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Friday, July 30, 2021

Jeremiah 11

Jeremiah-29-11Of No Avail – A Reprise

We began our study of Jeremiah looking at Chapter 11 of this prophecy and today we return again to examine if we have gained insight from the prophet’s words. Have our efforts to understand sacrifice and suffering, gift and giving been of no avail?

Jeremiah tells his community – and us – that persecution comes to all, even to the innocent. He examines false and true shepherds, insincere and sincere relationships, and how we might maintain a solid connection with our creator despite the corrupting influences of the world. In these opening chapters, Jeremiah’s basic attitude centers on “the tender love of God as manifested in the covenant in the days of Moses”. Sin brings consequence; yet punishment can be purifying and transformative, even for the innocent who suffer at the hands of corrupt leaders. Jeremiah counters a sense of hopelessness with words of encouragement. (Senior RG 311)

Then the Lord alerts the faithful servant . . . A conspiracy has been found, the Lord said to me, among the men of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem. They have returned to the crimes of their forefathers who refused to obey my words. They have also followed and served strange new gods . . .

Jeremiah speaks aloud – and he suffers for this candor – words from the Creator: the leaders and the core of the Judaic society have turned away from the Living God who shepherded the Hebrew nation out of slavery and through the desert. It is no wonder that the prophet laments and yearns to remove himself from society to find refuge in a quiet desert lodge. And it is no wonder that the temple leadership begins to plot against this prophet.

What do we do when we find ourselves in a similar situation? We have seen corruption and named it. We have prayed and made sacrifice. We have remained part of the faithful remnant; and yet rather than experience reform instituted by leaders, we find ourselves struggling to survive ever-worsening circumstances. If we find ourselves besieged in this way, we do well to turn to this prophet.

We have begun our Jeremiah journey with reflections on how the innocent find strength, wisdom and patience to accompany the Living God whom their leaders have abandoned. In the coming weeks we continue our passage from transformative suffering to redemptive understanding. We accompany Jeremiah through his travail that culminates with the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem. We wend our way through difficult circumstances, anticipating the gift of hope in God’s plan for us, and looking to our Jeremiah Journey to bring us home.


Return to the Of No Avail or The Desert Lodge posts by entering the words into the bog search bar.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. RG 311. Print.

Image from: http://judeochristianchurch.com/jeremiah-2911/

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Friday, July 16, 2021

Ruth 3

Naomi and RuthChesed Part IV – Ruth Presents Herself

The story of Ruth is a story with characters who “are presented as models who live faithful to the spirit of the covenant even in the difficult situations of life”. (Senior RG 141) It is believed to be a true story and is best read with notes in order to understand the plight of Naomi and her daughter-in-law, the customs of land ownership, the Levirate marriage contract, the tradition of allowing widows to glean food from a harvested field, the remarkable strength of Ruth’s fidelity to her mother-in-law, and the noble loyalty of Boaz who is drawn to Ruth’s kindness and piety. As we have investigated this story, we have thought about how God moves and works through people, is ever faithful and always at hand. Today we can focus on the last verse of chapter 3 when Naomi says to Ruth, “Wait here, my daughter, for the man will not rest, but will settle the matter today”. These words describe true integrity, true honesty, true clarity, and true holiness. This man will not rest until he settles a matter of honor – and he will do this before the sun sets. This man will not let anything stand in the way of doing what he knows he is called to do. This man sets aside his own humanity to do the will of the divine. Again from the Readers’ Guide page RG 145: “The double meaning [of the word for feet or genitals in Hebrew] may be intended to rouse the interest of the audience, ‘to raise a few eyebrows,’ only to show that the unusual steps taken by Ruth [and recommended by Naomi] do not end up in an illicit sexual union, but reveal the honorable character of Boaz. He does not take advantage of Ruth, but agrees to take the necessary steps to marry her. He ensures her reputation is not ruined and sends her away with six measures of barley”.

The marriage of these two honorable people results in the birth of a child, Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David, the ancestor of Jesus. It is the beautiful story of how people who respond to God’s call can transform tragedy into something blessed and holy. It is also the story of God’s constant presence in our lives as we accompany one another, share our grief, and move toward the light of truth. The action begins with emptiness which is reversed by the end of the tale. “The emptiness of the land (famine) causes Naomi to leave the land. The emptiness of the land gives way to the emptiness of Naomi in the loss first of husband and then sons. Naomi dismisses her daughters-in-law because her ‘emptiness’ cannot be cured . . .” And so she returns home so that she will not be a widow in a foreign place, but not alone. Ruth follows her. Back in Bethlehem, Naomi who finds herself empty of everything that previously had meaning, says the words in 3:18. She recognizes the goodness in Boaz and Ruth and she supports the young woman who waits for the man of integrity to do what he must do to claim her as his wife. Blessings and graces follow.

And so we pray . . .

Good and generous God, make us instruments of your work as were Naomi, Ruth and Boaz. Send us the words to say, the acts to perform, the prayers to raise as we enter the difficult situations of life and the pockets of emptiness around us. Send us your word that we may do your work to bring joy out of mourning. We ask this as always in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Image from: http://www.reformedchristianity.org/virtues/friendship/1659-ruth-and-naomi.html

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 141. Print.

Adapted from a favorite written on August 31, 2007.

 

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Thursday, July 15, 2021

Ruth 4

Ary Scheffer: Naomi and Ruth

Ary Scheffer: Naomi and Ruth

Chesed – Part III

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. 

This is a beautiful story about women, a happy story about what marriage is meant to be. It is also a story about constancy, fidelity, perseverance, family, ancestry, and a deep abiding love which puts the other before self. It is an image of how we might be with, and in and through Christ. It is a metaphor for the relationship we have already been gifted by our creator.

This is not a long book and still it is saturated with imagery and peopled by characters worthy of any Jane Austen novel or Shakespearean play. “The book of Ruth . . . is one of the most beautiful pieces of literature in the Bible.  The plot revolves around family relationships . . . and the role each member plays in fulfilling the needs of other members and hence the family as a whole”. (Meeks 408)

Some of us have families we might turn to; others of us do not. Some of us are born into clans that suffocate us and so we strike out on our own to build community; others find themselves in a large caring tribe that lets no one fall behind during the trek. All of us are born into the family of God and in this family there will be Naomis, and Ruths and Boazes: people who know the value of “loyalty of faithfulness arising from commitment” which in the Hebrew community is known as chesed. Naomi guides her widowed daughters-in-law (women without men were less than human in this era). Ruth abides with Naomi to share whatever destiny comes to them. Boaz preserves both the family inheritance and individual family members in a respectful and considerate way. All three understand the importance to continuity and to the fulfillment of a pledge at cost to self. (Meeks 408) All three listen for and to God. All three find a way to follow God, to preserve legacy, and to further a lineage that produces the Messiah of the human race. And all of this without accepting abuse or losing self.

We might spend some time today with this story and with our own reflection on how we embody chesed as we weave our lives. Do we respect the traditions of the clan? Do we provide for and abide with those who are marginalized? Do we do what is just and merciful even when this may be painful? Do we gather in the harvest at the expense of others? Do we leave the gleanings for those who have none and protect them as they forage? Do we listen for the voice that calls us to strange lands and yet abides? Do we intentionally commit our own acts of chesed? And if so . . . what are they?


For more information on the beautiful story of Naomi and Ruth, click on the image above or go to: http://www.womeninthebible.net/paintings_ruth.htm

Adapted from a Favorite written on October 1, 2009.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Ruth 2

Chesed – Part II

The story of Ruth, Naomi and Boaz is a tale about family, integrity, honor, honesty and fidelity. It is also about God’s providence and love; and it is about returning to the covenant relationship we have with God that is marked by “loyalty of faithfulness arising from commitment” which in the Hebrew community is known as chesed. (Meeks 408) If there is time this weekend, read this story from beginning to end. It will warm your heart.

“The book contains a beautiful example of filial piety . . . Its aim is to demonstrate the divine reward for such piety even when practiced by a stranger . . . [Ruth] became the ancestress of David and of Christ. In this, the universality of the messianic salvation is foreshadowed”. (Senior 278)

Today we enter the drama at the point where Ruth, the stranger in this land of the one living God, goes for the first time to glean what she can so that she and her mother-in-law might survive. It is when she is in the field gathering the leftovers that she meets Boaz for the first time. Keeping in mind that a widow in ancient society was considered a burden rather than an asset, we see how well Boaz treats her. He does not take advantage of her diminished status; rather, he seeks to support and protect her from the impure, unwanted – yet legal – advances of others. He cautions her to glean only in his fields, and he warns off the men who work for him, making certain – as much as he is able – that Ruth might gather enough to support herself and her mother-in-law. He even allows her to glean among the sheaves themselves rather than just the edges of the field. It is clear that he is taken by Ruth yet he does not take advantage of her. In subsequent chapters Boaz fulfills all honor obligations so that he might marry Ruth according to the law and tradition of the time. So we see that “Ruth’s piety . . . her spirit of self-sacrifice, and her moral integrity were favored by God with the gift of faith and an illustrious marriage”. (Senior 278) But first she was widowed, followed her widowed mother-in-law to a new land, and set about doing what she might so that they both might survive.

Ruth does what she must, given what she is given. Ruth gleans where God sends her and in so doing, she harvests more than the ephahs of barley that she takes home to Naomi; she becomes the mother of Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David, king of the Jews. Ruth appears in Jesus’ genealogy: Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. (Matthew 1:5).

In the times when we feel widowed, abandoned or alone . . .

In the times when we feel the overpowering burden of providing for self or others . . .

In the times when we feel that we have arrived in a foreign land with new traditions and customs . . .

In the times that we feel exhausted from the gleaning we have done for endless days . . .

Let us remember the goodness and wisdom of Naomi . . .

Let us remember the integrity and protection of Boaz . . .

Let us remember the piety and self-sacrifice of Ruth . . .

And let us remember the merciful justice, the guidance, and the love of the Lord. For these are the things that save.


Meeks, Wayne A., Gen. Ed. HARPERCOLLINS STUDY BIBLE (NRSV). New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1989. 404. Print.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.278. Print.

Adapted from a reflection written on May 18, 2010.

Image from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Julius_Schnorr_von_Carolsfeld-_Ruth_im_Feld_des_Boaz.jpg

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wisdom characterTuesday, June 15, 2021

Ecclesiastes 14:20-15:10

Achievement

Every achievement rots away and perishes, and with it goes the author.

This is difficult for us to hear.

Happy the one who meditates on wisdom, and reasons with good sense, who studies her ways in the heart, and ponders her secrets.

This is news we will want to take in.

Happy the one who pursues wisdom like a hunter, and lies in wait by her path; happy the one who peeps in at her windows, and listens at her doors, the one who lodges close to her house and fixes pegs on her walls.

This is advice we will want to ponder.

Happy the one who pitches a tent in wisdom’s shade, and camps beneath her branches; this one is sheltered from the heat, and in her glory this one makes a home.

We will want to consider where we dwell and think about where we hang our coat.

Whoever is in awe of the Lord will act like this, and whoever grasps the Law will have wisdom. She will come to meet this one like a mother, she will receive this one like a virgin bride.

We will want to consider where and if we have wisdom and if the wisdom we claim brings us peace.

Wisdom will give her children the bread of understanding and water to drink. The one who leans on wisdom will not fall or be put to shame. Wisdom raises us above our neighbors and opens our mouths when we stand before the assembly. Fools and sinners will not have possession of wisdom or even set their eyes upon her. Wisdom stands remote from pride, and liars cannot call her forth. Praise is unseemly in a sinner’s mouth, since it is not put there by the Lord. For praise should be uttered in wisdom since that is when the Lord calls it forth.

wisdom specsWisdom comes not from achievement, power, wealth or influence. True wisdom comes from God alone and she cannot be purchased, coerced or manipulated. Today we learn that the source of wisdom is no mystery. Once we find her . . . let us do all that we can to remain in her. For this is an achievement that will never fail.

 


Images from: http://jovisgoes.com/category/wisdom/ and http://www.unlearning101.com/fuhgetaboutit_the_art_of_/2010/01/three-powerful-quotes-on-wisdom.html

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paths 12Easter Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Matthew 13:1-11

So Many Paths – Part II

How many ways are there to live a life? How many paths of wisdom lead to God? How many times are we called to modify, change or persevere in our chosen journey? Only a close and intimate conversation with God will bring us the answers we seek.

Some journeys look impossible. They are full of traps, and barren of sustenance. We become exhausted just thinking of how we might prepare to travel such a pathway. The heights are dizzying. The precipices terrifying. We begin our journey with downcast eyes and laden heart. We are too frightened to think about the future. When this happens, let us consider that the stony way may be more difficult but that Christ will be all the more present for God knows the treacheries that lurk along the way. The Spirit knows full well that we will tire, that we will seek refuge in a hostile land. And let us consider that when we journey with God, there are always tools available – although we may not see them.

Some seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil . . . it withered for lack of roots.

path 14Some of us travel with blessings abundant. We have few fears, light hearts, and a song in our soul. Yet there is a danger hiding here that we begin to think that we alone are responsible for our good fortune. When this happens, let us be certain to spend time with God each day. Let us give thanks for the abundance of God’s grace. And let us celebrate and share the blessings God has bestowed on us.

Some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.

paths 7

Sometimes our journey is a déjà vu of experiences. We know the subtle changes before they take place. We anticipate the loops and curls and we struggle to untangle a series of events that feel all too familiar. We fight to orient ourselves. We wonder how we might move forward rather than spend endless time moving back and forth. When this happens, let us remember to turn to Christ with our questions and fears. Let us consider that God always provides refuge in any storm. And let us celebrate the goodness and love of God.

The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to us in parables?”

 

paths 10

Some journeys are shrouded in mystery; we find it impossible to see ahead. Even when we plan well, when we spend time with God, when we do all that God asks of us . . . nothing seems to work until . . . we finally realize that trust is the only necessary commodity we need take on our journey. When this happens, we understand how and where to find peace. We begin to understand that serenity cannot be earned. We see the wisdom of allowing ourselves to fall into Christ’s arms rather than flail against our journey for a lifetime.

Jesus said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted”.

And so we pray: Good and gracious God, we trust you with all that we have and all that we are.

Kind and gentle Jesus, we follow you when we cannot see and cannot hear.

Abiding and faithful Spirit, we lean on you, we rely on you, we look to you for all that we need. Amen.


Tomorrow, So Many Paths – Part III

Images from: https://www.joe-ks.com/2012/amazing-paths

 

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Tuesday, March 16, 2021

John 14:26-27

holy-spirit-dove[1]Prayer for Understanding

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  (John 14:26-27)

We crave to be heard and understood yet all the while God’s counsel is before us. As we continue our Lenten journey with the prophet Amos, let us listen for the wisdom sent to us on the wings of the Spirit.

First Word: Put away black-and-white thinking. May we learn to see both sides of every story, listen to both hearts in every argument. Holy Spirit, bring us your counsel.

Second Word: Step away from corruption and nepotism. May we have the courage grapple with dishonesty in ourselves and others. Holy Spirit, bring us your fortitude.

images[9]Third Word: Be open to transformation and redemption. May we be open to the healing presence of God. Holy Spirit, nurture in us a loving awe of the Lord.

First Woe: Be wary of the ease with which violence creeps into our lives. May we grow to understand how violence insinuates itself into our lives. Holy Spirit, send us deep and lasting wisdom.

Second Woe: Be prepared for deep mourning that threatens to drag us into darkness. May we grow in faithfulness and devotion to God. Holy Spirit, instill in us fidelity and piety.

Third Woe: Turn away from your worship of little gods and turn toward the Living God. May we grow in our awareness of false teachers and preachers. Holy Spirit, engender in us deep knowledge of God’s ways.

holy spirit image[1]We crave to be heard and understood; let us listen for God’s Word . . . and let us ask for understanding of the world’s Woes. Let us give thanks to God’s prophet Amos who speaks to us today.  As we continue our Lenten journey, let us pause to listen . . . to reflect . . . and to pray, in Jesus’s name, and in unity with the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


For more information and images of the Holy Spirit, click on the images above.

For more on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, including a link to a more in-depth discussion, go to: http://catholicism.about.com/od/beliefsteachings/f/FAQ_Gifts_HS.htm  

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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Cows of Bashan and Mount Hermon

Cows of Bashan and Mount Hermon

Amos 4

Second Word

Amos delivers God’s word to the priests in Bethel for a year and when he is rejected he returns to his shepherding work. He speaks to the Israel nation about their lack of fidelity. And he reminds us of how we can turn back to God and the covenant once we discover that we have again fallen under the spell of the pagan gods of fame, money, influence and power. Amos reminds us that there is always redemption. Restoration is always possible.

God says: In this time of Lent I call you to examine your conscience and you perform this scrutiny well. You are aware of all that you do when you allow yourself to be honest. You know where and how to return to me when you allow yourself a bit of quiet and a dose of truth. So put your worries and fears aside for your renovation already lies within you. Your recovery from all that plagues you is already in your body, mind and soul. All that needs happen is that you note what you do, that you put aside your pagan gods, and that you turn and return to me. Uprightness lives in you through me. Do what you must to nourish the integrity that dwells in you. This is the Second Word that comes from me through my prophet Amos.

In our modern society we are not much different from our ancient ancestors despite our science and technology; the very real temptation to become Cows of Bashan is as keen and alluring today as it was millennia ago; yet we know that life is more than we see before us.  And so we still yearn for union.  We still seek wisdom and peace.  We are still vessels of the Spirit that creates us. God still dwells within . . . waiting to transform and rescue us.

Tomorrow, Third Word.


For information about Bashan, click on the image above or go to: http://www.bibleplaces.com/golanheights.htm

For another Noontime reflection on Amos 4:1-2, enter the words The Cows of Bashan into the blog search bar and explore.

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Second Sunday in Lent, February 28, 2021

Psalm 94psalm-94-18-19[1]

Our Interior Law – Part IV

Blessed the one you instruct, O Lord.

We ask for wisdom so that we might discern your law that lives within each of us.

Blessed the one whom you instruct, O Lord, whom by your law you teach, giving them rest from evil days. Blessed the one you instruct, O Lord.

We look for peace in our turbulent days so that we must rest with you as we move through our days.

For the Lord will not cast off God’s people, nor abandon God’s inheritance; but judgment will be with justice, and all the upright of heart will follow it. Blessed the one you instruct, O Lord.

We look for integrity and uprightness so that we might live out the Gospel as Jesus teaches us.

When I say, “My foot is slipping,” your mercy, O Lord, sustains me; when cares abound within me, your comfort gladdens my soul. Blessed the one you instruct, O Lord.

We look for compassion and forgiveness so that we might live the love the Spirit inspires in each of us.

Blessed the one you instruct, O Lord.

We tap into our interior law, knowing that it always leads us in the best direction, understanding that it flourishes at the best of God’s time, and believing that it nourishes and sustains each of us and all of us.

Blessed the one you instruct, O Lord.

Jesus says, “Do you not yet understand or comprehend?  Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?” They answered him, “Twelve.” “When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?”  They answered him, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”  (Mark 8:17-21)

God’s love is far greater than we can imagine and far more durable than we can believe.  And this is God’s law of love.  There is always love in abundance . . . forever. Blessed are those who see and hear. Blessed are those who allow God to soften hearts. Blessed are those who believe that God’s law lives within.

Blessed the one you instruct, O Lord.


Image from: http://shareaverse.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/comfort-3/psalm-94-18-19/ 

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