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Posts Tagged ‘mercy’

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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Matthew 17:1-8: Transfigured

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Raphael: The Transfiguration

I love this story because it is so indicative of how we humans behave.  When we see something beautiful we want to capture it.  When we feel something exhilarating we want it to possess it.  When we witness something powerful we want to hold it forever.  Peter, James and John see Jesus transformed, radiating brilliance.

In Mark’s version (9:2-8) and in Luke’s story (9:28-36) we hear again about the brilliance of the whiteness, the flashing of light, God’s voice booming out that he is pleased with Jesus.  We understand that Jesus holds a conversation with Elijah and Moses about his own exodus to come.  Mark tells us that the apostles were frightened.  The apostles suggest to Jesus that they erect tents; Lord, it is good that we are here.  If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.  Luke adds about Peter: He did not know what he was saying.  So many times when we witness a miracle we do not comprehend what is really happening.  Our perspective is too narrow, our view too limited.  We want to hold and keep the present beyond its purpose.  We fear the future and regret the past.  The present, we tell ourselves, is something we can control.  And so we try to hold on to a transfiguration that is meant to be a transition to something new.  We trust what we know . . . and we fear what we do not.

I am amazed that God continues to accompany us when we are so tiny beside his greatness, so stingy beside his mercy, and so self-centered beside his generosity.  I am thinking of a prayer I have just read in Phyllis Tickle’s THE DIVINE HOURS: PRAYERS FOR SPRINGTIME (255): Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves.  Keep me both outwardly in my body and inwardly in my soul, that I might be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul”.  We want so much to draw out our happiness so that it might last forever.  We yearn to capture serenity and hold it fast.  We wish that sadness and loss were experiences we did not have to suffer; and when transfiguration comes we want to remain in it . . . not noticing that once we have been transformed we must go forth to transform the world.

As we approach Holy Week and the miracle of Easter when Jesus suffered, died and rose again to bring us the gift of eternal life, let us follow Jesus along with James and Peter and John to the top of our own high mountain to experience the vision of dazzling whiteness and the gift of transfiguration; and let us celebrate.  How glad and how grateful we must be that Jesus did not follow the suggestion of his friends and remain on the mountain forever in a state of bliss.  How blessed and how graced are we that Jesus abides with us each day calling us to our own transfiguration.  How good and how gracious is our God that he visits us – his little children – constantly and faithfully . . . to grant us miracles in our sorrow, light in our darkness, and peace in all our adversity.


A re-post from March 28, 2012. 

Image from: http://www.3pipe.net/2011/01/giovanni-bellini-st-francis-in-desert.html

Tickle, Phyllis.  THE DIVINE HOURS: PRAYERS FOR SPRINGTIME. New York: Doubleday, 2001. Print.

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Sirach 45:1-5: The Old and the New

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Written on January 18 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Moses Pleading With Israel

“Moses manifested God’s power through miracles, God’s authority through the promulgation of the commandments and the law, and God’s mercy through the intimacy granted him by the Lord for his own faithfulness and meekness. The very personification of the old covenant, Moses was also a type of Christ, the Prophet and Legislator of the new.  God’s honor devolved upon him: Moses was actually God’s substitute in dealing with Pharaoh, hence God entrusted his own honor to Moses”. (Senior 867-868)

Power, authority, mercy, intimacy, faithfulness and meekness:

Here is a valuable lesson for us.

The sort of meekness that is the gracious humility shown by Christ is also the meekness that Moses demonstrated.  This meekness leads to faithfulness.

Jesus Teaching in the Temple

The sort of faithfulness that is constant and intentional is the fidelity shown by Christ to the father and to his flock.  This faithfulness leads to intimacy.

The sort of intimacy that shares and does not control is lived by Christ in every story we read about him.  This intimacy leads to mercy.

The sort of mercy that is compassion is personified by Christ.  This mercy leads to authority.

The sort of authority vested in Christ is the same authority we are granted when we follow Christ.  This authority leads to power.

This power is everlasting.  It comes from the father, is explained to us by the prophets, and is lived for us by Christ.

Moses is a personification of the Old Covenant, Jesus is the New.  God entrusts Christ’s honor to those who are meek, merciful and in intimate relationship with him.

Here is a valuable lesson for us.  Let us take it in today . . . and ponder it.


A re-post from November 1, 2011.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.867-868. Print.   

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Luke 11:5-13: Prayer


Luke 11:5-13Prayer

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Prayer is at the center of human petition.  Cries of anguish rise from the human throat.  Cries of pain rise from the human heart.  In today’s Noontime Jesus teaches us why we should petition the Father.  And he teaches us how.  Jesus reminds us that prayer is always answered.  And he promises that we will all have answers for our questions . . . when we seek.

We ask for change . . . Jesus is the change we seek.

We ask for peace . . . Jesus is the peace we crave.

We ask for mercy . . . Jesus is the mercy that heals.

We ask for an end to sorrow . . . Jesus is new life that restores.

Ask and you will receive . . . we are impatient with God’s time and space.

Seek and you will find . . . we want to be in control rather then become one with God’s timelessness.

Knock and the door will be opened to you . . . we want to know all the answers before we step forward in faith.

How much more will the Father in heaven give . . . ? God gives us life always and endlessly.

Our human eyes want to see God, and so we do . . . each day in the many small goodnesses that happen in and to us.

Our human hearts want to experience God, and so we do . . . each day in the multitude of prayers we offer and receive.

Our human hands want to touch God, and so we do . . . each day in the many small acts of compassion and healing that we perform.

May we be in constant prayer.  May we live in mercy.  May we know peace.


A re-post from September 29, 2011. 

Image from: http://www.blackburn.anglican.org/more_info.asp?current_id=245

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2 Kings 21Wicked Kings 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Written on May 17, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

It is easy to blame problems on wicked or ineffective leaders.  It is also easy to fault ourselves and to blame our own incapabilities or weaknesses.  To explain evil by blaming others or selves is a constant human occupation . . . yet it need not be so.  There is always an option open to us when confronted with insurmountable obstacles or “wicked kings” of any kind.  Our trouble is that when we find ourselves in the throes of conflict we cannot see the simplest of solutions, the solution which is always open to the faithful – calling on the power of God.

The faithful who find a path of serenity amidst the turmoil and deception that surrounds them practice a simple formula which we might examine: the faithful pray intercessory petitions for those who are wicked, they trust God with their woe and their joy, they practice prudence, temperance, compassion and mercy.

Scripture always brings us the same story: God’s desire to be with the creatures he has created, God’s yearning to be one with all, God’s willingness to sacrifice self to bring his faithful to intimate union with him.  Peace and justice will prevail when the faithful see and hear this Word of God.  Serenity is achieved when the Word is practiced, lived, and is made part of what we think, say and do.  God might choose to make all of us good instead of stubborn and stiff-necked; but if God were to do this, he would take away our own freedom to choose good over evil.  And God so loves us that he wants us to choose him . . . just as he has chosen us.

We need not fear wicked kings; rather, we must pray for their healing and conversion.  We must pray for their change of heart, for the unstiffening of their necks  . . . for it is in this way that we will find our own blessed center . . . our highest potential . . . our best self . . . the place where we are one with God.

Perhaps this is the gift of wicked kings . . . they bring us to our own best hope . . . to the Word . . . to God.


A re-post from September 13, 2011.

Image from: http://colombomusium.blogspot.com/2010/04/colombo-museum.html

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1 John 4:12: God’s Enormous Love

Easter Wednesday, April 4, 2018

We continue the celebration of Easter throughout this holiest of liturgical times, focusing on one verse a day, comparing varying translations, remembering God’s immense love, anticipating the joy of God’s hope, and resting in the transformation of God’s wisdom.

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. (NRSV)

We look for physical signs of God’s presence . . . yet we see God in the acts of mercy we offer to one another.

No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in union with us, and his love is made perfect in us. (GNT)

We look for spiritual signs of God’s presence . . . yet we see God’s hope in the acts of rescue we offer to one another.

No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God remains united with us, and our love for him has been brought to its goal in us. (CJB)

We look for emotional signs of God’s presence . . . yet we see God in the wisdom we offer to one another.

No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love! (MSG)

We look for God in so many ways . . . yet God is among us without our thinking, without our asking, without our believing.

How might we bring the Easter joy of God’s love to one who seeks wisdom, hope and compassion?


When we compare translations of these verses, we come to understand that the perfection of love is its steadfast power and hope in our lives.

Image from: https://williamsonsource.com/pennells-ponderings-on-god-being-in-control/ 

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