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Jeremiah 51Adjusting to Reality

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

“Jeremiah sends a ‘book’ of oracles against Babylon to Babylon with Baruch’s brother in about 594.  These are to be read publicly and then tied to a stone and cast into the Euphrates, symbolizing Babylon’s fate . . . It has been suggested that the original intention of Jeremiah’s action was to rebut the prophecies of Ahab and Zedekiah to the effect that the exile would be short (see 29:4-9, 20-23).  On this interpretation, reading and then destroying a set of anti-Babylonian prophecies would have the effect of stressing Jeremiah’s rejection of this optimistic view”.  (Mays 576)

Jeremiah knows that the exile will be long and harsh . . . yet no one believes him because it does not coincide with the false view many find easier to hold.  It seems that nothing much has changed in the intervening millennia since this story; we humans would rather cling to the falsehood that matches our view rather than change our thinking to the truth.  Today’s citation tells us that it is better to adjust ourselves to reality because no amount of manipulation or coercion will hide the obvious.   My dad liked to say: The truth comes out in the end so we might as well get used to it as soon as we can.

In today’s case, Jeremiah accurately predicts that even the conquerors will themselves be conquered and he predicts an unpleasant winnowing.   The imagery is brutal, the devastation complete.  There is no escaping the consequences that result from greed, corruption, and mollification.  The prophet Jeremiah sees collusion between his own leaders and those who of Israel’s pagan neighbors and while the “optimistic view” cited above may be popular, it is not honest. And so Jeremiah outs the lies.  He does as God asks and sends his prophecies to Babylon via the brother of his secretary, Baruch.

It is difficult to speak truth with respect, to express candor gently; and it may, in fact, even place us in danger.  When we see that everyone around us chooses to believe a myth created by the powerful and wealthy, we must speak honestly but with mercy no matter the cost to us.  It is in this way that we adjust ourselves to reality rather than follow the fashionable fairy story.  It is in this way that we honor ourselves and others who speak truth.  It is in this way that we praise and honor our God.

From today’s first reading at Mass, The Feast of Jesus’ Transfiguration, 2 Peter 1:16-19: Beloved: We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we have been eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from majestic glory, “This is my Son, my beloved with whom I am well pleased”.  We ourselves heard this voice . . . Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.  You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts”. 

Peter knows that he cannot remain silent about the story he has witnessed and, like Jeremiah, he knows that he must speak so that others might adjust to the amazing reality that what seems impossible is real, that we are created and loved by God and that God wants nothing but goodness for us and from us.  We are called to seek truth, to cling to it and to celebrate it with others who are willing to adjust their vision to be in line with God’s.

Once we cease nodding in idiotic agreement with the myths woven by those who are vested in them, we will see and know God’s truth, and we will not be silenced.  We too, will write out the prophecy that God commands . . . and we will adjust ourselves to God’s vision.


Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 576. Print.

A re-post from August 6, 2011.

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Hosea 4Open to Newness

Saturday, September 1, 2018

A re-post from August 1, 2011.

We will need to look at notes in order to understand the references in today’s Noontime and the following information is from THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE.  Ephraim (note verse 17) was the tribal area that remained in the northern kingdom of Israel after the Assyrian invasion.  The wood and wand (note verse 12) refer to any carved idol or utensil used in the practice of divination.  Ritual prostitution practiced in Canaanite shrines was introduced into sanctuaries dedicated to Yahweh (note verse 14).  Gilgal here (note verse 15) is in reference to a sanctuary in the north in Bethel where there was an association of cult prophets (2 Kings 2 and 4:38); it is not a reference to Gilgal in the south where Joshua sets up memorial standing stones (Joshua 4).  Finally, the priests are in for heavy criticism because they are seen as the ones who lead the people away from God as they set up a schism between genuine and cult prophets.  All of this information helps to clarify the link between the prophet Hosea’s deep sorrow over his wife Gomer’s prostitution of herself and the descent of the nation of Israel into this same harlotry.  Hosea sees the individual and collective return to idolatry as a seal of the fate of the nation and its people.  They are all caught up in the coming whirlwind of disaster.  (Senior 1112-1113)

The psalmist reminds us that: The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands.  They have mouths but speak not; they have ears but see not; they have ears but hear not; no breath is in their mouths.  Those who make them will be like them, and so will all those who trust in them.  (Psalm 135:15-18)  If only we humans might remember that in the end . . . these little gods cannot forgive us, save us, redeem us or love us as God does.

We have reflected during our Noontimes that little gods creep into our lives without notice and it is in this way that we become unwitting collaborators in the creation of an illusion; today we look at how a nation of people who have been blessed by God turn away from God’s goodness.   The children’s story of The Emperor’s New Clothes http://deoxy.org/emperors.htm from the Hans Christian Anderson collection is an apt allegory not only for Hosea’s society but for our society today.  We have only to determine if we number among the adults who have ceased to think for themselves . . . or if we are the astonished child who announces: The emperor is naked!  Like the child, Hosea cries out to the people of Israel.  And like the child, our prophets of today cry out against the obtuse among us.

When we become frustrated with a herd mentality that drives idiotically toward the precipice or when we give up all hope that the small voice of truth might be heard above the clamor of a self-deceiving crowd, we must turn away from our little gods of anxiety and desperation and turn to God, for it is God who best understands what is to be disbelieved and dispossessed.  And it is God who knows well how to convert the darkness of despair into the beauty of joy, for it is in the darkness that God plants the seeds of new life.

And so we pray . . . Good and forgiving God, remind us that we have only to be open to a newness that you will bring out of the ignorance and despair we witness today.  Show us the newness born of the dark that is your compassionate healing and eternal transformation.  Amen.  


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.1112-1113. Print.   

Images from: http://thefigureofspeechprod.info/coming-soon.html and http://blogs.attask.com/blog/strategic-project-management/the-emperors-new-clothes

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3 JohnCo-Workers in the Truth

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The author of this brief letter is believed to be the Apostle John and it gives us a window on the world of the early church with its factions and arguments.  We see the interwoven themes of hospitality, truth, and love . . . three concepts we might spend time with today.

In the jumble of names we might finally work out that the leader Diotrephes has stepped outside of the Johannine tradition by refusing hospitality to some of John’s disciples.  This action would be counter to the kind of behavior Jesus nurtured among his own apostles, and counter to the traditions of the early church.  “Itinerant Christian preachers were dependent upon the hospitality of Christians among whom they ministered.  This built up networks between the scattered churches and fostered a sense of solidarity.  The local churches saw themselves as belonging to the one church, united around the foundational truth of the Gospel”. (ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE 2035) In this ancient culture, hospitality was essential.  Travel by foot through arid and sometimes hostile regions required open homes and welcoming brothers and sisters at journey’s end.  Generosity with one’s goods and time was essential for survival in this environment.  Fear of false teachers was and is a legitimate concern, but we know from this short letter that the rejected missionaries had been sent by John himself so certainly there was no reason for alarm.  As John writes: We ought to support such persons, so that we might be co-workers in the truth.  John appeals to those who want to withdraw into a purist sect and he points out that separatism is counter to Jesus’ universal call to unity.  Jesus’ truth-followers seek union with others – not separation or elitism.  John urges his fellow Christians to support his faithful ministers so that they might be seen as messengers of Christ’s word rather than ordinary pagan beggars who lived off the goodness of others with little or no contribution to society.

In today’s Noontime we hear an echo of John’s assertion in his first letter that what the apostles have seen with their eyes, heard with their ears and touched with their hands can be believed.  Jesus was among them . . . he died . . . he rose again and is with them still.  This is a truth that cannot be denied and it is an absolute demonstration of Jesus’ love for humanity.  John tells us that we in turn must demonstrate our belief in this reality by offering open arms and welcoming hearts to fellow co-workers in this truth.

When we read this letter carefully, we see the elements of a prudent and wise method of confronting the obstinate, self-centered rejection of goodness: Send an opening greeting with an offer of dialog, recommend continued conversation, delineate the points of argument, and center all decisions on Gospel thinking of unity through variety.  In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul expresses clearly how Christ creates the union of diverse parts: There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.  To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.  We are reminded by both John and Paul that not one of us has sole possession of truth . . . yet Christ’s truth lives in the gathering up of all who believe and act in him.

When we open our hearts and homes for Christ to act through us, we become the co-workers John speaks of today, we become seekers of Christ’s truth rather than our own.  We become co-workers in the only truth that matters.   This we can believe.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 2035. Print.


We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 23, 2011.

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John 15:1-5: Branches

Thursday, June 14, 2018

We have examined scripture to reflect on the ways in which the beauty, wisdom, truth, and love in our identity in Christ exemplify our relationship with God in the Spirit. Jesus tells us who he is, reflecting Yahweh’s promise of “I Am Who I Am”. Today we continue to reflect on who we are, and on how we respond to God’s call for merciful justice in all of creation.

“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples”. (THE MESSAGE)

Rather than giving in to our fear that we might fall away from the Vine of Christ, we consider the beauty of union with all of creation.

Rather than seeking revenge for the injustices we suffer, we reflect on the wisdom of grafting ourselves to the healing truth of the abiding Spirit.

Rather than lamenting the evil that stalks societies, we contemplate the truth of pruning away all that separates us from the courage and patience of God.

Today we have the opportunity to produce fruit on the great vine of life. Today we rejoice in the gift of Christ’s vineyard. Today we come together in the Spirit of beauty, wisdom, truth, and love.

We pray Psalm 80and we consider God’s gifts of healing, restoration, and transformation while we repeat verses 8-10 as the antiphon, 

You brought a grapevine out of Egypt;
    you drove out other nations and planted it in their land.
You cleared a place for it to grow;
    its roots went deep, and it spread out over the whole land.
It covered the hills with its shade;
    its branches overshadowed the giant cedars.

 


To find more Vine and Branches posts on this blog, use these links.

The Vine and Branches: https://thenoontimes.com/2018/05/19/john-15-the-vine-and-branches/

Sawing Off Branches: https://thenoontimes.com/2017/01/30/mark-322-30-sawing-off-branches/

Roots and Branches: https://thenoontimes.com/2015/02/07/roots-and-branches/

Grafting to the Vine: https://thenoontimes.com/2017/05/26/psalm-106-grafting-to-the-vine/

Enter the words, Vine or Branch into the blog search bar to explore other reflections.

When we compare other versions of these verses, we discover the beauty, wisdom, truth, and love of our relationship of Vine and Branches.

Image from: https://www.stpeterschurchchicago.org/cm/articles/vine-and-branches

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Solomon's Temple

Solomon’s Temple

Nehemiah 12:44-47

Their Due Portion

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A reprise from October 28, 2013.

The whole of Israel used to give the cantors and gatekeepers their due portion for each day.

Nehemiah describes not only the restoration of the Temple when the exiles return from their place of deportation; Nehemiah also explains that the rites and rituals were also restored.  All those who officiate at liturgies are to receive their due portion.  In return, the Levites, the sons of Aaron and all those who make liturgy possible are to perform their duties.  Nehemiah not only rebuilt walls and external structures, he rebuilt internal structures as well.

The Second Temple

Nehemiah’s Temple

God says: Each of you deserves your due portion.  When you insist on having less or more you upset your natural balance.  When you take more than your share you deny others of the goodness I have in store for them.  When you take less, you deny the gift you are to the world.  When you corrupt yourself or others you corrupt the vessel that contains hope for the world.  When you deny yourself or others you also deny me. Carry out the task shown to you.  Fulfill the hope planted in you.  Come to me with your questions and concerns.  Rather than take more or less than is meant for you, rather than fill your barns to bursting or depleting your energies until you are fully spent . . . receive your due portion and remain in the truth.  This is where your true treasure lies.

Jesus reminds us that the measure we measure with is measured out to us.  (Luke 6:38) He also reminds us that where our heart lies, there will be our treasure.  (Luke 12:34)

For more information on the duties of gatekeepers, go to: http://prepareforthelamb.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/gatekeepers-watchmen-you-are-to-speak-out-the-lord-has-called-you-out-to-be-bold-today/

For more information on the Second Temple, click on the image of Nehemiah’s Temple or go to: http://michaelruark.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/there-is-enough-room-for-both/

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Ezra-Nehemiah: Fulfillment

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Everyone knew that the work had been done with God’s help. (Nehemiah 6:15-16)

Why is it that the antisocial cannot see that their end is in their own work?  Why is it that the Sanballats and Geshems among us do not see that the darkness in which they operate will eventually give way to the Light, to the Hope, to the Promise?  The wise do not take flight – as Nehemiah did not flee.  The wise do not fear the shameful stories, the discrediting talk, the false prophecies.  The wise remain calm and firm in their God.  Letters, tweets, posts and emails may fly, but in the end the truth will stand alone, and everyone will fully understand who has been the plotter and who has been the wrongfully blasphemed.  In God’s time and in God’s plan those who abide by the Covenant, those who strive each day to put down roots by the bank of the river and soar up to the heights, to the light will bear fruit.

Psalm 1 is a mini Bible in that it describes the person of God who suffers yet withstands the onslaught – not through their own work but by the grace and protection of God.  They flourish and prosper, despite the treachery.  They yield fruit in season.  Their leaves do not wither, and whatever they do prospers.  The Lord watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.

And so today we pray.

Lord, keep me ever in your ways.  Steer me clear of the paths of the scoffers.  Abide with me as I strive to abide with you.  I ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Adapted from a reflection written on September 16, 2007. 

 

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John 1: In the Beginning

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (NRSV)

No matter how often we read these words they bring us new beauty.

Footnotes tell us that the writer lays out the themes that develop as the Gospel continues: life, light, truth, the world, testimony, the pre-existence of Jesus, the incarnate Logos who is God’s revelation and the expression of God’s love for us.  When we think of the stories we hear and read in this Gospel, we know for a certainty that God is calling us to be diverse, to tend to that diversity and to place our hope in this diversity – because it is in this diversity that the Spirit manifests itself best.

The Word was first,
the Word present to God,
    God present to the Word.
The Word was God,
    in readiness for God from day one. (MSG)

God calls us to intimacy, and Jesus calls out this same petition in his brief life.  God asks us to commune with one another in a way we think impossible, and we can only do this if we rely on Wisdom.  This morning’s first reading was from Wisdom 3:1-12, The Hidden Counsels of God on Suffering.  Looking at verse four of that reading we are reminded that our hope is what makes us immortal.  This hidden counsel of God manifests itself in Jesus, the world’s only true hope.

In the beginning the Word already existed; the Word was with God, and the Word was God. From the very beginning the Word was with God. (GNT)

Jesus, the Suffering Servant, comes to us to serve – not to be served.  And so must we serve rather than be served.  No one has ever seen God except through Jesus Christ, the apostle John tells us; yet God speaks to each of us through Jesus.  It is fitting that Jesus represents this hope of God. It is correct that we awake and rise each day to look to Jesus. It is right that we act and live in hope, for it is this hope that makes us immortal.

Adapted from a reflection written on September 20, 2007.

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1 Timothy 5:20: Scolding

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The fine line we walk to avoid scandal while revealing it with love is difficult to navegate. Do we ignore the hypocrisy we see each day? Do we hide from those who practice deceit and hope to keep ourselves safe? Do we bend to corruption hoping that we will escape unscathed?

Rebuke publicly all those who commit sins, so that the rest may be afraid. (GNT)

Actions that avoid confrontation may help us to avoid immediate conflict, but what do they set up for us later? Are these strategies effective over the long run? Are these tactics useful when we all attempt to come together for the common good?

As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest also may stand in fear. (NRSV)

Jesus tells us that if some home or town will not welcome you or listen to you, then leave that place and shake the dust off your feet. (Matthew 10)

The psalmist reminds us (Psalm 101) that we must refuse to take a second look at corrupting people and degrading things.

If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it. (MSG)

It seems better – or easier – to avoid conflict, to placate the powerful, and bow to the bully; yet, in our hearts we know that ultimately, only the fidelity of truth will conquer lies. Only the hope of goodness can combat evil. And only the light of authentic honesty can erase corruption. Today we have an opportunity to explore how we act, and how we react to an imperfect world.

To learn more about how to respond to a scolding, click on the image above, or visit: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stuck/201202/how-survive-being-scolded 

 

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Proverbs 28: Virtues

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

As we begin to close our journey through Proverbs, we reprise this Favorite from October 2009. We have explored our relationships with fools and friends, we have walked with the wise and accompanied fools who are whacked on the head. Watching Lady Wisdom build her house, we have learned that God’s heart asks for union with each of us. Exploring wise sayings of Solomon and others, we have understood that God allows us to lose and find our way. Knowing that God misses nothing and that each morning we are offered armloads of life, we continue to ask for the cure of God’s love and listen for Spirit that speaks to us within. 

Surety, Prudence, Integrity, Wisdom, Generosity, Truth, Justice

The wicked man flees although no one pursues him; but the just man, like a lion, feels sure of himself.

When we create monsters out of nothing we give in to our human fears.

If a land is rebellious, its princes will be many; but with a prudent man it knows security. 

Our rashness can divide us more than it unites us.

Better a poor man who walks in integrity than he who is crooked in his ways and rich.

Power and treasure appear to be safe havens; yet they crumble to corruption and cannot withstand the simplicity of truth and honesty.

He who rebukes a man gets more thanks in the end than one with a flattering tongue.

The truth always comes out in the end . . . and is precious.

Happy the man who is always on his guard; but he who hardens his heart will fall into evil.

Prudence is necessary; hardness is our downfall.

The greedy man stirs up disputes, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper.

Generosity is a sign of a trusting heart.

He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is safe.

Patience and stillness bring their just rewards.

When the wicked gain pre-eminence, other men hide; but at their fall the just flourish. 

In the end, God alone is enough . . .

Words to live by; virtues to cherish; axioms to settle the mind; maxims to sooth the troubled heart.

When we compare translations of these verses, we allow God’s wisdom to enter our hearts. 

 

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