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Posts Tagged ‘humility’


Proverbs 19Advice

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Better a poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is crooked in his ways and rich. 

Yesterday we reflected on the paradox present in Jesus’ life and words; today we hear solid advice on the inversion we find between wealth and poverty.  We cannot change our heredity and life’s circumstances are sometimes difficult to accept and navigate; yet somewhere inside us we look and hope for better outcomes than the ones we see looming before us.  We want to change attitudes and behaviors yet all we can change is ourselves . . . and these changes come after much self-examination and brutal honesty.  Life-altering transformation is usually painful, and always worth the struggle when we keep God at the center of all things.

He who gains intelligence is his own best friend; he who keeps understanding will be successful. 

Intelligence and folly are qualities we constantly evaluate in ourselves and others.  We judge; we are judged by others.  Sometimes we are too critical and at other times we discern too little.  We dance between the surface and the depths of our emotions looking for pat answers to complicated questions.  True balance coming from wisdom is rarely found, and always worth nurturing when we stumble upon it.

Humility, fidelity, integrity and understanding . . . pride, anger, deceit and laziness.  Life presents us with lesson plans to identify and sort these qualities, and to cultivate in ourselves and others or to avoid them altogether.

Punishment, instruction, children revering parents, parents respecting children, generations passing along practical advice and warnings so that humanity might improve its lot and learn from our shared experiences.  Some of us are able to learn vicariously; others cannot.

Jesus teaches in parables while the writers of proverbs give us plain, personal, honest views of their lives.  This advice and these warnings come to us not from a sense of superiority or egotism but from a genuine desire to see people progress, and from an authentic love for humanity.

The advice we read in scripture is meant to serve as more than an instrument we might use to avoid the repetition of errors; and it may be difficult to take in and even more difficult to use, but it is something we are free to accept or to decline.  The words we read today – once we make them part of our thinking – have the power to convert our bitterness into joy and our anger into love.  These words – once we use them to construct personal lessons for change – may liberate us from negative thinking; they may forestall unhelpful reactions.  These words may be more important than we know . . . and more significant than we imagine.  We have only to take them in and make them our own.

And so we pray . . .

Dear and good Lord, help us to discern the lesson you have in mind for us today.  Guide us in examining ourselves without creating overwhelming guilt.  Help us to serve as good sounding boards for friends who accompany us on our journey.  Steer me away from arrogance, false witness and rash judgment.  Preserve us from the harmful qualities we read about today: sloth, arrogance, anger, envy, greed, pride, and the temptation to lie. Nurture in us the qualities Jesus shows us always: compassion, constancy, empathy, generosity, humility, and steadfastness.  May we understand that to stand in awe of you and your works is a privilege.  Grant that we understand your mercy and in turn bestow it on others.  May we come to live in your spirit, always taking in the ample advice you give us in our journey home to you.  Amen.


A re-post from September 3, 2011.

Image from: http://covenantofthecross.info/listening-for-god/

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2 Maccabees 15: Battle – Part III

Peter Paul Rubens and workshop: The Triumph of Judas Macccabee

Peter paul Rubens, “The Triumph of Judas Maccabee” Museum of Fine Arts in Nantes

Thursday, March 8, 2018

It is not through arms but through the Lord’s decision that victory is won by those who deserve it. 

The arms we carry into battle need only be Christ.  When we see the oncoming storm of conflict, we only need put on the armor of God. When we enter into the battle that threatens to erase the values we hold as true, we turn to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

We are to be prisoners for the Lord and live in a manner worthy of the call we have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace; one body, and one Spirit, as we were also called to the one hope of our call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  (Ephesians 4:1-6)

This, then, is how we move forward as a witness in Christ. This, then, is how we act in the Spirit. With understanding, humility, patience, and a deep-seated wish for unity.

It is not through arms but through the Lord’s decision that victory is won by those who deserve it. 

The only battle worth entering, is one we enter with God not as a righteous banner, but with Christ as a loving guide, the Spirit as a healing force. When we exercise our full understanding and our full force of love, we will have entered the battle enjoined by God.

It is not through arms but through the Lord’s decision that victory is won by those who deserve it. 

The only war worth waging, the only love worth winning, the only peace worth gaining, is the battle we enter with, and in, and for our loving God.

It is not through arms but through the Lord’s decision that victory is won by those who deserve it. 

Adapted from a reflection written on February 28, 2009.

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judas_Maccabeus#/media/File:Peter_Paul_Rubens_and_workshop_002.jpg 

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Esther 7: The Persecutor

Giovanni Andrea Sirani: Esther Before Ahasuerus

Saturday, February 17, 2018 

Yesterday we assessed the narcissism we might discover in ourselves and how unilateral listening governs our world circumstances. Today we reflect on how Esther and Mordecai operate in their world – and what we might learn from them.

It is clear that Haman is consumed by envy of Mordecai and while we cannot analyze this character from a Biblical story, we can certainly learn from his actions. It is also clear that Esther – as a woman but especially as a Jewish woman in a non-Jewish court – fears for her life, and the life of her nation. The kingdom of Xerxes is an ancient one in which individual rights are denied to most. We might believe that we as a species have evolved and it is true that in general, we have. However, many peoples in our modern society have no benefit of personal rights. When this happens, we might speculate, it is often the result of someone, or some group, behaving in a narcissistic manner. Navigating these troubling conditions is difficult at best. What does the story of Esther have to tell us?

Queen Esther answered, “If it please Your Majesty to grant my humble request, my wish is that I may live and that my people may live”.

Humility is usually an ineffective tool against brutality; it seems to encourage even more violence. Yet, here we see that despite her humble behavior and words, Esther acts in order to save a people.

“If you keep quiet at a time like this, help will come from heaven to the Jews, and they will be saved, but you will die and your father’s family will come to an end. Yet who knows—maybe it was for a time like this that you were made queen!” (Esther 4:14)

On Ash Wednesday when we explored Chapter 4, we considered Martin Neimöller’s advice that if we do not speak against evil and injustice, we guarantee not our safety, but our sure demise. Despite their fear, Esther and Mordecai form a solidarity of two as they begin a quiet, patient assertion of justice and truth.

An article from Psychology Today gives us guidelines to manage the effects of narcissism. These experts advise that we evaluate both our surroundings and the narcissist to look for context, that we maintain a firm sense of purpose along with a sense of humor, and that we remain realistic about how much we can accomplish when working with the self-centered. If we are in dangerous surroundings, controlled by a persecutor as Esther and Mordecai are, we begin by turning to God and finding others with whom to form solidarity. We move forward with patience, reliance on the Creator, persisting in hope, and acting in mercy.

Tomorrow, fighting back.

When we read varying translations of this story by using the scripture link and the drop-down menus, we find an opportunity to transform a world beset by narcissism.

For more advice, read the August 14, 2014 post “Eight Ways to Handle a Narcissist”. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201408/8-ways-handle-narcissist

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Psalms 35 – 37Seek Justice

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Favorite from November 12, 2009.

Yesterday we reflected on the value of seeking wisdom in times of trial.  Today we focus on seeking justice in times of injustice and these three psalms serve as a kind of trilogy of prayer.  I am struck by the titles of these songs in English first and then in Spanish.

35 – An Appeal for Help against Injustice, I am Your Salvation

36 – Human Weakness and Divine Goodness, By Your Light we see Light

37 – Fate of the Wicked and reward of the Righteous, The Humble Shall Inherit the Earth

We are lead from naming injustice, through seeking God in order that we see what is good about our situation, to arrive at the result of God’s way of being.  In God’s world, the wicked suffer consequences for their descent into darkness and secrecy while the faithful are rewarded for their perseverance and patience.  When we feel pummeled by life we might want to turn to these three prayers and give them our full focus.

Rescue me from these ravening beasts; preserve my precious life from these lions.

If we can identify the wicked ways of others then we know when and where to step cautiously.

Do not allow my treacherous enemies to gloat over me; do not permit those who hate me without reason to wink their eyes at me.

Humans fear that the darkness will encompass them; yet we have been promised the light.

Sin speaks to the wicked one in the heart; . . . there is no fear of God.  He deludes himself with the idea that his guilt will not be discovered and hated.

In the end, nothing remains hidden.  Those who engage in darkness forget that the light will reveal all.

Oh Lord, your kindness extends to the heavens; your faithfulness to the skies . . . With you is the fountain of life, and by your light we see light.

We must appeal to God to show us how to find strength through our kindness.

Do not fume because of evildoers or envy those who do wrong.  They will wither quickly like the grass and fade away like the green herb.  Put your trust in the Lord and do good . . .

Sinking to the level of the wicked only makes the darkness more intense and brings it closer.

In a short while, the wicked will be no more; no matter how diligently you search, you will not be able to find him. 

We must not allow our anxieties and preoccupations to close in on us.  Seek God in order to find stillness and quiet.

But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy an abundance of peace. 

We must be meek as Jesus is meek, humble as The Lamb is humble.

Two words struck me from today’s closing prayer at Mass which I will carry with me for awhile: Courage and Peace.  If we have these two, we have all.  This Psalm Trilogy today is a roadmap for our exodus out of fear and our arrival at promised serenity.  We must have Courage in our God, for this is where we find a small pocket or a tiny island of tranquility . . . even amidst the trials and darkness that we suffer because of the wicked.    When we find ourselves in pain at the hand of evil, we must take courage and seek justice . . . in order to arrive at peace.

 

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Colossians 3:12-14: Chosen

Thursday, September 14, 2017

We may well want to consider how we react to the news that we are chosen loved ones.

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

Do we step ahead quickly to shove our way forward in response to God’s call? Or do we tend to those along the margins who cannot find a way into the unifying force of God’s hope?

Bear with one another . . .

Do we follow Christ in fits and starts? Or do we move constantly and slowly forward, always remaining faithful in reflection of God’s fidelity?

If anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other . . .

Do we greet one another with greed or compassion? Anger or mercy? Chaos or peace?

Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Do we welcome the stranger, speak out against injustice, console the sorrowful, and heal the sick?

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Do we work for reconciliation? Do we open our eyes, ears, hearts, hands and minds? Do we act as if we are chosen in God’s humble love?

When we use the scripture link and the drop-down menus, we find that being chosen is more than we have first thought.

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Proverbs 22-24: The Cure

Friday, August 18, 2017

The cure for what ails us comes through the discipline to follow the rules laid out for us. The writers remind us of the basic tenets of good living. Later in the Gospel story, Jesus’ words and actions remind us that God’s wisdom is so often the reverse of our own.

It’s wrong, very wrong,
    to go along with injustice.

Whoever whitewashes the wicked
    gets a black mark in the history books,
But whoever exposes the wicked
    will be thanked and rewarded.

The practical precepts of Proverbs follow.

  1. Don’t walk on the poor just because they’re poor, and don’t use your position to crush the weak . . .
  2. Don’t hang out with angry people; don’t keep company with hotheads . . .
  3. Don’t gamble on the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or hock your house against a lucky chance . . .
  4. Don’t stealthily move back the boundary lines staked out long ago by your ancestors . . .
  5. Observe people who are good at their work—skilled workers are always in demand and admired . . .
  6. When you go out to dinner with an influential person,mind your manners . . .
  7. Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich; restrain yourself!
  8. Don’t accept a meal from a tightwad; don’t expect anything special . . .
  9. Don’t bother talking sense to fools; they’ll only poke fun at your words . . .
  10. Don’t cheat orphans out of their property, for they have a powerful Advocate
    who will go to bat for them . . .
  11. Give yourselves to disciplined instruction; open your ears to tested knowledge . . .
  12. Don’t be afraid to correct your young ones . . .
  13. Dear child, if you become wise, I’ll be one happy parent . . .
  14. Don’t for a minute envy careless rebels . . .
  15. Oh listen, dear child—become wise; point your life in the right direction. Don’t drink too much wine and get drunk; don’t eat too much food and get fat . . .
  16. Listen with respect to the father who raised you, and when your mother grows old, don’t neglect her . . .
  17. A loose woman can get you in deep trouble fast . . .
  18. Don’t judge wine by its label, or its bouquet, or its full-bodied flavor . . .
  19. Don’t envy bad people . . .
  20. It takes wisdom to build a house, and understanding to set it on a firm foundation . . .
  21. It’s better to be wise than strong . . .
  22. Wise conversation is way over the head of fools . . .
  23. Fools incubate sin; cynics desecrate beauty . . .
  24. If you fall to pieces in a crisis, there wasn’t much to you in the first place . . .
  25. Rescue the perishing; don’t hesitate to step in and help . . .
  26. Knowledge and wisdom for your soul—get that and your future’s secured,
    your hope is on solid rock . . .
  27. Don’t interfere with good people’s lives; don’t try to get the best of them . . .
  28. Don’t laugh when your enemy falls; don’t crow over his collapse . . .
  29. Don’t bother your head with braggarts or wish you could succeed like the wicked . . .
  30. Fear God, dear child—respect your leaders . . .

Heavy doses of humility and generosity bring us the cure that heals all that divides us from God and on another. When we compare varying translations of these verses, we find the ingredients of the remedy that restores us.

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Proverbs 13: Walk With the Wise

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Book of Proverbs is a compilation of refrains that come to us over the centuries. We avoid their advice at our own peril; we integrate their lessons for our own good, and for the good of all.

Intelligent children listen to their parents;
    foolish children do their own thing.

Whether we see ourselves as wise or foolish, there is always something to learn from our elders; wisdom is, after all, the patience to listen for, and to respond positively to God’s Word.

Careful words make for a careful life;
    careless talk may ruin everything.

A good person hates false talk;
    a bad person wallows in gibberish.

We know that words matter. Harsh words create anxiety and deepen rifts while positive words enrich our lives and open us to transformation.

A pretentious, showy life is an empty life;
    a plain and simple life is a full life.

The lives of good people are brightly lit streets;
    the lives of the wicked are dark alleys.

Societies based on profit have difficulty understanding God’s goodness. Cultures with structures that care for the marginalized will give preference to the poor when making decisions. Do we live in dark alleys or on brightly lit streets?

 Arrogant know-it-alls stir up discord,
    but wise men and women listen to each other’s counsel.

Easy come, easy go,
    but steady diligence pays off.

We know that humility is the best foundation for a fruitful life. Openness to Jesus as The Word of God brings us the persistence, fortitude, and hope we will need to serve as disciples of Christ.

Ignore the Word and suffer;
    honor God’s commands and grow rich.

Sound thinking makes for gracious living,
    but liars walk a rough road.

Honesty in all our ways may be difficult but trustworthiness comes with great efforts. While we may temporarily deceive those from whom we hide, we know that ultimately the truth will always come forward.

Become wise by walking with the wise;
    hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.

Scholars believe that the Book of Proverbs is a gathering of sayings brought together after the exile experience of the people of Israel. After huge loss and great difficulty, the faithful discover that both their actions and their words matter deeply. They also know that nothing and no one hides from the Creator. As New Testament people, we have as a model the actions of Jesus as he lives out The Word of God. As Easter people, we have the presence and consolation of the Spirit to buoy us up when we are lost or frightened. For all of these reasons, let us decide to walk with the wise rather than play with the foolish.

Today’s verses are taken from THE MESSAGE translation of the Bible. When we compare other translations of these words, we find that the difference between the wise and foolish is not that difficult to distinguish.

 

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Proverbs 3:1-12: Knowing It All

Friday, July 21, 2017

The writer of the opening Chapters of Proverbs treats us as a close associate.

Good friend, don’t forget all I’ve taught you;
    take to heart my commands.
They’ll help you live a long, long time,
    a long life lived full and well.

We are warned to keep our feet on the ground and our hearts open.

Don’t lose your grip on Love and Loyalty.
    Tie them around your neck; carve their initials on your heart.
Earn a reputation for living well
    in God’s eyes and the eyes of the people.

A close relationship with God is paramount for one who wants to be eternally at peace.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    God’s the one who will keep you on track.

Humility is a trait we will want to nurture.

Don’t assume that you know it all.
    Run to God! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
    your very bones will vibrate with life!

The rewards of a trusting relationship with God go beyond our spiritual health.

Honor God with everything you own;
    give him the first and the best.
Your barns will burst,
    your wine vats will brim over.

The rewards of practicing fidelity are greater and more powerful than we have imagined.

But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline;
    don’t sulk under God’s loving correction.
It’s the child God loves that God corrects;
    a parent’s delight is behind all this.

God’s loving presence in our lives may at times be difficult . . . but it will also be gratifying, enlightening, and transforming. When we consider these words, we recognize that in truth we have much to learn. No matter our status, power or wealth, we do not know all.

When we spend time with other translations of these verses, we gain understand the power of humility, fidelity and love.

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1 Timothy: Community

Friday, July 14, 2017

We share these reflections from Holy Week of 2007 while I am away from electronics. Keeping all of you in prayer each day at noon.

Use those words [of prophecy] as weapons in order to fight well, and keep your faith and a clear conscience. (Verses 18-19)

Once we have examined ourselves and become vulnerable to God, we will allow ourselves to form a true community, one with the hallmarks of Humility, Purity, Family, Justice and Mercy.

Paul’s advice to Timothy – and to us – reminds us that we rest in the Old Testament as we enact the New.

When we use the scripture link and commentary to explore this letter, we find words that bring new energy to old worries, new healing to old wounds, and new life to old communities. 

 

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