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Posts Tagged ‘integrity’


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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Acts 5:1-11The End of the Wicked

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Goya: Witch’s Sabbath

“The sin of Ananais and Sapphira did not consist in the withholding of part of the money but in their deception of the community.  Their deaths are ascribed to a lie to the Holy Spirit (3.9), i.e., they accepted an honor accorded them by the community for their generosity, but in reality they were not deserving of it”.  (Senior 191)  Thinking through this story gives us the opportunity to reflect on the concept of honor: what it is, how it is rightly and wrongly earned, why we bestow it on others, and what we do with an award accorded to us.

We might immediately think of warriors who risk life itself as they defend people, property or concepts.  Medals are given – sometimes posthumously – to those who give of themselves at great personal cost.  Some of these heroes deny that they have done anything above or beyond what another would have done.  We spectators know differently and so we honor those who think of themselves last at such great physical, psychological, and personal expense.

As in today’s example, we might honor philanthropists, those among us who are gifted with an abundance of talent or goods either directly earned or inherited.  Many humanitarians give anonymously in order to better share what they have.  Some have strict guidelines a petitioner must follow in order to win an award.  Still others give loudly and with fanfare.  In any or all of these cases, we give accolades and recognition to those who share their wealth.

There are also those among us who give at great personal and spiritual price.  These holy warriors have no money and little talent for physical defense; yet they are as important as any other kind of hero and they too must be honored.  We all know holy people who either boldly or quietly prayed themselves and many others into God’s hands.  Their value is greater than rubies or pearls for the battle they wage is with the greatest and darkest of powers.  Saints whose names form the litanies we pray are obvious spiritual heroes; but there are many of these holy ones among us . . . and we rely on them more than we know.  We must recognize them as easily as we do the heroes of war and wealth.

In today’s story we find lots to think about: How Ananais and Sapphira think they can deceive God himself, how the community first admires this couple and then is stunned at the immediate consequences of their deceitful actions.  Perhaps God is setting an early example of what it means to live in Christ-like community: honesty, integrity, trust and fidelity are hallmarks of a truly unified yet diverse group.  Lies only fool those who create them for the truth is always revealed . . . sometimes immediately . . . always with certainty.

We all know people who accept credit where it is not due.  We may have seen these people of the lie come unraveled . . . or we may believe that these people live long, blameless lives without just compensation for the pain they cause.  We need not worry about these deceivers as today’s story tells us.  We need only fix ourselves on maintaining our own purity of purpose as we move through each day.   We will take solace from the often-sung Psalm 73 as we pray . . . Truly God is good to those who are pure of heart.  But as for me, my feet had nearly slipped; I had almost tripped and fallen; because I envied the proud and saw the prosperity of the wicked: for they suffer no pain, and their bodies are sleek and sound; in the misfortunes of others they have to share; they are not afflicted as other are; therefore they wear pride like a necklace and wrap their violence about them like a cloak . . . When I tried to understand these things, it was too hard for me; until I entered the sanctuary of God and discerned the end of the wicked . . . Oh how suddenly them come to destruction . . . Like a dream when one awakes; O Lord, when you arise you make their image vanish.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.191. Print. 


Image from: https://onartandaesthetics.com/2015/11/07/goyas-pinturas-negras/ 

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 8, 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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Wisdom 1:1-7: Seek Sincerity

Monday, November 20, 2017

We seek wisdom, justice, prudence and restoration of all that has been lost. Old Testament wisdom writers remind the rulers of this world that the solution to chaos lies in the wisdom that lasts forever. And we see wisdom more clearly when we conduct our lives with honesty.

Love justice, you rulers of the world. Set your minds sincerely on the Lord, and look for God with all honesty.

The writers further warn that it is quite easy to slip away from the way God calls us to walk.

Dishonest thoughts separate people from God, and if we are foolish enough to test God, God’s power will put us to shame.

How do we employ this ancient wisdom? What do we do today when we find ourselves engulfed in turmoil? How do we filter the false from the real?

Wisdom is a spirit that is friendly to people, but she will not forgive anyone who speaks against God, for God knows our feelings and thoughts, and hears our every word.

How much do we avoid believing that we can hide our dishonesty from our Creator? What do we do to follow the way of honesty and the wisdom God’s way?

Since the Lord’s spirit fills the entire world, and holds everything in it together, Wisdom knows every word that people say.

These ancient words repeat to us the importance of stripping all deceit from our lives, and the significance of cleaving always to God’s call for integrity and sincerity.

When we use the scripture link and the drop-down menus to compare other translations of these verses, we fog of confusion rises to reveal God’s way of integrity.

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The Wisdom Tree

Proverbs 28Seek Prudence

Friday, November 17, 2017

So many wise thoughts.

The wicked are more frightened than the good.

Security happens through prudence rather than force.

Wealth is a deluge that wipes out everything rather than nourish as does a constant rain.

Happiness lies in true integrity; truth to self is a worthy companion and leads to wisdom.

Happiness lies in seeking justice through the law, rather than force.

Gluttony is an excess of nourishment and has outcomes other than physical obesity.

Take advantage of people if you like but in the end someone will distribute all that you have saved to those who have nothing.

When we pray outside of the God’s law of love, we actually pray to the darkness.

Those who seduce the innocent are constructing their own gibbet, while the innocent will be rescued.

Self-importance is false value; everyone else sees the self-conjurer behind the façade (or the wizard behind the curtain).

We all know when incompetent people are in charge . . . even the incompetents themselves.

We might as well admit our faults; they will be pointed out to us anyway.

Happiness lies in softening our hearts.

People know evil when they see it.

Being idle is a dangerous pastime.

Happiness lies in being worthy of trust; not in money or possessions.

Happiness lies in total commitment and fidelity to the law.

Greed is its own terrible all-consuming end.

Happiness lies in knowing when and how to rebuke a brother or sister with love rather than seeking a relationship through flattery.

Happiness lies in seeking and receiving wisdom.

Happiness lies in following the way of the just, even when evil reigns.

When we seek wisdom, we find it in all that is good.

Adapted from a Favorite written on November 4, 2007.

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Nehemiah 5: Praying with Nehemiah

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

We, like Nehemiah, can rebuild the ruin we see around us when we rely on God. Some of us make large, visible changes for good in our culture; but most of us make small, incremental changes that we think invisible. Yet, in the mind of God our actions are essential to the moving forward of God’s plan. Our prayers are also essential, as Nehemiah shows us.

St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3We are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.  By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation   as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it.  But each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is,   because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.  If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.  If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.  Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.  Do not deceive yourselves.  If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.  As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness” and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”  So then, no more boasting about men!  All things are yours whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

What do we do when enormous hurdles block our way forward, we can remind ourselves and others of our true calling. We can pray unceasingly, and we can build kingdom wherever we are planted, for we are God’s builders. We can be wise as St. Paul recommends, and be fools for Christ as Nehemiah was, building as directed by his creator, giving without thought of recompense, hoping for the goodness of the promise, and loving those among and with whom we dwell – even our enemies.

And so we pray.

Nehemiah lives in a world rife with conflict . . . yet he remains loyal to God and the faithful.

Nehemiah lives as a target for the gossip and machinations of his numerous enemies . . . yet he maintains his integrity.

Nehemiah lives among people who refuse to live by the terms of the covenant they have heard, witnessed, and sworn to uphold . . . yet he remains sincere and authentic.

Let us put aside the cares of this world and build God’s kingdom today, for we are God’s co-workers in the kingdom.

Amen.

Adapted from a reflection written on December 23, 2007.

For more about Nehemiah and how his prayer-life affected his work-life, click on the image above to visit the “Bible in a Year Blog” or go to: https://oneyeardevotional.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/powerful-prayer-nehemiah-1/ 

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Proverbs 28: Virtues

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

As we begin to close our journey through Proverbs, we reprise this Favorite from October 2009. We have explored our relationships with fools and friends, we have walked with the wise and accompanied fools who are whacked on the head. Watching Lady Wisdom build her house, we have learned that God’s heart asks for union with each of us. Exploring wise sayings of Solomon and others, we have understood that God allows us to lose and find our way. Knowing that God misses nothing and that each morning we are offered armloads of life, we continue to ask for the cure of God’s love and listen for Spirit that speaks to us within. 

Surety, Prudence, Integrity, Wisdom, Generosity, Truth, Justice

The wicked man flees although no one pursues him; but the just man, like a lion, feels sure of himself.

When we create monsters out of nothing we give in to our human fears.

If a land is rebellious, its princes will be many; but with a prudent man it knows security. 

Our rashness can divide us more than it unites us.

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

Power and treasure appear to be safe havens; yet they crumble to corruption and cannot withstand the simplicity of truth and honesty.

He who rebukes a man gets more thanks in the end than one with a flattering tongue.

The truth always comes out in the end . . . and is precious.

Happy the man who is always on his guard; but he who hardens his heart will fall into evil.

Prudence is necessary; hardness is our downfall.

The greedy man stirs up disputes, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper.

Generosity is a sign of a trusting heart.

He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is safe.

Patience and stillness bring their just rewards.

When the wicked gain pre-eminence, other men hide; but at their fall the just flourish. 

In the end, God alone is enough . . .

Words to live by; virtues to cherish; axioms to settle the mind; maxims to sooth the troubled heart.

When we compare translations of these verses, we allow God’s wisdom to enter our hearts. 

 

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