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2 Samuel 6: Michal

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Tissot: Michal Despises David

Yesterday we spent time with the opening portion of this chapter; today we focus on the rest of the story.  Just as we are given an opportunity to see the realities of life in the story of Uzzah, we are given the chance to see our own reality in the story of Michal.

It has been noted that Michal is the only woman in scripture described as loving a man who does not love her in return.  As with many women in scripture she is used by a pawn. In this case it is her father and husband who exploit Michal . . . the two men closest to her . . . the two men charged with her protection.  Again as a child I saw her circumstances as out of her own control and I saw her life as one of deepest betrayal.  As with the tale of Uzzah, we turn to commentary to ask why in 1 Samuel 19 to find that David and Michal had pagan statues in their household and we might nod smugly and knowingly and comment that perhaps she suffered for bringing idol-worship into her home.  If we spend time reading the scattered fragments of Michal’s story we pull together the threads of her life.  As a child I saw her as a victim; as an adult I understand that there are far too many circumstances beyond Michal’s control and I watch as she sees all her dreams melt away into nothing.  I begin to understand how her passion becomes loathing.

As we grow in God’s love begin to understand that with mercy there are no bounds; we see that justice is best delivered in God’s time and according to God’s plan; we know that love carries with it the dark potential to become great hatred unless it is founded in God.  As with the story of Uzzah yesterday, we see that life defies description.  Again we learn that what looks correct may not always be correct.  And we feel the full force of the lesson that we cannot make events occur nor can we prevent circumstances from overtaking us.  We can rest only in the surety that God is in us, that we are in God, and that our relationship with God is the only eternal and permanent promise that matters.

Uzzah, Michal and David teach us much.  Their stories might embolden or frighten us.  Their circumstances may cheer us or depress us.  Their lives may dissolve or transform us.  But in all of this, as we examine the lives of Uzzah, Michal and David . . . we have much to think about today.


A re-post from October 15, 2012.

Image from: https://www.artbible.info/art/large/717.html

To learn more about Michal and to put her story together, go to: http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/michal-bible or http://www.alabaster-jars.com/biblewomen-m.html or http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/Women-Of-The-Bible/a/021511-CW-Michal.htm

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2 Samuel 6: Part I: Uzzah

Monday, November 4, 2019

In several places, this chapter calls us to pause for reflection: We watch as Uzzah is struck down by the Lord, and we witness the turning of Michal’s love for her husband David turn to hatred.  Commentary will guide us through these puzzles but we are left with the lingering thought that there are always many ways to read the story of David.

We know that David’s life is full of ups and downs – just like our own.  We know that David feels the call of God and the call of the world – just like our own.  And we know that David is both strong and vulnerable – just as are we.  We might learn something about ourselves once we spend time with this story today.

Scholars explain the punishment of Uzzah saying that he had become too familiar with the ark since it had remained in his father’s house for some time.  Others say that he did not trust the Lord to rescue his own dwelling place, the Ark.  Some say that we must learn from this incident that we are to never question the clear authority of God.  And yet others say that we are to learn that we must practice acting in due time, listening for God’s call, and living in God’s plan.

I remember hearing this story as a child and thinking that it may have been possible that Uzzah had misunderstood God.  Perhaps he thought God asked him to reach out to steady the ark when in fact he had said that Uzzah ought not touch the cart.  In my child’s mind the world was black and white: we do what our elders tell us and all goes well.  In my adult life I know that life is much more complicated than this.  As we grown in God we learn that obeying rules does not keep us safe.  We discover that life does not follow guidelines and that it defies logic.  We understand that we must be grateful for all that goes well; we know that there are no guarantees; and we see that the innocent will often suffer unjustly.  We come to understand that rules and laws do not save us . . . that God is the only safety net we can trust.

David and Uzzah teach us all of this today when we allow this story to speak to us.


A re-post from October 14, 2012.

For more on Uzzah, click on the image above or go to: http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/death-and-the-dance-david-uzzah-and-the-ark-robert-leroe-sermon-on-gods-holiness-48196.asp and http://www.lookingfortigger.com/2012/06/12/the-uzzah-incident/

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Mark 15: Sacrifice

Sunday, August 18, 2019

St. James

Crucifixion.  We return to Mark today to read and reflect on the crucifixion of our Lord, our God who came to live and walk among us.  Who came to be one of us . . . so that we might be one with him.

This past Wednesday we celebrated the feast of Saint James, the brother of John the Beloved Apostle.  James was executed by beheading as ordered by Herod sometime around the year 42; today he is the patron saint of Spain.  James answered the call he heard.  James took of the cup offered by Christ and became one of the early martyrs who chose to die in this life in order that he follow Christ both in this world and the next.

Today’s Gospel repeats the story we know so well of the mother of James and John asking Jesus to place her sons – the sons of Zebedee whom Jesus nicknamed Boanerges (The Sons of Thunder) – at his right and left once the kingdom about which he spoke had arrived.  Her sons were present with Peter at the raising of Jarius’ daughter, at the transfiguration and in Gethsemane.  They followed Jesus during his ministry and they certainly deserved special recognition in their mother’s eyes.  I like Jesus’ reply: that these are the decisions best made by the Father.

This message from the Gospel is what reminds me that when things are not going as I see best for most . . . I must remember that just as the Son of God defers to the Creator on matters such as these . . . so ought I.

Jesus suffered torture and crucifixion as an act of redemptive, salvific love.  If we wish to take up this same cup, we must be willing to enter into the sacrifice.  We do this best when we trust God, trust Jesus, trust the Holy Spirit.  Our strength and our true power as co-redeemers with Christ lie in our trust . . . trust that our own suffering has value . . . trust that our own worth is seen by God and will be seen by all . . . trust that we are delivered through and with and in Christ.

From MAGNIFICAT earlier this week: Let us pray in the name of all who are suffering in our day the pain of the cross: Turn your ear to us; hear our words!

Lord, you are the Justice of God, but you were condemned as a criminal: strengthen in forgiveness those who are unjustly condemned.  Turn your ear to us; hear our words!

Lord, you are the truth of God: deliver from harm all those who are threatened by lies. Turn your ear to us; hear our words!

Lord, you are the love of God made visible: save all those who are menaced by hatred, cruelty, and abuse. Turn your ear to us; hear our words!

James, John, Mary Magdalene and the other apostles followed Jesus . . . trusting all that he had revealed to them.  Christ is physically present to us in the people he sends to us and in The Word we read each day.  Let us prepare to take up the Cup of Sacrifice with courage and joy in our hearts.


Written on July 25, 2008 on posted today as a Favorite.

Image from: http://thetentofthiskingdom.blogspot.com/2007/07/june-25-st-james-apostle.html

Cameron, Peter John. “Prayer for the Morning.” MAGNIFICAT. July (2008): 129-130. Print.  

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Psalm 118:8-9: Seeking Safety

Friday, July 12, 2012

Psalm 118:8-9It is better to take refuge in the Lord than in man.  It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

This is something we often forget because people are so easy to see and God is unseen with the human eye.  And so we must watch for God carefully.

God says: I know that you love me and I also know that you are easily frightened.  I understand that you look for a power base and cling to it, snuggle up to it.  This feels safe to you but remember: all people die and come to me, whether they be princes or serfs.  While you must form union with the people who make up your world, and you may even trust the faithful who clearly follow me, you must always put your final and ultimate trust in me.  I am the only true, final, all-powerful and everlasting refuge.  If you seek sanctuary, seek me.  If you seek safety, seek me.  If you seek surety, seek me . . . and no other.  I alone can save.  I alone love you this much.

May we know God as a refuge from all fears.


Image from: http://businesscoachingblog.blogspot.com/2010/01/spiritual-ceo-part-3-of-4-certainty-of.html

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Psalm 32:9-10: Stubbornness

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Psalm 32:9-10Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that need bit and bridle to curb their spirit.  Many torments await the wicked, but grace unfolds the one who trusts in Yahweh.

Sometimes we mistake our stubbornness for courage and strength.  God says:  I do not expect you to change who you are – after all, I created you as you are.  All I await is your fidelity and your willingness to follow me.  I do not expect perfect actions; I await your whole self – body, mind and soul.  You have my spirit within you; I ask that you return this to me – so that we might be one.

If you worry the bit of life in your mouth, visit the Journeys of Transformation page on this blog and choose a journey . . .


A re-post from June 18, 2012.

Image from: http://www.ehow.com/about_6558694_information-horse-bits-hackamore.html

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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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Ezra 10:1-15: The People’s Response

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Jerusalem

Ezra and Nehemiah, priest and administrator, return from exile to rebuild Jerusalem after its fall and the nations’ exile.  In joy tinged with sadness they dig into the ruins of their past to re-discover their covenant with Yahweh and to and re-pledge their fidelity to him.  Yet in this bittersweet moment as they return from deportation, they continue to ignore God – even the leaders among them who are to serve as models.  We read the long list of their names further along in the chapter and we pause to reflect that we too, are among the guilty.

We remember that although the Old Testament response to their recognition of unfaithful ties with non-Jewish spouses and children was severance and abandonment, our New Testament response is one of openness and an invitation to reconciliation.  Today we might look at Ezra’s response to the original act of betrayal: for he was in mourning over the betrayal by the exiles.  A leader among them, Shecaniah, during his appeal to Ezra says: Yet even now there remains a hope for Israel . . . have courage and take action!  The action they take is to name the culpable . . . and to expel the innocent women and children from their presence.  This story has always troubled me, as does any total severance I encounter in my life.  There is something about it which does not match the Gospel story.

We know that there are times when even Jesus recommends that his missionaries shake dust from the feet to move out of hostile territory and on to new places.  We also know that only God can soften hearts, and can give the gifts of faith, hope and love of enemy.  Only God can unbend stiff necks and open closed eyes, ears and hearts.  Only God can send us the graced moments that make our relationships come alive for an eternity.  Yet, we also believe that we must always make ourselves available for the miracles God wishes to give us.  We must be open to the outrageous possibility that God can grant our hearts’ desires when we ask in Jesus’ name.  We must be willing to remain as constant as God has remained with us.  And we – the victims of abuse – must be willing to petition intercession and salvation for our abusers while maintaining a prudent, watchful and open stance with our enemies.  This must be our response . . . for it is the Christian response.

Many times in the Gospel we see Jesus defer to the Father and we hear the words and bind them to our minds and to our hearts: Do not be afraid.  Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Jesus’ response is to rely on the creator and it must be our response.  Just as Jesus trusts in God’s wisdom and plan, so must we.

It is easy to assign culpability to the blameless, faceless and nameless women and children in today’s reading who find themselves as destitute as these Jewish people themselves had several times been in their history – slaves in Egypt, exiles in Babylon.  Yet they show no compassion.  Christ has not yet walked among them to show them The Way.

I like to think that when confronted with difficult decisions like the ones we read about and think about today, that we will choose the Jesus Way, the Jesus Approach to the dilemma.  Our response, if we follow Jesus, must be as honest, prudent and open as his.  What is this response . . . ?  With prudence and with trust in God, let us welcome the guilty . . . for we are among them.  Let us forgive . . . for we are forgiven.  


A re-post from May 24, 2009.

Image from: http://blog.thefoundationstone.org/2009/12/23/fasting-as-a-prayer/

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Psalm 15: Fearlessness

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Whoever acts like this will not be shaken.

Again today we hear the theme of standing firm in faith and refusing to succumb to panic.  Most of the errors we commit we commit in fear – fear of discovery, fear of not surviving, fear of loss, fear of pain.  If we wish to live as Jesus does, we must learn to place all of our terrors in his capable hands.  This frees us to do the work we are called to do as we build the kingdom.

This psalm is brief yet it contains an easy litany we might repeat when our vision is fogged.

Walk without blame . . .

Do what is right . . .

Speak truth from the heart . . .

Do not slander another . . .

Do no harm . . .

Do not defame . . .

Stay away from the wicked . . .

Remain with those who stand in awe of the Lord . . .

Keep all promises despite the cost . . .

Lend no money at interest . . .

Accept no bribes against the innocent . . .

This is a short but demanding list, and it requires that we place all of our trust and hope in God.  It asks us to be fearless in Christ.  When we feel our energy ebbing, when our resources are low, we might turn back to Paul’s words to the Thessalonians to pray them as we read Psalm 15 . . .

Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Test everything.  Hold onto what is good.

Do not be shaken out of your minds or alarmed.  Let no one deceive you in any way.  Stand firm and hold fast to the true traditions that you were taught.

And may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word. 

Amen. 


A re-post from May 18, 2012.

For more on 2 Thessalonians see the Lawlessness page on this blog.

Image from: http://www.aliveinthefire.com/2010/11/focus-forward-friday-be-fearless.html

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Daniel 1-6: Tales from the Diaspora Part III

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Rembrandt: Return of the Prodigal Son

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .

Today we conclude our reflection on stories of those who find themselves in alien places struggling against insurmountable odds; and we hear an important message that we will want to carry with us always.   At times in life we are the prodigal son who returns home.  At times we are the jealous brother who remained and who does not understand the father’s joy.  And at times we are the grateful parent who runs to meet the returned lost sheep.   All of these stories are the tales of our own captivity, our own exile and our own Diaspora.

We all find ourselves in pagan lands from time to time, seized and taken captive, dragged from our places of sanctuary . . . from the people who guide us, the codes that protect us . . . unfamiliar with the language and not understanding what is happening to us in this new and strange terrain, we can become lost for a time, we can follow the wrong voice.  In the end, we are all Hanaiah, Mishael, and Azariah at least once in our lives . . . cut off, set adrift, surrounded by hostile people who covet our relationship with God . . . who wish to bend us to their own will . . . who make sport of belittling their fellow creatures . . . who experience a rush when they are controlling and manipulating others.  This will happen when we respond to the Lorelei voices that would lead us astray but this will also happen when we witness to Light and Truth.  This will happen to disciples who hear the Call and respond in faith and hope and love.  In all times of aloneness, frustration and difficulty we must do as these young people do . . . trust God . . . remain faithful to God . . . even if it means our extinction from this life.  Why?  Let us look at the words of Azariah and pray with him who admits his nation’s guilt of turning away . . . and who seeks to return to Yahweh . . .

For you are just in all you have done; all your deeds are faultless, all your ways right, and all your judgments proper . . . For we have sinned and transgressed by departing from you . . . For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins . . . But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; as though it were holocausts of rams and bullocks, or thousands of fat lambs, so let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.

In Easter joy in this season of thanksgiving, let us sing with Hanaiah, Mishael, and Azariah as we turn and return to God . . .

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . . for he has delivered us from the netherworld, and saved us from the power of death; he has freed us from the raging fire.  Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endures forever. 

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .

Amen.


A re-post from April 19, 2012. 

For more on prodigal returnings, click the image above or go to: http://marikablogs.blogspot.com/2011/10/prodigals-paradigms-and-proof-that.html

For more on the Diaspora click the image below and explore the PBS FRONTLINE site: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/maps/jewish.html

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