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Posts Tagged ‘fidelity’


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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Job 23: Bitter Complaint

Jan the Elder Lievens: Job

Friday, August 17, 2018

It is a good idea to visit the story of Job once in a while. This book of wisdom has so much to tell us beyond the casual glance. Who among us has not felt abandoned by God, or believed that life has asked too much of us? Job longs for an intimate conversation with God through which he might lay out his case and be acquitted forever by [his] judge.

Job knows that somewhere there is a reason for the injustice he suffers, and he is persistent in his quest. It seems that his fidelity does not serve him. His innocence goes unnoticed. His search for the almighty continues, and in this seeking we find seeds of hope.

If I go forward, he is not there;
    or backward, I cannot perceive him;
on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him;
    I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.
But he knows the way that I take;
    when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold.

The marvel of the New Testament story is that – as if in answer to Job’s bitter plaint – the God this wise man seeks comes to walk among us as one of us. The miracle of the resurrection brings us hope that Job lives in such a unique way. The promise of the Pentecost brings us healing and mercy in the person of the Spirit who dwells in us every moment and accompanies us in every location of our lives . . . forward, backward, to the right and to the left.

Job cries out,

Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
    that I might come even to his dwelling!

Morgan Weistling: Walking with God

Today, in our world that broadcasts its pain on more than a billion and half television screens and nearly two billion smartphones in a non-stop cycle of violence, we might join Job in his sad moaning. The evidence seems to great for us to explain away or comprehend. Fidelity does not serve him, innocence counts for nothing; yet Job holds out hope . . . as we might also do when we remember the story of the Christ child. Light comes into the darkness. God’s love is manifest in the persona of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit. yet . . .

I still rebel and complain against God;
    I cannot keep from groaning.
How I wish I knew where to find him,
    and knew how to go where he is.

Job had only the Old Testament promise of a coming Messiah. We have that Messiah’s presence today. Oh that we might remember this when we look forward, backward, to our right and our left as we continue our bitter complaint.


Tomorrow, Job 24, a violent world.

Images from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Job_(biblical_figure) and https://www.lordsart.com/wawigodbymow.html

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Esther C: 14-16: Esther’s Gift of Prayer

Giovanni Andrea Sirani: Esther Before Ahasuerus

Thursday, August 9, 2018

In exile, alone, and confronted with great danger, Esther turns to God for help. In so doing, she leaves a timeless legacy. Yesterday we considered the message others read in our lives. Today we consider the legacy that we, following the example of this young, defenseless woman

Then [Esther] prayed to the LORD, the God if Israel, saying: “My LORD, our King, you alone are God. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand. As a child I was wont to hear from the people of the land of my forefathers that you, O LORD, chose Israel from among all peoples, and our fathers from among all ancestors, as a lasting heritage, and that you fulfilled all your promises to them”.

We may want to use Esther’s words when we are alone or abandoned, when we have no one to turn to, and no place to go . . . Help me, who am alone and have no help but you.

We may want to use her words when we remember the promise of heritage and wonder how we have arrived at an unexpected place . . . I was wont to hear from the people of the land of my forefathers that you, O LORD, chose Israel from among all peoples.

We may want to recall, as Esther does, that . . . God alone is King of all.

We may want to remember, as Esther does, that . . . God fulfills all promises.

Esther’s prayer evokes our past, foresees our future, and reinforces our present. Her words serve us in times of trial and pain. Her story encourages steadfastness and hope. Her legacy is one of courage in the face of hatred, expectation in the presence of desperation, and fidelity as the antidote to evil. Esther’s bravery is a gift to us today. We will want to hold it close, remember it well; and redeem ourselves and others as we pray these words with her.


To learn more about the story of Esther, and why some translations include chapter letters as well as numbers, enter her name in to the blog search bar and explore. Or refer to: http://www.usccb.org/bible/esther/0 

Today’s scripture link contains only the NABRE (New American Bible revised Edition)

For a child’s version of this story, visit: http://www.dltk-kids.com/world/jewish/purim/esther_story.htm 

Image from: https://www.pinterest.com/candy2155/queen-esther/

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2 Samuel 8Bureaucracy

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Commentary will explain for us that what we read today will both settle and unsettle us.  After reading the accounts of combat, the writer brings us to a kind of resting place where he summarizes for us the results of recent warfare; we have the borders of David’s new nation defined.  We also see how David determines to administer his newly-forged kingdom, and with this description of personnel and policy we have a foreshadowing of what is to come.  An uneasy feeling may flicker through us when we realize that David – who has been so faithful to God – now allows himself to nibble at the edges of his authenticity.

From THE HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY, page 267: “Skirting the edges of Deuteronomic law (“nor is he to multiply greatly for himself silver and gold,” Deut. 17:17), the king dedicates gifts and booty of silver and gold to Yhwh [Yahweh] (8:11).  So “Yhwh gave David victory everywhere he went (v. 14) . . . For David’s sons to be priests is to flout the Mosaic law that draws the priesthood exclusively from the tribe of Levi . . . Many versions, like many commentators, have attempted to smooth the text by rewriting it”.  It seems that with David – just as we find in our own lives – with every gain of stability there will be a fluttering of worry.

Almost daily in our world of instant, mass communication we have word that more nepotism has been exposed.  Another leader falls to the noisy masses; one more plot of corrupt practices covered by officials is revealed.  There is nothing new in our modern headlines and today we see that bureaucracy breeds its own end.  Transparency may be the present watchword for leaders, but dishonesty appears to be the practice.  There is something about power that corrupts even the best of us.

In Jesus’ early church the structure was horizontal; it lacked a hierarchy of platoons and divisions; there was no ladder for priests to climb.  Jesus names Peter as the rock (Matthew 16:18) on which the church will be erected by those who accompany him . . . and by billions of kingdom-builders to come.  Christ does not lay out an elaborate bureaucracy of functionaries.  Instead, he charges each of us with our own participation function in his community according to our gifts.

In 2 Samuel 11 we hear of David’s sin with Bathsheba.  Can it be that we begin to see David wobble in chapter 8 once he establishes the kingdom of Israel, once he becomes comfortable?  Perhaps we can learn a lesson from today’s story, and perhaps it is this.  When we find ourselves on firm ground and feeling confident in a newly-formed strength, we will want to pause and reflect on the subtle snares that lie hidden in our success.  This is not to say that we ought not enjoy the satisfaction that comes from having achieved stability in our lives; but it is to say that once we humans conquer our enemies and our fears . . . we must remember who it is who makes all of this conquest and all of this steadiness possible.  And so we pray . . .

Good and patient God, Remind us that when we celebrate stability after chaos, we celebrate you.  Tell us often that when we find peace after struggle, that peace is you.  Guide us in the remembering that layers of power do not govern well but that a convoluted structure leaves many little places for little demons to hide.  We know that you want to erase fear from our lives.  We know that you want to bring us stability.  We know that you are present to us and in us directly.  We know how much you love us.  Keep us from creating labyrinths that separate us from one another and from you.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, together with the fellowship of the Holy Spirit who lives in each of us.  Amen. 


Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 267. Print.

Image from: http://www.visualsermons.co.uk/

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Acts 5:1-11The End of the Wicked

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Goya: Witch’s Sabbath

“The sin of Ananais and Sapphira did not consist in the withholding of part of the money but in their deception of the community.  Their deaths are ascribed to a lie to the Holy Spirit (3.9), i.e., they accepted an honor accorded them by the community for their generosity, but in reality they were not deserving of it”.  (Senior 191)  Thinking through this story gives us the opportunity to reflect on the concept of honor: what it is, how it is rightly and wrongly earned, why we bestow it on others, and what we do with an award accorded to us.

We might immediately think of warriors who risk life itself as they defend people, property or concepts.  Medals are given – sometimes posthumously – to those who give of themselves at great personal cost.  Some of these heroes deny that they have done anything above or beyond what another would have done.  We spectators know differently and so we honor those who think of themselves last at such great physical, psychological, and personal expense.

As in today’s example, we might honor philanthropists, those among us who are gifted with an abundance of talent or goods either directly earned or inherited.  Many humanitarians give anonymously in order to better share what they have.  Some have strict guidelines a petitioner must follow in order to win an award.  Still others give loudly and with fanfare.  In any or all of these cases, we give accolades and recognition to those who share their wealth.

There are also those among us who give at great personal and spiritual price.  These holy warriors have no money and little talent for physical defense; yet they are as important as any other kind of hero and they too must be honored.  We all know holy people who either boldly or quietly prayed themselves and many others into God’s hands.  Their value is greater than rubies or pearls for the battle they wage is with the greatest and darkest of powers.  Saints whose names form the litanies we pray are obvious spiritual heroes; but there are many of these holy ones among us . . . and we rely on them more than we know.  We must recognize them as easily as we do the heroes of war and wealth.

In today’s story we find lots to think about: How Ananais and Sapphira think they can deceive God himself, how the community first admires this couple and then is stunned at the immediate consequences of their deceitful actions.  Perhaps God is setting an early example of what it means to live in Christ-like community: honesty, integrity, trust and fidelity are hallmarks of a truly unified yet diverse group.  Lies only fool those who create them for the truth is always revealed . . . sometimes immediately . . . always with certainty.

We all know people who accept credit where it is not due.  We may have seen these people of the lie come unraveled . . . or we may believe that these people live long, blameless lives without just compensation for the pain they cause.  We need not worry about these deceivers as today’s story tells us.  We need only fix ourselves on maintaining our own purity of purpose as we move through each day.   We will take solace from the often-sung Psalm 73 as we pray . . . Truly God is good to those who are pure of heart.  But as for me, my feet had nearly slipped; I had almost tripped and fallen; because I envied the proud and saw the prosperity of the wicked: for they suffer no pain, and their bodies are sleek and sound; in the misfortunes of others they have to share; they are not afflicted as other are; therefore they wear pride like a necklace and wrap their violence about them like a cloak . . . When I tried to understand these things, it was too hard for me; until I entered the sanctuary of God and discerned the end of the wicked . . . Oh how suddenly them come to destruction . . . Like a dream when one awakes; O Lord, when you arise you make their image vanish.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.191. Print. 


Image from: https://onartandaesthetics.com/2015/11/07/goyas-pinturas-negras/ 

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 8, 2011.

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Psalm 24Universal God

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Commentary will tell us that this psalm was likely written to accompany a procession with the Ark around the Temple precinct, or even through the city or countryside.  When we look at these verses closely, we see that they contain a list of qualities that describe God’s people: the clean of hand, the pure of heart, those who are not devoted to idols and who do not lie.  God’s power and goodness are affirmed; God is seen as the designer and initiator of creation.  With this song the people celebrate the glory of God and the goodness that resides in his creation . . . the earth.  They also confirm the values God’s faithful will want to espouse: purity and integrity. 

Scripture begins with the creation story we have heard so often that we may move through it too quickly.  When Genesis 1 is read with care, and when it is compared to other creation stories, we will want to join in the singing of this hymn to God who is so much different and so much more wonderful than any other god.

Ancient Mesopotamia was rife with creation stories and many of them elevated a particular god to supremacy over other gods.  This would be done in order to establish superiority of a god’s followers or cult; it would also give prestige to a particular temple, city or town.  These myths frequently gave simple explications for the complexity of nature.  A god generally called a mound of earth out of darkness and water, set up rites and rituals and often deified elements of nature such as the moon, sun or the earth itself.  Some stories describe epic battles between various gods, and humans lack any dignity or purpose other than to serve as a kind of slave.  So we might want to look at what makes the Judeo-Christian creation story different from the rest.  “The Genesis account rejects the central motif of pagan religion: the deification of nature.  Interestingly, it does not seek to elevate Yahweh over other gods.  Indeed, in the seven day creation account (Gen 1:1-2:3) Yahweh is not named . . . Even Genesis 2-3 provides no sense that Yahweh needed to establish his supremacy over other deities.  There is no conquest of other gods or monsters, and no shrine or city is said to be the place from which God began the creation process.  No sacred object is mentioned.  The God of Genesis 1 is indeed the universal God”.  (ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE 5)

The God of Genesis 1 is our compassionate God who calls order out of chaos, goodness out of evil, light out of the dark.  This universal God wants to celebrate with us and about us. This universal God wants to heal us, transform us, save and redeem us.  This God calls us to purity and honesty, integrity and truth.  This God created the earth and all her goodness for us.  This God does not enslave us but suffers and dies for us.  This God is one we call Father, Brother and Spirit of Love . . . for this God loves us beyond all measure.

Let us join in this hymn of praise to God . . .

The earth is the Lord’s and all it holds, the world and those who live there . . .

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 5. Print.


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 7, 2011.

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