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Posts Tagged ‘steadfastness’


Thursday, May 14, 2020

wisdom2-300x198[1]Sirach 21

Wisdom and Foolhardiness

James is considered to be the Wisdom Book of the New Testament, and we find ourselves in a place today where God’s word comes to us from different directions to bring us a valuable lesson: Steadfastness and humility are needed if we wish to avoid foolishness, and if we wish to live in peace and wisdom.

Jesus ben Sirach, the recorder of these wonderful sayings, gives us the tenets on which the wisdom of the New Testament stands.  In this chapter Sirach gives us some wonderful sayings.  Each of us will have our favorites but here today are a few about the power of speech to hurt or heal.

Fools’ thoughts are in their mouths, wise men’s words are in their hearts . . . When an intelligent man hears words of wisdom, he approves them and adds to them; the wanton hears them with scorn and casts them behind his back . . . A fool’s chatter is like a load on a journey, but there is charm to be found upon the lips of the wise . . . The lips of the impious talk of what is not their concern, but the words of the imprudent are carefully weighed . . . When a man curses his adversary he really curses himself . . . A slanderer besmirches himself, and is hated by his neighbors.

We find these same beliefs in the opening of James’ letter to the universal church in which he reminds us in 3:1-12 that the tongue is a small member [of the body] but has great pretensions.  James further amplifies all of this wisdom and warns of the power of our own words to deceive our own selves about who we are and what we are doing.  He reminds us that humility before God and steadfastness in following God are needed if we wish to move through life adhering to the wisdom principles.  He writes: Know this, my dear brothers: everyone should be quick to hear, slow to wrath . . . Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in the mirror.  He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like.  The one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does. 

When we find ourselves in a quandary about what action to take, when we are uncomfortable but know not why, when we cannot understand the reason for our suffering, we have two roads always open to us:  The Wisdom Road, or the Road of Foolhardiness.  How do we discern which is which?  Both Sirach and James tell us.  We ask for clarity from God about his wisdom in our personal lives and while we wait for its coming, we prepare the ground to receive its holy presence in our hearts.  We prepare to hear and act on something we may not like.   We stop talking so much . . . and we listen more . . . and we do.

Tomorrow, a prayer for steadfastness . . .


Adapted from the January 23, 2010 Noontime.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Gerbrand Van den EEckhout:Hannah presenting her son Samuel to the Priest Eli

Gerbrand Van den Eckhout: Hannah presenting her son Samuel to the Priest Eli

1 Samuel 1

Steadfastness in Hope: Miracles

As we continue to shelter in place in order to combat a pandemic, we remember the steadfastness of Hannah. 

Today we read the story of a woman who is well-loved . . . and well taunted, a woman who will not give up her hope for something new.  Previously in our Noontime journey we have examined the piety, constancy and fidelity of Hannah.  Today, as we continue to explore the quality of steadfastness, we look for surprises, joy and hope that mark Hannah’s journey, and we allow ourselves to be open to surprise, joy and hope even as we remain steadfast.  Several verses leap off the page to give us new meaning from familiar old words.

Verse 6:  Her rival, to upset her, turned it into a constant reproach to her that the Lord had left her barren.  Knowing that a woman’s worth in ancient times was measured by her virginity as a maiden and her fertility as a woman, Peninnah, the second wife of Elkanah, is perhaps jealous of the double portions of love Hannah receives despite her barrenness.  Perhaps Peninnah is younger and more beautiful . . . and thinks herself deserving of something better.  We know many people who are Peninnahs to us and to others.  During this Eastertide, let us pray that the joy of life in Christ softens their hearts of stone.

Verse 15: I am an unhappy woman . . . I was only pouring out my troubles to the Lord.  Hannah takes her burden to the proper place . . . to her creator who knows both her gifts and her plight better than any human.  We are all Hannah at one time or another in our homeward journey.  Sometimes we try to carry our burdens on our own; sometimes we share our woes with friends and counselors as we should.  We must also remember to take our problems daily to the one who has the best solutions. During this Eastertide, let us pray that our confidence in Christ softens our hearts of stone.

Verse 18:  She went to her quarters, ate and drank with her husband, and no longer appeared downcast.  Hannah is first rebuked by the priest Eli who thinks that she is drunk as she prays.  Once he understands her misery, he blesses her and urges her to in peace, relying on the God of Israel to hear her request.  She exhibits immediate confidence and joy. We find consolation when we take our troubles to God.  May we encourage one another to bring their burdens to the Lord who heals and frees all from sadness.  During this Eastertide, let us pray that the hope of life in Christ opens our hearts of stone.

Verse 19: The Lord remembered her.  The Lord is mindful of his faithful handmaid for many years.  Hannah not only bears a son, Samuel, whom she dedicates to God; she also receives the gift of three more sons and two daughters.  This family is an ample witness to Hannah, to Peninnah, and to us that a steadfast, confident, joyful heart receives miracles beyond imagining.  During this Eastertide, let us pray that our life in Christ opens all hearts to the miracles God has in mind for us this day.

When we persist in our steadfastness we ultimately experience hope.  When we rest in our steadfastness we ultimately experience joy.  When we persevere in our steadfastness we ultimately experience surprise.  In this Eastertide, let us welcome God’s presence in our lives and remain steadfast.  Let us be open to the surprises, joy and miracles that await us.

Amen.


Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gerbrand_van_den_Eeckhout_-_Anna_toont_haar_zoon_Samu%C3%ABl_aan_de_priester_Eli.jpg

Adapted from the December 7, 2008 Noontime.

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Judith 7: The Heart of the Just

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Titian: Judith and the Head of Holofernes

This is one of my favorite stories – perhaps because the protagonist is a woman.  A good commentary will let us know that there were Hebrew, Latin and Greek versions of this story and that while no one knows the actual events which this narrative describes, it is meant as a text that will bolster the peoples’ faith in the presence of God among them.  It is “a tract for difficult times; the reader, it is hoped, would take to heart the lesson that God was still the Master of history, who would save Israel from her enemies.  Note the parallel with the time of Exodus: as God had delivered his people by the hands of Moses, so he could deliver them by the hand of the pious widow Judith”.  (Senior 520)

Chapter 7 tells of the siege of the town Bethulia by the Assyrian troops of King Nebuchadnezzar under the military leadership of Holofernes together with local tribes; and it sets the story.  If you have time today or this evening, read the entire story.  I promise you will not be disappointed.

It is fascinating to read about these two groups of men who take into account both the small details and the broad strategies in order to lay out the best plans.  They reconnoiter approaches, locate water sources, assess troop strength, close off escape routes, and store up resources.  Meanwhile, the Israelites watch and pray.  Their leader tells them: Let us wait five days more for the Lord our God, to show his mercy toward us; he will not utterly forsake us.  Still, because the odds were so stacked against them, the Hebrew people of Bethulia mourned.  They saw no hope of deliverance and believed they would all be killed or enslaved.

They were in a desperate place with desperate circumstances, yet they hoped.  And a woman acts to save them.  As we have observed, it is a great story.

As we reflect on this story we arrive at this thought: If we always turned to God at the first moment an army amassed itself against us, and if we would be willing to trust an unlikely agent – such as the widow Judith – we might find ourselves less anxious and more joyful.

Today’s Psalm at Mass is 112 with the repeated antiphon: The heart of the just one is firm, trusting in the Lord.  One of the stanzas reads: An evil report he shall not fear; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.  His heart is steadfast; he shall not fear till he looks down upon his foes.

If we might trust as Judith trusts, if we might steady our hearts to make them steadfast and focused on Christ – the rescuer who rescues all who turn to him – we might find more success and less war.  When we hear evil reports as we do each day when we tune into the news, we would tremble less.  When we hear rumors about family, friends and colleagues, we might wait five days or so and petition God for advice in the meantime.  When we fear that we have gone wrong and have lost our way, we might rely on God’s mercy, knowing that he will not forsake us.

If you have time today to spend with some ancient people who thought they faced extinction and yet were saved, you will be rewarded with a story about a pious widow who saves a town . . . and your heart may move closer to firmness, to justice, to trust in the Lord.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.520. Print.

Written on June 2, 2009 and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://www.artbible.info/art/large/499.html

Visit A Historical Commentary on the Book of Judith at: http://kinghezekiahofjudah2.blogspot.com/2008/06/location-of-judiths-town-of-bethulia.html

For more about this amazing woman’s story, go to Judith – Sublime Faith, Heroic Love at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/judith-sublime-faith-heroic-love/ or use the search the name Judith on this blog. 

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Isaiah 54:1: Breaking into Song

Friday, August 3, 2018

The prophet Isaiah reminds us that when days are dark we break into pieces, but despite bad news, there is a day when we will break into song.

Jerusalem, you have been like a childless woman,
    but now you can sing and shout for joy.
Now you will have more children
    than a woman whose husband never left her.

In ancient days, a woman without a husband or children was pitied. Here Isaiah paints a picture of one who lives in dire settings; however, Isaiah tells us that regardless of her negative environment, the barren and abandoned one has reason to sing.

God says: It is difficult for you to believe that my creation is more vast than your mind can comprehend; and because this is the case, the inversion Isaiah describes is incomprehensible to you. When your fears are deepest, know that I am with you in the darkness. When your anxieties overtake you, know that I am with you in your pain. When courage dies, know that I am hope beyond all anticipation. When love is absent, know that I am love enough to heal the darkest of evils. When faith abandons you, know that I am steadfastness itself. When you feel alone, betrayed or adrift, I am with you still. For every evil, there is a counter-love and it is the Spirit. For every deceit, there is a counter-truth and it is Jesus. For every time the universe seems to fall into pieces, there is a union that pulls all goodness together . . . and that goodness is me. Remain in me as I remain in you; and break into song with me.


For more reflections on the words of the prophet Isaiah, enter his name into the blog search bar and explore.

Image from: https://es.pngtree.com/freepng/melodious-singing_699058.html

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2 Maccabees 12:38-46: Battle – Part V

Click on this image for a video commentary.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Today’s Favorite returns once more to 2 Maccabees, the first Book cited in the first Noontime Scripture reflection. The message is as simple, constant, and powerful today as it was more than a decade ago. Be steadfast. Trust in God. Remain faithful to God. Life is a struggle, but God is with us. We need not be afraid. 

Today’s citation reminds us of a strong underpinning of those themes: there is life after our apparent death, and we must pray not only for ourselves but for those who have strayed from the covenant as well.  1 Maccabees 5:6 gives a different reason for the fall of the Israelite troops – the priests had wanted to distinguish themselves in battle – but the message is the same: if we succeed in remaining faithful to our covenant with God, we must pray for those who fallen.

We will not want to miss the true life that follows this one, and we will want to share this full and generous life with our families and friends.  And lest we fear that our loved ones will not accompany us, we remember that it is possible to bring straying sheep into the fold through petition to the Creator. We remember that with God all things are possible.

Christ is the one who offers himself in expiation for the downfall of the world and thus becomes the Redeemer of all.  We participate in this redemption by offering our own sufferings in expiation for others.  The dead will live again, and this we can believe.

Over time, we have spent several Noontimes reflecting on the lessons brought to us by the Maccabeus family.  Their stamina, their perseverance, their refusal to be extinguished, and their refusal to allow God’s law of forgiveness, mercy and justice to be extinguished is seen again in all of Christ’s followers.  Jesus’ disciples are constant searchers of God’s essence and truth.  They will always hunger and thirst for an essence they feel but cannot see, a Spirit they know but cannot always touch. The Maccabeus family tells us this story. Jesus the Redeemer invites all of us to be these followers.

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. 

Tomorrow, a prayer for trials and obstacles.

Adapted from a Favorite written on April 25, 2009.

To learn why the Books of the Maccabees are not included in the Jewish Bible, visit: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/omitting-the-maccabees/ 

Watch a video commentary at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdHjJFQAoZk 

Images from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/leaders-mind-3-steadfastness-barry-walsh/ and https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/omitting-the-maccabees/

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Job 40:1-5: Arguing with the Almighty – Part IV

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Laurent de La Hyre:
Job Restored to Prosperity

Looking forward to the end of Job’s story we have the choice of thinking that Job’s happy ending is the result of fantasy, or we may choose to believe that God abides and keeps promises.  This choice to believe or doubt is entirely up to us; and I choose to believe that the story is not a fairy tale.  I choose to believe that God abides.

THE MESSAGE translation of Job 40 begins with words from God, “I run the universe”. After we struggle with Job through his long story of loss and pain, we understand that although he – and we – long for specific answers to our specific questions, we must be content to rely on God’s goodness and love for us. We must be content to depend on God’s gift of hope and covenant. And we must be content to trust God’s steadfastness and mercy.

How do we do this? We have a model in Job whose fidelity through deep travail brings us a pearl of wisdom that we might employ to see our worries and anxieties through a lens of patience. Job’s persistence, as he journeys through the obstacle course of woe visited on him by Satan, gives us new eyes to refocus our own worldview.

When we spend time with Job 40, we have a fresh appreciation of his steadfastness; and we have a transformative moment to argue with the Almighty that opens us to the possibility of resurrection.

Today we use the scripture links and drop-down menus to help us argue with the Almighty. 

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Philippians 2:5-8: The Inverted Kingdom – Part V

Sunday, January 15, 2017inverted-kingdom

Jesus proposes that we set aside the accolades of life as we know it on earth; and this will be difficult to do because our desire for honor and fame, pleasure, power and wealth too often outweighs our willingness to surrender to God’s plan, to forego the hunger for control and celebrity. Today we remember a message from Paul that we have contemplated a number of times during our Noontime journey. We might wonder how we are to invert our lives. We might question how we are to give up all the world offers to take on the qualities of steadfastness, fidelity, meekness, willingness to mourn and to undergo hardship while we follow Christ Jesus on his Way.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. (NSRV)

This picture of the world is the inversion of the one we usually hold dear.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. This vision of the world sees persecution for Jesus’ sake as a sign of our fidelity. (MSG)

This view of the world is one we will want to explore.

In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus. Christ himself was like God in everything. He was equal with God. But he did not think that being equal with God was something to be held on to. He gave up his place with God and made himself nothing. He was born as a man and became like a servant. And when he was living as a man, he humbled himself and was fully obedient to God. He obeyed even when that caused his death—death on a cross. (ICB)

This view of the world shows us a leader who serves with humility and care.

The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death – his death on the cross. (GNT)

This picture of the world invites us to newness through service and love.

When we compare varying versions of these verses, we better understand the call to live an inverted life.

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Matthew 5:10-11: The Inverted Kingdom – Part IV

Saturday, January 14, 2017matthew-5-11

Jesus proposes that we set aside our desire for honor and fame. Today we consider the qualities of steadfastness and fidelity that Jesus tells us are essential if we want to follow his Way.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. (NSRV)

This vision of the world sees persecution for Jesus’ sake as a sign of our fidelity.

Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them! Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil lies against you because you are my followers. (GNT)

This picture of the world sees mockery and hatred against us as a consequence of our persistence in adhering to the Law of Love.

Those who are treated badly for doing good are happy. The kingdom of heaven belongs to them. People will say bad things about you and hurt you. They will lie and say all kinds of evil things about you because you follow me. But when they do these things to you, you are happy. (ICB)

This view of the world sees suffering for Christ as an antidote to animosity and evil.

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. (MSG)

This picture of the world sees rejection for God’s sake as the deepest kind of blessing.

The Gospels show us how Jesus hopes to prepare each of us to follow him. They show us that God will persist in transforming evil with that goodness. They show us that the Spirit abides in loving understanding that the Way of Love is difficult but unconditionally rewarding.

How do we persist in our hope to put aside honor for the authentic recognition that each of us is loved beyond measure? How willing are we to ignore the mockery, persecution, exclusion and hatred of others . . . and greet all with the open arms of Christ’s love?

When we compare varying versions of these verses, we better understand that persecution becomes blessing when we agree to follow Christ.

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Romans 5:1-8: Throw Open the Doors

Thursday, December 1, 2016lock-heart

By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us – set us right with him, make us fit for him – we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise. (MSG)

If only we might look at faith as our willingness to throw open the doors of our heart. In this way we convert doubt to steadfastness.

If only me might persist I loving our enemies to see that God loves each and all. In this way we convert walls to bridges.

If only we might relax into God’s love long enough to understand that God already lives in our hearts. In this way we convert fear to grace.

If only we might perceive God’s grace and stand tall to shout out God’s glory. In this way we convert hatred to love.

God says: When you fear the wide open spaces of my grace and glory, I become a small, petty god in your eyes. It is no wonder that you do not trust me. When you reject my love to replace it with fear, I become a mean, manipulating god who preys on brave hearts. It is no wonder you discard me. When you open your hearts, when you persist in loving your enemies, when you allow my strength to bolster you and to carry your woes, I become the enormous, infinite Living God who is loving all harm into good, all evil into love. Remain in me, no matter your circumstances.

And so we pray.

Good and generous God, today we give all fear, anger and doubt to you. We pledge to throw open the doors of our hearts to your presence, and to resist closing them again to your love. Amen.

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