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Jeremiah 51Adjusting to Reality

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

“Jeremiah sends a ‘book’ of oracles against Babylon to Babylon with Baruch’s brother in about 594.  These are to be read publicly and then tied to a stone and cast into the Euphrates, symbolizing Babylon’s fate . . . It has been suggested that the original intention of Jeremiah’s action was to rebut the prophecies of Ahab and Zedekiah to the effect that the exile would be short (see 29:4-9, 20-23).  On this interpretation, reading and then destroying a set of anti-Babylonian prophecies would have the effect of stressing Jeremiah’s rejection of this optimistic view”.  (Mays 576)

Jeremiah knows that the exile will be long and harsh . . . yet no one believes him because it does not coincide with the false view many find easier to hold.  It seems that nothing much has changed in the intervening millennia since this story; we humans would rather cling to the falsehood that matches our view rather than change our thinking to the truth.  Today’s citation tells us that it is better to adjust ourselves to reality because no amount of manipulation or coercion will hide the obvious.   My dad liked to say: The truth comes out in the end so we might as well get used to it as soon as we can.

In today’s case, Jeremiah accurately predicts that even the conquerors will themselves be conquered and he predicts an unpleasant winnowing.   The imagery is brutal, the devastation complete.  There is no escaping the consequences that result from greed, corruption, and mollification.  The prophet Jeremiah sees collusion between his own leaders and those who of Israel’s pagan neighbors and while the “optimistic view” cited above may be popular, it is not honest. And so Jeremiah outs the lies.  He does as God asks and sends his prophecies to Babylon via the brother of his secretary, Baruch.

It is difficult to speak truth with respect, to express candor gently; and it may, in fact, even place us in danger.  When we see that everyone around us chooses to believe a myth created by the powerful and wealthy, we must speak honestly but with mercy no matter the cost to us.  It is in this way that we adjust ourselves to reality rather than follow the fashionable fairy story.  It is in this way that we honor ourselves and others who speak truth.  It is in this way that we praise and honor our God.

From today’s first reading at Mass, The Feast of Jesus’ Transfiguration, 2 Peter 1:16-19: Beloved: We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we have been eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from majestic glory, “This is my Son, my beloved with whom I am well pleased”.  We ourselves heard this voice . . . Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.  You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts”. 

Peter knows that he cannot remain silent about the story he has witnessed and, like Jeremiah, he knows that he must speak so that others might adjust to the amazing reality that what seems impossible is real, that we are created and loved by God and that God wants nothing but goodness for us and from us.  We are called to seek truth, to cling to it and to celebrate it with others who are willing to adjust their vision to be in line with God’s.

Once we cease nodding in idiotic agreement with the myths woven by those who are vested in them, we will see and know God’s truth, and we will not be silenced.  We too, will write out the prophecy that God commands . . . and we will adjust ourselves to God’s vision.


Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 576. Print.

A re-post from August 6, 2011.

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Eustache Le Sueur: Christ Healing a Blind Man

Isaiah 40: Seek Consolation

Third Sunday of Advent, December 17, 2017

The End of the Exile

Be comforted, be comforted, my people, saith your God.  Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem, and call to her, for her evil is come to an end, her iniquity is forgiven; she hath received of the hand of the Lord double for all her sins.  The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God.  Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain.  And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken . . .  Behold the Lord God shall come with strength, and his arm shall rule.  Behold his reward is with him and his work is before him.  He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and shall take them up on his bosom, and he himself shall carry them that are young . . .

From time to time we reflect on the ideas of exile and doom . . .  today’s dawn brings consolation.

Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and weighed the heavens in his palm?  Who has poised with three fingers the bulk of the earth, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? 

After the darkness . . . comes the light . . . more revealing and more wonderful than we have ever imagined.

Do you not know?  Hath it not been heard?  Hath it not been told you from the beginning?  Have you not understood the foundations of the earth?  . . .  And to whom have ye likened me, or made me equal?  saith the Holy One.  Lift up your eyes on high, and see the one who has created these things . . . not one of them was missing.

The holy ones who wait and watch and witness . . . will receive their comfort . . . a consolation more intense and enduring than they have ever dreamed.

Youths shall faint and labor, and young men shall fall by infirmity.  But they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall take wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. 

Last Christmas Day we read and reflected upon the beginning of Romans 11 in which St. Paul brings to us, God’s Remnant, the message of our creator’s Providence and Fidelity.  He reminds us that God understands the human condition and that he sends us his grace to overcome our fears and the darkness.  God also understands rupture and the deepest places of the heart that suffer from the pain of disconnection and separation . . . and God wants to heal this . . . to call us back . . . to gather us in his arms.  God wants to give us his Consolation.  God is the Forgiving Father of the Prodigal Son story.  We may be either the Straying Child who has spent his gifts carelessly, or the Remaining Child who is jealous and bitter at the Father’s generosity toward those who return.  Or perhaps we have found a place where we can numb ourselves . . . remain aloof . . . protect ourselves from the suffering and undergoing of life that we are meant to experience.  Or maybe we are Children of the Light . . . who struggle with self . . . who rise to the undergoing . . . who falter and stumble but who turn to God always as the first and last source and sustenance.  Most likely we are all of these . . . and we do well when we reflect that our true Consolation rests in openness to reconciliation with God and with others.  We do well to rely on God’s Providence and Fidelity and meditate on this idea, as we do on Christmas Day each year, that we are to be God to one another.

So on this Sunday of joy amidst darkness and waiting we, like God, are to abide with those who have broken faith with us.  We are to remain faithful, remain present but without participating in any dysfunction.  We are to be hopeful, to be open to the potential of something greater which God sends through his grace rather than our works.  We are to abide without fear, because God is with us, especially in our moments of deepest terror.  And we are to remain merciful, imitating Christ, because God always comes to his remnant, to those who wait, and hope and seek.

For a musical version of Isaiah 40, visit James Block’s recording at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgsdhQzVfSQ 

From a reflection written on Christmas Day 2007.

 

 

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Psalm 126: We Thought We Were Dreaming

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

When the Lord brought us back to Jerusalem,
    it was like a dream!
How we laughed, how we sang for joy! (Psalm 126:1-2)

When we find ourselves delivered from captivity or exile, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we remember the prophecy of Isaiah.

You will leave Babylon with joy;
    you will be led out of the city in peace.
The mountains and hills will burst into singing,
    and the trees will shout for joy. (Isaiah 55:10-12)

When we find ourselves recovering from loss or pain, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we remember the prophecy of Jeremiah.

See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return. (Jeremiah 31:8)

When we find ourselves delivered from loneliness or grief, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we remember the prophecy of Ezekiel.

Yet this is what the Sovereign Lord says: At the end of forty years I will gather the Egyptians from the nations where they were scattered.  I will bring them back from captivity and return them to Upper Egypt, the land of their ancestry. (Ezekiel 29:13-14)

When we find ourselves delivered from catastrophe or disaster, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we remember the prophecy of Joel.

Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. (Joel 2:13)

When we find ourselves delivered from anger or fear, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we remember the prophecy of Zechariah.

Therefore this is what the Lord says: “I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,” declares the Lord Almighty. (Zechariah 1:16)

When we find ourselves delivered from hunger or thirst, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we return to Psalm 126.

Those who wept as they went out carrying the seed
    will come back singing for joy,
    as they bring in the harvest. (Psalm 126:6)

When we find ourselves delivered through the goodness and grace of God, we might well believe we are dreaming. And then we return to Psalm 126.

When the Lord brought us back to Jerusalem,
    it was like a dream!
How we laughed, how we sang for joy! (Psalm 126:1-2)

 

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Solomon's Temple

Solomon’s Temple

Nehemiah 12:44-47

Their Due Portion

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A reprise from October 28, 2013.

The whole of Israel used to give the cantors and gatekeepers their due portion for each day.

Nehemiah describes not only the restoration of the Temple when the exiles return from their place of deportation; Nehemiah also explains that the rites and rituals were also restored.  All those who officiate at liturgies are to receive their due portion.  In return, the Levites, the sons of Aaron and all those who make liturgy possible are to perform their duties.  Nehemiah not only rebuilt walls and external structures, he rebuilt internal structures as well.

The Second Temple

Nehemiah’s Temple

God says: Each of you deserves your due portion.  When you insist on having less or more you upset your natural balance.  When you take more than your share you deny others of the goodness I have in store for them.  When you take less, you deny the gift you are to the world.  When you corrupt yourself or others you corrupt the vessel that contains hope for the world.  When you deny yourself or others you also deny me. Carry out the task shown to you.  Fulfill the hope planted in you.  Come to me with your questions and concerns.  Rather than take more or less than is meant for you, rather than fill your barns to bursting or depleting your energies until you are fully spent . . . receive your due portion and remain in the truth.  This is where your true treasure lies.

Jesus reminds us that the measure we measure with is measured out to us.  (Luke 6:38) He also reminds us that where our heart lies, there will be our treasure.  (Luke 12:34)

For more information on the duties of gatekeepers, go to: http://prepareforthelamb.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/gatekeepers-watchmen-you-are-to-speak-out-the-lord-has-called-you-out-to-be-bold-today/

For more information on the Second Temple, click on the image of Nehemiah’s Temple or go to: http://michaelruark.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/there-is-enough-room-for-both/

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Nehemiah 11: Re-Peopling

Monday, October 23, 2017

James Tissot: Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod

The list we read today is similar to the one we find in 1 Chronicles 9 with a number of differences; still it relates, and perhaps magnifies, the struggle we find when we attempt to recover after catastrophe . . . just as the Israelites re-peopled Jerusalem after exile.  It shows the people in a mode of compliance following their re-commitment to the covenant, much like a recalcitrant child who becomes manageable, and even docile, after a disturbing break with parents.  We humans seem incapable of having much memory when it comes to adhering to our promises; yet God remains always faithful . . . and God always keeps promises. There would be no need to repopulate Jerusalem if the people had adhered to their agreement with God in the first place; yet here we are with the story of a people who turn and return.

In today’s reading, we realize that there would be no need to renegotiate details or to remember who belonged to which tribe if the Israelites had remained faithful. There would be no need to redeem land, reclaim property and rebuild walls if they had lived their promise rather than pretend. Still the returnees struggle to keep balance, and to remember the details of land distribution as originally promised with God.  They tussle with one another, trying to be open and honest.

Here we see a people taking meticulous care with names, positions, professions and locations. They are intent on regaining what they have lost; yet, is it possible to restore all that is gone? The answer lies with Jesus who allows us to be present to him no matter our circumstances. Jesus always redeems.  Jesus always allows us to return.  Jesus always calls us to transformation. In today’s reflection in THE MAGNIFICAT ADVENT COMPANION by Nancy Valko, she closes with this thought: It is when we truly open our minds and our hearts that we learn Jesus never stops telling us what we need to hear. The people of Israel had stopped listening to and for God, and we see the consequence.  They lose all they have, and are taken into exile.  Upon their return, they renew their vows but, sadly, we know the rest of the story.  Shortly after the death of Christ they lose even the little we see them gain in today’s Noontime. And so we consider . . .

God is always speaking.  Do we always listen?

Jesus is always healing.  Do we always care?

The Spirit is always abiding.  Do we always feel the presence of God?

When we were growing up and might complain that “we got nothing out of going to church,” one of my parents would usually reply, “And how much did you take with you when you went?” A good question.  And it is one we will want to ask ourselves as we consider Christ’s gift, his offer to turn and return, his call to re-people the empty places in our lives, his invitation to celebrate his coming.

Adapted from a Favorite written on December 13, 2010.

Valko, Nancy. MAGNIFICAT ADVENT COMPANION. Print.  

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Exodus 2:6: Behold the Child

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Edwin Longsden Long: The Finding of Moses

Edwin Longsden Long: The Finding of Moses

In this final week of Advent, let us decide to make our hopes tangible, our dreams a prayer for our reality, our faith unwavering and our love secure. Let us cleave to the Creator, follow the Redeemer and rest in the Spirit. This week let us give one another the gift of preparing for the very real promise of eternity.

The Old Testament prepares us for a child born in dangerous circumstances who will later save a nation.

When the daughter of Pharaoh opened the basket, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” (NRSV)

The story of the Hebrew captivity in Egypt prepares us to be a people in exile.

The princess opened the basket and saw a baby boy. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. (GNT)

The story of the Hebrew Exodus to a place of promise prepares us to be a pilgrim church.

She opened the basket and looked inside, and there in front of her was a crying baby boy! Moved with pity, she said, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children.” (CJB)

The story of the foreign princess nurturing a child who will rescue a nation prepares us for God’s promises.

Pharaoh’s daughter came down to the Nile to bathe; her maidens strolled on the bank. She saw the basket-boat floating in the reeds and sent her maid to get it. She opened it and saw the child—a baby crying! Her heart went out to him. She said, “This must be one of the Hebrew babies.” (MSG)

Behold, God uses the marginalized to reveal the false security of the center.

When we reflect on other translations of the Moses story, we understand that God speaks to always with stories of inversion. And we realize that our own story must stand on its head if it is to align with the story of Christ.

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Ezekiel 12:1-12: Eyes and Ears

Thursday, August 18, 2016listen

More than once in scripture we are counseled to keep eyes and ears open. The prophets encourage us, Wisdom Books advise us, and Jesus recommends to us that transformation begins with listening and watching. How then, can we go wrong by keeping our eyes and ears open?

Today’s reading also describes a symbolic preparation for exile. We are advised to do as the prophet has done – dig a hole in the wall so that we might escape under cover of darkness. All of this leads us to an examination of self.

What is in our baggage?

Our modern psychology has given us vocabulary we might use to describe the worries and anxieties we bundle and carry with us each day. Perhaps when we escape we might leave much of this behind and take instead our hopes and dreams.

Escape from what?

We become pigeon-holed by the world just as we pigeon-hole others. Perhaps we might escape this stunting habit and take up instead the loving behavior Jesus teaches us.

Why in the dark?

As small children we may fear the dark as we ask patient elders to turn on lights to ward off monsters. The darkness is the place where we decide to submit to fear or trust. As adults, we asked to step into the darkness of the future, knowing that the light of Christ is all we need to light our way. Perhaps we might allow the light of our discipleship to pierce the darkness for others.

Where are we to go and what are we to do?

The ancient patriarchs and their families placed all trust in God. Perhaps we too might step into radical trust and join in solidarity with others as we join Christ in his Way.

Who is the prince among us?

The prophet Ezekiel tells us that there is a prince among us who will shoulder his burden and set out in the darkness, going through a hole that he has dug in the wall, and covering his face lest he be seen by anyone. Perhaps we might open our ears and eyes to the words of Ezekiel as he foretells the kingdom of Christ. Perhaps we might hear and see the goodness of God amidst the darkness of the world. Perhaps . . .

Tomorrow, our rebelliousness.

 

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1 & 2 Chronicles: Our Sacred History – Part V

Tuesday, May 24, 2016finger paint heart

Sharing the story of God’s love

When we recover from cataclysm and struggle to establish a new balance, there is always the temptation to withdrawn from a world that has disappointed or damaged us; but rather than listen to those who encourage a life of bitter regret, we hear the call to light and truth. The call to union, healing and love. What do we do with this invitation?

God says: The stories my chronicler has captured are lessons of my love for you. The ups and downs, the joys and disappointments of these ancient people are modern stories of my fidelity in remaining with you. I never tire of bringing you back to me. The verses my servant records are words of hope and healing for you. The pain and celebration of these long ago women and men are the same emotions experienced by you today. I am never wearied by the healing actions I take on your behalf. The words of the figures in these books are templates that you might use in your modern life. The curses and praises are songs of lament and delight that you might also sing. I will never give up on the plans I have in mind for you – plans for your good and not your woe. Remember this as you move through your obstacles, as you rely on me, as you spend time with me in your thoughts, actions and prayers.

StoryMattersOur shared history has stories we will want to hide because they bring us pain, and stories we will want to shout from the rooftop because they bring us reality and hope. Our collective narrative tells both the ugly and the beautiful because it describes the broad cloth of all humanity. Our mutual chronicle tells of a people who in their search for the Living God find this living, sacred person within, calling all civilization to union, serenity and love. Are we willing to share this most amazing of stories? Are we ready to tell the world this wonderful story of love?

The two books of Chronicles have four major portions that show us very human leaders; they illustrate the rise and fall of a people and nation. These verses tell us how division and exile can lead to forgiveness and return. Our sacred history shows us how we will want to learn to replace pride with humility. Our shared story guides us in moving from fear to love. These holy stories are treasures we will want to share with the world.

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Zechariah 7Diamond Hardness

Tuesday, December 15, 201553e6d-heart_of_stone_by_thecomicfan

Scattered in a whirlwind and living in an unfamiliar, desolate land, they are not heard by the Lord of hosts when they call on his name.  They refused to listen.  They turned stubborn backs and stopped up their ears.  They plotted evil and oppressed those who lived on the fringes and those who were unaccepted.  They isolated, they divided, they did not show compassion or kindness toward each other.  With all of this constant turning away, they have turned their hearts to such stoniness that they are now diamond hard.  Only God can call them back.  Only God can soften these people.  Only God knows their true names.

Zechariah writes to those who have returned from exile and who should remember and understand how they came to be living in a hostile land.  He encourages those who return to open their hearts, to soften their hearts . . . to give their hearts over to God.

The people who first heard this prophecy believed that they had suffered more, longer and harder than any of the other faithful before them.  Zechariah offers hope to these people and to us.  He encourages us to cease putting off tending to our relationship with God.  He urges us to clean our temple selves, and to ready ourselves for the coming of one who will save.  We do this best by forming and building community.  We do this best by showing compassion and kindness to one another.

green heartWhen we are in the throes of a struggle, the one thing that will lift us, open us, soften us is our choice to place ourselves in our opponents’ shoes.  In doing this, we step out of ourselves and open our cold hearts to God and to others.  We risk being hurt, we risk losing our safety spot.  Yet we risk the total loss of self we stay encamped in our own interior tending to ourselves as our hearts turn harder each day.  Eventually we turn into the hardest of materials – the cold glitter of diamonds.

When you fasted and mourned . . . was it really for me that you fasted? 

We have a clear choice before us.  We may either turn a pleasant land into a desert, or we may open our hearts to the possibility of divinity.  What do we choose today?  Diamond hardness, or the gentle, patient wisdom of God?

For 25 images of hearts in nature, click on the green leaf or visit: https://adventure-journal.com/2011/02/25-awesome-hearts-found-in-nature/

A favorite from November 14, 2009.

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