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Posts Tagged ‘patience’


Esther 7: The Persecutor

Giovanni Andrea Sirani: Esther Before Ahasuerus

Saturday, February 17, 2018 

Yesterday we assessed the narcissism we might discover in ourselves and how unilateral listening governs our world circumstances. Today we reflect on how Esther and Mordecai operate in their world – and what we might learn from them.

It is clear that Haman is consumed by envy of Mordecai and while we cannot analyze this character from a Biblical story, we can certainly learn from his actions. It is also clear that Esther – as a woman but especially as a Jewish woman in a non-Jewish court – fears for her life, and the life of her nation. The kingdom of Xerxes is an ancient one in which individual rights are denied to most. We might believe that we as a species have evolved and it is true that in general, we have. However, many peoples in our modern society have no benefit of personal rights. When this happens, we might speculate, it is often the result of someone, or some group, behaving in a narcissistic manner. Navigating these troubling conditions is difficult at best. What does the story of Esther have to tell us?

Queen Esther answered, “If it please Your Majesty to grant my humble request, my wish is that I may live and that my people may live”.

Humility is usually an ineffective tool against brutality; it seems to encourage even more violence. Yet, here we see that despite her humble behavior and words, Esther acts in order to save a people.

If you keep quiet at a time like this, help will come from heaven to the Jews, and they will be saved, but you will die and your father’s family will come to an end. Yet who knows—maybe it was for a time like this that you were made queen!” (Esther 4:14)

On Ash Wednesday when we explored Chapter 4, we considered Martin Neimöller’s advice that if we do not speak against evil and injustice, we guarantee not our safety, but our sure demise. Despite their fear, Esther and Mordecai form a solidarity of two as they begin a quiet, patient assertion of justice and truth.

An article from Psychology Today gives us guidelines to manage the effects of narcissism. These experts advise that we evaluate both our surroundings and the narcissist to look for context, that we maintain a firm sense of purpose along with a sense of humor, and that we remain realistic about how much we can accomplish when working with the self-centered. If we are in dangerous surroundings, controlled by a persecutor as Esther and Mordecai are, we begin by turning to God and finding others with whom to form solidarity. We move forward with patience, reliance on the Creator, persisting in hope, and acting in mercy.

Tomorrow, fighting back.

When we read varying translations of this story by using the scripture link and the drop-down menus, we find an opportunity to transform a world beset by narcissism.

For more advice, read the August 14, 2014 post “Eight Ways to Handle a Narcissist”. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201408/8-ways-handle-narcissist

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Job 22: Beyond Human Limits – Part II

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Job’s “friend” in today’s Noontime lives by absolute, simplistic thinking.  Eliphaz tells Job that once he admits his sins, his pain and suffering will cease.  We know – because we have looked at this story many times and have paused to ponder the wisdom held within, that Job suffers innocently.  His goodness surfaces in a conversation between God and Satan.  The devil tells the Almighty that the only reason Job is so devout is because God cares for this servant so well.  It is true that for Job, life is good; yet God knows the depth of this man’s love for his creator. And so God tells Satan that he may do anything he likes to Job except terminate his life.  God believes that they will see deep fidelity from this servant; he knows that Job will remain faithful.  The devil delights in this bargain, believing that humans cannot suffer well, and so Job loses all: his family, his resources, his health.  His wife tells him to curse God and die.  His three “friends” sit with him and offer the kind of advice we read about today.  Job counters repeatedly, never giving in to the temptation to curse God and capitulate.  He never loses faith in God.  He never loses hope that all will be revealed.  He never loses the love engendered in him.  He questions God, he defends himself against the poor advice from his “friends” and he waits.  He is supremely patient.  And he is ultimately rewarded for his fidelity.

Job has the freedom to choose how he will react to the circumstances in which he finds himself.  Eliphaz baits him – much like the devil baits Jesus in today’s Gospel (Luke 4:1-13).  Jailed, and later executed by the Nazis, Fr. Alfred Delp understands this kind of suffering. He writes . . . During these long weeks of confinement I have learned by personal experience that a person is truly lost, is the victim of circumstances and oppression only when he is incapable of a great inner sense of depth and freedom.  Anyone whose natural element is not an atmosphere of freedom, unassailable and unshakable whatever force may be put on it, is already lost; but such a person is not really a human being anymore; he is merely an object, a number, a voting paper.  And the inner freedom can only be attained of widening our own horizons.  We must progress and grow, we must mount above our own limitations.  It can be done; the driving force is the inner urge to conquer whose very existence shows that human nature is fundamentally designed for this expansion

Tomorrow, the freedom to suffer, and final words from Father Delp.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 21.2 (2010). Print.  

Adapted from a reflection written on February 21, 2010.

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Job 40:1-5: Arguing with the Almighty – Part IV

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Laurent de La Hyre:
Job Restored to Prosperity

Looking forward to the end of Job’s story we have the choice of thinking that Job’s happy ending is the result of fantasy, or we may choose to believe that God abides and keeps promises.  This choice to believe or doubt is entirely up to us; and I choose to believe that the story is not a fairy tale.  I choose to believe that God abides.

THE MESSAGE translation of Job 40 begins with words from God, “I run the universe”. After we struggle with Job through his long story of loss and pain, we understand that although he – and we – long for specific answers to our specific questions, we must be content to rely on God’s goodness and love for us. We must be content to depend on God’s gift of hope and covenant. And we must be content to trust God’s steadfastness and mercy.

How do we do this? We have a model in Job whose fidelity through deep travail brings us a pearl of wisdom that we might employ to see our worries and anxieties through a lens of patience. Job’s persistence, as he journeys through the obstacle course of woe visited on him by Satan, gives us new eyes to refocus our own worldview.

When we spend time with Job 40, we have a fresh appreciation of his steadfastness; and we have a transformative moment to argue with the Almighty that opens us to the possibility of resurrection.

Today we use the scripture links and drop-down menus to help us argue with the Almighty. 

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Job 40:1-5: Arguing with the Almighty – Part II

Friday, February 2, 2018

Ilya Repin: Job and his Friends

When God seems distant to us we might pick up Job’s story, with its human drama of innocent suffering, to see how and where we fit into the tale.  Are we the wife who urges her husband to curse God and die (2:9)? Are we the friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar who insist that Job repent for some nameless sin even as Job proclaims his innocence, saying that he knows not what he did to incur God’s wrath?  Do we act as the Satan does in the opening chapters, do we roam the earth looking for mischief to create?  How do we see God?  As a sarcastic tyrant or as a faithful creator who only has our good in mind?  How do we react when we feel estranged from God?  With petulance, or like Job who admits at last that God is great and that God is good?  Do we, like Job, finally put our worries aside knowing that God will handle them?  Do we intercede when asked, as Job does, for the very friends who tried to lead us astray?  Do we rely on God or on ourselves?  Do we spend sleepless nights worrying about our own guilt and innocence, or do we move on to pick up the threads of a broken life as best we can?  What do we do?  How do we pray?  Where do we turn for help?

In today’s reading Job agrees to put his hand over his mouth so that he might finally listen to Yahweh, and he does this after having made a full and cogent argument to his maker.  If we follow Job’s example, we understand that we are meant to wrestle with God.  We are created to think, reflect and re-think.  We are created to know God and to serve God; and to do this well we must ask questions.  These questions are followed by enigmatic answers from God that we struggle to understand and, at first glance, we see as unsatisfactory. Later, when we practice persistence and fidelity, we begin to understand God’s message. Therefore, as we put our questions to God, we must also remain patient and authentic. For it is with waiting and honesty that we acquire wisdom, a full and nourishing wisdom that comes through lengthy days of listening, reflecting and praying.

Tomorrow, God abides.

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2 Samuel 16: Adversaries

William Brassey: Hole: David Fleeing Jerusalem is Cursed by Shimei 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

We have journeyed through Christmastide. We have spent time with the magi and their gifts of wisdom, mystery and grace. Today we reflect on one of Jesus’ major messages: Loving our enemies.

Various translations present today’s story with varying titles; yet despite the words, the story of David’s patience, wisdom and forgiveness remains the same. David – who seeks forgiveness from Yahweh himself – understands the importance of mercy. David says that we need to allow our foes to curse us if that is the will of God, for who are we to stand in the way of God’s design?  When Shimei curses him, David says, Let him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. Later, in Chapter 19, Shimei returns to David and repents his cursing.  David forgives him.

What do we learn today? We never know when someone is on his or her conversion path, and to allow someone conversion of heart is correct, just, and God-like.

As we move forward into this new year, we will want to give thought to the benefit, the beauty and the grace we might find in allowing our adversaries to curse us.

When we use the scripture link and the drop-down menus to explore various versions of these verses, we discover the many gifts that come to us when we love our enemies. 

For an in-depth look at today’s story, visit: https://www.ucg.org/beyond-today/blogs/what-about-reconciliation-a-lesson-from-shimei-and-king-david 

Adapted from a reflection written on February 4, 2008.

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Matthew 1:1-17: Genealogy

Jesus’ Family Tree

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

As commentary explains the issue of genealogy, the purpose of Matthew’s inclusion of this long list of who begat whom serves to describe the fourteen generations in this listing, 14 being the numerical value of the letters in the name David.  I once heard an entire lecture on numerology and the Hebrew alphabet, concepts important to Matthew’s audience, the Jewish people at the time of Christ.  The salient point here is that Matthew was making the case that the man Jesus was indeed the long-awaited Messiah who springs from David’s line.  Yet, despite this affirmation that emanated from their way of thinking, despite the many signs and fulfillments of Old Testament scriptures and the prophets, the people refused to accept the evidence before them. We might ask why; and the answer is . . . because they wanted to.

When Jesus came into his family, his town, his country, his culture, he upended many of the long-held tenets.  He came to set the world on fire, to cause discussion, to move the people out of their comfort zone.  He did this in his own time and he continues to do this with us today. He does this with an inversion that startles and even frightens us, but that also transforms us.

We might turn to Paul to better understand the genealogy we share with Jesus. Paul explains to the Galatians, and he explains to us . . . When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. (Galatians 4:4-7)

Family was important to my parents – both the generations before us and the generations to come. These cohorts formed a foundation on which Mother and Dad stood and from which they drew strength as they met the daily challenges of life. We need to practice standing and stretching. We need to practice patience and forgiveness.

Today we read of Jesus’ legitimacy.  Let us reflect on our own legitimacy as his adopted sisters and brothers.  Do we share his patience?  Do we share his love for those who curse us?  Do we share his love for doing God’s will?  Are we legitimate heirs of the redemption Jesus has given to us?

For more information on Jesus’s Family Tree, visit the PBS Frontline site at: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/jesus/tree.html 

For details on this tree, for comparisons of Luke’s and Matthew’s genealogies, visit: http://www.complete-bible-genealogy.com/genealogy_of_jesus.htm

Tomorrow, loving our enemies. 

Adapted from a reflection written on February 4, 2008.

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Matthew 2:1-12Leaving by Another Road – A Reprise

Epiphany Sunday, January 7, 2018

Edward Burne-Jones: The Adoration of the Magi

With Christmastide ended, we find ourselves observing the official feast of Epiphany. What significance does this feast hold for us? To further explore, we return to a Noontime reflection on the wisdom of the Magi. We reflect on the wisdom they reveal, the wisdom of patience, willingness, and  openness . . . as they listen to God’s voice that speaks within. 

I love this portion of the Christmas story.  The wise men are so wise that they are able to read Herod’s secret intent.  Nothing can be hidden from the wise because they are so connected to the creator that they seem to have special insight.  What they really have is patience, serenity, and a finely tuned ear for God’s word.  And so the wise men left for their own country by another road.

I am thinking about the number of times I have averted disaster because that calm, strong voice within indicated that I was to stay put.  We notice that an attitude of patience and a willingness to obey always accompany the wise.  They do not appear to be brash or excitable.  They do not speak harshly, nor are they silenced.  Like the Persistent Widow, they know when to persevere in speaking God’s word.  And like the Three Magi, they know when to stand down and melt away into God’s protecting presence.

The wise know when to stand and witness . . . and when to leave quietly by another road.

A reflection from June 7, 2011.

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Ephesians 4: Seek Ripening

Friday, December 1, 2017

Richard Rohr, OFM explains that we learn wisdom and have no need to judge others when we allow ourselves to ripen in God’s image, to mature in Christ’s love, to grow in the Spirit’s patience and perseverance.

“If we are to speak of a spirituality of ripening, we need to recognize that it is always characterized by an increasing tolerance for ambiguity, a growing sense of subtlety, an ever-larger ability to include and allow, and a capacity to live with contradictions and even to love them!” (Rohr 346)

Paul tells the Ephesians, and he tells us: And so we shall all come together to that oneness in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God; we shall become mature people, reaching to the very height of Christ’s full stature. (GNT)

God says: You have no need to judge one another. You have no need to point out specks on the eyes of others. You have no need to strain gnats before drinking from the cup I offer you. Do you see yourself swallowing camels or does the log in your eye keep you from discerning your own image? How do you represent me in the world? How do you act as my hands and feet, lips and eyes, heart and mind? My Spirit lives in you to bring you wisdom and patience. My Son lives in you to bring courage and persistence. I live in you to bring you strength and maturity.When you welcome ripening, you will suffer loss but this loss is a gain when you allow me to suffer with you. When you welcome maturity, your desire to protect yourself or to win at all costs will disappear because when you fully welcome me you will learn that with me a loss is a gain and a gain is a loss. When you ripen in me, you never grow old. When you mature in me, you never fear the woes of the world. When you grow in me, there is no limit to your patience and love. Come to me when you worry about gnats and camels, specks and beams, rights and wrongs. Come to me, and you will have need of nothing more, for my love alone is enough.

Today we God offers us an opportunity to seek growth, wisdom and maturity. God calls us to ripen in the Spirit, and to come to full season in Christ.

We turn to Luke 6:37-42 and Matthew 23 to remind ourselves of Christ’s warning against judging others.

Enter the words spiritual maturity into the blog search bar to explore other reflections on how we might grow in Christ.

Click on the spiritual path image for a Huffington Post blog post on signs of spiritual maturity. 

Richard Rohr, OFM. A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations. Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016.

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Nehemiah 1 and 2: Rebuilding Walls

The Damascus Gate by night in Jerusalem

Thursday, October 12, 2017

We visit with Nehemiah several times a year and each time we rediscover the themes of covenant, restoration, and rebuilding.  Today’s reading takes us to the beginning of the restoration of Jerusalem after the northern invasion and the Babylonian exile.  This book was written in about 430 B.C.E. and as it begins, we see Nehemiah, the Jewish man who serves as Cupbearer to the foreign king.  Footnotes tell us this means that he was an important official who was allowed to come into the presence of not only the king but the queen as well.  This would suggest that he was a eunuch but there is no evidence to support that fact.  What we do understand is that he was highly placed in this foreign administration and we can guess, when we see his skills displayed throughout this story that he rose to that position through his skill.  But there is an important element to this story. Nehemiah prayed constantly, and this praying kept him connected intimately with his creator.  Nehemiah called on God continually for direction, and God gave direction to this good and loyal servant.

As the story begins, news arrives with several Jewish men who have just come from Judah, from Jerusalem.  The news is not good; but filled with courage and a love of his God, Nehemiah responds to his creator’s call and so it is with a mixture of trepidation and courage that he goes to the king. As we read, we find several interesting points.

  • Today’s reading begins in the month of Chislev – the same month in which we will later see (in the year 165 B.C.E.) the celebration of the re-dedication of the temple which we were reading and reflecting about some days ago. We too are in the month of Chislev, and the celebration of Hannukah was just completed this week. The Festival of Light – the season of a small shaft of light piercing the intense darkness.
  • Should you prove faithless, I will scatter you among the nations; but should you return to me and carefully keep my commandments, even though your outcasts have been driven to the farthest corner of the world, I will gather them from there, and bring them back to the place which I have chosen as the dwelling place for my name. This is the covenant promise which Jesus fulfills four centuries later and which he continues to fulfill for us each day.
  • Nehemiah not only asks permission to visit his former city, he also asks for soldiers, protection, and permission to fell trees with which to rebuild the city and gates, and a house for himself. He does not do things by half-measures; he is totally and truly dedicated to God in temperance, patience, endurance and perseverance.

Tomorrow, arriving in Jerusalem.

Adapted from a Favorite written during Advent, on December 15, 2007

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