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Sunday, August 23, 2020

Edward Gooch: Ezekiel’s Vision

Ezekiel 12:1-12

A Rebellious House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 17, 2020

Sandro Botticelli: Judith Leaving the Tent of Holofernes

Judith 15:9-15

A Celebration of Deliverance

Today we reflect on joyful celebration after deliverance from disaster, and we pause to consider the sudden and surprising gifts of discipleship.

The book of Judith is a wonderful story about a woman who puts aside her widow’s weeds to save her nation. Her ability is doubted by the elders of her own community, and her enemy underestimates her by a wide margin. Judith succeeds in accomplishing the impossible. We watch her follow a dangerously treacherous and narrow path, listening for and then obeying God’s voice.  We see her unfold in beautiful discipleship.  During this Eastertide we have re-discovered the gifts of discipleship that bloom in our lives when we see our vulnerability to God as privilege; and we watch Judith as she trusts in God alone to deliver her people and herself from a deadly enemy.

Judith’s meekness brings her humility . . . an ability to listen for God’s word and to heed it.

Judith’s brokenheartedness brings her vulnerability . . . an ability to petition God for help.

Judith’s constancy brings her fidelity . . . an ability to rely on God alone.

Judith’s honesty brings her truth . . . an ability to see reality as God sees it.

Judith’s willingness brings her integrity . . . an ability to perceive and respond to God’s call authentically.

Judith’s steadfastness brings her persistence . . . an ability to follow God without flagging.

These are the gifts of discipleship with which God graced Judith . . . and these are the same gifts of discipleship that God gives to each of us today.

As we near Pentecost, let us consider these gifts that God freely gives.  And let us celebrate our own deliverance.


Image from: https://www.wikiart.org/en/sandro-botticelli/judith-leaving-the-tent-of-holofernes-1500

For more reflections about this amazing woman, type the word Judith in the blog search bar and explore.

Adapted from a Noontime reflection written on April 10, 2007.

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Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 3, 2020

Anish+Kapoor+Uses+Wax+Canon+Create+LAtest+EDIjjrjDxD5l[1]Matthew 16:24-27

Finding Self

As we continue to experience life in the midst of a pandemic, we reflect on honesty, reality, and finding our true selves.

Is there such a thing as being too honest or too real? Is it possible to strive for integrity in such a way that we deceive ourselves into believing that we have the only perspective worth holding? Is it true that reality constructs for itself a world in its own image and likeness” as Martin Heidegger writes in Being and Time?

When reality begins to reflect on itself rather than the world as it is it becomes bent in or bent over like a mirror on a fun-house wall. By moving ourselves around we can look pleasing thin when we are not. We can stare at an image of ourselves which means nothing in that it arrives at our eye through distortion . . . and it does not match what the rest of the world sees. This is what can happen when we bend in too close to protect ourselves from the outside world; we have no perspective, we lose touch with our surroundings, and eventually we even lose contact with how the rest of the world perceives us. In some cases we find that something ugly inhabits us, taking over and corrupting what is meant to be a sacred self.

Reality turned back on itself becomes too narrow, intensely hermetic and stunting. Reality shared with others blooms, flourishes, and gives life. Honesty brutalized goes inward and decays. Honesty nurtured sustains and revives.

We all have a choice to decide how we wish to live. We can surround ourselves with mirrors that we position to reflect what we want to see . . . or we can emerge from this carefully constructed world of deceit to step into the light. We must be willing to save our lives by losing them. We must forfeit our self-importance to gain our possibilities. We must deny our false conceptions of self in order to reveal who we truly are . . . followers of Christ. This is what the apostles learn in Matthew 16 and it is something we might to think about today: in following Christ with integrity . . . we discard the conceits and falsehoods . . . and we find our true selves.


To browse through Heidegger’s BEING AND TIME, go to: http://www.harpercollins.com/browseinside/index.aspx?isbn13=9780061575594

Image from: http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/iP_GLtGbob8/Anish+Kapoor+Uses+Wax+Canon+Create+Latest/EDIjjrjDxD5

First written on September 15, 2009. Re-written and posted today.

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Saturday, May 2, 2020

honest11[1]Psalm 139: Honesty

Lord, you have probed me, you know me.  Why do we believe that we can hide from God?

You know when I sit and when I stand.  Why do we think that the acts we commit in secret, dark places are also hidden from God?

You understand my thoughts from afar.  You mingle with our thoughts even as we form them.

My travels and my work you mark.  You know where we are and where we go.

With all my ways you are familiarYou know our motives and our fears.

Even before a word is on my tongue you know it.  You know every word we are about to say even as we form our reasoning.

Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me.  You are with us always.

Such knowledge is beyond me, far too lofty for me to reach.  Your wisdom encompasses more than we will ever understand.

Where can I hide from your spirit?  From your presence where can I flee?  There is no point in our thinking that we can hide from you.

You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.  You created every molecule of our being; you wove together our bodies and souls.

I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works!  We must remember to thank you each hour of each day.

How precious to me are your designs, O God.  We must remember that you are responsible for all of our successes.

Probe me, O God, know my heart.  So we place ourselves before you, Lord, and ask that you test our integrity.

Try me, know my concerns.  We place ourselves before you, O Christ, and ask that you test our honesty.

See if my way is crocked, then lead me in ancient paths.  We place ourselves before you, Blessed Spirit, and ask that you test our authenticity.

Lord, you have probed me, you know me. As we continue to move through this Eastertide, we place ourselves before you, Lord, and ask that you test our honesty. As we remember the sacrifice you made for us on Resurrection Sunday, we continue in our discipleship to you. As we remain in your Spirit through our trials and joys, we move through our struggles as we witness for you.

Amen.  

Tomorrow, finding self . . .


Image from: http://www.bagchurch.org/honesty-is-a-very-expensive-gift/ 

A re-post from May 2, 2013.

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Luke 14:34-35: Salt

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

El Greco: St. Martin and the Beggar

The simile of salt follows the sayings of Jesus that demanded of the disciple total dedication and detachment from family and possessions and illustrates the condition of one who does not display total commitment.  The half-hearted disciple is like salt that cannot serve its intended purpose.  (NAB footnote, page 1119)

This reminds us of the letter to the people of Laodicea; being a lukewarm disciple is not an option.  We may be tempted to allow others to witness, but we cannot give in to this temptation.  Nor can we feign passion or pretend interest.  Our response to God’s call – in order that it be a true and authentic response – must be genuine and ardent.  Our lives must demonstrate that we understand this call, that we willingly and eagerly respond, and that we behave with integrity as we live our response.  We are salt which magnifies goodness.  We are salt that does not lose itself when added to the banquet meal.

November 11 is the feast day of St. Martin of Tours, a soldier born to non-Christian parents in 316.  He gave up his military life, converted to Christianity and became the ardent bishop of Tours.  He founded monasteries, educated clergy and preached to the poor.  He died in 397.  As we consider our own lives as salt that flavors and enhances a meal that will sustain us, we might pause to reflect on the life of one so eager to respond to an inner call.  Like salt, St. Martins’ example adds to life’s flavor . . . and calls forth the best in what life has to offer us.


First written on November 12, 2008. Re-written and posted today.

To better understand the mediocrity of Laodicea, enter either of these words into the blog search box and explore. 

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Martin_and_the_Beggar_(El_Greco)

To learn more about Martin of Tours and how his life was salt for humanity, go to: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09732b.htm

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Habakkuk 2:1-3: Waiting

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

I will stand at the guard post and station myself upon the rampart, and keep watch to see what the Lord will say to me, and what answer he will give to my complaint. 

I love these verses. They speak to us of fidelity, constancy, and patience. They call us to commit ourselves for eternity.  They ask us to be reliable as God is reliable.  They are difficult words to follow but they are a life-giving and sustaining command.  They also give us permission to deliver our grievances to God, asking for intercession and deliverance.

If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. 

We live in an “instant” world.  I have just read that video gaming causes us to expect reward every 10 to 15 seconds and I find this to be sad.  Our insistence on immediate gratification cheats us of the exquisite anticipation of God’s intervention and reply. Our denial that God is responding in God’s time erases the opportunity to arrive at a deep knowing that God hears us and is considering the best reply.  Our impatience leads us to believe that God does not love us, that God is off tending to some other business far more important, or that we are too insignificant for God to even notice that we exist.  We are a people who do not wait well.

If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. 

By deciding that God is “late” when we do not receive instant messages to all of our requests we admit to the belief that God is a puppet to be manipulated . . . or they we are puppets who merely respond to God’s string pulling.  We refuse to see that we are in conversation with God and that the creator is giving us a bit of space to grow and learn.   These words speak to us of hope. They tell us how to suffer well.  They remind us that we survive best when we rely on God.

If it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. 

The message of Habakkuk is one that any human being who has suffered can comprehend.  He wrote his prophecy in the face of intense corruption and desperate circumstances.  The notes in the NAB tell us that “there was political intrigue and idolatry widespread in the small kingdom”.

On a personal level, many of us are aware of intrigue and idolatry, either as an interior, personal flaw or as something we experience in a work or family group.  It seems that no matter where we go we will not escape plotting, conniving and deceit; but the one with integrity will wait on the Lord.  We often hear these verses read out to us when we touch on the theme of waiting.

How long, O Lord?  I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not intervene.  Why do you let me see ruin; why must I look at misery?  Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and clamorous discord.  Then the Lord answered me and said: Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets, so that one can read it readily.  For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late.  The rash one has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.

And this life that we will live is foreshadowed in the closing verses of the prophet Zephaniah, the book following Habakkuk.

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.

This is surely something worth waiting for.  This is surely the life we have been promised.  It is the life we can expect . . . if only we might wait.


A re-post from May 15, 2012.

Images from: http://reachforencouragement.blogspot.com/2010_05_01_archive.html and http://kingdomnewtestament.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/acts-1-waiting-in-prayer/

For more on this prophecy see the page Habakkuk – Keeping Faith, Trusting in God on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/habakkuk-keeping-faith-trusting-in-god/

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Sirach 25-27: The Ideal Wife

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

While we are looking to the “passions” for fulfillment, our desire for the infinite is doomed to be frustrated.  Once we realize this, we discover that God alone can satisfy the need which is basic to our nature.  (Olivier Clément, author and professor of Eastern Christian Spirituality in Paris, MAGNIFICAT Meditation of the Day, for yesterday.)

Today’s Noontime tells us all we need to know about integrity when in relationship with one another and with God.  The Description of an Ideal Wife (26:1-18) falls just in the middle of this selection and we find it bracketed by descriptions of Wicked Versus Virtuous Women, and Dangers to Integrity and Friendship.  Jesus Ben Sirach cannot be more specific in his description of what an ideal wife does in her household and in her relationships.  Since we are each called to be the bride of the groom, Jesus, we might consider what this ode has to say to us.  Our marital state, sexual orientation and gender do not matter.  What does matter here is this: that we examine what it is that moves us, what calls us to passion of any kind – physical, mental, spiritual – and that we respond with integrity in every single relationship and every single place just as described in the image of the ideal wife in today’s reading.

All of this reminds me of yesterday’s meditation in MAGNIFICAT.  Clément continues by citing Origen (an early Egyptian Christian theologian who lived in Alexandria from 185 to 254 C.E).  Origen has described a striking vision of the soul plumbing the depths of evil by experiencing the horror of excess; after actually dying, having journeyed through the infernal regions, it eventually realizes that evil has its limitation, that one can be surfeited with it to the point of utter boredom.  Then God is revealed as alone inexhaustible, to whom everyone, even Satan, will turn in the end.

We hope so.  Perhaps in this way there is a purpose to pain and suffering – no matter how stark and how deep.  Clément writes that when we enter into suffering with Christ, we discover something we never dared hope for, that our hellish autonomy has been breached by sin, death and despair, that these have opened us to the mercy of the living God. 

In our twenty-first century relativistic world in which we value autonomy above all else – even if it is hellish – we might read today’s lesson and smirk, thinking that the images of the ideal wife are quaint and outdated.  But they are not.  They are as valid and as prescient and as imperative today as on the day they were written.

We fool ourselves when we think we can out-run, out-smart or out-maneuver evil.  No matter how comfortable, how connected and how clever we are, we find – in the end – that we have only out-maneuvered ourselves.  We have gotten no further.  We have not held onto the fleeting sensations of pleasure.

Seeking pleasure is not seeking God, it is seeking after satisfaction.  Pleasure is good in that it gives us an immediate sense of happiness and the impetus to search for true joy; but the happiness brought by pleasure does not last.

Searching for meaning in life will not give us that which our souls seek . . . a true and intense relationship with something that will never go away, never fade.  Only God has the capacity to love this well and this constantly.

Looking for ourselves in excesses, abstentions, infatuations or addictions does not bring us true serenity and joy; it does not bring us to a true understanding of who we are and what we mean.  Only in God do we find ourselves.  And only in giving ourselves over to God as the ideal wife gives herself over to her vocation, do we enter into his bliss.


A re-post from March 27, 2012.

Image from: http://samanthamccowan.theworldrace.org/?filename=biblical-love

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 12 March 2009. Print.

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2 Corinthians 4:1-6Scrupulous Honesty

Friday, December 21, 2018

Honesty: Robert E. Harney

We have renounced shameful, hidden things . . .  

Just recently in my workplace we have undergone a quality review by visitors from outside our community and we have been commended for our integrity.  This comes at no small cost.  It takes scrupulous honesty to peel away the sham and artifice in order to allow the gentle truth to emerge.  This kind of deep and searching honesty is frequently an unwelcome guest of the heart.  We shrink from repentance; we do not want to change.  We prefer the walls we have constructed that block out any fear that might cause us to change for the better.  We must move away from all hidden agendas and come into the light.

We have not acted deceitfully or falsified the word of God . . .

Just recently in my family we have suffered a soul-shattering loss and we continue to struggle with ourselves and with one another.  Truths must be pronounced but gently . . . kindly . . . mercifully.  The enormity of our grief might cause us to hide, or it may impel us to strike out at one another.  It is possible to nurse sad feelings or harbor grief; we may possibly ignore the growth that our suffering offers.  Or we might grow in wisdom as we allow the Spirit to open and heal us.  We might allow our divinity to teach us about our humanity.  In order to find union with God and mend our broken spirit, we must remove ourselves from deceit and we must allow God’s truth to guide us.  And we must do this lovingly . . . gratefully.

By the open declaration of the truth we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God . . .

As humans we tend to think that we exist in isolation.  The skin that contains our organs prevents us from physically occupying the space someone else holds.  We live in the illusion that we can hide from one another.  We allow small lies to color our stories, our perspectives and our opinions.  We forget that all that we are and all that we do are of and from God.  We live in the illusion that we create ourselves when the scrupulous truth is that we are co-creators of life with God.   When we move away from sham and artifice we can see all of this more clearly.  And when we spend time with God to sort through our sorrows, we become less frightened, less egocentric.  We become more loving, more vulnerable.  We become the promise God has hoped for us.

We do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord . . . and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus.

When we spend time worrying about ourselves and not others we have the wrong end of the stick.  God creates us to serve one another rather than be served.  God wants us to tend to one another rather than to be tended.  We are created to advocate for others . . . not to hide from, lie to, deceive or trample others. When we become slaves for the sake of Christ Jesus we begin to fulfill our potential.  We prepare ourselves in the best way possible for our union with God.

For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ.

We are created to make known God’s goodness to others, and it is our scrupulous honesty that opens us to God’s light.  It is in this way that we become a fearless, grateful, authentic revelation of God’s love.


A re-post from November 18, 2011.

Image from: http://www.robert-e-harney.com/picpages/Honesty.htm

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Genesis 27Deception

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Govert Flink: Isaac Blesses Jacob

No matter how many times I read this story I continue to be curious about Rebekah, the woman who changes the course of history when she urges Jacob to deceive his aging father in order to steal his brother’s birthright.  In her elegant yet simple scheme she takes on all culpability and allows both Jacob and Isaac to stand by passively as the story unfolds.  This dichotomy of action versus inaction is reflected in the values these family members choose; and it calls us to examine our way of relating to others in this world.

From the HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY (99): “Jacob’s disguise involves his wearing his brother Esau’s clothing; as will be seen, deception involving clothing is an important motif in the narrative about Jacob’s beloved son Joseph (37:31-33)”.  A son deceives his father . . . this son is in turn deceived by his own sons.  We can only wonder if years later Jacob sees this echo of himself in any way when he realizes what has happened to his beloved son, Joseph.   In all of this deception, the result is the same: separation from those we love and pain we had not intended.  The joy and hope we looked for cannot flourish in a life of shadows and secrets.  The irony is not lost on us that by participating in fraud, we may gain our immediate objective . . . but we will also experience a lifetime of rippling, unforeseen consequences that we may not want or like.

Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini: Rebekah at the Well

We humans struggle to climb to the top of the heap, to arrive first, to be the most liked, the best fed, shod and clothed.  Many of us use any means to justify this end while others of us reject deception of any kind to hug closely the values of integrity and honesty.  This uncomplicated choice of deceit versus honesty is presented to us in Psalm 101: Norm of Life for Rulers.  We may want to pray it today as we consider who we choose as our companions in life . . . and who we are as companions to others.

I follow the way of integrity . . . I do not allow into my presence anyone who speaks perversely . . . I shun the devious of heart; the wicked I do not tolerate . . . Those who follow the way of integrity, they alone can enter my service.  No one who practices deceit can hold a post in my court . . . I look to the faithful of the land; they alone can be my companions. 

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 99. Print.


To visit a site with art through the ages about this story, go to: http://www.bible-art.info/Rebecca.htm

Images from: https://www.artbible.info/art/large/83.html and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebecca

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 19, 2011.

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