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Posts Tagged ‘faith’


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Deuteronomy 3: Teaching the Children

parent-child[1]Whether we ourselves have children or not, it is beneficial to universal society for those of us who have survived cataclysm to teach those who follow us how to endure well rather than to endure at all costs.  If we hope to improve both collectively and individually we must be willing to take an honest look at how we operate, what we value, and how we enact our values.  This is what Moses calls us to today.  We are not asked to pass along stories of how others have carried on through crisis; we are asked to be earnestly on our guard not to forget the things which our own eyes have seen, not let them slip from our memory as long as we live, but teach them to our children and to our children’s children.  This is a noble vocation: to pass along a manual for how to persist through pain, fear and antagonism.

Keeping in mind that each time we read or hear the phrase “fear” in reference to the Lord in the New Testament that we might replace it with the word “love,” we can see how the arrival of Jesus is the completion of all God’s promises to the people.  God, with his expression of concern and empathy embodied in Jesus, tells us how much he loves us and wants to be with us.  God warns us often about the dangers of idolatry and encourages us to consider the advantages of fidelity.  God’s own fidelity with us is guaranteed.  God’s love proved repeatedly through the stories we can tell about his power to save and restore.   God’s hope for us and in us is spelled out clearly as he establishes – here through Moses – cities of refuge in which his people might find a second opportunity for recovery.  God never gives up on us.

Deuteronomy, perhaps more than any other book of the Bible, asks its readers to remember and to pass along our own story of how the goodness of the Lord has changed us forever.  It asks that we consider God’s goodness, and that we pass along the story of how we came through a wilderness with no road map other than our fidelity to a God who loves us so much he cannot bear to be apart from us for even the smallest of moments.  We are loved by a God who does not ever want to be without us.

And so we pray . . .

Father Creator, Jesus Saver, Holy Spirit Abider and Comforter, we see by your actions that you will never forsake the work of your own hands.  We realize that the only firm ground on which we stand is the rock of your own steadfastness in your commitment to us.  We know that you are incapable of deception, trickery or betrayal.  Give us the fortitude and courage to follow you, even when we are fearful, even when we are in pain.  We rely on your patience and mercy as always.  And we await our own restoration and peace that comes with the joy of knowing and serving you.  We thank you for your bountiful love, and we hope to return that love to you always . . . even when we are fearful or in pain.

Help us to pass along to the children and to the children of those children not only the story of your love . . . but the essence of your love as well.  Guide us in loving our enemies, in praying for the impossible, and in remaining always with you.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 


Image from: http://veronicaplace.wordpress.com/2011/02/05/our-children-are-on-loan-to-us/

Written on August 11, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Monday, January 13, 2013

Deuteronomy 9: Unmerited Success

God's_Grace_2[1]In today’s Noontime we examine when and where we see God.  We take time to reflect on how and why we praise God.  We consider our perception of who and what God is.  We have the opportunity to thank God for our unmerited success.

If we take these verses in a literal, one-dimensional way God comes off as a sometimes petulant, occasionally petty and sulking God.  If we put them in the context of the New Testament – and if we can refrain from the temptation to moralize – we allow ourselves to accept God’s gifts of faith, hope, and unconditional love.  We will find ourselves rooted and flourishing in God’s grace.

An excerpt from Richard Rohr’s Saturday meditation gives us a compass to use on our pilgrimage.  He writes:

God always entices us through love.

Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change, is the experience of love and acceptance itself. This is the engine of change. If the mystics say that one way, they say it a thousand ways. But because most of our common religion has not been at the mystical level, we’ve been given an inferior message—that God loves you when you change (moralism). It puts it all back on you, which is the opposite of being “saved.” Moralism leads you back to “navel-gazing,” and you can never succeed at that level. You are never holy enough, pure enough, refined enough, or loving enough. Whereas, when you fall into God’s mercy, when you fall into God’s great generosity, you find, seemingly from nowhere, this capacity to change. No one is more surprised than you are. You know it is a total gift.

Adapted from Following the Mystics Through the Narrow Gate
. . . Seeing God in All Things
(CD, DVD, MP3)

If we read the Noontime selection today and complement ourselves for having behaved well, for having turned our eyes away from the golden calf, if we love the chant three times over, It is because of my merits that the Lord has brought me to possess the land, then we have lost our way.   If we delight in believing that these verses show us a strict set of rules to follow so that we will never suffer, we have misunderstood all of scripture.  If we believe that God loves only those who obey his rules and join his club, we do not know God at all.

Picture1God abides with us when we follow and when we stray.  It is when we lose our way that God comes after us persistently to bring us back to the fold.

God protects us when we take risks in Kingdom-building.  It is when we teeter on the edge of safety that God patiently strengthens the bonds we have forged in relationship with God.

God guides us as we wade into the world to engage fully in discipleship.  It is when we are most lured and confused by the material world that God speaks steadily to us.

And so we pray:

Generous and loving God, Remind us that you are so immense that your love encompasses all, even those of us who stray.

Giving and powerful God, Tell us again that you will never abandon us, never reject us, always love us.   Tell us that we have nothing to fear as we follow you.

Great and gentle God, Clarify for us each day your message of inclusion, universality, and transformation.  Remind us that we must not exclude anyone from your message.

Gracious and singular God, Continue to send us your amazing, incalculable, and precious gift of unmerited success.  And help us to remember to thank you.  Amen.


This week . . . more on Deuteronomy

Image from: http://prayitoff.blogspot.com/2011/03/pray-it-off-31711-actual-grace-just-ask.html

For more information on this fourth book of the Torah, see the Deuteronomy – Laws page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-torah/deuteronomy-laws/

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Friday, January 3, 2020

1 John 5: Victory

reclaiming_gods_hope[1]For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.  And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.  Who [indeed] is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

We are so often told – and we so often forget – that once we place ourselves in God’s hands we need not struggle.  From the first books of the Torah to the final words of Revelation we hear this message and yet we fight with and against the world.

Sometimes we fear one another.  We hoard money, goods, guns, plots and any object or idea we believe keeps us special . . . and this is sad because we are already special.

Sometimes we fear the past or the future.  We look over our shoulders constantly or peer into the coming days looking for clues about how we should act and decide . . . and this is so senseless because these preoccupations takes us away from the holy present.

Sometimes we fear God.  We look for full comprehension or we want total control; we deny, cajole, and make bargains . . . and this is so little of us because as John tells us today: The surest victory over the world comes not from our actions or thoughts but through our faith in God.

I write these things to you so that you may know you have eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God.  And we have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything in accordance with his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked of him is ours. 

John cannot speak more plainly to us.  In his Gospel he tells us quite clearly that Jesus is the unique Son of God.  He reminds us that salvation comes through our belief in the Son.  He explains that “Jesus is not the victim of human injustice even though those who killed him were evil people.  Jesus chose to offer his life for others so that they could see God’s love revealed on the cross.  When we see God’s love on the cross, we are reminded that God identifies with the lowly, suffering people of the world by joining with them”. And finally, John’s Gospel describes for us how mutual love and unity express God’s love.  (Senior RG 450-451)   All of this is explained to us and yet our fears overcome our faith; we allow the turmoil of the world to overcome us; we forget that victory comes through our faith in the story that we witness through John and the other apostles.

John tells in his writings that he has witnessed all that he recounts – we are not reading a second, third or fourth-hand accounting.  In his first letter, John intertwines the very real with the ideal and we may become confused with this fusion of two perspectives; yet in is this dance between two opposites and the synthesis they present, John describes a world of universal acceptance and love that we seek.

Jesus tells us endlessly that God’s simple commandment to us is his call to love.  We struggle with this for we do not see it in the world we occupy.

John tells us endlessly that Jesus’ simple commandment to love comes directly from God the creator.  We struggle with this and we let doubt and fear and a desire to control our world to take us over.

As we begin a new year in our western calendar, let us decide to put aside our anxieties about the world.  Let us spend time reflecting with John, a man who accompanied Christ – God Among Us.  And let us place all our fears and hopes in the hands of a God who loves us deeply and always . . . for it is in that place alone that we experience victory that conquers the world.


A re-post from December 31, 2012.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 450-451. Print.   

For more on the First Letter of John, visit the 1 John – Testimony page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-new-testament-revising-our-suffering/1-john-testimony/

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John 19:1-7: Pontius Pilate

Friday, December 27, 2019

pontius-pilate-slice[1]

Antonio Ciseri: Ecce Homo – Behold the Man

We revel in the arrival of a babe among us who saves each of us if we but ask.

We enter into Christmastide in joyful hope that the promise we have heard is indeed true.

We struggle with this mystery of a child who knowingly puts himself in danger for the good of all.

We lean forward in anticipation that if we might look closely enough we will better understand this mystery. 

Today we spend time with the Gospel of John and we watch as Pontius Pilate searches for a better understanding of who Jesus is.  We see him struggle to understand who and what stands before him.  We witness his attempt to satisfy his heart and his head.  And so we watch and learn . . .

Throughout this portion of John’s Gospel we observe Pontius Pilate as he tries to make sense of the mystery that Jesus presents to him.  He wants to make sense of a man who might save himself in an instant but who instead puts himself in the hands of an invisible force.  Pilate struggles to understand a man who allows himself to suffer for others – even others who despise him.  Pilate cannot use human logic to follow this thinking; and this is because salvific suffering is of the divine.

The mockery of something beautiful makes us cringe and each time we read this story we might try to imagine where we might be standing on this day: with the persecutors or the believers.  And then we must transfer that imagining to reality to look at our own life and actions.  What we believe we might do must connect somehow with what we actually do each day.  If we want to see if we would have been standing with the guards who persecuted Jesus or the followers who cried along the Way of the Cross, we need only look to how we treat the marginalized today.  What do we do for the poor and disenfranchised?  When do we speak up for those who have no voice?  How do we demonstrate our alliance with this one obeys an unseen God?  Where do we exert our influence?  Who matters most to us? When do we act on the part of those who have few possessions and little power?

From time to time in our lives we will be the Pontius Pilate figure, making decisions that will affect a life in a significant way.  In those times, it must be our intent to act in accord with the Law of Love which Jesus taught.  We hope to be successful.  Sometimes we are not.

We might allow ourselves to be saddened by today’s story or by our own failures, but I do not believe that this is what Jesus asks of us . . . our sadness.  I believe that Jesus asks that we act as a result of this story for he has come to save and not to condemn.  Jesus asks that we make known the Gospel to any and all who will listen.  Jesus asks that we remember who actually holds power and who actually merits glory.  He asks that we consider whose is the true kingdom . . . and I believe that Jesus watches us carefully as we make our own decisions sand take our own actions.

The marvelous irony is that Jesus comes to us not as a superior, not as a ruler, not as a priest.  He comes as a vulnerable child among us.  He comes to an average family.  He arrives in difficult circumstances in a difficult time.  He is barely noticed except by the lowly and by those who seek him.

This Advent, let us consider both ends of the human Christ’s story – his birth and his death – and then let us reflect on our own journey of faith, our life and its cumulative acts.


First written on Tuesday, May 11, 2010.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://collider.com/pontius-pilate-vera-blasi/190526/

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Luke 24:1-12: Nonsense

Friday, November 15, 2019

Anthony Frederick Sandys: Mary Magdalene

[The women’s resurrection] story seemed like nonsense and [the eleven and all the others] did not believe them.

We must remember this when others scoff at the perseverance of faith.

He is not here, but he has been raised. 

We must remember this when we are about to give up hope.

Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee. 

We must remember this when we are betrayed or abandoned.

And they remembered his words. 

We must remember this . . .

Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James . . .

We must remember that these followers of Christ persisted . . .

even when their words were labeled as . . .

nonsense . . .


Written on October 17, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://omegafoundation.siriuscomputing.net/Spirit/MaryMagdalen.htm

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2 Thessalonians 3:1-4: Prayer

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Prayer is God’s gift.  Prayer is covenant.  Prayer is communion.  We experience a universal call to prayer.  Prayer is individual.  It is collective.  Prayer is powerful.

Through prayer and in God’s time and way, the mysteries of our faith are revealed to us.

Through prayer and in God’s time and way, we are called to petition in outrageous hope.

Through prayer and in God’s time and way, we may choose to love all – our friends and our enemies.

Through prayer and in God’s time and way, all things are possible.

Let us pray . . . unceasingly . . .


Written on October 15, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://www.setonparish.org/index.cfm?load=page&page=25

For more reflection, visit the Scripture as Prayer page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/scripture-as-prayer/

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1 Chronicles 14: Competing Well

Thursday, October 31, 2019

David and Nathan

We see in today’s reading that David has conversations with God in which he receives specific information and we wish that our questions of survival might be reduced to such simple inquiries: Do I move or wait; do I confront my enemy head on or go through the back door?  We might wish for clear signs such as David’s: a king sends him timber to build his own royal house, his battles are all won, he suffers few losses if any.  When we read the whole of David’s story we realize that he rises and falls like the rest of us, and this might bring us comfort.  David has learned how to work with God rather than pray at God.  David has learned that religion is not a means to a gain; neither is it something to be purchased.  It is something to be lived.  It is something to share.

Today we spend time with David when all is going well, when demons and adversaries are driven away and the faithful are protected.  Part of the Morning Prayer is from Zephaniah 3: Fear not . . . be not discouraged!  The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.  I will remove disaster from among you, so that none may recount your disgrace. 

The God of David and the God of Zephaniah is our God, even when we feel alone or abandoned.  He is Jesus Christ who sees, as Paul reminds Timothy, that: Whoever teaches something different and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the religious teaching is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid disposition for arguments and verbal disputes.  From these come envy, rivalry, insults, evil suspicions, and mutual friction among people with corrupted minds, who are deprived of the truth, supporting religion to be a means of gain . . . Avoid all this.  Instead pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.  Compete well with faith.  Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called . . . (1 Timothy 6)

And so this is the lesson we see David learning today: How to compete well.

This is the lesson David knows, sometimes forgets, but to which he always returns: supporting religion is not a means of gain.

It is a lesson we can also know: Compete well with faith. 

It is a lesson to be lived each day no matter our circumstances: Lay hold of eternal life . . .

It is a lesson which will carry us from this world into the next: Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called . . .

It is the lesson of how to compete well.


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

Image from: http://lynnaustin.org/2014/03/editing-and-life/david-and-nathan/

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2 Timothy 2: Purity of Heart

Friday, October 19, 2019

Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

Again today we hear clear instruction from Paul about how an apostle of Christ is to conduct herself or himself.

What you have heard from me entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well.

It is also clear that we are not to hoard what we have learned but are to pass it along and to share it with others.

Bear you share of hardships along with me like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

Paul also gives us ample warning that the life of apostleship is not an easy one.  If we are entirely comfortable with who and where we are . . . we might look around to see who is lacking in something, and then begin the work of an apostle of Christ to bring justice to the world.

The Lord will give you understanding in everything.

We cannot back away from this work thinking that we are not God’s proper tool.

The word of God is not chained.

Nothing is impossible for God and God will find a way to open the path to which he has called us.

Remind people of these things and charge them before God to stop disputing about words.

We are to act our teaching more than we are to preach it.

Be eager to present yourself as acceptable before God.

We are to live the Word of God just as Jesus did.

In a large household there are vessels not only of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for lofty and others for humble use.

We have diverse gifts which God calls into use according to his vision of the world.

Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord with purity of heart.

Purity of intent, purity of mind, purity of heart . . . we must strain to move beyond our lacks into our promise and potential.

Avoid foolish and ignorant debates for you know that they breed quarrels.

Bring peace.  Create places of concord.  Greet anger and anxiety with gentleness and mercy.

A slave of the Lord should not quarrel but should be gentle with everyone, able to teach, tolerant, correcting opponents with kindness.  It may be that God will grant them repentance that leads to knowledge of the truth, and that they may return to their senses out of the devil’s snare, where they are entrapped by him, for his will.

But do not back away from the challenge for when we do this we back away from God.  We are to continue to run the race . . . and run it well . . . as best we are able.

Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord with purity of heart.


To reflect more of Purity of Heart, click on the image above or go to: http://www.piercedhearts.org/purity_heart_morality/a_purity_heart.htm

 Written on September 18, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Ezekiel 26: Prophecy Part I

Monday, October 7, 2019

Yesterday we took a look at Ezekiel 25; today and tomorrow we spend time with Chapter 26 as we examine our own views on prophecy . . .

James Tissot: The Prophet Ezekiel

Several hundred years before Alexander the Great destroyed the city of Tyre, Ezekiel writes a nearly perfect description of the siege.  And perhaps the princes of the coastlands trembled for a while at the wrath they witnessed . . . just as we do when we see a prophecy fulfilled.  But humans quickly forget the consequences of actions taken and promises kept in their own lives.  While it is not good to dwell upon failure and misery, neither is it good to repeat the mistakes in our own history; yet this is how we so often live: learning little while recycling our pain, scoffing at prophecies brought to us by our own holy ones.

I had a dream last night that was unusual in that first, I remembered it, and second, I was with people in my present life whom I mistrust deeply.  However, in this dream I was open and frank, honest and unafraid.  I awoke before I knew the outcome.  Had they changed?  Had I changed?  Was I correct in trusting them?  Was my trust in them repaid by more violence or by genuine friendship?  I spent a bit of time wondering if this dream might be a window into the future and, more importantly, I wondered if this were perhaps a portent of things to come, of bridges mended, friendships renewed and extended, trust restored.  Was this a prophecy?  What do I do if it is?

I sometimes wish I might be as innocent as people in ancient times who put so much faith in dreams and their portent.  I think that our scientific method and our modernism may have jaded us by requiring that we seek hard evidence for beliefs.  Faith, of course, springs from the heart rather than the microscope and yet . . .

I have read somewhere that Einstein grew in his belief in a higher power and in the presence of God in creation as his knowledge of math grew.  His famous E = mc2 brought him not only a belief that the power of tiny atoms might be unleashed . . . but that there was a purpose and a plan behind that power.

Prophecy . . . what to believe . . . what to discount . . . how to act . . . false and true prophets . . . magicians and tricks . . . deception . . . fidelity . . . interlopers . . . constant friends.  Concepts converge and unravel as we examine them closely.  Who do we believe . . . and how do we believe?


A re-post from September 16, 2012.

To see other Tissot images of prophets, click on the image r visit: https://www.artbible.info/art/large/223.html

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