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Posts Tagged ‘trust in God’


Sirach 33:16-19: Gleaning

Monday, September 17, 2018

Written on March 3 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

Francois Millet: The Gleaners

We keep our sorrows to ourselves, thinking that no one wants to hear what has gone wrong for us.  This is a mistake.  We are called to share sorrow and to accompany one another in this journey of discerning how to best word in God’s vineyard.  It does not matter how or when we come to this realization.  It only matters that we eventually arrive there.

Now I was last to keep vigil; I was like a gleaner following the grape-pickers; by the blessing of the Lord I arrived first, and like grape-pickers I filled my wine press.

By dwelling on our sorrows or by thinking that our lives are more pain-filled than anyone else’s we rob ourselves – and our companions in life’s journey – of the opportunity to experience Christ’s healing presence.  It does not matter if we feel we have little to offer, it only matters that we offer who we are to others in need.

Consider that I have not labored for myself alone, but for all who seek instruction. Hear me, you who are great among the people, and you leaders of the congregation, pay heed!

Patience, fidelity, generosity, trust in God . . . when I think of those who have taught me to climb out of sorrow and into joy, these are the qualities that make these teachers greater than any titled leader with power.  If we turn to the beginning of Sirach (2:1-6), we find more instruction.

My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for testing.  Set your heart right and be steadfast, and do not be impetuous in time of calamity.  Cling to him and do not depart, so that your last days may be prosperous.  Accept what befalls you, and in times of humiliations be patient.  For gold is tested in fire, and those found acceptable in the furnace of humiliation.  Trust in him, and he will help you; make your ways straight and hope in him. 

We have frequently reflected in our Noontimes that the silversmith’s fire is essential to smelt out the detritus that makes us less bright and pure.  The prophet Malachi (3:1-3) reminds us that the refiner must remain constantly by the fire in order that it burn just hot enough to do its work without destroying the ore.  The life of those who choose to respond to God’s call is laden with many burdens . . . but these burdens convert to sweet justice when we lay all our complaints and pains before God.   We who come to God’s fields to glean what is left after the harvester passes by, engage in holy work for we lift up lost souls to God.  When we enter fully into this work to place the world’s sorrows in God’s capable hands, we – like the sadness we bear to God – are transformed by the smelter’s fire into bright, lovely and holy offerings . . .  and we become the delight we imagine.  So as we glean, let us imagine God’s joy well.


A re-post from August 17, 2011.

Image from: http://www.smithinet.com/Louvre/Louvre_art.html#gleaners 

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Judith 10God’s Favor

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Gentileschi: Judith Beheading Holofernes

We have visited the story of Judith frequently this year and there is much to be learned from the narrative as she enacts sublime fidelity and heroic love.  A favorite Noontime reflection on the Book of Judith may interest you.  It is linked to the Favorites page above, or through the Pagesnavigation panel in the right-hand column of this blog.

Just yesterday we reflected on the concept of fasting.  Today we see Judith set aside her sackcloth and ashes to break her mourning; she goes out to face the enemy, armed with her woman’s weapons of beauty and speech.  Judith will save a nation . . . and she will do this by first seeking and then living in God.  She will receive God’s favor . . . and she will become the vehicle of a people’s salvation.

We notice that God is central in every decision Judith makes and in every act she performs.  Judith is able to escape the enemy’s revenge by walking past the sentries with her maid – and with the head of Holofernes hidden in their food pouch – precisely because she and her companion have walked out each night to pray at the ravine of Bethulia.  The guards are accustomed to seeing this regular ritual and so do not intercept the two women; they do not even search the food pouch.  After bathing each evening, Judith seeks God’s help . . . and she receives it.

We watch Judith as she leaves the city of Bethulia – a city which has provided her people safety and is now threatened by the Assyrian enemy: Order the gate of the city opened for me, that I might go to carry out the business we discussed” . . . Judith and her maid went out . . .

When we are called to go out of our comfort zone we are frightened.  We tell God that he has chosen the wrong emissary.  We say that we are too consumed with all the many other tasks he has assigned to us.  We find reasoning and excuses for not doing God’s will and yet . . . when we pray as Judith does, when we develop steadfastness as Judith has, when we trust God and take each step as it comes to us rather than worry about the distant future, we are able to rejoice – as Judith does – in the favor God bestows on her.

And so we pray . . .

Good and holy God, we are both fear-filled and awestruck at your power.  We watch as Judith goes into the very heart of the enemy camp – for this is where you need her – and we worry that we will not be able to slay the enemy in your name as Judith does.  We watch Holofernes and his soldiers set Judith in a place of honor – knowing that these acts come from lust – and we worry that we may not be as clever as Judith is.  Give us the courage to remain faithful to you.  Give us the endurance to wait on your plan.  Give us the prudence and patience to allow you to unfold before us, through us, and in us . . . so that we, like Judith, may rejoice in you.  Amen. 


A re-post from August 13, 2011.

Image from: http://www.lilithgallery.com/arthistory/baroque/Artemisia-Gentileschi.html

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LamentationsSurviving Ruin

Friday, August 31, 2018

When we reflect on national, local and international news reports, we might believe that our world is falling apart. When we do, we might want to revisit this post from July 17, 2011. And for more reflections on the books of the Bible, visit the Book of Our Life page on this blog.

“The sixth century B.C. was an age of crisis, a turning point in the history of Israel.  With the destruction of the temple and the interruption of its ritual, the exile of the leaders and loss of national sovereignty, an era came to an end.  Not long after the fall of Jerusalem (587) an eyewitness of the national humiliation of Zion, submission to merited chastisement, and strong faith in the constancy of Yahweh’s love and power to restore.  The union of poignant grief and unquenchable hope reflects the constant prophetic vision of the weakness of man and the strength of God’s love; it also shows how Israel’s faith in Yahweh could survive the shattering experience of national ruin”.  (Senior 1017)

We might not want to reflect on a time of crisis in our personal lives when all we knew had been destroyed or lost, when a time of happiness and prosperity ended.  We may want to avoid thinking about any humiliation or chastisement we have experienced.  The memories of our personal shattering may be too difficult to handle, too painful to live with.  The Book of Lamentations written by Baruch, the prophet Jeremiah’s secretary, is a small one and may be easily overlooked; yet it holds so much that is vital to living happily.  In Lamentations we find the important lesson that while we do not want to center our lives on suffering, neither do we want to circumvent its message.  Focusing a life on the avoidance of pain only leads to more obstacles, more grief, more distress and, eventually, even more pain.  Learning how to pass through pain patiently, placing our trust in God as we navigate the grief also allows the transforming touch of God to bring us the serenity we yearn to experience . . . despite the sorrow we feel.  When we allow God to alter our attitude about the losses we suffer, we also consent to God’s transformation.  We enter into life’s shattering experiences, and then exit with a new view of the world, a renewed sense of compassion, and a serenity that cannot be shaken.  Lamentations gives us an opportunity to examine our attitude toward pain and God’s deep and abiding love for us.

Today’s Mass readings provide a road map for healing through pain: Wisdom 12:13, 16-19, Psalm 86, Romans 8:26-27 and Matthew 13:24-43 all outline the same lesson: God has infinite patience, compassion, mercy and love . . . enough to heal any breach or restore any loss.  From today’s MAGNIFICAT mini-reflection: “God in his providence will use even the apparent evil that attends us in life to some perfecting purpose; out of our littleness, our emptiness, our nothingness Gods greatness will flower in an astonishing way”.  (Cameron, 251)  Rather than curse our loss as punishment or the end of an era, when we rely on God we learn to celebrate each shattering experience as the beginning of something new.  And so we pray . . .

Good and patient God,

For all the times we forget to call on you when we suffer and for those times we lose patience with ourselves and others . . . continue to be patient with us.

For all the times we show anger instead of compassion and for those times we commit acts of vengeance rather than love . . . continue to be merciful with us.

For all those times we are anxious about evil in the world and for those times we forget that you always pull goodness out of wickedness . . . continue to abide in us.

For all those times we grow weary of the daily struggles and for those times we waver in our trust . . . continue to be with us.  Amen. 


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1017. Print. 

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Mini-Reflection.” MAGNIFICAT. 17 July 2011: 251. Print.

Image from: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/ancient/isis-hasnt-destroyed-ancient-palmyra-ruins-yet/

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Numbers 5:22-27The Departure Blessing

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Written on February 27 and posted today as a favorite . . .

“The placement of this benediction seems unusual; it may be another item that prepares the people for the journey through the wilderness.  This is the blessing for the time of departure, and [said] daily throughout their journey.  Each line, with God as subject, is progressively longer (three, five, seven Hebrew words); besides the name YHWH, twelve Hebrew words signify the twelve tribes.  The benediction in some form was used in ancient Israel, especially at the conclusion of worship . . . Putting the name of God on the people may have been understood literally, given the inscription on two cigarette-sized silver plaques found near Jerusalem, dating from the seventh-sixth centuries BCE . . . One probably should not see a climatic arrangement in the clauses; so, for example, blessing would include peace. Perhaps the second verb in each case defines the first more specifically, but together the six verbs cove God’s benevolent activity from various angles and state God’s gracious will for the people.

“Blessing has a wide ranging meaning, touching every sphere of life.  It testifies most basically to the work of God the Creator, both within the community of faith and without.  No conditions are attached.  It signifies any divine gift that serves the life, health, and well-being of individuals and communities.  Keeping is a specific blessing to those with concerns for safety, focusing on God’s protection from all forms of evil (Ps. 121:7-8), pertinent for wilderness wandering”.  (Barton, and Muddiman 116)

We are all wandering through the wilderness, departing each morning for the many destinations of the day, and returning to home each evening to rest before the cycle begins anew.  Each of the days is a testimony to the trust we place in God, the hope we place in Christ, and the comfort we take from the Spirit.  We maneuver our daily obstacles – some small and some gigantic – hoping for sustenance and safety, keeping faith that it is God who guides us rather than some self-serving whim, and witnessing to the message of liberation by loving our enemies into goodness.  I am thinking that I will print this small prayer and put it on the back of my front door above the handle I touch each day to exit.  I need these words as I step into the wilderness each day; I want to put the name of God on my children and their children as they also step into the wilderness.  I also want these words to bless and transform those who do me harm as I pray for the softening of their hearts and the unbending of their stiff necks.  I want all tribes to come together as the twelve tribes of Jacob have done to help one another in their journey through strange and hostile land to the land of peace and security.  This is the departure we can best wish for one another as we step over our thresholds each day to embark on a new and exciting journey filled with pain and promise.  This is the blessing that can touch us as we leave each morning, can keep us in God’s care throughout the day, and can bring us back home to God each evening. This is a pray that blesses us with the name of God and brings us peace.

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them: This is how you shall address the Israelites.

Say to them:

The Lord bless you and keep you!

The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!

The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!

So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them!”


Barton, John, and John Muddiman. THE OXFORD BIBLE COMMENTARY. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2001. 116. Print.

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 27, 2011.

Images from: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/learning-to-say-goodbye.

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Judges 7: Following God’s Lead

Thursday, July 12, 2018

There is a value in reading scripture slowly while allowing time for reflection and meditation for in this way small themes are given time to blossom into guidelines for living.  Today we find a significant idea hidden in the story of the defeat of Midian and it is this.  God knows us so well that God forestalls human pride by asking us to rely on only God.  In today’s story God asks Gideon to whittle his troops from thirty-two thousand to three hundred.  And Gideon does this without questioning; he knows how reliable his God is.

The culling process here is an unusual method for an army.  On God’s instruction, Gideon first reminds his troops of the dangers of battle; later he watches how they drink water from the river.  He does not appear to question God’s wisdom and he shows no anxiety; he knows how reliable his God is.

Once the three hundred come together, Gideon gives them no more instruction than this: Watch me and follow my lead.  After the winnowing process, these loyal soldiers follow Gideon just as he follows the Lord; they know how reliable their God is.

Lying in wait outside the camp, Gideon and the third of the men who are with him overhear the telling of a dream by one of the Midian soldiers.  The ominous conclusion is that although the Midianites, Amalekites and Kedemites are numerous as locusts, and although their camels number more than the grains of sand in the desert, the Israelites will be victorious.  The Israelites show no angst about having reduced their number to three hundred; they know how reliable their God is . . . and the enemy flees.

The Lord pronounces to Gideon: You have too many with you for me to pronounce you successful lest you vaunt yourself against me and believe that your own power brought you victory.  This is the theme we see repeated often in Judges.  The people cry out for help, Yahweh hears their cry and rescues them, once the people feel comfortable in their own skill and power they turn back to the pagan Baals . . . and the cycle repeats again.  In Gideon’s story, we see the faith-filled soldiers put their trust in this God who has saved them countless times because . . . they know how reliable their God is.

So often I have sat in meetings and watched someone defend their right to make unilateral decisions, forgetting that all comes from God, even the gift of leadership.  I have watched these leaders struggle to bring others together behind their decisions not understanding that people follow best when decisions come from God rather than from human ego.  They have forgotten – or perhaps have never known – how reliable their God is.

We can rebel against these leaders or we can witness our own confidence in God to them.  The choice is always ours.  Rather than react in fear, we can act in reliance – just as Gideon does in today’s story, and just as his soldiers do – we can demonstrate to others through our lack of arrogance just how reliable is our God.

And so we pray . . . Powerful and loving God, you know us so well that you understand our tendency to take credit for your gifts.  You know that we are inclined to strut with pride when we are successful and complain in fear when we fail.  You know that we often believe in ourselves more than we believe in you.  Strip us of all hubris and arrogance; bring us humility and modesty.  Wipe away our anxiety and fill us with your love.  Remind us to follow your lead just as Gideon and his soldiers do.  Remind us that when we rely on ourselves alone . . . we forsake the gift of your wisdom and authority that you so freely give to those who follow you.  Tell us again what you have already shown us but that we have so quickly forgotten . . . that we need not fear anyone or anything . . . for we know how reliable our God is.  Amen. 


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 21, 2011.

Image from: https://dwellingintheword.wordpress.com/2016/04/20/1818-psalm-3/ 

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The Lord Surrounds Us


peter-feed-my-sheepThursday, July 31, 2014

Psalm 125

The Lord Surrounds Us

We too often allow life’s struggles to surround us while we neglect the one who created us, the one who guides us, the only one who can protect us from the buffeting squalls of life.

The Surrounding

Those who trust in the Lord are like seeds on the heavy wind.

They know the Creator will bring them to a fertile place of rest.

The Lord surrounds the faithful as surely as the waves return to shore.

God will keep their land safe from the withering sun and not permit their fragile shoots to be washed away before they take root.

The Lord will not disappoint their fragile hope.

Reward, O Lord, those who listen to the gentle voice in the turbulence of life’s storm. Reward those who hold fast.

Peace be upon those who put down firm roots in God’s loving grace.

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Friday. August 23, 2013

peace-it-does-not-mean-to-be-in-a-place-where-there-is-no-noise-trouble-or-hard-work[1]Mark 8:34-38

The Forfeited Life

He called the people and his disciples to him and said, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.  Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.  What gain, then, is it for anyone to win the whole world and forfeit his life?  And indeed what can a man offer for his life?  For if anyone in this adulterous and sinful generation is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels”.

Discipleship, inversion, angels, and trust in God: these are the themes we have visited this week.  Today Mark reminds us that in order to follow Christ we must look for goodness in reversals; we must welcome God’s message and the messengers themselves for they bring us God’s presence.  And we must rely on God for all that we are and all that we have, for God accompanies us always and everywhere.

God says: I know that I am most visible to you when you are ill, frightened or broken-hearted.  I understand this for I created you and I created the world, and I understand the hold that the world can have on you.  I know that you welcome me when I come to you in a version of myself that matches your expectation and that I startle you when I arrive in a way that makes you uncomfortable.  I understand your reluctance to open your arms to me for I created you and I created the world. I understand that you rely more on your senses than you do on me.  Yet still I ask that follow me for I created you and I created the world.  I rejoice each morning with you when you turn to me in prayer.  I sing with you at noon when you remember me and call my name.  I celebrate with you each evening when you return to me in thanksgiving . . . for I created you and I created the world.  And I ask that you forfeit all for me so that you might know my peace . . . the peace that the world cannot give.  

Discipleship is hard-earned and well-worn.  Inversion can be anticipated and yet still surprising.  God’s angels are constantly with us yet they frequently go unseen.  Trust in God brings a new way of life and a guarantee of eternal peace.  Let us thank God for the grace and blessings bestowed on us this day and all days.

For more Words of Wisdom, click on the image above or go to: http://alifetimeofwisdom.com/new-perspectives/what-peace-really-means/

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Saturday, February 2, 2013 – Psalm 37 – Humility and Patience – Part I

From Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation for February 2, 2013: “When you truly know, the giveaway is that you know that you do not know! Truly holy people are always humble. If you are not humble, you have not experienced the Holy One. If you don’t see humility and patience in religion, you know it’s not on the right course”. 

Adapted from CAC Foundation Set: Gospel Call to Compassionate Action
(Bias from the Bottom) and Contemplative Prayer
(CD, DVD, MP3)

psalm-37-4[1]I have been thinking about this all morning and today at noon scripture fell open at Psalm 37, a song that “responds to the problem of evil, which the Old Testament often expresses as a question: Why do the wicked and the good suffer? The psalm answers that the situation is only temporary.  God will reverse things, rewarding the good and punishing the wicked here on earth.  The perspective is concrete and earthbound: people’s very actions place them among the ranks of the good or wicked.  Each group or ‘way’ has its own inherent dynamism – eventual frustration for the wicked, eventual reward for the just”.  (Senior cf. 670)

The word EVENTUAL leaps out at us.  We want all solutions immediately.  We want to bend time and space to our will as we believe God does.  Our humanity brings us limitation and may spur us to lust after power and prestige.  Our divinity offers us infinity and calls us to humility and patience.  With this hymn of answers God invites us this weekend to explore the puzzle of human suffering.  Let us examine the images and logic of this acrostic psalm to see what it says to us about patience and humility.

The first stanza, ALEPH, leaps into a suggestion for how to handle evil: Do not be provoked by evildoers; do not envy those who do wrong.

The second, BETH, describes how to do away with our anger or anxiety: Find your delight in the Lord who will give you your heart’s desire.

The third, GIMEL, tells us what to aim for: Make your integrity shine like the dawn.

The fourth, DALETH, is specific: Be still before the Lord; wait for God.

The fifth, HE, tells us the consequence of anger: Give up your anger, abandon your wrath; do not be provoked; it brings only harm.

The sixth, WAW, leaves no doubt about outcomes: Wait a little, and the wicked will be no more; look for them and they will not be there.  But the poor will possess the land, will delight in great prosperity.

The seventh, ZAYIN, tells us that it is really the wicked who are envious: The wicked plot against the just and grind their teeth at them.

The eighth, HETH, describes how the plots turn back on the plotters: Their swords will pierce their own hearts; their bows will be broken.

The ninth, TETH, keeps us focused: The Lord will sustain the just.

The tenth, YODH, tells us that suffering can lead to everlasting peace: The Lord watches over the days of the blameless; their heritage lasts forever.

The eleventh, KAPH, reminds us that those who impose suffering fade away: Like the beauty of meadows the wicked perish; like smoke they disappear. 

Spend some time with this psalm today and open the acrostic.  The message within is a letter of love from God to us.  In humility . . . let us accept it.  With patience . . . let us live it.

Tomorrow, more reflection on Psalm 37.  Find a good commentary and explore.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.670. Print.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012 – Daniel 1 – 6 – Tales from the Diaspora (Part I)

Click this image to follow a link to the PBS FRONTLINE site on the Jewish Diaspora for more about what it means to Christ's followers

During the Easter Octave this verse of Daniel, and others surrounding it, are recited in thanksgiving for the Easter Miracle.  In this second week of Eastertide let us examine one of the church’s most popular and most powerful prayers. 

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

Over the many months that we have shared Noontimes, we have reflected on this apocalyptic prophecy nearly two dozen times, and about half a dozen of those times have been from The Tales of the Diaspora, the first six chapters of this book.  These chapters have roots in Israel’s wisdom literature and they are pedagogical in nature, the characters providing role models of fidelity to and trust in Yahweh, the one true god and creator of all.  Daniel was also a figure mentioned in Canaanite texts of the fourth century B.C.E. (his name was Dnil) where he is described as a righteous judge and hero.  He is seen as one who communicates with God through angels and understands information about the future of the world.  Because of his virtue, his words and deeds – along with those other Jewish youth held in captivity – these stories remain with us today, and they serve to help us in our own times of trial – our own fiery furnaces and lions’ dens. They were recorded between the years of 167 and 164 B.C.E. (Mays 623-629)

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

As a child, I loved the stories of the four young Jewish boys, Daniel, Hanaiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  I was stunned by the fact that they had to abandon their Jewish names to take on new, foreign ones, Balthazar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I was frightened by the fact that they were not only torn from hearth and home but were also being forced to abandon their God.  It was actually this story which caused me to want to know and understand other languages, realizing that one day I might find myself snatched from all that is familiar to wake up in a daze in foreign territory . . . and I would want to know what these strange people were saying about me and my destiny.  I also remember realizing that it was not the linguistic ability, the intelligence, the strength or the bonds of family or friendship which sustained these young people when they found themselves controlled by pagan foreigners and taken from their temple, their home, their families and community . . . their physical and spiritual places of comfort.  When they were completely separated from the things which most of us cling to in times of crisis and stress, they relied on the one thing which sustained them through the trial of a fiery crematorium and exposure to hungry lions . . . they had Yahweh . . . they had their trust in Yahweh . . . and they had their fidelity to Yahweh.  This alone fed them, rescued them, and restored them to a place of dignity and honor.

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

Tomorrow we will reflect more on Tales from the Diaspora.  For more information on what the Jewish Diaspora is and what it mean to Christians, click on the image above or go to the PBS FRONTLINE site at: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/maps/jewish.html

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 623-629. Print.

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