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Posts Tagged ‘revenge’


Esther 5:9-14: Retribution

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Esther

I love this story for its crystalline message: The measure that we measure with is measured out to us.  (Luke 6:38).  We need to hear this story today because lately we have been reflecting on convolutions and betrayals big and small, on expiatory sacrifices, on our complaints, on making a proper response to the call we hear from God, and on forming the alliances we will need to see us through our journey in this life.  All of these themes are present in the story of Esther . . . and they can weigh heavily on us in this season when we want to participate in Easter joy.

Often we are exhausted from the many lessons of discipleship which we must learn.  Often we grow weary of hearing the message that only God can pass judgment and exact retribution.  Often we spend ourselves down to the bottom of our resources keeping up with both listening for the call and by managing our human desire to ask for revenge.  Often our personal well runs dry after we drink from it more times than we replenish it.

Today offers us an opportunity to fill the well, to re-stock the granary, to rest a bit and to recoup.  There are many psalms and stories in scripture in which humans petition retribution and violent revenge on their enemies who appear to skate through life unscathed by the wreckage they leave in their wake.  What today’s story tells us is this:  These enemies drown in their own wake. 

Yes, we reply, we hear this . . . but when will we see it . . . and why does it happen . . . and how do we survive?

We can never visit this story often enough.  We help ourselves if we read it several times a year because it has so much to offer and speaks to the basic human desire to judge and to enact our own retribution.  Various Bibles order the inserts differently and the introductory commentary and the accompanying footnotes will explain the reasons for the jumbled structure of this book which ought to be important to each of.  It is through this story that we are reminded of how our enemies fall.  It is through this story that we remember that we doom ourselves by not answering the call we hear.  It is through this story that we can assure ourselves that our reward will be certain, definite . . . and will flow from our own hands.  It is also from this story we learn that our own actions wash back on us if we enter into the world of envy, fear, obsession and hate.

Rembrandt: Haman Begging the Mercy of Esther

Today we read about how Haman is content and happy with the plot he is weaving.  We see how he flatters himself and gets lost in his own distorted view of life.  We cannot miss how Haman’s friends and wife misdirect him.  These are such important lessons for us to read.  We cannot hear them enough.  These are lessons we must see and live because . . . in the living of these events, we become more like God.  We respond to the call of our potential.  We enter Christ’s Mystical Body.  This is how we survive.

And so we pray:  Help us to see, help us to live, O God.

When we are weary from learning the lessons of life: Help us to see, help us to live, O God.

When we tire from seeking and waiting and searching: Help us to see, help us to live, O God.

When we become lost in the webs we and others weave: Help us to see, help us to live, O God.

When we are exhausted from living on the edge:  Help us to see, help us to live, O God.

Amen. 


A re-post from May 21, 2012 .

Images from: http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/rembrandt/haman-begging-esther-for-mercy and http://christianrep.com/blog/2010/08/08/let-your-life-speak/

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Matthew 18:21-35The Unforgiving Servant

Thursay, January 17, 2019

Rembrandt: The Unforgiving Servant

It is so very difficult to forgive those who have wronged us grievously; and it is also difficult to curb the pressing urge to seek revenge against our enemies.  Jesus tells us today that we must endlessly forgive those who harm us . . . otherwise we are like the unforgiving servant in today’s parable.  And the frightening outcome of his life is not one we want for ourselves or our loved ones.

Seventy-seven times, we are told by scholars and experts, represents a number of completion.  By forgiving endlessly we near the perfection or completion we yearn for.  The irony here is that when we become the unforgiving servant we distance ourselves from the very fullness we seek.  We label ourselves as partial and lacking.  Jesus warns us of this today.

Luke also records that Jesus tells his followers they must forgive endlessly (17:4).  This is something they and we struggle to understand.  Our instincts tell us to attack, defend, justify and explain.  We want to come out of any dispute or confrontation as the clear and evident winner.  We want to survive.  For most of us it is difficult to walk away from an argument or to allow another to have the last word; yet Jesus tells us that our first step toward wholeness is to forgive.  Reconciliation will follow if we remain open.  Isolation, anger and fear become more distant and even impossible when we turn our backs on revenge and seek union instead.  Jesus calls us to this today.

St. Paul reminds the Ephesians (4:32) to be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.  Which one of us, he implies, is so perfect that we cannot forgive?  And how do we hold a grudge when Jesus – God among us – does not?  St. Paul points this out to us today.

Immaculée Ilibagiza

Following the horrific genocide in Rwanda, the warring Hutus and the Tutsis were brought together in a journey from fighting to forgiveness.  We follow events as they unfold; we want this reconciliation to work because this coming together of bitter enemies tells us that we are worth redeeming.  It shows us what God sees in us.  It reminds us of God’s covenant promise to us.  Powerful testimonials to our capacity to forgive can be found in both print and video media and here are only a few examples.  http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/8564297/ns/today/t/fighting-forgiveness-rwanda/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mK0W4jx2OZY  and http://articles.cnn.com/2008-05-15/world/amanpour.rwanda_1_hutu-gitarama-tutsis?_s=PM:WORLDWhen we read, hear or view these stories, we take heart.  We once again bolster ourselves for the difficult yet redeeming task of forgiving others.  We once more feel the stirrings of hope in our tired hearts.  We again pull ourselves away from our fear to love our enemies into goodness.

Kill them with kindness, my mother always advised, taking her example from Jesus.  Let God worry about the other guy, Dad always told us, knowing that evil is too enormous and too dangerous for us to conquer on our own.  In her book entitled Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Genocide, Immaculée Ilibagiza tells her story that echoes those of so many other holocaust survivors that God resides even in the center of hell itself if that is where he has to be in order to save us.  This is how much God loves us.  This is how much we can love one another.

When we feel ourselves drawn into this story as the master or the servants, we know that it holds something for us.  When we find ourselves giving over to the anger within us and fear that it will control our thoughts, words and actions, we will want to turn to this story.  When someone who has wronged us approaches us in humble fear of our retaliation, let us reach out a warm and welcoming hand and remember the words that Jesus taught us to pray . . .  Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.  And let us remember the story of the unforgiving servant.


A re-post from January 17, 2012.

Images from: http://australiaincognita.blogspot.com/2008_10_01_archive.html and https://thenoontimes.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/thumblg_immaculee1.jpg

To read more about Immaculée Ilibagiza, see: http://www.beliefnet.com/Inspiration/Most-Inspiring-Person-Of-The-Year/2006/Immacule-Ilibagiza.aspx

For more on Rwando, go to: http://www.unitedhumanrights.org/genocide/genocide_in_rwanda.htm

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2 Samuel 16Making Mistakes

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Michelangelo: David

Written on January 30 and posted today as a Favorite . . . 

Today we see a part of the story of David that might be difficult to understand if we view life as a series of good decisions.  When we view life as it really is, however – as series of decisions we make both bad and good – we have less anxiety and fear, we experience more hope and serenity.  I heard a radio preacher recently say: When you live your life in the Spirit, you can’t make a mistake.  “This is incorrect”, we might say to ourselves.  “How can a good life have bad decisions in it?  How can a life of flawed decisions be good?”  If this is our thinking, we have forgotten something and it is this : If we are living in the Spirit, we will have arrived at understanding how God operates; we will fully comprehend that God turns all harm to good.  So whether we err accidentally or whether we mean to inflict harm in any way, God will use these flawed acts to work in his favor for – God turns all harm to good.  And this is part of the story we see today.

David has been a good leader and faithful to God, but he has also sinned and erred.  What sets David apart is the way in which he reacts when others urge him to take revenge.  When he was younger, his soldiers encouraged him to murder the sleeping Saul when he had the opportunity.  David instead makes it obvious that he has breached the enemy’s lines and yet has not taken a life where he could.  David lives in the Spirit.  David later becomes infatuated with Bathsheba and plots her husband’s death; he confesses this sin when confronted by Nathan and sings a beautiful lament of repentance that we still sing today during the Lenten season (Psalm 51).  Even though he has erred, David lives in the Spirit.

David does not use his good standing with God to ignore what he has done; instead he confesses and atones.  He lives his life in the Spirit and does not try to avoid culpability for his actions or gain immunity so that he might do whatever he likes.  Rather, David praises and obeys God.  Living in the Spirit has become part of who he is and what he does.

Today we read of some of the intrigue that mounted as David aged and the time came for one of his sons to rule Israel.  The sibling rivalry, the palace intrigue, and the political plotting are fascinating to see but what is most interesting is the way we see David living in the Spirit.  In verse 10 he speaks the wisdom we can all use today: What business is it of mine or of yours, sons of Zeruiah, that he curses?  Suppose the Lord has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, “Why are you doing this?” 

We can read commentary to sort through who is aligned with whom, who is against whom, but today we have the opportunity to see another way to step away from revenge, anger and violence and move toward hope and serenity.  We see another opportunity to step away from fear and anxiety and move toward peace and unity.

When we live our lives in the Spirit, we cannot make a mistake.  Do we believe this?  If not, we must study, we must seek, we must be patient, and we must be persistent in living lives directed fully for, in, and to God.

When we live our lives in the Spirit, we cannot make a mistake.  Do we believe this?  If not, we must witness, we must watch, we must wait, and we must insist on living lives governed fully for, in, and to God.

When we live our lives in the Spirit, we cannot make a mistake.  When we believe this, the fretfulness and panic drop away . . . for we have focused our lives on God, we have learned to trust in God, we have begun to love like God . . . and we know that God will turn all harm to good.  We will not worry or fret for we, like David, will reply to a challenge . . . Suppose the Lord has told him to curse David; who then will dare to say, “Why are you doing this?”  We will be truly living in and of the Spirit.


A re-post from August 26, 2011.

Images from: http://ambassadorsforthekingdom.net/2011/07/23/gratitude-verses/ and http://ambassadorsforthekingdom.net/2011/07/23/gratitude-verses/

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Matthew 5:43-48: Love for Enemies

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

You have heard that it was said, “Love your friends, hate your enemies.” But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven.

This is possibly the most difficult of all Jesus’ teachings to grasp.

For God makes the sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil.

This is likely the most puzzling instruction for humans to take in.

Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that!

This is perhaps the toughest schooling we experience when we respond to the Spirit’s call.

And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! You must be perfect—just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

This is conceivably the highest barrier, the widest chasm, the deepest gulf we traverse in our journey with Christ.

When we feel hatred rise, we turn to the Spirit. When we sense the burgeoning of our innate desire for revenge, we trust God alone. When we search for the wisdom we need to understand the beauty of these verses, we rely on our brother Jesus to teach us what we must know.


When we compare varying translations of these words, we school ourselves in the exquisitely unique promise and love of Christ. When we experience the love that calls mercy from harm, we experience the promises of Jesus. 

For more posts on the concept of Revenge, enter the word into the blog search bar and explore. 

Images from: https://envisionmediaglobal.com/zion/2017/10/10/love-your-enemies/ and https://www.mickeyellison.com/love-enemies-world-needs-jesus/

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1 Kings 21: Naboth’s Vineyard

Monday, May 21, 2018

Near King Ahab’s palace in Jezreel there was a vineyard owned by a man named Naboth.

We know the goodness of the well-tended vineyard. The Master maintains a sturdy wall to protect the vines from those who would plunder the fruit of sun and soil. The crop flourishes under the caring hands of the workers who gather in the harvest in due time. Jesus uses the metaphor of the grapevine to explain to us the nature of our relationship with him; and yet, Jesus also knows the familiar story of how Naboth’s vineyard aroused envy and later fury in those who held power.

John Liston Byam Shaw: Queen Jezebel

One day Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard; it is close to my palace, and I want to use the land for a vegetable garden. I will give you a better vineyard for it or, if you prefer, I will pay you a fair price.”

We hold on to that which we hold dear; we cling to the beliefs that support us as we engage in our work and play.

“I inherited this vineyard from my ancestors,” Naboth replied. “The Lord forbid that I should let you have it!”

My father always advised us that the better we became at our work, the more enemies we would have. He also reminded us that there is a difficult line to walk between minding our own business and speaking up about injustice. My mother advised us to stay away from gossip and squabbles, and always, no matter the circumstance, to “kill your enemies with kindness”. My parents knew that these adages would not keep us safe from the world; but they also knew that in living with Christ, we would survive calamity with the more valuable gift: unity with Christ, transformation, redemption.

The officials and leading citizens of Jezreel did what Jezebel had commanded. They proclaimed a day of fasting, called the people together, and gave Naboth the place of honor. 

The schemes of Ahab, Jezebel, and their powerful friends are insidious; these corrupt leaders strike at the heart of Naboth’s industry; they mock his fidelity, and ignore his goodness. They lure him to the feast only to betray him on the deepest level. When we put aside our negative emotions to read this story with patience, we see Ahab ride to his death in battle. Later, in 2 Kings 9; and we witness Jezebel’s gruesome end. We might be tempted to gloat over these outcomes that feel like divine justice. We may want to join in the chaos of war or the crowd’s frenzy; but rather than seek revenge, we might instead focus on Naboth’s goodness that despite the fact that it has the capacity to bring out the worst in his enemies, it also delivers redemption.

Thomas Matthew Rooke: Naboth Refuses King Ahab his Vineyard

During Eastertide, we heard several times the words Jesus speaks to his followers, words we will want to hear again today as we read about Naboth: If the world hates you, just remember that it has hated me first. If you belonged to the world, then the world would love you as its own. But I chose you from this world, and you do not belong to it; that is why the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)

Be ready, Dad would say, to find that enemies accompany your successes. Be ready, Mother would remind us, to kill your enemies with kindness. This is our work in the vineyard. No matter the circumstances, we must cling to the vine that sustains us; we must produce good fruit in good time; and we must remain always in Christ who saves, transforms and redeems.


Tomorrow, Jesus is the alpha and the omega.

Compare the GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION with others for a better understanding of these verses.

For more reflections on Naboth, Ahab, Jezebel, or vineyard enter the words into the blog search bar and explore.  

How bad was Jezebel? Visit: https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/how-bad-was-jezebel/

Images from: https://929chapters.com/2010/03/18/1-kings-21-%E2%80%9Cnaboths-vineyard%E2%80%9D/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jezebel and https://thetorah.com/the-story-of-naboths-vineyard-and-the-ancient-winery-in-jezreel/ 

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Esther 8: Bloodshed

Rembrandt: Haman Begging the Mercy of Esther

First Sunday of Lent, February 18, 2018

Esther 7 concludes abruptly with the hanging of Haman. We have perhaps looked for this outcome, hoping for the justice we desire in our own lives. We suspected that inversion will take place and that the plotter will suffer the fate he planned for others; but these outcomes have not halted the plot to annihilate the Jewish nation. Today we watch as Esther and Mordecai take steps to stop the impending slaughter.

With New Testament thinking, we shrink from the violence of fighting back. Revenge has no place in the Pax Christi kingdom of Jesus where we forgive, and even intervene for our enemies. So it is with sadness that we read this chapter’s closing verse.

In fact, many other people became Jews, because they were afraid of them now.

On this first Sunday of Lent, we take time to reflect on the power of egocentric living. Experts tell us that when we acquiesce to narcissists, we give them power; and that the key to escaping one like Haman is to detach, observe, protect ourselves, and plan an escape. Esther and Mordecai stand quietly against injustice; yet they leave their own trail of bloodshed, as we will see tomorrow. Rather than establish peace for all, the envy and narcissism that haunt Esther and Mordecai continue to nurture division, suspicion, and old hatred. They may have escaped the power of the narcissist, but the power of unilateral thinking remains. The murder of the Jewish nation is averted, but slaughter nonetheless takes place.

Tomorrow, our modern Purim.

When we compare translations of this chapter, we look for ways to undo the bloodshed that happens too frequently in our lives. 

For more on the meaning of Pax Christi, visit the February 7, 2018 post by Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM at: https://cac.org/children-of-god-2018-02-07/

For more on dealing with narcissists, visit: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolution-the-self/201711/the-catch-22-dealing-narcissist

 

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2 Samuel 14 & 15: Deceit – Part II

Alexandre Cabanel: Thamar

Thursday, November 9, 2017

We see Absalom set himself up as heir to a throne he will not inherit.  We see him strip away all that is holy from his life.  Reading ahead, we see him die a ridiculous death, hanging by his hair from a terebinth tree while one of David’s soldiers runs him through with a spear.  Absalom plots for years to murder his brother for the rape of their sister, Tamar.  Absalom relies on the very human resources of power, looks and cleverness to win for him the vengeful goals he lays out for himself.  It is clear that Absalom does not consult God as he enters into and executes his plans.

Absalom was a prince of a powerful nation.  It was written that: In all of Israel not a man could so be praised for his beauty as Absalom, who was without blemish from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.  (14:25)  But what had become of his soul?  How had the events of his childhood so shaped him to produce such anger?  Why were the gifts he had received from a loving God not enough to please him?  What was it that made him always want more?

Upon his return from exile, Absalom falls to the ground at his father’s feet when he is pardoned.  He then stands, and leaves the palace to set his newest grab for power into motion.  He employs deceit to win friends and enemies alike rather than obedience to God as his game plan.  He relies on his influence and charm . . . and for awhile these tools prove a powerful arsenal; but in the end they are not enough.  In the end, Absalom . . . the master deceiver . . . is himself deceived.  He returns from Geshur and continues to weave the labyrinth of his life with chariots, horses and henchmen all the while forgetting that . . . the proper response to pardon is a grateful heart.  Let us learn a lesson from Absalom’s ruin.

For more information about the people and places in this reflection, visit yesterday’s post, Deceit – Part I. 

A Favorite from November 21, 2008.

 

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Psalm 9: The Book of God’s Wonders

Monday, March 6, 2017psalms9_2-31

The MESSAGE version of this psalm speaks to us in our core. Anyone who has been wronged, anyone who has suffered injustice of any kind, anyone who looks for refuge in the storm of life will smile as they read these verses.

I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart, I’m writing the book on your wonders. I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I’m singing your song, High God.

What are the miracles of our relationship with God will we want to enter into the Book of God’s Wonders?

The day my enemies turned tail and ran, they stumbled on you and fell on their faces. You throw dirty players out of the game, wipe their names right off the roster. Enemies disappear from the sidelines, their reputation trashed, their names erased from the halls of fame.

We look for the patience to allow God’s plan to blossom and flourish.

God holds the high center, God sees and sets the world’s mess right. God’s a safe-house for the battered, a sanctuary during bad times. The moment you arrive, you relax; you’re never sorry you knocked.

We pray for the hope we will need to remember God’s promise of safety, and we pray for the courage to knock at heaven’s door as Jesus tells us we must.

Sing your songs to Zion-dwelling God, tell God’s stories to everyone you meet: How God tracks down killers yet keeps an eye on us, registers every whimper and moan.

We pray for the fortitude to weather the storm, knowing that although the horizon is dark, God navigates our lives.

psalm-9_18Be kind to me, God; I’ve been kicked around long enough. Once you’ve pulled me back from the gates of death, I’ll write the book on Hallelujahs; on the corner of Main and First I’ll hold a street meeting; I’ll be the song leader; we’ll fill the air with salvation songs.

We pray for the courage to thank God in public and to share the stories we list in the Book of God’s Wonders.

They’re trapped, those godless, in the very snares they set, their feet all tangled in the net they spread. They have no excuse; the way God works is well-known. The cunning machinery made by the wicked has maimed their own hands.

We remember to intercede for those who would harm us.

The wicked bought a one-way ticket to hell. No longer will the poor be nameless—no more humiliation for the humble.

We ask for mercy for our enemies, and the grace to step away from the temptation to seek revenge.

Up, God! Aren’t you fed up with their empty strutting? Expose these grand pretensions! Shake them up, God! Show them how silly they look.

We ask God to steer us clear of all pretension. We ask that Christ lead us in the ways of the just. And we ask that the Holy Spirit abide in us forever, as we proclaim the wonders God has wrought for us.

When we use the scripture link and the drop-down menus to compare other translations of this Psalm, we discover that we have a great deal to record in The Book of God’s Wonders, and to share with all the world. 

 

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Leviticus 19:17-18: Loving Others – Part I

Tuesday, November 22, 2016christ-for-muslims

Don’t secretly hate your neighbor. If you have something against him, get it out into the open; otherwise you are an accomplice in his guilt. Don’t seek revenge or carry a grudge against any of your people. Love your neighbor as yourself. I am God. (MSG)

We have spent time with these verses before but we do well to spend a bit of time with again.

Do not bear a grudge against others, but settle your differences with them, so that you will not commit a sin because of them. Do not take revenge on others or continue to hate them, but love your neighbors as you love yourself. I am the Lord. (GNT)

We have reflected before on the importance of loving those who hate and we do well to reflect again.

You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord. (NASB)

God says: I know how difficult my Law of Love can be for you, especially when you have enemies who seek to bring about your end. Especially when others envy, hate, persecute and even kill you. There are times in your lives that are too difficult for you and that is fine. Bring me the injustice that plagues you. Bring me the worries that possess you. Bring me your sadness that threatens to destroy you. And bring me any joy you may have found in our journey over the last days – it does not matter how small it is. And if you have no happiness at all, just bring me yourself. I long to heal you. I long to console you. I long to hold you and call you my own. I long to be one with you.

For millennia the Lord has told us how we are to act when our sisters and brothers hate us.

Do not hate your brother in your heart, but rebuke your neighbor frankly, so that you won’t carry sin because of him. Don’t take vengeance on or bear a grudge against any of your people; rather, love your neighbor as yourself; I am Adonai. (CJB)

For millennia to come the Lord will abide, heal and comfort us, his little children. Let us behave each day as though we believe this to be so.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore these words, we begin to understand that God knows how difficult the human life can be; we begin to recognize just how much we are loved; and we begin to find a way to return the great love we are given to a world waiting for healing.

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