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Psalms 11 and 12: Prayer Against Arrogance

Monday, November 14, 2022

In praying Psalm 11 we can be mindful that our reliance on God bolsters us and so we need not rely on our own strength. The innocent psalmist depends on the Lord’s protection for God defends those who seek asylum in God’s temple. It is good to know that we are allowed to flee when the wicked begin to hunt down those who are “upright of heart”.

The image of archers hunting birds is an apt one in Psalm 11. The friends and advisors here are worried about the collapse of the foundation, but we are reminded in this prayer that God sees all, and that God “detests the lover of violence.”  We reflect today on the many forms of violence beyond the obvious physical violence. We remember as well the insidious and hidden deceit that wounds as deeply and as surely as the arrow meant to still the faithful heart.

Psalm 12 from THE MESSAGE: Quick, God I need your helping hand! The last decent person just went down, all the friends I depended on are gone. Everyone talks in lie language; lies slide off their oily lips. They doubletalk with forked tongues.

We do not know where to go nor whom to trust; and just when we believe there is no salvation the Psalmist speaks words that foreshadow Jesus’ Beatitudes: Into the hovels of the poor, into the dark streets where the homeless groan, God speaks: “I’ve had enough; I’m on my way to heal the ache in the heart of the wretched.” It is in this way that God rescues the small and powerless from the influence and control of the arrogant. So let us pray . . .

Good and generous God, console and comfort us as we deal with backlash from our faithful witnessing to your goodness so that we might continue to witness to you.

Good and tender God, offer us your protection when anger and violence stalk us so that we might seek refuge in the temple of your Spirit that lives in us.

Good and powerful God, provide us with a refuge for the righteous at heart when slander and gossip surround us so that we might recoup our strength in the sacred presence of your love.

Good and precious God, live in us always to deflect the arrows of the arrogant and restore our fragile hearts so that we might remain in unshakeable confidence in you.

Good and humble God, abide with us as you do with the widow and orphan, the abandoned and anxious, and transform our worries and fears with your healing hope.

We ask this in Jesus’ name in communion with the Holy Spirit. Amen.


A Favorite from July 22, 2007. 

Image from: https://www.pinterest.com/rdjangel/love-hearts-and-other-mushy-stuff/

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James 3:13-4:10: Envy

Saturday, November 12, 2022envy

“Within this call to conversion, James develops the theme of envy as exemplifying the measure of the world . . . Why is envy so singled out? Because its underlying assumption is that your gain is my loss. This is the opposite of the Spirit of the community, where all gain by anyone’s growth and all rejoice in anyone’s good fortune. Envy causes me to sorrow when another has something I lack. And when life is measured simply in terms of what I possess – ‘I am what I have’ – then for another to have and me to lack is intolerable. Envy drives the acquisitive instinct . . . the step is a short one to conflict, war, and murder, not only between individuals but also between nations . . . It is remarkable that this passage, which alone in the New Testament analyzes the causes of human conflict, should play so little role in moral discussions of war and peace”. (RG 551-552)

God says: James is correct when he tells you that envy is often at the root of your violence and anger. He is also correct when he points out that life in the Spirit means that you feel joy when one of you rejoices and sadness when one of you is in pain. Your friendship with me brings much than consolation; it brings you the ability to see the world as I see it, full of potential for goodness. I resist those who are full of pride in themselves and I nurture those who look for life in me. When you agree to live in The Way you will no longer be envious of others and you will celebrate when any one of you does well because you will understand that all good things come from me. When you are envious of others I am saddened, for your envy tells me that you do not understand my generosity. When you make war against one another I grieve,  for I can see that you do not understand my love. James is bringing my message to you . . . take time with it today.

Enter the word envy into the blog search bar and explore.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 551-552. Print.

Image from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-couch/201307/why-women-fear-envy-and-why-we-dont-need

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James 3:13: The Gentleness of Wisdom

Monday, November 7, 2022c6a21-gentleness

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.

We spent time with James 3 several weeks ago when we considered living well, wisely and humbly, and at that time we reflected on how we might find joy in humility when the world so ably tells us that this cannot be so. And we considered the role of wisdom in the finding of this humility.

God says: In the world’s view, the wise are usually surrounded by servants and dwell in comfort. This is not my view. From the world’s perspective, the wise wield power and influence, they control people, resources and perspectives. This is not my perspective. In the world’s judgement, the meek of heart are silly doormats. This is not my judgment. In my view, the wise serve rather than demand service. From my perspective, the meek are more powerful than all the legions in the world. In my judgment, the wise know more than all the scholars of the world, and they are more loving in their gentle humility to me than all those who make false claim to wisdom.

phil 4-8Listen to Krista Tippet’s interview with Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Enriched by Difference and reflect on healing violence by finding God in the face of the stranger, and the choice that God sets before us each day at: https://onbeing.org/programs/enriched-difference-jonathan-sacks-2/

Enter the word humility in the blog search bar and reflect on the gentleness of this quality . . . and how we might learn to live in this gentleness.

Spend time with Philippians 4 today and reflect on the gentleness of wisdom. 


Images from: https://quotesthoughtsrandom.wordpress.com/tag/gentleness/ and http://www.amazon.com/Whatever-Is-True-Philippians-Vinyl/dp/B009Z4C6NG

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je suis charlieSaturday, January 15, 2022

Joy and Habakkuk

Questions

The prophets warn, threaten, exhort, and promise us that God is always present, even though we may not recognize this presence. The Old Testament prophecies foreshadow the good news of the New Testament, and they remind us that no matter our circumstance God’s joy rescues us from sure destruction, Christ’s joy redeems us from our recklessness, and the Spirit’s joy heals us despite the gravity of our wounds.  Today Habakkuk reminds us that too often our ways are not God’s ways.

“For what may be the first time in Israelite literature, a man questions the ways of God, as Habakkuk calls him to account for his government of the world”. God replies that he will send “a chastising rod, Babylon”. And God also replies with divine assurance the faithful will not perish. (Senior 1150)

God says: I know that my plan seems slow to you and I understand your impatience for my ways are not always your ways. My prophets deliver your anger, exasperation, and sorrow to me; and I hear your plaint. My prophets also deliver My Word to you. I walk among you as the man Jesus and although you may not see him he is with you all the same. The anger of Habakkuk has not dissolved . . . and nor has my love. Each time you throw your anger at me I return it to you transformed in and by and through love. I return it to you as the gift of love. Read the words of Habakkuk . . . and bring me your fears and desperation. Bring me your sorrow, your worries and your questions. In return, you have my answer . . . the gifts of my presence, mercy, rescue and love.

In this prophecy, it is difficult to find the joy we hope to experience.  How long, O Lord? I cry for help but you do not listen! I cry out to you “Violence!” but you do not intervene. (1:2)

In this prophecy, we hear the words that speak to human fear, suffering and frustration with the divine plan. I will stand at my guard post, and station myself upon the rampart, and keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what answer he will give to my complaint”. (2:1)

In this prophecy, we hear the Lord’s reply that we will want to hold close when pain and anxiety set in, when we wonder about the promise of God’s rescue and redemption. The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. (2:3-4)

In this prophecy, we pray with Habakkuk: God, my Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet swift as those of hinds and enables me to go upon the heights. (3:19)

In this prophecy . . . we have the eternal answers to our unrelenting questions.

Several years ago, after the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices, the nation of France prepared to welcome visitors from around the world to celebrate with joy in the face of enormous anger and grief. To learn more, click on the image above or go to: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/d0cc3eca-9943-11e4-be30-00144feabdc0.html#slide0

Or you want to visit: https://www.britannica.com/event/Charlie-Hebdo-shooting

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. 1150. Print.

joyIf this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urges you to investigate the New Testament, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right-hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar.

Image from: http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/d0cc3eca-9943-11e4-be30-00144feabdc0.html#slide0

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joyMonday, October 25, 2021

Judges 9

Joy and Conspiracy

Today we continue to visit with scripture to look for stories about joy that will surprise us in a variety of ways. If you want to explore other stories in which joy astounds us, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter the word Joy in the blog search bar. You may also want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com to see how joy surprises you there. Today our story is from the Book of Judges.

In today’s story we have a cast of characters, most of them vicious and all of them passionate. Jotham, Abimelech and Jerubbaal are prominent as we visit Shechem, Beth-millo and Mount Gerizim; yet, despite the unusual names and distant locations, this is a story that in many ways takes place in our own neighborhood. Today we read about fear, violence and conspiracy, and the unexpected hope that always accompanies us, even in the most dire of circumstances.

Mount Gerizim

Jotham escapes assassination and summits mount Gerizim to pronounce the tale of the trees that speaks truth in a way that even the hardest of hearts can understand. We may have heard this fable of the trees as children but if not, today we take the time to sit with it. We listen to the words from the olive, the fig, the vine and the bramble to see if we might hear them from the lips of friends, family or colleagues. Or perhaps we have uttered – or thought – these words ourselves. Perhaps we have experienced the violence we read about today in a very real, physical way; or perhaps we have suffered emotional trauma that has left its marks of damage on our hearts and minds. Whatever the case, we have something to learn. Joy is always present in the darkest of hours. Joy is always possible in the most evil of conspiracies. Joy is constantly with us in the presence of God.


For information on Mount Gerizim, visit: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/gerizim-mount 

Image from: https://virtualreligion.net/iho/gerizim.html  

For more about anxiety and joy, click on the joy image above or visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/ 

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Sunday, August 29, 2021

Francois-Joseph Navez: The Massacre of the Innocents

Francois-Joseph Navez: The Massacre of the Innocents

Jeremiah 31

Slaughter

In these tragic but beautiful verses Jeremiah laments the slaughter of innocents. Footnotes will tell us that “Ramah is a village about five miles north of Jerusalem, where Rachel was buried (1Sm 10, 2). Rachel: said to mourn for her children since she was the ancestress of Ephraim, the chief of the northern tribes. Mt 2, 18 applies this verse to the slaughter of the innocents by Herod”. (Senior cf. 988)

We know that Rachel refuses to be consoled because her children are no more. And we also know that the Lord replies: cease your cries of mourning, wipe the tears from your eyes. The sorrow you have sown will be its reward . . . they shall return from the enemy’s land. There is hope for your future.

In later verses Ephraim replies: I have come to myself, I strike my breast; I blush with shame, I bear the disgrace of my youth.

As we have observed in our Noontime reflections, not all suffering is a result of our actions, and it is a fact that much of the world’s pain is endured by innocents who have committed no wrong and have nothing to repent. Yet still slaughter and mayhem walk among us and we struggle to pray for those schemers who plot chaos. We rally ourselves to stand in solidarity with the faithful who witness to injustice. We keep vigil, we begin campaigns to change corruption, we witness, watch and wait, we petition God, we pray, we form support groups and action pacts, and and we hope for better outcomes.

Despite the fact that we believe there may be a genetic cause for much of the violence in society, science is a long way from understanding the intricate dance the human mind must perform in order to avoid admitting to the sociopathy of evil. In an interview with the author of Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight, M.E. Thomas tells Baltimore columnist and former talk show host Dan Rodricks about the frightening territory of those who observe or commit harm without remorse. The podcast is worth our listening time if we struggle with someone close to us who has little or no empathy for others.

Today Jeremiah tells us that slaughter will take place, and that mourning and wailing will have little effect on those among us who lack an emotional response to others. But he also tells us that amid the tears and pain there is always hope offered by the Living God who accompanies us in our exile. There is always mercy for those who suffer as there also is for those who cause turmoil and violence.  There is always the possibility to turn and return to God despite of, and even in the face of, a great slaughter.


Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.cf. 988.Print.   

For more on the anger gene, visit: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/code-rage-the-warrior-gene-makes-me-mad-whether-i-have-it-or-not/

To hear Dan Rodrick’s Midday podcast with M.E. Thomas, the author of Confessions of a Sociopath, go to: http://wypr.org/post/confessions-sociopath 

For another reflection on these verses, click on the image above or go to: http://signoftherose.org/2014/04/15/jeremiah-31-out-of-the-nightmare-a-dream-for-a-new-future/

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Sunday, July 4, 2021

Psalm 27:12

 Falsehood

Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and such as breathe out violence.

God says: You need not worry about the false statements uttered against you. Continue to follow the path of integrity. Remain on the path of The Way that my son has shown to you. Stay the honest course you have chosen in the Spirit. If the falsehood created about you has the hint of truth to it, change your ways. Come fully into the light and leave all deceit behind. You cannot outrun a lie. Nor can you hide from the truth. Rest in me. Rely on the Christ. Live in the Spirit. And you will find that you have no need to struggle. The falsehood begun against you will go home to roost with its creator . . . and the world will recognize the truth in you.

Enter the words the faithful need not fight into the blog search bar and reflect on how we might best work with falsehood.


Image from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BLW_Truth_and_Falsehood.jpg

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Monday, March 15, 2021

Amos 3-6

Words and Woes

Amos conveys the words of God in his prophecy. Put away black-and-white thinking. Step away from corruption and nepotism. Be open to transformation and redemption. Jesus arrives as the teacher who leads us away from dualism. He points out exploitation and favoritism.  He rescues and changes.

Amos shares the woes he sees. The ease with which violence creeps into our lives. The mourning that threatens to drag us into darkness. The worship of little gods and the turning away from the Living God. The Spirit comes to abide with us, easing the pain of loss, comforting those who are crushed, gathering the remnant into the Body of Christ.

Amos tells us that there is much more to life than ease and comfort, power and fame. Amos reminds us that our real life lies in how we treat one another and not in the accumulation of wealth or titles. Amos asks us to move out of the darkness and into the light.

Christ comes to teach us how to live The Way. Christ steps out to lead us, taking on corrupt structures and power bases. Christ lives in each of us, renewing, recalling, and patiently ministering to our fears, wants and anxieties.

These are the Words of God conveyed by Amos. Jesus lives as the Word of God, walking and healing as he moves among us.

These are the Woes of the world as seen by Amos. Jesus comes to live among us and to remind us that trust in God alone prevails over the deepest and worst violence.

As we continue to move through Lent, let us pause to consider if or how we trust the healing hands of Christ.

Tomorrow, a Lenten prayer for understanding.


For a fresh view of Amos’ prophecy visit: http://jasonsoroski.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/unqualifed-the-story-of-amos/

Image from: http://www.artnet.com/artists/james-smetham/the-call-of-the-prophet-amos-o79LEkNxDOXiMmVWrrBNCQ2 

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Friday, March 12, 2021

Prudence

Michael Whelan: Prudence

Amos 5:7-17

First Woe

You shall not live in the houses you fashion for yourself. You shall not drink of the wine from your vineyard. You have taken bribes and oppressed the just. Therefore, the prudent one is silent at this time.

Today Amos announces the first of three woes and he is quite clear about the consequences that will befall those who allow themselves to slide into corrupt and evil ways.

God says: You hear today about wailing and crying. This need not take place. You read about destruction and loss. This need not happen. You see images of evil against good. This need not be so. Put down your arms. Cease your self-defense. This is how we put an end to mourning and lament. Celebrate what is good in each of you. Cease judging. Praise what you find to be positive in both yourself and others and begin with that. The smallest ounce of goodness is ample space for me to gain a foothold in your heart. This woe is taken from your shoulders when you turn and return to me.

As we watch our evening news we see interviews with family members of those who have been murdered who choose diverging paths. Some want to exact revenge. Others are willing to forgive, knowing that revenge eats holes only in those who exact a price.

As we watch the evening news we see nations striking out at one another, seizing assets, prevaricating and stirring discord. We may think we gain anonymity when we hide in a crowd of millions or even billions and say nothing about injustice, and yet . . . God knows how willing we are to live in and for all that Christ teaches us.

Today we consider the images Amos brings to us, we examine our hearts and minds, and we consider . . .

Tomorrow, the second woe of Amos.


Michael Whelan images at: http://www.michaelwhelan.com/shop/reproductions/all-reproductions/prudence-2/

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