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Friday, March 20, 2020

Acts 21:27-36: Going Up to Jerusalem – Part III

The Garden Tomb

The Garden Tomb

To give James and the Jerusalem Jewish Christians their due, they are able to come to an agreement with Paul; but as we follow this story we see that Paul is meant to run into a huge struggle.  He is finally arrested and taken to Rome for his trial and with this single action, the Roman Empire catapults this young religion onto the world stage.  The little-known Jewish sect of the followers of The Way spreads Christ’s message through the Empire.  Jesus becomes a household word and the Way of Peace and Peace-Making suddenly has a universal audience because of Paul’s strife.  There is irony in this story . . . and inversion.

The controlling Jewish leaders meant to stop this movement at its inception, but if we remember the words of Gamaliel in Acts 5:34-42 we will understand that God always works through irony and inversion.  Gamaliel was the most respected scholar and leader of the times.  Paul himself studied with this rabbi.  The writer of Acts records these words of Gamaliel, and they are words we might try to live by daily: In the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone!  Let them go!  For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.

Many times in scripture we encounter this theme:  The faithful need not fight, they only need to maintain their relationship with God and refuse to do anything which causes them to abandon God . . . and it is always the struggle that brings strength, it is always the conflict that teaches patience, it is always the skirmish that draws others to God’s loving providence.  There will be difficulty when we go up to Jerusalem but still we must go.

We must all go up to Jerusalem.  We must stand for something.  We must witness, watch and wait.  We must allow the Holy Spirit to put the words we need into our mouths when we fear speaking.  We must cease worrying about the anxieties and cares of this world.  We must remain committed to the relationships we make.  We must seek and form unity rather than separation.  We must think of self last and neighbor first.  We must pray and intercede for those who harm us.  We are to commit daily acts of hope when we see the impossibilities of this life swirl around us trying to pull us into a vortex of depression and hopelessness.  We are to act with justice rather than leniency.  We are to rebuke Godlessness.  We are to be merciful to all – especially those who seek our destruction.  We are to forgive endlessly, to love infinitely and to hope outrageously.  For this we are created.  To this we are called.  Our God seeks nothing but intimacy with all of us.

God perseveres.  God endures.  God is patient.  God is love.  And this God of Love calls us all to go up to Jerusalem.

Jesus lived.  Jesus died.   Jesus rose.  Jesus returned.  Jesus lives.  And Jesus calls us all to go up to Jerusalem.

Tomorrow: A Prayer as we go up to Jerusalem.


Image from: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/israel/jerusalem-garden-tomb

To learn more about Jerusalem, visit Victor’s Place blog and read the Tomb of Jesus post at: http://vhoagland.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/at-the-tomb-of-jesus-november-14/

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

John 7:40-53: The Crowd

Munkácsy Mihály: Ecce Homo

Munkácsy Mihály: Ecce Homo

From yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT mini-reflection: God takes an odd vengeance on Jesus’ human enemies: he offers them eternal life, if only they will hear and see the truth of the one they pursue with such anger. 

With the election of Francis as Roman Catholic Pope, God invites us to explore the Easter message; with Jorge Bergoglio’s elevation to a major public stage we have the opportunity to react to our human dichotomous past and present.  Traitor, saint, collaborator, kingdom-builder . . . we have no way of knowing what Bergoglio’s heart hides or holds.  We have no way of hearing the man’s dialogs with God.  We have no way of living the man’s hopes and fears.  What we do have is the message of Christ brought to us in yesterday’s readings for Mass.  We will want to spend time with them today.

Jeremiah 11:18-20 begins with: I knew their plot because the Lord informed me; at that time you, O Lord, showed me their doings.  We must not allow our fears and anxieties to frighten us away from loving as God loves – with full and open heart – with full and open forgiveness – with full and open return for us, his prodigal daughters and sons.

Psalm 7: O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and rescue me, lest I become like the lion’s prey, to be torn to pieces, with no one to rescue me.  Our greatest dread is loss – of self, of reputation, of appearance, of control, of comfort, of relationships, of God.  Yet the only loss that is serious is loss of our relationship with God . . . which we forfeit when we turn away.  God never leaves us; God is always waiting for our return no matter the circumstances of our leaving.

John 7:40-53 begins: Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said. “This is truly the Prophet”.  Others said, “This is the Christ”.  But others said, “The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he? . . . So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.  Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. 

This week we have spent time with the different people who were with Jesus in the last hours before his death and we have looked at the story of the Passion from various perspectives and angles.  Today we reflect on these readings to see where we might be standing in the final crowd that follows and hounds Jesus.  Are we for or against him?  Do we reject or adore?  Do we observe or act?

What circumstances chaff at us?  What situations chill us?  What surrounding conditions irritate us?  What people annoy or terrify or inspire us? What motivates us to stand or hide, to collaborate or sacrifice?  What fears and hopes drive us?  What hates or loves move us?

God takes an odd vengeance on Jesus’ human enemies: he offers them eternal life, if only they will hear and see the truth of the one they pursue with such anger. 

A new Holy Father steps forward to lead.  What was his past?  What is his present? What might be his future?  Only God knows.  And this God is such a generous God that any vengeance exacted will be the offer of eternal life.  May Jorge Bergoglio, and may we in the crowd, go to God with all our questions.  May the new Pope, and may we in the crowd, hear and act on The Word as Christ did as we move through each day.  And may the Holy Father, and we in the crowd, all live in The Spirit of mercy, compassion, justice and forgiveness on this, our Lenten journey.  May we love as God loves . . . for it is our only salvation.


A re-post from March 17, 2013.

Image from: http://www.mihalymunkacsy.org/search

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 16 March 2013: 239. Print.

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Saturday, March 7, 2020

Hosea 11: Destruction Not for All

dew[1]As we near the half-way point in our Lenten journey we hear Yahweh’s word that he persists in loving the child Israel just as Hosea loves the wayward Gomer . . . he recalls that he raised her from a child and so cannot destroy her as he might be justified in doing.  This is the promise of restoration we long to hear.

I will resettle them in their homes, says the Lord.

This is all so simple, really.  There is nothing complex in truly loving someone.  At least this is the case if we love as God asks: justly, wisely, authentically.

To love justly is to act with mercy rather than leniency.

To love wisely is to be vulnerable to God through one another.

To love well is to amplify rather than obliterate, to persevere rather than control, to speak to truth and listen for authenticity rather than to mollify or pacify.

To love with integrity is to be honest with ourselves and to look for solutions within rather than from some outside source.

To love well is to follow the example of Christ . . . and this we are all called to do.

My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred. 

We look for peace.  We look for serenity.  We look for healing and restoration.  In order to find these things, we must fasten our eyes, our ears, our voices, our hands and our feet to God and not let go.  We must watch, we must wait, we must listen, we must speak, we must witness.  God always abides.

For I am God and not man, the Holy One present among you; I will not let the flames consume you.

Hosea is constant.  Gomer is fickle.  We run to the high places to worship a new idol when we grow bored.  We seek out some old addiction when we grow tired.

new_easter_lilies[1]The more I called them, the farther they went from me . . . yet it was I who taught [them] . . . to walk . . . though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer. 

We do not have to go off to far or exotic places to find this God we seek.  We need only tum and return to one another.

How could I give you up . . . or deliver you up?

My heart is overwhelmed . . .

I will resettle them in their homes, says the Lord.

Restoration is upon us.  The end of our exile is as far away as our own fingertips, our own lips, our own feet.  We must turn and return.  How much are we willing to risk?  How much are we willing to love?


Images from: http://restministries.com/2011/02/21/devotion-seeking-saturation-at-the-lords-feet-in-our-pain-not-just-getting-by/ and http://www.mydesignideas.com/images/Garden%20File/garden_gallery_dupe.html

First written on January 22, 2008. Revised and posted today as a Favorite.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Hosea 9Exile Without Worship

Francesco Hayez: Ephraim

Francesco Hayez: Ephraim

Chapter 9 of Hosea is a picture of the Jewish people and in particular Ephraim, the largest tribe in Israel and one of the first to be taken into exile where they cannot offer sacrifices. Over a period of several hundred years, Ephraim is divided and carted off north to Babylon and south to Egypt. Hosea sees the corruption and nepotism in the structure and so he calls for reform and as a priest himself, he sees the importance of honest and sincere worship and he understands how the absence of worship will impact the people when they are carried into exile.  Yet, Hosea also knows the promise of God’s enduring love and that although the people will stray God will not.  Hosea enacts this belief through his enduring love for Gomer, and he persists in worshiping his God . . . even in exile.

If we continue our Lenten journey with Hosea we will rise from the despair to encounter beautiful words of covenant and union.  And so, like Hosea we remain in faith.

If we linger over the imagery of marriage as the model of God’s relationship with each of us we will discover the courage and joy of hope.  And so, like Hosea we arise in hope.

If we plod along our own Jerusalem Road to follow the words of Hosea we will find secure refuge in our own relationship with God.  And so, like Hosea we abide in love.

Through the allegory of his marriage to Gomer, Hosea lightens our load so that we find the strength to respond to this call to a special, intense, fruitful and honest bond.  Just as Hosea persists in calling out to Gomer he also persists in reminding us of this message no matter how much and how often we ignore him.  And so Hosea speaks to us today.

We have separated ourselves from God and from one another in big and little ways. Hosea says that God waits with open arms. All we need do is repent and turn to God . . . and offer up our open and honest worship.


For more information about the man Ephraim, go to: http://www.aboutbibleprophecy.com/p131.htm

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

First written on March 26, 2007. Re-written and posted yesterday and today as a Favorite.

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Monday, March 2, 2020

Hosea 7 & 8: The Gomer Scale

fire_glory_whirlwind_over_lyford3[1]For much of this week we have spent time with Gomer and Hosea and today when we look closely we hear the warning that Israel will reap the whirlwind of destruction for her lack of fidelity.  We can always pause on our Lenten journey to examine ourselves to see where we stand on the “Gomer Scale”.

  • Do we walk away from problems to go in search of fresh grain with which to make new drink to dull our senses . . . or do we abide through friction and conflict?
  • Do we pull up our shallow roots to replant ourselves in the newest in-vogue panacea each time we run into an obstacle . . . or do we remain planted in firm soil to draw from our foundation to bear good fruit when we are challenged?
  • Do we lie on our beds or drape ourselves over couches to cry and lament our situation . . . or do we work through our grief so that it might transform and restore us?
  • Do we cast about for a new diversion to distract us from true self-examination when we have erred . . . or do we examine ourselves in open and honest light?
  • Do we build thick walls of arrogance and pride as our self-defense . . . or do we go to one we have wronged and ask forgiveness?
  • Do we mourn our loss of innocence . . . or do we see our trials as stones on the path of the Narrow Way which leads to truth and our own restoration by our maker?
  • Do we seek the flattering advice of false prophets and teachers . . . or do we go to one we have wounded and harmed to truly listen to his or her words?
  • Do we deaden our senses when we feel overwhelmed by emotion and confusion . . . or do we turn to our maker who knows and loves us best to ask what we should do?

Gomer refuses to reform, repent, repair and rebuild.  Hosea waits, abides, calls, and loves, ready to heal and restore.  If Gomer wishes to be more than a flat cake not turned over, a senseless and easily deceived dove, one whose strength the foreigners sap, then she must move toward the curing touch of God.  Only there will she find the true, deep, thrilling and lasting love which she seeks.  Gomer looks for instant pleasure which she can manipulate and control . . . without realizing that in so doing, she forfeits the only joy and happiness which satisfies.  Union with her spouse, her God.


Tomorrow . . . a prayer to return to love.

Yesterday’s and today’s Noontime was first written on October 8, 2007.  They were revised and posted as Favorites.

Image from: http://thegrenzian.blogspot.com/2012/11/whirlwind.html

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Friday, February 28, 2020

Hosea 2: Expectation

loaves[1]What does God expect of us?

Where is God?

How can God expect so much from us?

Why does God allow us to feel so alone/exasperated/angry/sad?

If we hear ourselves asking these questions endlessly with no hope of understanding, we may need to turn these questions on their heads and think of them in their inverted state.

What do we expect of God?

Where have we put God in our lives?

Why do we expect so little from God?

Why do we turn away from God when we are alone/exasperated/angry/sad?

We spend time today in our Lenten journey with Chapter 2 of Hosea’s prophecy in which the prophet’s unfaithful wife, Gomer, is described.  Metaphorically, this wife is each one of us when we reject the conditions in which we find ourselves.  As difficult as our problems may be, they are our lesson plans in life, our stepping stones to self-discovery and to serenity.  Once we learn to turn everything over to God, the sorrow and anger slip away.  And we suddenly find that we are more at peace with the circumstances that surround us.

In John’s Gospel story of the feeding of thousands (6:1-15) we see that Jesus asks the disciples how they want to feed so many – John writes: He said this to test them.  This does not mean that Jesus wants to throw his friends into turmoil; it means that Jesus wants to see how they hope to solve the problem before them.  Do they resort to themselves, or do they rely on God in any way?

We must remember to ask for miracles, because God wants to grant them.

We must remember to take our woes to God, because God welcomes them and erases them.

We must remember to leave our sadness in God’s hands, because he heals all mourning with his deep and abiding love.

Hosea laments his unfaithful wife.  God misses us when we leave him behind.  Why do we try to solve everything on our own?  And why do we expect so little from God?


Image from: http://ymiblogging.org/2011/06/the-little-boy-and-the-feeding-of-the-five-thousand/

Tomorrow: Our Search for Happiness.

Written on May 6, 2011. Revised and posted today as a Favorite.

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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Hosea 1: The Covenant Path

path[1]I will save them by the Lord, their God; but I will not save them by war, by sword or bow, by horses or horsemen.

I am always struck by the deep sadness which permeates this prophecy and also by the intense loyalty which the prophet shows his harlot wife, Gomer.  This is the same fidelity which God demonstrates to us, the same constancy to which we are all called, the same covenant we have entered into with Our God.

. . . for you are my people and I will be your God.

The good news about this prophecy is that we are told again that no matter how often or how far we stray, we may return.  The tough part is that we must leave everything we have in order to follow this loyal, constant, ardent spouse.  In Luke 5:1-11 we hear the familiar story we have heard so often – Jesus calls Simon Peter and his partners James and John, sons of Zebedee, to follow him.  “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men”.  When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.  Jesus worked a miracle for these men – when they did as he told them, they suddenly hauled in a huge catch where previously there had been nothing.  They recognized his divinity, left the things of this world and followed.  Jesus works miracles for us constantly yet for the most part we are unwilling to leave all and follow.  Do we act with constancy?  Do we maintain our covenant promise or do we return to the straying path which seems so much easier and so much more fun to follow?

Hosea forgives Gomer countless times.  Yet he maintains fidelity in the face of scandal and shame.  He demonstrates fidelity to her through great cost to himself.  He forgives.  We too, are forgiven.  We too, might forgive.  We too, are called.  We too, might follow.

We are asked to be faithful to our God and to God’s call, to the promise of fulfillment placed in us at our birth.

We are asked to follow the path less traveled, the road on which Christ accompanies us, the road with Christ as it destination.

We are asked to respond to the Spirit within, despite our inconstancy, our blundering and our misunderstanding.

We are asked to put all blaming and name-calling aside and we are asked to follow the covenant path of promise . . . for it is the only true path worth walking.  It is the only path that can save.  It is the only path that binds us in covenant love.


Image from: http://calebcompany.org/2012/09/gods-path-to-success/

First written on September 4, 2008. Revised and posted today as a Favorite.

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Hosea: Love


Ash Wednesday, February 26, 2013

Hosea: Love

3[1]Lent calls us to examine who we are and what we do.  Lent asks us to step forward in willing vulnerability to God.  Lent uses unusual images to help us see truths so basic that they are easily overlooked.  With the story of Hosea and Gomer we are given the opportunity to reflect on the beauty and integrity of God’s love.

This prophecy was written by a man married to a woman who found it impossible to remain faithful.  When we read these verses with care we also examine the distance that exists between the two people in this relationship and the distance we maintain in our relationship with God.  We have the opportunity to question whether we are determined to keep God at arm’s length . . . or whether we want to invite God into the most interior part of ourselves.  We consider who, and what, and how, and why we love, or if we even love at all.

As we examine the quirks of the relationship between Gomer and Hosea we might also examine our relationships with others – are we the inconstant wife, Gomer, in all we say and do – or are we more like the sorrowful prophet, Hosea, lamenting loss yet insisting on hoping for the fulfillment of promises made?

From La Biblia de América: The unhappy marital experience of Hosea, who remains faithful to Gomer despite everything he knows about her, serves as the context for an extraordinary deepening of the people’s relationship with God through the perspective of love’s stormy psychology.

Each of us has experienced love in some form or another: filial, parental, sibling, conjugal, familial, spiritual, and even collegial and civil.  Love manifests itself in many contexts from sexual and intimate to public and patriotic.  We express love of people, love of things, and love of ideas and concepts.  We also express love of God.

Reading the words of Hosea gives us the opportunity to experience a hope which is laced with sadness.  Listening to Hosea’s lament that weaves sorrow and joy into an intricate pattern of sharp edges and smooth surfaces, we perceive the bittersweet image of deep misery interwoven with soaring expectation.

Allowing the words of this prophecy to sink into our being, we might move closer to perceiving the amazing generosity with which God pardons the people who consistently betray him.  Hosea describes his unrequited love in such a piercing way that we cannot avoid its impact; yet he remains open to the possibility that not only may Gomer return . . . but that she will love him as he loves her.

When I imagine myself in God’s unrequited place, continuing to call as Hosea does, I begin to feel the depth . . . and height . . . and breadth of God’s love.  We are well and truly loved.  Let us spend some time with Hosea today to experience this kind of constancy and steadfastness.  This is not a love which allows itself to be abused; rather, it is a love which loves so much that it risks rebuking the abuse, it risks revealing its vulnerable self, it risks all for sake of the conversion of the beloved.

This is truly an immense and wondrous love.  Let us consider today if we will reject or accept this love.


Tomorrow . . . Hosea and Covenant Love

To better understand Gomer and Hosea and this prophecy, visit the Hosea – Alliances page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-prophets/hosea-alliances/

For more on Gomer and Hosea, click on the image above or go to: http://womeninthescriptures.blogspot.com/2011/08/gomer-and-lo-ruhamah.html or go to http://bible.org/seriespage/hosea

LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. Print.

First written on Wednesday, May 27, 2009.  Revised and posted today as a Favorite.

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Monday, February 10, 2013

Ezekiel: Necessary Conditions

Michaelangelo: Ezekiel

Michelangelo: Ezekiel

“Ezekiel became a prophet in Babylon – the first prophet to receive the call to prophecy outside the Holy Land.  As one of the prophets deported by Nebuchadnezzar in 597, his first task was to prepare his fellow countrymen to be inviolable.  Accordingly, the first part of his book consists of reproaches for Israel’s past and present sins and the confident prediction of yet a further devastation of the land of promise and a more general exile.  In 587, when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, Ezekiel was vindicated before his unbelieving compatriots.  After this time, Ezekiel’s message changes.  From now on his prophecy is characterized by the promise of salvation in a new covenant, and he is anxious to lay down the conditions necessary to obtain it.  Even as Jeremiah had believed, Ezekiel thought that the exiles were the hope of Israel’s restoration, once God’s allotted time for the exiles had been accomplished”.  (Senior 1034)

Believing that we have a better way to learn what God is teaching us, we often balk at accepting the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  We set up pre and post conditions.  We lay out parameters and guidelines for how we will or will not accept God’s teaching.  We want to control how and when and why and even if we will accept God’s necessary conditions for us, often refusing to comprehend that the obstacles before us are our lesson plans from God.  Ezekiel explains to us that even when we believe we have suffered beyond our limits we will often find that there is “further destruction” yet to come.  For those of us who rely on our own power as supreme and reject God’s compassion and guidance, this is difficult to take in.  And we ignore the opportunity God offers to us to experience God fully beyond the devastation.  We miss knowing that we are inviolable.

In our fear of failure we too often refuse to succeed.

In our fear of loss we too often avoid gaining the eternal.

In our fear of rejection we too often reject love that is openly offered.

In our fear of further devastation we too often throw away the lesson plan that brings us transformation.

In our fear of necessary conditions . . . we too often refuse to become God’s inviolate people.

Ezekiel wants to bring us a message of newness despite any defeat we suffer.  Ezekiel warns us that when we think we have hit bottom there may be further devastation to come.  Ezekiel wants to tell us that beyond that ruin and loss there is a new covenant and a new promise.  There is our relationship with God which is unbreakable, unchangeable, and inviolate. And this relationship is love.

When we live in the shelter of God’s protective care we cannot fail.  When we follow the example of Christ’s call to love and be loved we will rise with him to become one with all of humankind.  When we relax into the compassion of the Spirit we also allow ourselves to become God’s precious, God’s beloved, God’s inviolate people.


A re-post from February 10, 2013.

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

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1034. Print.   

This week we will reflect more closely on portions of Ezekiel’s prophecy.

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