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Posts Tagged ‘the wicked’


Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Bridle_bit_by_Fjallira[1]Psalm 32:9-10

Bit and Bridle

Do not be senseless like horses or mules; with bit and bridle their temper is curbed, else they will not come to you. Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.

The Jerusalem Bible translation of these two verses gives us another, interesting perspective:  Do not be like senseless horse or mule that need bit and bridle to curb their spirit (to let you get near them). Many torments await the wicked, but grace enfolds the one who trusts in Yahweh.

The palmist reminds us that the message is clear. We have a simple choice to make: bit and bridle or grace and love. Those who choose the wide way that leads to destruction will be comfortable in the present time but ultimately experience much pain and grief. Those who choose the narrow way that Christ shows to us will suffer in the present time but quickly come to know full and timeless peace.

God says: To survive in the world you have developed habits and behaviors that shut others down, that close others out, or that frighten others away. This may protect you for a time but in the end you will be even more vulnerable and frightened than you were when you began to act this way. To survive eternity you must know the way of grace and love. You do not want to be hindered by bit or bridle. You do not want eternal torment but rather, you seek my enfolding arms, my loving protection, and my unending serenity. Put aside your anger and distrust. Put on your wedding garment of love and hope, and come to the feast today.

We can receive no invitation that is more simple or more clear. God creates us not for the bit and bridle but for the grace and light and love that is our true potential.

Click on the verse link above and explore how other translations report what the psalmist has to tell us.


Image from: http://comefillyourcup.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/bridle-that-tongue/

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Saturday, October 10, 2020

Sauvignon_blanc_vlasotince_vineyards[1]Matthew 21:33-46

When Vintage Time Arrives

In this parable we see wicked people kill the owner’s son so that they can take over the land.  We humans tend to interpret our own actions in the best light in order that they suit our own ends.  We explain our lack of unity by calling up examples that support our own version of a story. By our lack of generosity and honesty, we demonstrate our belief that God is not good enough or big enough to help all of us.  Our own stinginess and need to control demonstrate a belief that God is limited in some way.  When we create division, confusion and disunity we forget that God brings order out of chaos and good out of harm.  And we also forget that Jesus calls each of us to do the same. Jesus shows us how to heal with a touch rather than ostracize with a look, yet we reject Jesus as the cornerstone when we refuse to see God’s presence in the least of us.

In this story the wicked men answer their own question in verse 41: [The landowner] will put those wretched men to death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper time.  There is no doubt about the message here: Fruit at the proper time – this is what we called to bear.

God wishes nothing more than for all of us go to him in unity. So let us ask for forgiveness and forgive.  Let us make reparations and accept a reparation being made.  Let us heal and be healed.  Let us pray our enemies into goodness so that all of us might bear fruit.

God wants to include all of us in the work of the vintage time.  God calls each of us to our seat at the great feast.  God calls the slow as well as the swift, the unfaithful as well as the faithful, the lame as well as the walking.  God makes a Universal Call . . . What will be our response?

Dearest God, we know that you will continue to beckon, continue to wait, continue to love, and continue to unfold your plan.  We know that you ask each of us to bear fruit in your time rather than our own.  Send us your wisdom, perseverance and generosity.  Send us your love and strength.  Speak clearly to us so that we might more readily hear your words as the landowner who sends his messengers to us.  Grant that we come forward willingly with the fruit of your harvest.  Grant that we find the courage to help even our enemies so that they might rise and go to you.  And grant that we be alert and ready when the vintage time arrives.  Amen.


To reflect more on The Wedding Feast and The Wedding Garment, enter these phrases into the blog search bar and explore. 

Adapted from a reflection written on September 13, 2007.

Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loire_Valley_(wine)

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Sunday, October 4, 2020hope mugSirach 39:16-35

A Reason for Your Hope

We pause in our study of 1 Peter and turn to the wisdom of Sirach. In verses 21, 25, 33 and 34 we begin to find clarity to a question that occurs to each of us throughout our lives: why is it that the wicked do not suffer? The answer always is: God has a plan, God has infinite time, God is infinitely good, God calls us to intimacy in the Spirit, and we must go to God in the proper way, in God’s way, and in God’s time.

It occurs to me that many people who appear to “have it made” are suffering in a way that they do not express. They likely view suffering as a sign of failure, just as those living in the days of the Old Testament believed. Unlike Peter in his letters to us, they do not understand that suffering is The Way.  Suffering shows our willingness to undergo the necessary discipline which we all must experience in order to reach the next place. Suffering brings us to a place – if we allow it – where we finally and fully meet God.

A friend recently pointed out to me that bullies are often grieving and likely do not know that they are suffering. Or if they know why they suffer they do not understand that they are experiencing an undergoing or that they are constantly accompanied by God. The angry, jealous, divisive life they set up for themselves as they isolate themselves from the rest of the world is a perpetuation of their dreadful pain rather than a healing, unifying, enduring, loving expression of God made visible among us.

So if we believe that God exists and if can manage to remain faithful to God, if we hope that all of us – even our enemies – attain holiness before and with God, if we remain reverent despite the apparent ability of the wicked to escape consequences, if we strive to love our enemies into goodness and purity . . . then we are true expressions of God here on earth. These are difficult tasks, but as Jesus ben Sirach tells us, there is no wiser path in life. And as Peter writes to us, Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.  For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.

Reflecting on the wisdom of Sirach and Peter we pray . . .

Gentle and loving God, keep us prudent but joyful. Let us wear our hope upon our sleeves as we open my arms to all. We  know that you are with us and that we need not fear for you are always walking with us. Keep us persistent, keep us loving, keep us always close to you as we do your will. Keep our ears sharp, our eyes keen, our actions pure, our thoughts holy. Keep our hands and feet and mouth in accord with your will. Let our patience endure, our hope be joy-filled, and our love be infinite. Trusting in your wisdom, prudence, and love, we pledge ourselves to you this day and in this way. Amen. 


Adapted from a reflection written on September 1, 2007.

Image from: http://pbcvoice.blogspot.com/2012/06/sharing-from-my-heart.html

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Thistledown

Wisdom 4:20 & 5: Hope

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

These verses – actually beginning with the last verse of Chapter 4 – give us reflections of the wicked concerning the fate of the faithful.  Here is an answer to all of the times the psalmist laments: Why do we suffer and the wicked get away with murder?  Today we have the answer to so much questioning.  The faithful will rest in peace after struggling so long in the temporal world.  This chapter is a balancing counterpoint to chapters three and four: The Hidden Counsels of God.

So much about God is mystery.  Perhaps this is why we like this time of year with lights twinkling in the darkness, carols piercing cold air, our breath forming vapor as we step into the early morning crispness.

Over the week end my grandchildren and I watched one of their favorite movies, Babe, about a pig that becomes a sheepdog.  The story takes place in New Zealand and so Christmas is celebrated in the dead of summer; yet the farmer places a Christmas tree atop his house and the family gathers in the warm weather to exchange presents.  The grandchildren and I had a lively conversation about what we would and would not like about having Christmas in July.  At first it was winter that seemed more appropriate because it is the time when we are hunkered in and hunkered down, waiting for life to begin.  On the other hand, the coming of Light and Truth into the world coincides with the full and open days of summer, jammed with activities that distract us.  When do we need Christ more?  The answer is likely: all of the time.

We also spent time – as we always do when we watch this film – reflecting on the faith and doubt of the farmer and his wife about the pig and themselves.  We spoke again about the relationships between generations.  And, of course, we spoke about the incredible idea that a pig might win a sheep herding tourney.  We have sat in the bleachers at the Harford County Farm Fair and watched these dogs work a flock of sheep.  We have also watched pig races, horse sled pulls and other animal trials.  The children – and I – are impressed by the competency of this Hollywood pig.  And we are all rewarded by the cheers of the crowd when Babe brings the final sheep configuration home.  These were the same people who had jeered moments before.  Yes, the hope of the wicked is like thistledown borne on the wind . . .

When we are confronted with sneering laughter we need only focus on the potential within and wear the Lord as our armor (verses 16-19).  For when we put on Christ as recommended by Paul in Ephesians 6, we have no need of any other thing for the just live forever, and in the Lord is their recompense. 

This is one of the times in the liturgical year when we hear the theme of the rejected cornerstone.  It gives us the opportunity to think about surprises . . . and about unusual possibilities like Christmas in July . . . pigs that can herd sheep . . . cornerstones that no one recognizes.  It is the time of year to think about arming ourselves with Light and Joy . . . Peace and Hope . . . about wearing the Lord as we set forth each day . . . about being Christ in a turbulent world.


Written on December 1, 2008, re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://catholicsensibility.wordpress.com/2010/03/page/4/

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Job 12: The Undisturbed

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The undisturbed esteem my downfall a disgrace . . . yet the tents of robbers are prosperous, and those who provoke God are secure.  I imagine that each of us has wondered at one or another how it is that the sleek and flourishing experience success while the downtrodden suffer endlessly.

Job tells us that the beasts of the earth and sea and sky understand that God is in charge.  They do not credit themselves with victory in life but rather understand that the world is ordered from a point outside their control.  In his journey of sorrow and pain Job will learn that the trust he has placed in God is warranted; and he suggests that we take a lesson from these creatures: But now ask the beasts to teach you, and the birds of the air to tell you; or the reptiles on earth to instruct you, and the fish of the sea to inform you.  Which of these does not know that the hand of God has done this?  In his hand is the soul of every living thing, and the life breath of all mankind.  Job continues to delineate God’s power in clear terms.  There is no power greater than God’s; there is no understanding more deep, no prudence more sensible.  As followers of Christ we especially know that there is no love more forgiving and more enduring than God’s.

In his reply to Zophar, Job attempts to describe the enormity and omnipotence of God.  And in speaking to his friend Job assure himself – and us – that even though he suffers innocently he is not forgotten by his all-knowing and all-powerful creator.  Job knows that with patience and an open heart, he will gain the insight of a life lived well: So with old age comes wisdom, and with length of days understanding.  These are gifts from God that we receive through suffering . . . and this is something that those who live undisturbed lives will never learn.

Job is not the only one in scripture to warn us about the opposing worlds of the troubled and the undisturbed.  Paul writes to Timothy: Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment.  (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

The prophet Jeremiah also understands the irony of justice in the world. He recounts the Lord’s words: Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord.  He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season . .  . [The wicked] grow powerful and rich, fat and sleek.  They go their wicked way; justice they do not defend by advancing the claim of the fatherless or judging the cause of the poor.  (Jeremiah 17:5-6 and 5:27)

In the book of Wisdom it is the wicked who say: Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.  He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord.  To us he is a censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us.  (Wisdom 2:12-14)

Scripture is full of advice about how to behave and how to align our lives; but the story of Job is one we will want to hold close, especially when we undergo trials while the successful and cozened lead seemingly charmed lives.  Job’s story – and in particular this response to Zophar – tell us that the dichotomy between the just and the unjust is real.  It is a trial to be borne.  It is a misery to be endured.  Yet through this suffering we receive a gift that the undisturbed will never have.  It is the gift of fully knowing and experiencing God’s great and abiding love.


A repost from March 12, 2012.

Image from: http://erumiou.wordpress.com/2007/06/22/wealth-vs-poverty-in-which-lies-true-happiness/ 

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Psalm 112: Rising in the Darkness

Monday, February 13, 2017candles

Whether we know it or, once we commit to loving God as we see God in others, we begin to generate light in the darkness.

Those who love the LORD rise in the darkness as a light for the upright; they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.

We may be unaware that others are watching us but they are. When we say that are committed to Christ, do our actions betray or support our words?

It is well with those who deal generously and lend, who conduct their affairs with justice.

If we hope to make a mark in human history, all we need do is follow Christ. In this way we will find ourselves in the story of hope and generosity rather than the story of fear and exclusion.

For the righteous will never be moved; they will be remembered forever.

Once we begin to think and move in Christ, all fear falls away for we know that we are not in charge and that the long arc of human history is moving toward the light of Christ.

They are not afraid of evil tidings; their hearts are firm, secure in the Lord.

lightWhen we feel ourselves moving in that great tide of humanity that yearns for universal justice, impartial freedom and eternal peace, we will know that all is well.

Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

The honor we seek is not the reward of this life; it is the quiet, humble, everlasting honor that Christ bestows when we follow after him.

They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor; their righteousness endures forever; they are exalted in honor.

We cannot think that our progress is smooth for the way of discipleship is difficult in the best of circumstances.

The wicked see it and are angry; they gnash their teeth and melt away; the desire of the wicked comes to nothing.

And we must remember that in our gladness of living and loving in Christ, we are called to invite all those who weary from their journey of opposition, mistrust, and manipulation to join in this great generation of life and light and love.

Those who love the LORD rise in the darkness as a light for the upright; they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.

candles-burningWe give thanks for the times when are the light. We ask forgiveness for the times we have brought darkness to others and ourselves. And we remember to look for the face of Christ in every soul that passes our way.

When we spend time with various translations of this psalm, we find that our hearts are lighter, our path more easily seen and trod, and our journey more full of peace.

 

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Wisdom 1: The Key to Lifekey of life

March 10, 2015

Love justice . . . seek the Lord with integrity of heart . . .

Perverse counsels separate a man from God . . .

The holy spirit of discipline flees deceit and withdraws from senseless counsels . . .

When injustice occurs it is rebuked . . .

God is the witness of the inmost self and the sure observer of the heart . . .

The spirit of the Lord fills the world, is all-embracing, and knows what each one says.

No one who utters wicked things can go unnoticed . . .

A jealous ear hearkens to everything . . .

Discordant grumblings are no secret . . .

Guard against profitless grumbling, and from calumny withhold your tongues . . .

A stealthy utterance does not go unpunished . . .

A lying mouth slays the soul . . .

Justice is undying.

God says: These words of wisdom are sent to you through my servant who recorded these thoughts for you centuries ago. They are ancient words yet they hold modern meaning. In this season of Lent as you anticipate the miracle of Easter, open your arms, widen your horizon, unbend your stiff neck and renew your heart. Separation from me does not occur like a thunder clap or an explosion; rather, it begins by tiny steps away from me, away from the light that breaks through all darkness and calls forth all healing. If you wish to hold the keys to life, remain in me as I remain in you. I will give you rest and mercy and peace. 

Use the scripture link to explore different versions of these verses, and allow them to reveal the wisdom of God’s words.  

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Ezekiel 33:14-16: We Shall Surely Live

Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life".  (John 6:68)

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”. (John 6:68)

March 4, 2015

Though I say to the wicked man that he shall surely die, if he turns away from his sin and does what is right and just, giving back pledges, restoring stolen goods, living by the statutes that bring life, and doing no wrong, he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of the sins committed shall be held against him; he has done what is right and just, he shall surely live.

Just when we believe that there is no redemption we read these verses. The wicked may also survive to live eternally once they repent. If there are enemies among, let us pray as Jesus asks us to pray.

From Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M.: “A prophet is one who keeps God free for people and who keeps people free for God. It is a two-sided task. He or she is committed to the covenant love between humanity and the Divine–at all costs–and keeping God totally free for people. That is a very hard thing to do, because at least in the Bible the priestly class invariably makes God less accessible instead of more so: ‘Neither entering yourselves nor letting others enter in’ as Jesus boldly puts it (Matthew 23:13). For our own job-security, the priestly mentality tends to say, ‘You can only come to God through us, by doing the right rituals and obeying the rules.’ Formal ministers are too often good at teaching people ‘learned helplessness.’ That’s why the prophets spend so much time destroying and dismissing these barriers to create ‘a straight highway to God’ (Matthew 3:3) as John the Baptist tries to do, and Jesus does with such determination and partial success. But now you know why they were both killed”.

Spend time with these verses from Ezekiel and Matthew today and reflect on their meaning along with the words from Richard Rohr and consider . . . as we go through our days, do we liberate more than we bind, do we heal more than we hurt, do we love more than we judge, do we live more than we die?

Richard Rohr citation in this post is from “Prophets as Liberators,” Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation for Monday, February 20, 2015. http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Richard-Rohr-s-Meditation–Prophets-as-Liberators.html?soid=1103098668616&aid=O17vFLcGtV4  

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Friday, February 13, 2015

A Watch Tower in Cadiz, Spain

A Watch Tower in Cadiz, Spain

Ezekiel 3:17-27

The Prophet as Watchman: Gratitude for our Stumbling Blocks

I have appointed you as sentinel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, warn my people from me.

God says: Do not be surprised that I have appointed you as sentinel to my people for you have been faithful in great and in little things. When I speak, send on my word, live my word.

When I say to the wicked, “You will surely die,” and you do not warn them or speak out to warn them, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand.

God says: Do not be afraid to deliver news that others perceive as negative or ugly. Send on my word with mercy and justice. Be compassionate always, but deliver my message nonetheless for it is as important for you to speak as it is for others to hear.

If you have warned the wicked and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their wicked way, they shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself.

God says: Do not worry if my word returns to you empty. I do not expect you to transform hard hearts and unbend stiff necks; but I expect that you will send my word on.

When I speak to you, I will open your mouth and you will say to them, “Thus says the Lord God”. The one who hears, hear; and the one who refuses, let that one refuse; for they are a rebellious house.

God says: Speak in my name and in that alone is your reward. When you do this although it is outside of your comfort zone, you set the same example as does my son Jesus. When you speak the words that lie in the quiet of other hearts, you demonstrate your fidelity. When you act as Jesus acts you show me the heart I have planted in you. Act in me as I act in you . . . and this will be enough. Give thanks that I am with you. Give thanks that you are not alone. Give thanks that my love dwells within you . . . and that I find it great enough to share. This has been the gift of your stumbling block. It is the gift of the watch tower. It is the gift of my eternal life in you.

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