saved and nurtured her and we are given the same choice to choose our own fate.  In today’s reading for Mass we have a clear description in Sirach 15:15-20, 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 and Matthew 5:17-27.  We have a clear road map with clear markers along the way.  When we join in singing Isaiah’s Vineyard Song, do we sing with full throat and heart?  We will want our voices to join with those who yearn to live in the kingdom.

The power of evil is insidious.  It conceals itself within our lives posing as good. Discernment is the process of determining what is the counterfeit of good and what is true good.  Let us apply ourselves wholeheartedly to discernment and to living godly lives. 


Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 12 February 2011. Print.

Tomorrow, Naboth’s vineyard. 

Image from: http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2017/05/deacon-bickerstaff-daily-reflection-vine-and-branches/

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Proverbs 6:1-11: The Deer and the Ant

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

“Cut your losses,” the writer of Proverbs tells us. “Run from the corruption in which you find yourself. Maybe you knowingly followed the path into darkness; perhaps you stumbled into it unwittingly, but whatever the case, remove yourself from the influence of the evil one. It is never too late to return to the path of light, integrity and honesty”.

“And then consider the story of the ant who instinctively works to do as she is called to do. She does not laze around on hot summer days,” we read. “She stores up. She measures out. She preserves and takes care. This is an example worth emulating”.

Scripture is of full of allegories and parables; they give us simple lessons to imitate. What stories do our own lives teach? Are we the ant or the deer? What legends do we establish? What values do we validate? What knowledge and beauty do we find that instruct us so simply and so well?

When we compare different versions of these verses, we discover the story of our own life that we might share. 

 

 

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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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Revelation 19:5-10: Victory Song

Friday, October 28, 2016victory

Although we have spent time with this imagery in the past, certain verses made a strong impression on us regarding the two beasts that crawl out of the sea and the earth.  Fascinated, the whole world followed after the beast . . . It performed great signs . . . It deceived the inhabitants of the earth with the signs it was allowed to perform . . . It forced all the people, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave . . . so that no one could buy or sell except the one who had the stamped image of the beast’s name or the number that stood for the name.  (13:3; 13-14; 16-17)

What is it about the shadow world and evil that draws us in?  Do we think we might overcome these forces like a superhero?  What is it about membership in a secret society that lures us?  Is it a feeling of belonging and protection through dark arts we think we might manipulate?

Are we really so susceptible to the siren song of the temptation Adam and Eve first heard:  You can be like gods?  Why can we not see that the God who is Love and Goodness will never force us in any way . . . even if for our own good?  What do we not understand about God that we insist on wanting things our way?  Why can we not be faithful . . . true . . . honest . . . patient . . . and persevering?  Is the reward of happiness not enough for us?  What is it we truly seek?

We move through our weekend errands.  Grocery shopping, haircut, Starbuck’s, bookstore and craft store.  As we bump into friends, visit with children and grandchildren, our existential questions surface each time we pause to allow silence and prayer.  Finally, sitting quietly with scripture to examine the book of Revelation, we find The Victory Song.

The wedding day of the Lord has come and the bride has made herself ready. 

And we might sing . . . The wedding day of the Lord has come and we have made ourselves ready. 

The angel tells us: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.

When we fall down to worship, the angel replies: Don’t!  I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brothers who bear witness to Jesus.  Worship God.  Witness to Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

We are creatures fashioned to worship our maker.  There is a universal gift to come to this wedding feast as bride, adorned by the white gown of our honest deeds.

Do we think this wedding covenant is impossible?  Is it too much to ask that we worship God only in the company of God’s creation?  Are we waiting to be forced into worship as the adorers of the beast are forced?

Our good and loving God who is rich in kindness forces no one.  This merciful and just God calls each and all.  This adoring and adored God of all Creation wants to rejoice with us in the Victory Song.  This patient God, for whom all things are possible, invites us to the feast as bride to his bridegroom.  All we need bring is our humble and imperfect selves.  Our God, the God who heals and who makes imperfect creatures whole, awaits our answer to his invitation.  Let us sing out our own Amen, Alleluia!

Adapted from a Favorite from October 25, 2008.

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