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Posts Tagged ‘hope’


Friday, October 23, 2020

cc_jer29_11plant[1]Jeremiah 18:13-17

An Unnatural Apostasy

Therefore, thus says the Lord, “Ask among the nations – who has heard the like?”

God speaks to us of a behavior that has gone far away from the norm.

Truly horrible things has virgin Israel done!

We know this story – Israel has rejected her close relationship with God and has chosen to align herself with pagan gods.

Does the snow of Lebanon desert the rocky heights? Do the gushing waters dry up that flow fresh down the mountains? 

Israel’s actions are as unnatural as snow melting in freezing weather or rivers ceasing their journey through mountain valleys.

Yet my people have forgotten me: they burn incense to a thing that does not exist.

Israel abandons the covenant that has brought her out of Egypt and established her in fertile lands.

They stumble out of their ways, the paths of old, to travel on bypaths, not the beaten track. 

Israel goes against all advice and convention to insist on her own journey that is full of danger.

Their land shall be turned into a desert, an object of lasting ridicule: all passers-by will be amazed, will shake their heads. 

Those who do not remain faithful will find their lives arid; they will be embarrassed by their own actions once they have the opportunity to look back on what they have done.

Like the east wind, I will scatter them before their enemies; I will show them my back, not my face, in their day of disaster.

Old Testament thinking sees God as an angry, vengeful creator. New Testament experiences God through a messianic lens that perceives God as merciful and forgiving, beckoning and tending, guarding and guiding. New Testament thinking teaches us that we can trust the creator to care for us when we look for wisdom and peace. Messianic thinking places hope in the presence of the creator among us in human form. Messianic hope teaches us that no one is too lost, nothing is too disastrous and no obstacle is too impossible for our God who loves us dearly and well.

Jeremiah also brings us these words: For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

When we reflect on Israel’s unnatural turning away from so great a love, let us also consider our own relationship with God. Do we scatter before the east wind . . . or do we cleave to the source of all good and all hope? Do we bow to an unnatural apostasy . . . or do we remain as steady as the snows upon the high mountain tops . . . and rush down mountainsides with joy as we fall into God’s own hands?


Image from: http://www.crosscards.com/cards/scripture-cards/jeremiah-29-11-5.html

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Thursday, October 22, 2020

new-heart[1]Psalm 32:11

Upright Hearts

Rejoice in Yahweh, exult, you virtuous, shout for joy, all upright hearts.

In Jewish tradition, the heart is the center of human spirit, thought and emotion.  It is the heart that gives rise to action. (PSALMS 31)

God says: When you live in me you will find yourself rejoicing no matter your circumstances for you will understand that I turn all harm to good, you will comprehend that the faithful need not fight because I fight for them, and you will know that I guide and protect you always. If you live in a world of denial, deceit and betrayal you will find it difficult to trust your loved ones. You will feel most comfortable inhabiting a world of forces that control and are controlled. You will seek others who prefer a lie to truth. The upright heart cannot bear the darkness. The honest heart seeks light and truth and good. Come to me, all you who shout continually for joy just knowing that I am with you. Come to me this day, no matter your circumstance. For we have much to do. We have much to celebrate.

For a week of days we have explored Psalm 32; we have scanned its verses and parsed its words as we look for the deeper meaning that remains with us once we close the pages of the Bible. We have allowed the Word to seep into our sinews, to strengthen our bones, and to bring new life to a tired spirit. Let us return to the first verse, and read again these treasured words of instruction that bring us remission, grace and wisdom. Let us take in these words that renew the spirit, and then let us rise in action.

Happy the one whose fault is forgiven . . .


THE PSALMS, NEW CATHOLIC VERSION. Saint Joseph Edition. New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 2004. 31. Print.

Image from: http://www.pbwu.org/w/p/daily-encouraging-word-a-new-heart-and-a-new-spirit/

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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

luke[1]Luke 22:35-38

Instructions

The instructions Jesus gave to the disciples he sent out into the world earlier in his ministry are simple. Take nothing with you except for the gifts God has given you. All will be provided as you do the work of God. Today’s Noontime reading is the slice of time between the prediction of Peter’s denial and Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane. We listen and watch as those closest to Jesus misunderstand the words of the instructions he has given them. They take them literally. We may likewise misunderstand today.

We are told so frequently what is important and yet we forget. We are asked: When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything? 

And we reply: No, nothing. Yet do we truly trust God in time of crisis? Or do we rely on the sack, the sandals and the sword before all else? We believe in God’s presence and we rely on God when all is going well; but what do we do when a life sours and begins to devolve? Do we succumb to the temptation to second guess ourselves and our childlike placing of ourselves in God’s care? Do we begin to think ourselves foolish for having been so trusting and innocent? Do we think that kingdom building comes without a price? Do we take the words of Jesus literally, as the disciples do in today’s reading?

It is enough, Jesus says to his followers when they do not comprehend, and then he moves into the garden to begin his final agony, knowing all the while that he will be abandoned – has already been abandoned – by many. The disciples melt away when the pressure becomes too great or the fear too overwhelming; yet the Lord kneels in prayer for all of us, for each of us. It is enough.

When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything? 

As we set out each day with Jesus on the road to Gethsemane and Calvary, let us try to remember our instructions for a time of crisis. And when calamity strikes, as it always does, we must remember that true discipleship is difficult . . . yet fulfilling. We find strength in acting in our belief that we are loved and provided for; and we find peace in hoping for the best outcome from horrific scenarios. The story of redemption and salvation begins with an all-encompassing love that is rejected, vilified, and even reviled. So when we find ourselves in crisis we do well to remember the instructions Jesus gives to all his disciples . . .

When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything? 


First written on March 17, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://rodiagnusdei.wordpress.com/tag/luke/

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Thursday, October 15, 2020

shhhh[1]Psalms 32:3-4

Keeping Silence

All the time I kept silent, my bones were wasting away with groans, day in, day out; day and night your hand lay heavy upon me; my heart grew parched as stubble in summer drought.

We do not give voice to our worries for fear of appearing weak or because we anticipate rejection. We harbor our words out of a need to control through passivity. We refrain from speaking because we are proud, or frightened or lost; and yet holding all this negative silence drains our energy, saps our strength and weighs us down. The springs that nourish us dry up and our bones begin to waste away. In our resistance to openness we guarantee that the unholy fist of brooding silence will maintain a firm grip upon our souls.

God says: I see that you are afraid and so you retreat – yet withdrawal takes you further from me and my healing hands. I understand that you do not want to hear what others have to say when you speak – yet by holding your words you give permission for others to decide what you are thinking. I know that you are confused and that you look for release from the troubled place in which you find yourself – yet your hiding only adds to your pain. Corrupt arrogance, false stoicism, prideful deceit, distrust and dishonesty: is this the world you want to inhabit forever? Forgiveness, compassion, peace, unity and honesty: is this the eternity you wish to spend with me?

There are times when silence is holy and there are times when silence stifles the soul. The psalmist calls us to a candid remission of our faults and a conversation with God. God’s covenant promises a guiding Spirit and a merciful embrace. Jesus show us mercy and justice. When we remain silent about all that troubles us we invite dark thoughts and we see only hopelessness on the horizon. God invites us to much more than this. God invites us to a remission of all that troubles us. Let us give voice to our fears and worries.

To reflect on the positive and negative ways that silence can act in our lives, enter the words silent or silence into the blog search bar and explore.


Image from: http://www.incasa.org/2011/11/14/the-culture-of-silence/

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Sunday, October 4, 2020hope mugSirach 39:16-35

A Reason for Your Hope

We pause in our study of 1 Peter and turn to the wisdom of Sirach. In verses 21, 25, 33 and 34 we begin to find clarity to a question that occurs to each of us throughout our lives: why is it that the wicked do not suffer? The answer always is: God has a plan, God has infinite time, God is infinitely good, God calls us to intimacy in the Spirit, and we must go to God in the proper way, in God’s way, and in God’s time.

It occurs to me that many people who appear to “have it made” are suffering in a way that they do not express. They likely view suffering as a sign of failure, just as those living in the days of the Old Testament believed. Unlike Peter in his letters to us, they do not understand that suffering is The Way.  Suffering shows our willingness to undergo the necessary discipline which we all must experience in order to reach the next place. Suffering brings us to a place – if we allow it – where we finally and fully meet God.

A friend recently pointed out to me that bullies are often grieving and likely do not know that they are suffering. Or if they know why they suffer they do not understand that they are experiencing an undergoing or that they are constantly accompanied by God. The angry, jealous, divisive life they set up for themselves as they isolate themselves from the rest of the world is a perpetuation of their dreadful pain rather than a healing, unifying, enduring, loving expression of God made visible among us.

So if we believe that God exists and if can manage to remain faithful to God, if we hope that all of us – even our enemies – attain holiness before and with God, if we remain reverent despite the apparent ability of the wicked to escape consequences, if we strive to love our enemies into goodness and purity . . . then we are true expressions of God here on earth. These are difficult tasks, but as Jesus ben Sirach tells us, there is no wiser path in life. And as Peter writes to us, Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.  For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.

Reflecting on the wisdom of Sirach and Peter we pray . . .

Gentle and loving God, keep us prudent but joyful. Let us wear our hope upon our sleeves as we open my arms to all. We  know that you are with us and that we need not fear for you are always walking with us. Keep us persistent, keep us loving, keep us always close to you as we do your will. Keep our ears sharp, our eyes keen, our actions pure, our thoughts holy. Keep our hands and feet and mouth in accord with your will. Let our patience endure, our hope be joy-filled, and our love be infinite. Trusting in your wisdom, prudence, and love, we pledge ourselves to you this day and in this way. Amen. 


Adapted from a reflection written on September 1, 2007.

Image from: http://pbcvoice.blogspot.com/2012/06/sharing-from-my-heart.html

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Friday, September 25, 2020

During Schumacher's expedition, a rare seal was found with the inscription: "To Shema slave of Jeroboam". This may be King Jeroboam II from 750BC.

During Gottlieb Schumacher’s expedition of Megiddo, a rare seal was found with the inscription: “To Shema slave of Jeroboam”. This may be King Jeroboam II from 750BC.

Amos 4

Impiety Rebuked . . . Restoration

Amos does not mince his words or couch them in easy metaphors; we can see why he was rejected. His message struck too quickly and too closely to the heart of those who by their actions did not live out the Mosaic Law of honoring the one true God. Amos lived during the reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.E.) and he pronounced his prophecy at the cult center of Bethel until the priest who was in charge of that royal sanctuary expelled him.

At this time, the northern kingdom of Israel had separated from the southern one of Judea and when we read closely we can see that the priests and the wealthy had succumbed to the lure of the power and control which their office as sacred ministers and leaders afforded them. Stated bluntly, they abused the gift and power given to them. They were more concerned about maintaining their control on the temple income derived from the people who brought their offerings as a part of their attempt to seek penance and union with God. The priests of Israel (the northern kingdom, also Samaria) had separated from Jerusalem (the southern seat of power and worship) and loved their position of wealth, plenty and power. Amos rebukes these fat, contented people just as Jesus did when he ejected the moneychangers from the temple.

Amos always understands that this perversion of the law is not permanent . . . as much as those in power may wish it to be. Amos knows that Yahweh will use this harm that the corrupt inflict on those over whom they have control . . . and he knows that Yahweh will turn this harm to good, just as he does with all things that are corrupting. Yahweh will use these stubborn acts of blindness and perversity to bring about restoration and ultimate union with God.

As with all prophets, Amos is reluctant to speak when called by God . . . yet speak he does . . . and oh, so beautifully. “His style is blunt and even offensive”. (Senior RG 362) He begins chapter 4 by calling the wealthy women cows, the wife of the priest, Amaziah, a harlot. “He is a prophet in the mold of Elijah, whose denunciations come close to cursing”. He saw himself as a poor shepherd and farmer with no influence and therefore saw no need to speak softly . . . as he did not expect to be heard. Amos pronounces doom on those who do not hear and those who are blind to their own actions, and then he goes back to his sheep and sycamores.

Amos’ offer of hope springs not from the idea that this doom and catastrophe for the controlling classes can be avoided, for it is clear that disaster is looming and in fact it does arrive in the form of the Assyrian invasion. No, the hope that Amos offers lies in the fallen hut of David, the Messiah who is to come . . . Jesus. Amos tells and foretells those who have ears to listen that we rebuke those who live in flagrant violation of the covenant and then we watch in hopeful waiting for the one who will come to deliver the justice that is so desperately needed. We wait in joyful expectation the kingdom where compassion and mercy merge with justice and righteousness, where we both rebuke and remain open to wonderful possibilities that can come only with tremendous hope.


For information about Gottlieb Schumacher’s Expedition and Report of Tell el-Mutesellim (Megiddo), visit: https://megiddoexpedition.wordpress.com/schumachers-expedition/

Adapted from a reflection written on December 22, 2007.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 362. Print.

To read more about Jeroboam II, click on the image above or go to: http://ramsesii-amaic.blogspot.com/2009/10/jeroboam-ii.html

For more on the Megiddo Seal above, go to: http://www.biblewalks.com/Sites/megiddo.html

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Thursday, September 24, 2020

head_29[1]Amos 9:14-15

Raising Up

I will bring about the restoration of my people Israel; they shall rebuild and inhabit their ruined cities, plant vineyards and drink the wine, set out gardens and eat the fruits. I will plant them upon their own ground; never again shall they be plucked from the land I have given them, say I, the Lord, your God.

Evidence and judgment, words and woes, threats and promises, visions of locusts, fire, the plummet, and the fruit basket, condemnation of priests and leaders, prophecy against greed and corruption, the final vision before the altar and then the winnowing sieve. This prophecy is too much to bear yet just as we are about to put aside forever its dark images and frightening premonition of doom . . . Amos leads us to the place he was always leading us. Amos brings us to the Christ, the Messiah.

God says: You most often find me in the dark valleys of your life for it is the failures, the betrayals, and corruption that bring you swiftly to my side.  Just so does my prophet Amos warn you that my little ones must be shepherded.  My lambs must be tended, my sheep must be led.  Through the suffering, pain and sorrow I am with you.  I have created you and you are mine.  I have loved you and I will never leave you.  I have already rescued you and placed you within the protective walls of my vineyard. You have been planted upon your own ground and you will never again be plucked from the place I have given you. Yours is the place of honor in my own sacred heart.  This I have promised.  This is the raising up you have been seeking.  This is your raising up that is my gift to you this day.

How does the prophet Amos speak to us today? What foreshadowing does he share? What hope does he bring? What is his promise of raising up for you? When we consider our world today, many will say that we need the words of Amos more than ever. When we contemplate our surroundings, many will say that it is time to heed the prophecy that  reminds us God is always raising us up.

Amos sheep


Use your own commentary or one of the links below to learn a bit more about his prophecy.

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/21356/Amos

http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/112277/jewish/The-Prophet-Amos.htm

http://thisischurch.com/christian_teaching/sermon/amos.pdf


Images from: http://www.faithvillage.com/article/0531061aff6d4f0c81db56f7d5fc3f35/the_boldness_of_amos and http://www.liquidthinking.org/archive/2005_09_01_archive.htm

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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

sunset-on-the-beach-desktop-wallpaper-sand-boats[1]Amos 9:8-9

The Sieve

But I will not destroy the house of Jacob completely, says the Lord.  For see, I have given the command to sift the house of Israel among all the nations, as one sifts with a sieve, letting no pebble fall to the ground.

The imagery in these verses recalls the Gospel metaphor of the fisherman’s net that draws up many from which the faithful will be chosen. The rest will be tossed back in to the sea to a fate that is not described for us. It also reminds us of the many farming images in which the chaff is separated from the wheat, the sheep from the goats. In this Messianic epilogue to the Amos prophecy we finally see the hope we have awaited. At last we know for certain that all is not lost. Redemption is at hand. God’s goodness and light and grace are offered to those who mourn and despair while they witness and wait.

Pebbles-on-Sand-40x30-4250[1]God says: Close your eyes and imagine the wide, vast expanse of a sandy beach that runs into rolling waves. Picture my hands holding an enormous sieve. Envision this sieve burrowing deep into the sand. See how carefully I tilt the strainer to look for the precious pebbles I know are buried in the pit of this filter. Each tiny stone is known to me. Every nugget is a gem for my crown. It is these small jewels I will seek endlessly, never losing hope that you are there, never giving up from the strain of the work, never forsaking or abandoning you, never letting even one of you drop to the ground. 

Today’s Noontime reminds us that God seeks us more ardently than we seek God. These verses recall for us the depth and breadth and length of God’s love. This final perspective that Amos opens to us brings us up from the valleys of our despair and into the heights of rejoicing. Amidst the billions of grains of sand God has an eye and an ear poised to catch each one of us in the great winnowing sieve of God’s love.


Images from: http://www.kaffefassett.com/Painting.html and http://www.iwallscreen.com/browse/beach/

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Sunday, August 23, 2020

Edward Gooch: Ezekiel’s Vision

Ezekiel 12:1-12

A Rebellious House

The prophet Ezekiel writes about the time of captivity when the people of Israel were conquered by their enemies. Leaders and the intelligentsia are carried away while a faithful remnant remains to live in the ruins of what was once a splendid city. A culture that had been the envy of all peoples goes underground and clings to the God who has lead and protected them through millennia. Chaos arrives when corruption flourishes, and those close to the center of power enable lies and deceit. Status, wealth and comfort trump charity, empathy and authentic living. This is, indeed, a rebellious house. And in the midst of pandemic, we take time to reflect on our own rebellious house.

They have eyes to see but do not see. Some of us persist in imagining a reality that does not exit.

They have ears to hear but do not hear. Sometimes we insist on imposing a point of view.

For they are a rebellious house. At times we are infatuated with our own importance.

Prepare your baggage as though for an exile. We affirm evil when we and neglect science and biology.

Migrate from where you live to another place. We must step out of our old selves to encounter the new.

I did as I was told. I set out in darkness and shouldered my burden. We must take responsibility for our silence or inaction.

The prince who is among them shall shoulder his burden and set out in darkness. The truth will always reveal itself.

Ezekiel lives in exile with an exiled people and many of us may feel as though we also live in a place and time that are unrecognizable. But our hope lies in the promise and grace of the God who loves and forgives, nurtures and heals. Our future lies in opening our ears more than our mouths, opening our hearts more than our eyes. There are times when we alone cannot resolve entrenched violence or evil; and it is at those times that we might take up the gift of God’s love as we head out into exile with our baggage prepared.

When we discover that we live in a rebellious house and fear begins to rise, as we prepare our baggage for the next leg in our journey, let us remind one another that there is always hope when we come together in solidarity for the truth. Let us arm ourselves with integrity, curiosity, empathy, and humility. Let us remember that in darkness there is always an opportunity for the light. Ezekiel tells us . . . Son of man, you live in the midst of a rebellious house. Let us recognize Christ in one another, join our hands, open our hearts, and come together in the mind of Christ.


For another reflection on this citation, enter the word While they were looking on into the blog search bar and explore.

Image from: https://www.learnreligions.com/introduction-to-the-book-of-ezekiel-701131

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