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Judith 1A Lesson Worth Learning

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Benjamin Jean Joseph Constant: Judith

Just this morning I was speaking with a friend about Nebuchadnezzar and when I opened the Bible for the Noontime reflection I saw his name in the middle of the page.  I thought back to the conversation and remembered that my friend was saying how the extravagance at the Oscar awards celebration made her think of this man who demands that his subjects worship him.  We might take a lesson from this.  The beginning of the book of Judith is about how Nebuchadnezzar demands much of his vassal nations and of how he exacts his demands by making war.  This is the backdrop for the story of Judith which we have visited often.  It is an environment of violence and survival, a dangerous setting with various groups of people: the Assyrians, Persians, Medes, and Chaldeans.  Rivers familiar to us from our school studies mark borders: the Tigris and Euphrates, the Jordan.  We recognize the names of countries: Egypt and Ethiopia.  The name of King Arphaxad is new and even exotic.  The opening of this drama brings with it the known and unknown with destruction immediately announced.  Frontiers are breached, limits are exceeded.  We know that this will not be a gentle story.This dovetails, in a surprising way, with the first reading for Mass today from Sirach (17:20-24) about how one who is penitent is guided to God by God.  I am wondering if these leaders in the opening chapter of Judith would heed this kind of advice if offered to them.  I am wondering about people who believe they know the best way to do everything.  I am hoping that I have better ears and a bigger heart than the leaders we read about today.

To the penitent God provides a way back, he encourages those who are losing hope and has chosen for them the lot of truth.  Return to him and give up sin, pray to the Lord and make your offenses few. 

This is good advice to follow when we find ourselves baffled, lost or alone; but it is impossible to follow if we are actively involved in anger.  Strong, negative emotions are easy to use against others; they are difficult to put aside once they have become comfortable tools.

Who in the nether world can glorify the Most High in place of the living who offer their praise?  Dwell o longer in the error of the ungodly, but offer your praise before death.

This is good advice to follow when we are embroiled in conflict or swamped with fear.  If we can do nothing else . . . we can begin to praise God, even if we can only begin half-heartedly.

How great the mercy of the Lord, his forgiveness of those who return to him!

There is a good ending that comes to the faithful in today’s story if we want to read ahead; and this story teaches us a lesson worth learning.  “There can be no doubt that Judith was meant as didactic fiction, not factual history . . . Part 1 narrates a military and religious struggle that begins in Persia and makes its way across the western nations to the little Israelite town Bethulia . . . Part 2 tells how the God-fearing woman Judith destroys the enemies of Israel.  This ‘beautiful’ widow of Manasseh (8.7) lays aside the sackcloth of her widowhood in order to make herself ‘very beautiful, to entice the eyes of all the men who might see here’ . . . Together Parts 1 and 2 show what it means to serve only one God, to turn to this God for an easing of life’s plights, and to trust God without reserve.  The book teaches that by vocation and God’s design, the covenant people are free if they fear only God and rely wholeheartedly on the covenant”.   (Mays 1460-1461)

Repent, return and celebrate . . . This is a lesson worth learning.  It is a lesson worth enacting in our lives.


A re-post from November 9, 2011.

Image from: http://bible-women.blogspot.com/2009/07/proud-judith.html

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 1460-1461. Print.

Written on February 28 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

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Matthew 3:1-12: Hope in the Desert

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Favorite from September 5, 2007.

We hear more today about winnowing time and the importance of repentance.

It is interesting to look at this citation beside today’s Gospel of Luke 4:38-44.  There is a similar theme – Jesus tells us that he comes to proclaim to as many as possible the Good News that redemption is now available to anyone who has faith and is willing to feel sorrow.

Jesus retires to “a deserted place”.  John the Baptist “appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea”.

We tend to shy away from the many desert places in our lives, but it is in these deserts that we encounter God most intensely.  We ought not fear the emptiness or dryness because the nurturing goodness of God never leaves us alone or without hope.  We are never fully in the darkness for there is always a the light of Christ that cannot be held back.  From this morning’s prayer in MAGNIFICAT: The bright light of the risen, Jesus Christ, shines to all parts of the earth.  Let us walk in his light and follow in his way, that, reflecting his brightness, we may enlighten the eyes of the blind with faith and hope.

As People of Hope, let us intone this prayer together today.

Amen.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. 5,9 (2007). Print.  

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Judges 6: Gideon’s Call

James Tissot: The Angel Puts Fire on the Altar of Gideon

Thursday, June 29, 2017

We have spent several days with this Old Testament Book in which we watch the Israelites enter into a cycle: neglect of their covenant with God, the worship of idols, repentance, a petition to God for help, God’s generous response, silence as God waits for the people to respond. God always sends a hero to save the faithful – and this particular hero is Gideon.

We find the following when we read commentary.

  • God asks Joshua, in the book preceding Judges, to lead the people into the Promised Land and he does.
  • God asks the people to wipe out those who worship pagan idols but they do not; and this sows the seed of future problems.
  • Prior to God’s intercession in the life of the faithful, the people are forced to run away from invading armies and literally “head for the hills” when these invaders arrived with chariots.
  • Once the people share a loving relationship with God, they have a rock of refuge, a bulwark of safety.
  • When the people neglect their relationship with God, the cycle of idol worship begins anew.
  • God always has a hero in mind.
  • God’s silence is the space we are given to respond to God’s deep and abiding love.

God calls Gideon while he is in the middle of his work, and Gideon, like many of those called, has many questions. He wants to understand why and how should go about the work God has in mind. God answers, as God always does, “I will be with you, do not worry.” Gideon praises and worships God when he realizes what is happening, that he will be an instrument of redemption in the people’s cycle of sin and repentance.

Like Gideon, we are likewise fearful in our response to God. We know what we are asked to do; yet frequently we are too frightened to step out of our comfort zone. In the end, however, no find that no other course of action is worth taking.

The story of Gideon also demonstrates for us that silence can be entirely appropriate when it is patient, loving, merciful, and just. A silence that waits, that whispers to the beloved, that calls the beloved back to the covenant, is a silence that heals.

So like Gideon, let us sit beneath our terebinth and call on God. For God will surely answer.

Adapted from a Noontime written on January 31, 2007.

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2 Peter 3: One Day With The Lord

James Tissot: First Denial of Peter

Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 7, 2017

We have spent the week with Peter, recalling his turnings and re-turnings to the Lord. Watching as he examines his true self to bring a transformed heart to Christ. We see how Peter allows his suffering and trust in the Spirit to set him free. Today we reflect on his words to see how he handles scoffers, naysayers, and rumors that the world as we know it is coming to an end. Today we spend one day with the Lord, remembering God’s goodness, Christ’s redemption and the Spirit’s healing consolation.

For one day with the Lord is like as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day. (2 Peter 3:8)

Better is one day in your courts [O Lord] than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.  (Psalm 84:10)

James Tissot: Second Denial of Peter

The Lord does not delay in God’s promises, but for your sake is long-suffering, not wishing that you should perish but that all should return to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

For God so loved the world that God gave God’s one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  (John 3:16-17)

The day of the Lord will come as a thief.  (2 Peter 3:10)

But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.  Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? (Matthew 24:43-45)

James Tissot: Third Denial of Peter

Therefore, beloved, while you look for these things, endeavor to be found by him without spot and blameless in peace . . . Therefore, since you know this beforehand, be on your guard lest, carried away by the error of the foolish, you fall away from your own steadfastness.  (2 Peter 3:17)

In this Eastertide, let us listen to the words very likely written by a follower of Peter.  Let us sit with the words of the psalmist, and of the apostles Matthew and John.  Let us take them into our fiber and being and vow to live each day in Christ as if it were the one and only day given to us to be lived with the Lord.  Let us consider these words for what they are – an Easter gift that warms the hardened heart, and turns all harm to good.

And so beloved, grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity.  Amen. (2 Peter 3:18)

James Tissot: Feed My Lambs
The Risen Christ and Peter

On this fourth Sunday after the miracle of Easter, we thank Peter for his honesty and courage. And we determine to follow in his way.

Adapted from a Favorite written during Advent 2010 as we considered Jesus as a Christmas miracle and gift. Today we reflect on how Peter’s words brings to us the resurrected Christ as God’s promise of salvation fulfilled.

We frequently spend time with Peter’s letters at The Noontimes. For more reflections, enter Peter’s name in to the blog search bar and explore.

To re-visit For the story of Jesus’ Passion, Death and resurrection by James Tissot, click on the images or visit: http://www.joyfulheart.com/holy-week/ 

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Hebrews 12:14-17Peace and Holiness

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Hendrick ter Brugghen: Esau Selling his Birthright

Hendrick ter Brugghen: Esau Selling his Birthright

As we continue to consider the quality of peace in our lives, we reflect on this Favorite written on August 23, 2007. How do we find peace in our families? How do peace and holiness abide in times of deception and deceit? 

Strive for peace and holiness by avoiding bitterness, and by seeking reconciliation and unity through repentance and reparation.  Seeking blessing through tears does not work unless it is accompanied by true repentance and a true desire for intimacy and union.  The example of Esau is clear.  He deserved his inheritance yet he was cheated out of it by his own mother and brother.  We go back to rethink the story and we find something new.

In a homily more than a year ago, the homilist pointed out the following in regards to the stealing of Esau’s birthright by his brother Jacob: When we look at Jacob’s life, we see that he manipulated God’s plan in order to receive something which he thought he deserved.  He angled for his brother’s inheritance by clear and overt deception and betrayal. Yet in the end, his life was one of a series of losses of family members and of separation from loved ones.  The homilist pointed out that no matter how we try, we humans cannot out-maneuver God.

We reflect on how Esau was so often absent from the family, doing what he pleased while hunting and fishing.  He was a member of his family but had moved himself away from the intimacy of the precious circle of love.  Perhaps if he had been more engaged, more interactive, more truly present, less passive resistant or even passive aggressive, his brother would not have thought it possible to steal an inheritance.  Esau neglected something important that had been given to him: the gifts of his intimate family members.  He was cavalier in his attitude about them and in Chapter 25 of Genesis he sells his right for a single bowl of stew.  Later when he cries, he does not repent.  So Esau goes off to join the Ishmaelites and to begin his own tribe which thrives in opposition to the tribes of his brother Jacob.

And so as we reflect, we pray.

God in Heaven, keep us from neglecting those whom we love so dearly.  Do not let us stray so far that my loved ones believe me gone.  For those whom we love who stand away from us, let us always be open to the newness of the Spirit, always present to the impossible possibility that a new beginning is waiting to bloom.  For those to whom we have an aversion, for those we hold at arm’s length, keep us aware that you work wonders – even in the lives and plans of those who mean to do harm.  Keep us prudent but open to the possibility that hearts may be softened, walls taken down.  Keep us from being part of the wall.  Allow us to trust you to be our shield and protection.  Keep us holy and in peace.  We pray this in Jesus’ name as we abide with you in the same Spirit who guided Jacob and Esau. 

Amen.

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Isaiah 57:14-21: The Restless Sea

Monday, August 22, 2016restless seas

In days when political and civic leaders grapple with the realities of our common world, Isaiah reminds us that the wicked are always with us, obscuring truth, engendering deceit.

The wicked are storm-battered seas that can’t quiet down. The waves stir up garbage and mud. (THE MESSAGE)

In times when religious and community leaders struggle to bring light to a present darkness, Isaiah reminds us that evil relies on chaotic upheaval and unpredictable alliances.

Evil people are like the restless sea, whose waves never stop rolling in, bringing filth and muck. (GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION)

In the hour of darkness when friends and family clash over how to move forward for the good of all, Isaiah tells us that God’s promise of healing and restoration is authentic.

But the wicked are like the tossing sea that cannot keep still; its waters toss up mire and mud. (NRSV)

In the moment of fear and division when anxiety and confusion threaten our relationship with God, Isaiah tells us that there is one person, one person, one bond that calms all fear and quiets all anxiety. Isaiah reminds us that there is a voice that persists as it calls out: Let my people return to me. Remove every obstacle from their path! Build the road and make it ready!

Help and healing, humility and repentance, confidence and hope, eternal promise and love. Isaiah comforts us as he has done for millennia. Isaiah reminds us that God waits eternally for those who look to move from mourning to joy.

When we use the scripture link and the drop-down menus to explore various translations of these verses, we discover how we might all survive the restless seas.

Visit http://www.spiritualwarbiblestudies.com/index.php?topic=112.0 for a post exploring Isaiah 57:14-21. 

 

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Isaiah 11: On that day . . .

Thursday, December 10, 2015lion and lamb

“Isaiah wrote during a period of upheaval and general unrest, as the Assyrian Empire was expanding and the northern kingdom of Israel facing decline and imminent disaster.  Judah [in the south] was also vulnerable, although her destruction was ultimately to come at the hands of a later power, Babylonia . . . Isaiah’s primary ministry was to the people of Judah, who were failing to live according to the requirements of God’s law.  But he prophesied judgment not only upon Judah but also upon Israel and the surrounding nations.  On the other hand, Isaiah delivered a stirring message of repentance and salvation for any who would turn to God. (Zondervan 1051)

In reading today’s Noontime we see that only a stump or remnant of David’s dynasty will remain, and this remnant will be in exile; but from this stump will rise the Messiah, the saver of all peoples.  Also in today’s reading we hear that the word of God will first be lost on those originally chosen, and will then find more fertile soil in the gentile nations.  This is a story of disaster giving bloom to fruit – of rejection giving birth to glory.  It is the story of Jesus’ coming and interaction with humankind.  Harm will be turned to good.  Hate will convert to love.  Rejection will be overridden by restoration.  All that has sought to divide will itself be conquered.  All that has been self-seeking will capitulate to union. Emmanuel – God among us – will rule.  Emmanuel – God amidst us – will save.

isaiah 11v1We can take comfort from these words when we find ourselves in situations that seem irredeemable.  We can also find consolation for the times when we feel devastating loss.  God is constantly looking to restore all that is good.  God is consistent in his love and in his insistence in love being the only power which ultimately survives the chaos of our existence.  The message is clear: On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.  On that day, the Lord shall again take it in hand to reclaim the remnant of his people . . .

We often think of the day of Christ’s coming as some distant time in the next life, but as we recently reflected on God’s power to control all time for all good, we realize that that day may be today or any day.  That day is the day that God wills.  As members of God’s body we come together in the hope that each day may be that day, that all days may be days when we clearly feel and see Emmanuel among us.

spirit1Rather than put our hopes in a distant day when things may come right, when hard hearts may eventually be softened, let us place our hope in this day.  And let us petition our God that each day may be that day.  Let us ready ourselves each morning for his coming.  Let us walk with him through each day.  And each evening as we lay our heads on pillows to slip into sleep, let us thank him that this day has – in some way or other – been that day. 

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1051. Print.

A favorite from November 7, 2009.

 

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James 5:7-9: Early and Late Rains

An early spring rain on a window

An early spring rain on a window

Monday, October 26, 2015

James speaks to three groups of people in these verses, and all three groups will want to hear his words.

James speaks to those who judge others and speak out against them. If we find ourselves participating in gossip we will want to take care. Even our grumbling is a kind of separation and violence.

A fruitful summer rain

A fruitful summer rain

James also speaks to those who assume that they are in charge of their own plans and future. If we realize that God has had little input to our hopes and dreams, we will want to turn back to God. Arrogance and pride harm us as well as our loved ones.

James finally speaks to those who amass treasure at the expense of others. If we come to understand that our fear for self separates us from God we will want to change our ways. We must soften our hearts and unbend our necks and consider what kinds of wealth we amass at the expense of others. We can hoard much more than silver and gold, and we do well to examine our own stockpiles.

A late and frosty winter rain

A late and frosty winter rain

James reminds us that with God . . . it is never too late to repent. Through God . . . all harm turns to good. In God . . . patience and persistence are the work of the Spirit. James advises us that the righteous will eventually flourish, whether the rains that bring the substance for blooming arrive early, on time or even late into our lives.

Tomorrow, patience in suffering.

 

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James 4:7-10: A Solution for Turmoil

Monday, October 19, 2015humility

James continues to be clear with us. There is a method to putting an end to wars and struggles and the list is brief.

  1. Submit ourselves to God.
  2. Resist temptations to act independently of God.
  3. Continue to draw near to God.
  4. Cleanse our hands and purify our hearts.
  5. Ask forgiveness for our willfulness.
  6. Be humble.

The benefits of these simple acts are enormous and impossible to measure. A certain serenity settles over our lives. A new passion colors our relationship with God and with those around us as a result of newly-found peace. We connect ever more intensely with the divinity that lives within. It is no coincidence that these instructions from James closely mirror the 12 steps to recovery outlined by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1939. We might spend time with these verses today and make a few simple decisions . . .

Give ourselves over to God . . . So let God work his will in you.

Resist temptation . . . Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper.

Draw ever closer to God . . . Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time.

Make an intentional effort to renew our lives in Christ . . . Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field.

Ask forgiveness . . . Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over.

Be humble . . . Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.

All else will follow in its natural course.

forgiveWhen we use the scripture link to compare versions of these verses, we allow James’ wisdom to settle into our days and into our lives.

To learn more about the Alcoholics Anonymous organization, visit: http://www.aa.org/pages/en_US/what-is-aa 

Tomorrow, a prayer for resolving turmoil . . . 

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