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Posts Tagged ‘good and evil’


Job 24: Violence on Earth

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Yesterday we reflected on Job’s desire to sit with the Creator in order to engage in an intimate conversation. In an age when suffering is connected with sin, Job suffers doubly, having to endure pain while at the same time defending his innocence to his family and friends. Yet he persists, remains faithful, and recognizes the small pearls of hope that come to him. When God has tested me, I shall come out like gold.

Today we watch as Job asks:

Why doesn’t God set a time for judging,
    a day of justice for those who serve him?

He observes a litany of violence taking place around him.

People move property lines to get more land;
    they steal sheep and put them with their own flocks.
They take donkeys that belong to orphans,
    and keep a widow’s ox till she pays her debts.
They prevent the poor from getting their rights
    and force the needy to run and hide. So the poor, like wild donkeys,
    search for food in the dry wilderness.

Evil people make slaves of fatherless infants
    and take the children of the poor in payment for debts.

The litany continues until Job’s friend Zophar intercedes with his own assertions and questions.

For a while the wicked prosper,
    but then they wither like weeds,
    like stalks of grain that have been cut down.
Can anyone deny that this is so?
Can anyone prove that my words are not true?

As Job struggles to understand the conflict between good and evil, so do we. We may be like Zophar who accepts the assumption that all evildoers suffer in God’s time rather than our own. Or we may be more like Job who wants a conversation with the Almighty as he looks for authentic answers to his questions. Zophar seems content with allowing evil to proceed unchecked and unchallenged while Job goes deeper. Perhaps this is because Job, the innocent, faithful, hopeful one, suffers while Zophar continues in a comfortable world that makes sense to him.

The lesson we might take away today is this . . . even if we cannot change the evil around us, we might still question God. Even if we do not engender or encourage the violence that surrounds us, we might still commit our own small acts of mercy and justice. And even if we cannot make sense of the world’s great economy and plan, we might keep in mind that all belongs to and is of God.

In La Biblia de América, Chapters 23 & 24 of Job bear a title that translates to: Between Desire and Fear of the Encounter. Not only do these words describe the viewpoints we see today, they also present us with significant questions . . . Are we content to remain in our comfort zone of knowing, or are we willing to step into the world’s violence to represent a path of peace? Do we look for an intimate encounter with God despite the suffering we see and experience, or do we fear this marvelous gift of intimacy with God? What is it we seek?

Job asks: Why doesn’t God set a time for judging, a day of justice for those who serve him?

Perhaps that time is now.


Tomorrow, Bildad asks, how can a mortal be righteous before God?

When we compare various translations with the citations from THE GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION above, we open a dialog with God. 

LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. Print.

Image from: https://www.sapiens.org/evolution/human-violence-evolution/

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Esther 2: A Plot Discovered

Johannes Spilberg the Younger: The Feast of Esther

Monday, February 12, 2018

What do we do when we have possession of information about a harmful plot? This is the question posed by today’s reading. Esther comes to the attention of King Xerxes, and the king gave a great banquet to all his officials and ministers—“Esther’s banquet.” He also granted a holiday to the provinces, and gave gifts with royal liberality.

Amidst this celebration, Mordecai reports a plot to assassinate the king not to the king directly, but through his cousin Esther. We might pause to ask ourselves what we do with information that comes to us that indicates danger to others or ourselves.

On this day, with Mordecai sitting at the King’s Gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who guarded the entrance, had it in for the king and were making plans to kill King Xerxes. But Mordecai learned of the plot and told Queen Esther, who then told King Xerxes, giving credit to Mordecai. When the thing was investigated and confirmed as true, the two men were hanged on a gallows. 

God says: When you stumble across a plot that threatens harm, bring your tension and worry to me, and listen for my counsel. Always remain faithful to a life of compassion, hope and mercy. Always forgive those who harm you while asking me to transform hardened hearts and stiff shoulders. Always be wary of associates who draw you into grumbling, hoping to bring you into the schemes they weave. Remember that Jesus instructed you to “render to the emperor what belongs to the emperor and to God what belongs to God”. (Matthew 22:21) Remember to align yourself with me for I have great plans in mind for you.

It is tempting to complain about the corruption around us without acknowledging our part in a corrupt structure. It is comfortable to be silent while others wage war around us.

What do we do when we have possession of information about a plot that does harm? Today Esther and Mordecai give us insight. Today we reflect on the plots we discover. And we reflect on what we are to do.

Through the last several hundred years, numerous thinkers, writers, spiritual and political leaders have reminded us that evil grows quickly when good people remain silent. We may want to explore some of these quotes at: https://quoteinvestigator.com/2010/12/04/good-men-do/

To learn more about the dangers in reporting an assassination plot in ancient days, visit: http://thetorah.com/why-does-mordechai-not-report-the-assassination-plot-directly-to-ahasuerus/

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St. Gertrude the Great 1256-1302

1 Maccabees 16: Seek Kindness

Monday, November 27, 2017

Adapted from a reflection written on November 15, 2009. In memoria for my mother who always preached Killing with Kindness

The name Maccabees means the hammer and as we read through these books in scripture we experience a great deal of violence in the name of God.  These books are stories about “the attempted suppression of Judaism in Palestine in the second century B.C.  . . . [The author’s] purpose in writing is to record the salvation of Israel which God worked through the family of Matthias . . . Implicitly the writer compares their virtues and their exploits with those of the ancient heroes, the Judges, Samuel, and David”.  (Senior 550)  Portions of this book may be used when dedicating an altar . . . or when praying for persecuted Christians.  The lesson here is that living the life of an apostle of Christ will inevitably include bloodshed – whether it be spiritual, mental or physical.  Each time I pray to my Mother for a special intercession, I find myself in this story.  She, the gentlest of shepherds, realized real battles in her life.  Her slogan was: Kill them with kindness. 

St. Gertrude of Nivelles (626-659)

There is no avoiding the central message of Jesus’ life: When in doubt, exercise kindness and compassion . . . and listen for the word of God to tell us which way to turn, when to pause, when to proceed.  Tomorrow is the Feast Day of St. Gertrude.  My mother and my sister – both deceased – are named for this saint.  Both of these women had a plodding, patient persistence when confronted with evil, and they were formidable and unmoved when it came to right and wrong.  The Morning Prayer for tomorrow begins with a verse from Isaiah (30:15): By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust your strength lies.  I reflect on the betrayal and carnage we witness when we read Maccabees.  The deception of the son of Abubus who gives the faithful a deceitful welcome shakes me to the core.  There is nothing more wicked than luring in the innocent to later spring up, weapons in hand, to rush upon the loyal servant of God – thus repaying good with evil.

What do we do when we are witness to this?  We are utterly astounded as is John in today’s reading.  We go to God who tells us to shake the dust of the unfaithful from our feet and move on.  And we do as my mother always recommended: Kill them with kindness.

Gertrude the Great was a German Benedictine mystic with a special dedication to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A number of her writings are still in publication today. Gertrude of Nivelles founded an abbey with her mother, Itta, in present day Belgium. She is the patron saint of gardens and cats. 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.550. Print.   

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 16.11 (2009). Print.  

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Psalm 22: Spiritual Warfare – Part I

Monday, September 5, 2016bulls of bashan

Today’s and tomorrow’s Noontimes are adapted from a reflection written on Armistice Day, November 11, 2008.

On the day we celebrate the end of war, we might pause to think a bit about the spiritual warfare in which we are all daily engaged.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

While still on the cross, Christ appealed to the father with this prayer that generations of his people have used while addressing God in times of stress.  In the NAB the psalm bears the title Prayer of an Innocent Person.  Jesus, the unblemished lamb, dies in innocence, in the act of bringing healing to peoples crying for relief.  But Christ knew, as Paul tells us in Ephesians, Our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.  Paul describes the armor of God we must wear as we enter into the warfare each day: the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Our feet must be shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.  (Ephesians 6)

Many bulls surround me; fierce bulls of Bashan encircle me.

Bashan – a land east of the Jordan noted for the size of its animals – provides fierce opposition to the life of a Christian.  Again, Paul reminds us in his letter to Titus how to be consistent with sound doctrine, namely, that . . . [we] be temperate, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, love and endurance, reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to drink, teaching what is good, so that they may train [others].  (Titus 2Paul also calls women to a role subordinate to men which was appropriate for the day – and which we now recognize as outmoded in its effect.  The point here is that combat as we witness need not be fierce.  It need only be faithful, prayer-filled, and consistent with the Gospel.

Then I will proclaim your name to the assembly; in the community I will praise you.

As the words on the prophet Micah remind us:  You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.  (Micah 6:8) There is no mystery in this.  The requirement is simple.  Spiritual warfare is this: Train self in order to invite wisdom; exercise compassion with justice in order to invite goodness.  All the rest follows naturally.  The outcome of good over evil is predictable . . . even if the time of final resolution is not.

Tomorrow, war and miracles.

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Mark 12:28-34: The Greatest Commandment, A Reprise

Friday, March 4, 2016messiahmonday1

In today’s Gospel reading we are given a clear antidote to yesterday’s frightening exposition of the power of Beelzebub. Yesterday we were reminded that there is no neutral ground between good and evil. Jesus tells us that there is no quiet place where we can ride the fence and hide from a decision to love God as God loves us. Today we are reminded that in both the Old and New Testaments we are called to honor God, and to remember that God alone is the source and goal of all life. It is love that engenders, nurtures and unifies all of creation. We are invited today to join in this great communion of love.

Revisit The Noontimes The Greatest Commandment
post at: https://thenoontimes.com/2015/09/13/mark-12-28-34-the-greatest-commandment/

When we contemplate the abundance of God’s love we understand the importance of this week’s Lenten practice: rather than thinking: “The dream of peace is an unreal and distant illusion,” let us think instead, “The dream of peace we hold is present in God’s kingdom. And God’s kingdom is now”.

Tomorrow, two men.

 

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