Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Friday, June 17, 2005

Worker of Wonders

Daily Readings
Ecclesiastes 4 + Judges 13 + Tobit 2 + Mark 3

Quote of the Day
When the table was set for me and an abundance of food placed before me, I said to my son Tobias, “Go, my child, and bring whatever poor person you may find of our people among the exiles in Nineveh, who is wholeheartedly mindful of God, and he shall eat together with me. I will wait for you, until you come back. Tobit 2:2

Daily Text: Judges 13:1-5, 9, 19-23
The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD gave them into the hand of the Philistines forty years. 2There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. His wife was barren, having borne no children. 3And the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, "Although you are barren, having borne no children, you shall conceive and bear a son. 4Now be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, or to eat anything unclean, 5for you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor is to come on his head, for the boy shall be a nazirite to God from birth. It is he who shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines." 9God listened to Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman as she sat in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her. 19So Manoah took the kid with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the LORD, to him who works wonders. 20When the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar while Manoah and his wife looked on; and they fell on their faces to the ground. 21The angel of the LORD did not appear again to Manoah and his wife. Then Manoah realized that it was the angel of the LORD. 22And Manoah said to his wife, "We shall surely die, for we have seen God." 23But his wife said to him, "If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these."

Lectio What one word or phrase from the Daily Text leaps out at you? ‘Comment’ below.

Worker of Wonders
The woman has the visit from the envoy of the LORD, not her husband. This follows Deborah’s pattern and later that of Hannah and again with Mary. The God of Israel does not seem to be prejudiced against speaking with women, though Manoah is obviously jealous. So he prays, rather timidly, and the angel of the LORD honors his request and returns—to his wife! When Manoah discovers the angel can go up in flames and not be consumed, the angel whose name is beyond understanding, he realizes that he has seen the LORD. Now he is fearful that he will die. I love the practicality of this woman, his wife. She responds dryly, “If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering…or shown us all these things…” [vs. 23]. The LORD knew to whom she should appear.

Even so Manoah and his wife are not the central characters here. The LORD is. The One who works wonders does so, not by appearing and disappearing rather miraculously, but by providing a savior for God’s people. It is this regular intrusion into human history with loving intention that marks the One who works wonders.

Meditatio What would you add to this commentary on the Daily Text? ‘Comment’ below.

The Wife of Manoah to Her Husband
John Greenleaf Whittier
1807-1892

Against the sunset’s glowing wall
The city towers rise black and tall,
Where Zorah, on its rocky height,
Stands like an armed man in the light.

Down Eshtaol’s vales of ripened grain
Falls like a cloud the night amain,
And up the hillsides climbing slow
The barley reapers homeward go.

Look, dearest! How our fair child’s head
The sunset light hath hallowèd,
Where at this olive’s foot he lies,
Uplooking to the tranquil skies.

Oh, while beneath the fervent heat
Thy sickle swept the bearded wheat,
I’ve watched with mingled joy and dread,
Our child upon his grassy bed.

Joy, which the mother feels alone
Whose morning hope like mine had flown,
When to her bosom, over-blessed,
A dearer life than hers is pressed.

Dread, for the future dark and still,
Which shapes our dear one to its will;
Forever in his large calm eyes,
I read a tale of sacrifice.

The same foreboding awe I felt
When at the altar’s side we knelt,
And he, who as a pilgrim came,
Rose, winged and glorious, through the flame.

I slept not, though the wild bees made
A dreamlike murmuring in the shade,
And on me the warm-fingered hours
Pressed with the drowsy smell of flowers.

Before me, in a vision, rose
The hosts of Israel’s scornful foes,--
Rank over rank, helm, shield, and spear,
Glittered in noon’s hot atmosphere

I heard their boast and bitter word,
Their mockery of the Hebrew’s Lord;
I saw their hands His ark assail,
Their feet profane His holy veil.

No angel down the blue space spoke,
No thunder from the still sky broke;
But in their midst, in power and awe,
Like God’s waked wrath, our child I saw!

A child no more!—harsh-browed and strong,
He towered a giant in the throng,
And down his shoulders, broad and bare,
Swept the black terror of his hair.

He raised his arm—he smote again;
As round the reaper falls the grain,
So the dark host around him fell,
So sank the foes of Israel!

Again I looked. In sunlight shone
The towers and domes of Askelon;
Priest, warrior, slave, a mighty crowd
Within her idol temple bowed.

Yet one knelt not; stark, gaunt, and blind,
His arms the massive pillars twined,--
An eyeless captive, strong with hate,
He stood there like an evil Fate.

The red shrines smoked,--the trumpets pealed:
He stooped,--the giant columns reeled;
Reeled tower and fane, sank arch and wall,
And the thick dust-cloud closed o’er all!


Above the shriek, the crash, the groan
Of the fallen pride of Askelon,
I heard, sheer down the echoing sky,
A voice as of an angel cry,--

The voice of him, who at our side
Sat through the golden eventide;
Of him who, on thy altar’s blaze,
Rose fire-winged, with his song of praise.

“Rejoice o’er Israel’s broken chain,
Gray mother of the mighty slain!
Rejoice!” it cried, “he vanquisheth!
The strong in life is strong in death!

“To him shall Zorah’s daughters raise
Through coming years their hymns of praise
And gray old men at evening tell
Of all he wrought for Israel.

“And they who sing and they who hear
Alike shall hold thy memory dear,
And pour their blessings on thy head,
O mother of the mighty dead!”

It ceased; and though a sound I heard
As if great wings the still air stirred,
I only saw the barley sheaves
And hills half hid by olive leaves.

I bowed my face, in awe and fear,
On the dear child who slumbered near;
“With me, as with my only son,
O God,” I said, “Thy will be done!”
411:141

(Alternative poem? Include under ‘comment’ below.)

Oratio Conspire to respond with an act of kindness for someone you encounter today. Make it loving, low key and low risk. Hold a door, clean a car, give a flower, notice the unnoticed, make Christ’s love real. Write your experience below under ‘Comment.’

Contemplatio Enjoy what God is doing through you.

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