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Posts Tagged ‘plots and schemes’


Saturday, June 20, 2020

headline14[1]Matthew 5:38-48

Vengeance

We hear this message often; yet it cannot be overstated.  True love is one which exacts no payment or punishment.  True love – this Law of Love which Jesus brings to us – does not sink to the depths of the abuser.  My mother was fond of telling us: Do not sink to your opponent’s level.  Be a lady/gentleman.  Do not fight fire with fire.  Kill you enemy with kindness.  My mother was a good shepherd.

Today’s MAGNIFICAT Meditation is entitled “Do you Love Me?” and it is written by Fr. Julián Carrón, a professor of theology at the University of Milan.  He writes: Our astonishment at Christ’s love for each of us dominates our life.  Carrón proposes that there is a nothingness that constantly looms over every man, and that often makes him doubt that there is an answer that corresponds to the need for truth, for beauty, for justice, and for happiness in his heart, because nothing is able to totally fascinate him for long.  Carrón writes that once God becomes overwhelming attractive to us, we begin to understand and even feel the depth of this kind of love born of suffering, resurrection and restoration.  This is a love which cannot be turned away, nor can it be extinguished.  God’s holiness reveals itself as a passionate love for his people [and] . . . all man’s frailty, his betrayal, all the dreadful possibilities of history are traversed by that question put to Peter on the lake that morning [after his resurrection], “Do you love me?”

How much do we love God?  Enough to give up our petty fascination with payback and vengeance?  Enough to feed his sheep?  Enough to petition for our abusers?

Peter replies to Christ’s question:  Yes, Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you.  Carrón writes: In this free “yes” of the creature, in every circumstance of life, the glory of God echoes and is at work.

Imagine if we all might put aside our personal hurts – knowing that God knows all – and allow Christ to mediate our disagreements and our battles.  Imagine what a world it might be.  Imagine what happiness we might find.

When we say yes to putting aside our desire to retaliate, we give God our own YesThe nothingness that constantly looms over every one of us is dispelled.  And we begin to know the depths of a true love which does not tolerate or even recognize the desire to take revenge.

As we ponder what to do about those who scheme against us at work or even at home, as we contemplate how God stands plots on their heads to bring goodness out of harm, as we consider that every lesson the Spirit teaches is about inversion, we might want to take Jesus’ advice to us and pray for those who seek our end rather than ask for revenge.  And as my mother so often reminded us when we struggled with praying for those negative or dangerous people who came into our own lives, we might want to begin by killing them with our kindness.


Image from: http://www.whatdidjesussay.com/14-anyone-can-love-their-friends-love-your-enemies-and-pray-for-them-jesus/

Adapted from a reflection written on May 29, 2009.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 29.5 (2012). Print.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees

James Tissot: Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees

Luke 5:33-6:11

Questions

I am always fascinated by the questions posed to Jesus . . . and the manner in which he answers these questions.  The Pharisees and scribes whom he condemns as vipers are anxious to depose this man.  They are jealous of his authenticity and his authority.  They want him gone.

Last week we examined how to react and pray for the plotters and schemers who want to undermine us and even eradicate us.  Today we watch Jesus as he combats his foes with the simplest of techniques . . . with questions.

Jesus so often answers his inquisitors’ demands with questions of his own.  He also uses the parables with which we are familiar, stories with simple images like putting new wine into old skins.  His words are plain and simple enough for the people of his day to understand . . . and they are also eternal so that we might understand his meaning two thousand years later.  Jesus’ words are also universal.  They create pictures that humans will comprehend.  He invites.  He calls.  He brings the Old Testament scriptures to life as he describes the desperation of David’s plight when he and his men eat the bread of offering in 1 Samuel 21.  Jesus makes a connection between himself and David by using a simple rabbinic method of mentioning a well-known scripture story to pertain to a present situation.  Jesus was, in fact, a wonderful teacher.

The questioners described by Luke in today’s reading do not understand that God has come to live among us in human form.  They do not see that Jesus fulfills their hopes and prophecies.  Jesus is the Sabbath . . . and they do not revere him . . . they trump up charges against him . . . they became enraged and together discussed what they might do to Jesus.

Yesterday’s MAGNIFICAT reflection was from St. John of the Cross and it concerned why we undergo trial.  He writes: The reason trials are necessary . . . is that highest union cannot be wrought in a soul that is not fortified by tribulations, darknesses, and distress, just as a superior quality liqueur is poured only into a sturdy flask which is prepared and purified . . .  A man should hold in esteem the interior and exterior trials God sends him, realizing that there are few who merit to be brought to perfection through suffering and to undergo trials for the sake of so high a state.  For God repays the interior and exterior trials very well with divine goods for the soul and body, so that there is not a trial which does not have a corresponding and considerable reward.

In today’s story we can feel the resentment building among Jesus’ enemies and, of course, we know the end of the story.  We know that they win . . . but they lose.  We know that they are in power . . . but have no power.  We know that they are full of themselves . . . and empty of God.  We see their opposite in Jesus who stands quietly to answer their questions . . . who calls them to unity, to hope and to love . . . who waits patiently, who replies calmly, who endures endlessly.

In today’s story, who are we?  The Pharisees . . . or the expression of God among us?  And how have we decided to question our own inquisitors?


Image from: https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/4550

Adapted from a reflection written on February 11, 2008.

Cameron, Peter John, ed. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 1.21 (2008). Print.  

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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

isa_55_10_11brd[1]2 Corinthians 4:7-15

A Prayer for Plotters and Schemers

We have spent time this week remembering that God turns harm into good, that God turns all plots on their heads, and that God is particularly close to the broken-hearted.  Rather than hate those who seek to harm us . . . let us pray for their conversion as we remember that . . .

We are afflicted in every way but not constrained . . .

Despite the pain and suffering we will survive when we remain in Christ.

We are perplexed but not driven to despair . . .

Despite the confusion and fog of oppression we will survive when we live in Christ.

We are persecuted but not abandoned . . .

Despite the trials and betrayals we will survive when we abide in Christ.

We are struck down but not destroyed . . .

Despite the plots and schemes of those who hate us we will survive when we pray in Christ.

We who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

Despite death and loss we will survive when we love in Christ.

Through the prophet Isaiah (55:11) God tells us: My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will.

These words settle over us and give us a framework for our own prayer work in these quiet weeks as summer begins and we remind ourselves that despite any plot against us we are called to repair and heal ourselves and others.  We are called to receive the gift of ourselves from God.  We are asked to share our gifts with others and to send back to God this gift of self in our words and works.

So let us join one another in our journey and pledge to hear this story and truly take it in to make it a part of our being.  Let us receive it with a willing heart and return it to God in prayer and thanksgiving.  May God’s word return not void but rather full of our willing acceptance of the life offered by God . . . full of our loving acceptance of God’s will . . . full of our hope that the potential God places in us will be fulfilled according to his plan.

And so we pray for those who plot and scheme against us . . .

Good and patient God, lend us your patience.

Good and gentle God, send us your counsel and wisdom.

Good and gracious God, hold us in the eternal knowledge that you will bend all plots and schemes to your holy will.

Amen.


Image from: http://pics7.this-pic.com/key/isaiah%2055%206%2010

Adapted from a reflection written on February 12, 2008.

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Monday, June 15, 2020

cloths-jesus[1]Micah 2

Plotting Against God’s Will

Those who have plots schemed against them will always find themselves in good company.  The Pharisees and the Jewish religious structure created and fomented plots first against Jesus and then against Jesus’ disciples because these speakers of truth threatened their power, their livelihood, and the supreme control they held over the lives of so many.  And this is what Micah offers us today: when the plotters spend time on their couches planning division and revenge, they do not see that they weave the schemata for their own downfall.

Frequently when we read the Gospels a story about Jesus ends with the line . . . and they went away plotting to silence him . . . to imprison him . . . to stone him . . . to do away with him.  When we read Acts, we find the same wording appearing in the stories of Peter, Paul and anyone who continues to bring love and healing to the poor in spirit, to the lame, and to the blind.  These loyal followers of Jesus – and we can count ourselves as companions of Christ – also have those who plot to bring about our fall.

We have observed recently that in the story of Esther we see Haman construct a gallows in front of his house so that he can watch the execution of the Jewish people.  Haman and his entire family die on that gallows.  In the Book of Judith Holofernes suffers the end he plans for the people of Bethulia.  God’s presence in these plots and the willingness of these two women to act in accordance with God makes holy acts of these schemes for evil.

This idea that intrigue will always be planned against the faithful sends us to a concordance where we find in the book of Proverbs a warning against plotting against the neighbor who lives trustfully near you (3:29), for this indicates deceit in the heart (12:20), leads us further astray (14:22), and puts us in the company of evil people (24:2).

In Psalms 2, 21, 31, 35, 37, 38, 64, 83 and 85 there are warnings against plotting and scheming in vain, creating terror on every side, slandering, gnashing teeth, and forming unholy alliances.

The prophet Nahum tells us that whatever the evil plot, the Lord will bring it to an end; and in the book of Nehemiah is the story of how Yahweh foils a plot against those who rebuild the walls and temple of Jerusalem.

Over and over in scripture we read stories of how the deceitful are brought down by their own machinations; and in our own lives we see this happen endlessly.  What is it about our narrow field of vision that does not permit humans to respond as we should to the obstacles in our path?  What is it that lures us into dark deceptive paths rather than join Christ in the journey of light for which we are made?  Why does division and power seem so appealing when in truth it is unity and collegiality that most reflect God’s plan?  Why do we covet so often, create illusion so well, and delight in working out evil on our couches?  If it is difficult to understand this darkness and those who delight in controlling us, we are in good company and despite the suffering we endure this is what we ultimately know – for we have been told so often: God assembles the faithful and this remnant will not be panicked; the shepherd will put away all anxiety; we will rejoice in hope and flourish in love.  This is God’s will.  This is God’s plan.

Tomorrow, a prayer to endure the work of plotters and schemers.


Adapted from a reflection first written on February 12, 2008.

Image from: http://www.jesus-story.net/peter_and_john.htm

For more on Esther and Judith, enter their names into the blog search bar and explore . . .  

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Friday, June 12, 2020

Francesco del Cairo: Judith with the Head of Holofernes

Francesco del Cairo: Judith with the Head of Holofernes

Judith 12:16Holofernes’ Banquet

As we continue our series of reflections on the nature of schemers and their plots, how to avoid them and how to rebuke those who lie on couches to conspire, we return to the story of Judith.

Holofernes is a man accustomed to using power and he also knows how to bide his time, lay traps, and bring others into his schemes.  What he has never encountered in his powerful life is a woman who is as beautiful, God-centered, and determined as Judith. And Holofernes’ lust is no match for Judith’s constant, prayerful attendance on God.  This story is worth reading from beginning to end but if there is time for only one verse, it is 12:16 for it teaches us how to deal with schemers, seducers and plot-builders.

“The story of Judith is full of unexpected turns.  The first and most obvious . . . was that a woman – and not a man – saved Judah in its time of severe distress.  Judith is more faithful and resourceful than any of the men of BethuliaShe is more eloquent than the king and more courageous than any of the leading citizens of the city, yet Judith is a very unlikely heroine”.  (Senior RG 213)

The story of Judith is full of the detail which we might overlook if we rush through the reading; and it is the kind of detail that a good writer uses to describe the depth of one’s personality, the reason for one’s perversion, the cause of one’s sociopathy.  It is the kind of writing which brings us up sharply when we experience the shuddering reality that human beings often spend more time trying to lure others into a personal agenda than they do honestly working at the task God assigned to them.  The image of this man “burning with desire . . . yet biding his time” is one that haunts me.  I cannot shake it.  And it returns in the written word on a day like most others  . . . packed with activity . . . with so little time for reflection about what is real and not real.

This story tells of how God delivers the faithful through a crushing crisis . . . and how God does this through a woman.  The Reader’s Guide of the CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE tells us that Judith destroys the enemy not through might but by “her beguiling charm and disarming beauty.  The Bible sometimes portrays a woman’s beauty negatively as a snare, but here it is the means of deliverance”.  (Senior RG 213)

And so we hear this story which has been retold so many times through history and in so many ways.  It is a story that teaches us how to combat the lavish allure of the banquets staged by those who plot against innocents and of a woman who answers God’s call with the only tools left to her.  It is a story rife with irony and inversion.  It is a story of how God moves in our lives if we but allow God to enter.

May we all take a lesson from Judith.


To see and study more paintings of  Judith and Holofernes, visit: https://www.dailyartmagazine.com/best-judith-head-holofernes-paintings/

To read more Noontimes reflections on Judith, enter her name in the blog search bar, seek . . . and find.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 213. Print.   

Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Judith_with_the_Head_of_Holofernes,_by_Francesco_del_Cairo,_c._1633-1637,_oil_on_canvas_-_John_and_Mable_Ringling_Museum_of_Art_-_Sarasota,_FL_-_DSC00631.jpg

A Favorite from October 3, 2007. 

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Saturday, February 15, 2020

Ezekiel 11: A Natural Heart

heart_flexh10[1]What you are plotting I well know . . .

Yet we humans believe that we can keep our dark secrets hidden.

I will give them a new heart and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the stony heart from their bodies, and replace it with a natural heart, so that they will live according to my statutes, and observe and carry out my ordinances; thus they shall be my people and I shall be their God. 

Yet we humans believe that the world has something better to offer us: comfort, fame, a legacy to be remembered for generations.

 But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their detestable abominations, I will bring down their conduct upon their heads, says the Lord God.

Yet we humans believe that we can keep our dark secrets hidden, and we can . . . for a time.

The Psalmist reminds us in 44:21: If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god,would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?

Yet we humans believe that we can keep our dark secrets hidden, and we can . . . for a time, but God knows what we are plotting . . . and God offers us the opportunity to be free of the darkness.  God offers us the newness of a natural heart.

We will want to open ourselves to this newness.


Image from: http://atriversedge.wordpress.com/2012/08/26/with-a-new-heart-and-a-new-spirit/

Written on November 13, 2010 and posted today as a Favorite.

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Esther 7 & 8: Deceit and Retribution

Monday, August 5, 2019

Millais: Esther

We have no way of knowing what plans are schemed against us.  We have no method of seeing into the private places where the covetous lie on couches to weave their plots that entangle others.  We can be certain, however, that when the faithful find themselves the victims of these plots – as the Jews do in the story of Esther – that God will redeem his people, will release them from oppression, and will decide how the connivers are to be judged.

In the story of Mordecai and Esther, Haman becomes jealous because Mordecai does not play the game of courtier as Haman would wish, yet has influence and prestige – which Haman covets.  Rather than find union with Mordecai, Haman builds a gibbet on which to hang his perceived enemies . . . only to see his family executed . . . and himself led to the scaffold on which he had meant to exterminate the Jew he so hated.

For several weeks we have been reflecting on honesty versus deceit . . . and today we find another clear lesson of what is expected by God of his faithful.  Earlier in Chapter 4 when Esther tells her uncle that she is afraid to go to the king to tell him of Haman’s plot, Mordecai reminds her that the faithful must do as God bids . . . for if they do not, God will find another willing to do the work.  Then Mordecai reminds his niece of the fate she will suffer if she goes against God’s will (4:14).

So when we read these later chapters . . . and when we spend time praying, meditating and reflecting on God’s word to us . . . we know that we, too, hear the words of Mordecai, we also feel the tremors which Esther felt when she saw a task looming before her that was too great to bear.  It will serve us well to read this story from beginning to end, including the later insertions, and to ponder God’s plan for us as we move through our days.

We need not worry about plots schemed against us; nor do we need to create a plan of reprisal.  We only need to be constant to God each day, to maintain our covenant, to lay all problems at God’s feet for resolution.  For this is the only way we will find peace amid the noise of the world.  This is the only path to a serenity that lasts and sustains.  This is the only true Way in which to live the gift of Life.


Written on June 15, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://thingselemental.com/2012/03/cultivating-beauty/

For another reflection on this story, go to the Esther – From Calamity to Rejoicing page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/esther-from-calamity-to-rejoicing/

For more information on Queen Esther and her story, go to: http://thingselemental.com/2012/03/cultivating-beauty/

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Esther 9: Reversal – A Reprise

To learn more about the festival of Purim, click on this image or visit http://www.chabad.org

Monday, February 19, 2018

The jolly festival of Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar (late winter/early spring). It commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day,” as recorded in the Megillah (book of Esther). (www.chabad.org)

In our Old Testament thinking, we celebrate victory over plotters who schemed to annihilate us. In our New Testament thinking, we ask God to soften the hearts of our enemies. In our Old Testament thinking, we commemorate the destruction of those who would harm us.  In our New Testament thinking, we celebrate their transformation. In our Old Testament thinking, we rejoice with Purim in the month of Adar. In our New Testament thinking, we ask for God’s mercy each day.

We first reflected on this citation in June of 2013. Today, as we seek to soften our own hearts, we remember that just as reversal is always possible for our enemies, it is always possible for us. For this reason, we give thanks for our modern Purim.

Tomorrow, quiet patience and courage.

For a prayer, visit the Reversal post at https://thenoontimes.com/2013/06/10/reversal/

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Esther 3: Preamble – A Reprise

Sir John Everett Millais: Esther

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

At Christmas time several years ago, we reflected on Esther 3 as a preamble to the Jesus story. The coming of light. A voice asking for mercy. Justice amidst corruption. The presence of simplicity in a complicated world. Plots and schemes returning to haunt their authors.

As the story unfolds, we see our own modern headlines in the verses. Millennia later, what have we learned?

Bulletins were sent out by couriers to all the king’s provinces with orders to massacre, kill, and eliminate all the Jews—youngsters and old men, women and babies—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month Adar, and to plunder their goods. 

We sift into groups that exclude. We gather words and weapons to assault “the other”. Millenia later, where do we invest our resources?

There is an odd set of people scattered through the provinces of your kingdom who don’t fit in. Their customs and ways are different from those of everybody else. Worse, they disregard the king’s laws. They’re an affront; the king shouldn’t put up with them. If it please the king, let orders be given that they be destroyed. I’ll pay for it myself. I’ll deposit 375 tons of silver in the royal bank to finance the operation.

We shrink from corruption. We turn away because we believe we have no power. Millennia later, how many Hamans stalk the innocent?

At the king’s command, the couriers took off; the order was also posted in the palace complex of Susa. The king and Haman sat back and had a drink while the city of Susa reeled from the news.

We gather in solidarity. We welcome and heal. Millennia later, what is our story?

When we compare varying versions of these verses, we open ourselves to seeing “the other”. 

Tomorrow, one small woman.

To read three posts on Esther 3, enter the word Preamble into the search bar and explore, or visit: https://thenoontimes.com/2015/12/25/esther-3-and-b-preamble-part-i/

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