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Posts Tagged ‘fidelity’


Esther 7: The Persecutor

Giovanni Andrea Sirani: Esther Before Ahasuerus

Saturday, February 17, 2018 

Yesterday we assessed the narcissism we might discover in ourselves and how unilateral listening governs our world circumstances. Today we reflect on how Esther and Mordecai operate in their world – and what we might learn from them.

It is clear that Haman is consumed by envy of Mordecai and while we cannot analyze this character from a Biblical story, we can certainly learn from his actions. It is also clear that Esther – as a woman but especially as a Jewish woman in a non-Jewish court – fears for her life, and the life of her nation. The kingdom of Xerxes is an ancient one in which individual rights are denied to most. We might believe that we as a species have evolved and it is true that in general, we have. However, many peoples in our modern society have no benefit of personal rights. When this happens, we might speculate, it is often the result of someone, or some group, behaving in a narcissistic manner. Navigating these troubling conditions is difficult at best. What does the story of Esther have to tell us?

Queen Esther answered, “If it please Your Majesty to grant my humble request, my wish is that I may live and that my people may live”.

Humility is usually an ineffective tool against brutality; it seems to encourage even more violence. Yet, here we see that despite her humble behavior and words, Esther acts in order to save a people.

“If you keep quiet at a time like this, help will come from heaven to the Jews, and they will be saved, but you will die and your father’s family will come to an end. Yet who knows—maybe it was for a time like this that you were made queen!” (Esther 4:14)

On Ash Wednesday when we explored Chapter 4, we considered Martin Neimöller’s advice that if we do not speak against evil and injustice, we guarantee not our safety, but our sure demise. Despite their fear, Esther and Mordecai form a solidarity of two as they begin a quiet, patient assertion of justice and truth.

An article from Psychology Today gives us guidelines to manage the effects of narcissism. These experts advise that we evaluate both our surroundings and the narcissist to look for context, that we maintain a firm sense of purpose along with a sense of humor, and that we remain realistic about how much we can accomplish when working with the self-centered. If we are in dangerous surroundings, controlled by a persecutor as Esther and Mordecai are, we begin by turning to God and finding others with whom to form solidarity. We move forward with patience, reliance on the Creator, persisting in hope, and acting in mercy.

Tomorrow, fighting back.

When we read varying translations of this story by using the scripture link and the drop-down menus, we find an opportunity to transform a world beset by narcissism.

For more advice, read the August 14, 2014 post “Eight Ways to Handle a Narcissist”. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201408/8-ways-handle-narcissist

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Job 22: Beyond Human Limits – Part II

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Job’s “friend” in today’s Noontime lives by absolute, simplistic thinking.  Eliphaz tells Job that once he admits his sins, his pain and suffering will cease.  We know – because we have looked at this story many times and have paused to ponder the wisdom held within, that Job suffers innocently.  His goodness surfaces in a conversation between God and Satan.  The devil tells the Almighty that the only reason Job is so devout is because God cares for this servant so well.  It is true that for Job, life is good; yet God knows the depth of this man’s love for his creator. And so God tells Satan that he may do anything he likes to Job except terminate his life.  God believes that they will see deep fidelity from this servant; he knows that Job will remain faithful.  The devil delights in this bargain, believing that humans cannot suffer well, and so Job loses all: his family, his resources, his health.  His wife tells him to curse God and die.  His three “friends” sit with him and offer the kind of advice we read about today.  Job counters repeatedly, never giving in to the temptation to curse God and capitulate.  He never loses faith in God.  He never loses hope that all will be revealed.  He never loses the love engendered in him.  He questions God, he defends himself against the poor advice from his “friends” and he waits.  He is supremely patient.  And he is ultimately rewarded for his fidelity.

Job has the freedom to choose how he will react to the circumstances in which he finds himself.  Eliphaz baits him – much like the devil baits Jesus in today’s Gospel (Luke 4:1-13).  Jailed, and later executed by the Nazis, Fr. Alfred Delp understands this kind of suffering. He writes . . . During these long weeks of confinement I have learned by personal experience that a person is truly lost, is the victim of circumstances and oppression only when he is incapable of a great inner sense of depth and freedom.  Anyone whose natural element is not an atmosphere of freedom, unassailable and unshakable whatever force may be put on it, is already lost; but such a person is not really a human being anymore; he is merely an object, a number, a voting paper.  And the inner freedom can only be attained of widening our own horizons.  We must progress and grow, we must mount above our own limitations.  It can be done; the driving force is the inner urge to conquer whose very existence shows that human nature is fundamentally designed for this expansion

Tomorrow, the freedom to suffer, and final words from Father Delp.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 21.2 (2010). Print.  

Adapted from a reflection written on February 21, 2010.

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Job 40:1-5: Arguing with the Almighty – Part IV

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Laurent de La Hyre:
Job Restored to Prosperity

Looking forward to the end of Job’s story we have the choice of thinking that Job’s happy ending is the result of fantasy, or we may choose to believe that God abides and keeps promises.  This choice to believe or doubt is entirely up to us; and I choose to believe that the story is not a fairy tale.  I choose to believe that God abides.

THE MESSAGE translation of Job 40 begins with words from God, “I run the universe”. After we struggle with Job through his long story of loss and pain, we understand that although he – and we – long for specific answers to our specific questions, we must be content to rely on God’s goodness and love for us. We must be content to depend on God’s gift of hope and covenant. And we must be content to trust God’s steadfastness and mercy.

How do we do this? We have a model in Job whose fidelity through deep travail brings us a pearl of wisdom that we might employ to see our worries and anxieties through a lens of patience. Job’s persistence, as he journeys through the obstacle course of woe visited on him by Satan, gives us new eyes to refocus our own worldview.

When we spend time with Job 40, we have a fresh appreciation of his steadfastness; and we have a transformative moment to argue with the Almighty that opens us to the possibility of resurrection.

Today we use the scripture links and drop-down menus to help us argue with the Almighty. 

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Job 40:1-5: Arguing with the Almighty – Part II

Friday, February 2, 2018

Ilya Repin: Job and his Friends

When God seems distant to us we might pick up Job’s story, with its human drama of innocent suffering, to see how and where we fit into the tale.  Are we the wife who urges her husband to curse God and die (2:9)? Are we the friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar who insist that Job repent for some nameless sin even as Job proclaims his innocence, saying that he knows not what he did to incur God’s wrath?  Do we act as the Satan does in the opening chapters, do we roam the earth looking for mischief to create?  How do we see God?  As a sarcastic tyrant or as a faithful creator who only has our good in mind?  How do we react when we feel estranged from God?  With petulance, or like Job who admits at last that God is great and that God is good?  Do we, like Job, finally put our worries aside knowing that God will handle them?  Do we intercede when asked, as Job does, for the very friends who tried to lead us astray?  Do we rely on God or on ourselves?  Do we spend sleepless nights worrying about our own guilt and innocence, or do we move on to pick up the threads of a broken life as best we can?  What do we do?  How do we pray?  Where do we turn for help?

In today’s reading Job agrees to put his hand over his mouth so that he might finally listen to Yahweh, and he does this after having made a full and cogent argument to his maker.  If we follow Job’s example, we understand that we are meant to wrestle with God.  We are created to think, reflect and re-think.  We are created to know God and to serve God; and to do this well we must ask questions.  These questions are followed by enigmatic answers from God that we struggle to understand and, at first glance, we see as unsatisfactory. Later, when we practice persistence and fidelity, we begin to understand God’s message. Therefore, as we put our questions to God, we must also remain patient and authentic. For it is with waiting and honesty that we acquire wisdom, a full and nourishing wisdom that comes through lengthy days of listening, reflecting and praying.

Tomorrow, God abides.

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Job 40:1-5: Arguing with the Almighty – Part I

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Leonid Afremov: Whirlwind of Feelings

I love to read the answer that God gives Job after all of those chapters of haranguing that go on between Job, his wife, and his friends.  Finally, Yahweh speaks out of the whirlwind to ask questions with a touch of sarcasm saying: Who are you to question me?  Where were you when the earth was formed, the stars set in the sky and the animals and vegetation created?  Job replies that he will now be silent to listen . . . and as God continues, we wonder if he means to sound so much like an unfeeling tyrant?  Does God not, we might ask, understand that Job has stood unjustly accused?  Does Yahweh not remember that Job has been a good and faithful servant?  Does God not understand the suffering and pain that Job has endured?  If we read through to end of the book, we will have an answer to these questions.

Leonid Afremov: Feelings of Work

Today’s reading echoes a feeling we may have from time to time: that God just does not “get it”.  There are moments when we feel as though God does not understand what it is like to be human, and it seems that the lines between guilt and innocence are blurred. If the innocent suffer along with the guilty, what is the point in being righteous and behaving well?  Of course, we will understand, if we read on and if we reflect that guilt and innocence are not what God is concerned about here.  Yahweh questions Job to ask him if he is prepared to be the deity who oversees a vast and complex realm.  Of course, Job is not. Realizing that no human could order the universe and bring completion to such a chaotic world, Job listens to the message God gives him. Yahweh and Job end their dialog by returning to what is important; they each remain in their proper roles: loving, protecting creator and loyal, obedient creature.  In this final dialog, we see that both Yahweh and Job know and express who they are and what their nature is.

Tomorrow, when God seems to be distant . . .

For more reflections on weathering the whirlwind, enter the word in the blog search bar and explore. 

Adapted from a Favorite written on January 27, 2008.

 

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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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The Wisdom Tree

Proverbs 28Seek Prudence

Friday, November 17, 2017

So many wise thoughts.

The wicked are more frightened than the good.

Security happens through prudence rather than force.

Wealth is a deluge that wipes out everything rather than nourish as does a constant rain.

Happiness lies in true integrity; truth to self is a worthy companion and leads to wisdom.

Happiness lies in seeking justice through the law, rather than force.

Gluttony is an excess of nourishment and has outcomes other than physical obesity.

Take advantage of people if you like but in the end someone will distribute all that you have saved to those who have nothing.

When we pray outside of the God’s law of love, we actually pray to the darkness.

Those who seduce the innocent are constructing their own gibbet, while the innocent will be rescued.

Self-importance is false value; everyone else sees the self-conjurer behind the façade (or the wizard behind the curtain).

We all know when incompetent people are in charge . . . even the incompetents themselves.

We might as well admit our faults; they will be pointed out to us anyway.

Happiness lies in softening our hearts.

People know evil when they see it.

Being idle is a dangerous pastime.

Happiness lies in being worthy of trust; not in money or possessions.

Happiness lies in total commitment and fidelity to the law.

Greed is its own terrible all-consuming end.

Happiness lies in knowing when and how to rebuke a brother or sister with love rather than seeking a relationship through flattery.

Happiness lies in seeking and receiving wisdom.

Happiness lies in following the way of the just, even when evil reigns.

When we seek wisdom, we find it in all that is good.

Adapted from a Favorite written on November 4, 2007.

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Nehemiah 6: Doing a Great Work

Jerusalem: The Golden Gate

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

This Chapter in Nehemiah’s story is interesting. The good work he is doing brings suspicion, envy and even anger from certain quarters. What does this builder do? He refuses to put aside the great work he is doing, and when her finds himself in a precarious position he does not hide; but rather, he prays. All the forces of Sanballat, Tobiah and Gesham are no match for this man and his God. The prophetess Noadiah holds no sway over the builder. We hear the story in Nehemiah’s voice.

Now when it was reported to Sanballat and Tobiah and to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had built the wall and that there was no gap left in it (though up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together in one of the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. (NSRV)

When Nehemiah declines to neglect the great work he is about, his enemies persist.

Sanvalat and Geshem sent me a message which said, “Come, let’s meet together in one of the villages of the Ono Valley.” But they were planning to do me harm; so I sent them messengers with this message: “I’m too busy with important work to come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it to come down to you?” They kept sending this sort of message to me — four times — and I answered them the same way. (CJB)

But Nehemiah sees through the ruse.

I knew they were scheming to hurt me so I sent messengers back with this: “I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down. Why should the work come to a standstill just so I can come down to see you?” (MSG)

Nehemiah sees their deceit.

They were trying to frighten us into stopping work. I prayed, “But now, God, make me strong!” (GNT)

Nehemiah remains firm.

I answered, “I’m not the kind of person that runs and hides. Do you think I would try to save my life by hiding in the Temple? I won’t do it.” (GNT)

Nehemiah asks help of the one who brings good out of harm.

“O my God, don’t let Tobiah and Sanballat get by with all the mischief they’ve done. And the same goes for the prophetess Noadiah and the other prophets who have been trying to undermine my confidence.” (MSG)

Nehemiah remains in the arms of God and does not fear the enemies who unite against him.

After fifty-two days of work the entire wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Elul. When our enemies in the surrounding nations heard this, they realized that they had lost face, since everyone knew that the work had been done with God’s help . . . People would talk in front of me about all the good deeds Tobiah had done and would tell him everything I said. And he kept sending me letters to try to frighten me. (GNT)

Nehemiah lives out his trust in the Lord, knowing that he is doing the Lord’s great work.

Tomorrow, an assembly of clans.

When we use the scripture link to compare translations of this story, we come to understand the value of fidelity, steadfastness, and trust in the Lord.

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John 8:1-11: Contemplating God’s Mercy

Sunday, August 27, 2017

“God is a riverbed of mercy that underlies all the flotsam and jetsam that flows over it and soon passes away. It is vast, silent, restful, and resourceful, and it receives and also releases all the comings and goings. It is awareness itself (as opposed to judgement), and awareness is not the same as ‘thinking’. It refuses to be pulled into the emotional and mental tugs-of-war that form most of human life. To look out from this untouchable silence is what we mean by contemplation”. (Rohr 187)

Richard Rohr, OFM, tells us that if there is one characteristic to assign to God, it is mercy. This life-giving quality of forgiveness, fidelity, and love is God’s signature characteristic. Rohr quotes St. Teresa of Ávila from her book THE INTERIOR CASTLE. “The soul is spacious, plentiful, and its amplitude is impossible to exaggerate . . . the sun her radiates to every part . . . and nothing can diminish its beauty”. Rohr continues, “This is your soul. It is God-in-you. This is your True Self”. (Rohr 187)

Pope Francis tells us that THE NAME OF GOD IS MERCY in his signature work published in 2016.  He, like Rohr and St. Teresa, reminds us that in order to understand and experience mercy, we must first acknowledge that we are in need of mercy ourselves. Just as Jesus forgives the condemned woman in John 8, God wants to forgive each of us. Just as Jesus does not reproach the woman in John 8, God refuses to reproach each of us. Just as Jesus contemplates the possibility that God’s kingdom is now, God gives us the gift of mercy and insists that the kingdom is here.

“We live in a society that encourages us to discard the habit of recognizing and assuming our responsibilities: It is always others who make mistakes. It is always others who are immoral. It’s always someone else’s fault, never our own”. (Pope Francis, 2)

We live in a place and time when blame and fault are assigned, credit is taken, and deep divisions grow. We live in a place and time when mercy and love are needed, stories are believed, and bridges are built over deep chasms. St. Teresa, Rohr and Pope Francis tell us that God is a riverbed of mercy. They remind us that God’s generosity and love have no bounds. Once we begin to contemplate God as seen through the actions of Jesus, we know all of this to be true. Once we allow God’s Spirit to enter our lives, we allow ourselves to slide into the mighty flow of mercy that washes away all that separates us.

Richard Rohr, OFM. A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations. Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016.

Pope Francis, THE NAME OF GOD IS MERCY: A Conversation with Andrea Tornielli

 

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