Posts Tagged ‘exile’

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.


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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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Baruch 2: The Road to Destruction or Redemption – Part I

Tuesday, November 24, 2015road to destruction

The apocryphal book of Baruch tells us how to live in exile; and in particular Chapter 2 gives us an important, two-fold message.  It reminds us that God always fulfills promises, and it also gives us an outline of how we might make our way back to the covenant we have chosen to abandon.

In Chapters 16 to 18 of Revelation we come upon something that reminds us of the infinite forgiveness and mercy of God.  We see once again that in God all things are possible.  We have understood the importance of being faithful in small ways to God.  We have understood that closed, exclusive groups which stultify possibility and potential, darkness which hides and subsumes potential, and silence which conceals and enables deceit . . . will never conquer openness which spawns universal communion, light which calls forth authentic life lead in integrity, and praise of God which magnifies truth and joy.

Light_at_the_End_of_the_RoadIn the end, God’s will of universal openness and light leads to jubilation.  The dark world which opposes this truth germinates in envy and ends in destruction.  And those who work so hard at building up a closed empire of self rather than an open kingdom of all, bring about their own  destruction at their own hands.  We see this countless times.  What is the allure of the darkness and deceit that is so tempting?  It is the same siren call of Satan to Adam and Eve in Eden, You will be like gods . . .

There is something about the road to perdition that answers our human need to control.  There is something about this broad highway leading to the wide gate that brings comfort to those who travel it in their closed special groups.  The aching longing to be the bride who is rescued and loved by the steadfast, powerful groom is universal.  Yet we insist on filling this yearning with superficial, finite relationships which ironically do not satisfy . . . and which ultimately destroy.  We must respond to the summons of the road and choose redemption rather than perdition.

Tomorrow, Part II.

Adapted from a favorite from November 8, 2008.

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Zechariah 14: Apocalypse – Part V

The Sistine Chapel, The Vatican: Michelangelo's Prophet Zechariah

The Sistine Chapel, The Vatican: Michelangelo’s Prophet Zechariah

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The fight for Jerusalem that Zechariah predicts is already begun . . . and we are celebrants in the newness of what is coming into being.  Let us gather ourselves to face the disasters that life brings to us, for it is in these disasters that we find this new life. Let us find our places in God’s new city, for it is in this new place that we find new meaning. And let us rejoice and be glad for we know what to do when cataclysm strikes; it is in this cataclysm that we discover the refuge that is the house of the Lord of hosts.

Past, present, future. Let us step forward into the newness of our transformation. Past, present and future. Let us step away from our childish predictions of a future that is too simple. Past, present and future. Let us rest in the moment when we fully experience the three-person God who is more real and more certain than any savior we might conjure up on our own. Let us rest in the present to celebrate the God who always was, always is and always will be the peace and hope and joy of the world.

Enter the word restoration into the blog search bar and explore the idea of cataclysm bringing joy into our lives. 

Tomorrow, the feast of Corpus Christi.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. 425. Print.   

Adapted from a reflection written on Friday, July 10, 2009.

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Zechariah 14: Apocalypse – Part IVcorpuschristi

Friday, June 5, 2015

Return from exile is celebrated but the celebration is taking place amid the ruin of former glory because our newness is more important than what was. In our child-like, dual minds we see the world as negative and positive, off or on, with or against, good or evil, black or white, up or down. When we give ourselves over to our Triune God we begin to understand that these opposites exist side by side and even intertwined. We also begin to see that God’s plan, God’s promise and God’s love are capable of turning any harm – natural or human-made – into a force for beauty and goodness. This is the promise of the Easter resurrection, and it is the miracle of Pentecost indwelling.

We are nearing the Feast of Corpus Christi when we celebrate this gift of Jesus’ presence in gift of Eucharist. I will feed my people with finest wheat and fill them with honey from the rock (Psalm 81:16) We are one with Christ in the gift of bread and wine. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believe this has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. (John 6:47-50)

We have been transformed and made anew, and this miracle of redemption that Zechariah describes already exists today in that each of us is the libation bowl poured out for Christ.  We are each a vessel fashioned by God’s hands and brought into existence for God’s purpose.  We each are the hope of the Spirit to the world.

Past present, future. Let us remember the holy trinity of our lives: all that God has created and gifted, all that is here with us in the Spirit, and all that is promised by Christ in our lives to come. Then, when apocalypse befalls us, let us offer all that we have and all that we are to the triune God: courageous creator, compassionate savior and blessed comforter.

To read about how different cultures celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, click on the image above or visit: http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/common/corpus-christi

Tomorrow, transformation.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. 425. Print.   

Adapted from a reflection written on Friday, July 10, 2009.

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Ignatius Loyola

Ignatius Loyola

Friday, December 26, 2014

Joy and Exile

Baruch 5

“The office of prophet was due to a direct call from God. It was not the result of heredity, just as it was not a permanent gift but a transient one, subject entirely to the divine will”. (Senior 877) Today joy comes upon us from the depths of fear experienced by a people lost and roaming . . . as we rejoice in the coming of the Messiah.

Baruch, the well-known secretary of the prophet Jeremiah, records beautiful verses in both poetry and prose that present a prayer for displaced people. Viewed in this way, the words help those who are lost or misplaced, those who suffer during this time of year when so many others celebrate. When contemplated in the silence of personal exile, these ancient words might set lost feet down on ground once thought unstable; they might give a new horizon and a clear path to those living abandoned or in pain. On this day following the arrival of God in our midst, we take time with these words and rhymes . . . as we listen for God’s message of hope, healing and joy.

Take off your robe of mourning and misery . . .

God says: Your days of loss and suffering have come to an end.

Bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name . . .

God says: Decide to stand in the joy I shower on you . . .

God will show all the earth your splendor . . .

God says: I know that you believe I have abandoned you . . .

You will be named for God forever . . .

God says: Yet I have never left your side, I have never left your heart . . .

Look to the east and the west and see your children gathered at the word of the Holy One . . .

God says: Do not despair that all of your energy and work have been lost for in this you are incorrect . . .

Led away on foot by their enemies they left you . . .

God says: You have been apart and separate for a time but you have not been alone . . .

God will bring them back to you . . .

God says: All of your lost hopes are not, in fact, lost. They live on in all those whom you have touched as you have traveled your road of exile and sadness. Do you not see how many ripples you have sent out upon the waters?

For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age old depths and gorges be filled to level ground . . .

God says: Have I not just done the impossible . . . arrived as God yet as a human babe?

joyFor God is leading you in joy, by the light of holy glory, with mercy and justice for company.

God says: Remember that I have done all of this and more. I continue to hold you in my own heart and plans. You continue to be more important to me than you imagine. Each time you show mercy despite your painful circumstances you tell the world about my love for you. Each time you stand for justice despite your littleness you show the world the great love I have placed in you. Each time you live in me, my heart bursts with happiness in you. Remember all of this and know that I love you . . . and know that I always will.

Today we give thanks for God’s constant attendance on us . . . even in those times when we have felt alone. If the holiday season is a time of trial, spend time with Baruch today.

Listen to an interview with Fr. James Martin, S.J., conducted by Krista Tippett and posted at www.onbeing.org Allow all feeling of separation and abandonment to become joy in “Finding God in All Things”. Listen at: http://onbeing.org/program/james-martin-finding-god-in-all-things/7121/audio?embed=1

For more about the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, click on the image above, or visit: http://sacred-texts.com/chr/seil/

Also visit: https://thejesuitpost.org/2012/03/the-exercises-the-ignatian-adventure/?gclid=CjwKEAiA_NmkBRCe3ubC1aWAtEcSJACxkkbq2_vDdXCBma8StGvC_eeJP2AQRzAgPHbsU0oHgiQDExoCPrXw_wcB

If this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urges you to investigate the New Testament, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar. You may want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com

For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. RG 323. Print.

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