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Hosea 4Open to Newness

Saturday, September 1, 2018

A re-post from August 1, 2011.

We will need to look at notes in order to understand the references in today’s Noontime and the following information is from THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE.  Ephraim (note verse 17) was the tribal area that remained in the northern kingdom of Israel after the Assyrian invasion.  The wood and wand (note verse 12) refer to any carved idol or utensil used in the practice of divination.  Ritual prostitution practiced in Canaanite shrines was introduced into sanctuaries dedicated to Yahweh (note verse 14).  Gilgal here (note verse 15) is in reference to a sanctuary in the north in Bethel where there was an association of cult prophets (2 Kings 2 and 4:38); it is not a reference to Gilgal in the south where Joshua sets up memorial standing stones (Joshua 4).  Finally, the priests are in for heavy criticism because they are seen as the ones who lead the people away from God as they set up a schism between genuine and cult prophets.  All of this information helps to clarify the link between the prophet Hosea’s deep sorrow over his wife Gomer’s prostitution of herself and the descent of the nation of Israel into this same harlotry.  Hosea sees the individual and collective return to idolatry as a seal of the fate of the nation and its people.  They are all caught up in the coming whirlwind of disaster.  (Senior 1112-1113)

The psalmist reminds us that: The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands.  They have mouths but speak not; they have ears but see not; they have ears but hear not; no breath is in their mouths.  Those who make them will be like them, and so will all those who trust in them.  (Psalm 135:15-18)  If only we humans might remember that in the end . . . these little gods cannot forgive us, save us, redeem us or love us as God does.

We have reflected during our Noontimes that little gods creep into our lives without notice and it is in this way that we become unwitting collaborators in the creation of an illusion; today we look at how a nation of people who have been blessed by God turn away from God’s goodness.   The children’s story of The Emperor’s New Clothes http://deoxy.org/emperors.htm from the Hans Christian Anderson collection is an apt allegory not only for Hosea’s society but for our society today.  We have only to determine if we number among the adults who have ceased to think for themselves . . . or if we are the astonished child who announces: The emperor is naked!  Like the child, Hosea cries out to the people of Israel.  And like the child, our prophets of today cry out against the obtuse among us.

When we become frustrated with a herd mentality that drives idiotically toward the precipice or when we give up all hope that the small voice of truth might be heard above the clamor of a self-deceiving crowd, we must turn away from our little gods of anxiety and desperation and turn to God, for it is God who best understands what is to be disbelieved and dispossessed.  And it is God who knows well how to convert the darkness of despair into the beauty of joy, for it is in the darkness that God plants the seeds of new life.

And so we pray . . . Good and forgiving God, remind us that we have only to be open to a newness that you will bring out of the ignorance and despair we witness today.  Show us the newness born of the dark that is your compassionate healing and eternal transformation.  Amen.  


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1112-1113. Print.   

Images from: http://thefigureofspeechprod.info/coming-soon.html and http://blogs.attask.com/blog/strategic-project-management/the-emperors-new-clothes

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Isaiah 44: Chasing Ashes

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Cyrus the Great

Founder of the Persian Empire, Cyrus inherited a small kingdom and expanded it to include what we know today as Iran and much of Turkey.  He captured Babylon in 539 B.C.E. and although he did not worship the God of Israel, he proved to be “a beneficent king who allowed captive people to return to their homelands and restore their places of worship”.  (ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE 669). We cannot know his motivation for allowing the Jewish people to return home after exile, but we do know that Cyrus II – the Anointed of the Lord who becomes the Liberator of Israel – believed in Marduk, the mythological god of Babylon.  As many have commented, we can never anticipate the wisdom or plans of God.  Hear then, whom I have chosen . . .

Many times I wonder how God has chosen the agents who do God’s work: stumble-bum leaders, hard-edged colleagues, the apparent liberal who leans toward conservatism, and the seemingly empty-headed support personnel who deliver wisdom during crisis.  I have learned to be on the lookout for God’s anointed even as I try to steer clear of false idols; and I wonder about my own fidelity to God and my success as his agent.  Hear then, whom I have chosen . . .

Isaiah warns us against replacing God with idols that bring us no help and cause us too much maintenance work.  Smiths and carpenters do not reflect, nor have the intelligence and sense to see that the bits of iron and wood they fashion into idols are no god at all . . . Half the wood was burned in the fire, and on its embers I baked bread and roasted meant which I ate. Shall I then make an idol of the rest, or worship a block of wood?  Like these smiths and carpenters, we daily set up little gods to worship when we worry about our next meal, the clothes we will wear to the gym or pool, the roof on the house or the brakes on the car that need repair, our position at work, the fussy chair of the civic committee on which we serve.  When we set aside our prayer time with God because we want to fret about these worries, we have surrendered to our little gods.  He is chasing ashes, a thing that cannot save itself when the flame consumes it . . .

Volcanic ash cloud

We might wonder as we reflect on today’s Noontime how it is that God has so much patience with us when we turn to the inanimate to fuss and cajole the objects in our surroundings into pleasing us.

We might wonder how it is that God has so much forgiveness with us each time we return to him that he continues to encourage us and grace us with his presence.

We might wonder how it is that God has so much imagination that God will use a believer in a pagan god as the anointed one to help the faithful return from an exile their own corruption gained for them.

We might wonder how it is that God has so much compassion for each of us that despite our times of coldness and our turnings away, God continues to heal, restore, redeem and save us.

We might wonder how it is that God loves us eternally and wishes to be with us forever . . . despite the countless times we leave God to chase after ashes.

Volcanic ash

We might wonder . . . and yet God is the one who pours out water on the thirsty ground, knits us his offspring in the womb, pours out his spirit on us, and lays blessings on our descendents. 

We might wonder, yet we need not . . . for God chases after us . . . even as we chase after the ashes of our own folly.


For more information on Cyrus II (Cyrus the Great) who appears at the end of Isaiah 44, go to this site and also follow the link to farsinet.   http://gracewalk.wordpress.com/2006/11/14/cyrus-the-great-isaiah-45/

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 669. Print.

Images from: https://gracewalk.wordpress.com/2006/11/14/cyrus-the-great-isaiah-45/  and http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2010/0419/Volcanic-ash-cloud-economics-Europe-s-winners-and-losers and http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2010/0419/Volcanic-ash-cloud-economics-Europe-s-winners-and-losers

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 24, 2011.

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Psalm 24Universal God

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Commentary will tell us that this psalm was likely written to accompany a procession with the Ark around the Temple precinct, or even through the city or countryside.  When we look at these verses closely, we see that they contain a list of qualities that describe God’s people: the clean of hand, the pure of heart, those who are not devoted to idols and who do not lie.  God’s power and goodness are affirmed; God is seen as the designer and initiator of creation.  With this song the people celebrate the glory of God and the goodness that resides in his creation . . . the earth.  They also confirm the values God’s faithful will want to espouse: purity and integrity. 

Scripture begins with the creation story we have heard so often that we may move through it too quickly.  When Genesis 1 is read with care, and when it is compared to other creation stories, we will want to join in the singing of this hymn to God who is so much different and so much more wonderful than any other god.

Ancient Mesopotamia was rife with creation stories and many of them elevated a particular god to supremacy over other gods.  This would be done in order to establish superiority of a god’s followers or cult; it would also give prestige to a particular temple, city or town.  These myths frequently gave simple explications for the complexity of nature.  A god generally called a mound of earth out of darkness and water, set up rites and rituals and often deified elements of nature such as the moon, sun or the earth itself.  Some stories describe epic battles between various gods, and humans lack any dignity or purpose other than to serve as a kind of slave.  So we might want to look at what makes the Judeo-Christian creation story different from the rest.  “The Genesis account rejects the central motif of pagan religion: the deification of nature.  Interestingly, it does not seek to elevate Yahweh over other gods.  Indeed, in the seven day creation account (Gen 1:1-2:3) Yahweh is not named . . . Even Genesis 2-3 provides no sense that Yahweh needed to establish his supremacy over other deities.  There is no conquest of other gods or monsters, and no shrine or city is said to be the place from which God began the creation process.  No sacred object is mentioned.  The God of Genesis 1 is indeed the universal God”.  (ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE 5)

The God of Genesis 1 is our compassionate God who calls order out of chaos, goodness out of evil, light out of the dark.  This universal God wants to celebrate with us and about us. This universal God wants to heal us, transform us, save and redeem us.  This God calls us to purity and honesty, integrity and truth.  This God created the earth and all her goodness for us.  This God does not enslave us but suffers and dies for us.  This God is one we call Father, Brother and Spirit of Love . . . for this God loves us beyond all measure.

Let us join in this hymn of praise to God . . .

The earth is the Lord’s and all it holds, the world and those who live there . . .

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 5. Print.


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 7, 2011.

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1 Maccabees 15Scoundrels

A shekel minted in 111-110 BCE

A shekel minted in 111-110 BCE

 Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Favorite from September 10, 2009.

The players: Scoundrels, ethnarchs, mercenaries, troops, high priests, kings, consuls, the people.

The locations: Sampsames, Delos, Myndos, Sparta, Rome, Cyprus, Joppa, Gazara.

The stakes: Taxes, coinage, control, weapons, debts, honor, the temple, the citadel, a gold shield weighing a thousand minas (a unit of money worth 60 shekels).

The motivations: Saving harmless, seeking haven, granting pardon, exacting revenge, survival, domination.

These are elements of today’s reading which took place just prior to the birth of Christ.  We can unplug these names of ancient people and places to replace contemporary ones and yet the stakes and motivations have not changed in the millennia that have passed; human beings are, after all, creatures who struggle to survive and to maintain equilibrium and comfort levels.  We never want to be off-balance or surprised.  We want to be in control of our surroundings.  We want to think that we have perfect understanding and skill in all we think, do and say.  When this equilibrium is upset, we become anxious; and this anxiety leads to fear . . . which has the potential to send us into devolution rather than evolution.

When mercenaries enter our lives we come undone in the sense that we begin to look for ways to solve our new and crushing problems from our own skill sets.  In our urgency we forget to go to God and when this happens and our lives take on the characteristics we see in the activity we read about today.

When scoundrels enter our lives they are so clever at hiding their manipulations that we begin to blame ourselves for all that seems wrong.  In our confusion we forget that the one true measuring stick is Christ.  When we doubt ourselves, we need only look to this word of God as a model.

When taxes or control or debt or temples or citadels become our idols we fail ourselves and we allow these temporal entities to separate us from God.

When saving ourselves at all costs becomes our chief motivator we have lost our identity, for as children of God we need only have concern for our spiritual health.  Once we tend to the life of our spirit, all else falls into place.

Let us be on the lookout for the scoundrels in our lives and when they appear, let us turn to the one true source that never fails us – the source that created us, sustains, protects and guides us.  Let us turn to our God for only this one has the stamina, the capacity and the will to endure for eternity.  All else vanishes into dust.

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Hosea 10: Wormwoodwormwood

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Like wormwood in a plowed field . . .

Israel splits from Judah and sets up a new capital in Bethel to rival the city of Jerusalem but in this temple Jeroboam placed a golden calf. All of this mocks the beautiful covenant established between Yahweh and the faithful but, as the people will discover when the Assyrians invade, it is impossible to replace Yahweh’s fidelity and love with a mere golden calf. We might well ask what the followers of this idol were thinking when they centered their lives on the false hope of an inanimate statue. And when we do, we also ask ourselves where we might find golden calves in our own lives.

Hosea predicts ruin and destruction for the followers of the calf. He points out the ways and places that wickedness, perversity and falsehood are cultivated in this false spirituality. He also describes the folly of relying on the power of chariots and warriors and the turmoil of the tribes when superior forces overrun their cities.

Hosea reminds his readers that they are called to sow justice but instead of reaping fruitful crops the bitter wormwood plant which, because of its bitterness, cannot serve as fodder or animals or birds. In the hope of reaping rich harvest, those who are lured by false promises and false gods will instead gather in the bitterness they themselves have sown.

Golden bull sclupture on grey glass

Hosea asks each of us to examine what it is we sow, and what it is we hope to harvest. Is it fertile and bountiful goodness, or the bitter fruit of wormwood? Only we can know.

To learn more about wormwood and how we use this herb today, click on the plant’s image above or visit: http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/w/wormwo37.html 

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herrods_temple

The Ezekiel Temple

Ezekiel 8: The Mystery of the Temple

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Throughout this reading the Spirit continues to ask us as we encounter the world: Have you seen enough yet? How do we reply, and how do we react?

We might turn away in fear or disgust when our fellow human beings behave in abominable ways; yet how does this witness to the love of God that is somehow present everywhere at every time?

We might collapse in anxiety or denial when our friends and neighbors behave brutally toward us and others; yet how does this move us into solidarity with those who suffer so horribly?

We might despair in pain and sorrow when our loved ones betray or abandon us; yet how does this enact God’s love in a world looking for peace and serenity?

Ezekiel describes vividly how the Temple is desecrated with obscenity, greed, and idol-worship; yet who is this angry God we hear described in verse 18? Can this be the same God of hope and peace and love who comes to walk among us with mercy? What happens to this holy dwelling place and how are we to see God’s presence amid the rubble and ruin of what was once beauty and light?

Despite the deep corruption we see today, God abides in this place and with this people. Despite the brutality we read about today, God persists in converting harm into blessing. And despite the horror that we witness today, God pardons, heals and calls. This is the mystery of God’s sacred place and time: it is a temple of a healing, transforming, persisting, loving force that cannot be denied. This temple is a living essence that struggles to remain and grow within each of us. And life in this living temple is a mystery that we are invited to enter.

Do you see what the elders are doing here in the dark, each one before his favorite god-picture? 

Who are our little gods and how do we express God in our everyday actions and voice? Do we operate in the dark or in the open light? When and where and how do we see the Mystery of God’s love amid the abominations of the world? And do we plan to accept the invitation that this mystery of sacred space and time has laid before us?

For a study on the Ezekiel temple, click on the image above or visit: http://israelmybeloved.com/the-ezekiel-temple/

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Psalm 115

metal-texture-silver-gold-scratchedSilver and Gold

Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.

From footnotes, This is “a response to the enemy taunt, ‘Where is your God?’ . . . [I]t ridicules the lifeless idols of the nations, expresses a litany of trust of the various classes of the people in God, invokes God’s blessing  on them as they invoke the divine name, and concludes as it began with praise of God”.  (Senior 726)  True silver and gold are trust in the work of the Lord’s hands. There is no need to exact revenge.

Yesterday’s first reading at Mass was another look at the character of silver and gold.  In Wisdom 7:7-11 they are seen as useless as the lust for power and control because all truly good things come from God, and God values our prudence and humility above supremacy.  I prayed and prudence was given me; I pleaded and the spirit of wisdom came to me.  I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches as nothing in comparison with her, nor did liken any priceless gem to her; because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand, and before her, silver is to be accounted mire. 

When we feel ourselves struggling to gain an upper hand or to mercilessly wield authority that has been vested in us, we must give God thanks for the goodness we have seen; and we must turn to songs like this one that remind us of our proper place in the universe: The heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth is given to us . . . It is we who bless the Lord. Hallelujah! 

Amen. 

A reflection written on October 12, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite. 

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.726. Print.   

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Jeremiah 10

shepherd-in-wilderness1Christ the King

The pagan gods and cult idols must be carried about, for they cannot walk . . . but Jesus walks among us.

Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, they cannot speak . . . but our God speaks to us constantly.

Fear them not, they can do no harm, neither is it in their power to do good . . . the Holy Spirit comforts and abides with us always. 

No one is like you, O Lord, great are you, great and mighty is your name.  Who would not love you . . . for it is your due!

Today we hear a message from Jeremiah affirming all that we know to be true.  False shepherds will fall away; the One True Shepherd will gather the lost to bring them home. This King of all carries us on his shoulders – rather than asking us to carry him about.  This King of all accompanies us everywhere – even when we feel alone or betrayed, not only when we are happy or joy-filled.  This King protects, guides, guards, and loves us – even though we stray, complain and stumble.

This King will never falter, never err, never abandon even one of the flock.  This King directs our every step . . . if we only allow it.  In his Old Testament frame of mind, Jeremiah asks Yahweh to punish Israel’s enemies.  In our New Testament perspective, we pray for those who harm us, we intercede and ask forgiveness . . . just as Jesus does.  It is when we feel the most alone that we might also most feel God’s presence.  If we wish to feel in control of our lives, we must abandon ourselves to Christ.  If we wish to feel inspired and passionate about all we do, we must first welcome the Spirit into our hearts to accompany our prayer.  If we wish to be treasured, we must first care for those whom no one loves.  If we wish to be one with our brother, Christ the King, we must first be sister and brother to our enemies . . . and we must ask that God show them – and us – mercy.

You know, O Lord, that man is not master of his way; man’s course is not within his choice, nor is it for him to direct his step.

Love us, O Lord, and call those who have wandered far from you.  Pour out your grace upon us, so that we might hear you and respond to your call.  We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Christ and King, together with the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

Adapted from a reflection written on November 21, 2010, the Feast of Christ the King.

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Saturday, February 16, 2013 – Ezekiel 12 – While they are looking on . . .

NaysayersBeatsMysapceHeader2[1]In today’s Noontime we are reminded that we do not have to fight against the obstacles in life’s journey that loom so large.  It tells us that when barriers to freedom are gigantic and overwhelming we cannot struggle against them.  It says to us that we must turn to God in trust and obedience.  We must do as Jesus does even while the naysayers are looking on. 

Going into exile was an embarrassment to the “chosen” people.  They who had always been miraculously protected by Yahweh now found themselves going into captivity at the hands of the very pagans whom they had previously conquered in battle.  The Israelites have discovered that while they fought against the barbarian outside of the city walls, it was the enemy within that doomed them.  Corruption and deceit in their own community had decayed their society to the foundation.  There is no other outcome to expect than the one they are living . . . they are to pack their baggage in full view of the enemy, and then they are to dig their way through the broken walls of the city to march into captivity.  And all of this while the unbelievers are looking on.

So many times we find ourselves living among rebellious people, and we sometimes cannot even tell if we have become one with the idol worshipers.  We feel as though the world has gone mad and we are one of the few sane ones who remain.  In our Noontime journey we have reflected on how to weather the whirlwind when we see and hear it approaching; today we reflect on how to journey faithfully into captivity . . . while the world is looking on.

There is a remnant left by Yahweh: Yet I will leave a few of them to escape the sword, famine and pestilence so that they may tell of all their abominations among the nations to which they will come; thus they shall know that I am the Lord.  This just yet merciful God is always willing, and indeed eager to give his people another door to salvation, another opportunity to return.  God will vindicate us even in the darkest and most painful of times even while those who deny us are looking on.

There are occasions when it seems as though we alone are able to see what others cannot.  Circumstances and events speak loudly to us while they only whisper to those around us or speak not at all. The prophecy we hear and see and then repeat for others falls on stubborn ears.  The world mocks those who live simply so that others may live.  Society denies truth so that deception might reign.  Many favor the apparent security of tangible comfort while few remain faithful to the Spirit who is willing to abide while those who wish us gone are looking on.

Ezekiel describes a vision today that seems a long way off and yet is present in the Spirit within.  Ezekiel says that in a distant time to come there shall no longer be any false visions or deceitful divinations and yet this word is fulfilled by Christ in us today.  Ezekiel tells us of a future in which none of God’s words will be delayed any longer and yet this future lives in us today because God loves us so . . . even while the naysayers are looking on.

Let us spend time with this prophecy today.  And let us see that, despite the naysayers, Ezekiel’s vision lives in us in this present moment through the promise, the rescue and the love of God.

To read more about weathering the storms on our journey, type the word whirlwind into the search box on this blog. 

The opening paragraphs of today’s Noontime were written on August 12, 2010.  Today’s post is an amplification of that reflection.  

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