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Posts Tagged ‘honesty’


Saturday, August 21, 2021

Michaelangelo: The Prophet Jeremiah

Michaelangelo: The Prophet Jeremiah

Jeremiah 26:1-15

A Plot to Murder

This confrontation between prophet and priests occurred in the year 609 B.C.E. at a time of tremendous political upheaval; the people in today’s reading were under tremendous political, spiritual, social and personal stress. Accusations of falsehood, of miss-reading and miss-interpreting the law are symptoms of a people and leaders who no longer trust one another or themselves. The message here, however, is as clear as the arguments: Judah’s fate has been sealed by her own actions.

When we read these verses we understand why and how such a great people fell into exile.  The wayward priests and false prophets believe that if they silence Jeremiah, they will keep their secrets hidden, and they will be safe. Of course the opposite is actually the case and if those who are no longer faithful might only listen and heed this true prophet’s words they will be saved. This is not far from what also happened with Christ several hundred years later. This is also not far from what happens to the prophets among us today.

We live in a world with robots and sustain ourselves with pre-packaged food, starving for honest reality and intimacy, looking for genuine nourishment. We can manipulate images, dub sounds, pay surgeons to re-arrange our bodies, and pop psychologists to sooth our minds. We have created a false world for ourselves in which we control and are all. And, like the priests of Jeremiah’s world, we have things wrong.

Catherine of Siena recounts that God says to her: I am who am, you are she who is notThis is an idea which we must do more than merely believe, we must feel it, act it, live it. We, like Jeremiah, live in a world which is too clever, too complicated and too overcome by itself.  But the faithful need not lament for there is always refuge, always a remedy.  When false priests and false prophets rage against us, the faithful must turn away from all the trappings, the trinkets, the overblown, the super sizes, the arguments and the words. We must turn and return to God.

And so we pray . . . Good, gentle, all-encompassing Lord . . .

Remind us that our greatness is in our smallness.

Recount to us the infinite times you have shown us compassion.

Recall for us the immeasurable ways you have measured out justice on our behalf.

Revivify us with your presence.

Hold us away from the false light of the finite. 

Draw us toward the life-giving light of the eternal.

Bring us home to you.  Amen.


Adapted from a reflection written on May 11, 2008.

To learn more about Catherine of Siena, visit: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1368

For more quotes, visit: http://www.drawnbylove.com/Quotes.htm

Image from: https://dwellingintheword.wordpress.com/tag/lamentations/ 

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Friday, August 12, 2021

Martin-Luther-King-Pic-21Jeremiah 22

Do What Is Right

Listen to the word of the Lord . . .

Do what is right and just . . .

Rescue the victim from the hand of his oppressor . . .

Do not wrong or oppress the resident alien, the orphan, or the widow . . .

Do not shed innocent blood . . .

With hindsight we can see where the chosen people miss-stepped. We can easily judge and say that we would have listened to God’s voice to avoid falling into the subtle trap of following little gods rather than the one Living God.

With understanding we can see how the chosen people miscalculated. We can quickly recognize the corruption that pervaded their religious and civic institutions.

With honesty we can see our own slide into first accepting and later following the way that is wide and dishonest rather than the narrow way that is difficult and authentic.

do-what-you-feel-is-rightMany people will pass by this city and ask one another: “Why has the Lord done this to so great a city?”

And the answer will be: “Because they have deserted their covenant with the Lord, their God, by worshiping and serving strange gods”.

What strange little gods do we allow to filter into our decisions? What small little gods rule our days and nights? What insignificant little gods threaten our peaceful relationship with God?

How do we do what is good and right and just?

We take time today to pause and reflect.


For more information on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt, go to: http://www.biography.com/people/martin-luther-king-jr-9365086#synopsis and http://www.biography.com/people/eleanor-roosevelt-9463366 

Images from: http://www.stylegerms.com/martin-luther-king-jr-quotes/ and http://www.digitalmomblog.com/pinterest-daily-repin-do-what-feels-right/

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Friday, July 16, 2021

Ruth 3

Naomi and RuthChesed Part IV – Ruth Presents Herself

The story of Ruth is a story with characters who “are presented as models who live faithful to the spirit of the covenant even in the difficult situations of life”. (Senior RG 141) It is believed to be a true story and is best read with notes in order to understand the plight of Naomi and her daughter-in-law, the customs of land ownership, the Levirate marriage contract, the tradition of allowing widows to glean food from a harvested field, the remarkable strength of Ruth’s fidelity to her mother-in-law, and the noble loyalty of Boaz who is drawn to Ruth’s kindness and piety. As we have investigated this story, we have thought about how God moves and works through people, is ever faithful and always at hand. Today we can focus on the last verse of chapter 3 when Naomi says to Ruth, “Wait here, my daughter, for the man will not rest, but will settle the matter today”. These words describe true integrity, true honesty, true clarity, and true holiness. This man will not rest until he settles a matter of honor – and he will do this before the sun sets. This man will not let anything stand in the way of doing what he knows he is called to do. This man sets aside his own humanity to do the will of the divine. Again from the Readers’ Guide page RG 145: “The double meaning [of the word for feet or genitals in Hebrew] may be intended to rouse the interest of the audience, ‘to raise a few eyebrows,’ only to show that the unusual steps taken by Ruth [and recommended by Naomi] do not end up in an illicit sexual union, but reveal the honorable character of Boaz. He does not take advantage of Ruth, but agrees to take the necessary steps to marry her. He ensures her reputation is not ruined and sends her away with six measures of barley”.

The marriage of these two honorable people results in the birth of a child, Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David, the ancestor of Jesus. It is the beautiful story of how people who respond to God’s call can transform tragedy into something blessed and holy. It is also the story of God’s constant presence in our lives as we accompany one another, share our grief, and move toward the light of truth. The action begins with emptiness which is reversed by the end of the tale. “The emptiness of the land (famine) causes Naomi to leave the land. The emptiness of the land gives way to the emptiness of Naomi in the loss first of husband and then sons. Naomi dismisses her daughters-in-law because her ‘emptiness’ cannot be cured . . .” And so she returns home so that she will not be a widow in a foreign place, but not alone. Ruth follows her. Back in Bethlehem, Naomi who finds herself empty of everything that previously had meaning, says the words in 3:18. She recognizes the goodness in Boaz and Ruth and she supports the young woman who waits for the man of integrity to do what he must do to claim her as his wife. Blessings and graces follow.

And so we pray . . .

Good and generous God, make us instruments of your work as were Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. Send us the words to say, the acts to perform, the prayers to raise as we enter the difficult situations of life and the pockets of emptiness around us. Send us your word that we may do your work to bring joy out of mourning. We ask this as always in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Image from: http://www.reformedchristianity.org/virtues/friendship/1659-ruth-and-naomi.html

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 141. Print.

Adapted from a favorite written on August 31, 2007.

 

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Thursday, July 15, 2021

Ruth 4

Ary Scheffer: Naomi and Ruth

Ary Scheffer: Naomi and Ruth

Chesed – Part III

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. 

This is a beautiful story about women, a happy story about what marriage is meant to be. It is also a story about constancy, fidelity, perseverance, family, ancestry, and a deep abiding love which puts the other before self. It is an image of how we might be with, and in and through Christ. It is a metaphor for the relationship we have already been gifted by our creator.

This is not a long book and still it is saturated with imagery and peopled by characters worthy of any Jane Austen novel or Shakespearean play. “The book of Ruth . . . is one of the most beautiful pieces of literature in the Bible.  The plot revolves around family relationships . . . and the role each member plays in fulfilling the needs of other members and hence the family as a whole”. (Meeks 408)

Some of us have families we might turn to; others of us do not. Some of us are born into clans that suffocate us and so we strike out on our own to build community; others find themselves in a large caring tribe that lets no one fall behind during the trek. All of us are born into the family of God and in this family there will be Naomis, and Ruths and Boazes: people who know the value of “loyalty of faithfulness arising from commitment” which in the Hebrew community is known as chesed. Naomi guides her widowed daughters-in-law (women without men were less than human in this era). Ruth abides with Naomi to share whatever destiny comes to them. Boaz preserves both the family inheritance and individual family members in a respectful and considerate way. All three understand the importance to continuity and to the fulfillment of a pledge at cost to self. (Meeks 408) All three listen for and to God. All three find a way to follow God, to preserve legacy, and to further a lineage that produces the Messiah of the human race. And all of this without accepting abuse or losing self.

We might spend some time today with this story and with our own reflection on how we embody chesed as we weave our lives. Do we respect the traditions of the clan? Do we provide for and abide with those who are marginalized? Do we do what is just and merciful even when this may be painful? Do we gather in the harvest at the expense of others? Do we leave the gleanings for those who have none and protect them as they forage? Do we listen for the voice that calls us to strange lands and yet abides? Do we intentionally commit our own acts of chesed? And if so . . . what are they?


For more information on the beautiful story of Naomi and Ruth, click on the image above or go to: http://www.womeninthebible.net/paintings_ruth.htm

Adapted from a Favorite written on October 1, 2009.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Ruth 2

Chesed – Part II

The story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz is a tale about family, integrity, honor, honesty and fidelity. It is also about God’s providence and love; and it is about returning to the covenant relationship we have with God that is marked by “loyalty of faithfulness arising from commitment” which in the Hebrew community is known as chesed. (Meeks 408) If there is time this weekend, read this story from beginning to end. It will warm your heart.

“The book contains a beautiful example of filial piety . . . Its aim is to demonstrate the divine reward for such piety even when practiced by a stranger . . . [Ruth] became the ancestress of David and of Christ. In this, the universality of the messianic salvation is foreshadowed”. (Senior 278)

Today we enter the drama at the point where Ruth, the stranger in this land of the one living God, goes for the first time to glean what she can so that she and her mother-in-law might survive. It is when she is in the field gathering the leftovers that she meets Boaz for the first time. Keeping in mind that a widow in ancient society was considered a burden rather than an asset, we see how well Boaz treats her. He does not take advantage of her diminished status; rather, he seeks to support and protect her from the impure, unwanted – yet legal – advances of others. He cautions her to glean only in his fields, and he warns off the men who work for him, making certain – as much as he is able – that Ruth might gather enough to support herself and her mother-in-law. He even allows her to glean among the sheaves themselves rather than just the edges of the field. It is clear that he is taken by Ruth yet he does not take advantage of her. In subsequent chapters Boaz fulfills all honor obligations so that he might marry Ruth according to the law and tradition of the time. So we see that “Ruth’s piety . . . her spirit of self-sacrifice, and her moral integrity were favored by God with the gift of faith and an illustrious marriage”. (Senior 278) But first she was widowed, followed her widowed mother-in-law to a new land, and set about doing what she might so that they both might survive.

Ruth does what she must, given what she is given. Ruth gleans where God sends her and in so doing, she harvests more than the ephahs of barley that she takes home to Naomi; she becomes the mother of Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David, king of the Jews. Ruth appears in Jesus’ genealogy: Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. (Matthew 1:5).

In the times when we feel widowed, abandoned or alone . . .

In the times when we feel the overpowering burden of providing for self or others . . .

In the times when we feel that we have arrived in a foreign land with new traditions and customs . . .

In the times that we feel exhausted from the gleaning we have done for endless days . . .

Let us remember the goodness and wisdom of Naomi . . .

Let us remember the integrity and protection of Boaz . . .

Let us remember the piety and self-sacrifice of Ruth . . .

And let us remember the merciful justice, the guidance, and the love of the Lord. For these are the things that save.


Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. 404. Print.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.278. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 18, 2010.

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Julius_Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld-_Ruth_im_Feld_des_Boaz.jpg

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land of nod

Land of Nod

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

  Genesis 4

Considering Cain and Abel

How do we see the story of Cain and Abel through the lens of Johannine thought? The keeper of flocks contrasted with the tiller of soil. The favored first-born versus the overlooked second. The key to the story, as we are constantly told, lies in verse 3: Through the course of time Cain brought an offering to the Lord from the fruit of the soil, while Abel, for his part, brought one of the firstlings of his flock.

Cain, the eldest and sower of crops, is described as crestfallen and greatly resentful when God favors the loving offering brought by Abel but God does not leave Cain alone with his anger, fear and envy. God asks Cain why he feels these negative emotions. No reply is recorded from Cain but further words from God are: If you do well, you can hold up your head. God warns Cain of sin and describes it as a demon lurking at the door: his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master. As we read this story we hope that Cain can resist the power of envy because we want to resist this green devil ourselves; yet we know the story too well. Cain goes out to speak with Abel and unable to resist the skills of the demon, he kills his brother. Several verses later Cain asks God to allow him to be killed as he wanders the earth but God refuses this request. So Cain finally settles east of Eden in the land of nomads, Nod.

When we consider this story through the perspective of the writings of the Apostle John, we might spend time today considering three points.

God is honest with both Cain and Abel, acknowledging Abel’s true love of God and Cain’s more egocentric self. God does not pamper us by avoiding the truth. We see this same honesty in Jesus as John tells the story of the woman caught in adultery. (John 8:1-11)

God does not abandon Cain in his sadness and grief. He abides with him, yet continues to present him with truth. God allows Cain the freedom to choose his own path. We see this same fidelity in Jesus when John retells his words about the Good Shepherd. (John 10:1-21)

God does not create an easy exit for Cain but rather allows him to experience the consequence of listening to the demon who lurks at the door. God offers Cain transformation through suffering. We see this same love in Jesus with every story John tells of the Resurrected Christ. (John 20 and 21)

And we also experience this same love from Jesus each day of our lives when, as true children of God, we take our cares and worries, our joys and delights to God.

Tomorrow, considering holiness and a prayer for true children.


Image from: http://thesestonewalls.com/gordon-macrae/in-the-land-of-nod-east-of-eden/

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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Amos 8:5-6

Prayer for Generosity

Jesus says: Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  (Matthew 7:3)

We experience the richness of God’s love when we spend time changing ourselves rather than attempting to change others. As we reflect on the call we hear from Amos to think about how greed might invade our lives, we pray.

We have diminished the ephah . . . let us remember to be generous as God has been generous to us. For all that we have and all that we are, we pray: thank you, Creator, for the gift of body, mind and soul.  

We will add to the shekel . . . let us remember to be honest as God has been honest. For all that we are given and all that we love, we pray: thank you, Jesus, for the gift of your trustworthiness and truth.

We will buy the lowly man for a pair of sandals . . . let us remember that generosity is nurtured when we trust in God alone. Thank you, Christ, for your sacrifice of self that we might live in you.

We will sell the refuse of the wheat harvest . . . let us remember that big-heartedness flourishes when we live in the Spirit. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for the bounty and kindness you bring with your in-dwelling.

Jesus says:  Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:15-20)

Honesty, truth, trustworthiness, kindness, bounty, transformation, big-heartedness, sacrifice. These are the signs of God’s generosity in our lives.  These are the fruits by which we wish to be known. This is the richness we receive.  This is the richness we share with others when we live in God’s generosity. Amen.


Image from: https://lifepointaz.com/a-priority-of-generosity/

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Carl Bloch: Denying Satan

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Amos 1-4

A Prayer to Hear God’s Word

Amos lived in the southern kingdom but prophesied in the north; his oracles began in the oral tradition and were recorded in written form much later. His harshest words are aimed at the cult worship in Bethel. Amos delivers “a broadside against all the festivals of Israel . . . His point is not that all ritual is bad, but that it is not of the essence of religion.  For Amos, the essence of religion is social justice.  If ritual furthers justice, well and good, but too often it does not . . . When the festival was over, they would go back to cheating in the market place . . . Amos insisted that all this was self-delusion.  God would not overlook the injustice of the society because of the sound of the harps, and the Assyrians would rudely shatter the naïve belief that God would protect Israel no matter what”. (Senior RG 364-365)

As we complete three weeks of Lent and continue our journey through this season of quiet and reflection, we remember the familiar Gospel of the devil tempting Jesus, attempting to lure him with the promise of gifts he already possesses.  (Matthew 4:1-11) We too, are tempted to turn over the gifts we already possess for the illusion of an offer that does not exist. In God’s kingdom, power lies in our readiness to be humble, life exists in our willingness to die for one another, and peace rests in our preparedness to act on the Word of God.

And so, at a time for introspection and honesty, together we pray.

That we might step up to the responsibility of discipleship: Lord, hear our prayer.

That we might share the Good News of God’s love for us: Christ, hear our prayer.

That we might act in mercy, kindness, goodness, and forgiveness: Holy Spirit, hear our prayer.

That we might embrace God’s gifts of freedom, transformation and redemption: Lord, hear our prayer.

We understand the importance of hearing God’s word, and so we ask all of this in Jesus’ name, together with the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


For a Noontime reflection on the temptation of Christ, see The Temptations page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-temptations/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 364-365. Print.   

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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Matthew 5:38-48

CNN News: Ukraine Protestors

CNN News: Ukraine Protestors

We re-post this reflection written in 2014 in union with those who stand up for personal and communal freedom justice on every continent. The human race seems determined to create chaos rather than unity. Let us come together with all those who seek the common good. And let us pray not only for the oppressed but also for those who commit acts of oppression. 

A Prayer to Nourish Us Here and Now

Matthew records the words Jesus speaks to those who gather round him when he describes the kingdom of God in the Beatitudes, the new Law of Love that supersedes the law of the Torah and Moses. We have spent much time this week reflecting on the Interior Law placed within each of us at our inception.  This law flourishes in faith, grows in hope and acts in love. And so we pray, we look for strength as we build God’s kingdom.

BBC News: South Sudan in Crisis

BBC News: South Sudan in Crisis

You have heard it said, an eye for eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.

Around the planet the peoples of the world constantly look for answers to difficult questions; they consistently yearn for security and peace; they continually hunger for the words that Jesus speaks in his Sermon on the Mount. And so we pray, we look for courage as we build God’s kingdom.

When someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other one as well.

In Ukraine the people struggle to find leadership that is free of corruption.  And so we pray, we look for integrity as we build God’s kingdom.

If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand over your cloak as well.

In South Sudan the people struggle to live a life without fear. And so we pray, we look for justice as we build God’s kingdom.

Reuters: Thai Protestors Target Ministries and Threaten Stock Exchange

Reuters: Thai Protestors Target Ministries and Threaten Stock Exchange

Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go for two.

In Thailand the people fight over who will bring them into the light.  And so we pray, we look for truth as we build God’s kingdom.

Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on the one who wants to borrow.

In Venezuela the people fight over how they will share the power of leadership.  And so we pray, we look for peace as we build God’s kingdom.

You have heard it said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Swiss Broadcasting: Activists Injured by Gunshots

Swiss Broadcasting: Activists Injured by Gunshots

In West Virginia, USA the people ask for answers to dark questions.  And so we pray, we look for compassion as we build God’s kingdom.

If you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?

In our own home town the people ask for honesty and justice.  And so we pray, we look for love as we build God’s kingdom.

We are not much different from those people who listened to Jesus two thousand years ago; we too, hunger for security, healing, truth, forgiveness and redemption.

Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. And so we pray, we look for endurance as we build God’s kingdom.

National Geographic News: West Virginia's Chemical Valley

National Geographic News: West Virginia’s Chemical Valley

The perfection God asks of us lies not in our living a life without mishap; rather, it lies in our persistence to return to the Law of Love no matter how far we stray. The kingdom Jesus describes is not in some distant future when all God’s children have suddenly seen and corrected the errors in their lives.  The kingdom of God is here and it is now.  God’s forgiveness and mercy are here and now.  God’s healing and presence are here and now. God’s compassion and love are here and now. Let us take strength from the one who created us, take heart from the one who accompanies us, and peace from the one who dwells within us. Amen.


To learn more about the stories shared in this prayer, click on the images above or go to: http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/17/world/europe/ukraine-protests/, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-25677297, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/14/us-thailand-protest-idUSBREA0B03C20140114, http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/news/international/Activists_say_five_Venezuela_protesters_injured_by_gunshots.html?cid=37945644, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/01/140116-chemical-valley-west-virginia-chemical-spill-coal/ 

For another Noontime reflection on these verses, enter the word Vengeance into the blog search bar and explore.

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