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Job 24: Violence on Earth

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Yesterday we reflected on Job’s desire to sit with the Creator in order to engage in an intimate conversation. In an age when suffering is connected with sin, Job suffers doubly, having to endure pain while at the same time defending his innocence to his family and friends. Yet he persists, remains faithful, and recognizes the small pearls of hope that come to him. When God has tested me, I shall come out like gold.

Today we watch as Job asks:

Why doesn’t God set a time for judging,
    a day of justice for those who serve him?

He observes a litany of violence taking place around him.

People move property lines to get more land;
    they steal sheep and put them with their own flocks.
They take donkeys that belong to orphans,
    and keep a widow’s ox till she pays her debts.
They prevent the poor from getting their rights
    and force the needy to run and hide. So the poor, like wild donkeys,
    search for food in the dry wilderness.

Evil people make slaves of fatherless infants
    and take the children of the poor in payment for debts.

The litany continues until Job’s friend Zophar intercedes with his own assertions and questions.

For a while the wicked prosper,
    but then they wither like weeds,
    like stalks of grain that have been cut down.
Can anyone deny that this is so?
Can anyone prove that my words are not true?

As Job struggles to understand the conflict between good and evil, so do we. We may be like Zophar who accepts the assumption that all evildoers suffer in God’s time rather than our own. Or we may be more like Job who wants a conversation with the Almighty as he looks for authentic answers to his questions. Zophar seems content with allowing evil to proceed unchecked and unchallenged while Job goes deeper. Perhaps this is because Job, the innocent, faithful, hopeful one, suffers while Zophar continues in a comfortable world that makes sense to him.

The lesson we might take away today is this . . . even if we cannot change the evil around us, we might still question God. Even if we do not engender or encourage the violence that surrounds us, we might still commit our own small acts of mercy and justice. And even if we cannot make sense of the world’s great economy and plan, we might keep in mind that all belongs to and is of God.

In La Biblia de América, Chapters 23 & 24 of Job bear a title that translates to: Between Desire and Fear of the Encounter. Not only do these words describe the viewpoints we see today, they also present us with significant questions . . . Are we content to remain in our comfort zone of knowing, or are we willing to step into the world’s violence to represent a path of peace? Do we look for an intimate encounter with God despite the suffering we see and experience, or do we fear this marvelous gift of intimacy with God? What is it we seek?

Job asks: Why doesn’t God set a time for judging, a day of justice for those who serve him?

Perhaps that time is now.


Tomorrow, Bildad asks, how can a mortal be righteous before God?

When we compare various translations with the citations from THE GOOD NEWS TRANSLATION above, we open a dialog with God. 

LA BIBLIA DE LA AMÉRICA. 8th. Madrid: La Casa de la Biblia, 1994. Print.

Image from: https://www.sapiens.org/evolution/human-violence-evolution/

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Job 23: Bitter Complaint

Jan the Elder Lievens: Job

Friday, August 17, 2018

It is a good idea to visit the story of Job once in a while. This book of wisdom has so much to tell us beyond the casual glance. Who among us has not felt abandoned by God, or believed that life has asked too much of us? Job longs for an intimate conversation with God through which he might lay out his case and be acquitted forever by [his] judge.

Job knows that somewhere there is a reason for the injustice he suffers, and he is persistent in his quest. It seems that his fidelity does not serve him. His innocence goes unnoticed. His search for the almighty continues, and in this seeking we find seeds of hope.

If I go forward, he is not there;
    or backward, I cannot perceive him;
on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him;
    I turn to the right, but I cannot see him.
But he knows the way that I take;
    when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold.

The marvel of the New Testament story is that – as if in answer to Job’s bitter plaint – the God this wise man seeks comes to walk among us as one of us. The miracle of the resurrection brings us hope that Job lives in such a unique way. The promise of the Pentecost brings us healing and mercy in the person of the Spirit who dwells in us every moment and accompanies us in every location of our lives . . . forward, backward, to the right and to the left.

Job cries out,

Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
    that I might come even to his dwelling!

Morgan Weistling: Walking with God

Today, in our world that broadcasts its pain on more than a billion and half television screens and nearly two billion smartphones in a non-stop cycle of violence, we might join Job in his sad moaning. The evidence seems to great for us to explain away or comprehend. Fidelity does not serve him, innocence counts for nothing; yet Job holds out hope . . . as we might also do when we remember the story of the Christ child. Light comes into the darkness. God’s love is manifest in the persona of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit. yet . . .

I still rebel and complain against God;
    I cannot keep from groaning.
How I wish I knew where to find him,
    and knew how to go where he is.

Job had only the Old Testament promise of a coming Messiah. We have that Messiah’s presence today. Oh that we might remember this when we look forward, backward, to our right and our left as we continue our bitter complaint.


Tomorrow, Job 24, a violent world.

Images from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Job_(biblical_figure) and https://www.lordsart.com/wawigodbymow.html

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Matthew 5:4: The Inverted Kingdom – Part II

Thursday, January 12, 2017mourning

Jesus proposes that we forego power and wealth, pleasure and honor. Today we consider the solution to overcoming our overwhelming desire for pleasure, and our deep aversion to pain and suffering.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (NSRV)

This vision of the world sees those who suffer as close to God.

Happy are those who mourn; God will comfort them! (GNT)

This picture of the world sees those who grieve as central to God’s design.

Those who are sad now are happy. God will comfort them. (ICB)

This view of the world sees those who are addicted to their own comfort above that of others as missing the essence of God’s plan.

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. (MSG)

This picture of the world sees aversion to suffering as an obstacle to intimacy with God.

The Gospels show us how God’s Word brings healing and comfort to those who mourn. They show us that Jesus makes a choice to cure and transform the wounded and betrayed. They show us that the Spirit is always abiding with those in the margins of society, rather than with those who hold themselves apart to seek after their own preference and desires.

How do we see ourselves as becoming an essential part of God’s designs and plans?

When we compare varying versions of this verse, we better understand how we might enrich our lives by sacrificing our comfort to tend to the suffering of others.

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Micah 4: Restoration of the People

Friday, June 17, 2016blindspot

Here again is the image of the shepherd brought to us by the prophet Micah. God gathers his scattered people and guides them to safety. Just as Yahweh sent Moses to shepherd the people from Egypt, through the desert, and eventually to the Promised Land, so too, does Jesus arrive in Bethlehem to shepherd us to our own promise. And this is what Micah predicts. He tells of the one who comes to rebuke nations yet to teach us his ways and paths. Micah warns of the coming persecution, but from that persecution and suffering come redemption and restoration. There will be universal peace.

These are comforting words. These are words we need to hear.

Adapted from a reflection written on April 1, 2007.

Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald have written BLINDSPOT: HIDDEN BIASES OF GOOD PEOPLE. As we consider how we follow the voice of the Good Shepherd, we might listen to an On Being interview with Banaji at: http://www.onbeing.org/program/mahzarin-banaji-the-mind-is-a-difference-seeking-machine/8719 

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2 Kings 10:1-11: Deception – Part III

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Metropolitan Museum: Etsucan Chariot detail

The Metropolitan Museum: Etruscan Chariot detail

The Wise and the Foolish

We have reflected on Ahab and Jezebel and their fall into corruption caused by their envy of Naboth’s vineyard. Today we see what happens to the seventy princes, their legacy.  There is no plan, no ally, no fortification that can withstand truth, light and life.

It is unsettling to read about the terrible events that take place as retribution for evil or of the clearing away of what follows upon the heels of deception.  Today we read about the end of an evil reign and if we celebrate love as Jesus teaches, there is no joy at the downfall of former foes.  He shows by example how to ask intercession for those who both love him and jeer at him.  Jesus is willing to speak to the wise among us who hear his words, believe, and act.  Jesus also speaks to the foolish among us who hear his words and continue to ignore his call.

Ahab and Jezebel lived a life governed by self; their end and the end of their children is certainly a lesson in how our best laid plans go awry when God is not a part of them.  We might look at two verses in particular: [They] have the chariots, the horses, a fortified city, and the weapons . . . The seventy princes were in the care of prominent men of the city, who were rearing them.  Ahab and Jezebel laid every possible plan, made every conceivable provision. They “hard-wired” their legacy; yet all disappears because the walls of their city were an illusion and their strategies futile.  They thought of themselves, their whims and their comfort first and only.  They believed that they had built their legacy on thinking and behavior that was everlasting.  Today we see that their plans were finite; they and their children came to an ugly end.  We might also remember two verses from Psalm 20: Some rely on chariots, others on horses, but we on the name of the Lord our God.  They collapse and fall, but we stand strong and firm.  (Psalm 20:8-9)

To be wise, to be foolish: the choice always lies before us.  To build on a firm foundation, to build on sand: the work is always before us.  To act out of self-interest, to act out of love for others: the action is always before us.  We may choose the path of Ahab and Jezebel and see our princes slaughtered.  Or we may act like Christ to be open and vulnerable to suffering . . . to be open to eternal joy and hope.

Adapted from a favorite written on December 4, 2008.

For more reflections on Jezebel, enter her name into the blog search bar and explore. 

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Isaiah 61: Prophecy Fulfilled

Monday, June 6, 2016jesus reads isaiah

The opening words of this chapter are the ones that Jesus stands to read in his hometown synagogue (Luke 4: 16-21). He follows this reading with the announcement that the words are fulfilled for them that day. Tension builds as those present question Jesus and realize that he is, indeed, saying that he is the Messiah, and that they have not listened to him or to God. A riot results and the congregation hauls him off to the edge of the cliff to hurl him over; but in the melee Jesus slips away.

These are such troubling words. These are such comforting words. Why are the people so angry? Why does the congregation reject good news? Why does Jesus’ audience refuse to allow the healing of broken hearts, anxiety and worry? When we pause to reflect, we realize that we too frequently do as this crowd does in Luke 4. We also reject the beautiful good news that Isaiah brings to us.

Envy is a powerful force. Those who would hurl the Messiah from the cliff forget that God alone saves, God alone heals, and God alone brings true freedom from all that holds us down. The crowd was thinking – in the same pride-filled way that we also might think – that they alone were responsible for all good things in their lives. They did not want to believe that they were not Yahweh’s faithful who followed The Mosaic Law to the letter. And they did not want to be challenged about their conduct, nor did they want anyone to discover the corruption of the system they had established.

As we read the words of Isaiah’s Chapter 61, in this “Book of Consolation,” we are filled with the knowledge that through perseverance and pain, good things do happen. Each day my children and grandchildren, my students, friends, colleagues, and even strangers bring God to me. I am healed by their prayer, their action, their connection with me in and through Christ.

And all God asks in return is that we take the suffering we have experienced and transform ourselves so that we too may in turn heal and cure. God asks that we also bring hope to the afflicted. Isaiah reminds us that we are all anointed. We are all called. We only need to reply to God’s call in word and deed.

Adapted from a reflection written on February 27, 2007.

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Joel 3:17-21: Salvation for God’s Elect

Saturday, May 28, 2016Wonder-and-Amazement

The expression “God’s Elect” seems contrary to the message of Jesus about universal access to God and salvation. We are all given the option to listen, seek, obey and serve. So the expression we see here today may put us out of our comfort zone. We need to think about this.

From the NAB: “This prophecy is rich in imagery and strongly eschatological in tone. . . Its prevailing theme is the day of the Lord.”

From today’s MAGNIFCAT: “Jesus said: ‘I am the gate. Whoever enters me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture’.” John 10:9 The gate to the Lord’s sheepfold is narrow and cut in the shape of a cross. Yet Christ leads the flock safely through to the place of pasture he has prepared for us. . . Two distinct groups follow Jesus as he goes up to Jerusalem. Those who walked with him who ‘were amazed’ are the ones who live the prayer, ‘Look upon us, show us the light of your mercies. Give new signs and work new wonders.’ However, those who walked behind him ‘were afraid.’ Joining with Jesus who gives his life as a ransom for many changes our fear into amazement.”

With God and prayer, fear turns to amazement. We must remember this.

When we turn to God through our suffering, our wonder and awe are increased many-fold. When we see how God provides for us, our faith is increased many-fold. When we dream of prayers God might answer for us, our petitions are answered many-fold. When we love as God loves us, our love is increased many-fold. And so we pray.

Good and gracious God, grant us the patience, the wisdom, and the perseverance to seek the narrow gate and to enter it. May our fear turn to awe, and may we be continually amazed by your goodness. Amen.

Adapted from a Favorite from May 30, 2007.

Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 30.5 (2007). Print. 

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Job 8: Taking the Dare – Part I

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Corrado Giaquinto: Satan Before the Lord

Corrado Giaquinto: Satan Before the Lord

In the CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE Reading Guide on the book of Job, we find the following proposition: Satan and God have a conversation one day in which Satan insinuates that Job is righteous because of the rewards that he enjoys from God’s hands.  He maintains that it is easy for Job to obey God when all is well and all things are right for him.  Satan further believes that once these gifts and this favor disappear, Job will desert God, he will show that he lacks integrity, and he will even arrive at cursing God.  “In a very real sense, the drama of this book stems from Satan’s challenge found in 1,9: ‘Is it for nothing that Job is God-fearing?’ . . . The reader should note that God takes the dare”.  (Senior RG 237)

As we follow Job’s trials, we later observe that “It is clear that Job had not been God fearing simply for the sake of blessing.  His afflictions did not diminish his devotion.  Even in adversity he maintained that all things are in God’s hands and God would render whatever God deemed fit . . . The content of Job’s laments and pleadings show that Job does not look for recompense; he wants vindication . . . It is apparent that the depth of Job’s piety is based on his relationship with God, not on some promise of reward.  We must remember that at this time Israelites did not have a clear idea of reward or punishment in an afterlife, as Christian theology teaches.  If justice was not meted out in this life, they had no hope at all of retribution.  This makes Job’s disinterested piety even more admirable.  It also serves to challenge our own fidelity.  Job’s faithfulness can also be an encouragement to us . . . Job is not blindly docile in his suffering.  Nor is he afraid to complain to God in his frustration . . . He does not really argue with God because he is suffering, but because he sees a conflict between his unwanted suffering and his faith in the justice of God . . . Devout people certainly have their differences with God.  We are reminded of the great Teresa of Ávila, who in frustration complained to God, “No wonder you have so few friends”.  (Senior RG 238)

Tomorrow, Job’s friends.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 237-238. Print. 

Adapted from a favorite written on May 5, 2010.  

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John 12: 36-43: Belief and Unbelief

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Moses and Aaron Stand Before Pharoah

Moses and Aaron Stand Before Pharoah

This is a difficult idea for many of us but we see it as far back as the Pentateuch when we hear that Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart when he changed his mind about letting Moses’ people go (Exodus 8:15). This is a theme with which we struggle to live: We are not in charge.

When suffering happens, we remind ourselves, God will turn it into something good if we allow the Spirit to reside in our hearts.

We are not in charge.

God heals all wounds, we say, and we pass the stories of these healings on to younger generations.

We are not in charge.

In today’s reading, we see Jesus hiding for a bit as he prepares himself for the tasks ahead. We hear again the words of the prophet Isaiah describing a God who “blinded their eyes and hardened their heart . . . so that they might be converted.”

We are not in charge.

The Israelites crossed the Red Sea through parted waters – after Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart – and so we see Yahweh’s power and might and mercy. The Pharisees do not acknowledge the power of Jesus – which the people see clearly – and in fact the Sanhedrin do not arrest Jesus on several occasions for fear that the people will stone them. (Acts 5:17-26)

We are not in charge.

Gerrit Van Honthorst: Christ Before the High Priest, Annas

Gerrit Van Honthorst: Christ Before the High Priest, Annas

Many times when we are doing God’s work we will find ourselves in opposition to the culture in which we live. Jesus is counter-cultural and lives on the edges of society. So must we be if we are true disciples, if we go to the light and do not hide in the dark (John 3:16-21).

We are not in charge.

We reflect on our lives and pray that we – unlike the Pharisees who preferred human praise to the glory of God . . . may remember that we are not in charge.

We remember our Lenten practice. Rather than thinking: “I will set all things right in God’s kingdom,” let us think instead, “I will strive each day to follow Jesus’ example of forgiveness, mercy and love”.

 Adapted from a reflection written on April 18, 2007.

Tomorrow, passion.

 

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