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Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 73’


Acts 5:1-11The End of the Wicked

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Goya: Witch’s Sabbath

“The sin of Ananais and Sapphira did not consist in the withholding of part of the money but in their deception of the community.  Their deaths are ascribed to a lie to the Holy Spirit (3.9), i.e., they accepted an honor accorded them by the community for their generosity, but in reality they were not deserving of it”.  (Senior 191)  Thinking through this story gives us the opportunity to reflect on the concept of honor: what it is, how it is rightly and wrongly earned, why we bestow it on others, and what we do with an award accorded to us.

We might immediately think of warriors who risk life itself as they defend people, property or concepts.  Medals are given – sometimes posthumously – to those who give of themselves at great personal cost.  Some of these heroes deny that they have done anything above or beyond what another would have done.  We spectators know differently and so we honor those who think of themselves last at such great physical, psychological, and personal expense.

As in today’s example, we might honor philanthropists, those among us who are gifted with an abundance of talent or goods either directly earned or inherited.  Many humanitarians give anonymously in order to better share what they have.  Some have strict guidelines a petitioner must follow in order to win an award.  Still others give loudly and with fanfare.  In any or all of these cases, we give accolades and recognition to those who share their wealth.

There are also those among us who give at great personal and spiritual price.  These holy warriors have no money and little talent for physical defense; yet they are as important as any other kind of hero and they too must be honored.  We all know holy people who either boldly or quietly prayed themselves and many others into God’s hands.  Their value is greater than rubies or pearls for the battle they wage is with the greatest and darkest of powers.  Saints whose names form the litanies we pray are obvious spiritual heroes; but there are many of these holy ones among us . . . and we rely on them more than we know.  We must recognize them as easily as we do the heroes of war and wealth.

In today’s story we find lots to think about: How Ananais and Sapphira think they can deceive God himself, how the community first admires this couple and then is stunned at the immediate consequences of their deceitful actions.  Perhaps God is setting an early example of what it means to live in Christ-like community: honesty, integrity, trust and fidelity are hallmarks of a truly unified yet diverse group.  Lies only fool those who create them for the truth is always revealed . . . sometimes immediately . . . always with certainty.

We all know people who accept credit where it is not due.  We may have seen these people of the lie come unraveled . . . or we may believe that these people live long, blameless lives without just compensation for the pain they cause.  We need not worry about these deceivers as today’s story tells us.  We need only fix ourselves on maintaining our own purity of purpose as we move through each day.   We will take solace from the often-sung Psalm 73 as we pray . . . Truly God is good to those who are pure of heart.  But as for me, my feet had nearly slipped; I had almost tripped and fallen; because I envied the proud and saw the prosperity of the wicked: for they suffer no pain, and their bodies are sleek and sound; in the misfortunes of others they have to share; they are not afflicted as other are; therefore they wear pride like a necklace and wrap their violence about them like a cloak . . . When I tried to understand these things, it was too hard for me; until I entered the sanctuary of God and discerned the end of the wicked . . . Oh how suddenly them come to destruction . . . Like a dream when one awakes; O Lord, when you arise you make their image vanish.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.191. Print. 


Image from: https://onartandaesthetics.com/2015/11/07/goyas-pinturas-negras/ 

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 8, 2011.

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Sunday, October 30, 2011 – Psalm 26 – Prayer of Innocence

Artemisia Gentilesche: Susana

Yesterday I was speaking with a friend about how Psalm 73 always pops up when I am troubled about how to live in the world and not be of it.  As Paul tells the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 10:3): For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. In Psalm 73, The Trial of the Just, the psalmist expresses what happens to our thinking when we come close to losing faith that God is goodness and mercy and justice.  In today’s Noontime reading we find a kind of companion psalm, a prayer of innocence, a statement of faith and an affirmation of our covenant promise with God. 

Just a few days ago we examined the first book of Esther in which the story of Mordecai begins to unfold.  He is wrongly accused and knows that he must rely on God and no other for salvation.  Like Job in his conversations with his three friends Bildad, Eliphaz and Elihu, he knows that only in a conversation with God will he find the answers he seeks.  And like Susana in the Book of Daniel he also knows that always our help arrives in God’s time and way rather than our own.   https://thenoontimes.wordpress.com/2011/10/19/the-race-of-the-just/

When we find ourselves in a quagmire not of our making, we might pray this psalm . . . I have walked without blame.  In the Lord I have trusted.

When we find ourselves in a nest of confusing lies and deceptions, we might pray this psalm . . . I do not sit with deceivers, nor with hypocrites do I mingle.

When we find ourselves embroiled in a plot we did not devise, we might pray this psalm . . . I hate the company of evildoers; with the wicked I do not sit.

And when we find ourselves rescued by God – as we always are – we might pray this psalm . . . My foot stands on level ground; in assemblies I will bless the Lord.

Once someone said to me that Psalm 26 cannot rightly be prayed by anyone except Christ since none of us is as perfect as the person who speaks here.  I replied that God does not expect perfection in our actions, only persistence in our attempt to be loving and just; that Christ is a tender brother who models how we might live yet forgives all our faults; that the Holy Spirit abides in each of us urging us to keep ever close to God.  When we listen to the words Christ speaks to us as God manifested among us, we know that forgiveness and openness to renewal are important in our development.  We know that the perfection God asks is our persistence in following Christ through any and all obstacles in our lives.  We know that the first step we must take toward God is a genuine repentance for any way we have offended God.  We know that God is eager to forgive our transgressions.  And we know that we are given infinite opportunities to amend and renew ourselves. 

And so we take up this psalm to examine it and ourselves.  Are there times when we are not completely innocent of wrongdoing?  Yes, and the times are many.  Are there times when we have been wrongly accused and maligned.  Yes, and these times are many as well.  Does God always forgive, is God always present, and does God consistently welcome us home when we have offended him?  Yes, and yes, and yes.  So today, if we find ourselves wanting, we have the opportunity to put ourselves back onto the path of persisting in our journey of perfection.  And also today, if we find that we have been unjustly accused, we have the opportunity to petition God with all the other innocents who suffer at the hands of those who disdain patience and kindness and justice. 

Too often the innocent messenger is blamed for the harsh but true and necessary message.  We may have been the receiver of such a communication and behaved badly . . . and we may also have been the deliverer and suffered through no cause of our own.  In either case, let us together begin our singing . . . My foot stands on level ground; in assemblies I will bless the Lord. 

To read more about innocents who suffer follow the painting hyperlink on today’s post or click this link:

http://abbey-roads.blogspot.com/2011/04/susanna-falsely-accused.html

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