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Friday, March 12, 2021

Prudence

Michael Whelan: Prudence

Amos 5:7-17

First Woe

You shall not live in the houses you fashion for yourself. You shall not drink of the wine from your vineyard. You have taken bribes and oppressed the just. Therefore, the prudent one is silent at this time.

Today Amos announces the first of three woes and he is quite clear about the consequences that will befall those who allow themselves to slide into corrupt and evil ways.

God says: You hear today about wailing and crying. This need not take place. You read about destruction and loss. This need not happen. You see images of evil against good. This need not be so. Put down your arms. Cease your self-defense. This is how we put an end to mourning and lament. Celebrate what is good in each of you. Cease judging. Praise what you find to be positive in both yourself and others and begin with that. The smallest ounce of goodness is ample space for me to gain a foothold in your heart. This woe is taken from your shoulders when you turn and return to me.

As we watch our evening news we see interviews with family members of those who have been murdered who choose diverging paths. Some want to exact revenge. Others are willing to forgive, knowing that revenge eats holes only in those who exact a price.

As we watch the evening news we see nations striking out at one another, seizing assets, prevaricating and stirring discord. We may think we gain anonymity when we hide in a crowd of millions or even billions and say nothing about injustice, and yet . . . God knows how willing we are to live in and for all that Christ teaches us.

Today we consider the images Amos brings to us, we examine our hearts and minds, and we consider . . .

Tomorrow, the second woe of Amos.


Michael Whelan images at: http://www.michaelwhelan.com/shop/reproductions/all-reproductions/prudence-2/

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Friday, February 5, 2021

the-letter-sadhe[1]Psalm 119:137-144

Sadhe

I am consumed by rage, because my foes forget your words . . . Your decrees are forever just; give me discernment that I may live.

We become indignant when we believe that others do not understand the message of the Gospel; others become indignant with us when we behave in a narrow way.

God says: I really do understand how anger and frustration might consume you; but I ask that you take this negative energy and hand it to me. Together we will transform the ugliness and pettiness and cruelty you see in the world . . . to beautiful truth, inspiring authenticity and salvific love. Together we will bring goodness out of harm. Together we will build a kingdom so that all might live eternally.

Once we allow ourselves to pardon enemies we experience love as God does. We find a new tranquility and balance. And we discover that the evil around us melts into nothingness. This new serenity begins when we can bring ourselves to love our enemies as Jesus does.

Jesus says: You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy”. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly father . . . For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? (Matthew 5:43-47)

In this newest lesson presented to us in Psalm 119 we find the greatest – and perhaps the most difficult and certainly the most important – lesson of all. We find our divinity by fully and completely turning our most basic human instincts over to God. We find the kingdom that lies before us by interceding for all of. We find discernment by turning all of our rage into love. And all of this brings us serenity.


For more on how Sadhe speaks to us of faith that is found in the righteous, go to: http://www.inner.org/hebleter/tzadik.htm

For a quick view of the Hebrew letters, click on the image above and then click through the alphabet to the left, or go to: http://www.heb4you.com/hebrew-alephbet/18th-letter-of-the-hebrew-alphabet.html

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Monday, November 2, 2020

On the eve of a major election in the USA, we reflect on extremes and how living on the edge might be our greatest teacher. 

restoration_449x3181[1]Psalm 69:4-5

Extremes

I am weary with crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes have failed, looking for my God. More numerous than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause. Too many for my strength are my treacherous enemies. Must I now restore what I did not steal?

When life’s extremes weigh us down and wear us out there is only one place to go for restoration. When too many lies evil and too much denial tax us beyond our reserves there is only one path to take for transformation. When all roads close, when too much is asked of us there is only one person who understands our experience of extremes.

God says: I never intend for you to go beyond your limits; pushing you too far is a sure sentence of death. Your voice has disappeared from too much crying, your eyes are weary from so much looking. You are outnumbered and overdrawn. You are beyond weary; you are spent. When your body fails and your mental powers ebb, place your heart in my hands. I will not let you vanish into dust. I will champion you against your foes. I will restore even that which has been taken from you.


Also visit the Noontime reflection Without Cause by entering the words into the blog search bar.

Image from: http://bumponablog.com/2010/03/gentle-restoration/ 

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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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