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Gospel Reflection for July 20, 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

16 Jul Photo via flickr user Digital Temi

Master, did you not sow good seed in your fields?  Where did these weeds come from?

Matthew 13.27

Life takes time; God’s reign will take time.  In the end God’s wisdom is not human wisdom.  Some apparent weeds may be flowers.  The smallest of seeds may yet grow into a plant that provides hospitality for many creatures.  Leaven may be slowly transforming the world even though human eyes cannot see it working.  Such are the mysteries of the reign of God in the human heart and in all creation.

What weeds do you notice most in others? What weeds do you notice most in yourself?

Gospel Reflection for July 13, 2014, 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time

9 Jul

“Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

Matthew 13.8

Jesus’ parable of the sower is prophetic but the promised yield doesn’t happen within the gospel.  There Jesus’ teachings fall on path, rocks, and weedy patches where the seeds fail to flourish.  The disciples who flee when Jesus is arrested are like the seeds on the path that the birds eat.  They vanish.  Peter, whose name means Rock, is like the rocky ground where the seeds grow up quickly and gets scorched for lack of soil in which to root.  The rich young man of Matthew 19.16-23 is like the seeds sown among thorns.  The lure of wealth spoils his yield. Only after his resurrection do Jesus words sown in the lives of his disciples take root and grow.

What has hearing the gospel yielded in your life?

Gospel Reflection for July 6, 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

3 Jul

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11.28

The rest that Jesus offers has its origins in Sabbath, the seventh day on which God rests and enjoys all that has unfolded in the six days of creation.  Sabbath and rest are a pause to appreciate all that is, to appreciate the living God in our evolving world.  Rest is willingness to relax in the mystery of God as a swimmer floats in the bouyancy of water.  Rest is stopping to let indescribable beauty soak in.  Rest frees the imagination to sight heaven’s edge on the horizon.  Rest is existing in right relationship with all that us, acknowledging ourselves and all that is as gift, welcoming and blessing even the least among us.

Where do you find rest and experience the mystery of God?

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Gospel Reflection for June 29, 2014, Feast of Peter and Paul

27 Jun
“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asks his disciples (Matthew 16.15).

Sunday celebrates the two most influential Christian apostles–Peter and Paul.  When Jesus asks his famous question, Peter professes faith quickly that Jesus is the messiah.  However, Peter requires more time and experience to become the firm believer on whom Jesus counts as the sure foundation of his new community.  He journeys through misunderstanding, overpromising, and denial.

Zeal to spread Jesus’ good news to the Gentiles animates Paul over more than two decades.  Educated as a rabbi, Paul wrestles with his experience of Jesus’ presence with him and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the communities he founds. He insists the crucified and risen Jesus is the wisdom and power of God with whom Christians live in inseparable union.

What is important enough for you to keep wrestling with?

 

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Gospel Reflection for June 22, 2014, Body and Blood of Christ

12 Jun

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

John 6.51

John’s gospel equates faith in Jesus with faith in Jesus’ signs. Faith that this blood is real drink and this flesh is real food is the same as faith Jesus is really from God.  Eucharist is a commitment we live out.  To share the Body of Christ in this sacrament is to commit to give one’s self for the life of the world as Jesus did.

How has participating in Eucharist nourished and transformed you over time?

 

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Gospel Reflection for June 15, 2014, Trinity Sunday

10 Jun

“God so loved the world, that God gave the only Son, that whoever believes in him may not die but have eternal life.”

John 3.16

God is the shared life at the heart of the universe, three in one love.  We must constantly be aware that when we use language to name God, we are using metaphors.  When we call God father, we are saying God is like fathers we know.  We, and the scriptures, also call God mother, friend, and lover.  These, too, are only images.

Many people, especially women, experience a problem in our use of so much male language to name God.  Sometimes maleness seems the essence of the triune God.  As some theologians point out, if God is male, then the male is God.  None of us wants to limit God to being in our own image, and especially not to just one gender image.  It is important to name God as richly and fully as we can.

What names of God have meaning for you and have helped you call on God in times of difficulty or joy?

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Gospel Reflection for June 8, 2014, Pentecost

3 Jun
 Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

John 20.21


In this Easter appearance Jesus gives his friends a purpose that makes the passage a fitting Pentecost gospel. Jesus sends disciples as the Father sent him. He commissions them and us to continue his mission. For this purpose Jesus breathes his animating Spirit upon them just as the Creator breathed life into the first humans in Genesis 2.24.

What nudgings of the Spirit do you perceive recurring in you?  How do you respond?

 

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Gifts of the Spirit

22 May

Each weekday morning at our house progresses remarkably the same. My bleary-eyed sons stumble their way downstairs to cuddle with me for a bit before watching a show of their choice on pbskids.org. The viewing of a television episode insures that I can have approximately twenty-three minutes to myself to shower and get ready for the day. I frequently use this wonderfully quiet alone time to reflect on and mentally work through challenges I am facing: a writing project on which I am blocked, an intractable issue involving my sons for which there seems to be no creative solution, a break in a relationship that seems resistant to mending. Often, as my sons’ refrain of “Is it time for breakfast, mom?” rings in my ears all too soon, the thought upon which my rumination ends is, “I want someone to tell me it is going to be okay.”

It has been interesting to be able to put this refrain into words (perhaps this ability coincides with my children getting old enough to do a bit more for themselves, thus freeing me for more self-care and self-reflection than the first few years of their lives made possible). I think it is a bass note that has been there all along, and it is only now that I am able to hear it more clearly and to think about what it portends. The first part (“I want someone”) indicates a desire for relationship, for companionship, for feeling that I am not alone in the world as I face its prosaic and more extraordinary challenges. The second part (“to tell me it is going to be okay”) means that I do not want people to fix things for me, but rather to assure me that I have the strength to make it through.

via flickr user justinbaeder

via flickr user justinbaeder

In the realm of human relationships, I am beginning to see how this need for a supportive someone in my life says little about the friends and family I already have and everything about me. If I want someone to tell me it is going to be okay, I first have to be willing to tell someone that I am not okay. Sharing my vulnerability, owning up to the times when I feel over my head, and openly expressing my emotions is truly challenging to me. When I do not do these things, I deprive the important people in my life the opportunity to be there for me. If I cannot open up about my weakness, they won’t know to reflect back to me what they see as my power and ability.

This Sunday’s Gospel from John 14 also reminds me that it is not toward human beings alone that I can turn to for the sort of compassionate and encouraging relationship that seems to be a deep necessity in my life right now. Jesus tells his disciples that he will ask the Father and that the Father will send an Advocate to be with them always. And Jesus keeps his word, as we find out later in the Gospel of John. Jesus appears to the disciples after his resurrection, breathes on them, and tells them to “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Put another way, Jesus insures that his disciples will have the help of the Spirit to assist them as they go into the world to do his work.

As members of the body of Christ, baptized into Jesus’ family, we can trust that the Spirit is with us always as a companion on our spiritual journeys. In fact, I do not need to “want someone to tell me it is going to be okay” when I realize that the Spirit of God is already with me, already empowering me with the gifts of the Spirit that are given us in baptism and that are renewed when we receive Eucharist. These gifts are:

  • Wisdom: the desire to contemplate the things of God
  • Understanding: the ability to comprehend divine truth, especially as revealed through Jesus Christ
  • Counsel: the ability to judge how to act based on faith
  • Fortitude: the courage to follow through on actions suggested by the gift of counsel
  • Knowledge: the ability to see our lives as God sees them
  • Piety: the desire to worship and serve God
  • Fear of the Lord: the desire to act out of hope and out of wonder and awe of God (which is different than acting out of fear of punishment)

When I feel as if I am alone, I need to make my vulnerability known to others and I need to reconnect with the Spirit who is already accompanying and empowering me. I can trust that I am never working alone, and while a problem may feel too big for me, who am I to say what is too big for God?

Gospel Reflection for May 25, 2014, Sixth Sunday of Easter

20 May
Jesus told his disciples, “And I will ask the Father, who will give you another Advocate to abide with you always: the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, since it neither sees nor recognizes the Spirit; but you know the Spirit because the Spirit abides with you and will be in you.” 

John 14.16-17


Jesus assures the disciples that they will have everything they need for their lives and mission after he is gone. Furthermore, if they stay open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they will continue to experience divine presence.

How would you feel in the disciples’ place?

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Gospel Reflection for May 18, 2014, Fifth Sunday of Easter

16 May

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered, “All this time I have been with you, Philip, and you do not know me? Whoever sees me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’”

John 14.8-9


In responding to Philip, Jesus shifts the conversation from seeing to believing, from insisting “whoever sees me sees the Father” to asking Philip, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” In this passage Jesus speaks not only to disciples who like Philip once saw and knew him face to face, heard his words and observed his deeds, but also to all of us who believe on the strength of the written testimony in the gospel.

What do you see in Jesus that helps form your image of God?

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