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Pope Francis

Monday, January 10, 2022

Joy and Amos

The Bitter Day

The prophets chronicle a people’s yearning for union with their creator and un uncanny understanding of their own vulnerabilities. Their words warn, threaten, exhort, and promise us that God is always present, even though we may not recognize this presence. The Old Testament prophecies foreshadow the good news of the New Testament, and they remind us that no matter our circumstance God’s joy rescues us from sure destruction, Christ’s joy redeems us from our recklessness, and the Spirit’s joy heals us despite the gravity of our wounds. Today Amos brings the past into focus with the present as he foretells the joy we might find even in the bitterness of our own indictment.

Amos was a shepherd “who exercised his ministry during the prosperous reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.). He prophesied in Israel at the great cult center of Bethel, from which he was finally expelled by the priest in charge of this royal sanctuary . . . In common with the other prophets Amos knew that divine punishment in never completely destructive; it is part of the hidden plan of God to bring salvation to men. The perversity of the human will may retard, but it cannot totally frustrate, this design of a loving God”. (Senior 1126)

Amos 8:10: And I will turn your parties into times of mourning, and your songs of joy will be turned to cries of despair. You will wear funeral clothes and shave your heads as signs of sorrow, as if your only son had died; bitter, bitter will be that day.

More than any other prophet, Amos “speaks directly to the issue of social justice, with a vigor unparalleled anywhere in the Bible . . . No prophet is more easily related to the modern world than Amos, for the social inequities that he denounced in the eighth-century B.C. Israel are still very much with us . . . The first lesson to be learned from Amos is that social justice is the business of religion. The test of piety is what happens in the marketplace rather than what happens in the church or temple”. (Senior RG 365-366)

Amos 5:18: You say, ‘If only the Day of the Lord were here, for then God would deliver us from all our foes.’ But you have no idea what you ask. For that day will not be light and prosperity, but darkness and doom! How terrible the darkness will be for you; not a ray of joy or hope will shine.

Amos witnesses to the corruption and hypocrisy he sees before him. He is expelled from the temple community and then returns to his orchards and flocks but before he goes back to his work, he warns his listeners of the bitter day they hope to avoid, knowing that ultimately – as is always true with God – the joy opportunity for salvation surprises us even as we hear our own bitter indictment.


joyRead about Pope Francis’ recent address to the Curia in which he describes the “spiritual Alzheimer’s” of church leaders; and let us consider our own behavior. Do we contribute to hypocrisy in our own circles by remaining silent when we are called to speak? What joy surprises us in the midst of our indictment? What does our daily living say about our image of God? http://www.religionnews.com/2014/12/22/pope-francis-curia-merry-christmas-power-hungry-hypocrites/ and http://ncronline.org/blogs/distinctly-catholic/pope-francis-address-curia

To read Pope Francis’ June 5, 2014 brief address and consider how we might hear his words in the context of this prophecy, visit: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130605_udienza-generale.html  

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. 1126, RG 365-366. Print.

If this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urges you to investigate the New Testament, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar.

Image from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/the-pope/10342768/Pope-Francis-to-rip-up-and-rewrite-Vatican-constitution.html

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Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Camel in the Judean Wilderness

Camel in the Judean Wilderness

Matthew 23:23-26

Gnats and Camels

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.

It is too easy to judge others and forget to look in the mirror.

You pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law; judgment and mercy and fidelity.

The words come to us quickly: I am too busy. I already know that. This is just the way I am. We cringe when we think we might have to change our perception of self.

Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!

We fuss with details and avoid authentic conversion.

You cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.

We recognize our sense of entitlement but refuse to move forward in transformation.

Cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.

Jesus is clear. There are steps to be taken. Christ leads the way. There are changes to be made. Do we persist with a lifestyle that is comfortable and known but lacking in judgment, mercy and fidelity? Or do we choose a life of honesty and understanding?

Christ speaks to each of us today of gnats and camels. Christ speaks to us today of honesty and hypocrisy. Christ speaks to us of an opportunity to change. Let us spend some time today with Matthew 23 and look for the occasions we have wanted to strain gnats and swallow camels.


For a humorous post on How to Swallow a Camel with No Gnats, click on the image above or go to: http://www.waynestiles.com/how-to-swallow-a-camel-with-no-gnats/

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Friday, February 26, 2021

judging-otherss[1]Romans 2:17-24

Our Interior Law – Part II

A guide for the blind. A light for those in darkness. A trainer of the foolish. A teacher of the simple. In teaching others do we fail to teach ourselves? Do we rise to our own preaching? Do measure up to the yardsticks we place alongside others?

Paul asks these and other questions of the Romans and he also asks us today. Paul can speak from the heart about authenticity because he once persecuted the followers of Jesus and came to understand – through his relationship with the risen Christ – the hypocrisy he was living. Paul can call us today to our own assessment of self in our exterior adherence to a complicated written law. Paul asks us today to measure our inner self against our outer self rather than compare ourselves to others.

My Dad was fond of reminding us that our actions speak louder than words. He would frequently remind us that “God will judge the other guy so you don’t need to”.  And he always urged that we measure ourselves against ourselves. “When you compare yourself with others,” he often said when we complained of injustices real or perceived, “you will likely come up short. So don’t bother. Instead of looking at the other guy, ask yourself: did I improve today or did I fall back? If you moved forward, great. If not, God will let you know how to improve”.

judging-others-blue_design[1]A guide for the blind. A light for those in darkness. A trainer of the foolish.  A teacher of the simple. In teaching others do we fail to teach ourselves? Do we rise to our own preaching? Do we measure up to the yardsticks we place alongside others?

How and who and why and what and when do we measure? And with what?


Mother Teresa quote from:http://helpfortheheart.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/judging-others-blue_design.png?w=645

For some practical strategies to heal a judging heart, click on the images in this post or go to: Help for the Heart at WordPress at: http://helpfortheheart.wordpress.com/

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Friday, November 6, 2020

praise[2]Psalm 50

A Sacrifice of Praise

“The problem here is that a dead conscience lies behind the feverish ritual, reeking with sacrificial smoke, on the one side, and, on the other side, ignoring public morality. People think that ritual wraps its sacred mantle round them to hide the rotten morality of their lives. Ritual, however, is no alibi for sinning. The “wicked” addressed in v. 16 should probably be understood as none other than the “people” of v. 6, who are as eager to recite statutes as they are to offer sacrifices, tough without taking to heart the obligations of the covenant . . . It is also possible . . . that the criticism is also directed specifically at them [priests and leaders]. These leaders are afraid to condemn what the people are doing lest they lose their stipends (Deuteronomy 18:8). They even encourage sin to receive greater sin offerings and so “they feed off the sins of my people” (Hosea 4:8). Tolerating such deviousness, they give the impression that God is also deaf and blind to the situation. In concluding the entire psalm, vv. 22-23 echo phrases from the minor conclusion (vv. 14-15) and realistically warn once more against the sin of religious externalism”.  (Mays 413)

We might think about religious externalism, about wrapping ourselves in perfunctory or false ritual. We might also think about what drives us to engage in artificial ritual. We might think about our spiritual hunger.

We want to caution ourselves when we are thinking that perhaps God is deaf and blind to our circumstances. God knows and sees all. This we must trust. This we must believe. When we feel as though our petitions fall on deaf and uncaring ears, we will benefit from standing our sense of loss on its head: perhaps we yearn for God so much . . . perhaps we hunger so much for more of his healing presence in our lives . . . that we feel as though he does not listen . . . is not present . . . does not respond as we might wish. We might consider that our thirst for God is so great that we believe that God is not listening . . . when in fact he is. This might mean that our sense of hunger and thirst is not such a bad thing after all. Consider the words from Psalm 63: O God, you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting.  My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water . . . For your love is better than life, in your name I will lift up my hands . . . On my bed I will remember you.  On you I muse through the night for you have been my help . . .

We long for God. We feel incomplete here on this plane with only God’s Spirit to accompany us, only God’s Son to walk with us. We want to feel the full impact of a constant interaction with the Trinity.  For this we hunger. For this we thirst. This is praise we are willing to offer to God. This is praise as sacrifice.


Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 413. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on March 26, 2008.

Image from: http://delightabidelove.com/2013/02/

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Matthew 15:1-20: The Tradition of the Elders

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Written on April 24, 2008  and posted today as a Favorite.

I wish I had more time to sit with this today.  Since I do not, I promise myself that this evening, when dinner is done and the papers graded, I will turn back to this before falling asleep.  I love when Jesus has to explain things to his disciples.  It makes me feel less silly!  When the people who lived, and walked, and worked and played with Jesus get things wrong, I do not feel so bad when I do as well.

Footnotes from the NAB tell us this dispute about the washing of hands before eating was more than a struggle about the rules.  Jesus points out the hypocrisy of these elders who pledge to take care of their own parents but who do not.  They accuse others of being slackers when they themselves truly are. Jesus escalates things a bit as he poses new thinking about the Mosaic Law concerning clean and unclean things.  He, as the New Law, embodies God’s Word to us, incarnates the Law of Love for us.

At this time of year we are always reading from Acts of the Apostles – and I love this – because we see the young church struggling to form itself as the bride struggles to ready herself for union with the groom.  And today’s reading is chapter 15 verses 7 to 21.  It dovetails nicely with the challenge we reflect on in Matthew 15.  When newness happens, it will be accompanied by conflict.  This is not a bad thing.

I am looking at the morning intercessions in MAGNIFICAT.

To you we turn!  Hear us!

You are our stronghold in time of trouble: grant us the wisdom and the courage to place out trust in you.  To you we turn!  Hear us!

You are our defender against all evil: teach us always to call upon you in prayer.  To you we turn!  Hear us!

You have delivered your people from death by the power of the cross: strengthen us to bear one another’s burdens in love.  To you we turn!  Hear us!

Amen.


Image from: http://heartofflesh.wordpress.com/2007/09/02/mans-religion/

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 4.24 (2008). Print.  

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Matthew 23: Woe

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Shema

Frequently during our Noontime reflecting we have observed how Jesus both promises and warns the world that there is a clear choice before us always: we may choose Beatitude or we may choose Woe.  Jesus also warns us frequently about true and false prophets, the difficulties and gifts we receive from entering into self-knowledge, the presence of evil in the most intimate and holy of places, the importance of praying the Shema in all our actions, and the peace of heart that arrives when we give over everything to the following of God above all else.  Today we look at perhaps the strongest indictment of false leadership present in the whole of scripture in which Jesus – at the height of his success among the people – steps into the comfort zone of church leaders to condemn their collusion in the corruption of God’s beautiful creation.  If we are in doubt as to whom Jesus might be seeing as false when he looks at us today, we have only to read the opening lines to see if we are his target for remediation: Those who preach but do not practice, those who tie up heavy burdens to lay on others’ shoulders but lift no finger to help,  those who perform works to be seen, those who love places of honor at banquets and seats of honor in places of worship, greetings in market places, those who widen their phylacteries and lengthen tassels.   Phylacteries are little black, leather prayer boxes worn on the upper left arm and forehead that carry the Shema prayer we thought about just several days ago.  Tassles are also prescribed in the Shema and they are the blue border or the blue and white fringe or threads at the four corners of the outer garment that would remind practicing Jews to adhere to the Law as prescribed in Numbers 15:38 – with their body, mind, heart and soul. Gospel-followers today wear crosses and medallions, frequent religious places and ceremonies, practice peace and justice in their work and play.  We can put ourselves under the same examination that we give to the scribes and Pharisees we read about today.

Bender Stanislaw: Laying Phylacteries at a Barmitzvah

Hypocrites, blind guides and fools, whitewashed tombs all beautiful outside and sparkling in the bright sun . . . but dark and empty on the inside, full of death and filth.  Jesus proclaims woe on and to the people who stubbornly believe that they are immune from scrutiny.  Jesus calls out to all of us to turn a discerning eye on what we say to see if it matches what we do.  Jesus laments the loss of so much potential in the closing verses of this chapter as he predicts the end of their present life.

When Jesus visits with each of us, he confronts our own hypocrisy and false fronts; yet he also comforts where he finds hurt, he heals where he finds damage, he cures where he finds regret, and he restores where he finds a conversion of heart.  This conversion is evidenced when we ask forgiveness.  It is witnessed by our willingness to accept responsibility for our missteps and our honest attempts to make amends.  This conversion is seen in our openness to what we have thought to be impossible – that we might both change and be changed by the blessed one who comes as an expression of God’s love to and in the world.  We have only to let the Christ enter our lives . . . and then to give our lives over to him.


A re-post from May 29, 2012.

Stanislaw image from: http://www.allposters.com/-sp/Rabbi-Tying-the-Phylacteries-to-the-Arm-of-a-Boy-Posters_i4047644_.htm

To read more about the importance of the Shema click The Shema image above or go to: http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Scripture/Torah/The_Shema/the_shema.html

For more information on the The Shema prayer go to: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/shema.html

To read The Shema prayer go to: http://www.jewfaq.org/prayer/shema.htm

Re-written and posted on October 28, 2009 as a Favorite.

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Proverbs 6:12-35 and 7: Something Nasty

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

God is perfectly aware that not all creatures understand the goodness and generosity of creation’s gift. Having that in mind, the writer of Proverbs reminds us that the riffraff and rascals who plot and scheme will always – in God’s time and in God’s economy – wind up suffering the consequences of the chaos they plot against others. In a literary context, we refer to this as irony, the end of the twisting plot twisting back on the antagonist. We often believe that in reality the outcome is different: he who plots and schemes becomes rich and powerful; she who plots against the innocent escapes destiny’s karma.

Riffraff and rascals
    talk out of both sides of their mouths.
They wink at each other, they shuffle their feet,
    they cross their fingers behind their backs.

If we live in a timeline of the physical world, we might see ourselves as correct in thinking that the spiritual world holds out false hope. When we live in God’s eternal time, we find that we have misunderstood God’s plan for the kingdom. When we ignore God’s time and plan, we find that we have become like the riffraff and rascals we deplore. We have given in to something nasty. We will have rejected the advice of Proverbs that the final total smashup will arrive at our door, and we will become the hypocrites who cross our fingers behind our backs.

Their perverse minds are always cooking up something nasty,
    always stirring up trouble.
Catastrophe is just around the corner for them,
    a total smashup, their lives ruined beyond repair.

In the following verses, we hear about human actions that induce God’s ire; these items are laid out clearly. Various translations present differing translations but this interesting list is always the same, a litany of easy signs that we might look for in our own daily actions.

  • A proud look.
  • A lying tongue.
  • Hands that kill innocent people,
  • A mind that thinks up wicked plans.
  • Feet that hurry off to do evil.
  • A witness who tells one lie after another.
  • And someone who stirs up trouble among friends.

As Easter People, we share the Good News Jesus brings to creation that God’s merciful patience and generosity are always waiting in hope to redeem us. God’s persistence and wisdom are always presenting in faith new lessons for us to learn. God’s justice and consolation are always bringing us new opportunities to love as God loves.

The final verses of this chapter reprise the hazards of adultery and we might wonder why the writer brings this theme to us again. Besides the obvious danger of wanton men and women, might we also need be wary of addiction to lusting after power, wealth and fame? Might we need another practical warning to steer clear of riffraff and rascals lest we becomes one of those who ignore God’s call away from something nasty?

Even so, when the dust settles, we find that despite our recalcitrance, despite our rejection of truth, despite our haughtiness and ego-driven behavior, God’s compassion is awaiting us with Christ’s open and holy love. We are invited today to become one with that sacred heart.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to find different versions of these verses, we explore God’s transparent plan for our good, and the good of all creation.  

The original definition of hypocrite is “actor”. (See Merriam-Webster at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/hypocrite-meaning-origin) For interesting thoughts on hypocrisy, click the image of masks above. 

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Encyclopedia Britannica: Sor Juana

Proverbs 5: Duplicity

Monday, July 24, 2017

In ancient cultures, the institution of marriage was an important glue that held society together; families relied on a patriarchal paradigm in which men served as leaders with women as their helpmates. Wise men realized that their service as the head of the unit did not relegate women to an opposite role at the foot. Wise men and women then and now understood – and understand – that families operate best in an atmosphere of trust, respect and dignity.

Today’s reading warns young men about the wily ways of female prostitutes, women who serve as sexual tools for those who hold power. Today, we have a better understanding of the plight of sexual slaves and in some parts of the world, sexual slavery is unacceptable, and even illegal. Not all cultures hold this standard but today’s citation reminds us that personal integrity is a hallmark of solid Christian living.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a Mexican Carmelite who wrote the famous piece, Hombres necios, or Stupid Men, points out the hypocrisy of men who both seek and scorn women as prostitutes. More about her life work is worth exploring at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Sor-Juana-Ines-de-la-Cruz The influence of this cloistered nun was felt in Baroque-age Mexico and Spain as she interacted with scholars, leaders, and other poets. Like Lady Wisdom, Sor Juana points to the way of integrity and honesty despite the environment of hypocrisy surrounding her. Like Lady Wisdom, Sor Juana is not afraid to speak truth to those who enjoy duplicity.

For the Spanish and English versions of Sor Juana’s poem, visit: https://zocalopoets.com/2012/07/11/sister-juana-ines-de-la-cruz-stupid-conceited-men-hombres-necios/

Comparing various translations of these verses, we re-examine the problem of duplicity.

 

 

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Proverbs 4: Admonition

Sunday, July 23, 2017

We can never be too cautious or prudent. Learn the ways of wisdom by heart.

We can never be too vulnerable and open to God. Keep vigilance over our hearts.

We can never forget the practical advice of Lady Wisdom.

Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth;
    avoid careless banter, white lies, and gossip.
Keep your eyes straight ahead;
    ignore all sideshow distractions.
Watch your step,
    and the road will stretch out smooth before you.
Look neither right nor left;
    leave evil in the dust.

Wisdom admonishes us to take care, but she also reminds us that small, practical guidelines bring us serenity and joy.

Comparing various translations of these verses, we realize again the importance of small practices.

 

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