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2 Kings 19Fidelity is its Own Reward

Friday, January 18, 2019

We spent time reflecting on Hezekiah on Monday, today we look at another part of his story with a Noontime from November 24, 2008 posted today as a Favorite

Rubens: The Downfall of Sennacherib

As we read today’s Noontime, where have the opportunity to think about where we stand in human history.  The Assyrians with their leader Sennacherib have conquered the northern tribes that had broken away after Solomon’s death and now they stand ready to take Jerusalem.  Hezekiah, working closely with the prophet Isaiah, listens to Yahweh’s advice . . . and Jerusalem is spared the impending invasion.  In addition, we know from contemporary documents that two factors cause Sennacherib to turn away from Jerusalem: a plague came upon his troop encampment killing 185,000 soldiers, and word reached the Assyrians that Tirhakah of Egypt was marching out against them.  Sennacherib was later killed by his two sons (Adrammalech and Sharezer) while worshiping in the temple of Nisroch.  (ARCHEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE 562.)

The themes we have seen in this portion of 2 Kings are the healing of Hezekiah, Yahweh’s intervention in human events, the importance of spiritual reform and preparation, and the high value placed on fidelity by Yahweh.

Several verses call us to deeper reflection.

Verse 4: So send up a prayer for the remnant that is here.  Hezekiah and Isaiah know that the north has been lost . . . but they do not give up hope or faith.  They petition on behalf of the faithful who remain.

Verse 6:  Do not be frightened by the words you have heard, with which the servants of the King of Assyria have blasphemed me.  The Lord replies with words of comfort for these faithful servants.  The Lord reminds them that he will not only take care of his faithful remnant, but he will also address the wrongs done to them by their enemies.

Verses 15 to 19:  You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth.  You have made the heavens and the earth.  Incline your ear, O Lord and listen!  Open your eyes, O Lord, and see!  Hezekiah prays to Yahweh in the temple.

Verse 34:  I will shield and save this city for my own sake, and for the sake of my servant David.  The Lord replies.

Verse 35: That night the angel of the Lord went forth . . .

What do we know about ourselves?  We live in a tumultuous world which is ever ready to dismiss or overrun the faithful servants of Yahweh.  We will be challenged as New Testament apostles of this one true God.  Our ideas, our families will be invaded by forces which seek to diminish the voice we carry in solidarity.

What must we do when we are under attack?  We have need of only one place of supplication . . . the temple of our inner heart where the Holy Spirit dwells.  We have need of only one name . . . Jesus Christ.   We have need of only one God . . . the one who is supreme above all others . . . and this God alone is enough.  Remaining faithful to God brings salvation.  Fidelity brings lasting justice.  Fidelity beings eventual peace.  Fidelity to God is always accompanied by its own reward.


A re-post from January 18, 2012.

Image from: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Sennacherib

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 562. Print.

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Isaiah 39Peace and Truth

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Hezekiah’s Tunnel

This chapter brings to a close the first portion of Isaiah’s prophecy and prepares us to hear what the prophet has to say in the rest of his prophecy.  We witness Hezekiah’s hospitality and hear the conversation he has with the prophet, Isaiah; and we want to know more about this man who becomes king at age 25, and who reforms his government and his people while reigning successfully for 29 years.  Today we also witness a harbinger of events to come . . . the invasion of Judah and the deportation of her people.  Hezekiah does not allow ominous omens to diminish his faith.  He does not waver from his belief that Yahweh saves.  And he makes certain to foster peace and truth in all that he proclaims and does.  To examine the story of Hezekiah more closely, we return to a reflection we shared on January 11, 2009 on 2 Kings 18 and 19 entitled Desperation. 

We have taken a look at Hezekiah, son of idolatrous Ahaz, a half-dozen times since we began our Noontime reflections; and each time we pause with him, I am always impressed by his fidelity and perseverance.  Having Ahaz as a father, Isaiah as a prophet, and Sennacherib as an adversary . . . Hezekiah seems doomed to a story of failure.  Yet he is not.  To read more about him, turn to Chronicles or go to these sites http://www.varchive.org/tac/hezekiah.htm http://www.aboutbibleprophecy.com/p82.htm and http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_hezekiah.html. Discover how the people build an amazing tunnel under his guidance to bring water to the besieged city.  Read about how he consults with the prophet Isaiah who speaks plainly about their dire straits.  Read about the odds that confront this man and this nation . . . and be amazed.  Through many trials Hezekiah is accompanied by the God who accompanies us.

We may want to review Chapter 18 of 2 Kings to understand where we are in the story.

  • Verse 3: Thus says Hezekiah: “This is a day of distress, of rebuke and of disgrace”.
  • Verse 4: So send up a prayer for the remnant that is here.
  • Verse 5: Thus says the Lord: “Do not be frightened by the words you have heard”.
  • Verses 15 – 19: Hezekiah prays in the Lord’s presence: “O Lord . . . incline your ear . . . and listen!  Open your eyes, O Lord and see!  . . . Save us . . . that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God”. 

    Pool of Siloam and the end of Hezekiah’s Tunnel

God hears the prayer and answers Hezekiah.  In Chapter 20, Hezekiah falls ill and God rescues him.  This ruler is destined to serve God and through perseverance he does so . . . and he does so quite well.  We can reflect on the life of this servant to compare it to our own.  When the Assyrians in our lives are at the gates, will we go immediately to the Lord God to ask him for help or will we rely on our own resources?  And when the Lord God has answered our prayers – no matter the response – do we give thanks and continue to trust in God?

We find ourselves in distress and disgrace . . . God hears our prayer and answers us.  Do not be frightened by the words you have heard.

We send up our prayer to God who accompanies Hezekiah and all the faithful . . . God hears our prayer and answers us.  Do not be frightened by the words you have heard.

We are desperate and tempted to turn to our own resources . . . but let us instead go up to the Temple of the Lord and enter the Holy of Holies . . . to lay our petition on the altar of the Lord our God . . . and let us say. . .

Save us . . . that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God.  Amen. 


A re-post from January 16, 2012.

Images from: http://www.hellotravel.com/israel/walking-through-hezekiahs-tunnel and http://www.wildolive.co.uk/baptism.htm

For more information on the excavation of Hezekiah’s tunnel, see: http://www.bibleplaces.com/heztunnel.htm  and http://www.hellotravel.com/israel/walking-through-hezekiahs-tunnel

For other Noontime reflections on Hezekiah, see The Book of Micah: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/micah-doom-and-hope-constancy/  and False Idols: https://thenoontimes.com/2011/10/29/false-idols/

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Tobit 11Homeward Journey

Friday, November 16, 2018

I love this story and I can never read it enough for it is the tale of healing, fidelity, and joy.  It is a story with an ending we all wish for ourselves and our loved ones.  It is even a story we might wish for our enemies.

Commentary tells us that this story harbingers the miracles of the New Testament and even prepares us for miracles in our own lives.  In this homeward journey, everyone is happy with their new in-laws, cataracts are removed, a family rejoices.  The reader senses that all the characters will live happily ever after, and so pushes on toward the end of the tale in delicious anticipation of the revelation of the angel Raphael’s identity.  This is the ideal ending to a perfect bed-time story.  The loyal but harried young couple meets, overcomes odds, weds and returns home.  Goodness comes out of evil and illness – even in exile.  Our journey home has its reward.

Today’s first reading at Mass is from Hebrews 13:1-8 and it reminds us that we never know when the stranger beside us may be an angel: Let brotherly love continue.  Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.  Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment, and of the ill-treated as of yourselves, for you are also in the body.  Let marriage be honored among all and the marriage bed be kept undefiled . . . Let your life be free from love of money but be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never forsake or abandon you’.  Thus we may say with confidence: ‘The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid.  What can anyone do to me?’  Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you.  Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

When we feel as though the journey behind us has been too arduous, or the journey before us will be too difficult . . . let us remember how Tobias and Sarah overcame fear to journey home.

When it seems that the present leg of our journey offers no hope and little comfort . . . let us remember that healing angels accompany us in the guise of fellow travelers.

When we find ourselves distracted in our journey by the many tempting way stations . . . let us remember that Holy Spirit accompanies us, the Father calls us, and Jesus Christ heals us.

Let us remember . . . and let us rejoice as we join one another in the journey homeward.


A re-post from October 14, 2011.

Image from: http://namakparay.blogspot.com/2010_06_01_archive.html

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Judith 4Prayer, Penance, and Action

Carlo Francesco Nuvolone: Judith with the head of Holofernes

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The story of Judith is one of my favorites and it seems that we visit it about once a year.  Perhaps I like it so much because a woman takes matters into her own hands and is able to not only defeat a nation but to also bring Judah to atonement.  And she does this through prayer, penance, and action.  You may want to fast forward through these chapters to discover Holofernes’ fate at the hands this Jewish widow and her handmaiden; or you may want to rest in this part of the story before you move on.  In any case, the story is a wonderful one.

The ritual performed by the inhabitants of Jerusalem is a rite of entreaty.  The recommended precautions in the mountain passes were typical of a people making a defensive stance.  The generals and priests prepare for war; the woman prepares to listen to God’s instructions.

In my mother’s Douay version, the high priest reminds the people that it was through holy prayer that Moses overcame Amalek – a man who trusted in his own power and army, his shields, chariots, horsemen, and swords.  So that all of the people might hear, he intones: So shall all the enemies of Israel be, if you persevere in this work which you have begun. The people follow the priest’s advice.  And they all begged of God with all their heart, that he would visit his people Israel.

God visits us daily and constantly – whether we realize it or not.

God hears our cries of joy and distress – whether we feel it or not.

God answers prayers and brings miracles – whether we see it or not.

Let Judith be an example of faithful and faith-filled perseverance.

Let Judith remind us that prayer and penance will open clear communication with God so that our actions will be – like Judith’s – an answer to God’s call.


A Favorite from December 2, 2010.

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Judith 

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Joshua 24The Witness Stone

Friday, September 21, 2018

Today we read about a rite that takes place in Shechem under an oak in the sanctuary of the Lord.  Joshua sets up a standing stone as a witness to all that takes place that day.

Joshua reminds us that the Lord says: I brought you out of a land in which you were asked to serve other gods.  And we reply: We remember well how we were taken in by the false promise of immediate satisfaction . . . and how the Lord saved us from an empty life.

Joshua reminds us that the Lord says: I lead you out of the desert and saved you from those who would see an end of you.  And we reply: We remember well how we hungered for real sustenance and how we were frightened by those who wanted to put an end to us . . . and how the Lord redeemed us with his own life.

Joshua reminds us that the Lord says: I gave you land which you had not tilled and cities which you had not built, to dwell in; you have eaten of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.  And we reply: We remember well how you rescued us from privation and provided all for us . . . and how the Spirit continues to abide with us and comfort us.

Joshua reminds us that the Lord says: Love the Lord and serve him completely.  If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling.  As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.  And we reply: We will renew this promise with you.

Joshua says to us as he said to his own people: You may not be able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God who will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.  And we reply as the people replied: We will still serve the Lord.

Joshua says to us as he said to his own people: You are your own witnesses that you have chosen to serve the Lord.  And we reply as the people replied: We are, indeed!

And Joshua says . . . This stone shall be our witness, for it has heard all the words which the Lord spoke to us. 

And so we pray . . .

Good and faithful God, we were told that you would not forgive us our transgressions and yet you not only forgive them, you come to walk with us as one of us.  We hear that you are a jealous God and yet we see that your love is tender and nourishing.  We know that you are holy and yet your endless generosity in sharing your life with us amazing to us.  

Like Joshua’s people who affirm their covenant promise to you beneath the oak in the sanctuary at Shechem, we declare today that you are the one, the only, the Living God who loves us more dearly than we can imagine.  In our littleness we cling to you.  In our waywardness we look to you.  In our fear we hope in you. 

We ask that you call us back when we stray from you.  Keep us always close to you so that we might serve you.

We ask that you bind us to you.  Keep us always close to you so that we might serve you.

We ask that you never let us go.  Keep us always close to you so that we might serve you.

We ask this in Jesus’ name, together with the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 


A re-post from August 21, 2011.

To learn more about the Amorites, visit: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1422-amorites

Visit https://www.bibleplaces.com/shechem/ to learn more about Schechem.

Images from: http://www.free-extras.com/images/oak_tree-11917.htm

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Sirach 33:16-19: Gleaning

Monday, September 17, 2018

Written on March 3 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Francois Millet: The Gleaners

We keep our sorrows to ourselves, thinking that no one wants to hear what has gone wrong for us.  This is a mistake.  We are called to share sorrow and to accompany one another in this journey of discerning how to best word in God’s vineyard.  It does not matter how or when we come to this realization.  It only matters that we eventually arrive there.

Now I was last to keep vigil; I was like a gleaner following the grape-pickers; by the blessing of the Lord I arrived first, and like grape-pickers I filled my wine press.

By dwelling on our sorrows or by thinking that our lives are more pain-filled than anyone else’s we rob ourselves – and our companions in life’s journey – of the opportunity to experience Christ’s healing presence.  It does not matter if we feel we have little to offer, it only matters that we offer who we are to others in need.

Consider that I have not labored for myself alone, but for all who seek instruction. Hear me, you who are great among the people, and you leaders of the congregation, pay heed!

Patience, fidelity, generosity, trust in God . . . when I think of those who have taught me to climb out of sorrow and into joy, these are the qualities that make these teachers greater than any titled leader with power.  If we turn to the beginning of Sirach (2:1-6), we find more instruction.

My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for testing.  Set your heart right and be steadfast, and do not be impetuous in time of calamity.  Cling to him and do not depart, so that your last days may be prosperous.  Accept what befalls you, and in times of humiliations be patient.  For gold is tested in fire, and those found acceptable in the furnace of humiliation.  Trust in him, and he will help you; make your ways straight and hope in him. 

We have frequently reflected in our Noontimes that the silversmith’s fire is essential to smelt out the detritus that makes us less bright and pure.  The prophet Malachi (3:1-3) reminds us that the refiner must remain constantly by the fire in order that it burn just hot enough to do its work without destroying the ore.  The life of those who choose to respond to God’s call is laden with many burdens . . . but these burdens convert to sweet justice when we lay all our complaints and pains before God.   We who come to God’s fields to glean what is left after the harvester passes by, engage in holy work for we lift up lost souls to God.  When we enter fully into this work to place the world’s sorrows in God’s capable hands, we – like the sadness we bear to God – are transformed by the smelter’s fire into bright, lovely and holy offerings . . .  and we become the delight we imagine.  So as we glean, let us imagine God’s joy well.


A re-post from August 17, 2011.

Image from: http://www.smithinet.com/Louvre/Louvre_art.html#gleaners 

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Job: In Praise of Wisdom and Hope

Thursday, August 29, 2018

Before we leave the story of Job, we give ourselves the gift of time with this innocent sufferer who foreshadows the hope of the Messiah. Today we look at the story of “the hero . . . subjected to a divine test as a means of ascertaining whether or not he serves the deity without thinking about profiting from it.” (Barton and Muddiman 331) Just as Job enters into debate with his friends and the Lord, so do we have the invitation to deliberate with the Almighty the existential questions that plague us as humans.

Stylistically, this book presents us with a combination of poetry and prose. Does this signal our dual human yet divine essence? Does this tell us that we are called to live in the world but be not of it? Does this remind us that although we are mortal, we also live forever in Christ? The style certainly communicates the ideas that the innocent suffer. The beauty of the poetry may indicate our hope in the Spirit against the backdrop prose of our separation.

From the ARCHEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE, “[T]he reader knows from the outset that Job is suffering because of his righteousness (Job 1). Thus, when Job rails against his pain and contends that he has not deserved it (eg., ch. 31), the early reader – who had insider knowledge from the prelude – recognized that he spoke the truth. Unable to fall back on pat answers that were almost universally accepted at the time, readers were forced to wrestle with the question along with Job as they worked their way through the text to God’s final answer. The resultant new understanding of the meaning of suffering and the justice of God, contrary as it was to the conventional wisdom of the day, must have astonished them.” (Zondervan 732)

Wisdom and hope are the gifts Job brings us through his suffering, questioning, persistence and fidelity. Wisdom and hope are gifts of the Spirit of God. Wisdom and hope are embodied in the life of Christ who abides with us still. Today we give thanks for these matchless gifts. Today we share the good news that are recipients of such generous mercy. Today we praise God for the healing wisdom of the Spirit, and the lessons Job brings us of hope.


Images from https://chicago.suntimes.com/health/mind-over-body-new-book-tells-how-to-tap-into-wisdom-and-grow-with-age/

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 732. Print.

Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 331. Print.

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Job 42: Humbled and Satisfied

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

If we sit patiently with Job to read his story, we are rewarded . . . just as Job is rewarded for sitting with the Lord through suffering.

If we take in the ideas Job exchanged with his friends, we are healed . . . just as Job is healed when he remains in God.

If we live in fidelity to God as Job does, we experience humility . . . just as Job does when he hears the Lord speak.

If we seek wisdom as Job does, we find satisfaction . . . just as Job does when he hears the Lord address his friends. After God had finished addressing Job, he turned to Eliphaz the Temanite and said, “I’ve had it with you and your two friends. I’m fed up! You haven’t been honest either with me or about me—not the way my friend Job has.”

Honesty, authenticity, perseverance, courage, fidelity. These are the signposts we might follow as we move through life. They are antecedents of the meekness and fulfilment we see in Christ nearly a thousand years later. They are the presence of the consolation and healing we encounter in the Holy Spirit we experience in our own lives. They are the wisdom and peace we seek today.


Image from: https://lamountaincoaching.com/humility/can-promote-humility/

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Job 25-27The Storm Wind

Hurricane Gertrude hits the U.K. in 2017

Sunday, August 19, 2018

This weekend we have considered Job’s plight, and Job’s questions. We have observed Job’s interactions with his friends, and we have witnessed his fidelity, hope, and righteousness before insurmountable odds and circumstances. Today we return to a favorite from December 9, 2010 as we look at the next few chapters of this story.

Job refuses to bend to social pressure.  He refuses to cave in to public opinion.  He remains faithful to God.  He knows that only God has the power to give us immortal breath, only God has a love that will sustain us through all misery.   He knows that only God brings true and eternal serenity and joy.  Job responds to God’s call – even when this call comes to him through storm clouds.

Father Alfred Delp was a German priest condemned to death by Nazis in WWII.  He died in 1945.  His words are today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation, and they refer to John the Baptist who, like Job, sought God, heard God, and were condemned for conveying God’s message. They were tossed by storms, but remained faithful to God.

When the Christian is asked, or asks himself, “Who are you?” this is primarily a questioning of his reality.  Are you a person whose concerns are with God?  Are you a person of whom it can be said that your heart and your mind are filled with a peace that surpasses all comprehension? . . . [T]he Calling-God [is one] who calls out in the midst of the wilderness through voices of men.  He has filled them, and their very being documents that such perfected people are among us, sent by God. 

Job tells us that only through, and with, and in God, can we weather the deadly winds whipped up by the storm.  His friends do not bring the voice of God to him, yet he persists in faith.

Fr. Delp and John the Baptist are destroyed by the winds.  Job is not.  Yet all three men tell us who God is by the manner in which they live their lives in the tempest, in the wilderness, and through the maelstrom.  What documentation of our faith to we show others when we weather the storms of life?  What is our story?  How do we live it when we are buffeted by the winds of the storm?


Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 9.12 (2010). Print. 

Tomorrow, in praise of wisdom.

Image from: https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/639377/Gertrude-chaos-hurricane-force-winds-transport-power-lines

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