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Posts Tagged ‘God’s plan’


Judges 14 and 15: Philistines

Saturday, June 24, 2017 

Alexandre Cabanel: Samson and Delilah

A few days ago we reflected on the story of Samson and Delilah; today’s we consider our lack of understanding that God frequently uses surprising people and circumstances to bring God’s plan to fruition.  In Samson’s early life, we read that he wants to marry a young woman who was not a member of one of the seven non-Israelite tribes with whom the people of Israel were permitted by their Law to marry.  Looking at verse 4, we see that Samson’s desire to marry this young woman is upsetting to his parents – as it would be to a believing Jew – yet it will be used as part of God’s plan to save the faithful.  Now his father and mother did not know that this had been brought about by the Lord, who was providing an opportunity against the Philistines; for at that time they had dominion over Israel.  This story, therefore, today tells us something important which is . . . we never know how or when God will use unexpected people and circumstances in our lives to bring about his plan.  Sometimes we must marry a Philistine. 

The long story of Samson tells us about how people will want to control divinity rather than learn how to be a part of it.  We see in the unraveling of these plots to harness Samson that these people misunderstand how God works.  In the end, the wicked will fall by their own hand, and any harm they have leveled against the faithful will be used for good, but – and this is so important – with the consequences they had planned for others falling on them.

If we are patient, we begin to understand how Samson’s marriage to a Philistine woman plays out not only in Samson’s life but in the life of the community as well.  What happens to this woman, what happens to her family, and how Samson arrives at being one of a series of Israelite Judges is a story that unfolds in a string of twisting, unpredictable events.  All of this leads to the saving of a people, a nation, and a way of living that God has marked as special.  These ironies and turnings are not a jumble of calamities; rather, they are God’s plan to open us to eventual results that no one dreams possible . . . except for God and those who believe and trust in God.  Today we see that God makes the impossible possible.

Both this story of the young Samson, and the story of his relationship with Delilah are the same metaphor: Samson poses a riddle and is betrayed by someone whom he loves and trusts; the resulting reprisals end in Samson displaying his trust in God alone.  Even though he may possess the strength of a thousand, only God saves him; he cannot save himself.  Eventually with his death in Gaza, Samson kills more Philistines in one final act than he ever did in his lifetime.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 8, 2009.

Tomorrow, the Philistines in our lives.

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godsplan1-2blk96gPsalm 54: Nothing is in Vain

Monday, May 29, 2017

Adapted from a Favorite from May 24, 2010.

Nothing I experience is useless; not even one second is in vain.  We should be aware of everything we live, because everything is for his plan.               

Monsignor Luigi Giussani (MAGNIFICAT, Monday, May 24, 2010 Meditation)

We read these words and comprehend their meaning; but this does not always translate into something we can live.  We are not always able to manage our anxiety and fear.

We know that sacred scripture is God speaking to us and that the Psalms of petition are particularly appropriate for the faithful to intone when they are frustrated, disheartened or discouraged.  Psalm 54, Confident Prayer in Great Peril, is one that we will want to pray often, especially when we feel that all we have said and done has been said and done in vain.  As Monsignor Giussani reminds us today, in God’s economy, no word and no act is lost or wasted.  All that we say and do finds a place in God’s plan.

In verse 7 we see that the psalmist asks that the work of the evil be turned back upon them.  The writer is familiar with how God moves in our lives for we know that when the wicked fall, it is by a plot of their own making that has turned in upon them.  And when the faithful flourish, they do so despite the evil that would severe their connection with God. In the closing verses, the psalmist recognizes the power we find in making petitions in God’s name and so we find the logic in ending each prayer with the final words of . . . we pray this in God’s name . . . or . . . we ask this in Jesus’ name . . . or . . . we make this petition in Jesus’ name who together with the Holy Spirit hears our prayers.

Your-Plan-B-is-Gods-Plan-AGod’s word lies open to us today and we have the opportunity to examine our word as we make our requests known to God.  We will want to consider if we pray in confidence or in hesitation.  We will want to examine our relationship with God. Does our doubt outweigh our faith? Is our disappointment stronger than our hope? Is our antagonism more intense than our love?  And we will want to take a look at how and when and why we think that the words we have uttered and the acts we have accomplished in God’s name may have been completed in vain.

Nothing I experience is useless; not even one second is in vain.  We should be aware of everything we live, because everything is for God’s plan.

When we petition the Lord, let us ask with confidence, let us know that God turns evil back upon itself, and let us believe that all we say and do has a place in God’s plan . . . especially when we ask in God’s name.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 24.5 (2010). Print.  

 

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Ezekiel 43: God’s Glory Returns

archway-roman-ruins-tyre-lebanon_12240_600x450

National Geographic: Ruins of Roman Archway in Tyre, Lebanon

Thursday, May 25, 2017

As a counterbalance to the description of the downfall of Tyre on which we have reflected before, today we have a description of the temple in the New Jerusalem. What we see described here is God living with all of the Israelites forever. The man leading the prophet through this beautiful scenario says: Describe the temple to the people of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their sins. Let them consider the plan, and if they are ashamed of all they have done, make known to them the design of the temple – its arrangements, its exits and entrances – its whole design and all its regulations and laws. Write these down before them so that they may be faithful to its design and follow all its regulations. This portion of Ezekiel’s prophecy is full of detailed descriptions of the place and the people who make up this new city where God dwells forever with his people. It was meant to both instruct and to bring comfort to those who lived in exile with this prophet. The footnotes in the NAB point out that in the new Israel the temple is free, even physically, from civil jurisdiction – moving away from the habit of corrupt kings like Ahaz and Manasseh who treated it as a private chapel for pagan rites.

Jerusalem _ Old City Walls _ Noam Chen_IMOT

Noam Chen: Old City of  Jerusalem

When Jesus arrived on the scene hundreds of years later as the true Messiah, he upset much of this separatist and purist thinking. It was for his openness and universality that he was hunted down, condemned and put to death.  Because his new Law of Love fulfilled and superseded the old Law of Moses, he and his apostles were hounded out of towns and executed. Even in the early Christian church we see the struggle with this idea of openness and universality with the first Council which convened in Jerusalem to determine the importance of circumcision as a requirement for church membership. After discussion, and when the dust settles, we read in Acts that circumcision was not determined necessary.  God’s church is open to Gentile and Jew, slave or free, woman or man – to all those who will be faithful to the Covenant first established with Adam and Eve.

This is how we see the New Temple and the New Jerusalem as revealed by Ezekiel millennia ago. This place of worship where God dwells is where we live even today . . . if we might only choose to open our eyes and ears to it. This prophet was painting a picture of radiance for his exiled peope, and they must have taken heart at the memories these words stirred of how it is to gather together as Yahweh’s faithful to repent, to petition, to give thanks, to worship.

As Easter people who believe in the Resurrected Jesus, we too, can relax into these images and make them our own. We can carry them into the world with us each day as we encounter and then counter the darkness that wishes to prevail. We can arm ourselves with these pictures of the universal gathering of all of God’s People . . . the Faithful to the Covenant . . . the Hopeful in all things hopeless . . . the Truthful in all relationships . . . the Struggling with the cares of this world . . . the Freed who have escaped the chains of doubt and anxiety. For we are Easter people who live the Resurrection even now. For God’s Glory has returned in us . . . in our willingness to serve . . . our willingness to be vulnerable . . . our willingness to witness . . . our willingness to be Christ and Light and Truth to a world struggling to be free of the darkness.

This is God’s Plan. This is God’s Design. This is God’s Law.

Amen.  Alleluia!

A Favorite from April 13, 2008.

For a Noontime reflection on Tyre, visit: https://thenoontimes.com/2012/09/18/tyre/ 

For more National Geographic images of Lebanon, click on the image above. 

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Romans 9: Children of the Promise – Part I

Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 26, 2017

Adapted from a reflection written on June 3, 2010.

In this chapter of Romans, Paul puzzles over the lack of faith in the Christ story among the Jewish people.  They are clearly chosen by God to convey the message of freedom and salvation to the world and in fact, one of their own is the Messiah; yet they reject the message of hope and promise that Jesus offers. This is also the message that Paul proclaims anew.

In the previous chapter (Romans 8), Paul reminds us that faith is the belief in things not seen; hope is the exercise of expecting something that is greater and better than we think likely (8:24-25).  He reminds all of us that the Holy Spirit is at work in and among us, and that we must be open to God’s plan rather than forwarding our own.  Now he puzzles over the lack of expectation and fidelity in those who have had the advantage of the special status; he finds it strange that the very people and tradition that have engendered the message now turn against it.

Do we see this same contradiction in our own age? Do we see it in ourselves? If not, we might be content to muddle forward as always. If so, we have a clear choice before us. Do we blame God for the failings and lacks in society? Or do we examine ourselves, and then rely on God as we take action?

Paul answers some of his, and our, questions in verses 14 to 16: What then are we to say?  Is there injustice on the part of God?  Of course not . . . it depends not upon a person’s will or exertion, but upon God, who shows mercy. 

We are part of God’s great design and are called to take part in the redemption of the world.

Shall we say, then, that God is unjust? Not at all . . . So then, everything depends, not on what we humans want or do, but only on God’s mercy. (GNT)

We are God’s precious children, and are asked to demonstrate the same mercy that God shows us.

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! . . .  So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. (NASB)

We are the receivers of God’s great promise. Let us accept this gift graciously, and act with God’s justice for all.

Tomorrow, more of Paul’s thinking. How does it affect all that we do?

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Jeremiah 17:5-10: In Every Season

Thursday, March 23, 2017

We are blessed with a God-given identity and we take our concerns to God the Creator. With gratitude, we trust in God.

I will bless the person
who puts his trust in me.
He is like a tree growing near a stream
and sending out roots to the water.
It is not afraid when hot weather comes,
because its leaves stay green;
it has no worries when there is no rain;
it keeps on bearing fruit. (GNT)

We are accompanied by our brother Jesus and we follow the clearly marked Way our brother Christ sets out for us. In hope, we follow the signs of Christ’s love.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
    sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
    and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
    and it does not cease to bear fruit. (NRSV)

We are consoled by the Spirit who lives within us and we allow the presence of God to mend all that is broken. With love, we rest in this Spirit.

Blessed is the man who trusts in Adonai;
Adonai will be his security.
He will be like a tree planted near water;
it spreads out its roots by the river;
it does not notice when heat comes;
and its foliage is luxuriant;
it is not anxious in a year of drought
but keeps on yielding fruit. (CJB)

Can we imagine a life when all that we say and all we do is measured in the loving ways of God? Can we envision a kingdom in which the poor take precedence and the marginalized rise up? Can we foresee the effects of God’s compassion, power and tenderness?

After a long drought, the desert blooms in Arizona, U.S.A.

Blessed is the man who trusts me, God,
    the woman who sticks with God.
They’re like trees replanted in Eden,
    putting down roots near the rivers—
Never a worry through the hottest of summers,
    never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts,
    bearing fresh fruit every season. (MSG)

Can we believe that we are part of God’s great plan? Can we rely on God’s wisdom, grace and peace? Can we be certain that we are loved and behave as if we accept this truth?

When we compare various translations of these verses, we begin to discover that we are blessed, that we are loved, and that we are created to bear fruit in every season – even in the deserts of our lives.

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1 Samuel 25: The Inverted Kingdom – Part VI

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ernst Josephson: David and Saul

Ernst Josephson: David and Saul

Today and tomorrow we remember this Favorite from October of 2007 as we explore how the story of David, Saul, Nabal and Abigail presage the coming of Christ’s inverted kingdom.

Reading closely, we see that Saul fears David because he sees how closely David follows God. This obedience threatens King Saul and even stirs envy. He knows that despite the favor God has shown him, he struggles to obey.

For his part, David refuses to kill Saul, even when he has been presented with opportunities to do so. David understands that God has anointed both men as present and future king. He also understands that God’s plan is the ultimate plan and, unlike Saul, David does not succumb to the sin of “pride of self”. David understands that his authority comes from God, not from his own cleverness, good works or talent.

This interplay infuriates Saul who attacks David and then ostracizes him.  In the ensuing battles, David repeatedly spares Saul’s life – which angers Saul even further.  We might see these same dynamics playing out in our own lives. If so, let us see where we stand and who we are. The loyal and vulnerable David or the troubled, envious Saul?

Joseph Schonmann: David and Abigail

Joseph Schonmann: David and Abigail

In today’s story, we read about Abigail, an intelligent, reverent, patient woman, married to an alcoholic. She does not succumb to the twisted world of co-dependence and she understands that she is powerless in the face of certain “givens” of ancient times. She has little influence in the affairs of her husband; yet she lives her invisible life in a visible way. She must take sustenance from her confidence in God, act in a way that does not enrage an already angry master, and she must address injustice as best she can. Throughout this ordeal, we see that she continues to rely on God.

We also see the loyalty of Abigail’s servants.  Knowing of the struggle between Saul and David, they realize that their entire household is naked against the band of David’s rebels. They are also keenly aware that their master is wealthy but a drunkard; and that his churlishness has placed them in a dangerous situation.  They go to Abigail who takes action in a calm, quiet and respectful manner.  She wins their safety, and then waits until the morning when her husband is sober to let him know what she has done . . . that she has saved them.  The hand of God acts to seal their safety as we see the results of Nabal’s courage.

As we reflect on these ancient tales and see the lessons of inversion – where the strong are weak and the weak are strong – and we anticipate their unfolding in the New Testament story of Jesus of Nazareth.

Tomorrow, the inversion that Jesus teaches.

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Ephesians 3:2-6: Do Not Fear – Part XIV

Monday, January 9, 2017

file-saint_paul_writing_his_epistles-_by_valentin_de_boulogne

Valentin de Boulogne: Saint Paul Writing his Epistles

Although we have closed Christmastide we pause to spend a few moments with some of Paul’s words to the Ephesians about the secret plan of God, the mystery of Christ, the Word who arrives to live among us. These words remind us why we have nothing to fear.

The following verses are from THE MESSAGE translation. When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to compare other versions, God’s plan begins to clarify for us.

Paul tells the Ephesians – and us – that he is imprisoned because of his belief in Christ; yet he appears to have no fear of his impending punishment.

This is why I, Paul, am in jail for Christ, having taken up the cause of you outsiders, so-called. I take it that you’re familiar with the part I was given in God’s plan for including everybody. I got the inside story on this from God himself, as I just wrote you in brief.

Paul tells the Ephesians – and us – that he is confined because of his belief in Christ; yet he appears to have no fear of his approaching trial.

As you read over what I have written to you, you’ll be able to see for yourselves into the mystery of Christ. None of our ancestors understood this. Only in our time has it been made clear by God’s Spirit through his holy apostles and prophets of this new order.

Paul tells the Ephesians – and us – because of his belief in Christ, that he has nothing to fear in this world.

The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I’ve been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board.

Paul tells the Ephesians – and he tells us – that because of our belief in Christ, we have nothing to fear in this world. Paul tells us that we need only step into the Christmas gift of grace, peace, joy and hope. And he tells us that when we witness to this gift, we begin to act with and in Christ in our world.

Wishing each of you in the Noontime circle a New Year filled with Christ’s grace and peace, joy and hope.

Tomorrow, recognizing Christ.

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1 Samuel 13: The Heat of Self-Knowledge – Part I

Monday, October 17, 2016

Benjamin west: Saul and the Witch of Endor

Benjamin West: Saul and the Witch of Endor

As the political season heats up in the U.S., we consider this important story from one of our oldest scriptures.

This is the portion of the Samuel story in which we watch Saul move away from God to begin his long slide into darkness.  This downward movement happens because he presumes to know best.  Saul takes action on his own without waiting for Samuel, who is designated by God as the judge/leader, to offer sacrifice before battle.  Although his son Jonathan and the rest of Saul’s troops have immediate success, Saul himself is eventually lost.  He becomes paranoid about his fear of David (1 Samuel 18) and forces David to flee the court (1 Samuel 19).  He allows his fears to overtake him as when he orders the priest of Nob to be slaughtered (1 Samuel 22) and continues his frenetic search for David in the wilderness (1 Samuel 23).  In his panic he consults with a seer in Endor (1 Samuel 28); and finally he meets his dreadful end (1 Samuel 31) along with his beloved son Jonathon.  This is a sad ending for a man who had shown such promise but who, in the end, did not trust God.  Today we see the beginning of Saul’s long and terrible journey into the dark.  Unwilling to admit his errors or to seek pardon, Saul gives himself over to the fantastical thinking that he knows better than God . . . that he can do without God.  He sees his troops slithering away before the battle and, thinking that he will keep them from leaving, he steps in to intervene – countering God’s plan.

Today we reflect on Saul’s story and examine our motivations to see if the fire of self-knowledge threatens to consume us. Tomorrow, the fire of battle. Do our conflicts help us to know ourselves better? Or do they send us further into deception and denial? 

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Luke 1: God’s Yardstick – Elizabeth

In God’s Wisdom and Time

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Jacques Blanchard: The Holy Family with Saint Elizabeth and the Infant Saint John the Baptist and the Infant Jesus

Jacques Blanchard: The Holy Family with Saint Elizabeth and the Infant Saint John the Baptist and the Infant Jesus

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

All four Gospels tell us the story of John the Baptist who goes before Jesus to announce the good news of God’s coming to the faithful but it is in Luke’s telling that we hear about John’s parents, Elizabeth and Zachariah. Today we spend time reflecting on the power of God to do the impossible, the fidelity of God remaining with the faithful, and the love of God who guides, consoles, rescues and transforms.

Using the scripture link, we read different versions of this story that weaves the lives of Zachariah and Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary, John and Jesus into a fabric that serves as a mantle to protect us from the winds of time and place. We allow the power of these verses to bring us the wisdom of God’s time, God’s space, and God’s plan. We allow the understanding of God’s yardstick in the life of Elizabeth to bring us the quiet peace and radiant joy of the Christmas season. And we determine to bring this wisdom and peace to bear in our own lives.

To better understand the story of Elizabeth, visit: http://www.womeninthebible.net/2.4.Elizabeth.htm 

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