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Posts Tagged ‘mercy’


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Psalm 64

The Perfect Plot

“The psalmist shows that the righteous are often defenseless before the cynicism of the machinations and calumnies to which they are prey.  Those who weave their intrigues act in shadows and believe they are hidden from view.  However, God sees everything, even secret human actions and designs.  His judgment overtakes those who evade justice . . . God will turn their evil against the wicked while publicly acquitting the righteous.  Each life will be brought before the judgment of God; the righteous will find their joy in the Lord”.  (The Psalms 161)

I suspect that every one of us has been the victim of a perfect plot at one time or another in our lives.  Perhaps it was an adolescent bullying that set us apart and taught us a lesson.  Maybe there is jealousy in our workplace and we have become the object of someone’s campaign to see that we find the office too ugly a place to stay.  Or it is possible that within the sanctity of our family or prayer circle – the very refuge where we take shelter from the storms of life – we have been the object of a perfect plot.  If this is so, we feel the angst and sorrow in this psalm.

We have visited this theme before. If we type the word couches or Susana, or plot into the blog search bar we will find other reflections in which we have struggled with the apparent immunity of those who lie on their dark couches and willfully plot to inflict harm on the faithful.  The psalmist today rails against this seeming imperviousness to consequences but he also reminds us that God is in charge . . . that this kind of suffering is part of our human condition . . . and that although we may not see the consequence exacted from these evil ones, still God holds them to an accounting.  It is best to let the matter lie there and avoid thoughts of revenge or payback of any kind.  It is best to allow God to tend to these perfect, secret plots as only God can . . . with deep wisdom, with unblemished justice, with transparent grace, and with a full and burgeoning love of humanity.

I was taught as a child to pray for my enemies and today, as I read this psalm, I come to understand that only God can handle real evil. Only God can create a plan that saves all. And only God has the wisdom, beauty, and power to convert into goodness our dark and devious conspiracies.

If only we might remember that Jesus died as a result of an evil intent that took hold of those who laid out their perfect plot against him.  If only we might follow Jesus’ example as he prays for his killers.  If only we too might intervene on behalf of those who construct perfect plots against us . . . and if only we might ask our compassionate and patient God for forgiveness and renewal for all.

Tomorrow, the mystery of God’s reversal . . .  


A re-post from June 9, 2013.

THE PSALMS, NEW CATHOLIC VERSION. Saint Joseph Edition. New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 2004. 161. Print.

Image from: https://theencouragingword.co/2016/03/03/sheep-in-wolfs-clothing/

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Sirach Foreword, 1 & 2

Falling Into God’s Hands

gods hands[2]This book is not found in Hebrew or Protestant Bibles, but it is considered inspired by Catholic scholars.  So if we have time to spend with these words today, we will want to read as much as we can for it contains “numerous maxims, formulated with care, grouped by affinity, an dealing with a variety of subjects . . . It treats of friendship, education, poverty and wealth, the law, religious worship, and many other matters which reflect the religious and social customs of the time . . . Written in Hebrew between 200 and 175 B.C., the text was translated into Greek sometime after 132. B.C. by the author’s grandson, who also wrote a Foreword which contains information about the book, the author, and the translator himself”.  (Senior 822)

The verses we find in this wisdom book are often cited in reference to friendship and this week we are invited to discover the divine in our most intimate relationships as we explore some of the many gems that the author, Jesus son of Eleazar, son of Sirach, has passed to us through the millennia.  He has much to share with us and he wastes no time for beginning in the first chapters we may find the entry way to the understanding and knowledge that lead to God’s Wisdom.

Who alone knows the height of heaven, the breadth of earth, the depth of the abyss? 

Who alone knows all that was even before the creation of Wisdom herself?

Who alone creates?  Who alone pours forth bounty upon his creatures?  Who alone consoles the heart?

Who alone brings gladness, and joy and length of days?

It is the Lord, and fear – or love and awe – of this Lord is the first step in gaining true wisdom, God’s Wisdom. 

When we act in patience, we receive Wisdom.

When we exercise prudence, we receive Wisdom.

When we attend to the revelation of God through scripture – the Torah, and the Prophets – we receive Wisdom. 

Play not the hypocrite before men; over your lips keep watch.  Exalt not yourself lest you fall and bring upon you dishonor.

Portion of Sirach Scroll found at Masada

Portion of Sirach Scroll found at Masada

Nothing is held in secret from Wisdom; indeed, she reveals all before all.

When you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials.  Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in times of adversity.  Cling to him, forsake him not; thus will your future be great. 

In fire is gold tested, and worthy ones in the crucible of humiliation.

Trust God and God will help you; make straight your ways and hope in God. 

Those who love the Lord prepare their hearts and humble themselves before him.  Let us fall into the hands of the Lord and not into the hands of men, for equal to his majesty is the mercy God shows. 

 


First written on February 13, 2010.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

Earth image from: http://rahouck.blogspot.com/2010/07/whose-hands-its-in.html

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.822. Print.

For more on the author, Jesus ben Sirach, visit: www.humanistictexts.org/bensirach.htm 

For more on the discussion about the legitimacy of The Book of Sirach, click on the image above or go to: 

http://cojs.org/cojswiki/Ben_Sira_Scroll_from_Masada,_73_CE 

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Deuteronomy 4: Proofs

Teach them to your children, and to your children’s children . . .

Evidence%20Based%20Practice[1]Each time I read from the books of the law, the Torah, I again understand how difficult it was for Jewish leaders to take hold of and believe the words that Jesus spoke to them about the merciful love of God.  I also understand how difficult it was for these followers of the Mosaic Code to believe that anyone but God who lived in the temple and out of reach of the ordinary human could forgive sin.  These ideas were revolutionary for them, even blasphemous; yet, the man who delivered them was not only able to restore health, he was also able to calm the elements of nature.

What we read today tells us of a God who is faithful, a God who has shown his constancy, a God who continued to reveal himself to his people despite their errant ways.

Did anything so great ever happen before?  Was it heard of? 

Yahweh rescued his people, he brought them out of slavery, he nourished them and taught them who they were, how they were to be, and what their potential was.  Jesus arrived to walk the earth as God among his people.  Jesus fulfilled prophecy.  Jesus compressed the hundreds of Torah laws into one . . . the Law of Freedom, the Law of Love.  Nothing like this had ever been heard of.  Nothing like this has ever been heard of.

You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today, that you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have long life on the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you forever.

The focus in this reading is on the dichotomy between believing in God and believing in idols.  One of the rewards for following Yahweh is the gift of physical territory which God grants to his chosen people.  Other rewards are his fidelity to us, and his mercy when considering our actions.  These are all proofs of God’s love.  Further proofs of God’s goodness are that once Jesus is resurrected and returns to God, The Holy Spirit settles upon us to abide with us and to dwell in us, God’s people.  This is God’s promise and as we hear in today’s mini-reflection in MAGNIFICAT: God is true: he has a long memory for his own promises and a short memory for our failures to keep ours.  In the gift of his promised Spirit, we find our daily joy.  The prophet Isaiah reminds us the Morning Prayer: Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, my love never shall leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken, says the Lord who has mercy on you.  (54:10)  

We look for assurances and guarantees; we sign contracts and agreements that we trust more than we trust God’s love for us.  He has given us proofs . . . and this is the story that we must pass down to our children and our children’s children . . . so that it may live with us and in us . . . beyond the end of time.


Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 19 May 2010:265. Print.

Image from: http://www.caresearch.com.au/caresearch/tabid/1590/Default.aspx

Written on May 19, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Joel 3: Pouring Out


Joel 3: Pouring Out

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Joel[1]

Sistine Chapel – Michelangelo: The Prophet Joel

We have seen this little book a number of times and Joel always has the same message for us: the end days will be arriving – Yahweh will be just and merciful – compassion will reign but he will also pass judgment.  Joel calls us to get our spiritual house in order so that we do not suffer, so that we are rescued, so that we might live with God and all of creation in joyful harmony.  In this Christmastide, as we begin anew, we might want to consider Joel’s call.

God loves the faithful remnant so dearly that God wants to pour out the spirit upon each one.  God loves God’s children so well that God rescues them from the darkest corner and farthest place.   God loves all of creation so intensely that God leaves no door closed, no word unsaid, no gesture undone in order to bring the children home.  Let us listen to the word of this loving God as given to us by the prophet Joel.

I will pour out my spirit upon all mankind . . . imagine what we might accomplish if  we allow God’s Spirit to pour into us.

I will work wonders in the heavens and upon the earth . . . imagine what wonders we might experience if we allow God to work in us.

Everyone shall be rescued who calls upon the name of the Lord . . . imagine how we might free ourselves from old worries and anxieties if we might allow God to lead us.

There shall be a remnant as the Lord has said . . . imagine what we might experience if we come together as God’s faithful remnant.

And so we pray . . .

Grant us fresh hope at the beginning of this day: that we may live it for your glory and our neighbor’s good.

Relieve us of the burden of old worries and stored grievances: that we may pass through the narrow gate that leads to the kingdom.

Protect us from recurring fears: that we may serve you in freedom and in peace.

Heal all those who labor under the pain of depression, scrupulosity, and anxiety: that all may know the joy of your love.

Lord Jesus Christ, you have brought us safely to this new day and this new liturgical year as you promised to bring us safely to dwell with you one day in your kingdom of light.  Defend us against all that would weigh us down and slow our steps, so that we may run with delight in the way of our Gospel.   Amen.


A re-post from December 5, 2012.

Image from: http://fathermarkcollins.blogspot.com/2012/11/between-fear-plenty-lies-gods.html

Cameron, Peter John. MAGNIFICAT. 4.9 (2007). Print.  

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Psalm 118:19-29: Open the Gates

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Open the gates of victory; I will enter and thank the Lord.

locked_gates[1]Today we are reminded that we labor in vain if the Lord himself does not build the house in which we shelter.  (Psalm 127:1) If our relationships – personal and professional – are based on fear rather than truth, all our efforts are futile. If our goals – individual and collective – aim at preservation of self rather than the common good, all of our secrets hide nothing.  If our strategies – emotional and spiritual – rely on anything but God, we are doomed.  We have failed to open the gates; we have failed to thank the Lord; our house is built in vain.

The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

Catherine of Siena knows about the building of houses and the strength it takes to endure tribulation while we work.  She reminds us that as we allow God to build with us, we will be ridiculed and even scorned.  In today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation of the Day Catherine gives us a view of how the divine builder operates; she gives us a window to open that pierces our own darkness with the light of GodI give and permit everything out of love, and they are constantly scandalized in me.  Yet I patiently endure and put up with them because I loved them without their having loved me.  They are always harassing me with impatience, hatred, complaints, and with all sorts of infidelity.  They want to set themselves up to investigate with their own blind sight and opinion of my hidden judgments, which are all made justly and lovingly.  They don’t yet know themselves, and so they see falsely.  For those who do not know themselves cannot know me or my judgments in truth.  (Cameron 33)

We are often frustrated by the idiocy of ourselves and others. We do not understand why or how God allows falsehood and deception to take hold in our hearts.  We see God’s world as an imperfect place and we watch as cornerstones are rebuffed; doors and windows close tightly; hidden judgments and injustice overpower goodness and right.  We become discouraged when we believe that we have labored in vain and yet it is precisely when the obstacles are the greatest that we best see God at work.

142799-bigthumbnail[1]If we become disheartened by our tribulations we have forgotten what God has told us – that we die to be born, that the lowly are exalted, that the meek reign and the humble rise.  We become perfect in our efforts to love eternally as God loves.  We build strong houses when we build them through and in the Lord.  We let in God’s mercy and justice when we open the gates of our hearts.

Open the gates of victory; I will enter and thank the Lord.


Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 1.12 (2012): 33. Print. 

Images from http://nature.desktopnexus.com/wallpaper/142799/ and http://www.proactivesafetytraining.co.uk/Key-Holding-and-Alarm-Response(2006254).htm

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Genesis 33: Reunion


Genesis 33: Reunion

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Hendrick Ter Bruggen: Esau Selling His Birthright

In the past we have reflected on the story of how Jacob found himself in hiatus from all he knew – and how we find ourselves in that same place from time to time in our lives.  Often we wander – guessing at our true destiny, seeing glimpses of it now and then, wanting the end of the endless waiting to arrive.  We have also reflected on how Jacob came to realize that his place of exile from home had become dangerous.  He plots to outwit Laban, his father-in-law, and he manages to escape the wrath of Laban’s sons – but where does he go?  He returns home.  Re reunites with his brother Esau– whom he had deceived.  The story of Jacob until this point is one of God’s pruning of a valuable vine.  So too are we the branches of this same vine.  So too does the master of the vineyard prune us – his faithful.

Today we reflect on Jacob’s reunion with the brother he had deceived.  We can learn much about ourselves in this meeting of two who once loved and have been in hiatus.

As I read through these verses today I am so struck by how this relationship has changed during the brothers’ time apart.  The attitude of deception that characterized Jacob in Chapter 27 is gone and in fact Jacob begs Esau to accept his presence and his gifts in verse 10.  And look at what he says.  “No, I beg you!” said Jacob.  “If you will do me the favor, please accept this gift from me, since to come into your presence is for me like coming into the presence of God, now that you have received me so kindly”.

Jacob – in receiving mercy from his brother rather than a wrath that would be justified – realizes and then admits aloud that he and Esau have a holy union.  They are meant to love one another and not deceive one another.  During their time apart, Jacob has come to understand that not only had he tried to deceive Esau when he sought to cheat him of his birthright . . . he had sought to deceive God himself.  He had sought to manipulate God’s plan.

Esau wants to accompany his brother home.  Jacob does not want to tax his family or his herds.  Esau offers guards to ensure the safety of his brother’s tribe.  Jacob declines.  The two bothers come to an agreement and eventually reunite.

Last year when we reflected on Jacob and the lessons he learned about being willing and faithful, this was the prayer that came to us that day.  I offer it again below.  May all of our waiting dreams and broken hearts find such sweet reunion as these two brothers with whom we reflect today.

Sweet and loving God, may I be ever-listening, ever-faithful, ever-willing to obey your plan.  I understand that you have something wonderful in mind for me and that from where I stand I cannot see as well as you and so sometimes I am a bit afraid of what will pop up next over my horizon.  May I refrain from manipulation and from being manipulated.  May I refrain from separating myself from you, may I return to you always when I am afraid, because I know that you are always with me.  Amen.   


Image from: http://www.pubhist.com/work/10288/hendrick-ter-brugghen/esau-selling-his-birthright

Written on October 17, 2008, re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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2 Samuel 8 & 9: After Conflict . . . Mercy

Sunday, November 3, 2019

King David

This is such a straightforward story.  David is anointed king but must battle years against Saul while he waits for the crown to come to him in God’s time.  Jonathan, the son of Saul, is his boon companion in battle and in peace.  Theirs is a story worth reading.

Both Saul and Jonathan die during this conflict which leaves a vacuum for a time . . . and this is where we enter the story today.  When the dust settles, David is victorious and becomes king.  In his first days as king, he restores what was lost to the son of his friend Jonathan.  David embodies mercy.  This is why we regard him as great.  He loves.

Verses 15-18 of Chapter 8 remind me of Acts 2:42-47.  After tremendous strife there comes the lull, like the brilliant blue skies after a cloud-sweeping hurricane.  After violence and death, there is always the potent force of peace, of mercy; but there is also something always lurking – the trap door of forgetting God.  For David his sin is succumbing to the temptation of Bathsheba – the mother of Solomon.  He takes her willfully, joins with her, impregnates her, and lays a trap to murder her husband.  Then later – after his sin is cleverly pointed out by the prophet Nathan, he despairs of his actions and repents.  This is also why we regard him as great.  He atones.

“Bathsheba was capable, subtle, and gifted. She produced a son, Solomon, whose wisdom and intellectual brilliance would be known throughout history”.
Frank Dicksee: http://www.womeninthebible.net/women-bible-old-new-testaments/bathsheba/

In times of plenty we ought to rejoice, but we also must hold ourselves ready for the temptations which always follow when tensions ease.  Perhaps a little conflict is a good thing – it keeps us prepared for what is important.  It prevents us from thinking that we alone are sufficient.  It reminds us that God alone is enough.  This is the greatest lesson David brings to us.  He remembers . . . that even in cataclysmic times we must show mercy . . . for we will want mercy shown to us in like fashion.

Forgive us our sins as we forgive . . .

Amen.


Written on October 16, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

To see two short video clips from NOVA about the unearthing of the walls of Jerusalem and its palace, click on the image of David above and go through the six slides, or go to: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/bible/maza-01.html

To read more about Bathsheba, click on the image of “Leila” above or go to: http://www.womeninthebible.net/1.11.Bathsheba.htm

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1 Kings 2: Consolidation

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Ferdinand Bol: David’s Dying Charge to Solomon

Today’s reading is full of violence and intrigue – not unlike the political and social landscape in which we constantly find ourselves.  People do not hide out much in the tent of the Lord these days, nor do they order heads to be severed from bodies in retribution; but we do indeed destroy reputations, we intimidate and threaten, we use ever kind of subtle and not so subtle violence to get what we want.  We usually do this without counting the cost to others; and we also forget to measure the ultimate cost to ourselves.

In this forgetting of self and others . . . we show our forgetfulness of God.

David leaves a kingdom and a way of life to his son, Solomon because he knows how difficult it is to maintain fidelity and remain in God.  David also knows how much God loves his people and how willing God is to forgive us our faults.  The aging father tries to pass along his understanding of “the measure” to his young son and when we read this entire story we see how much Solomon is able to retain; we find out how and if he prospers from his father’s final words.

Jesus makes the rules of his kingdom clear to us: The measure that you measure with is measured out to you.  There is only one true commandment – love God and love one another, even as I have loved you.  In this week’s scripture class we are asked to re-think the yardsticks we constantly use to make decisions about what we will say and what we will do.  Do we show partiality to a special group of people or to a special idea?  How do we perceive others?  How do we perceive ourselves?  How do our actions demonstrate our perception of God?

James calls us back to the realization that we do not see as God sees, and he reminds us that when we make judgments we so often are looking at the external and forgetting that Jesus lives in everyone we meet – even those people we do not like.  James tells us in 2:1-13 that when we show deference to those with money and power, we neglect those who are poor in worldly treasures and those who are poor in spirit.  We neglect those with whom Jesus chooses to reside, the physically, emotionally and spiritually marginalized.  Jesus calls the poor and the broken-hearted to himself in order that he might heal them.  These are the people for whom Jesus demonstrates compassion.  And so ought we.  Jesus calls the rich and powerful to an accounting.  He is moved to rebuke them for their lack of regard for his poor and broken-hearted.  And so ought we to be moved if we wish to bring about the kingdom.

Today we read of all the plotting and scheming that occur as the young King Solomon consolidates his kingdom.  He lives in treacherous times.  So do we.   And so we pray . . .

Dear Lord,

It is so very difficult to trust in you alone.  We so often forget that you are watching over us and accompanying us in our journey.  The world seems so very scary and in our human survival reaction to our fears, we forget to rely on you alone.  Help us to see as you see.  Help us to look past the external.  Help us to feel as you feel.  Move us with your compassion.  Grace us with the gift of your love.  Help us to free ourselves by acting in humility, mercy and forgiveness.  Help us to see that by freeing others we also free ourselves. And when we move to consolidate our forces from our feeble human weak places, remind us to come together with others in you.  We ask this in Jesus’ name as we give ourselves over to the power of the Holy Spirit who lives and moves in us, and who calls us to unity. 

Amen. 


Adapted from a reflection written on January 30, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

For more on the story portrayed in the painting above, click on the image or go to: http://fourhandles.blogspot.com/2011/04/1-kings-23-davids-final-advise-to.html

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2 Corinthians 2:5-11: Seek Pardon

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The surest way to fend off the forces of darkness is to pardon one another.  This is how the world, God, and we ourselves will know that we truly love.

From La Biblia de América: Apostles must be compassionate and know how to pardon.  This is not discipline for the sake of discipline itself, nor is it a punishment leveled by the church, the community.  Nor is it acceptable to allow permissiveness or anarchy.  There are even tines when the church – we – must make decisions which may be painful for us.  But the last word will always be love, reunion and pardon.

We have said this before in our Noontime reflections: Permissiveness leads to a further lack of obedience before God.  A community of Christians is called to rebuke one another in mercy . . . first alone and if not heard, then with another member of the community and again if not heard . . . finally, before the assembly.  This kind of discipline is what brings unity out of diversity.

This is the time of year when we have recently celebrated the Feast of the Ascension and remember that Christ – when he rises to God – carries our humanity with himself.  He opens the door to the possibility that we too, may unite with God in the most intimate of ways.

This intimacy is what we all seek.  It is what we yearn for, what we crave.  It is what we feel lacking in our lives.  And it is a thirst that will only be quenched if we first find it within ourselves to seek pardon and to pardon . . . to love and be loved . . . to unite with all that is . . . even if it is different from what we know.  We are people who long for reunion.  Let us open the door of forgiveness and enter into love.


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

Images from: http://thrivingwithneurofibromatosis.blogspot.com/2012/05/forgiveness.html and http://youthspeaknews.org/2011/11/29/the-gift-of-forgiveness-this-advent-season/

A re-post from May 30, 2012.

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