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Posts Tagged ‘perseverance’


Judith 4Prayer, Penance, and Action

Carlo Francesco Nuvolone: Judith with the head of Holofernes

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The story of Judith is one of my favorites and it seems that we visit it about once a year.  Perhaps I like it so much because a woman takes matters into her own hands and is able to not only defeat a nation but to also bring Judah to atonement.  And she does this through prayer, penance, and action.  You may want to fast forward through these chapters to discover Holofernes’ fate at the hands this Jewish widow and her handmaiden; or you may want to rest in this part of the story before you move on.  In any case, the story is a wonderful one.

The ritual performed by the inhabitants of Jerusalem is a rite of entreaty.  The recommended precautions in the mountain passes were typical of a people making a defensive stance.  The generals and priests prepare for war; the woman prepares to listen to God’s instructions.

In my mother’s Douay version, the high priest reminds the people that it was through holy prayer that Moses overcame Amalek – a man who trusted in his own power and army, his shields, chariots, horsemen, and swords.  So that all of the people might hear, he intones: So shall all the enemies of Israel be, if you persevere in this work which you have begun. The people follow the priest’s advice.  And they all begged of God with all their heart, that he would visit his people Israel.

God visits us daily and constantly – whether we realize it or not.

God hears our cries of joy and distress – whether we feel it or not.

God answers prayers and brings miracles – whether we see it or not.

Let Judith be an example of faithful and faith-filled perseverance.

Let Judith remind us that prayer and penance will open clear communication with God so that our actions will be – like Judith’s – an answer to God’s call.


A Favorite from December 2, 2010.

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Judith 

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Job 42: Humbled and Satisfied

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

If we sit patiently with Job to read his story, we are rewarded . . . just as Job is rewarded for sitting with the Lord through suffering.

If we take in the ideas Job exchanged with his friends, we are healed . . . just as Job is healed when he remains in God.

If we live in fidelity to God as Job does, we experience humility . . . just as Job does when he hears the Lord speak.

If we seek wisdom as Job does, we find satisfaction . . . just as Job does when he hears the Lord address his friends. After God had finished addressing Job, he turned to Eliphaz the Temanite and said, “I’ve had it with you and your two friends. I’m fed up! You haven’t been honest either with me or about me—not the way my friend Job has.”

Honesty, authenticity, perseverance, courage, fidelity. These are the signposts we might follow as we move through life. They are antecedents of the meekness and fulfilment we see in Christ nearly a thousand years later. They are the presence of the consolation and healing we encounter in the Holy Spirit we experience in our own lives. They are the wisdom and peace we seek today.


Image from: https://lamountaincoaching.com/humility/can-promote-humility/

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Jeremiah 9Joy Out of Corruption

Friday, June 29, 2018

Jeremiah’s concern in this chapter of his prophecy is the corruption of the people; he describes it with vivid images.  They ready their tongues like a drawn bow; with lying, and not with truth, they hold forth in the land.  They go from evil to evil, but me they know not, says the Lord.  Rather than speak of trust and compassion, the following verses warn all to be on guard.  Even Jacob – whose name indicates that “he supplants” – is remembered as the brother who cheated his twin Esau out of his inheritance rather than the man who fathered the twelve tribes of Israel.  Here we read about perverse friends who are guilty of slander, and commit violence upon violence, deceit upon deceit.  We have all likely been touched by this kind of duplicity in which associates speak cordially while in their hearts they lay ambushes.  We may have participated in these ambushes knowingly or unknowingly.  Verses 1 through 8 give us a sad picture of a people who have turned away from God.

The verses that follow describe what has happened to the land once her people forget God.  Birds of the air, beasts of the land have all fled; the cities are a wasteland.  God evokes a funeral dirge from his people; the wicked have polluted everything they touch.  The intensity of the sadness increases, yet . . . as always with God there is a flicker of hope. As always with God good comes out of evil.  As always with God no harm goes unanswered with compassion.  And this is the reaction we are called to give as we read these dark passages; rather than sink into the pit of darkness as the wicked would wish, we are to rise in resurrection hope with the faithful who refuse to give in to iniquity.  As believers in a God who forgives, redeems and transforms, we are to do as St. Paul reminds Timothy (2 Timothy 4:2): Proclaim the word: be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.  Imagine the world of Jeremiah if enough people had united in a voice that called for goodness over corruption.  Imagine our world today if enough of us are able to animate one another to do good rather than succumb to evil.

At the close of this Chapter Jeremiah warns his contemporaries – and he warns us – that we ought not be smug, nor ought we believe that our own talents or powers have kept us from failure since our wisdom, strength and glory all come from God.   Even circumcision as a sign of faith becomes a hollow, worthless act if we refuse to turn in hope to God.  Returning to Paul’s letters we find in Romans 4 and 5 a similar statement concerning those who appear to live in the Spirit but who in fact do not – while there are many uncircumcised who act in the Spirit and are therefore justified through their faith.  Paul recommends that we not turn away from any suffering we experience because of our work in the Spirit because this kind of pain produces a perseverance, character and hope that also carry a peace that comfort bought with collusion and corruption can never give us.   If we are looking for any kind of guarantee of joy . . . we find it in the true Spirit of the Living God . . . and never in the dishonesty and complicity Jeremiah tells us about today.

And so we pray with Jeremiah and Paul: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, nor the strong man glory in his strength, nor the rich man glory in his riches; but rather, let him who glories, glory in this, that in his prudence he knows God, knows that the Lord brings about kindness, justice and uprightness on the earth.  And so rather than sink into despair at the corruption around us, we ask God to bring goodness out of this harm.  And we give thanks for the struggles that produce perseverance, character, and hope . . . a hope that does not disappoint, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us.  Amen. 


Image from: https://www.pexels.com/search/joy/

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on June 29, 2011.

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Psalm 22: Spiritual Warfare – Proclaiming God’s Name

Easter Saturday, April 7, 2018

Yesterday we began a reflection of Psalm 22 and its opening mournful words uttered by Jesus from the cross, My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Today we arrive at the later portion of this hymn of praise.

Then I will proclaim your name to the assembly; in the community I will praise you.

Large words on the wall of the student-dining hall where I teach remind us as we enter:  You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.  (Micah 6:8There is no mystery in this.  The completion of God’s plan is predictable; and if we wish to survive spiritual battle, the requirement is simple as Micah tells us: We train ourselves in order to invite wisdom; we exercise compassion with justice in order to invite goodness.  All the rest follows naturally.  The outcome of good over evil is predictable and sure; but the timing and details are in God’s hands.

All the ends of the earth will worship the Lord; all the families of nations will bow down to you.

In this end that Micah sees but whose time we cannot foresee, God is all there is.  The war of life is waged and won by God.  Any influence of evil disappears.  The faithful remnant is rewarded. This we are promised.

I will live for the Lord; my descendants will serve you.  The generation to come will be told of the Lord, that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you brought.

When miracles of liberation happen, we must proclaim them, thanking God.  We must sing God’s praise continually for blessings great and small because in spiritual warfare the fall of darkness and deceit is brought about in an accumulation of these small songs intoned by the grand chorus of the thankful.  We also remember that the tiniest of miracles – constant signs of God’s presence in our lives – are significant for those to whom they are granted.

Mathis Gothart Grünewald: The Crucifixion (detail) 

In spiritual warfare we need not connive, we need not plot.  We need only do what we know is right, understanding that we are graced by God.  We need to avoid thinking that we are in control, knowing that God’s plan is always better than our own.  We need to give over everything to God, believing that God turns all harm to good, even – and especially – the ultimate resolution of all conflict.

We are foot soldiers in spiritual warfare, and we know our orders.  We must be patient in our perseverance as we grow to become God’s harvest in God’s time.  We must speak, pray, study, witness, watch and wait.  We must be ready.  This is all that is required of us.  We do not know the hour or time of this warfare’s end; but we know the outcome.  This we have been promised.   This we are told.  Let us pass the word along . . . that in the hour when we feel most abandoned, we are most accompanied.  That in the hour when we believe all is lost . . . all is truly found.

Adapted from a reflection, entitled Spiritual Warfare, written on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2008.


Wordle from: http://footprintsfromthebible.blogspot.com/2017/06/lords-prayer-hallowed-be-thy-name.html  To view Grünewald’s entire altarpiece painting, visit, http://www.christianiconography.info/iconographySupplementalImages/crucifixion/grunewald1515.html

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Exodus 2: To Know . . . and to Act

James Tissot: Moses

Tuesday, March 13, 2016

God saw the people and knew . . .  

What do we chose to bring to God?  What do we hold back?  When God answers our prayer, are we ready to act upon the result of our petition? When we hesitate to act in God’s name and good will, what is it we fear? Has not God given us the desire of our hearts? Are we afraid that now suddenly God will abandon us? Knowing that God knows all and accompanies us always, what actions do we fear taking as we move forward? And

As we continue our Lenten journey of examination and questions, we look at the story of Moses’ birth, and we reflect upon the answers to prayer that God enacted through this one man’s life.

God saw the people and knew . . .  

In DAILY REFLECTIONS FOR LENT: NOT BY BREAD ALONE for Tuesday, February 23, Jay Cormier asks: What prayer are you willing to work for?  His question is this: When we perceive an unjust situation – whether it be our own or someone else’s – do we ask for God’s help for the remediation of the injustice?  And when we do, are we willing to take the action God will ask us to take?

God sees the people and God knows . . .  

We have spent time with the Exodus story in our Noontimes and so may appear to hold nothing new.  But what may be new to us is the connection between asking for help and having to act as a consequence of receiving this help.  God has many ways of knowing the people, and with this full knowledge, God chooses to act.  Once God does, the people are called to respond to a new summons for a different kind of faith journey, a journey that requires their fidelity and perseverance.  The people cry out, a hero is born, salvation arrives, yet there is work to be done as a result of this salvation.

God sees the people and God knows . . .  

We might meditate on the following today.  We cry out, a solution arrives.  We rejoice in our salvation.  We enter into the work that will transform us.

God sees the people and God knows . . .  

Jay Cormier offers the following prayer:  Father in heaven, do not let us confine our prayer to words and rituals alone.  Open our hearts and inspire our spirits to work and sacrifice for the hopes and dreams we ask of you, you who are the Giver and Sustainer of all life. 

And the people say . . . Amen.

God sees us and God knows . . .

Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. Print.  (Meeks)

Adapted from a reflection written on February 24, 2010.

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2 Maccabees 12:38-46: Battle – Part V

Click on this image for a video commentary.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Today’s Favorite returns once more to 2 Maccabees, the first Book cited in the first Noontime Scripture reflection. The message is as simple, constant, and powerful today as it was more than a decade ago. Be steadfast. Trust in God. Remain faithful to God. Life is a struggle, but God is with us. We need not be afraid. 

Today’s citation reminds us of a strong underpinning of those themes: there is life after our apparent death, and we must pray not only for ourselves but for those who have strayed from the covenant as well.  1 Maccabees 5:6 gives a different reason for the fall of the Israelite troops – the priests had wanted to distinguish themselves in battle – but the message is the same: if we succeed in remaining faithful to our covenant with God, we must pray for those who fallen.

We will not want to miss the true life that follows this one, and we will want to share this full and generous life with our families and friends.  And lest we fear that our loved ones will not accompany us, we remember that it is possible to bring straying sheep into the fold through petition to the Creator. We remember that with God all things are possible.

Christ is the one who offers himself in expiation for the downfall of the world and thus becomes the Redeemer of all.  We participate in this redemption by offering our own sufferings in expiation for others.  The dead will live again, and this we can believe.

Over time, we have spent several Noontimes reflecting on the lessons brought to us by the Maccabeus family.  Their stamina, their perseverance, their refusal to be extinguished, and their refusal to allow God’s law of forgiveness, mercy and justice to be extinguished is seen again in all of Christ’s followers.  Jesus’ disciples are constant searchers of God’s essence and truth.  They will always hunger and thirst for an essence they feel but cannot see, a Spirit they know but cannot always touch. The Maccabeus family tells us this story. Jesus the Redeemer invites all of us to be these followers.

It is the endurance of the Maccabees we seek through our intense hope in the promises of God.  It is the fidelity of the Maccabees we seek through our deep faith in the goodness of God.  It is the devotion of the Maccabees we seek through our passionate love for the ways of God. 

Tomorrow, a prayer for trials and obstacles.

Adapted from a Favorite written on April 25, 2009.

To learn why the Books of the Maccabees are not included in the Jewish Bible, visit: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/omitting-the-maccabees/ 

Watch a video commentary at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdHjJFQAoZk 

Images from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/leaders-mind-3-steadfastness-barry-walsh/ and https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/omitting-the-maccabees/

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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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Psalm 105:15: God’s Anointed

Monday, October 31, 2016prophets

Yesterday we spent time with this psalm.  Today we take a deeper look.

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

How do we define faithfulness?  Do we admire our ability to hang on no matter what?  Are we stubborn to a fault in our persistence to see something through?  Do we waver and zigzag in order to gain ground?  Or do we model ourselves after Yahweh who is eternally faithful to his sheep?

Longevity.  Perseverance.  Constancy. 

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

Do we duplicate as much as possible God’s fidelity in our own relationships?  Are we dedicated to truth and openness?  Are we predictable?  Do our relationships create a safe harbor?

Dedication.  Predictability.  Safety.

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

What is it that stands in stark contrast with God’s fidelity?  The pursuit of petty agendas?  Egocentrism?  Meanness of spirit?

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

What do we need to jettison in our lives in order to create serenity and peace in our relationships?

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

How do we imitate God’s bringing forth of unity out of schism?

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

Can we see ourselves as prophets and anointed ones? If not, what do we want to change?  How do we become one with such a one who loves so well?

Longevity.  Perseverance.  Constancy. 

Dedication.  Predictability.  Safety.

For God all things are possible.  In Christ all wounds are healed.  Together with the Holy Spirit we are become one.  We are invited to enter into holy communion with one another.  We are invited to prophesy the Word of God.  We are anointed in God.  We are one in God.  We are blessed in God.  We are saved in God.

Do not touch my anointed ones.  Do my prophets no harm.

Adapted from a reflection written on October 9, 2009.

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Ephesians 6:14-20: A Prayer for Spiritual Warfare

Wednesday, September 7, 201632643-15133-armor-of-god.1200w.tn

Patience and perseverance. These are the qualities we know will open us to God’s nourishing goodness as we wade into daily spiritual warfare. Prayer and thanksgiving. These are the actions we need take as we look to Paul’s words in his letter to the Ephesians.

Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. (THE MESSAGE)

When we compare another version of these verses, we open ourselves to the strength that only God can provide.

So stand ready, with truth as a belt tight around your waist, with righteousness as your breastplate, and as your shoes the readiness to announce the Good News of peace. At all times carry faith as a shield; for with it you will be able to put out all the burning arrows shot by the Evil One. And accept salvation as a helmet, and the word of God as the sword which the Spirit gives you. Do all this in prayer, asking for God’s help. Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads. For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray always for all God’s people. And pray also for me, that God will give me a message when I am ready to speak, so that I may speak boldly and make known the gospel’s secret. For the sake of this gospel I am an ambassador, though now I am in prison. Pray that I may be bold in speaking about the gospel as I should. (THE GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION)

And so we pray.

When we meet circumstances that overwhelm us, we remember that our fidelity to The Word and our readiness to share God’s promise and hope are the strongest armor we might employ. Resilient God, lend us your strength.

When we stumble over obstacles that threaten our peace and security, we remember that our joy in The Word and our delight in Jesus’ story are the enduring armor we might put on. Confident God, lend us your hope.

When we falter with doubt and anxiety crushes us, we remember that our prayers always rise directly to you. Authentic God, lend us your love.

In Jesus’ name we wait patiently in you. In the Spirit’s power we persist always in you. In God’s name we give thanks always for you. Amen.

 

 

 

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