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Psalm 89: A Hymn in Time of National Struggle – Part IV

Friday, January 26, 2018

Rembrandt van Rijn: The Reconciliation of David and Absalom (2 Samuel 14)

Finding the Servant

Perhaps the most heartbreaking part in the story of David’s rise and reign is the accounting of his son Absalom. As Nathan had predicted, this favored child hatches a plot to do away with his father. In Chapters 16-17 we see the counselor Ahitophel create double deceit as the writer records, Any advice that Ahithophel gave in those days was accepted as though it were the very word of God; both David and Absalom followed it. Later we read that Ahithophel takes his own life (2 Samuel 17:23) and we consider, when we plot to take down our enemies, are we prepared to have that plot turn against us?

Men prepare for conflict. The battle ensues and Absalom dies. Messages fly. David mourns and shames the soldiers who have saved him and the city. The world turns on its head. David’s nephew Joab steps in to bring the world back into focus and life settles into a series of defensive moves in which David maintains the kingdom in a series of skirmishes and disagreements. In the closing chapters of this long tale we read the beautiful song of this faithful servant’s thanksgiving. And so we consider, when we reflect on our lives with all of its peaks and valleys, can we recognize God as our rock, fortress, deliverer and refuge, or do we curse our circumstances and blame bad fortune on others?

Francesco Pesellino: The Death of Absalom

Samuel, David, Bathsheba, Nathan, Joab, Ahithophel, Uzza and so many others paint a canvas for us of the faithful servant who stumbles and recovers . . . many times. Through all of this, our loving God  pardons, heals and always abides. In a time when the word of the Lord is rare and visions are scarce in our lives, we might find ourselves in this story. We might listen for God’s voice as we step forward in faithful service.

We hear this story . . . we take it in . . . and then we reply with the psalmist and King David . . . O Lord, I will always sing of your constant love; I will proclaim your faithfulness forever.

Compare other translations of these verses by using the scripture links and drop-down menus. 

Click on the image of David and Absalom for more insights into this story.

To visit the Prayer for Faithful Servants post on this blog, go to: https://thenoontimes.com/2014/03/30/a-prayer-for-faithful-servants/

Tomorrow, God among us.

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Esther 10 and F: Thanksgiving – Part IV

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Rembrandt: Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther

Rembrandt: Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther

Mordecai’s Dream Fulfilled

A Favorite from October 6, 2007. To read the epilogue (Esther F), consult the New American Bible (NABRE) using the scripture link above. 

We must remember that God is always loyal to the covenant promise, and we need not expect anything less than perfection from God because with God all things are possible.  As Mordecai says in today’s reading when he realizes that the outrageous hope of which he dreamt has actually been fulfilled, This is the work of God.  Mordecai recognizes God’s effort to convert harm to good.  He sees that not a single detail has been left unfulfilled.  He recognizes the meaning of the symbols of the spring, the light, and the dragons which had previously been unclear to him.  He sees what God has arranged, and what man has plotted.  He recognizes that God has saved his people and delivered us from all these evils.  He now understands that God worked signs and great wonders which we were too frightened to see and appreciate as we ran the gauntlet of obstacles laid out by ourselves and others in anticipation of our fall.  Mordecai now feels the full impact of his rescue and reparation.  He has let the reality of the outcome of his innocent suffering come into focus.  He now sees fully that the horrific end which his enemies had plotted is not his and Esther’s – for it is not the Jewish people who hang from the gallows but instead, those who ordered the gallows built.  Not only has God saved, God has at the same time turned evil into good, passed judgment and handed out consequences.

Tomorrow, thanksgiving for rescue. 

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Psalm 83: A Hostile Nation

Wednesday, August 31, 2016psalm 83

A Favorite from August 28, 2010.

They conspire against your people . . .

It is likely that each of us has known a time when we felt – either correctly or incorrectly – that the world is conspiring against us.  The only exit from this kind of thinking is the giving over of our own agenda to God.

They scheme with one mind . . .

It is likely that each of us has felt the disappointment of exclusion – either rightly or wrongly – that comes when humans come together in groups.  The only comfort and healing to be found is in our relationship with God.

Deal with them . . .

When we realize that there is a hostile nation against us, the only hope is in asking God to deal with the enemy.

Let them be dismayed . . .

Even we New Testament people will want God to intercede against our foes, but as Christians we will ask for their conversion rather than their destruction.

Show them you are alone are the Lord . . .

We might be amazed that even after God has shown himself to our adversaries that they persist in their deceitful ways.  Sooner or later they will see which way they are to go but only God can bring them to seeing.

You alone are the Most High over all the earth.

The outcome of the battle pitched between God and those who plot against the faithful is assured.  God will always win.  For God alone is the Most High over all the earth.

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Esther 3 (B): Preamble – Part II

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Paul Alexander Leroy: Mordecai and Haman

Paul Alexander Leroy: Mordecai and Haman

This week we spend time with Esther 3 (B) today and consider it as preamble to a new simplicity.

God’s sign is the baby in need of help and in poverty.  Exactly the same sign has been given to us . . . God’s sign is simplicity . . . God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us.  This is how he reigns.  He does not come with power and outward splendor.  He comes as a baby – defenseless and in need of our help.  He does not want to overwhelm us with our strength.  He takes away our fear of his greatness.  He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child.  He wants nothing other from us than our love, through which we spontaneously learn to enter into his feelings, his thoughts and his will – we learn to live with him and to practice with him that humility of renunciation that belongs to the very essence of love.  God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him and love him. 

MAGNIFICAT MINI-REFLECTION December 25, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI Christmas Homily 2009

We might reflect on the life of Esther in a similar way.  God sends a sign to his people through a woman who is considered an appendage of her husband, for the queen in this kingdom is not allowed to enter into the king’s presence without his permission.  In this time and place, Esther’s intrusion on her husband’s time and person is punishable by death and so we see that God’s sign comes to his people through a woman who has been taken as part of the household of a pagan king and who fears for her life whether she remains silent or speaks.  God comes to his people through this defenseless woman who is in need of someone’s help.  When we read her story, we might imagine ourselves as equally defenseless, equally frightened.   If we allow ourselves to accompany Esther as she listens to her uncle Mordecai tell her that she has been chosen by God to speak on behalf of her people, we will watch as she opens herself to allow God into her life fully.  If we watch what happens to the man, Haman, so filled with hatred that he plots the deaths of thousands in order to have his bruised pride assuaged, we will see Ahasuerus deliver to Haman the consequence of his own plots against God’s people.

Tomorrow, grace and blessing.

To learn more about why Mordecai did not bow before Haman, click on the image above or visit: http://thetorah.com/why-did-mordecai-not-bow-down-to-haman/ 

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 25 December 2010. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on December 25, 2010.

Jean François de Troy: Triumph of Mordecai

Jean François de Troy: Triumph of Mordecai

 

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Mark 14:1-2: The Plot

Bama da Siena: The Pact of Judas

Bama da Siena: The Pact of Judas

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

And they plotted to do away with Jesus . . .

We have spent time thinking about what it must have taken to plot against a man who showed such compassion for the ill that he put his own life in jeopardy to heal them on the Sabbath.  We have meditated on what it must be like to live in such fear that we annihilate one another in our attempt to survive, even to the point of wiping out the innocent.  Today we turn again to a familiar refrain . . . the plot against Jesus . . . they were seeking a way to arrest him by treachery and put him to death . . .

Some of the verses in the MAGNIFICAT Morning Psalm remind us of how we can allow ourselves to be twisted by evil when we stray too far from God.

Sin speaks to the sinner

In the depths of the heart.

There is no fear of the God

Before his eyes.

 

He so flatters himself in his mind

That he knows not his guilt.

In his mouth are mischief and deceit.

All wisdom is gone.

 

He plots the defeat of goodness

As he lies on his bed.

He has set his foot on evil ways,

He clings to what is evil.

Psalm 36

If we do not want to become one who connives with others to bring about the end of those we distrust, we must first trust God – and then ourselves.

If we do not want to become one who conspires with others to bring about the end of those we dislike, we must first love God – and then ourselves.

If we do not want to become one who becomes lost forever in the plot we ourselves weave, we must first turn to God and willingly give up the tools of deceit and darkness – and then to ourselves . . . to step into the newness we are offered.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT.10.9 (2010). Print.  

A favorite from September 10, 2010.

 

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Friday, January 24, 2014

imagesCAZPBI3NPsalm 119:73-80

Yodh

Your hands made me and fashioned me . . .

“A small suspended point, reveals the spark of essential good hidden within the letter”. (Ginsburgh)

God says: I hide nothing from you and you need not hide anything from me.  Hiding, after all, is quite impossible for all truths are eventually revealed.  When you read my Word, both the old and the new scriptures tell you that in the end all truth is revealed and all that was thought hidden is exposed to the light.  How much better it is then, to live in the open truth rather than in dark corners that will eventually be flooded by light.

How much better it is to spend our energy on sharing the good news of God’s unconditional love with others than plotting and planning in the dark.  This letter is the smallest in the Hebrew alphabet and this tenth strophe that bears its name teaches us a lesson in humility.

Lord, you have probed me; you know me: you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar . . . Where can I hide from your spirit?  From your presence where can I flee? . . . You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.  (Psalm 139)

For more information on the letter Yodh, click on the image or go to: http://www.bje.org.au/learning/hebrew/alphabet/10yud.html or http://www.inner.org/hebleter/yud.htm

Ginsburgh, Harav Yitzchak . “Yud: The Infinite Point.” Hebrew Letters. “Introduction to the Hebrew Letters.” The Gal Enai Website. Gal Einai Institute, Inc., n.d. Web. 19 Jan 2014.

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Tissot: The False Witness

Tissot: False Witness before Caiaphas

Luke 22 – The Plot to Kill Jesus

Over and over again we read frightening lines like this one: The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death, for they were afraid of the people.   The leaders see that they will lose influence and power because to Jesus offers compassion and healing to those who suffer.  The leaders also worry that Jesus’ actions might attract the attention of the overlord Romans, and they do not want to encourage another Jewish rebellion.  They search for a way to do away with this troublesome rabbi who asks piercing questions.  Jesus – who presents a way of finding timeless peace and healing restoration – is eliminated by those who offer far less.  The paradox is that this cornerstone that is rejected becomes a salvific force which redeems not only friends but enemies – if only these adversaries might put down their weapons and return to the goodness to which they are called.

Today we continue with our theme of dark schemes and wicked conspirators, and we look at how events around Jesus’ last hours unwind . . .

While Jesus and his followers prepare for Passover, the shadowy plot of murder unwinds; these two activities coil around one another in a twisting dance of darkness and light.  This serves to remind us that in this world goodness and evil often walk side by side unremarked . . . almost accepted.  We fool ourselves into believing that all around us must be perfect.  Who is the reaper who knows to sort the grain from the chaff?

A foreshadowing of Peter’s denial sends a frisson of consciousness through us . . . we too have denied Christ when we are under pressure.  Jesus reminds us that we need nothing for our journey save his protection and guidance.  We fool ourselves into believing that we make our own way and earn our own bread. Who is the source of our talents?

Jesus prays.  Judas betrays.  The faithful scatter.  The powerful take over.  The odd dance of inversion continues as those with arms believe themselves to be the strongest.  We fool ourselves into believing that we can exert pressure to win arguments by overwhelming knowledge when overwhelming goodness is the true strength.  Who allows himself to be made weak so that he might be strong in the creator?

Arrest, denial, rejection.  Jesus stands innocent before Pilate and Herod.  He is beaten and sentenced to death.  He carries his cross, he is crucified and dies . . . and he awaits the resurrection he has been promised by the Father.  We fool ourselves into believing that this story was lived once by a man two thousand years ago.  Who suffers each day with each of his billions of sisters and brother?

There is no plot Jesus does not comprehend.  There is no darkness he has not experienced.  There is no pain he has not suffered.  There is no mockery, no betrayal, no rebuffing, no murder he has not survived.  Jesus experiences all, and Jesus wants to save and restore all . . . if we only rely on him.

When the situation is bleakest, when the plot is thickest, when the hour is darkest . . . this is where Christ stands.  This is where he waits . . . for he knows that we will need him because we take nothing else with us on this journey – no purse, no bag, no sword.  We take only Christ, for he is all we need against any evil, against any plot . . . against even murder.

Adapted from a Noontime written on November 18, 2009.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Normand: Esther Denouncing Haman

Normand: Esther Denouncing Haman

Esther 9 – Reversal

Yesterday we reflected on how God foils perfect plots . . . today we examine the turning point in the story of Esther and look for clues about how we might expect the same reversal of evil when we place ourselves fully in God’s hands.

As humans we too often see or experience the hunting down and destroying of either an innocent or someone we believe “deserves what she gets”.  Regardless of guilt or blamelessness, the brutal pack mentality of an attack on another human being is something to be avoided and we must work at turning others away from this ugly thinking.  We may have been a peripheral or integral part of a plot to bring someone down and if this is the case then we must go to that victim to ask forgiveness.  Association with those whose goal it is to establish an us against them mentality is dangerous for it sets us on a path that descends into darkness.  Escape from these associations can be difficult and is always permeated with its own special fear; yet it is imperative that we escape because – as we see repeatedly in scripture and in life – God will always, later or sooner, reverse the plots that schemers have conjured in dark corners on their well-worn couches.

When the day arrived on which the order decreed by the king was to be carried out . . . on which the enemies of the Jews had expected to become masters of them, the situation was reversed: the Jews became masters of their enemies.

King Ahasuerus allows a great violence to erupt against Haman and his family and this is not the sort of outcome that the New Testament faithful will want to see.  What Christ-followers will ask for is that light penetrate the darkness, that hard hearts be softened, and that stiff necks begin to bend.  And so we pray . . .

Just yet merciful God, you give us the opportunity to ask for our enemies’ conversion, grant us also the charity to intercede on their behalf.

Gentle and beautiful God, you make each one of us in your loving image, make also in each of us the patience to wait for reversal at your hand. 

Strong yet gentle God, you bless us with the capacity to forgive, bless us always with your constant guidance and care for without you we are too easily led into the darkness.

Wonderful and awesome God, you surprise us constantly with your merciful justice, help us to see that in each of our calamities we might anticipate your sweet reversal.

We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

What more do we see in this story that we might apply to our own lives? Click on the image above, follow the link . . . and spend some time with these characters and the scripture citations and study the characters in this story. 

Tomorrow, what ditches are we digging?

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/the-old-testament/the-historical-books/esther-from-calamity-to-rejoicing/

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

3b0141998522131d8dffaab754c4f580[1]Psalm 64

The Perfect Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For an interesting list of twenty “friends” who many harm us, click on the image above or go to: http://xfinity.comcast.net/slideshow/news-20badfriends/9/

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