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Posts Tagged ‘loyalty’


Judges 11 and 12: Shibboleth

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Crack (Shibboleth): Doris Salcedo - The Tate Modern, London

The Crack (Shibboleth): Doris Salcedo – The Tate Modern, London, UK

From WIKIPEDIA: “In numerous cases of conflict between groups speaking different languages or dialects, one side used shibboleths . . . to discover hiding members of the opposing group . . . Today, in the English language, a shibboleth also has a wider meaning, referring to any ‘in-crowd’ word or phrase that can be used to distinguish members of a group from outsiders – even when not used by a hostile other group”.

As we read today’s Noontime, we see how the early tribes of Israel struggled to retain autonomy; we also see that they lived in a world which required people to evaluate loyalty . . . their daily survival depended on this.

In our own world, we will use our own shibboleths ­ – either consciously or unconsciously – and when we do, what are the results?  Do we find ourselves closer to God or more distant?  Are we moving toward serenity and union with God, or away from the eternal peace brought by Jesus?  Do our shibboleths introduce us to the freedom bought by Christ or do they sell us out to an imprisonment which stifles us?

The story of the chieftain Jephthah reads like the script of a television drama – full of twists, promises, ironies and secret shibboleths.  Loyalties are tested, wars are waged, outcomes are weighed; yet in the end it is the spirit of the Lord that prevails.  Jephthah makes a vow to the Lord and loses his beloved daughter Mizpah; he also conquers nations in the name of his God.  Much of this is difficult to understand; most of it is hard to take; all of it is – in some way or other – the way we live today.

Children peering into the shibboleth at the Tate Modern in London

Children peering into the shibboleth at the Tate Modern in London

As we move through our own cycle of coming and going, let us examine the vows we swear, the skirmishes in which we engage, and our manner of waiting on the spirit of the Lord.  And when we begin to winnow the valid from the false in order to survive, let us examine the shibboleths we choose.

A Favorite from Friday, February 12, 2010.

 As we approach Ash Wednesday, a time of inner reflection, we have another opportunity to explore God’s yardstick in our lives, and to put aside the false shibboleths that mislead us.

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Judges 5: God’s Yardstick – Deborah

Canticle of Fidelity

Deborah the Prophetess

Deborah the Prophetess

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The book of Judges is the part of the Bible saga where we see a fledgling nation forming.  The twelve tribes have survived the rigors of their years of desert wanderings, following the pillar of fire and smoke which protects them.  Joshua has led them into the land promised to them and they have secured a foothold where a kingdom will be established.  A series of judges, or heroes, will rise up to gather the people to remind them that Yahweh has promised land, kingdom and blessing . . . and that they, God’s people, owe their creator fidelity, loyalty and obedience.  This is the covenant they have entered into.

The context for these stories is “Holy War” and close reading of Judges, in which so much war is waged, tells us that we are called to cooperate with God’s plan and providence rather than serve our own small agendas. The whole point of this part of the story is to stay the course, but it must be God’s course and not our own.  The forces of darkness cannot stand up to the perseverance, the innocence and the trust of the faithful.  Deborah does this well.

Artemisia Gentileschi: Jael and Sisera

Artemisia Gentileschi: Jael and Sisera

In the preceding chapter we see this prophetess sitting under her palm tree delivering just decisions to the people.  We also see Jael, wife of Heber, lure the enemy Sisera into her tent to kill him with a tent peg to the temple.  Jael kills this enemy because Yahweh has ordained it as spoken through Deborah; and we find that these tribes fight off the pagan peoples any way they can; always consulting with Yahweh before going into battle.  In these ancient times, the struggle to survive dominated all aspects of life and we see a good deal of brutal interaction.  Yet is our interaction any less brutal today?

Deborah judges the tribes during the period of time which coincides with political unrest following the death of Ramses II in Egypt.  The time of transition proves difficult for these people who struggle not only against the pagan nations that surround  them, but also with conflict among the tribes.  David will unite these people into a true political and spiritual kingdom, and hoos son Solomon will erect a Temple which speaks to the fame of this people and their God.

Deborah leads well because she listenes well when she speaks with God each day and it is against this voice, this measuring stick that she measures her own life. We will want to follow her example of fidelity as we struggle against the violence that surrounds us.

Adapted from a reflection written on November 18, 2007.

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Sirach 15:14-17: The Mystery of Free WillFree-Will-10

Monday, June 22, 2015

God in the beginning created human beings and made them subject to their own free choice. If you choose, you can keep the commandments; loyalty is doing the will of God. Set before you are fire and water; to whatever you choose, stretch out your hand. Before everyone are life and death, whichever they choose will be given them.

The concept of free well is one with which we struggle and frequently we hear ourselves asking God the familiar question. Dear God – if all things are possible for you, why don’t you fix all that is wrong with the world?

God says: I love you so much that I do not want to force you to love me in return. I have infinite patience and limitless persistence so I am willing to give you free rein as you decide how you want to live. Our goal is not to have you do precisely as I say; rather, our goal is to come into union in celebration of our mutual understanding and love. Our goal is not to have a perfect world; rather, our goal is to come together in the kingdom I have described for you in which we are motivated by love rather than anger, envy or self-interest. I want to love you into loving me. I want you to love me as much as I love you. I created you in the hope that you and I will have an eternal relationship. And this is entirely possible for us because yes, for me . . . all things are possible.

The mystery of free will is one we might easily misunderstand. When we spend time today with this wisdom from Sirach, we begin to trust in the potential God has planted in each of us.

Use the scripture link to compare these words from Jesus Ben Sirach and consider how we might show God that we understand this gift of free will.

 

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

images[3]Psalm 92

A Hymn of Thanksgiving for God’s Fidelity

Fidelity: faithfulness, loyalty, patience, understanding, questioning and answering, dialog, forbearance, union, love.

From St. Joseph Edition of The Psalms notes: This is a didactic psalm, that is, both a praise of the Lord and an instruction of the faithful.  The psalmist meditates on God’s way of acting.  His love and faithfulness are reflected in everything he does, but they must be comprehended.  Ultimately the happiness of the wicked will fade like seasonal grass, whereas the lot of the righteous will be like the great trees whose roots are planted on solid ground.  For the latter, new seasons are promised in the courts of God.  God’s joy is like a new spring in the life of believers.

Again our theme of renewal.  Again the idea that a righteous life is more difficult to live than a wicked one, but that true serenity and joy is found by struggling to live a life of justice.

I like the point in the citation above that God’s acts are a demonstration of his love and fidelity and that we must strive to comprehend this idea . . . an idea which is so difficult for so many humans . . . because fidelity is such a demanding quality . . . and we humans appear to be much too fickle and willful to comprehend its depth and true meaning.

Each day as we go through each hour, how do we as God’s creatures express God’s fidelity?  How do we express God’s love?  Are we faithful when it is convenient or when we have the time or energy?  Do we love those who please us most?  We recall Paul’s words to Timothy: I remember you constantly in prayers, night and day.  I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears, so that I may be filled with joy, as I recall your sincere faith . . .  (2 Timothy 1:3-4) This is the same letter in which Paul states that he is already poured out like a libation and there are times when we feel this pouring out rather than gratitude.  But when we look at verse 3 of this psalm we see again the idea of loving God faithfully by praying day and night.   And when we are spent . . . we might at least raise eyes and hands to heaven to thank God, and to ask that God lighten our load.

Prayer and petition are important as we near and enter into Advent, even when we feel spent.  When we come to the end of an exhausting day, we can light one small candle in the darkness which comes so quickly at this time of year in our northern hemisphere, and we can repeat the antiphon we find as part of the Liturgy of the Hours Night Prayer: Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace, alleluia.

With this simple act and prayer we might remain faithful . . . even though we are spent. And so we pray . . .

We know that you watch over us, O Lord.  Grace us with the patience and perseverance to keep hopeful watch with you . . . as faithfully as you keep wonder-filled watch with us.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, together with the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

THE PSALMS, NEW CATHOLIC VERSION. Saint Joseph Edition. New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 2004. 243. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on December 4, 2007.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pieter Lastman: David hands the Letter to Uriah

Pieter Lastman: David hands the Letter to Uriah

2 Samuel 11 and 12 and Psalm 51

Sin and Parable – Part II

Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

The story is a famous one: David succumbs to human lust and he takes something which belongs to another.  When Bathsheba conceives, he tries to trick her husband Uriah into a scenario in which the king’s child can be passed off as Uriah’s.  When Uriah’s purity and faithfulness to Yahweh get in the way, David arranges the murder of this good and loyal man.  A terrible tale.  Nathan brings David the parable of a man who steals a beloved object from another.  David at first is angry, then admits his guilt and expresses regret and grief for the damage he has done.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

Lust, Adultery, Murder.  These are all acts of selfishness, of obliqueness, of anger.  There is nothing direct here, nothing open or honest.  These acts take place in shadow and in deep places.  There is no light.  There is no truth.

Let us consider the sins we have committed either actively or by leaving undone an action we have been called to complete.  Let us consider how these commissions and omissions separate us from all that we are meant to be and do.   And let us consider what these sins have  to say about who we are.

Let us consider how many parables Jesus teaches us with his words.  Let us consider how many parables Jesus teaches us with his actions.  And let us consider how many parables our own lives teach.

Visit one of the Gospels and choose a parable that Jesus teaches us. Spend time with it today reflecting on how we might teach others through our actions rather than our words.

Adapted from a reflection written on February 13, 2008.

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