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Posts Tagged ‘trust’


Judges 14 and 15: Philistines

Saturday, June 24, 2017 

Alexandre Cabanel: Samson and Delilah

A few days ago we reflected on the story of Samson and Delilah; today’s we consider our lack of understanding that God frequently uses surprising people and circumstances to bring God’s plan to fruition.  In Samson’s early life, we read that he wants to marry a young woman who was not a member of one of the seven non-Israelite tribes with whom the people of Israel were permitted by their Law to marry.  Looking at verse 4, we see that Samson’s desire to marry this young woman is upsetting to his parents – as it would be to a believing Jew – yet it will be used as part of God’s plan to save the faithful.  Now his father and mother did not know that this had been brought about by the Lord, who was providing an opportunity against the Philistines; for at that time they had dominion over Israel.  This story, therefore, today tells us something important which is . . . we never know how or when God will use unexpected people and circumstances in our lives to bring about his plan.  Sometimes we must marry a Philistine. 

The long story of Samson tells us about how people will want to control divinity rather than learn how to be a part of it.  We see in the unraveling of these plots to harness Samson that these people misunderstand how God works.  In the end, the wicked will fall by their own hand, and any harm they have leveled against the faithful will be used for good, but – and this is so important – with the consequences they had planned for others falling on them.

If we are patient, we begin to understand how Samson’s marriage to a Philistine woman plays out not only in Samson’s life but in the life of the community as well.  What happens to this woman, what happens to her family, and how Samson arrives at being one of a series of Israelite Judges is a story that unfolds in a string of twisting, unpredictable events.  All of this leads to the saving of a people, a nation, and a way of living that God has marked as special.  These ironies and turnings are not a jumble of calamities; rather, they are God’s plan to open us to eventual results that no one dreams possible . . . except for God and those who believe and trust in God.  Today we see that God makes the impossible possible.

Both this story of the young Samson, and the story of his relationship with Delilah are the same metaphor: Samson poses a riddle and is betrayed by someone whom he loves and trusts; the resulting reprisals end in Samson displaying his trust in God alone.  Even though he may possess the strength of a thousand, only God saves him; he cannot save himself.  Eventually with his death in Gaza, Samson kills more Philistines in one final act than he ever did in his lifetime.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 8, 2009.

Tomorrow, the Philistines in our lives.

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1 Peter 2:4-9: A Living Stone

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 21, 2017

Today Peter says to us,

Come to the Lord, the living stone rejected by people as worthless but chosen by God as valuable.

We reflect on the times we have rejected the Word that has come to us through the voices and actions of others; and we remember the times we are rejected when we struggle to bring light to darkness.

God says,

I chose a valuable stone,
    which I am placing as the cornerstone in Zion;
    and whoever believes in him will never be disappointed.

We examine the strength of our faith in Christ as the Living Stone, the foundation of the new temple in which each of us is invited to join Christ as living stones raising thanks to God.

Isaiah foretells and Peter repeats,

This is the stone that will make people stumble,
    the rock that will make them fall.

We explore the depth of our hope, the strength of our love, the authenticity of our trust and the clarity of our minds as we give our hearts over as Living Stones for Christ.

Peter reminds us,

They stumbled because they did not believe in the word; such was God’s will for them.

As we reflect, we open ourselves to the reality that our stumblings are tumbles into Christ’s arms. Our shortcomings are windows into the New Temple of Living Stones. And our failings are invitations to join Christ as the cornerstone in our new lives of peace.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore thee verses, we recognize the Word and we become more willing to tumble into Christ’s ample, healing and loving heart.

For  better understanding of the city of Zion and what it might represent, visit: http://biblehub.com/topical/z/zion.htm 

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John 20:11-18: Turning Again

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

James Tissot: Mary Magdalene and the Holy Women at the Tomb

In this second week of Eastertide, we spend time with the Gospels of the Easter Octave, the eight days comprising the celebration of Easter. On day three, Easter Tuesday, we heard John’s account of the discovery of the empty tomb. Today we focus on a few details that bring this story alive. First, we chose a translation that speaks to us most clearly, and then we reflect. Today’s verses are from the USCCB site. (This link also contains an audio version.) We may find other versions by using the scripture link and drop-down menus.

Mary Magdalene stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been.

When harsh realities challenge our beliefs and foundation, we mourn our loss, question all that we thought certain, and doubt the facts before us. Do we also look for the angels who move with us through our days? Do we offer our suffering as a sign of our trust in God? Do we fall back on the familiar or move forward in hope?

[Mary] turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.

Anger and fear, confidence and mercy. In times of deep stress, the primal parts of our brain take over and we instinctively collapse into familiar patterns of flight and denial, aggression and accusation. Might we practice the art of relying on the positive influences in our lives? When we feel panic and worry taking over, might we remind ourselves to look for Jesus who stands before us . . . even when we do not recognize him?

She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.

James Tissot: The Women at Jesus’ Tomb

Our pastor last week, in his morning homily, asked a question we may have been asking ourselves when we look at the detail John provides us. If Mary has already turned away from the empty tomb to look at the man she thinks is the gardener, why does she turn again? And how? When we reflect on these verses, we begin to understand that the second turning is toward a newness in perspective. Mary allows herself to see that the gardener is, in fact, Jesus. Might we follow her example to open our eyes and ears in a new way? Might we have full confidence in the promise of the Christ?

Today we spend time with John’s story of the conversion of Mary at the tomb, and all that followed in the baffling commotion of distrust touched with intense conviction and enduring love. As we read this account today, let us see if we are able to move beyond our anxieties for the world, with the joyful turning of Mary Magdalene.

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Tobit 3:24-25: The Mystery of Trusting Wisdom

The Third Sunday of Lent, March 19, 2017

school of Titian Rafael

The School of Titian: Tobias and the Archangel Rafael 

We recall the lessons we learned with these verses yesterday: God is good, we are good, life is brutal and unpredictable but also good because it brings us to God; the faithful need not fight, they only need to stand and refuse to do anything that causes them to abandon their God.

There is nothing more important to hear, to learn or to repeat to others than the lessons Tobit teaches us today.  All human suffering can be quenched by these precepts.  All human understanding is capable of taking in these ideas; but not all humans have the will to enact what they hear.  That is why we cannot read this story too often.

Wisdom is sometimes defined as patience in the waiting to hear God’s voice.  One definition puts wisdom in its proper place  as coming from God over time – in God’s time and not in our time.  When we think of the wise people we know, we discover that they share a few characteristics in common.

  • Wise people do not often react instantly to an emotional moment; they pause to allow God to speak through them.
  • Wise people declare their thoughts with the wisdom of ages; they have spent a good portion of their lives with and in scripture.
  • Wise people display a certain amount of serenity; they know that all that surrounds them is not real, the justice of the next world, not this.
  • Wise people do not regularly become impatient; they understand that we are here to practice for that which is real, the love of the next world, not this.
  • Wise people display and embody empathy; they have suffered a great deal, and they have allowed themselves to be transformed by this suffering.
  • Wise people do not think first of saving themselves; they have made their suffering salvific, and freely give themselves as co-redeemers with Christ.

The wisdom of the book of Tobit is just this kind of wisdom.  In this story, wisdom maintains her mystery; she is seen as the ultimate act of stepping into the abyss with God. The ultimate act of suffering for and through God. The ultimate act of trust in God.

Wisdom rises from suffering, endures in fidelity, heals in love, restores in hope, and lives in trust.  We can never hear this story too often.

Adapted from a reflection written on March 10, 2008.

 

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Tobit 3:24-25: The Favor of Providence

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Tobias_cura_a_cegueira_de_seu_pai_-_Domingos_Sequeira

Domingos Sequeira: Tobias Heals the Blindness of his father Tobit

As a Noontime companion, you will know that this book is a favorite. This story is full of fidelity, promise, hope, healing, courage, desperation, prayers answered and the mystery of how we gain most in ourselves by trusting God. The story tells us of the importance of the mystery of trust.  We see God move not only through the disguise of the archangel Rafael, but also through people who respond to God’s call . . . even when it places them in danger.

Today’s excerpt is brief but we gain much if we spend some of our time with these verses. They are a wonderful antidote for a dispirited day.  The story reminds us of all the Old Testament foretells, all the prophets predict, all the wisdom books proclaim, and all that Jesus comes to fulfill. We have valuable lessons here. On this second weekend of Lent, we serve ourselves well by reflecting with these verses and taking in their lessons.

First: Tobit shows us that God is good, and we are good. It also shows us that although life is brutal and unpredictable, it is good because it brings us to God.

Second: The faithful need not fight, they only need to stand and refuse to do anything that causes them to abandon their God. We need to kill people with kindness, we need to make our hearts open and vulnerable to God, we must become Christ’s hands and feet, head and heart through the act of healing one another, and through the act of interceding for one another, even our enemies. 

Tomorrow, we discover how these lessons teach us the importance of the mystery of wisdom and trust. If we take an hour or so to read more than these verses this weekend, we will not regret our decision to use our time in this way.

Adapted from a reflection written on March 10, 2008.

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Sirach 51: 13-30: Pursuit of Wisdom – Part I

Thursday, September 1, 2016OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I was young and innocent,
    I sought wisdom.
She came to me in her beauty,

    and until the end I will cultivate her.

We look for wisdom in the obvious places: philosophers, theologians, arcane texts and modern writings. But is she really there?

As the blossoms yielded to ripening grapes,
    the heart’s joy,
My feet kept to the level path
    because from earliest youth I was familiar with her.

We remember the wisdom of childhood joys on a summer day or a winter afternoon. But do we still find wisdom in the simple serenity of living?

In the short time I paid heed,
    I met with great instruction.
Since in this way I have profited,
    I will give my Teacher grateful praise.

I resolved to tread her paths;
    I have been jealous for the good and will not turn back.

We recall the warmth of relationship, the steady trust of the faithful heart. But is this the wisdom we look for today?

Tomorrow, the passion of true wisdom.

When we use the scripture link and drop-down menus to explore other versions of these verses, we focus on our pursuit of wisdom.

 

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Sirach 8: 1-14: Perplexity


Sirach 8: 1-14: Perplexity

Thursday, August 25, 2016perplexity-20301609

Last year we took a look at Sirach 18 and 19 to focus on the idea of living within our spiritual means much like we strive to stay with our financial means or our physical limitations. We reflected on the idea of having high expectations of ourselves without stressing ourselves beyond our capacity.  As the ancient Eastern proverb says, All things in moderation.  As my Dad used to say, All things, even if they are good things, become bad things when we take them too far.  And that brings us to today, when we ponder this: When human beings have finished they are just beginning, and when they stop, they are still perplexed. The writer Jesus ben Sirach also gives us this to think about: What are human beings, and of what use are they?  What is good in them, and what is evil?  We are also told: The Lord has patience with us because he sees that we are miserable. 

We may or may not agree with these ideas.  We may or may not like the idea that we spend much of our human existence being perplexed.  In communion with our God, we may wish to have more answers, to be more prepared, to receive more information . . . but this is not what our maker expects.  God expects that we go to him when we are in difficult places in our lives – as small children go to their parents – to place their trust in God’s providence.

I have spent my prayer time this weekend with Sirach and today I open scripture to arrive again at a seminal idea in this book: That we are created to love and to be loved, and that God asks us to walk with him, trusting that he knows how and where we are in every moment of our existence.

Being perplexed is not a bad thing when we take our confusion to God before anyone else.  We can remind ourselves of this each time we feel at sea, each moment we experience negative feelings, each hour we spend in grief.

Being perplexed is not a bad thing when we remember that we are children of God . . . and that this God wishes us every good.

A Favorite from August 31, 2009.

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Job 8: Taking the Dare – Part III

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Job and his Friends

Job and his Friends

God’s trust in humanity is so enduring that the Creator takes the dare from Satan. How might we return this amazing trust? God the parent guides and protects us every waking moment and every sleeping hour. We need not eradicate all of the evil in the world; we need only keep our eyes on Christ and do as he asks; we need only open ourselves to the miracles of the Spirit and follow.

God’s hope in us is so strong that Christ returns for us. How might we learn from this strength? Christ reconciles and guides us. And so must we heal and shepherd others. We need only bloom where we are planted, reap the harvest that God has sown.

God’s love for us is so infinite that the Spirit resides eternally in us. How might we return this love? By tending to the marginalized, the broken-hearted and the bereft, by entering into transformation, and inviting others to join us.

In the marvelous story of Job, his friend Bildad cannot believe that Job suffers innocently. He cannot fathom why God allows misfortune to befall one of the ardent faithful. “Does God mess up?” he asks. “Does God Almighty ever get things backward?” He encourages Job not to hang his life from one thin thread, not to hitch his fate to a spider web. Bildad sees Job’s misfortune as punishment, and so might we if we do not read closely. After consideration we understand that Job suffers precisely because God trusts him, believes in him, and loves him. God restores all that Job loses and more, and this is a gesture that Satan cannot understand in his narrow, stingy world. God trusts that Job will not turn away in desperation or fatigue, and this is an attitude that Satan cannot countenance from his pathetic, narrow perspective. God allows Job to choose between hope and desperation, and this is a love that Satan cannot comprehend with his tragic, empty heart.

If God is so willing to take Satan’s dare, so willing to trust humanity with the enormity of God’s infinite goodness and mercy, might we then be willing to follow Jesus? Might we be willing to open ourselves fully to the Spirit?

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Revelation 6: Cosmic Conflict

Monday, April 4, 2016

EdwardVon Steinle: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

EdwardVon Steinle: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

We might well believe that we live in a world that is in cosmic conflict. Terrorist attacks, extreme politics, fanatic social movements might give us good reason to believe that “the end times” are near. We must exercise caution before reading the last book of the Bible without commentary lest we slip into a dualistic world of fundamentalism. This narrow view emphasizes the vision of universal struggle, and forgets the message of hope, trust, prudence, mercy and love that Jesus delivers. These verses must be read through the filter of unity and solidarity, hope and determination that Jesus brings to the world. Rather than relying on an apocalyptic eschatology in which God rescues the world and sets all wrongs right while we watch and observe, we are urged to delve into the ethical eschatology of joining with Christ to bring his message of love to all.

Commentary cautions us appropriately; it encourages us to take up the challenge of these remarkable verses. “It is useless to tease such poetry into a train schedule. The vision here is not one of history unfolding like clockwork; it is a religious vision of God’s ultimate conquest despite current appearances. Once the reader lets go of the obsessive ‘need to know’ that twists beauty into biorhythm charts, it is possible to wonder at the powerful poetic and religious imagination at work in these glorious images”. (Senior RG 575)

When we spend time with various versions of these verses today, we allow the gift of Christ’s wisdom and love to settle over us. We allow ourselves to become of God’s remarkable kingdom. And we allow the consolation of the Spirit to work through us to heal a waiting world.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 575. Print. 

To explore the imagery of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, read the commentary at: http://www.usccb.org/bible/revelation/6 

Today we remember as we reflect . . . we are Easter People.

 

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