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assyriaFriday, January 13, 2022

Joy and Nahum

Warning

The prophets warn, threaten, exhort, and promise us that God is always present, even though we may not recognize this presence. The Old Testament prophecies foreshadow the good news of the New Testament, and they remind us that no matter our circumstance God’s joy rescues us from sure destruction, Christ’s joy redeems us from our recklessness, and the Spirit’s joy heals us despite the gravity of our wounds.  Today Nahum delivers a warning to the enemies of the faithful.

“Shortly before the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C., Nahum uttered his prophecy against the hated city. To understand the prophet’s exultant outburst of joy over the impending destruction it is necessary to recall the savage cruelty of Assyria . . . in the wake of their conquests, mounds of heads, impaled bodies, enslaved citizens, and avaricious looters testified to the ruthlessness of the Assyrians”. (Senior 1147)

Nahum 3:19: There is no healing for your wound—it is far too deep to cure. All who hear your fate will clap their hands for joy, for where can one be found who has not suffered from your cruelty?

God says: Revenge is never a source of happiness and it is – in fact – a source of continued pain. When you inflict punishment on those who oppose you that punishment comes back to haunt you. Nothing is gained. All is lost. As my servant Paul so ably reminds you, “love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth”. (1 Corinthians 13: 6) Keep this in mind when you see your enemies fall. Call on me when you feel the hand of vengeance grip you. When you hear a warning of impending doom . . . remember that I alone can mete out justice that brings new life. Explore the verses of my prophet Nahum and look for the words he uses to remind you that in your anger and fear you need only look to me . . . for I will keep my promises.

Look! On the mountains the feet of one
    who brings good tidings,
    who proclaims peace!
Celebrate your festivals, O Judah,
    fulfill your vows,
for never again shall the wicked invade you;
    they are utterly cut off.
(Nahum 1:15)

The prophecy of Nahum is a short one. Spend a bit of time with these verses this weekend and listen for God’s response to Nahum’s warning.


To learn more about Assyria, click on the image above or visit: http://www.ancient.eu/assyria/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. 1147. Print.

joyIf this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urges you to investigate the New Testament, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar.

Image from: http://www.ancient.eu/assyria/

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joyThursday, November 11, 2021

Esther 9

Joy and Killing

Much like the Book of Judith, the story of Esther is another that is full of danger and violence but this time counterpointed by trust in God . . . and great rejoicing. Today and tomorrow we discover that despite palace intrigue, envy and anger, joy is present. If today’s story calls you to search for more surprises, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today we find joy in times of massacre and war.

Chapter 9 of Esther’s story describes the origin of the Purim festival, a celebration of the Jewish nation’s deliverance. We know that after a plot against these faithful was thwarted and as too often happens when power changes hands, wide-scale killing takes place. Old feuds rise and are settled. Grudges surface and are acted upon. Personal agendas take over.

Andrea del Castagna: Queen Esther (detail)

Andrea del Castagna: Queen Esther (detail)

We humans have not moved much past these ancient rituals of slaughtering the conquered. Despite the fact that in many cultures leaders are elected by free and fair elections, too many peoples suffer at the hands of those who see instability as a time to take over, to amass power, and to use corruption as a governing tool rather than social justice or the rule of law. And we need not look to the evening news to find examples of how we repress one another in the hope of currying favor or gaining control. Our workplaces, neighborhoods and even our homes sometimes serve as microcosms of the problems we see on a more global scale.

Today we may be horrified at the acts of revenge we read in the Book of Esther. And today we might also be surprised at the elation that sweeps through these people who thought themselves dead. Today we remember that we witness many small killings too frequently in our lives, the killing of the spirit, the killing of the heart, mind and soul, the killing of ideas, hopes and dreams. The killing of innocence. And then . . . let us reflect on how we might find joy in times when insanity reigns and reason disappears.

Verses 9:17-23: This was on the thirteenth day of Adar. On the next day, the fourteenth, there was no more killing, and they made it a joyful day of feasting. The Jews of Susa, however, made the fifteenth a holiday, since they had slaughtered their enemies on the thirteenth and fourteenth and then stopped on the fifteenth. This is why Jews who live in small towns observe the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a joyous holiday, a time for feasting and giving gifts of food to one another. Mordecai had these events written down and sent letters to all the Jews, near and far, throughout the Persian Empire, telling them to observe the fourteenth and fifteenth days of Adar as holidays every year. These were the days on which the Jews had rid themselves of their enemies; this was a month that had been turned from a time of grief and despair into a time of joy and happiness. They were told to observe these days with feasts and parties, giving gifts of food to one another and to the poor. So the Jews followed Mordecai’s instructions, and the celebration became an annual custom.

Let us pause and consider how we might refrain from seeking revenge when we have been wronged. Let us mediate on the meaning of interceding for our enemies. And let us celebrate deliverance from evil and killing we too often find in our own lives.


For more information about the feast of Purim, click on the image of Queen Esther above, or visit: http://www.chabad.org/holidays/purim/article_cdo/aid/645309/jewish/What-Is-Purim.htm and http://www.mythicmaps.net/Festival_calendar/March/Purim.htm

For more Noontime reflections about this woman’s story, enter the word Esther into the blog search bar and explore.

Image from: http://www.mythicmaps.net/Festival_calendar/March/Purim.htm

Read the rest of this story in Esther 9-10.

For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

 

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joyWednesday, November 10, 2021

Esther 8

Joy and Intrigue

Much like the Book of Judith, the story of Esther is another that is full of danger and violence but this time counterpointed by trust in God . . . and great rejoicing. Today and tomorrow we discover that despite palace intrigue, envy and anger, joy is present. If today’s story calls you to search for more surprises, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today we find joy in times of deceitful intrigue.

The opening chapters of Esther’s story describe how this young woman, despite her Jewish identity and fidelity to Yahweh, finds herself at the center of a major, political power struggle. Esther’s uncle Mordecai counsels her; and the courtier Haman – full of hatred, envy and pride – plots to kill all Jews in the kingdom. Resenting the power and influence Mordecai and Esther hold with the king, Haman hatches a devilish plot; and Esther finds that the only way for her to survive is to rely on God’s providence and care. In the end, the tables turn on Haman and he suffers the very punishment he had hoped to exact on the Jewish people, death on the gallows built at his own command.

Arent de Gelder: Esther and Mordecai Writing the Second Letter of Purim

Arent de Gelder: Esther and Mordecai Writing the Second Letter of Purim

Verses 8:15-17:  Mordecai left the palace, wearing royal robes of blue and white, a cloak of fine purple linen, and a magnificent gold crown. Then the streets of Susa rang with cheers and joyful shouts. For the Jews there was joy and relief, happiness and a sense of victory. In every city and province, wherever the king’s proclamation was read, the Jews held a joyful holiday with feasting and happiness. In fact, many other people became Jews, because they were afraid of them now.

The story of Esther is one we will want to remember when we find ourselves looking for power and revenge. The story of Esther is one we will want to remember when we find ourselves plotting to preserve power or damage another another’s reputation. The story of Esther is one we will want to recall when we find ourselves thrilling to schemes of undoing . . . rather than planning to work in the kingdom of God.


For more about the painting by Arent de Gelder, click on the image above or go to: http://www.artbible.info/art/large/174.html

For more Noontime reflections about this woman’s story, enter the word Esther into the blog search bar and explore.

Read this story from the beginning at, Esther 1-8. 

For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

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Saturday, August 7, 2021

Jeremiah 17:14-18

search-me-oh-godThe Day Without Remedy

Jeremiah’s frustration runs high; his disappointment in the social and religious structure is enormous; his passion grows larger than his own life. The prophet cries out in a beautiful and poignant prayer for vengeance.

Heal me, O Lord, that I may be healed; save me, that I may be saved, for it is you whom I praise.

We have followed your precepts and still we suffer. The day of calamity is upon us.

See how they say to me, “Where is the word of the Lord? Let it come to pass!”

No one remembers your loving care; the number of your faithful dwindles.

Yet I did not press you to send calamity; the day without remedy I have not desired.

We have walked in The Way the Christ has shown us and we have turned the other cheek, offered clothes to the naked, fed the poor and housed the homeless.

You know what passed my lips; it is present before you.

We have refrained from gossip; we have spoken of our love for you.

Do not be my ruin, you, my refuge in the day of misfortune.

Abide with us here, remain with us now.

Let my persecutors, not me, be broken.

Bring peace to my enemies; soften the hearts of the stiff-necked.

Bring upon them the day of misfortune, crush them with repeated destruction.

Bring upon my adversaries your serenity that heals shattered hearts, your love that mends broken minds, and your peace that restores fragmented spirits.

Heal us, O Lord, that we may be healed . . .

For in this healing that we find reconciliation . . .

Save us, that we may be saved . . .

For it in this saving that we find eternal peace . . .

It is you whom we praise . . .

It is you alone who brings life that endures all things. It is you alone who brings an end to our days without remedy. Amen.


For more on asking intercession for those who harm us, enter the words Prayer for Revenge into the search bar on this blog and explore. Or go to the sidebar on the right of the blog page and scroll down to find another Prayer for Revenge based on 1 Samuel 24.

Image from: http://rodiagnusdei.wordpress.com/

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Friday, March 12, 2021

Prudence

Michael Whelan: Prudence

Amos 5:7-17

First Woe

You shall not live in the houses you fashion for yourself. You shall not drink of the wine from your vineyard. You have taken bribes and oppressed the just. Therefore, the prudent one is silent at this time.

Today Amos announces the first of three woes and he is quite clear about the consequences that will befall those who allow themselves to slide into corrupt and evil ways.

God says: You hear today about wailing and crying. This need not take place. You read about destruction and loss. This need not happen. You see images of evil against good. This need not be so. Put down your arms. Cease your self-defense. This is how we put an end to mourning and lament. Celebrate what is good in each of you. Cease judging. Praise what you find to be positive in both yourself and others and begin with that. The smallest ounce of goodness is ample space for me to gain a foothold in your heart. This woe is taken from your shoulders when you turn and return to me.

As we watch our evening news we see interviews with family members of those who have been murdered who choose diverging paths. Some want to exact revenge. Others are willing to forgive, knowing that revenge eats holes only in those who exact a price.

As we watch the evening news we see nations striking out at one another, seizing assets, prevaricating and stirring discord. We may think we gain anonymity when we hide in a crowd of millions or even billions and say nothing about injustice, and yet . . . God knows how willing we are to live in and for all that Christ teaches us.

Today we consider the images Amos brings to us, we examine our hearts and minds, and we consider . . .

Tomorrow, the second woe of Amos.


Michael Whelan images at: http://www.michaelwhelan.com/shop/reproductions/all-reproductions/prudence-2/

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Saturday, December 12, 2020

We continue our journey through troubled days of pandemic that teach us the lesson of waiting. These days also teach us that temples are not always the safe places we imagine. They teach us that physical temples are always plundered. They teach us that the temple of Mary’s waiting is a sacred lesson we will want to learn. 

Raphael: The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple

Raphael: The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple2 Maccabees 3

An Attempt to Plunder the Temple

Today’s reading is a story about a man named Heliodorus, treasurer to King Seleucus IV of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire from 187 to 175 B.C.E. It is also the story of a man named Simon, superintendent of the Jerusalem temple, who argued with the high priest Onias . . . and decided to exact revenge.

There are some important points to consider when we read this chapter.

  • Footnotes tell us that this book of the Bible is likely a condensation of a many-tome collection of events which occurred just before the Romans took control of the Middle East.
  • Looking ahead, we can see the story of Simon and his deception does not end. Simon escapes unscathed from this deceitful confrontation but when we move into the Gospels, we know that the corruption we see in this story eventually brings about the fall of the temple.  History tells us that this happened about 40 years following Jesus’ death . . . and the rest of the Good News which we know so well unfolds.
  • The Jewish community was exempt from paying Greeks taxes on all temple sacrifices, and this practice was re-negotiated later with the Romans.
  • The Jewish community took care of widows and orphans from this temple fund; and wealthy Jews “hid” their money from taxation in this temple fund which was administered well and poorly, depending upon who was in control at the time.

The messages that run through this chapter are important for us today:  1) where we find money, power and fame we will also find treachery, jealousy and corruption, 2) the anguish of the faithful is heard and answered by God, and 3) even those who come to attack us may experience a change of heart.

As we continue our Advent journey, how does all of this speak to us today?

Tomorrow . . . A Prayer for the Plundered


Adapted from a reflection written on January 5, 2008.

In the artist Raphael’s depiction of these angels of God who intervene for the faithful on God’s behalf, we see the mysterious mounted man with his two compatriots on the right as they strike Heliodorus down.  http://www.abcgallery.com/R/raphael/raphael37.html

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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

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 . . .  


A re-post from June 9, 2013.

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

Image from: https://theencouragingword.co/2016/03/03/sheep-in-wolfs-clothing/

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Ezekiel 25: Against the Nations

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Bridge over the Drina in Mostar, Bosnia

As we read this chapter of Ezekiel we might be lured into what Richard Rohr – and many others – calls dualistic thinking.  Decisions are made in a yes/no, black/white, off/on world.  If we are able to step outside of our small perspective and move into a greater view of the world we understand that this kind of reasoning is dangerous in that it limits our vision . . . and therefore limits us.  Rohr examines how life is a paradox in his blog posts at http://richardrohr.wordpress.com They are worth visiting as are his CD lectures, the webcasts and other resources on his Rohr Institute site at http://www.cac.org/ as we reflect on the way we think, the way we respond to conflict, and the way we seek resolutions to the difficult passages in our lives.

The portion of Ezekiel that we read today may be used as fuel for the fire of prejudice . . . if we allow the voice of revenge and conquest to go unchecked.  As the recent events in our global community unfold, we are reminded that fanaticism can never be good. As my siblings and I grew, my Dad intoned to us regularly: Anything is a bad thing when taken to extremes . . . even a good thing.  He understood that words like the ones we read today can be taken out of context, can be blown out of context and morphed in importance. Any single verse, Dad would say, when taken in isolation does not tell the whole story. Read the story.  When my father and grandfather told us to read the whole story what they meant was this: stop, think, pray, listen, think, read, think, pray, share ideas, pray, think, pray . . . and act.  We want to take this method with us as we plunge into Ezekiel’s words against the nations.  To what does he call us?

The Old Testament Yahweh can be seen here as a god of vengeance and when we read these verses with anger in our hearts we might believe that God himself justifies the revenge we feel against those who have injured us; but we are also reminded that Yahweh’s love for creation knows no bounds.

The Old Testament Yahweh can be seen here as a god who exacts precise payment for wrongs committed; but we know that Yahweh’s generosity and compassion cannot be outdone when we remember his care for the enslaved and powerless.

The New Testament Jesus fulfills the promise of reunion and union first uttered by Yahweh.

The New Testament Jesus brings human hands and feet and voice to the mercy and compassion first shown by Yahweh.

When we find ourselves in turmoil and wishing to take revenge against the people who have injured us we must not let dualistic thinking close off possibilities of healing, reconciliation and union.

When we find ourselves in deep sorrow over a loss we have suffered we must not let simplistic rule-following to replace decision-making by a well-formed conscience.

When we feel ourselves being pulled into the vortex of darkness that would have us chant slogans that condemn, that would lead us to take an eye for an eye, that would ask us to rail against the nations . . . we must first stop to think and to pray, and to seek so that we might find . . . the forgiving, open, healing way of Christ.  For it is Christ who embodies all that is good.  It is Christ who brings us the outrageous hope that even the most dire circumstances may be righted. It is Christ who will help us to build bridges to the nations.


A re-post from September 15, 2012.

The name “Mostar” means “the city of bridges”.  To read more about what happened to the bridges in Bosnia during the most recent Balkan wars, click on the image above or go to: http://balkansnet.org/mostar.html  Follow more links on that page to read and reflect on reconciliation and revenge.

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Obadiah: Hope and Remnant

Monday, September 30, 2019

We have been looking at this tiny prophecy which is packed with imagery and emotion.  Today we continue our deeper look.

From the CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE Reading Guide page 368: The oracle is really a testimony to the indomitable hope of a people who had been reduced to poverty and insignificance, and were at the mercy of their neighbors. 

While most of us do not suffer from severe fiscal poverty, we certainly skate along the edges of financial crunches from time to time . . . but that is not what I think about when I think of poverty.  The metaphor which comes to me as I read these lines of the people pleading for vengeance is one of a poverty of spirit, a state of broken-heartedness, a state of grief over the great loss of something we held near to us.  All of us at some time have suffered at the hands of those who say they love us, and it is in this light that we can identify with the prophet Obadiah.

The territory of Edom (against whose people this oracle is written) was settled by the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob who allowed himself to be tricked into giving over his birthright to his brother with indifference.  At the time of the exile and captivity, the Edomites raided Judah and pillaged what the northern invaders had left behind.  This continued what had already been a bitter animosity between Jews and Edomites, their neighbors and near kinsmen, an animosity between peoples who ought to be linked closely in friendship and blood ties.  Deception by friends and family is felt more intensely than any other, I believe; and it cuts deeply, swiftly . . . and surely.  This kind of betrayal is the most difficult to overcome.  But overcome we must . . . for we are a Remnant People . . . with a destiny for conversion, for transformation, for kingdom.

From THE ARCHEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE article on Edom, page 1467 we find that Edom (located south of the Dead Sea and north of the Gulf of Aqaba) prospered from its control of north-south trade routes and its excavations of its copper and iron mines.  Moses was unable to negotiate a peace with these people and so the Hebrews were forced to go around them on their way home to the Promised Land.  David managed to control this tribe, many of whom lived in high caves cut out of the stony faces of the mountains, but other Jewish kings were not so fortunate.  These people (later known as Idumeans) finally succumbed to Roman rule after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. and “disappeared from history”.

These are the neighbors who took advantage of Judah when she was suffering; yet we see that in the end . . . these people were the ones who disappeared . . . not the Jewish people . . . not The Remnant.

We can easily identify with the prophet and people who suffer at the hands of their neighbor.  We might as easily call for vengeance over the despicable acts of those who are near to us in body and in heart but if we are a Remnant People we must call for Hope.  We must call for the Messiah.

Let us put aside our very human desire for revenge, and let us petition our Creator God for the same peace and compassion which we have been given.  Let us ask intercession for those nearest to us who have hurt us.  And let us ask forgiveness of those nearest to us whom we may have injured.  Let us ask for restoration for all.


A re-post from September 10, 2012.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. RG368. Print.   

“Edom.” ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. Print.

Written on March 24, 2008  and posted today as a Favorite.

For more about the Edomites  (Idumeans) and their territory, click on the image above or go to: http://www.bible-history.com/maps/edomites.html or http://www.ordination.org/edomites.htm

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