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1 Maccabees 11Alliance and War

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Jonathan Maccabeus

Ptolemy VI, Demetrius, Alexander and Trypho – we watch these rulers exchange lies as easily as they shake hands.  Nothing and no one stand for what they say they do; the world into which we step with this Noontime is one of deceit and triple-speak.  It is a world that may seem familiar to us.

In this portion of the Maccabees story, Jonathan knows that his tiny kingdom is a simple pawn in the chessboard of the region yet he persists in his struggle to retain and hold secure the sacred city of Jerusalem and some districts of the former kingdom.  He seems to achieve and hold his goal . . . at least for a while.

Alliance and war, promise and conflict, peace and confrontation – these larger battles are reflections of the personal battles we wage each day.  The Euro-zone struggles, personal freedom is or is not guaranteed in Egypt, the debt crisis in the U.S. causes financial markets to totter; corruption in political and financial arenas is blamed for personal, national and global failure and depression.  News headlines today read much like this Maccabees accounting.  What has changed?

We like to think that humanity makes progress and our inventions might give us the impression that we do.  We communicate with one another across the globe in an instant; but do we hear one another any better?  We cure diseases that previously devastated entire nations; but do we cure the disease of greed and alienation?  We have world-wide conferences that give the appearance of ecumenism and openness; but do we tend to the soul any better than we did two thousand years ago?

Amid the hurley burley of human activity there is only one place to go when headlines distress us or when family and friends become prickly or insensitive.  The last verse of the chapter tells us where to go and what to do . . . Then Jonathan returned to Jerusalem. High Priest-Warrior who follows in the footsteps of his slain brother Judas, Jonathan makes it clear where his center lies . . . he returns to Jerusalem.  Steadfast diplomat who manages to maneuver the tricks and fall backs of his opponents, Jonathan refuses shady deals and shaky terms to make clear where he focuses his energy . . . he returns to Jerusalem Through alliance and war, despite political setback and personal failure, Jonathan Maccabeus shoots like an arrow straight and true.  He homes toward the epicenter of his faith and hope . . . he returns to Jerusalem. 

And so we pray . . .

Good and faithful God, abide with us as we worry our way through our days.  Keep us true to you as we avoid the temptation to give in to a false and passing alliance that brings nothing but death.  Teach us how to remain in touch with you when the clamor of the day and the fear of the night dull our senses and attacks our resolve.  Speak to us loudly and clearly when the road signs that point toward you have been washed away by slick talk and deceitful hands.  Pull us to you and hold us close when our inner turmoil and fear erode our confidence and hope. Keep us ever mindful of your care and love . . . and remind us that when the stricture of alliance clouds our vision or when the fog of war numbs our good judgment . . . we have only to cry out to you and ask that you return us to the safety of Jerusalem.  For it is there that we find eternal rest and boundless peace in you.  Amen. 


A re-post from November 23, 2011.

Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Apphus

For more information on Jonathan Maccabeus you might try these sites:

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/353845/Jonathan-Maccabeus

 http://www.jewishhistory.org/the-hasmoneans/

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Psalm 120Prayer for a Returned Exile

Soldiers marshaling people for a march

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Today we consider this prayer by those who returned from captivity and exile to find their holy Temple and city in ruins. Today we also consider our own response to the challenge of rebuilding, and the gift of transformation. Adapted from a reflection written on May 18, 2009.

There is a cycle of Psalms that pilgrims began to sing when they made their journey to Jerusalem each spring.  This is the first of the fifteen Songs of AscentPilgrims to this day still refer to this journey as an ascent – a going up – to Jerusalem.  The holy city was God’s dwelling place, the new Sinai, the place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept in the temple’s Holy of Holies guarded by huge gold statues of cherubim – fierce and loyal winged celestial creatures.

Not only is this psalm an anthem of thanksgiving for having been rescued, it is also a petition for protection against the bands of attackers who lurked along the Jerusalem route to waylay and rob the innocent.  The victim who is helped in the Good Samaritan parable is on the road to Jerusalem.  The priest and the Levite pass by the wounded man and do not help him.  If they are on their way up to Jerusalem, they will not want to break their fast or become impure in any way before entering the Temple.  They leave the man in the ditch to be helped by the Samaritan.  Joseph and Mary leave the protection of their clan to travel alone back to Jerusalem in search of the lost child Jesus.  He is found with the elders of the temple discussing scripture.

Several years ago we reflected on this prayer during one of our Noontimes, and we spent some time with the following citation from the St Joseph Edition of Psalms.  “Human beings are born to be pilgrims in search of the Absolute, on a journey to God.  We advance by way of stages, from the difficulties of life to the certainties of hope, from the dispersion of cares to the joyous encounter with God, from daily diversions to inner recollection”. 

When we make our Easter journey toward Pentecost, we feel a certain vulnerability.  We have experienced friendship with Christ, and we have witnessed his death.  He has returned and we are joyful; yet he speaks of going away to send us the Advocate.  He reminds us that his love can never leave us.  We hear his words and experience this love; yet we feel that there is something more . . . there is something missing.  We lack an ingredient to an important lesson.

We have returned from exile with Christ’s resurrection.  His act of humility and love has set us free.  Let us thank him for our deliverance.  Let us ask him to protect us against the bands of marauders that assault our days and nights as we journey home.  In joy, we make our Prayer of Ascent.

From the MAGNIFICAT evening prayer last night, we pray: Make our love a sign of your presence in the world!

For all who live lives of loveless loneliness: may we embrace them in our communities of love.  Make our love a sign of your presence in the world!

For all who have mistaken power and possession for love: may they discover the truth through the witness of Christian believers: Make our love a sign of your presence in the world!

For all who have died: may they live forever in the kingdom of God’s love: Make our love a sign of your presence in the world!

Amen.

THE PSALMS, NEW CATHOLIC VERSION. Saint Joseph Edition. New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 2004. Print.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 17.5 (2009). Print.  

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Sirach 49:11-13: Heroes after Exile

Pentecost Sunday, May 15, 2016lessons-nehemiah

Over the last several days, we reflected on the idea of taking a dare on the strength of the relationship between God and humanity. Today we return to a favorite as we reflect on Nehemiah, a man who led his people out of exile and created an environment in which they might become heroes. How might we live our own lives as new Nehemiahs?

Nehemiah was the administrator who brought his own money, sweat and tears to the reconstruction of the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem.  He provided not only the structure, organization and the will, but the risk-taking attitude and perseverance to create the continuity between the pre and post exile worlds.  He created an environment for the Word of God to flourish in the post-captivity Jerusalem.  At various times over these several years as we have spent Noontime together, we have reflected on this man, this work, this wisdom, this patience, this persistence, this dedication and devotion to God.  These are all qualities necessary for discipleship.

As we go about our lives we are continually called to rebuild and to reconstitute ourselves and others.  We are called to Christ, the one who saves.

nehemiah's wall

Nehemiah’s Wall

True heroes are those who understand that the saving work they do – their amazing feats, their miracles – come from God.  They know that God is the source of all goodness and healing.  And they praise God unceasingly in the midst of turmoil and strife.  True heroes create structures and times and places in which God can dwell with the faithful.  True heroes find reward in the endless suffering that accompanies discipleship.  True heroes are rare.  When we find them, we best hold on to them . . . and follow.

Adapted from a favorite from May 9, 2008.

To reflect on the nature of optimism, watch Tari Shalot’s Ted Talk on The Optimism Bias. Enter the name Nehemiah into the blog search bar and explore this man’s determination and willingness to take a risk. Click on the image of Nehemiah’s wall above to learn about the archeological work at Nehemiah’s wall and gate. Or visit: http://www.biblicalarchaeologytruth.com/nehemiahs-wall.html

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Matthew 23Denunciation

Friday, November 20, 2015 tassels

How many of us like to widen our phylacteries and lengthen our tassels?  The footnotes for this chapter are extensive in the NAB and they are worth reading.  This is the list of Christ’s woes as recorded by Matthew and these words have the feel of prophecy.  Hypocrisy, lack of integrity when our words and actions do not match. This is what Jesus warns us about.

What do we do when the ugly green monster rears its head?  When jealousy strikes, as it always does, what is our reflex?  Do we allow ourselves to succumb to the temptation of taking credit even when it is due?  Do we put the emotion which overtakes us in its proper place and convert it to humility?

Verses 37 to 39 are Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem, the city which ought to serve as a beacon to all, now drags her skirts in the mire as the prophets foretold.  Jesus himself cannot sway these leaders.  God’s own word cannot get their attention.  The final woe defines Jesus’ audience as murderers of prophets, of the holy ones.  This is scary stuff.  Chapter 24 follows with the foretelling of the destruction of the temple which actually occurred in 70 C.E.  This event was on the horizon and yet they did not listen.  Do we? How far do we have to go until God finally gets our attention?  Are we this dense?  We pray not.

And so we go to Jesus, hoping to learn how to avoid our own denunciation.

phylacteriesGenerous and faithful Jesus, may we narrow our phylacteries and shorten the tassels on our shawls. May we learn humility from your stories, and mercy from your actions. We ask this in your name. Amen.

 A favorite from January 28, 2008.

 

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Gerard Van Honthorst: nativity

Gerard Van Honthorst: Adoration of the Shepherds

Thursday December 25, 2014

Joy and Zechariah

Christmas Day

“The office of prophet was due to a direct call from God. It was not the result of heredity, just as it was not a permanent gift but a transient one, subject entirely to the divine will”. (Senior 877) Today joy comes upon us from the depths of fear as a people lifts hope high . . . waiting for the coming of the Messiah.

Full of symbols and imagery, this book of prophecy signals an impending change when a new Jerusalem will replace the vanquished one. Many of the ancients settled on the simple understanding that a new city would rise physically from the foundations of the old; and in so doing, they missed the greater portent of the Messiah’s coming. The apostle John (2:19) records Christ’s promise to raise up again the ruined temple in three days. And so does Jesus promise to return from the dead to rescue the faithful. This is an event to celebrate, even in the midst of despair and fear.

Verse 2:10: Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares the Lord.

joyToday we celebrate the arrival of the master healer and we remember that joy is most sweet when it fulfills the age-old promise to arrive in the hour of sorrow. Christ’s joy offers new life in the face of death, and dims the memory of all suffering. For Christ’s joy is found in God’s infinite mercy and the power of the Spirit to bring us God’s never-ending love. Let us rejoice with the shepherds and angels at this marvelous entrance God makes into our lives . . . in the sweet person of Mary’s child.

Click on the Nativity image above for a site that hosts famous paintings of this event and others in the life of Christ, or visit: http://www.jesus-story.net/painting_birth_christ.htm

If this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urge you to investigate the New Testament, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar. You may want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com

For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. 877. Print.

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KIng Zedekiah

King Zedekiah

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Jeremiah 52:1-11

The End – Part I: Capture

Over the next days we will look closely at the end which came to Jerusalem, the end that Jeremiah predicted. We will examine the verses carefully, looking for a hint of lessons we might learn from this ancient people who would not heed a warning so clearly spelled out for them. We will explore our own temptation to deny the reality in which we live. And we will consider what lessons we might learn so that our own end becomes a new beginning rather than a final departure.

king-zedekiahZedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem.

God says: Watch for the times when you believe you have all answers to all problems. When you learn to rely on yourself alone you draw hour heart away from me . . . and this is an end that is difficult to overcome.

His mother’s name was Hamutal, daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.

God says: Your parents bring you into this world and they tend to you while you are young. I tend to you for now, in the past, and into the infinite future. This is a relationship you will not want to ignore.

He did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord, Just as Jehoiakim had done.

God says: I do not ask much of you but I do ask is that you enact goodness in the world. In order to do this well it is essential that you listen for my word daily and that stay always close by and in me.

Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.

God says: Be careful about the alliances you make and break. Use caution when you pledge yourself to another person or cause. These may be your undoing if you do not exercise great care.

In the tenth month of the tenth year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and his whole army advanced against Jerusalem, encamped around it, and built siege walls on every side.

Jerusalem: Zedekiah's Cave

Jerusalem: Zedekiah’s Cave

God says: When the enemy threatens, turn to me. When the earth rumbles with the steady onslaught of forces that will surely overcome you, stay with me.

The siege of the city continued until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.

God says: When you feel you can no longer go on, turn your struggle over to me.

On the ninth day of the fourth month, when famine gripped the city and the people had no more bread, the city walls were breached.

God says: When you struggle to lift your head and raise your arm, place your burden on my broad shoulders.

Then all the soldiers took to flight and left the city by night through the gate between the two walls which was near the king’s garden.

God says: When everyone else abandons you, remain in me. You are never alone for I am always with you.

Destruction of JerusalemWith the Chaldeans surrounding the city they went in the direction of the Arabah.

God says: Do not think that you can avoid or outrun me. Do not be anxious that you may be unworthy. I am waiting to heal and transform you, and for me all things are possible.

But the Chaldean army pursued the king and overtook Zedekiah in the desert near Jericho, while his whole army fled him.

God says: Even when you have strayed far from my precepts and my truth I will still welcome you home and celebrate your return. This is how much I love you.

Tomorrow, Part II . . . Destruction

To learn more about King Zedekiah, click on his images above and find study outlines at: http://biblestudyoutlines.org/bible-study-outlines/bible-study-outline-on-king-zedekiah/

Find video at: http://bibleseriesguide.com/episode5.htm#.VDb_L_ldWSo 

To learn about the enormous cave under the city of Jerusalem, how it came to be there, and why the Freemasons gather there every year, click on the cave image above or visit www.aboutjerusalem.com at: http://allaboutjerusalem.com/article/zedekiahs-cave-secret-cave-jerusalem to watch a brief, interesting video clip.

 

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TIBERI~1

Sea of Galilee

Holy Monday, April 14, 2014

John 7:1-9

Within Galilee

Jesus moved about within Galilee; but he did not wish to travel to Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him.

We have begun our ascent to Jerusalem and so we gird ourselves for the arduous journey with its dreadful yet glorious end. We have heard the words and woes of Amos and so we understand that change must and will come upon us. We set our feet on the path we have chosen and we step forward with both dread and hope. What do we discover about ourselves and our world that we must change? We believe that we are well aware of the pitfalls we will meet.  We know that there are barriers that will stymie and frustrate us. We realize that if we hope to be made new we leave the refuge we have created for ourselves if we hope to travel up to Jerusalem. We recognize the hostile nature of the world we traverse and yet somehow we feel strangely safer once we commit to moving forward. Still, for a while we determine to remain where we feel safest while we prepare for our moment of boldness when we will allow ourselves to be open to rescue from our old way of living. And so for a time we remain in Galilee . . . while we prepare for our own conversion, change and resurrection

Second Jerusalem Temple

Second Jerusalem Temple

For another reflection about resting before our journey to Jerusalem, visit the Resting in Bethany post for Holy Monday 2013 on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/2013/03/25/resting-in-bethany/

For more information about the location and nature of Galilee and Judea, go to: Galilee http://bibleatlas.org/galilee.htm and Judea http://bibleatlas.org/judea.htm

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Luke 19:41-44

Ercole de" Roberti: Destruction of Jerusalem

Ercole de’ Roberti: Destruction of Jerusalem

Recognizing the Messiah

We lament the world’s injustice. We search for wisdom in the prophets. We struggle to live the Word of the Gospel. We await a Messiah.

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If this day you only knew what makes for peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes”.

Jerusalem is the celebrated site of God’s presence among the Jewish people – yet Jesus laments her blindness.

“For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides”. 

The holy Temple contains the Ark of the Covenant – yet Jesus predicts the day when all will be lost.

“They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation”.

The people of God cried out for a king. God answered their prayer.  Yet they did not recognize that God already lived among them.

Let us decide address the world’s injustice. Let us listen to the wisdom in the prophets. Let us determine to live out the truths of the Gospel. And let us choose to recognize the Messiah who dwells within.

For a homily on this reading, click on the image above or go to: http://sothl.com/2011/08/28/sermon-luke-1941-44/

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Christmas Eve

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

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Luke 2:39-40

Filled With Wisdom and Light

The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Last week we spent time with Luke’s telling of the Nativity Story and in our reflections we explored four Lucan themes: the rearing of Jesus in the Mosaic Law and traditions, the importance of Jerusalem and the Temple in Jesus’ family life, the presence of God’s Spirit in the Jesus story, and Jesus as the presence of truth and light that will effect decision and judgment.  (Mays 932)

God says: When you experience my son in this story you too will be filled with wisdom and light.  When you live in my Spirit you too will find your decisions come to you more easily for they will be made in and through me.  I do not want to control you and that is why I have given you full free will.  I want to love you, and I want you to love me.  Jesus lives by the old law in order to bring about the new.  This is not easy and it involves misery and disappointment; yet this sadness is transformed just as a butterfly arises from the cocoon spun by a caterpillar; new life springs from the decaying seeds of the old tree, and eternal life arrives through the fidelity and integrity of your relationships.  Remain in me as I remain in you.  Allow yourself to be filled with my wisdom and light.  And allow my favor to bring you out of all suffering and pain. 

As the child grows strong and becomes filled with wisdom, so too do we grow in strength and understanding when we grow in God.  As God’s favor rests upon the Child of Wisdom and Light, so too does God’s favor rest on each of us when we live and work in the Spirit.  As we enter into this holiest of nights, let us open our hearts and minds to the gift of endless light and life.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 932. Print.

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