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Posts Tagged ‘light’


Friday, January 31, 2020

1 Maccabees 12:39-52: Convolution

Tryphon

Tryphon

Below is a site which makes an attempt to unravel this highly complicated plot we see unfolding in 1 Maccabees.  It is difficult to sort through the intricacies of this period in Jewish history just prior to the arrival of Jesus.  All of these double faces and double plots with their twistings and turnings are sometimes too difficult to witness, too difficult to watch . . . and yet we ought to spend here.  We must observe, witness and learn from what we experience. These convolutions may well be too close to home.

http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Diodotus_Tryphon 

This betrayal, capture and murder of Jonathan paint a clever piece of political strategy which – – – in the end – – – backfires on Tryphon.  His life terminates in suicide.  This is an old story, an old theme, with characters familiar to all of us.  We see this drama played out in our families, in sensational headlines, in history books, in memoirs, and sometimes in our own lives.  Tryphon presents himself as a reasonable friend while plotting to use Jonathan’s trust to his advantage.  This is a story repeated in big and little ways daily.  Hearts are won and then broken.  Promises made and then abandoned.  Lives buoy upward on the tide of events only to be ruined.

What do we do when we too frequently find ourselves the victims of the Tryphos in our lives?  Do we cease to trust and go within to barricade ourselves from danger?  Do we resort to revenge and add to the violence and atmosphere of mistrust?  Or do we pray for those who harm us, hope for an impossible but just outcome, and place our faith ultimately in God?

Isolation leads to our own depression and suicide.  Violence ushers us swiftly to our own corruption and brutal end.  The sign of our spiritual development is that we are able to ask God to convert hard hearts and stiff necks, that God right an immense wrong, and that God abide with us just as we struggle to abide with God.

We can predict our own ends when we examine this story and ourselves.

Verse 39 reads: Tryphon was determined to become king . . . When we determine our destiny without consulting God we enter into a dark convolution of self.

Verse 40: Looking for a way to seize and kill . . . When we first seek to do away with opposition rather than listen to disparate voices we create a crooked image of God.

Verse 49: Tryphon sent soldiers . . . to destroy . . . When we enlist our friends in a warped plan of retribution we give ourselves over to a darkness that is ultimately overcome by light.

Our lives are repeated patterns of options from which to choose: life or death, light or darkness, mercy or violence, justice or destruction.  We are moving toward Lent and later Eastertide.  We will witness the promise fulfilled; we will be rescued.  In which direction do we steer ourselves?  Onto the straight yet narrow paths of light which lead to completion?  Or into the dark convolutions of a distorted sense of self?

We know the road signs.  We know the feeling of despair when we suffer the little deaths of self through betrayal that escort us to our own destruction.  We also know the sensation of love, the exhilaration of hope and the power of faith.

Let us witness and watch . . . and let us become accustomed to looking for the light that pierces the darkness . . . and steers us away from the convolutions of darkness.


First written on April 24, 2009. Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

To read more about the Selucids and others, click on the coin image above or the citation.  

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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

John 13:21-30: Betrayal

Caravaggio: Taking of Christ in the Garden

Caravaggio: Taking of Christ in the Garden

Often during our Noontimes we have explored the theme of infidelity and the effects it has upon our intimate relationships and our collective experience as a people of God.  We have spent time thinking about how an act of betrayal never has a single secret effect.  We have prayed for those who deceive and harm us.  We have pondered how to handle an act of betrayal when it slices through our lives.  Today we see God himself allow each of us to make a choice for freedom and life or slavery and death.  Judas has become a slave to an idea which leaves his soul open to darkness.  Jesus allows him to proceed along the path he has chosen: What you are going to do, do quickly.  Yesterday we reflected on Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.  Today we explore John 13 more closely.

Today’s citation comes from the portion of John’s Gospel often called The Book of Glory; Chapters 13 to 20 tell the story of the passion, death and transformation of Jesus.  Here he has just delivered his discourse on the relationship he has with the Father – one of deepest intimacy.  And he has just told his followers – his followers of that evening and his followers today – that the same intimacy is open to each of us, that God yearns to hold us and to possess us more than anything we can imagine from our human experience.  Yet this citation begins with: Jesus was deeply troubled . . .

Able to read our inmost thoughts, Jesus understands that Judas is disappointed, disgruntled, and about to act on his envy and anger.  Judas Iscariot, despite so much time spent with the Master, is unable to enter into this intimacy offered.  And so he strikes at that which he cannot experience.

Jesus dipped a morsel and handed it to Judas . . . extending an ultimate invitation . . . knowing that it and he will be rejected; for after Judas took the morsel . . . Satan entered him. 

Who and what are Satan?  I believe that this force of negativity cleverly appeals to the narcissistic child in each of us; and I believe that it is present always.  Only through our fidelity to God and the light . . . do we evade that which relishes the night.  The risen Christ offers this invitation to unity constantly.  How do we respond?

Jesus shares a last meal with a man who believes that he operates in secret and who has likely convinced himself that his actions are for some greater good.  Judas’ actions will set a course of events into motion which cannot be recalled.  The calculus has been set much earlier than this through a series of moments of discontent, of wounded pride, of self-importance.  Judas resists the call to goodness and falls to the darkness.

So he took the morsel and left at once.  And it was night.

In an understatement of fact, the writer John tells us all we need to know about betrayal and the evil on which it feeds.  Envy, willfulness, desire for control of self and others, attendance to our own needs at the expense of others . . . these are signs that lead only to darkness.  And it was night.  Goodness, mercy, kindness, gentleness, prudence, courage, openness, perseverance . . . these are the signs that lead to light and life.

Heavenly Father, keep us always open to Christ, your Word among us.  Count us among your faithful.  Create in us a spirit that will always recognize you and welcome you . . . even in the most surprising places and unexpected people. 

Today we receive you; we receive your word.  Keep us ever mindful of your love for us.  Call us always to the light that is you.  Amen.


Written on January 27, 2009.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/his/CoreArt/art/bar_cvggo_taking.html

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Thistledown

Wisdom 4:20 & 5: Hope

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

These verses – actually beginning with the last verse of Chapter 4 – give us reflections of the wicked concerning the fate of the faithful.  Here is an answer to all of the times the psalmist laments: Why do we suffer and the wicked get away with murder?  Today we have the answer to so much questioning.  The faithful will rest in peace after struggling so long in the temporal world.  This chapter is a balancing counterpoint to chapters three and four: The Hidden Counsels of God.

So much about God is mystery.  Perhaps this is why we like this time of year with lights twinkling in the darkness, carols piercing cold air, our breath forming vapor as we step into the early morning crispness.

Over the week end my grandchildren and I watched one of their favorite movies, Babe, about a pig that becomes a sheepdog.  The story takes place in New Zealand and so Christmas is celebrated in the dead of summer; yet the farmer places a Christmas tree atop his house and the family gathers in the warm weather to exchange presents.  The grandchildren and I had a lively conversation about what we would and would not like about having Christmas in July.  At first it was winter that seemed more appropriate because it is the time when we are hunkered in and hunkered down, waiting for life to begin.  On the other hand, the coming of Light and Truth into the world coincides with the full and open days of summer, jammed with activities that distract us.  When do we need Christ more?  The answer is likely: all of the time.

We also spent time – as we always do when we watch this film – reflecting on the faith and doubt of the farmer and his wife about the pig and themselves.  We spoke again about the relationships between generations.  And, of course, we spoke about the incredible idea that a pig might win a sheep herding tourney.  We have sat in the bleachers at the Harford County Farm Fair and watched these dogs work a flock of sheep.  We have also watched pig races, horse sled pulls and other animal trials.  The children – and I – are impressed by the competency of this Hollywood pig.  And we are all rewarded by the cheers of the crowd when Babe brings the final sheep configuration home.  These were the same people who had jeered moments before.  Yes, the hope of the wicked is like thistledown borne on the wind . . .

When we are confronted with sneering laughter we need only focus on the potential within and wear the Lord as our armor (verses 16-19).  For when we put on Christ as recommended by Paul in Ephesians 6, we have no need of any other thing for the just live forever, and in the Lord is their recompense. 

This is one of the times in the liturgical year when we hear the theme of the rejected cornerstone.  It gives us the opportunity to think about surprises . . . and about unusual possibilities like Christmas in July . . . pigs that can herd sheep . . . cornerstones that no one recognizes.  It is the time of year to think about arming ourselves with Light and Joy . . . Peace and Hope . . . about wearing the Lord as we set forth each day . . . about being Christ in a turbulent world.


Written on December 1, 2008, re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/2010/03/page/4/

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Nehemiah 1: A Vocation for Building

Friday, September 13, 2019

Jerusalem: Stones at the Temple South Wall

We have visited with this book several times during our Noontime reflections and we know that it, along with the book of Ezra, describes the restoration time of the Jewish nation.  We know that Nehemiah was the administrator who is credited with the rebuilding of the temple and walls while his friend Ezra, the priest, rebuilt the religious traditions of the Jewish people.  Together these men led their community to recovery through work, prayer and a close connection with their God.  

The survivors of the captivity there in the province are in great distress and under reproach.

We constantly bump into people who are in great distress and under reproach.  There are times when we ourselves are the victim of abuse of one kind or another, times when we too, suffer greatly in that we are separated from some one, some thing or some tradition which used to comfort us and bring us peace.  When we find ourselves in exile . . . and we yearn for reconciliation . . . the best remedy for this affliction is to do as Nehemiah did: I prayed: O Lord, God of heaven, great and awesome God, you who preserve your covenant of mercy towards those who love you and keep your commandments, may your ear be attentive, may your eyes be open, to heed the prayer which I, your servant, now offer in your presence day and night for your servants the Israelites, confessing the sins which we of Israel have committed against you, I and my father’s house included.

This was Nehemiah’s vocation, that he call together a buffeted and distracted people to bring them home to Yahweh where they might be healed and restored.  It is our vocation as well, for as Christians we too are called to help in the gathering, fishing and harvesting work of God’s kingdom.  To this we are called.  For this we are made.  Let us pray with Nehemiah . . .

O Lord, may your ear be attentive to my prayer and that of your willing servants who revere your name.  Grant success to your servant this day . . . and all days.

Our vocation is to build and rebuild, to restore, to bring unity out of chaos, to bring light into the darkness, to bring hope to the desperate.  And we are never alone in this work.  We are constantly accompanied by the one who is the light, the hope, the joy of the world.  We ask this in Jesus’, name.  Amen.


Written on September 12, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite. 

For more on Nehemiah and Ezra and the re-building of Jerusalem, go to: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/nehemiah%E2%80%93the-man-behind-the-wall/

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1 Thessalonians 4 and 5: Our Conduct

Sunday, September 8, 2019

We have looked at Chapter 5 of this letter before and when we did we reflected on God’s time as being different from our own, and how in this immense time of God’s there is always the opportunity to begin again, to offer friendship to those who have harmed us . . . and to have the impossible become possible through God.  Today when we reflect on chapter 4 along with chapter 5 we have the benefit of reading how Paul begins a list of general exhortations for our Christian conduct.  He gives a list of “to dos”: Be holy and honorable in your intimate relationships, aspire to a tranquil life while minding your own affairs, pray for those who have died before us, be prepared for the coming of Jesus, magnify Christ’s light in the darkness of the world.

These guidelines seem simple enough as we read them; yet oh how difficult they become in practice.  How many of us use and are used in our closest connections?  How many of us are drawn in by the private affairs of others?  How many of us remember with hope those who have died?  How many of us are prepared for the Parousia?  How many of us stand in the light . . . and call others to that light?

Honor, Holiness, Charity, Hope and Vigilance.

Paul reminds the Thessalonians and he reminds us that our conduct is an outward sign of our interior relationship with God.

What do our actions have to tell us about our most intimate relationship of all?

What do our gestures and demeanor tell our God about how we see him?

What do we want to change?

First written on August 4, 2008, re-written and posted today as a  Favorite.


For additional thoughts on What is Holiness, click on the image above or go to: http://thecostaricanews.com/what-is-holiness/9997 

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Exodus 21:1-11: Freedom

Easter Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A re-post from Easter Monday, April 9, 2012.

When we read portions of scripture like this one today we can see why it is fool’s work to believe in sacred texts in a black-and-white, off-on way.  As we read these Laws Regarding Slaves we see that they made sense in the context of their time.  It is my hope that we can also see that they are out of step with 21st Century living.  Anyone reading these statutes as absolutes will have difficulty explaining them away.  How, for example, do we make sense of these phrases? When you purchase a Hebrew slave . . . if his master gives him a wife . . . the woman and her children remain his property . . . when a man sells his daughter . . . if her master dislikes her . . . Any of us who knows true freedom will cherish and defend it for others.  Any of us who enjoy controlling others will find these rules to be liberal and kind.  Any of us who understands that Christ has come to liberate us from all kinds of slavery will see these decrees for what they are: laws that kept social order thousands of years ago, not laws that we will want to enforce today.  Why is it, I wonder, as we struggle with one another do we treat one another as slaves who must comply with our whims?  And why is it that we often live our lives in full denial of the fact that when we live as we like without considering the far-reaching effects of our whims we enslave others?  We want cheaper electronics made in factories where workers toil in a poisonous environment.  We want clothes that cost less because they are put together in sweat shops where children work long hours under horrible conditions; we do not mind that the diamonds we wear so easily are brought to light by child slaves.  Has Jesus taught us anything?

If we learn anything from the Easter story it is that we are free.  In today’s Gospel Matthew tells us that the structure which tried to extinguish Jesus bribed guards and implicated Jesus’ disciples.  The chief priests and elders took counsel; then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, “You are to say, “His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep”.  And if this gets to the ears of the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble”.  The soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed.  We can only presume that the plot was unsuccessful.  I often wonder how the elders, priests, and soldiers quieted the small voice of truth that must have niggled at their consciousness.  Perhaps they had hardened their hearts.  We will never know.

On this first day after the resurrection of Jesus we might want to spend some time examining our lives to see where we pay small and big bribes to silence truth.  We may want to think about how and where we turn blind eyes and deaf ears to realities that insist on nagging at us when our guard is down.  How much easier it is to admit these certainties and conform ourselves to the greatest law there is, the law that supersedes all laws: The Law of Love.

Jesus died, Jesus was buried.  And behold, there was an earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it . . . The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men.  These guards later accepted a sum of money to forego the truth.  Jesus comes to rescue them, the elders and priests, just as he also rescues his friends.  We may try to enslave one another with our whims and our fears.  We may allow ourselves to be enslaved for a time or forever to a person, an idea, or an addiction.  In the end, Jesus stands ready to rescue each of us.  When he calls outside the door of our enslavement which we have shut tightly against the darkness of our fears, will we be willing to open it to the truth and the light and the freedom beyond?


Image from: http://www.designzzz.com/freedom-concept-photography/

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Isaiah 59: Turning from Sin

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

We look for light, and lo, darkness; for rightness, but we walk in gloom!

In the Northern Hemisphere we are moving from winter to spring when our days are longer and the nights shorter.  As we pull away from winter depths, we are reminded that darkness can easily overcome us and wear us down.

We stumble in midday as at dusk . . . we all growl like bears, like doves we moan without ceasing.

All of this darkness makes us tired and short-tempered; we complain and sink low . . .

We look for right, but it is not there; for salvation, and it is far from us.

We wonder, “Where is our God who has promised to abide with us?  Who is powerful enough to save us?”

The Lord saw this and was aggrieved that right does not exist.

Despite the calamity and ruin there is right among us because God takes pity on us, his loved creatures.  God brings us goodness and rightness in the form of a human child, Jesus.

He saw that there was no one and was appalled that there was no one to intervene . . .

God knows that we struggle to overcome the darkness.  God comes to dwell with us as our brother, Emmanuel.

So his own arm brought about the victory, and his justice lent him his support.

St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Ephesians that we are no longer strangers and sojourners but fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. (2:19-20)

He put on justice as his breastplate, salvation as the helmet on his head; he clothed himself with garments of vengeance, wrapped himself in a mantle of zeal.

As we approach the season of Lent, we remember Paul’s admonition to put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil, so that you may be able to resist and hold your ground.  Stand firm with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and you feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace.  In all circumstances hold faith as a shield, to quench all flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (6:11, 13-17)

He shall come as a redeemer to those who turn from sin . . .

Knowing that we are powerless in and of ourselves, our God moves to guide and to guard us.

This is the covenant with them which I have made myself, says the Lord . . .

God keeps his promises because he is good.

The Lord says, My spirit is upon you and my words that I have put into your mouth shall never leave your mouth . . .

And so we will celebrate God’s goodness and tell others of God’s great love.

Nor will my words leave the mouths of your children nor the mouths of your children’s children from now on and forever, says the Lord. 

We find ourselves alone and in darkness.  God sees and hears our plight.  God gives us the chance to reunite with goodness and rightness.  God helps us up out of the darkness when we wear Christ as our armor and when we seek God’s love.  This is predicted by Isaiah.  This is witnessed to us by Paul.  This we can believe.  This we must pass along to our children . . . and to our children’s children.  For this is how we turn away from sin to turn toward what is good and right and just.   This is how we turn to God.

Amen.


Adapted from a reflection posted during Advent on December 5, 2011.

Images from: http://a-christ-followers-musings.blogspot.com/2011/01/fruit-of-spirit-goodness.html and http://soithappens.com/page/3/

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Luke 11:37-54Unmarked Graves

Friday, December 4, 2019

The Pharisees Question Jesus

Jesus warns his listeners, Woe to you!  – and he also warns us – that we might fulfill the letter of the law and completely miss its spirit.  Jesus describes for the Pharisees and others – and he describes for us – what it means to be his true disciples.  Jesus tells the dinner guests – and he tells us – how to avoid becoming unmarked graves that people walk over without even realizing.

Jesus also speaks to those who know the law inside and out; he challenges the lawyers and scribes and points out how they block entrance to the kingdom by their obtuseness and their stubborn inflexibility.  He also warns all that we are judged by what we do and what we do not do.

Commentary tells us that here Jesus delineates six woes and we might take the opportunity to examine ourselves today.

Do we worry about our outward appearance and cleanliness and neglect our true selves, our souls?

Do we speak with piety and yet rebuke the marginalized and broken?

Do we make a show of our tithing and do nothing for the poor?

Do we seek honor and fame while we isolate and segregate those we see as unworthy?

Do we overly obfuscate and complicate the simple law of love that Jesus gives us and steer others away from the true Way?

Do we attempt to supersede the Holy Spirit by encouraging others to worship us rather than God?

With Jesus’ words we see the easy pitfalls that line the pathway of our journey.  We will want to look for the small and subtle ways in which we complicate the simple instruction to love one another.  We will want to gather around ourselves like pilgrims who openly share the difficulties of the road; and we will want to move away from those who lie in wait to catch others in something they might say.

The Scribes and Pharisees Hear Jesus

Today’s picture is one we will want to keep with us for a while before we leave the Christmas season because it gives us insight into how to best deal with the kind of envy and greed that both lures and surprises us.  In the Christ Child, we have just been given the dual gifts of hope and light; we have received these as tools we might use to conquer the narrowness we see today in the scribes, the Pharisees and even ourselves.  These are the instruments we will use to avoid embroiled arguments, byzantine squabbles and superficial bickering.  The presence of the Christ in each moment of our lives is all that saves each of us from becoming the unmarked grave of a life lived . . . and lost.

And so let us pray as St. Paul prayed with the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:12): Our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience that we have conducted ourselves in the world . . . with the simplicity and sincerity of God, [and] not by human wisdom but by the grace of God.  Amen. 


A re-post from January 4, 2012.

Images from: http://allsaintswritersblock.wordpress.com/about/ and http://possessthevision.wordpress.com/seeking-jesus/passing-from-the-way-and-into-the-truth/jesus-is-victorious-over-an-evil-establishment/

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Isaiah 45Reminders

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The wise men approach from the East, bearing gifts that will sanctify, purify and sustain.  They are yet another sign of God’s promise to us that he loves, guards and guides us.  We will want to be watching for the many reminders God gives to us as marking posts along the way of our journey.

This reflection was written on January 3, 2010 and it is posted today as a Favorite . . .

I have not spoken from hiding nor from some dark place on the earth . . . I, the Lord, promise justice, I foretell what is right.

The prophet Isaiah brings us a message today that we already know; yet we can use a frequent reminder. He announces the coming of hope, the arrival of the long-awaited one who frees us from defeat, the advent of one who helps each of us to cross our daily hurdles.

It was I who stirred up one for the triumph of justice; all his ways I make level.

If we wish to walk in the level path, we have only to follow God’s anointed one.  In today’s reading it is Cyrus, the Persian king who rises up against Babylon and releases the captive nations.  As the New Testament story tells us, God also sends a true Messiah who releases us from our bondage of sorrow and chaos.  He sends the Christ.

Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above, like gentle rain let the skies drop it down.  Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice also spring up!

Today we celebrate the idea that although political kings did not recognize the power of Christ, three wise magi from the East bring frankincense, gold and myrrh to the most unlikely of all kings, the child of Light, the child of Justice.  Isaiah reminds us that this child brings something to us which we all seek . . . true peace, eternal serenity . . . if only we might walk with him a little way, pray with him a little while.

Come and assemble, gather together, you fugitives . . .

Rather than stand alone on the rampart, Isaiah reminds us that we must gather into phalanxes with all of the faithful, that we must put aside our squabbles so that we might rise at the sound of the Shepherd’s voice to form solidarity as we witness.

Turn to me and be safe, all you ends of the earth, for I am God; there is no other!

There is no dark corner that the eye of the Lord does not see.  There is no sequestered portion of creation from which the ear of God cannot hear the plea of the weary.  There is no god who can outlast our God, none who can withstand our God, not one who will win any battle against this God.

The prophet Isaiah brings us a message today that we already know . . . yet we can use a frequent reminder.

Turn to me and be safe, all you ends of the earth, for I am God; there is no other!


As we ponder the plight of refugees around the world in 219, we visit this re-post from January 2, 2012.

Images from: http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/wise-men-ancient-text-differs-bible-tale-magi/story?id=12460820 

For an interesting new twist to the Magi story, click the image above or go to http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/wise-men-ancient-text-differs-bible-tale-magi/story?id=12460820

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