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Saturday, May 30, 20206701251.jpgIsaiah 41Fear Not

Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed; I am your God.  I will strengthen you, and help you, and uphold you with my right hand of justice.  (Verse 10)

These words are so like the ones we hear from Jesus in John 14:1: Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God; have faith also in me. 

Jesus consoles not only his followers but also us today with the words: Do not let your hearts be troubled.  These are words that bolster us at times of great difficulty and stress.  What do we most want to hear when we feel crushed by people and events beyond our control influence?  We want to know where we ought to focus our eyes, how to engage ourselves, why we ought to feel positive about what is taking place around us.  We want to know where to put our feet.  We want to hope that all will be well . . . despite our dire circumstances.  We want to know who and what and how to trust.  We want to know that evil will not reign and goodness will return.  We want to believe that light overcomes darkness.  We want to hope that prayers are answered.  We want to be unafraid to love intimately.

Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed . . . I will strengthen you, and help you, and uphold you with my right hand of justice . . . Do not let your hearts be troubled . . . have faith . . . in me. 

We want something solid to touch before we hand over our souls.  We want to have facts and figures to compare, to jot down, and to check out.  We want everything spelled out.  We want no fine print to trip us up.  We want guarantees and yet . . .

We have all of this and more . . . in abundance . . . when we make ourselves empty to receive the Holy Spirit – the voice of God that lives and moves among us.

We have all that we need . . . in abundance . . . when we follow the model Christ has given to us.

We are loved truly and well . . . in abundance . . . when we rely on the creator who knows us better than anyone else.

Creator, Son and Holy Spirit, three in one, speak with us constantly but in our anxiety and haste we do not hear them say . . .

Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed . . . I will strengthen you, and help you, and uphold you with my right hand of justice . . . Do not let your hearts be troubled . . . have faith . . . in me. 

Tomorrow, believing the promise of the Trinity . . .


Image from: https://oshkoshdesigns.com/product/misc62/

Adapted from a reflection written on August 3, 2009.

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Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 17, 2020

Sandro Botticelli: Judith Leaving the Tent of Holofernes

Judith 15:9-15

A Celebration of Deliverance

Today we reflect on joyful celebration after deliverance from disaster, and we pause to consider the sudden and surprising gifts of discipleship.

The book of Judith is a wonderful story about a woman who puts aside her widow’s weeds to save her nation. Her ability is doubted by the elders of her own community, and her enemy underestimates her by a wide margin. Judith succeeds in accomplishing the impossible. We watch her follow a dangerously treacherous and narrow path, listening for and then obeying God’s voice.  We see her unfold in beautiful discipleship.  During this Eastertide we have re-discovered the gifts of discipleship that bloom in our lives when we see our vulnerability to God as privilege; and we watch Judith as she trusts in God alone to deliver her people and herself from a deadly enemy.

Judith’s meekness brings her humility . . . an ability to listen for God’s word and to heed it.

Judith’s brokenheartedness brings her vulnerability . . . an ability to petition God for help.

Judith’s constancy brings her fidelity . . . an ability to rely on God alone.

Judith’s honesty brings her truth . . . an ability to see reality as God sees it.

Judith’s willingness brings her integrity . . . an ability to perceive and respond to God’s call authentically.

Judith’s steadfastness brings her persistence . . . an ability to follow God without flagging.

These are the gifts of discipleship with which God graced Judith . . . and these are the same gifts of discipleship that God gives to each of us today.

As we near Pentecost, let us consider these gifts that God freely gives.  And let us celebrate our own deliverance.


Image from: https://www.wikiart.org/en/sandro-botticelli/judith-leaving-the-tent-of-holofernes-1500

For more reflections about this amazing woman, type the word Judith in the blog search bar and explore.

Adapted from a Noontime reflection written on April 10, 2007.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Sirach Foreword, 1 & 2

Falling Into God’s Hands

gods hands[2]This book is not found in Hebrew or Protestant Bibles, but it is considered inspired by Catholic scholars.  So if we have time to spend with these words today, we will want to read as much as we can for it contains “numerous maxims, formulated with care, grouped by affinity, an dealing with a variety of subjects . . . It treats of friendship, education, poverty and wealth, the law, religious worship, and many other matters which reflect the religious and social customs of the time . . . Written in Hebrew between 200 and 175 B.C., the text was translated into Greek sometime after 132. B.C. by the author’s grandson, who also wrote a Foreword which contains information about the book, the author, and the translator himself”.  (Senior 822)

The verses we find in this wisdom book are often cited in reference to friendship and this week we are invited to discover the divine in our most intimate relationships as we explore some of the many gems that the author, Jesus son of Eleazar, son of Sirach, has passed to us through the millennia.  He has much to share with us and he wastes no time for beginning in the first chapters we may find the entry way to the understanding and knowledge that lead to God’s Wisdom.

Who alone knows the height of heaven, the breadth of earth, the depth of the abyss? 

Who alone knows all that was even before the creation of Wisdom herself?

Who alone creates?  Who alone pours forth bounty upon his creatures?  Who alone consoles the heart?

Who alone brings gladness, and joy and length of days?

It is the Lord, and fear – or love and awe – of this Lord is the first step in gaining true wisdom, God’s Wisdom. 

When we act in patience, we receive Wisdom.

When we exercise prudence, we receive Wisdom.

When we attend to the revelation of God through scripture – the Torah, and the Prophets – we receive Wisdom. 

Play not the hypocrite before men; over your lips keep watch.  Exalt not yourself lest you fall and bring upon you dishonor.

Portion of Sirach Scroll found at Masada

Portion of Sirach Scroll found at Masada

Nothing is held in secret from Wisdom; indeed, she reveals all before all.

When you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials.  Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in times of adversity.  Cling to him, forsake him not; thus will your future be great. 

In fire is gold tested, and worthy ones in the crucible of humiliation.

Trust God and God will help you; make straight your ways and hope in God. 

Those who love the Lord prepare their hearts and humble themselves before him.  Let us fall into the hands of the Lord and not into the hands of men, for equal to his majesty is the mercy God shows. 

 


First written on February 13, 2010.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

Earth image from: http://rahouck.blogspot.com/2010/07/whose-hands-its-in.html

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.822. Print.

For more on the author, Jesus ben Sirach, visit: www.humanistictexts.org/bensirach.htm 

For more on the discussion about the legitimacy of The Book of Sirach, click on the image above or go to: 

http://cojs.org/cojswiki/Ben_Sira_Scroll_from_Masada,_73_CE 

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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Ezekiel 12: While they are looking on . . .

NaysayersBeatsMysapceHeader2[1]In today’s Noontime we are reminded that we do not have to fight against the obstacles in life’s journey that loom so large.  It tells us that when barriers to freedom are gigantic and overwhelming we cannot struggle against them.  It says to us that we must turn to God in trust and obedience.  We must do as Jesus does even while the naysayers are looking on. 

Going into exile was an embarrassment to the “chosen” people.  They who had always been miraculously protected by Yahweh now found themselves going into captivity at the hands of the very pagans whom they had previously conquered in battle.  The Israelites have discovered that while they fought against the barbarian outside of the city walls, it was the enemy within that doomed them.  Corruption and deceit in their own community had decayed their society to the foundation.  There is no other outcome to expect than the one they are living . . . they are to pack their baggage in full view of the enemy, and then they are to dig their way through the broken walls of the city to march into captivity.  And all of this while the unbelievers are looking on.

So many times we find ourselves living among rebellious people, and we sometimes cannot even tell if we have become one with the idol worshipers.  We feel as though the world has gone mad and we are one of the few sane ones who remain.  In our Noontime journey we have reflected on how to weather the whirlwind when we see and hear it approaching; today we reflect on how to journey faithfully into captivity . . . while the world is looking on.

There is a remnant left by Yahweh: Yet I will leave a few of them to escape the sword, famine and pestilence so that they may tell of all their abominations among the nations to which they will come; thus they shall know that I am the Lord.  This just yet merciful God is always willing, and indeed eager to give his people another door to salvation, another opportunity to return.  God will vindicate us even in the darkest and most painful of times even while those who deny us are looking on.

There are occasions when it seems as though we alone are able to see what others cannot.  Circumstances and events speak loudly to us while they only whisper to those around us or speak not at all. The prophecy we hear and see and then repeat for others falls on stubborn ears.  The world mocks those who live simply so that others may live.  Society denies truth so that deception might reign.  Many favor the apparent security of tangible comfort while few remain faithful to the Spirit who is willing to abide while those who wish us gone are looking on.

Ezekiel describes a vision today that seems a long way off and yet is present in the Spirit within.  Ezekiel says that in a distant time to come there shall no longer be any false visions or deceitful divinations and yet this word is fulfilled by Christ in us today.  Ezekiel tells us of a future in which none of God’s words will be delayed any longer and yet this future lives in us today because God loves us so . . . even while the naysayers are looking on.

Let us spend time with this prophecy today.  And let us see that, despite the naysayers, Ezekiel’s vision lives in us in this present moment through the promise, the rescue and the love of God.


To read more about weathering the storms on our journey, type the word whirlwind into the search box on this blog. 

The opening paragraphs of today’s Noontime were written on August 12, 2010.  Today’s post is an amplification of that reflection.  

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Thursday, February 6, 2020

Psalm 81: An Exhortation to Worship Worthily

open[1]Constant renewal of our covenant promises with God is so important because the world in which we live is so good at deceiving us, luring us, easing us into betraying ourselves . . . and then encouraging us to betray others.  We swim in a sea of messages that tell us that we are in control, we are self-sufficient, we need only rely on our own powers, talents and schemes; we are told that we are God.  And that is the irony . . . we are God . . . when we give ourselves over to God, trust God, become vulnerable to God.  That is the irony of the words whispered to Eve and to Adam in the Garden of Eden.  Satan lures them, telling them that they too, can be like gods who know what is good and what is bad.  (Genesis 3:5).  This irony is that we are God.  We are the adopted daughters and sons of God, the sisters and brothers of Christ, the children of the Holy Spirit; yet we so often forget that we demonstrate our understanding of this by trusting God, believing God, loving God.  And we do this best as Jesus did, by being The Word to all and to everything.  We are God when we carry Jesus to all, when we hope and petition for the impossible, when we love our enemies just as we love ourselves and our friends.

Today’s Psalm is a reminder that we must constantly renew the Covenant agreement we have with our creator, we constantly renew our God Contract.  Renewal was the purpose of the Feast of the Tabernacles referred to in verse 4; and renewal is what we must always be about.  Each morning when we rise, each evening when we put our heads upon pillows we must trust God and bring God into our open hearts.  In the last verses of this Psalm, we see how to best sustain ourselves on this trip we are making . . . this earthly pilgrimage.  What are we to eat?  What are we to drink?  What are we to wear?  It is the Eucharist which renews us . . . give us this day our daily bread . . . it is the blood of Christ that redeems us . . . Can you drink the cup I am going to drink? . . . it is Christ whom we wear for protection when we wade into the world . . . take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God . . . it is The Word which sustains, nourishes, renews and brings true life to us.

And so we pray:

Good and everlasting God,

Renew us in your Spirit.

Refresh us for the journey.

Restore us to our promise.

Repair us in Christ’s love.

Replenish our weakened resources.

Remind us we are God’s.

Call us to worship you . . . worthily.

Amen.


Image from: http://scripture-for-today.blogspot.com/2011/03/psalm-81-open-your-mouth-wide.html

First written on April 10, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

2 Corinthians 1:3-11: Encouragement

I am so touched by the number of times Paul uses the verb encourage and the noun encouragement in this citation.  As I read through the opening of this second letter to the group in Corinth, I am struck by the idea that as Christians we need to be encouraging one another as we move along the path of life – this is the mark of a Christian: to exhort, to pray, to urge, to praise, to support, to bolster . . . to encourage.  How many times do we browbeat, do we demand, do we undercut, do we deceive, how often do we judge?  Perhaps we put distance between ourselves and others because we are afraid of betrayal at an intimate level.  Perhaps we are afraid to trust.  If this is so . . . we have a place to turn for understanding.  We can examine John 13.

Picture1Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me”.  The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant.

Perhaps we have sensed when someone close to us was about to turn against us.

One of his disciples . . . was reclining at Jesus’ side . . . He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, Master, who is it?”

Perhaps we are too afraid to look closely at circumstances; we may be too anxious to begin a conversation that needs beginning.

Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it”. So he dipped the morsel and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. 

Jesus teaches us that we must remain calm in the face of treachery.

After he took the morsel, Satan entered him.  So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly”.

Jesus shows us how to remain open and honest in the midst of our enemies.

Now none of those reclining at the table realized why he said this to him.  Some thought that since Judas kept the money bag, Jesus had told him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or to give something to the poor. 

We understand that betrayal is deep-rooted and far-reaching. 

So he took the morsel and he left.  And it was night.

We remember that even for Jesus . . . there is darkness.

Picture3When we are betrayed we find relief and support in the encouragement of others.  We find compassion and mercy in Christ’s example.  Psalm 55 describes the anguish of betrayal at the hands of intimate friends; Jesus teaches us how to withstand the pain brought by this betrayal.  Christ brings us encouragement.

And so we pray . . .

We look for healing and restoration in others . . . let us give healing and restoration in all we do and say.

We look for openness and honesty in others . . . let us act openly and honestly in all our actions and declarations.

We look for constancy and fidelity in others . . . let us be constant and faithful in all our deeds and words.  

We look for justice and mercy in others . . . let us live justly and mercifully all our days and all our nights in Christ.

And let us give thanks for the encouraging companions God sends to us as we journey on our way.  Amen.


First written March 18, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite. 

To explore words of encouragement for children, click on the image or visit: https://www.momjunction.com/articles/words-of-encouragement-for-kids_00402209/#gref

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Thursday, January 2, 2020

Acts 4:23-31: With Boldness  

aaa[2]There is something for each of us to learn as we watch this fledgling spiritual community find a way to maneuver the overt threats to the community’s existence.  There is something for each of us to learn as we struggle to speak the word of God in a culture that does not want to hear truth about itself.  In today’s Noontime we see – if we look – a road map for traversing a tricky patch of the path we call life.  When brambles arise, when authorities menace, when we are filled with doubt . . . we must pluck up our courage and move forward with boldness. 

They went back to their own people . . . we must always surround ourselves with spiritual pilgrims who seek truth and authenticity.

They raised their voices to God with one accord . . . we must always petition God in solidarity with others who seek justice and mercy.

They were all filled with the Holy Spirit . . . we must always keep ready our dwelling place so that it is realizes the presence of God.

They continued to speak the word of God with boldness . . . we must always move forward in God rather than at God.

It is easy to look back over the difficult parts of our lives to assess our actions and non-actions and yet when we do, we find reward.  We see that when we cannot muster strength, God provides it.  When we cannot summon courage, Jesus brings it.  And we find that when we look for love, the Spirit instills it.

They continued to speak the word of God with boldness . . . The apostles moved forward through their fear by gathering together with boldness.  They decided that the fear of negative consequences would be outweighed by the boldness they brought together.  When we cower before a menacing threat let us remember the lesson we learn today: Return to what you know to be truth, find solidarity with those of like mind, be receptive to the in-dwelling of the Spirit . . . and continue to speak with boldness,

There is nothing to fear.  There is nothing to lose.  There is everything to gain.


For another blogger’s perspective on Boldness, click on the image above or go to: http://ladycougs.blogspot.com/2012/01/boldness-acts-1342-52.html

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Rembrandt: Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem

Jeremiah 39:15-18: A Gesture of Comfort

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Even among the twists and turns in the tangled web of intrigue which surround Jeremiah’s life, this prophet remains true to his God.  Both his words and actions reveal his total devotion to the Lord, and his life – like the flight of a well-aimed arrow – arcs through turbulent history to blaze a path as safe passageway for the faithful to follow.  No one, after reading this man’s story, can say that their burden is too weighty to carry.  Anyone can see – from Jeremiah’s story – that tragedy and loss are not always a bad thing.  We frequently find redemption in the ashes of failure.  But we must be open to the belief that all is possible through God.  We must demonstrate trust.

Today finds us at a point in Jeremiah’s story where he is rewarded by the invaders for maintaining his fidelity to God.  In the midst of horror comes a gesture of comfort.  Horrible events spin around Jeremiah.  The king and his sons have been captured by Nebuchadnezzar’s troops.  Zedekiah’s eyes have been put out, his sons have been executed.  The palace has been burned; the walls of the city are demolished; the deportation to Babylon has begun.  Jeremiah will be given permission to live where he likes – with the exiled or with the remnant.  A time of respite is upon him.

We do not know precisely where or how or when Jeremiah eventually dies; but one thing we know for certain is that he will remain as true to his God in his end days as we see him today.  Jeremiah will be rescued as he is always rescued.

Although there are times when we sit in the mud of the cistern of life, we too, are always rescued.  A word of comfort pierces the darkness.  A gesture of healing staunches a bleeding wound.  The sign of peace arrives at our door.  We know we are blessed.

In these graced moments amid life’s battles, we might pause to give thanks for such a healing and loving God.  All God asks in payment is our trust.


Written on October 20, 2008 and posted today as a Favorite.

For more on this prophet and his prophecy, see the Jeremiah – Person and Message page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-prophets/jeremiah-person-and-message/

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Luke 10:1-24: Serpents and Scorpions

Sunday, October 27, 2019

In the past few days at daily Mass we have been reading from the tenth Chapter of Luke’s Gospel; we have witnessed the sending forth of disciples by Jesus, and we have heard his words of counsel to these followers of The Way.  These words are not only for those who accompanied Christ in his journey; they are words for Christ’s twenty-first century followers.  They are words for us.

“I rely on you,” Jesus says to them . . . and to us: The harvest is abundant but the workers are few . . .

“The work will be dangerous,” Jesus tells them . . . and us: I am sending you like lambs among wolves . . .

“My followers must rely on the message of freedom and hope that I have given them to carry into the world,” Jesus reminds them . . . and us:  Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals . . .

“You must not be deterred,” he says . . . and neither must we: Greet no one along the way . . .

“It is imperative to always operate from a perspective of peace,” Jesus reminds them . . . and us: Into whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this household”.

“You are to remain focused on your work,” he says to them . . . and to us: Do not move around from one house to another . . .

“You will not be able to convert all who hear the message of salvation which you carry,” . . . and neither will we: Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, “The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shale off against you”.

Jesus warns his followers, “The rejection you will surely experience is your badge of honor,” . . . and it is to be ours: Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.

Jesus tells them, “You carry the Living Word with you” . . . and Jesus tells us: Whoever listens to you listens to me.

Jesus reminds his disciples, “I will protect you as you move about in this most dangerous of worlds,” . . . and Jesus also reminds us: Behold I have given you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you.

We humans worry about our physical safety more than we do our spiritual welfare.  We have this backwards.

We creatures of God spend great amounts of time and talent and energy amassing power and wealth rather than storing up treasures that are impervious to rot and decay.  We have this upside down.

We children of God turn to false, exterior gods too often rather than to the Living God who has given us life and who dwells within. We have this inside out.

As we read the work that Jesus has outlined we see that it is not a complicated plan he has in mind; but it is the reversal of that we have come to understand as powerful and lasting.  It is the inversion of the world as we experience it. And it is the only way to live cheek by jowl with the evil that we know exists.  Jesus does not promise to remove all obstacles from our path; rather he promises that our journey is the one that leads to honest happiness. He does not swear that he will make the way easy and smooth; rather, he swears that he will accompany us through the narrow gates of our passage.  Christ does not guarantee that we will find peace once we complete a prescribed checklist of tasks; rather, he guarantees that when we follow him we will experience a serenity that is everlasting.

We must not fear the snakes and scorpions we encounter as we step into our journey; rather, we must trust God’s message that even snakes and scorpions are subject to our will . . . when we follow this simple plan.


A re-post from October 6, 2012.

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