Gospel Reflection for August 30, 2015, 22nd Sunday Ordinary Time

25 Aug

Sunday Readings: Deuteronomy 4.1-2, 6-8; James 1.17-18, 21-22, 27; Mark 7.1-8, 14-15, 21-23

“Nothing that enters a person from outside can make a person impure; it is the things that come out that defile.  It is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come.”

(Mark 7.18-21)

Every generation has to discern which traditions are life-giving and which are no longer helping us become holy.  What traditions come from God and what are simply human rules?  In Sunday’s gospel Jesus is breaking down the wall of the law that protects Jewish identity.  He declares all foods clean and insists laws that last must lead to the praise and glory of God and justice and peace toward neighbor.

What rule do you practice that keeps you open to God and neighbor?  What is the most life-giving rule you learned in your family?

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Seeking Wisdom

21 Aug
Photo via Flickr user Andy Rennie

Photo via Flickr user Andy Rennie

We’re working through Proverbs the fall, and the planning this summer has been really fun. Proverbs is a book that focuses on the everyday life. How do we proceed today? How can we build a life that is pleasing to God?

We’re focusing on seeking wisdom as a way to get closer to God. I’m excited for our community to commit to intentionally seeking wisdom together. There is value in the seeking, and life in what we find. There is an inherent humility implied in seeking wisdom, yet there is also hopeful action.

By reading and studying Proverbs together, we are turning toward Scripture in our wisdom seeking, but we are not stopping there. We’re using poetry, like Wild Geese by Mary Oliver, as a call to worship that nods to the world outside of the church that is seeping with wisdom. We’re encouraging each other to share ideas on where and how to seek wisdom. I love how the Catholic Church encourages us to seek wisdom in Scripture, Tradition, and out in the world. The world that God created has so much to teach us. And each of us, also created by God, are going to enjoy seeking wisdom in different ways.

When we asked congregation members how they seek wisdom, here are some of the answers we got:

  1. Read the Bible
  2. Seek out experts
  3. Experiment with something new, being willing to fail and start more intelligently
  4. Ask for a slice of wisdom via prayer
  5. Be still, away from distractions, and think
  6. Listen to someone else’s (potentially valuable and unique) perspective on something
  7. List what you don’t know now that you used to think you knew to keep you honest and seeking
  8. Find a good source of information (parent, grandparent, etc.) and ask them the hard questions
  9. Giggle with a child
  10. Walk through the woods
  11. Read a really good smelling book
  12. Listen to classical music
  13. Ask worldly people questions they find interesting to answer
  14. Allow the sound and rhythm of your breath to calm you
  15. Hold a newborn

How do you seek wisdom? I’d love more ideas as I commit to trying a few of these ideas with my eyes and heart open to receiving God’s wisdom.

Gospel Reflection for August 23, 2015, 21st Sunday Ordinary Time

19 Aug

Sunday Readings: Joshua 24.2-3, 15-17, 18; Ephesians 5.21-32; John 6.60-69

“Many of his disciples were listening to Jesus’ teaching.  They said, ‘This teaching is difficult.  How can anyone take it seriously'”?

(John 6.60)

Jesus’ disciples face a choice.  Will they stay with him or drift off with the crowds?  The long reflection on Jesus as the bread of life becomes increasingly challenging to believe, especially the way John’s gospel pushes the literalness of the image.  “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life.”  This is part of last Sunday’s gospel.  This is the difficult teaching.  Their reaction invites us into the dizzying experience of realizing that like them, we have taken Jesus’ words too literally rather than sacramentally.  In John’s gospel Jesus often makes statements that hearers misunderstand and that call us to reflect on his teaching.  The bread and wine the priest consecrates at Mass signifies Jesus’ gift of his life and love on the cross.

How do you understand the mystery of the Eucharist?

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The Gift of Laughter

14 Aug
Photo via Flickr user CleftClips

Photo via Flickr user CleftClips

I watched Tig over the weekend, a documentary about stand-up comedian and radio contributor Tig Notaro. I pressed play because my baby fell asleep at a decent hour, my mom had suggested the film, my brother respects Tig a ton as a fellow stand-up comedian, and I am very interested in contemporary female comedians as writers and speakers of truth. I didn’t expect to be thinking about the film days later, but here I am.

Tig’s career was going well until, while working in a film, she collapsed. In the hospital, she found out she had C-DIFF, a possibly fatal infection of the intestine. Then her mom died. Then she went through a breakup. Then she got diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer. With the cancer diagnosis, because of the sheer ridiculous nature of her Job-like situation, everything seemed funny to her. She started writing. Less than a week after finding out she had cancer, she stepped on stage at the Largo and said, “Good evening. Hello. I have cancer. How are you?”

She proceeded to do a set– a long set– making jokes about the laundry list of challenges God had handed her. Listening to the audio, you can hear the mix of human reactions in the crowd, and she played off of that. Some people laughed so hard you could feel the relief in their guts, finally being able to laugh about something so sad that they were also going through. Others cried and moaned. They begged her to keep going. And this is the moment I can’t get out of my head. Tig suggests changing the subject at one point and you can hear a man in the audience say, “No, keep going. This is amazing.” And it was. It was raw, true, and really funny. The interaction between her and the audience was charged with humanness, surging with emotion. People were aware that they were experiencing something special, something more than live comedy at its best.

As Tig said, the idea of the show went viral. She woke up the next morning more well known than she had ever been. Louis C.K. convinced her to sell audio of the show, which launched her into the national spotlight. The show hit a nerve, struck a chord, rung true. Not only was it healing for her, but it offered healing to others, as well. People couldn’t get enough of her, making jokes about her cancer. They loved her truth, admired her skills of wit, writing and timing, found relief in being able to laugh about something as ugly and scary as cancer, and were comforted by her brash courage in the face of adversity.

I will be thinking about the audio that captured the alive, human, sacred interaction between Tig and her audience at the Largo for a long time. It supports my hunch that comedians have potential to be modern-day prophets. It reminds me how much we need space to talk about what we are afraid of and what we are grieving. It acknowledges that there are days when we have cried so hard that we desperately want an excuse to laugh, not because sickness is funny, but because it is real.

Gospel Reflection for August 16, 2015, 20th Sunday Ordinary Time

14 Aug

Sunday Readings: Proverbs 9.6-1; Ephesians 5.15-20; John 6.51-58

“The one who eats this bread will live forever.”

(John 6.58)

What kind of food do you crave? Chocolate? Popcorn? Anything salty, greasy, fried? What if there is a good that we can have a real relationship with? What if it’s a food we can not only desire but a food that craves us? What if there is a food that we can actually love and that can love us back? This can be said of Eucharist.

Eucharist can be absolutely harmless, even boring perhaps, or it can shake us and the world with its explosive force. What if there is no such thing as Eucharist that is thoroughly private? What if Eucharist either draws me into a relationship with every other Christian or it’s phony? What if, just like all interpersonal relationships, the right kind of chemistry can release astonishing power when together we are fed living food?

How does joining in Eucharist give you life?

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7 Aug

Laudato-Si

Sunday by Sunday editor Joan Mitchell, CSJ, is leading conversations on Care for Our Common Home, Laudato Si’, the new encyclical on ecology from Pope Francis.

If you are in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area, join the dialog August 27, September 3, 10, 17 from 6:30 – 8 p.m. at Carondelet Center, 1890 Randolph Ave., St. Paul, MN. If not, go to goodgroundpress.com and use the questions posted there for your own study or conversations with friends.

Mindfulness

5 Aug

River-Runs-Through

“As for my father, I never knew whether he believed God was a mathematician but he certainly believed God could count and that only by picking up God’s rhythms were we able to regain power and beauty.”
Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

We hear about mindfulness all the time. So many of us want to be more present, move more intentionally, find more calm in our daily lives, but where do we start?

My spiritual director suggested I pick a part of my daily ritual and start there. That way, habit is built in. So, for example, she challenged me to take the time to engage all the senses every time I am in the shower. Really smell the shampoo. Deeply notice the feel of the warm water between your shoulder blades. I have a small window high in my shower that I can look out of and take in the day, but water droplets are fun to look at, too. Listen to the hiss of the steam, the rhythm of the water coming into contact with the curtain. I have started this simple practice, and it works. I breathe deeply, and leave the shower calm, grateful, and renewed. And because I often shower in the morning, it sets a lens of mindfulness for the day.

One thing I am noticing after taking that first step is that calm is contagious. There are so many rhythms built into our existence that can have a calming effect on us if we choose to notice them. I have started to hear the sound of my breath more often throughout the day, which gives way to hearing my baby’s heartbeat when I hold him close.Those are there, always available to soothe and center, and the two together inspire the rhythm of my rocking and humming. That calm invites me to hear the rhythm of the small waves breaking on the sand at the lake, which opens my eyes to the cycle of the sun and the moon. If I choose to, I can sense, then, the calm in the repetition of morning coffee, daily washing dishes, bi-weekly folding laundry. And the flight patterns. And the seasons. It goes on. We have these soothing tools, these calming rhythms at our disposal. We just have to take that first step toward being aware enough to let them carry us through our day with a sense of lightness, beauty and tenderness.

Mindfulness takes commitment, discipline and practice. What comes with it, almost immediately, is a sense of God’s rhythms. Picking up God’s rhythms brings with it power and beauty indeed.

Gospel Reflection for August 9, 2015, 19th Sunday Ordinary Time

4 Aug
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Sunday Readings: 1 Kings 19.4-8; Ephesians 4.30-5.2; John 6.41-51

“I am the living bread that has come down from heaven.”

(John 6.51)

All three groups in Sunday’s gospel passage — the disciples, the crowd, the Jews — miss the point about Jesus. His disciples doubt their resources to feed the crowd. The crowd mistakes Jesus for a popular pork-barrel hero. “The Jews” opening disbelieve Jesus’ claims that he, rather than the manna in the desert, is the real bread of life from God.

Where do you best fit — among the doubting disciples, the fair weather crowd, or the Jews faithful to Moses’ law and the past?

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Lineage of Sorrow

31 Jul

I’ve come to think if you can explain something sufficiently to a curious third grader, you can explain it to almost anyone. Last week our children’s minister ask if I would help her write Sunday school curriculum for our fall sermon series on Jacob. “Jacob’s tough,” she said. “I’m stuck.”

After reading through the texts carefully all I had was agreement with her. The Jacob story is tough. Isaac prays to the Lord and gets not only one boy but two. His favorite son is the elder, Esau, while Rebekah favors Jacob. Jacob tricks his father into getting a blessing. And then he leaves. And as if it’s not hard enough to tell kids stories about parents having favorites and kids tricking their parents, then we hit Genesis 29. Jacob falls in love with Rachel, but Laban tricks him into marrying Leah as well. But he doesn’t love Leah, he loves Rachel.

When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.  Leah conceived and bore a son, and she named him Reuben; for she said, “Because the Lord has looked on my affliction; surely now my husband will love me.” fertility

The Jacob story doesn’t get easier after that, either. We made a plan with the kids around blessing that I think will work well.

But days later, I find my heart remains with Rachel and Leah. I am at the age when some of my friends are struggling with marriage and fertility issues. So many of my friends have miscarried and struggled to have children. I have had friends lose babies, and one recently told me she has stopped saying they are trying to have children and has started saying, “We are hoping to have children.” Feeling far away from your spouse, feeling barren, miscarrying– these things are so overwhelmingly painful its hard not to think God is blessing others and not you. It’s hard to see the abundance in others’ lives and not compare it to the emptiness in your own. There is something primal about these two women– one has many sons and misses the love of her husband while the other has Jacob’s adoration but goes without children. It is an age old story that people I love are still, today, swimming in.

My co-worker asked me to look at the Jacob story, but I carry Leah and Rachel’s story in my heart. It does not take the pain away, but it strengthens me to remember that our ancestors had the same hurting hearts and aching wombs that we do today.

Welcome, Pope Francis!

29 Jul

 

Pope-Francis-Poster-2015(1biggerblog)

Pope Francis will be visiting the United States September 22-27, 2015. Welcome him by downloading this FREE poster at goodgroundpress.com and posting it in your home, work, and parish.

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