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Sunday, February 2, 2020

Psalm 37: Humility and Patience – Part I

From Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation for February 2, 2013: “When you truly know, the giveaway is that you know that you do not know! Truly holy people are always humble. If you are not humble, you have not experienced the Holy One. If you don’t see humility and patience in religion, you know it’s not on the right course”.

Adapted from CAC Foundation Set: Gospel Call to Compassionate Action
(Bias from the Bottom) and Contemplative Prayer
(CD, DVD, MP3)

psalm-37-4[1]I have been thinking about this all morning and today at noon scripture fell open at Psalm 37, a song that “responds to the problem of evil, which the Old Testament often expresses as a question: Why do the wicked and the good suffer? The psalm answers that the situation is only temporary.  God will reverse things, rewarding the good and punishing the wicked here on earth.  The perspective is concrete and earthbound: people’s very actions place them among the ranks of the good or wicked.  Each group or ‘way’ has its own inherent dynamism – eventual frustration for the wicked, eventual reward for the just”.  (Senior cf. 670)

The word EVENTUAL leaps out at us.  We want all solutions immediately.  We want to bend time and space to our will as we believe God does.  Our humanity brings us limitation and may spur us to lust after power and prestige.  Our divinity offers us infinity and calls us to humility and patience.  With this hymn of answers God invites us this weekend to explore the puzzle of human suffering.  Let us examine the images and logic of this acrostic psalm to see what it says to us about patience and humility.

The first stanza, ALEPH, leaps into a suggestion for how to handle evil: Do not be provoked by evildoers; do not envy those who do wrong.

The second, BETH, describes how to do away with our anger or anxiety: Find your delight in the Lord who will give you your heart’s desire.

The third, GIMEL, tells us what to aim for: Make your integrity shine like the dawn.

The fourth, DALETH, is specific: Be still before the Lord; wait for God.

The fifth, HE, tells us the consequence of anger: Give up your anger, abandon your wrath; do not be provoked; it brings only harm.

The sixth, WAW, leaves no doubt about outcomes: Wait a little, and the wicked will be no more; look for them and they will not be there.  But the poor will possess the land, will delight in great prosperity.

The seventh, ZAYIN, tells us that it is really the wicked who are envious: The wicked plot against the just and grind their teeth at them.

The eighth, HETH, describes how the plots turn back on the plotters: Their swords will pierce their own hearts; their bows will be broken.

The ninth, TETH, keeps us focused: The Lord will sustain the just.

The tenth, YODH, tells us that suffering can lead to everlasting peace: The Lord watches over the days of the blameless; their heritage lasts forever.

The eleventh, KAPH, reminds us that those who impose suffering fade away: Like the beauty of meadows the wicked perish; like smoke they disappear. 

Spend some time with this psalm today and open the acrostic.  The message within is a letter of love from God to us.  In humility . . . let us accept it.  With patience . . . let us live it.


Image from: http://ingridschlueter.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/gods-counsel-in-the-midst-of-trouble/

Tomorrow, more reflection on Psalm 37.  Find a good commentary and explore.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.670. Print.

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Monday, January 13, 2013

Deuteronomy 9: Unmerited Success

God's_Grace_2[1]In today’s Noontime we examine when and where we see God.  We take time to reflect on how and why we praise God.  We consider our perception of who and what God is.  We have the opportunity to thank God for our unmerited success.

If we take these verses in a literal, one-dimensional way God comes off as a sometimes petulant, occasionally petty and sulking God.  If we put them in the context of the New Testament – and if we can refrain from the temptation to moralize – we allow ourselves to accept God’s gifts of faith, hope, and unconditional love.  We will find ourselves rooted and flourishing in God’s grace.

An excerpt from Richard Rohr’s Saturday meditation gives us a compass to use on our pilgrimage.  He writes:

God always entices us through love.

Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change, is the experience of love and acceptance itself. This is the engine of change. If the mystics say that one way, they say it a thousand ways. But because most of our common religion has not been at the mystical level, we’ve been given an inferior message—that God loves you when you change (moralism). It puts it all back on you, which is the opposite of being “saved.” Moralism leads you back to “navel-gazing,” and you can never succeed at that level. You are never holy enough, pure enough, refined enough, or loving enough. Whereas, when you fall into God’s mercy, when you fall into God’s great generosity, you find, seemingly from nowhere, this capacity to change. No one is more surprised than you are. You know it is a total gift.

Adapted from Following the Mystics Through the Narrow Gate
. . . Seeing God in All Things
(CD, DVD, MP3)

If we read the Noontime selection today and complement ourselves for having behaved well, for having turned our eyes away from the golden calf, if we love the chant three times over, It is because of my merits that the Lord has brought me to possess the land, then we have lost our way.   If we delight in believing that these verses show us a strict set of rules to follow so that we will never suffer, we have misunderstood all of scripture.  If we believe that God loves only those who obey his rules and join his club, we do not know God at all.

Picture1God abides with us when we follow and when we stray.  It is when we lose our way that God comes after us persistently to bring us back to the fold.

God protects us when we take risks in Kingdom-building.  It is when we teeter on the edge of safety that God patiently strengthens the bonds we have forged in relationship with God.

God guides us as we wade into the world to engage fully in discipleship.  It is when we are most lured and confused by the material world that God speaks steadily to us.

And so we pray:

Generous and loving God, Remind us that you are so immense that your love encompasses all, even those of us who stray.

Giving and powerful God, Tell us again that you will never abandon us, never reject us, always love us.   Tell us that we have nothing to fear as we follow you.

Great and gentle God, Clarify for us each day your message of inclusion, universality, and transformation.  Remind us that we must not exclude anyone from your message.

Gracious and singular God, Continue to send us your amazing, incalculable, and precious gift of unmerited success.  And help us to remember to thank you.  Amen.


This week . . . more on Deuteronomy

Image from: http://prayitoff.blogspot.com/2011/03/pray-it-off-31711-actual-grace-just-ask.html

For more information on this fourth book of the Torah, see the Deuteronomy – Laws page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-torah/deuteronomy-laws/

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