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Posts Tagged ‘God’s call’


Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Tough-love1-300x256Ezekiel 33

Fidelity of the Sentinel

In ancient societies the role of the watchman was seminal; city-states and even towns relied on watch towers and wakeful sentinels to warn their community of impending danger. Today we have replaced this watchfulness with electronic stealth weapons that often divide us about their necessity or efficacy. With today’s Noontime, we might learn something about our human need to be alert so as to survive. We might also learn something about our own fidelity to God.

Although Israel has already been sent into exile, Ezekiel warns his people of continuing disaster and, as we have seen with Jeremiah, the community’s response to his warning is lukewarm. This was a people skilled in the art of denial and enabling. It seems that God’s prophets, or sentinels, nearly always receive a tepid response; but this does not deter them from speaking. Today our modern prophets, like those of old, continue to call out to us about the importance of hearing the warning from the sentinels we ourselves have posted. They also call on us to be faithful to God in our response to the warning call.

My parents often reminded us that what hurts the individual also hurts the group. They also admitted that sometimes as parents it is difficult to discern when love is nurturing and when it is enabling. Tough love is a term that was coined in the late 1960s by Bill Milliken to describe how families and institutions must intervene in addicted behaviors and cycles. Too often we are swayed by our fear of rejection by an individual or group to gently yet firmly interact with others in loving sternness.  And this is what God is saying to Ezekiel and Jeremiah. I have appointed you watchman of the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.

When we hear the sentinel warning, we know that it is the hour to pause and reflect as individuals and as communities about the message of that call. We are obliged to listen to other voices, to pray with other hearts, and to share with other minds the meaning of the warning. And we must remain faithful to God’s call as do the prophets. Although the tide of many be against us, we must persist in developing our willingness to step out of all that is comfortable to remain faithful in our relationship with the creator God.  For after all, the end of this story is good news. The end of this story is restoration and resurrection. The end of this story is about our preparedness to receive the blessing that is already ours.


Image from: http://drmommyonline.com/what-is-tough-love-and-when-to-use-it

Adapted from a reflection written on December 27, 2006.

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Monday, February 8, 2021

3_letters_quph[1]Psalm 119:145-152

Qoph

I call with all my heart, O Lord . . . I call to you to save me . . . I rise before dawn and cry out . . . I put my hope in your words.  

In this eighteenth stanza of Psalm 119 we join our voice with the psalmist’s as we respond to the call God sends us at birth.

God says: It brings me joy to hear your response to the song I have been singing to you. Your call can arrive at any hour of any day or night. It can come to me from any place and I will come to you for I always know when and where you are. My words are true. My promise is authentic. You can place all your hope in me for I bring rejoicing out of disaster and joy out of sorrow. You have every reason to trust me explicitly and totally. For I am your God . . . and you are my people.

Rather than curse the darkness, let us hand over our worries to God. Rather than follow an easy, convenient, little god, let us respond to the call we receive from the one, the only, our compassionate God.

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  o, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the names of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age”.  (Matthew 28:16-20)

Following Christ is never easy for The Way is strewn with obstacles that bring us anxiety, doubt and frustration. But this same journey is also graced with the presence of Christ in every hour of every day and night. Let us bolster one another with courage as we finally respond to God’s call.

Tomorrow, Resh.


For more on how Qoph speaks to us of redemption and God’s loving, omniscient presence, go to: http://www.inner.org/hebleter/kuf.htm 

 

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Friday, June 12, 2020

Francesco del Cairo: Judith with the Head of Holofernes

Francesco del Cairo: Judith with the Head of Holofernes

Judith 12:16Holofernes’ Banquet

As we continue our series of reflections on the nature of schemers and their plots, how to avoid them and how to rebuke those who lie on couches to conspire, we return to the story of Judith.

Holofernes is a man accustomed to using power and he also knows how to bide his time, lay traps, and bring others into his schemes.  What he has never encountered in his powerful life is a woman who is as beautiful, God-centered, and determined as Judith. And Holofernes’ lust is no match for Judith’s constant, prayerful attendance on God.  This story is worth reading from beginning to end but if there is time for only one verse, it is 12:16 for it teaches us how to deal with schemers, seducers and plot-builders.

“The story of Judith is full of unexpected turns.  The first and most obvious . . . was that a woman – and not a man – saved Judah in its time of severe distress.  Judith is more faithful and resourceful than any of the men of BethuliaShe is more eloquent than the king and more courageous than any of the leading citizens of the city, yet Judith is a very unlikely heroine”.  (Senior RG 213)

The story of Judith is full of the detail which we might overlook if we rush through the reading; and it is the kind of detail that a good writer uses to describe the depth of one’s personality, the reason for one’s perversion, the cause of one’s sociopathy.  It is the kind of writing which brings us up sharply when we experience the shuddering reality that human beings often spend more time trying to lure others into a personal agenda than they do honestly working at the task God assigned to them.  The image of this man “burning with desire . . . yet biding his time” is one that haunts me.  I cannot shake it.  And it returns in the written word on a day like most others  . . . packed with activity . . . with so little time for reflection about what is real and not real.

This story tells of how God delivers the faithful through a crushing crisis . . . and how God does this through a woman.  The Reader’s Guide of the CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE tells us that Judith destroys the enemy not through might but by “her beguiling charm and disarming beauty.  The Bible sometimes portrays a woman’s beauty negatively as a snare, but here it is the means of deliverance”.  (Senior RG 213)

And so we hear this story which has been retold so many times through history and in so many ways.  It is a story that teaches us how to combat the lavish allure of the banquets staged by those who plot against innocents and of a woman who answers God’s call with the only tools left to her.  It is a story rife with irony and inversion.  It is a story of how God moves in our lives if we but allow God to enter.

May we all take a lesson from Judith.


To see and study more paintings of  Judith and Holofernes, visit: https://www.dailyartmagazine.com/best-judith-head-holofernes-paintings/

To read more Noontimes reflections on Judith, enter her name in the blog search bar, seek . . . and find.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 213. Print.   

Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Judith_with_the_Head_of_Holofernes,_by_Francesco_del_Cairo,_c._1633-1637,_oil_on_canvas_-_John_and_Mable_Ringling_Museum_of_Art_-_Sarasota,_FL_-_DSC00631.jpg

A Favorite from October 3, 2007. 

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John 10:1-21The Good Shepherd

Monday, May 14, 2018

This week we explore the manner in which Jesus defines himself, helping us to better understand the importance of his presence in our lives, to better take in the enormity of God’s love for us, and to better open ourselves to the healing power of the Spirit. Today we share this reflection adapted from a Favorite written on August 6, 2007. 

This was the Gospel reading at my mother’s funeral mass – and it is one of my favorite readings.  Perhaps it is yours as well.  There are several verses I like in particular.

With today’s he reference to the gate, we might also think of Jesus as “The Narrow Gate,” the Way by which we might live this life.  Christ’s constant call to forgive and love those who injure us, to always begin again in the Spirit, is heard – sooner or later – by those he calls. Many of us hear this message later, but no matter our circumstances, Christ is always ready to guide us back into the sheepfold.

In this reading, I like the way Jesus explains his own imagery.  We can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for this man to repeat himself in so many ways and have so few truly hear him.  Here we see Jesus as patient and clear, saying that not only does he speak from God the Father’s authority, but that he IS the New Law of Love, fulfilling and superseding the Mosaic Law.

Toward the end of the citation, we see the difference between those who listen and those who truly hear.  Some said he was ‘mad.’  Others said he was not.

When we act in Jesus’ behalf here in this life, when we bloom where we are planted, when we go about the minutiae of our days, when we work at living in the Spirit, some will say we are ‘mad,’ and others will say we are not. When we shepherd as The Good Shepherd does, we will look for Christ’s guidance. And so we pray.

Gentle and Good Jesus and Lord, keep us always mindful of your love for us.  We know that we are “pearls of great price” that you put all else aside to recover from its place of exile.  we know that you are The Gate and The Way, the only True Shepherd.  Keep us mindful of your patience and your perseverance.  Continue to speak to us in that sacred place that each of us knows with you.  Protect us from those who would harm us. Help us to pray for those who injure us. Keep us ever close to you in mind and body and soul as we shepherd one another.  Amen.


Enter the words Good Shepherd into the blog search bar and explore.

Image from: http://bradylanechurch.org/series/i-am-the-good-shepherd/ 

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Esther: Received by the King

Ernest Normand: Esther Denouncing Haman

Saturday, February 10, 2018

We have learned from the story of Job that God interacts with us when we argue as easily as when we petition or praise. As we near the feast of Purim, we consider the story of Esther.

Notes and commentaries will help us unravel the confusion of the chapters in this book, and it will be a worthwhile task – for this story is one of the most uplifting in the Old Testament.  It reminds us of the fear all humans feel when they see a task looming before them which causes them to faint away.  It also reminds us of the surprising gentleness we will find in the heart of an awesome, fear-inspiring king.  And it finally reminds us of the courage we receive as grace when we place ourselves in the hands of this king.

Life is difficult.  It is threatening, it is sometimes over-powering.  Where do we go when we feel panic, anxiety, abandonment, a sense of uselessness or futility?  Like Esther, we discard our penitential garments and don our vestments of royal attire.  As adopted sisters and brothers of Christ, we take ourselves before our king, we lay our life in his hands, and we petition, even though we may faint away from the effort.

Spending time with this story we remember and reflect on some of its essential elements: we must respond when we are called (4:14), God saves us from the power of the wicked (C:29), those who plot our downfall end by suffering the punishment they would have inflicted on the faithful (6:8-11), hopeless situations can be reversed because with God all things are possible (9:1).

When terror looms before us on the narrow path we follow closely in this journey home, we might cry out like Mordecai: Do not spurn your portion, which you redeemed for yourself out of Egypt.  Hear my prayer; have pity on your inheritance and turn our sorrow into joy; thus we shall live to sing praise to your name, O Lord.  Do not silence those who praise you.  (C:9-10)

And like Esther: 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.  (C:14-15)

To these prayers let us add our own . . . Amen!

Tomorrow, Mordecai’s Dream. 

The citations with the letter C indicate verses from the Greek additions. (Senior 536-537)

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.536-537. Print.   

Written on July 16, 2008.

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Psalm 89: A Hymn in Time of National Struggle – Part VII

Monday, January 29, 2018

Paolo Veronese: The Anointing of David

Finding the Servant

God finds a faithful servant in the youngest son of Jesse, David, a simple shepherd. This servant is not perfect, and this is good news for nor are we. Yet, this servant is faithful in his determination to follow God, no matter the obstacles or circumstances. Today we pray with the young king.

Then King David went into the Tent of the Lord‘s presence, sat down and prayed, “Sovereign Lord, I am not worthy of what you have already done for me, nor is my family. Yet now you are doing even more . . . we have always known that you alone are God.

Dearest Lord, you know our sorrows and our joys; these we bring to you in the hope that your presence transforms us.

“And now, Lord God, fulfill for all time the promise you made about me and my descendants, and do what you said you would. Your fame will be great, and people will forever say, ‘The Lord Almighty is God over Israel.’

Dearest Christ, you know our family and our friends; these we dedicate to you in fidelity and trust.

“And now, Sovereign Lord, you are God; you always keep your promises, and you have made this wonderful promise to me. I ask you to bless my descendants so that they will continue to enjoy your favor. You, Sovereign Lord, have promised this, and your blessing will rest on my descendants forever.”

Holy Spirit, you know our shortcoming and our gifts; these we offer up to you in confidence and love.

We hear this prayer. . . we take it in . . . and then we reply with the psalmist and King David . . . O Lord, I will always sing of your constant love; I will proclaim your faithfulness forever.

When we compare other translations of this prayer, we come to the full knowledge that God seeks servants among us, and we begin to understand the gentle yet persistent power of God’s call.  

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Order: The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments

The Tenth Day of Christmas, January 3, 2018

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gives to me ten lords a-leaping.

Many of us are familiar with The Ten Commandments that Yahweh gives to Moses, but how often do we pause to think of the fact the God, through Moses, not only gives us a simple set of rules to follow, but that he explains the effect these rules will have on our lives. God sees our authenticity by the way we live, and by the way we do or do not say, “Yes,” in response to God’s call. Today the old Christmas carol poses these questions to us: do we see the Gospel stories as a fulfillment of God’s hope in the covenant God establishes with us in the promise of the Ten Commandments?

This part of the Exodus story is bracketed by two convergent episodes: the provision of quail, manna and water by God to the Israelites, and the planning and building of a desert temple-tent for Yahweh by the Israelites. We see actions by both God and the Chosen People that speak of their desire to live in a covenant relationship. And the actual agreement, along with its explanations and implications, lies between these two actions in chapters 20 to 24.

The Holy Spirit

God takes the Israelites out of bondage – just as Jesus later does for all when he comes to live among us and to institute the Kingdom (in Luke 4:14-30). With the giving of the commandments, God foresees the struggle of the people in the desert. God’s preservation and protection of these people bring to God not only fame, glory and praise, but also an arrogant, contemptuous rejection by us. So too does Jesus arrive among God’s people to fulfill the Mosaic Law, to provide and protect us, and then to suffer at our hands; yet ultimately, God the Father and God the Son both offer their compassion and mercy to us when we are wayward. All that is required of us is that we repent of our past transgressions and then respond to the call. Just as God sent an angel to guard the Israelites and bring them to the place God had in mind for them (23: 20-33), so too does Jesus send the Holy Spirit to dwell with us after Jesus’ resurrection – to guide and protect, and to lead us to the holy place he has prepared for us. Of course, later in Chapter 32 of Exodus, the people tire of waiting for Moses to descend Mt. Sinai, so they create and worship the Golden Calf. Moses returns, breaks the tablets and loses his patience. The people repent, agree to do as Yahweh asks and Yahweh restores the tablets. A familiar story that we repeat today – we only need to read and compare history and current events. And it is no wonder that we stray – no wonder that the Israelites strayed. When we look at chapters 20 to 24 of Exodus, we see the social implications of the Mosaic Law. We might pay special attention to some of the verses that hold ideas difficult to take, verses that call for us to respect ourselves and one another: 22:15, 23:1, 22: 1-3, 22: 20, 21:35-36.

So on this day when we continue our celebration of God’s truest gift of love, we take a few moments to recollect our experiences in covenant relationships with others. We might mediate for a bit on how we might remain faithful to the one central covenant in our lives. And we might decide how best to renew that covenant each day with our Creator.

Adapted from a reflection on The Ten Commandments written February 14, 2007.

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Ezekiel 33:7-9: Warning to All

Sunday, September 17, 2017

We have read this message before. We have heard this call. Today we have the opportunity to respond to the warning, and to pass it along to others.

From last Sunday’s MAGNIFICAT mini-reflection in the Morning Prayer: The greatest demand love makes on us is that we help one another into the kingdom of God. Sometimes love requires us to speak a painful word of truth to awaken someone blinded by sin, recognizing that we ourselves are also sinners. Let us do for one another what we would have others do for us. (Cameron 130)

Of course, there are days when our ego wants to do precisely what we like without regard for anyone or anything. The child in us wants to have our way. There are other days when we want to take splinters our of our neighbors eyes without tending to the beams in our own. And there are days when we take credit for all that goes well while throwing blame on others for all that goes wrong. Ezekiel tells us that God warns the sentinels among us, and he tells us that we must listen for the word of warning from them and from God.

Yesterday we spent time reflecting on true wisdom – what it is and where it is found. Today we further explore that wisdom as we hear it when we listen to the sentinel warning, and when we experience it as we gather together in Jesus’ name.

Other readings from last Sunday that accompany Ezekiel’s warning bring us further wisdom when we spend time with them. Psalm 95 . . . If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts. Romans 13:8-10 . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law. And in Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus gives us a tiered process to rebuke or warn another. If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you . . . If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.

Giving voice to warnings, rebuking one another in love, these are hallmarks of a disciple and we need true wisdom from God in order to follow the process Jesus describes for us. And so we reflect today.

Do we listen for or listen to the warnings we hear? Do we rebuke one another with compassion? Do we listen when others rebuke us? Do we witness with kindness? Do we gossip about others because we cannot summon up the courage to go to another in mercy? How do we react to gossip spread about us? How do we rebuke gossip when we hear it? And what do we do when scandal hits our church, our group of loved ones who gather in Christ’s name?

We must heed the warnings we hear. We must interact with others with patience, care and wisdom. We must seek true sentinels rather than false prophets. And we must always be certain that our actions bear fruit that is goodness and that bring goodness out of harm.

We must take time to reflect today, for we never know at what hour God’s warnings arrive. And we must prepare ourselves, for we will need all the wisdom and love God gifts to disciples.

When we compare varying translation of these verses, we open ourselves to God’s warning, we better learn how to rebuke another, and we better learn how to receive a rebuke from another. 

For more reflections on false and true prophets, for sentinels who hear and pass along warnings, and for ways to rebuke and be rebuked, use the blog search bar and explore.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 10.9 (2017): 129-130. Print.

 

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Acts 11:4-18: Step By Step

Friday, May 5, 2017

Jan Styla: Saint Peter

Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step.

Step-by-step God works with Peter until the faithful servant hears and follows the call. Step-by-step God works with each of us until we do the same.

But a second time the voice answered from heaven.

Opportunity recycles and returns to us. The more we ignore God’s voice, the more often God returns to speak to us. The louder the voice, the more forceful the call. We have only to open our eyes, ears, minds and hearts.

The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us.

Step-by-step God works with us until we understand and act on the call to come together despite our differences.

“Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning”. 

New openings return to us, never leaving even one lost sheep behind. The more we resist, the stronger the pull. Peter steps beyond his wildest dreams to comfort and save an entire world. Peter steps into our lives to change us forever.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore this sermon, we allow ourselves to take in the Spirit. We allow change to enter into our hearts . . . and live there always.

Tomorrow, Peter walks out of prison.

 

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