Posts Tagged ‘sacrifice’

2 Maccabees 12:38-46: Battle – Part VI

Ernest William Tristram: Reconstruction of Medieval Mural Painting, Battle of Judas Maccabeus with Timotheus and the Fall of Maspha – Parliamentary Art Collection, UK

Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 11, 2018

It is the endurance of the Maccabees we seek through our intense hope in the promises of God.  It is the fidelity of the Maccabees we seek through our deep faith in the goodness of God.  It is the devotion of the Maccabees we seek through our passionate love for the ways of God. 

We engage in battle with the world; we struggle with circumstances beyond our control. We look for peace where there is only strife. Anxiety builds as we look for serenity; and fear overtakes us too often. When we examine our journey from Ash Wednesday to Easter, we know that we cannot escape our battles. When we remember the story of the Maccabeus family, we also know that it is our battles that transform us. And so we continue to search.

The way of the Seeker has been demonstrated to us by Christ for if God so loved the world that he sent his only son (John 3:16), and if this son dies in expiation for the sins of all, how can we not forgive all and ask to be forgiven in all?  How can we not enter into this sacrifice and petition to God to redeem all those who have fallen away? How can we refuse to move forward trusting in God and exercising compassion for ourselves and others?

In our Lenten journey as we anticipate the promise of Easter when we celebrate the resurrection of the dead, we find ourselves called to the sheepfold by the love of the Great Shepherd.  If we seek to know this shepherd most intimately, we will imitate Christ in all ways possible, and we will offer all that we suffer for the saving of those who struggle to enter the fold. And so we pray.

Good and strong and gentle God, entering into Christ’s sacrifice with our fellow seekers, we offer our pain willingly.  We lift joyful hearts and songs of praise because by the mercy and surrender of Christ, we are released from the fear and pain that enslaves us.  We ask that our hearts of stone be made warm by the Holy Spirit’s love, that our necks stiffened in pride be made humble in God’s mercy, and that our straying from the sheepfold be redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice. Amen.    

Adapted from a Favorite written on April 25, 2009.

Find image at http://www.artuk.org/artworks/reconstruction-of-medieval-mural-painting-battle-of-judas-maccabeus-with-timotheus-and-the-fall-of-maspha-214242

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2 Samuel 24: Bold Penance

Friday, March 17, 2017

king david

Angelica Kauffman: The Prophet David reproaching King David

A Favorite from March 8, 2008.

We looked at the beginning of this chapter this past September when we focused on the idea that silence in a division means assent with those who speak.  I recalled my Dad’s words that sometimes it is stand up time.  Today, when we return to the same place in The Word, when we look deeper we can see another them, and this one is appropriate to our Lenten tide.

From the HARPERCOLLINS COMMENTARY (page 278): Yet once more it is not difficult to be impressed by David. He is boldly penitent (24:10-17).  He invites action against himself and his own house rather than the ordinary people: “these sheep, what have they done?” (v.17). He is unwilling to make an offering to [Yahweh] that has cost him nothing (v.24).

And so I ask myself: What is the tone of my penitence?  Am I bold as I declare myself openly to God?  Or do I cower?  Do I take my transgressions openly?  Or do I try to conceal them in some way?  Do I excuse myself, explain myself, rationalize my action or lack of action? But most importantly . . . 

Am I unwilling to make an offering to God that has cost me nothing?

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 278. Print.


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John 7: In Harmony with God

Third Sunday of Easter, April 10, 2016child at beach

I have returned from a trip to New York with children and grandchildren and I stumble upon this reflection written after a summertime visit to the beach. It seems appropriate again in this springtime of 2016 when so many hearts grow weary from the news of a troubled world, to return to the basic truth that we will continue to struggle to live together until we agree to live in harmony with God.  

After spending a number of days with children and grandchildren who love to vacation at the ocean together in a jumble of towels, wet bathing suits, games, snacks, sleeping bags and favorite toys, I marvel again at how these families can come together to find a common way of approaching life’s small and big obstacles.  They do not do my will or their own; they return to what has brought them together in the first place and they act in accord with the values they hold in common.  They know their origin and they know their worth.  They know that when they live in harmony with a something greater than themselves that sees only good . . . they cannot fail to enjoy one another’s company.  As I open scripture today, I am grateful for this gift we hold in common and I am thankful for an opportunity to reflect on how we bloom as humans when we try to live a life of harmony with God.

John 7 is “a discrete literary unit, with a clear beginning point at 7:1 where the locus of Jesus’ activity is discussed.  The episode reaches a culmination with the appearance of Nicodemus and the official rejection of Jesus in Jerusalem.  Unlike chap. 6, chap. 7 has few points of contact with the Synoptics [Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke] . . . Chapter 7 is a carefully constructed narrative containing dialogue”.  In this chapter we see the “deadly intent” of Jesus’ enemies.  “The Jews who are there seeking Jesus (v.11) are apparently hostile and to be distinguished from the crowds of people who are divided but for fear of the Jews keep quiet (vv. 12-13); on the motif of the fear of the Jews see 9:22; 12:42; cf. 20:19)”.  (Mays 969)

In verses 14 through 31 we see “the characteristic attempt to explain Jesus on the basis of inadequate knowledge of his origin (cf. 1:46; 6:42).  Jesus immediately sets matters straight (7:16).  That Jesus’ will is in complete harmony with God’s has already been stated (6:38); now the very recognition of the fact is said to depend upon the intention to do God’s will.  As Jesus’ unity with God is a unity of will, unity with Jesus depends on a similar unity with God’s will”.  (Mays 970)

We see the official response in verses 31 through 52.  The authorities, believing that they are the chosen people who have entered into a covenant with God mediated by Moses, do not believe Jesus to be the Messiah.  Jesus’ acts and words are viewed as divisive, in this sense, because they do not coincide with the acts and words of the leadership and so . . .  “The division over Jesus among the Jewish people falls more or less along the lines between officialdom and general populace”.  (Mays 971)

We know how this story ends, with Jesus praying in the garden that his task might pass him by, but with Jesus’ will in complete harmony with God’s.

We know how this story ends, with Jesus suffering as the sacrificial lamb, yet with Jesus’ will in complete harmony with God’s.

We know how this story ends, with Jesus rising from death to live again, and with Jesus’ will in complete harmony with God’s.

We know how this story ends, with Jesus sharing his transformation with those who have eyes to see and ears to listen . . . with those who hope to live as Jesus does . . . striving to bring their will into harmony with God’s.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 969-971. Print.

For insight into the connection between science and religion, click on the image above or visit: http://themuslimtimes.info/2016/03/16/six-scientists-on-the-relationship-between-science-and-religion/ 

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Moses TentFriday, October 3, 2014

Psalm 15

Refusing Panic

Who may dwell in the Lord’s tent or upon the Lord’s holy mountain?

Jeremiah has spoken to God’s people just as God has asked, and for his fidelity and suffering, he is abused and mocked.  The remnant remain and believe. The faithful know that sooner or later, Jeremiah will be silenced . . . but God’s word, spoken honestly and carefully, will never die. God’s truth lives forever and cannot be extinguished.

Jesus comes to live among us to heal and redeem, and for his compassion and mercy he is rejected and crucified. The remnant remain watchful and hopeful. The faithful know that here and now Christ continues to walk and live among us. God may be placed out of mind but God is present and cannot be denied. The Spirit is indwelling and cannot be extinguished.

A number of months ago we visited with Psalm 15 and we return today as we prepare for Jeremiah’s journey to Egypt – a place where the Hebrew people once sought refuge and became chained by slavery. A place from which the Twelve Tribes made their exodus with Moses to be delivered in their promised land. A place that served as refuge for the Christ family following Herod’s plot to murder the infant Jesus. Today we reflect on Psalm 15 and remind ourselves that when we stand steadfast in Christ, we must be prepared to reject anxiety. We must be ready to shun our fear. We must be willing to refuse any sense of panic.

Who may dwell in the Lord’s tent or upon the Lord’s holy mountain?

God says: I am well aware of the sacrifices you make for me. I see that you put your desires and sometimes your needs to the side as you take up my cause and deliver my words. Like my prophet Jeremiah you even place yourself at risk when you speak and act as I have asked. Know that I see all of your big and small losses. Understand that I see how you suffer. Believe that I place my hope in you and that you may place all your hope in me. I am goodness and goodness never fails. I am compassion and compassion always heals. I am love and love never abandons . . . always accompanies . . . always saves . . . always redeems . . . always transforms . . . always brings home. If you must be carried off to Egypt, know that I go with you. And know that I will also bring you home.

Today, spend time with this short psalm, and consider not if we may dwell in the Lord’s tent or on God’s holy mountain, consider how we can dwell anywhere else.

Walk without blame, do what is right, speak truth from the heart, do not slander, defame, or harm your neighbor, disdain the wicked, honor those who love God, keep your promises at all cost, accept no bribe . . . for whoever acts like this shall never be shaken. 

See the Fearlessness reflection first written on March 25, 2010 and later posted as a favorite; and reflect on the importance of trusting God, of rejecting panic . . . and remaining as remnant that is never shaken.

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Of No Avail

Friday, August 1, 2014

Jeremiah fire_bonesJeremiah 11

Of No Avail

What right has my beloved in my house, while she prepares her plots? A spreading olive tree, goodly to behold, the Lord has named you; now he sets fire to it, its branches burn.

Over the next few weeks we will explore the prophecy of Jeremiah, one in which we find “hopes and visions, doubts and hesitations, anger and resentment, arguments and pleading, persecution and rejection, perseverance and bonding”. (Senior 305) Today we look at the simple plea which each of us has uttered in our lives: Why do our sacrifices seem to be of no avail?

God says: I know that you are sometimes discouraged when you “do everything correctly” and still you feel unrewarded. You see many prosper who do not praise me and who, indeed, never even think of me. I see how this causes you pain. I also see that betrayal weighs so heavily on you that there are days when you cannot shift its heaviness. I understand that all of this may bring you sorrow, but be patient with me. All is well even though you cannot see that it is. Bring your plaints to me and I will give you rest. Listen to my prophet Jeremiah and hear how he rails against me . . . and yet I love him still. As I also love you. I see the many sacrifices that you make for me and I assure you that although you believe them to be of no avail . . . each salvific action you make is in reality a precious moment to me. Your sacrifice is seen, heard, well-noted . . . and serves a greater purpose than you can imagine.

Enter the word sacrifice into the blog search bar and consider who, and how, and what, and why we sacrifice . . . and what we expect form God in return.

For more on this prophet and his prophecy, go to the Jeremiah – Person and Message page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-prophets/jeremiah-person-and-message/

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 304-305. Print.

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stempleFriday, July 11, 2014

2 Chronicles 4

The Altar of Our Lives – Part I

What does it mean to lay our sacrifices upon God’s altar? What good does takes place when we lay our lives upon the Lord’s altar when we see little or no good coming from our sacrifice? Today’s Gospel reading tells us the answers to these questions . . . we do not need to fully comprehend God’s plan in order to do well in this plan . . . we only need to follow the one who goes before us. The Christ tells us how to find ourselves in God.

In John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30 several verses stand out for us.

Jesus . . . did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him.

“I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true”.

So they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come.

In our Noontime journey we have reflected on Ezekiel 43 and the construction of the altar in the New Temple in the New Jerusalem. Today we read about the actual altar built in the temple completed by Solomon in 960 B.C.E. The following sites show us a picture and give us an idea of the enormity of this task.



When we think of how much time we spend in building our physical world – the clothes we wear, the house we live in, the food we buy and consume, the car we drive, the acquisitions with which we fill our lives – we see that we invest a great deal of time in what surrounds us.

When we think of the family we form, the friends we gather, the work colleagues with whom we interact – we can see the importance we place on the people in our lives and the influences we allow ourselves to experience.

When we think of how much thought we give to the formation of our prayer life, the sincerity with which we enter into our promises, the fashioning of our devotion to God, we can see how much we bring back to God, how much energy and thought we devote to the building of the altar on which we lay our true lives.

Tomorrow, taking time for a summer reflection.

Adapted from a reflection written in March 27, 2009.

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Second Sunday of Lent, March 23, 2014

20121226_the-richness-of-generosity_banner_imgAmos 8:5-6

Prayer for Generosity

Jesus says: Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  (Matthew 7:3)

We experience the richness of God’s love when we spend time changing ourselves rather than attempting to change others.  As we reflect on the call we hear from Amos to think about how greed might invade our lives, we pray.

We have diminished the ephah . . . let us remember to be generous as God has been generous to us.  For all that we have and all that we are, we pray: thank you, Creator, for the gift of body, mind and soul.  

We will add to the shekel . . . let us remember to be honest as God has been honest. For all that we are given and all that we love, we pray: thank you, Jesus, for the gift of your trustworthiness and truth.

We will buy the lowly man for a pair of sandals . . . let us remember that generosity is nurtured when we trust in God alone. Thank you, Christ, for your sacrifice of self that we might live in you.

We will sell the refuse of the wheat harvest . . . let us remember that big-heartedness flourishes when we live in the Spirit.  Thank you, Holy Spirit, for the bounty and kindness you bring with your in-dwelling.

Jesus says:  Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:15-20)

Honesty, truth, trustworthiness, kindness, bounty, transformation, big-heartedness, sacrifice. These are the signs of God’s generosity in our lives.  These are the fruits by which we wish to be known. This is the richness we receive.  This is the richness we share with others when we live in God’s generosity. Amen.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

High_Priest_Offering_Incense_on_the_Altar[1]Psalm 69:32

Our Song

My song will please the Lord more than oxen, more than bullocks with horns and hooves; see, you lowly ones, and be glad; you who seek the Lord, take heart!

More than any sacrifice, God awaits an open heart.  More than any burnt offering, God awaits a heart eager and ready to receive the marvelous gift of God’s love.

Hebrews 10:5-6: Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased”.

“For sacrifice to become a value, you must discover something for which life is worth living . . . Sacrifice is born of the heart-thawing yearning of the love of Christ . . . The truest sacrifice is to recognize a presence.  What does it mean to recognize a presence?  The I, instead of affirming itself, affirms you.  This is the greatest devotion: ‘There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’; it is the same as giving one’s life . . . To affirm the other implies the forgetting of ourselves, which is the opposite of being attached to ourselves; we sacrifice to the other . . . The truest sacrifice is to recognize a presence, which means the truest sacrifice is to love”. (Cameron: L. Giussani)

Our song is one of thanksgiving to God who created us.

Our song in one of gratitude for a God who saves us.

Our song is one of joy for a God who transforms us.

Our song in one of serenity for a God who forgives, and guides, protects and abides with us.

Our song is one of a life offered in sacrifice to a God who is limitless and profound, to a God who loves us without end.

Cameron, Peter John. Fr. Julián Carrón. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 30.11(2013): 399-400. Print.   

Luigi Giovanni Giussani (October 15, 1922 – February 22, 2005) was an Italian Catholic priest, educator, public intellectual and founder of the international Comunione e Liberazione (Catholic movement Communion and Liberation).  (Wikipedia)

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

willingness[1]Hosea 14

Conversion and Hope

God’s love is so immense that we are invited to conversion every moment of our lives – even when we have greatly sinned.  This is a message we have heard and seen on Easter Sunday.  It is a message the Spirit whispers to us constantly.  It is a message we need to examine again . . . for it is a message of hope.

Today we look again at the writings of Dom Augustin Guillerand, a French Carthusian monk who died in 1945.  He describes how we allow our will to take over our lives rather than allowing our willingness to teach us humility before God.  He writes: “The will is a master that has, in theory, the ordering of everything but, in fact, the full control of nothing . . . When we give God our will fully, little by little he takes the rest, all of our faculties, the whole [person].  The conquest no longer rests with us, but with God; it becomes his affair.  As he wishes and when he wishes, he will take our memory, our senses, our passions, our imagination, our intellect, and heart, and he does this by various stages through which we have to pass, and by the trials he sends us”.

In the story of Hosea we see a man who has dedicated his will to God to such an extent that he marries a prostitute because God calls him to this vocation.  Through his suffering and because of his pain, Hosea is able to call his people back to God; and Hosea continues to call each of us today.  In his beautiful prophecy, Hosea shows us how his love for Gomer never fails . . . and thus he shows us how God’s love never fails.

God’s love, as seen through Hosea, is a love in action.  It is a love that sacrifices self will for God’s will.  Hosea tells us that love heals disloyalty, it loves freely, it turns away from anger, it is like the dew to new shoots, it gives off a sweet fragrance, it brings life.  Hosea tells us that our hope lies in our own desire for and will to enter into conversion.  A turning back to God is all that is required.  This is a huge request to make of us – yet it is the simplest of tasks if we can only begin by taking one small step each day.  And we can begin by refusing to turn back to old, corrupt ways.  It is an act of love by the creator to call his created to union.  It is an act of love by the created to reply and to go.

The greatest love calls for conversion.  The greatest love answers this call.  The greatest love brings hope.  The greatest love takes up this hope and never lets it go.

I read back over the meditation: “Even if we have nothing to show for it . . .”   We cannot give up, even if there is nothing to show for our efforts because the will – our will – is formed by our constant and unwavering willingness to go to God with all trials.  This is the nature of a conversion that brings hope.

The greatest Love is God’s and we are called to live out this Love daily.  The greatest Love has never and will never be undone.  Let us embrace this Love willingly.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 3.11 (2010). Print.  

Adapted from a Noontime written on March 11, 2010. 

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