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Posts Tagged ‘violence’


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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2 Maccabees 13: The Fire Tower

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Ruins at Shiraz: a city in ancient Persia

Upheaval in the Middle East seems to be a human curse.  It is a land over which many civilizations – both ancient and modern – have fought, and continue to fight.  Today’s Noontime reading is as brutal as any modern headline.  Intrigue, slaughter, deception, parlay, betrayal, treaty, treason, murder, truce, assault, skirmish, daring, withdrawal, indignation, victory, defeat, and death – we find all of these in today’s story.  We find persuasion but we do not find peace.  We see wrangling but we do not see union.  We read about standoffs and stand-downs but we do not find true coming together.  In this ancient story we might change a few details and find ourselves reading a press release from our favored news source about the conflagration that is the Middle East.

Old tribal fears and alliances govern the lives of those we read about today.  Compromise is often seen as a weakness.  Honesty is employed only by the foolish.  Integrity is not valued.  And love of enemy is regarded as idiotic.  We also find these clannish tendencies in our own culture despite the fact that we may define ourselves as a mosaic or melting pot or amalgam of ethnicity and customs.  Even in our own modern political arena we have the smoking infernos that resemble the fire towers of ancient Persia that we read about here.  We will want to study this story in the hope that when we recognize it as our own . . . we will know to turn back to the God who calls us forward together . . . rather than follow the little gods who doom us to our own fiery tower and smoldering pit of ash.

Ahura Mazda

Commentary tells us that the tower we see in verse 5 resembles those erected to Ahura Mazda, or the Wise Lord, who “was the supreme deity of Persian mythology. The Zoroastrians identified him with purifying fire and tended fires on towers as part of their worship”.  (“Myth Encyclopedia”)  And this leads us to our examination of conscience today as we continue our Lenten journey.  What fiery towers to self do we erect?  Into what smoldering ash pits do we lead ourselves and others?  How do we react to tribalism and the worship of false deities?  Do we hate or love our enemies?  Do we prefer the fire of self destruction to the salvific love of Christ?  Do we seek comfort in our hope to avoid suffering rather than willingly follow the living God whose only focus is our salvation?Today’s narrative is so violent that we might pass it off as an episode in ancient history that deserves only a moment of our time.  We might also see it as sectarian violence that takes place only in far off places on the other side of the ocean.  We might fool ourselves into thinking that there is nothing here for us to learn.  And in this thinking we evade God’s word to us today for when we look closely we can find ourselves.  As we enter into interactions with family, friends, colleagues, neighbors and strangers we see all the characters of our intimate and public lives: the invader versus the defender, charioteers who ride swiftly through our days swinging swords and mahouts who seat unmoving elephants in our path, foot soldiers who obey and distant leaders who reign over the lowly, Jews and Gentiles, pagans and believers, rebels and loyalists.  We brush against these people each day as we move from sun up to sun down, and through it all we have only one question to ask ourselves.Do we throw ourselves from the fiery tower we have built to the gods that have become so important to us that we foolishly take part in daily scenarios that we read about today . . . or do we love our enemies despite the ash pits they build . . . do we ask for peace through our own actions and not just our words . . . and do we love the Living God who saves us more than the tumult of war? 


A re-post from February 25, 2012.

Images from: http://www.infohub.com/vacation_packages/26382.html and and http://history.factoidz.com/mysteries-of-the-persian-empire-the-faith-of-zarathustra/

Read more: Persian Mythology – Myth Encyclopedia – Greek, god, legend, names, ancient, war, world, Roman, creation http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Pa-Pr/Persian-Mythology.html#ixzz1nPJV2ALp  “Persian Mythology.” Myth Encyclopedia. Advameg, Inc., n.d. Web. 25 Feb 2012. 

http://www.usccb.org/bible/2maccabees/13/

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Joshua 12: Conquered Kings

Thursday, April 4, 2019. 

A re-post from Holy Week 2012. 

Ancient Canaanites

I sometimes wonder what life was really like for leaders in the ancient world.  It was such a violent and predatory place and much time and energy were spent merely surviving.  This is still true for many in our modern world in which focus on survival is necessary in order to see the next day’s dawning.  In today’s Noontime we read a roll call of the vanquished along with a description of the division of conquered lands.  Conquest is marked by neat categories; there is no evidence of the horrific jumbled chaos that is war. These verses make the telling of this list so orderly and so tidy that we might think that Joshua and his men performed this work without much personal cost or effort.  We would be wrong.

This territory had belonged to the Hittites, the Amorites, Canaanites and others.  A series of city-states falls, their kings are vanquished: Jericho, Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, and more.  With a quick reading it might appear the subjugated are nameless, faceless peoples.  If this is our impression, again we would be wrong.

This kind of struggle never comes without a cost, and it comes as part of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abram in Genesis 15.  He was to have descendants that numbered as stars in the night sky, and these descendants were to inhabit a land that would be delivered with the help of God.

The twelve tribes use violence as they take over the mountains and foothills, deserts, slopes and rivers of this promised place.  Several thousand years later, Jesus arrives to tell his people that this way of violence is over, that now they are to deliver another cheek to an attacker rather than another blow.  He brings the strange message that rather than pray for our friends alone, we are to intercede for our enemies.  We can see how bizarre this thinking must have seemed to a people who had won what they had through the spilling of blood.  We can see how the message will seem strange to us today.

Our question on this Holy Wednesday is this . . . As we go through our days, moving toward the promises made to us by God, do we take care with how we move and why . . . and do we use Old Testament ways or New Testament thinking . . . do we resort to the weapons of violence, or do we use the tools of peace?


For more information on the many tribes cited in Genesis and Joshua, go to:http://biblos.com/ and search the dictionary, encyclopedia, atlas or other resources on this site.  

Image from: http://heavenawaits.wordpress.com 

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Judges 5: God’s Yardstick – Deborah

Canticle of Fidelity

Deborah the Prophetess

Deborah the Prophetess

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The book of Judges is the part of the Bible saga where we see a fledgling nation forming.  The twelve tribes have survived the rigors of their years of desert wanderings, following the pillar of fire and smoke which protects them.  Joshua has led them into the land promised to them and they have secured a foothold where a kingdom will be established.  A series of judges, or heroes, will rise up to gather the people to remind them that Yahweh has promised land, kingdom and blessing . . . and that they, God’s people, owe their creator fidelity, loyalty and obedience.  This is the covenant they have entered into.

The context for these stories is “Holy War” and close reading of Judges, in which so much war is waged, tells us that we are called to cooperate with God’s plan and providence rather than serve our own small agendas. The whole point of this part of the story is to stay the course, but it must be God’s course and not our own.  The forces of darkness cannot stand up to the perseverance, the innocence and the trust of the faithful.  Deborah does this well.

Artemisia Gentileschi: Jael and Sisera

Artemisia Gentileschi: Jael and Sisera

In the preceding chapter we see this prophetess sitting under her palm tree delivering just decisions to the people.  We also see Jael, wife of Heber, lure the enemy Sisera into her tent to kill him with a tent peg to the temple.  Jael kills this enemy because Yahweh has ordained it as spoken through Deborah; and we find that these tribes fight off the pagan peoples any way they can; always consulting with Yahweh before going into battle.  In these ancient times, the struggle to survive dominated all aspects of life and we see a good deal of brutal interaction.  Yet is our interaction any less brutal today?

Deborah judges the tribes during the period of time which coincides with political unrest following the death of Ramses II in Egypt.  The time of transition proves difficult for these people who struggle not only against the pagan nations that surround  them, but also with conflict among the tribes.  David will unite these people into a true political and spiritual kingdom, and hoos son Solomon will erect a Temple which speaks to the fame of this people and their God.

Deborah leads well because she listenes well when she speaks with God each day and it is against this voice, this measuring stick that she measures her own life. We will want to follow her example of fidelity as we struggle against the violence that surrounds us.

Adapted from a reflection written on November 18, 2007.

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Judith 13: God’s Yardstick – Judith

Fidelity’s Gift

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Caravaggio: Judith Beheading Holofernes (detail)

Caravaggio: Judith Beheading Holofernes (detail)

In these opening days of a new year, we look for ways to better see God’s yardstick in our lives, and for ways to leave the world’s yardstick behind.

When we explore different versions of Judith 13 we find these quiet clues that will lead us to a deeper understanding of these verses.

They were all overcharged with wine. Douay-Rheims 1899

Judith stood by Holofernes’ bed and prayed silently, O Lord, God Almighty, help me with what I am about to do for the glory of Jerusalem. Good News Translation

O Lord, God of all might, in this hour look graciously on the work of my hands for the exaltation of Jerusalem. Now is the time for aiding your heritage and for carrying out my design to shatter the enemies who have risen against us. New American Bible Revised Edition

Judith was left alone in the tent, with Holofernes stretched out on his bed, for he was dead drunk. New Revised Standard Version

Judith’s victory will represent a contradiction of the gentle, persistent love of Mary, Hannah, Anne and Elizabeth; it is a stark contrast to the New Testament Law of Love that Jesus brings to us. So how do we make sense of Judith’s story? Is the violence we find here the foundational reason that this book is considered by some a parable in which Judith is a metaphor for Israel? Do the anachronisms we find in this story mean that is it an ancient historical novel rather than an inspired text? Has Judith been laid aside by many with a disdain for women figuring as powerful and clever? Read this chapter along with Judith’s victory in Chapter 15 and decide how to best consider Judith. Decide how or if she represents God’s yardstick. What does her fidelity to God through prayer and deed mean for us today?

Caravaggio: Judith beheading Holofernes

Caravaggio: Judith beheading Holofernes

For more reflections on this woman and the impact her story might have on us, enter her name into the blog search bar and explore, or go to the Judith – Sublime Faith, Heroic Love page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/the-old-testament/the-historical-books/judith-sublime-faith-heroic-love/ If there is time over the next few days, read her entire story and reflect on God’s yardstick in Judith’s life. Click on the images above to explore other ideas. 

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yellow heart

Psalms 11 and 12: Prayer Against Arrogance

Sunday, November 15, 2015

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. 

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