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Tuesday, February 25, 2020: Sirach 8 & 9Part III

A Prayer for Friends and Friendship

friendship013[1]The wisdom of Proverbs and Sirach may be dismissed as childish or old-fashioned, but this week we have seen the depth and breadth of their astuteness and their keen understanding of human nature.  Today we see these verses as a welcome counterpoint to the material world and its headlong rush to acquire all that is new; we strive to keep all things in balance: Spurn not the discourse of the wise, but acquaint yourself with their proverbs; from them you will acquire the training to serve you in the presence of princes.  Reject not the wisdom of the old ones which they have learned from their elders; from it you will obtain the knowledge how to answer in time of need. (Sirach 8:8-9)

In our modern age of hyper-communication we might draw into ourselves in fear as we hear constant news of conflict and violence.  We may be tempted to look at all that is wrong and forget to look for all that is right with the world.  Anxiety may outweigh optimism.  Fear may trump trust.  Self-protection and avoidance of vulnerability may outweigh our courage to enter into friendship with sincerity and integrity.  If this is so, and if the familiar stories in scripture do not inspire us, we will want to return to the wisdom captured by Jesus ben Sirach, for he has much to offer us.

And so we pray in gratefulness for our true friends and in thanksgiving for the presence of Christ in our lives . . .

Good and gracious God, I thank you for the true friendship you have shared with me in the person of my friends.  Keep me ever aware of their value.  Remind me to thank them often.  Guide me in returning their nurturing care of my humanity.  Help me to recognize their divinity, just as these true friends affirm my divinity when I reflect you to them.  Thank you for adopting me as your daughter.  Remind me often that I am a citizen of the next world rather than one of this.  Give me the patience to wait while the wine of relationships ages.  I ask this in Jesus’ name, together with the friendship of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

Let us give thanks today for the gift of friendship.


Image from: http://www.cherrybam.com/friendship-quotes.php

For more wisdom from this text, type the “Sirach” into the blog search box and choose a reflection.   

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Saturday, February 23, 2020

Sirach 8 & 9Part I

Staying Within our Means

article-new_ehow_images_a05_rc_gs_seed-money-inventors-800x800[1]We have been visiting with the Book of Sirach all week.  Today and tomorrow we will want to spend time with Chapters 8 and 9 and think about how we spend our fiscal, physical and spiritual cash.  We will want to ask ourselves if and how and even why we will want to stay within our means.

Many hurdles in life are too big for us to handle.  We live in a society that tells us that we can do anything once we put our minds to it; but this is not true.  We must recognize the limits with which we are born, assess our strengths, find our best talents and gifts, and use them well.  This is also true of our spirituality.  We are each endowed with a God-center in our brains which scientists have seen activated in meditating monks and nuns with brain scans.  And each of these God-centers is likely to be as different as our physical being.  It follows, then, that some of us feel more keenly the desire to seek God than others.  I am guessing that some may not feel this desire at all . . . and these are people whom only God can reach.  It is for these wounded souls that I pray each day.

Sirach urges us to steer clear of the quickly angry, the powerful, influential and rich.  Kindle not the coals of a sinner, lest you be consumed in his blazing fire . . . Provoke no quarrel with a quick-tempered man, nor ride with him through the desert; for bloodshed is nothing to him, and when there is no to help you, he will destroy you.  For my part, these words ring true.

In Chapter 9 we read more advice about becoming ensnared in matters which will take us beyond our own control mechanism.  We are asked, in other words, to know and understand our weaknesses and strengths . . . to go not surety beyond our means (verse 8:13)  . . . to exercise restraint where we know we have no strength . . . to take God with us everywhere we go . . . to include God in every relationship we enter.

This is the challenge we offer ourselves today as we continue our Lenten journey.


Image from: http://www.ehow.com/how_6140444_seed-money-inventors.html

Tomorrow – The Measure of Friends

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Saturday, February 22, 2020

Sirach 51: Canticle of Thanksgiving

JIM-give-thanks[1]When we feel as though we are about to slip into the abyss, when it seems as though we have nowhere to turn, there is one place we can always find comfort.  No matter how many times we visit this book of wisdom written by Jesus ben Sirach it always feels new.  As we linger among these verses of the last chapter, we might pause to add the details of our own lives amidst the ancient words.  In so doing, we move from darkness into light, from our own timeline to God’s.  We may even end each phrase with the details of our own journey to God.  Again, we find that the faithful do not need to fight.  They must be willing to do one thing . . . to refuse to take any action that will separate them from their God . . . and be willing to wait for the harvest to arrive . . . in due season.

Dear God,

You have saved me from death, and kept my body from the pit . . .

You have delivered me, in your great mercy, from the scourge of a slanderous tongue, and from lips that went over to falsehood . . .

You have delivered me from deceiving lips and painters of lies, from the arrows of dishonest tongues . . .

I turned every way, but there was no one to help me, I looked for one to sustain me, but could find no one . . .

But then I remembered the Lord . . .

So I raised my voice from the very earth . . .

I called out . . .

“You are my champion . . .

“Do not abandon me . . .

“I will ever praise your name and be in constant prayer to you . . .

He preserved me in time of trouble . . .

I sought wisdom . . .

She came to me in her beauty . . .

My feet kept to the level path . . .

I became resolutely devoted to her . . .

My whole being was stirred as I learned about her . . .

And Wisdom replies:

Come aside to me, you untutored, and take up lodging in the house of instruction.  How long will you be deprived of wisdom’s food, how long will you endure such bitter thirst? 

Submit your neck to her yoke, that your mind may accept her teaching.  For she is close to those who seek her, and the one who is in earnest finds her.

Let your spirits rejoice in the mercy of God, and be not ashamed to give him praise in due season, and in his own time God will give you your reward.

And we respond: So be it!  Amen!


IMage from: http://www.thedesertreview.com/give-thanks/jim-give-thanks/

First written on November 3, 2008.  Revised and posted today as a Favorite.

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Philippians 2:1-11: Unity and Humility

Friday, December 13, 2019

Complete my joy by being of the same mind . . .

If Christ – who is God – can humble himself in order to bring about good, cannot we humble ourselves, and can we not obey God’s call to us?  And what miracles might we experience once we do?

In Chapter 14 of Acts we read an account of how Paul and Barnabas are mistaken for pagan gods when they are able to cure a crippled man.  When this gift of healing which God gives them is made known, “some Jews from Antioch and Iconium arrived and won over the crowds.  They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.  But when the disciples gathered round him, he got up and entered the city”.  Even a stoning and apparent death do not stop Paul.  He is of the same mind as Christ.

As we spend time reflecting on Paul’s words and his actions, we have the opportunity to gauge our own humility before God, and our own desire for unity with Christ no matter the cost.  Are we willing to be of the same mind as Christ?

From the MAGNIFICAT Evening Prayer: Psalm 116:12 – How can I repay the Lord for God’s goodness to me? 

The attitude of thankfulness is central to Christian spirituality.  The debt of gratitude we owe for God’s faithful love can be repaid only in a two-sided coin: turning to God in thanksgiving and doing for others what has been done for us.  (Mini-reflection)

Be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  (Colossians 3:15-17)

The Christology expressed here is paramount to our understanding of who Christ is and how we might expect ourselves to be in him as he is in us.  At the root of his divinity is his readiness to humble himself and to obey God . . . even to the point of death.  Are we willing to be of the same mind as Christ?

Notes tell us that the hymn Paul cites in likely one that was sung by the early Christians; and we can understand how this song may have served to inspire the fledgling church as she struggled to survive.  We too, might use these words when we find ourselves floundering.  He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave . . . he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

When we are humble enough . . . and when we obey enough . . . then we can say we are in unity with Christ.  And when we can say this, we will be in that spot where serenity overcomes anxiety, and where love overcomes fear.


A re-post from USA Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 2012.

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Evening.” MAGNIFICAT. 25.10 (2010). Print.  

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Mark 10:17-31: Being Last

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

The rich man asks Jesus how he can gain admission to heaven.  Jesus answers plainly: Put aside all that you have . . . and follow me.  How simple.  How difficult.

Jesus calls each of us to put away all that enthralls us . . . for love of him.  This means that we put aside all that secures our identity, all that maintains our confidence . . . and trust solely in him.  This means that we learn to live in liminal space . . . because that is where heaven is.

Test me, O Lord, and try me; examine my heart and my mind.

For your love is before my eyes; I have walked faithfully with you.

I have not sat with the worthless, nor do I consort with the deceitful.

I have hated the company of evildoers; I will not sit down with the wicked.

I will wash my hands in innocence, O Lord; that I may go in procession round your altar;

Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving and recounting all your wonderful deeds.

                                                                                          Psalm 26:2-7

I have learned an important lesson and have lately felt its echo come back to me as it reverberates through a lifetime.  Of our own will we can do nothing.  We best acknowledge this by letting go of all that secures us to life.  We best experience this by falling backward over what appears to be a precipice.  In the letting go of familiarity . . . in the floating . . . we feel God’s presence.  This is what happens when we put God first.  This is what we feel when we put ourselves last.

Jesus says:  It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle that it is for a rich man to enter heaven. 

And we reply:  But where are we to go?  What are we do?  How will we live?  Surely we will die!  We are only human!

And Jesus replies: With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God. 

Do we trust our maker to catch us when we fall?  Do we understand that his love is greater than all else?  Can we put God first . . . and ourselves last?

Test me, O Lord, and try me; examine my heart and my mind.  For your love is before my eyes; I have walked faithfully with you . . .

Let us go in procession around the Lord’s altar . . . Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving and recounting all [God’s] wonderful deeds . . . and let us trust him who loves us . . . him for whom all things are possible.  Let us be willing to go last in the altar procession as we sing our altar song.

Test me, O Lord, and try me; examine my heart and my mind.  For your love is before my eyes; I have walked faithfully with you . . .


First written on November 15, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

To better understand our call to “fall” into Christ, please see: Rohr, Richard. FALLING UPWARD: A SPIRITUALITY FOR THE TWO HALVES OF LIFE. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print.  (Rohr 65)

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Psalm 65: Sacred Rest

Saturday, December 22, 2018

We are about to enter a week of Thanksgiving in the United States, a time when we traditionally set aside time for family and friends, a time when we traditionally acknowledge the goodness of the Creator and the generosity of Creation.  It has also become a time for bargain shopping.  Somehow we always manage to clutter up the time God gives us for refreshment and recuperation.  It is as if we cannot stop ourselves from the neurotic filling up of time and space with meaningless objects and activity.  A few brave souls have begun to push back against the opening of stores at midnight on Black Friday and I applaud their effort. http://www.poconorecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20111118/NEWS90/111119739/-1/NEWS  I have even joined the petition.  For some of us to bargain shop, others of us must leave family and home to wait on us.  I think we as a people are missing something.  Rest.

An excerpt I recently read from Richard Rohr’s Following the Mystics through the Narrow Gate …Seeing God in All Things (CD, DVD, MP3) has set me to thinking.  Today’s Noontime Psalm moves me further along in the same direction.  Rest.  We need to rest and reflect.

“The final experience of mysticism, after the optimistic explosion that we usually call hope, and the ensuing sense of safety, is of deep rest. It’s the verb I’m told that is most used by the mystics: ‘resting in God.’ All this striving and this need to perform, climb, and achieve becomes, on some very real level, unnecessary. It’s already here, now. I can stop all this overproduction and over-proving of myself. That’s Western and American culture. It’s not the Gospel at all.

“We’ve all imbibed the culture of unrest so deeply. We just cannot believe that we could be respected or admired or received or loved without some level of performance. We are all performers and overachievers, and we think ‘when we do that’ we will finally be lovable. Once you ride on the performance principle, you don’t even allow yourself to achieve it. Even when you ‘achieve’ a good day of ‘performing,’ it will never be enough, because it is inherently self-advancing and therefore self-defeating. You might call it ‘spiritual capitalism’.”

Rohr is telling us what we really know: we must step back from the high velocity life we have constructed for ourselves and we must give time over to God.  We need to rest, reflect, and give thanks.

The psalmist intones: To you we owe our hymn of praise . . . to you our vows must be fulfilled . . . to you all flesh must come . . . There is no denying this truth.  We owe all that we are and all that we have to God.  For this we must give thanks.  We all physically return to God.  This is a truth that cannot be avoided.

You answer us with awesome deeds of justice . . . you are robed in power, you set up the mountains by your might, you still the roaring of the seas . . . the tumult of the peoples . . . There is no avoiding this reality.  We might throw ourselves against our problems with childish anger but in the end it is child-like petition that brings us to our senses. This is a truth that cannot be ignored.

You visit the earth and water it, make it abundantly fertile . . . you adorn the year with your bounty, your paths drip with fruitful rain, the untilled meadows also drip; the hills are robed with joy . . . There is no tricking ourselves into believing that God has no interest in us whatever.  God’s generosity is too enormous to reject; God’s kindness is impossible to refute.  We may give ourselves credit for earning what we have gathered but it is God the Creator who makes the panoply of Creation available to us.  This is a truth that cannot be argued away.

The pastures are clothed with flocks, the valleys blanketed with grain; they cheer and sing for joy . . . There is no evading these simple facts.  God creates.  God provides.  God rests.  If we hope to rest at all . . . we must first rest in God . . . We must call our friends and loved ones to join us in this sacred resting . . . and we must together give thanks to the Creator for Creation.


A re-post from November 19, 2011.

Image from: http://adjusttowellness.com/Kids_5Reasons.html 

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John 2:23-25The Interior Life

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

This reflection is adapted from thoughts written on February 23, 2009; and it reminds us that Christ is The Life we seek to live. It calls us to find our lives in Christ through prayer. 

Saints and scholars have written much about the life of the soul.  We have been told through Scripture, and through the Creator’s revelation to us, what we can expect when we enter into honest and authentic relationship with Christ.  The Holy Spirit settles into the temple nest that we prepare to abide with us with her compassionate healing.  The Creator guides us to the potential molded with us at our inception.

What more can we say about our interior life?  How do we connect with Christ to better life the life that is our hope? What can we do to improve this life, to bring ourselves to fruition so that our inner life might blossom in our exterior life of thanksgiving and joy . . . even in the face of misery?

Today’s Meditation in MAGNIFICAT is from Philoxenus, a fifth/sixth century Syriac writer and theologian.  It is about prayer and how we come to God through prayer.

Theodorus Philoxenus Sotericus

One should be secretly swallowed up in the spirit in God, and one should clothe oneself in God at the time of prayer both outwardly and inwardly, set on fire with ardent love for him, and entirely engulfed in all of him, entirely commingled in all of him, with the movements of one’s thoughts suffused with wondrous recollection of God, while the soul has gone out in love to seek him whom she loves, just as David said, “My soul has gone out to you”.

The soul goes out in wondrous recollection of God.

God enters into the soul.

The interior life becomes a dialog with God in which all worries, woes and fears can be opened in trust.

The interior blooms.

This blossoming becomes evident through the exterior.

Our actions demonstrate our wondrous recollection of God. 

This afternoon, let us raise our voices together in a communal prayer . . . that we might illuminate the world with our wondrous recollection of God. 


Cameron, Peter John. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 23.2 (2009). Print.

Images from: https://www.desiringgod.org/topics/prayer and https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Theodorus_Philoxenus_Sotericus_A_01a.JPG 

For more information on Theodorus Philoxenus Sotericus, visit https://www.britannica.com/biography/Philoxenus-of-Mabbug 

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2 Maccabees 10Battle – Part IV

Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Friday, March 9, 2018

Second Maccabees is a narration of the revolt led by the Maccabeus family in the second century before Christ.  Part of this narrative is a description of the political intrigue accompanying the physical battle.  We can imagine the plotting and counter-plotting that took place.  Chapter 10 describes how the faithful purified and re-dedicated their temple after they removed the profane statues placed in the sanctuary by Antiochus Epiphanes.  We arrive breathless at the end of the chapter to read: . . . with hymns and thanksgiving they blessed the Lord who shows great kindness to Israel and gives them the victory. 

We will find ourselves from time to time in a place of battle, unable to fully hear or see in the dust and din of clashing fears and realities.  In these times of cacophony, it is difficult to hear the difference between the voice of God and our ego-centrist, inner voice of survival.  For this reason, we turn to God frequently during our days and nights so that we might best hear God’s voice and respond to it rather than our own.  During times of stress, we might fall back on John 10 in which Jesus tells us that faithful sheep will know the voice of the true shepherd so well that they will follow no other.   This shepherd we follow is one who forgives continually, calls endlessly, and waits patiently.   This shepherd will not lead falsely, will not abandon the flock, and he will go out in search of the last lost sheep to return it to the fold.

We are in the beginning of our Lenten journey and we are just commencing to unpack the baggage we have been carrying all winter.  What is it we need to re-sanctify and re-pack?  What is it that we need to sweep away forever?  What is it that brings us such confusion that we cannot decide how to handle it?  What are the battles we can wage on our own, and what are the battles we must hand over to God?  Which of these battles are psychological?  Which are emotional or physical?  And which are purely spiritual?

All of these questions ask us to examine our own motivations and actions, but the most important questions are these. How do we thank God under all circumstances for the gift of who we are and what we have been called to be? What hymns of thanksgiving do we sing to bless the Lord?  How do we tell this one who shows us great kindness and who gives us victory in our battles, that we are God’s and God’s alone?

Adapted from a reflection written on February 23, 2010. 

Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antiochus_IV_Epiphanes

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Psalm 89: A Hymn in Time of National Struggle – Part IV

Friday, January 26, 2018

Rembrandt van Rijn: The Reconciliation of David and Absalom (2 Samuel 14)

Finding the Servant

Perhaps the most heartbreaking part in the story of David’s rise and reign is the accounting of his son Absalom. As Nathan had predicted, this favored child hatches a plot to do away with his father. In Chapters 16-17 we see the counselor Ahitophel create double deceit as the writer records, Any advice that Ahithophel gave in those days was accepted as though it were the very word of God; both David and Absalom followed it. Later we read that Ahithophel takes his own life (2 Samuel 17:23) and we consider, when we plot to take down our enemies, are we prepared to have that plot turn against us?

Men prepare for conflict. The battle ensues and Absalom dies. Messages fly. David mourns and shames the soldiers who have saved him and the city. The world turns on its head. David’s nephew Joab steps in to bring the world back into focus and life settles into a series of defensive moves in which David maintains the kingdom in a series of skirmishes and disagreements. In the closing chapters of this long tale we read the beautiful song of this faithful servant’s thanksgiving. And so we consider, when we reflect on our lives with all of its peaks and valleys, can we recognize God as our rock, fortress, deliverer and refuge, or do we curse our circumstances and blame bad fortune on others?

Francesco Pesellino: The Death of Absalom

Samuel, David, Bathsheba, Nathan, Joab, Ahithophel, Uzza and so many others paint a canvas for us of the faithful servant who stumbles and recovers . . . many times. Through all of this, our loving God  pardons, heals and always abides. In a time when the word of the Lord is rare and visions are scarce in our lives, we might find ourselves in this story. We might listen for God’s voice as we step forward in faithful service.

We hear this story . . . we take it in . . . and then we reply with the psalmist and King David . . . O Lord, I will always sing of your constant love; I will proclaim your faithfulness forever.

Compare other translations of these verses by using the scripture links and drop-down menus. 

Click on the image of David and Absalom for more insights into this story.

To visit the Prayer for Faithful Servants post on this blog, go to: https://thenoontimes.com/2014/03/30/a-prayer-for-faithful-servants/

Tomorrow, God among us.

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