Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘innocence’


Jeremiah 16: Candor and Hope

Monday, November 25, 2019

We seek better things to come . . .

What are we to think of the words recorded here by the prophet Jeremiah?  A paraphrasing from the HARPERCOLLINS COMMENTARY, page 559, tells us:  This section contains reports of three symbolic actions, followed by an interpretation that puts them in the context of the Exile.  The prophet is to remain unmarried and childless since the upcoming warfare will be utterly destructive of families.  He is told not to participate in mourning rites because Yahweh intends to remove peace from the land that will undermine the normal mourning customs.  A third requirement of the prophet is that he not participate in festivities of any kind as all celebration will cease.  Following these admonitions is a justification for the punishment they are to receive, the cause is their apostasy.  So we see the domination of two concerns of the community in exile: to identify the cause of its present situation and to contemplate a more favorable future.

Suffering, as we know, is not necessarily castigation; sometimes the innocent suffer through no fault of their own because of circumstances beyond anyone’s control.  What we can take away from today’s reading is the underlined thought above.  When we feel ourselves suffering in exile, two exercises are useful: first, reflecting on our behavior prior to exile to investigate the need to change as appropriate and second, anticipating a better future in active hope.  These are hallmark characteristics of the Christian.  Candid self assessments, the search for improvement, and petitioning God for better things to come.  Even . . . and especially . . . when things seem darkest . . . and without hope of any kind.

When we find ourselves in pain or in exile, suffering either innocently or as a consequence of our own actions, we may choose to become bitter, angry, resentful, and intent on making others suffer.  This does not align with the Law of Love as described by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 when he writes that love does not brood over injury or rejoice over wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 

When we find ourselves in exile, it is best to regard the time as a period of retreat and reflection, going inward to hear the voice of truth, looking outward in expectation of the good news which will arrive.  As children of God, we benefit from knowing this good news even before it reaches us.  It is the news of our release.  The news of our freedom.  The news that we are created and held by one who loves us more than we can imagine.


Written on November 26, 2008, re-written and posted today.   To see how one community contemplates and moves toward a more favorable future, click on the image above or go to: http://www.hopeinspiredministries.org/

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 559. Print.

Image from: http://www.hopeinspiredministries.org/

Read Full Post »


Job 23: Bitter Complaint

Jan the Elder Lievens: Job

Friday, August 17, 2018

It is a good idea to visit the story of Job once in a while. This book of wisdom has so much to tell us beyond the casual glance. Who among us has not felt abandoned by God, or believed that life has asked too much of us? Job longs for an intimate conversation with God through which he might lay out his case and be acquitted forever by [his] judge.

Job knows that somewhere there is a reason for the injustice he suffers, and he is persistent in his quest. It seems that his fidelity does not serve him. His innocence goes unnoticed. His search for the almighty continues, and in this seeking we find seeds of hope.

If I go forward, he is not there;
    or backward, I cannot perceive him;
on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him;
    I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.
But he knows the way that I take;
    when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold.

The marvel of the New Testament story is that – as if in answer to Job’s bitter plaint – the God this wise man seeks comes to walk among us as one of us. The miracle of the resurrection brings us hope that Job lives in such a unique way. The promise of the Pentecost brings us healing and mercy in the person of the Spirit who dwells in us every moment and accompanies us in every location of our lives . . . forward, backward, to the right and to the left.

Job cries out,

Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
    that I might come even to his dwelling!

Morgan Weistling: Walking with God

Today, in our world that broadcasts its pain on more than a billion and half television screens and nearly two billion smartphones in a non-stop cycle of violence, we might join Job in his sad moaning. The evidence seems to great for us to explain away or comprehend. Fidelity does not serve him, innocence counts for nothing; yet Job holds out hope . . . as we might also do when we remember the story of the Christ child. Light comes into the darkness. God’s love is manifest in the persona of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit. yet . . .

I still rebel and complain against God;
    I cannot keep from groaning.
How I wish I knew where to find him,
    and knew how to go where he is.

Job had only the Old Testament promise of a coming Messiah. We have that Messiah’s presence today. Oh that we might remember this when we look forward, backward, to our right and our left as we continue our bitter complaint.


Tomorrow, Job 24, a violent world.

Images from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Job_(biblical_figure) and https://www.lordsart.com/wawigodbymow.html

Read Full Post »


1 Maccabees 2: God’s Yardstick – Mattathias

Generations of Fidelity

Michel Nicolas Bernard Lépicié: Mattathias Kills an Officer of Antiochus

Michel Nicolas Bernard Lépicié: Mattathias Kills an Officer of Antiochus

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

We continue to see God’s yardstick in the Old and New Testaments.

Mattathias laments that he lives in an age when centuries of fidelity fade into corruption: Woe is me! Why was I born to see the ruin of my people, the ruin of the holy city? We might well ask this question in any age and in any place. It seems that the human condition is to succumb to the temptation of the call of false teaching and self-promotion. Fraud replaces fidelity; dishonesty becomes truth; disgrace and honor trade places. But Mattathias calls on his sons to remember their lineage as beloved children of Yahweh. Falling back on their relationship with God, this ancestry is characterized by strong men who consistently rely on qualities that nourish truth and light. These forbears trust God alone, and they serve as a measuring stick for our own behavior in turbulent times.

Remember the deeds that our ancestors did in their times, and you shall win great honor and an everlasting name.

Abraham, faithful in trial, fills with righteousness. Joseph keeps the commandment, despite distress, to become master of Egypt. Phinehas, for his burning zeal, receives the covenant of an everlasting priesthood. Joshua executes his commission to become a judge in Israel. Caleb bears witness before the assembly and receives an inheritance in the land. David, known for his loyalty, receives as heritage a throne of eternal kingship. Elijah, full of burning zeal for the law, is taken into heaven. For their faith, Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael are saved from the fire. Innocent Daniel is delivered from the mouths of lions. (verses 51-60)

We might pause with these verses 61-63 in particular.

And so, consider this from generation to generation,
    that none who hope in Heaven shall fail in strength.

Do not fear the words of sinners,
    for their glory ends in corruption and worms.

Today exalted, tomorrow not to be found,
    they have returned to dust,
    their schemes have perished.

When we spend time reflecting on these verses today, we see how this pedigree inspired Mattathias and his sons to defend the kingdom whose loss they lament. Like Mattathias, we might also allow ourselves to see the measure of God’s love in our own spiritual family tree. Let us place our hope in heaven so that whatever our circumstances require of us . . . we do not fail in strength.

To learn more about Mattathias and his family and the story of Hanukkah, visit: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/Maccabees.html

Tomorrow, Joseph. 

Read Full Post »


Daniel 13: God’s Yardstick – Susanna

When Goodness attracts Evil

Valentin de Boulogne: The Judgment of Daniel or the Innocence of Susanna

Valentin de Boulogne: The Judgment of Daniel or the Innocence of Susanna

Thursday, January 14, 2016

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

Today’s Noontime is a beautiful but difficult story.  An innocent, virtuous woman is wrongly accused; and an innocent yet wise child reveals lust and deceit.  Goodness wins in the end; evil slithers away to return another day.

The idea that Susanna’s virtue is the reason for her trial is a frightening thought. Her parents took care, the story tells us, to bring her up in the ways of Yahweh. And this was what stirred the lascivious men.

What does Susanna do when accused?  To whom does she turn?  What does she say in her defense?

Through her tears she looked up to heaven, for she trusted in the Lord wholeheartedly . . . “Oh, eternal God, you know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be: you know that they have testified falsely against me.  Here I am about to die, though I have done none of the things with which these wicked men have charged me”.  As the story continues, we see that the evil elders – whom the people had trusted – are done in by their own web of lies.  The story unfolds as the child Daniel cries out: Now have your past sins come to term: passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent, and freeing the guilty” . . . The whole assembly cried aloud, blessing God who saves those that hope in him.  They rose up against the two elders, for by their own words Daniel had convicted them of perjury. 

UK Parliament - John Rogers Herbert: The Judgment of Daniel

UK Parliament – John Rogers Herbert: The Judgment of Daniel

The end of this story is immediately satisfying.  Unfortunately for us, situations like these in our own lives may endure many days or months or years before the lies against us are revealed; yet revealed they will be for God’s goodness and truth always overcome darkness.  The measuring stick that Susanna uses, and that we must use, is to follow Yahweh, the creator who molds us from star dust for the purpose of love alone.

Our task, as followers of Christ, is to faithfully and persistently petition God, to fall back into the comfort of the Holy Spirit, to model ourselves after Jesus, and to continue to hope in the covenant promise that we are eternally forgiven and saved.  We might remind ourselves of the gifts we receive when we use God’s yardstick at the troubling times in our lives. The message of Daniel is clear:  When goodness attracts evil – as it surely will – the faithful need not fight; they need only rely on God . . . and never allow themselves to be separated in any way from their God who measures life in so loving a way. And so we pray . . .

The gift of persistence calls us to rely on the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

The gift of faith asks us to place our petitions in God’s hands.

The gift of hope in the person of Jesus shows us how to offer love on behalf of our enemies.

The gift of life itself asks us to allow goodness and truth to conquer lust, lies and deceit. Amen.

A favorite from Saturday, November 21, 2009.

Enter the name Susanna in the blog search bar for more reflections about this woman.

Read Full Post »


Judges 17: As We Are – Part III

Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 20, 2015

MAINO_Fray_Juan_Bautista_adoration_of_the_Shepherds

Fray Juan Bautista Maíno: Adoration of the Shepherds

In this time of Advent, as we expect the coming of light and truth, we reflect on the gift of life that comes to us in the innocence of a child.

As we are . . . We come to the crèche to adore as the lowly shepherds came. The poorest, the marginalized, the abandoned and neglected. We bring our worries and anxieties . . . just as we are.

As we are . . . We come to the stable as the Magi came. The wise, the enlightened, the privileged and comfortable. We bring our hopes and our fears . . . just as we are.

As we are . . . We come to the Christ child as people for millennia have come. The troubled, the peaceful, the miserable, the joyful. We bring our dreams and plans . . . just as we are.

MAINO_Fray_Juan_Bautista_Adoration_of_the_Kings

Fray Juan Bautista Maíno: Adoration of the Magi

As we are . . . We come to Christ as our families and colleagues, our friends and enemies come. We come to Christ’s beauty and innocence and we are either closed or open. We come to life in Christ, and Christ accepts us . . . just as we are. We give thanks for God’s great generosity today.

To listen to the Radiolab podcast on Normalcy today to consider how the norms we adopt open or close us to hear God’s voice, visit: http://www.radiolab.org/story/91693-new-normal/

To reflect on how we come to the Christ child this Advent, click on the images above and study Maíno’s paintings in detail The Adoration of the Shepherds and The Adoration of the Magior visit: https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/adoration-of-the-shepherds/103e1807-2917-4906-87ce-71a3a027f37e?searchid=f9f31297-8ba6-6a71-c8f9-8e467d5eb988 and https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/the-adoration-of-the-magi/3f1f4d63-0476-4ac0-904f-776713defe78?searchid=9245f6a4-fab5-7ba0-23b9-1181d542b32c 

 

Read Full Post »


Job 19Suffering and Rejoicing Well

Eberhar Waechter: Grieving Job and his friends

Eberhar Waechter: Grieving Job and his friends

Thursday, November 26, 2015: Thanksgivng Day in the USA

As we consider terrorist events that flood before us, and as we celebrate a day of Thanksgiving in the USA, let us re-visit this Favorite post and consider how we might suffer and rejoice well.

The Book of Job is the first in the wisdom portion of scripture and it may be one of our favorites for its honesty and persistence with which this innocent man speaks.  Job has been wronged by Satan, yet retains faith and hope in God.  He asks the questions we all ask; he makes the observations we all make: why do the wicked seem to skate through life without suffering, and why do the innocent suffer?  Each of us has endured hardship as Job does at one time or another; and for this reason his words are so valuable.  Job sinks into the lowest of depths with his despair . . . yet he soars with great hope and divine love.  This is the gift of his story . . . that he both suffers and rejoices well.

How long will you vex my soul?  At times the suffering is too great, too heavy.

I cry for help; there is no redress.  In our own lives, and in the lives of others, there are moments that ask too much of human strength and endurance.

My brethren have withdrawn from me, and my friends are wholly estranged.  At times we are utterly alone, with no sheltering place, no healing balm.

All my intimate friends hold me in horror; those whom I love have turned against me!  In the human experience, there is no greater punishment than isolation.

Why do you hound me as though you were divine, and insatiably prey on me?  At times we are so low that we descend into pits we did not know existed . . . and this is when we know that something new is arriving.

But as for me, I know that my Vindicator lives, and that he will at last stand forth upon the dust; whom I myself shall see: my own eyes, not another’s shall behold him.  Job understands that it is impossible for us to comprehend the depth, the width, the height or the timelessness of God.  Job – although not content with the mystery of his innocent suffering – accepts that from where he stands he cannot see or know the limitlessness of God or the complexity of his plan.  Job reminds us that each of us suffers.  Each of us stands accused at times when we are innocent.  Since this is so . . . the rest of his story is also true . . . we will be vindicated.

From today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation about the Blessed Mother and her willingness to suffer as an innocent for the good of God’s economy: She neither regretted the past nor wished for the future – she accepted wholeheartedly the magnificent present.  She had found one beautiful pearl, and all she had she gave in order to buy it.  (Mother Marie des Douleurs)

So let us follow the example of Job and the example of Mary.  They understood that they, by entering into the mystery of suffering, were sharing in a sacred gift offered by the God who loves us so much . . . that he offers us his own divinity.

Let us enter into today without looking back in anger or looking forward in despair.

Let us gather all that we have and all that we are to make this one purchase . . . the gift of transformative union where . . . through suffering, we enter into the world of God’s joy.

A favorite from March 25, 2009. 

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 25.3 (2009). Print.  

Read Full Post »


yellow heart

Psalms 11 and 12: Prayer Against Arrogance

Sunday, November 15, 2015

In praying Psalm 11 we can be mindful that our reliance on God bolsters us and so we need not rely on our own strength. The innocent psalmist depends on the Lord’s protection for God defends those who seek asylum in God’s temple. It is good to know that we are allowed to flee when the wicked begin to hunt down those who are “upright of heart”.

The image of archers hunting birds is an apt one in Psalm 11.  The friends and advisors here are worried about the collapse of the foundation, but we are reminded in this prayer that God sees all, and that God “detests the lover of violence.”  We reflect today on the many forms of violence beyond the obvious physical violence. We remember as well the insidious and hidden deceit that wounds as deeply and as surely as the arrow meant to still the faithful heart.

Psalm 12 from THE MESSAGE: Quick, God I need your helping hand! The last decent person just went down, all the friends I depended on are gone. Everyone talks in lie language; lies slide off their oily lips. They doubletalk with forked tongues.

We do not know where to go nor whom to trust; and just when we believe there is no salvation the Psalmist speaks words that foreshadow Jesus’ Beatitudes: Into the hovels of the poor, into the dark streets where the homeless groan, God speaks: “I’ve had enough; I’m on my way to heal the ache in the heart of the wretched.” It is in this way that God rescues the small and powerless from the influence and control of the arrogant. So let us pray . . .

Good and generous God, console and comfort us as we deal with backlash from our faithful witnessing to your goodness so that we might continue to witness to you.

Good and tender God, offer us your protection when anger and violence stalk us so that we might seek refuge in the temple of your Spirit that lives in us.

Good and powerful God, provide us with a refuge for the righteous at heart when slander and gossip surround us so that we might recoup our strength in the sacred presence of your love.

Good and precious God, live in us always to deflect the arrows of the arrogant and restore our fragile hearts so that we might remain in unshakeable confidence in you.

Good and humble God, abide with us as you do with the widow and orphan, the abandoned and anxious, and transform our worries and fears with your healing hope.

We ask this in Jesus’ name in communion with the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A Favorite from July 22, 2007. 

Read Full Post »


Monday, December 23, 2013

6596191_orig[1]Zephaniah 3:20

Coming Home

At that time I will bring you home, and at that time I will gather you; for I will give you renown and praise, among all the peoples of the earth, when I bring about your restoration before your very eyes, says the Lord.

We yearn to go back to a place and time of innocence.  We miss the elders who peopled our childhood years.  We look for comfort in old, familiar places.  Zephaniah reminds us today that all of these dreams are already fulfilled.

God says: Rather than see the world around you as chaos come to me so that I might give you rest.  Rather than look at what is missing in your lives consider all that you are and have.  Rather than look for consolation turn to others who need your consolation. This is the gathering Zephaniah describes to you.  This is the restoration he proclaims.  It is the healing I bring to each of you when you decide to live and think and act in me.  You do not have to wait for the death of your body to experience this coming home to me . . . you are already there.  Put aside your chores and your worried for a little time . . . and come to me.  I have much I wish to give you.

coming-home[1]Time, people and places. We feel nostalgia as we recall good memories and ward off the bad.  We re-create in our mind’s eye the faces of loved ones we can no longer see or touch.  We close our eyes and conjure up the scents and aromas of those places we thought we had lost but that we now somehow find in an old reminiscence.  God’s time is eternal; God brings all of us together in the Mystical Body of Christ; God is in all places at all times.  When we join this great coming home . . . all of time, all the faithful, and all places come together in union with this God who loves us so much that he chooses to live among us.   Zephaniah tells us that when we come home to God we are already there in those times and places we miss, we are already there with all of our beloved.

In this last week of Advent when the day of Jesus’ birth nears, let us consider for a time the renown and praise that we are already given by God.  Let us consider the renewal this season brings to us.  And let us go gladly to take part in this gathering up and this coming home.

For more reflections on the words of the prophet Zephaniah, enter his name into the blog search bar and explore.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: