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Gospel Reflection for January 19, 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

14 Jan

The fourth gospel begins in God time and enters history only in verse 6, when “a man named John was sent from God…to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (1.6-7). Jesus has no birth story and no parents at the beginning of this gospel. Instead he has a dedicated public relations man who testifies someone greater is coming.

John the Baptist apparently preaches in such a compelling way that many mistake him for the promised messiah, but he insists no. Someone else is coming who will baptize with the Spirit. Artfully the fourth gospel uses the Baptist to build up anticipation. The Baptist is the point man. Artists often draw him pointing.

The Baptist witnesses that indeed Wisdom, God’s partner in creation, has found a dwelling in Israel. The Word has taken flesh to reveal God among us. Not until verse 29, where Sunday’s gospel begins, does the Baptist point out Jesus and identify him as the someone.

In court, witnessing and testifying require swearing to tell the whole truth about events one has observed or participated in. Testimony is also a Christian practice in which one talks about the power of God in one’s life.

Many people who grew up Catholic no longer claim their faith. The continuing flow of sexual abuse cases causes deep distrust of leaders who don’t meet their promise of zero tolerance. The whole Church suffers.

We Christians are Jesus’ witnesses today. As our courts work to find the whole truth, we in the pews must give witness to all God is doing in our lives. We must be church to one another and Christians others can believe in.

What witness do you give?

Gospel Reflection for January 12, 2014, Baptism of the Lord

7 Jan
After Jesus was baptized be John, a voice from the heavens spoke.
“This is my beloved Son.  My favor rests on him.”

Matthew 3.17

In receiving John’s baptism, Jesus passes from private life in Galilee to public life characterized by humility and compassionate justice.  At his baptism the Spirit of God commissions him for his life work.

The voice from the heavens tells Jesus that God’s favor rests on him; he is the one chosen to bring justice to the nations.  He will open the eyes of the blind, free prisoners, and bring those who live in darkness out of the dungeon.

What is the public purpose of your Christian adulthood?

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Living the Gospel Today: Gratitude

2 Jan


Gospel Reflection for January 5, Epiphany Sunday

30 Dec
Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.”

Matthew 2.2

The gospel tells us little about the foreigners who come to worship Jesus, but we have clothed them in rich detail.  Why?  Maybe because the strangers take such a big risk in following the star.  They leave the comforts of their homes, take a long trip, and outwit a king anxious for his crown.  They don’t know where they are going or what they will find when they get there.  In other words, they are model believers and seekers of truth.

Where have you journeyed to find hope in transcendent meaning in your life?  What did you find?


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Gospel Reflection for December 29, Feast of the Holy Family

26 Dec

The angel of God appeared to Joseph with this command. “Get up, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you otherwise. Herod is searching for the child to destroy him.”

Matthew 2.13

In Sunday’s gospel the Holy Family is on the run to protect Jesus’ life. King Herod has viciously ordered his soldiers to kill boy children like him. Matthew makes a parallel in this story between Jesus’ life and the history of his people. Both sojourn in Egypt. Matthew quotes a statement from the prophet Hosea to make this point, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

How did the first members of your family come to this country?

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Gospel Reflection for December 22, Fourth Sunday of Advent

17 Dec

In a dream, an angel told Joseph, “Joseph, son of David, have no fear about taking Mary as your wife.  It is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child.  She is to have a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew 1.20-21

When Joseph finds Mary pregnant with a child not his own, he makes a compassionate judgment to divorce her quietly.  He can’t stop thinking about her and the gospel tells us Joseph sleeps on his decision.  Joseph opens his unconscious self to nourishing rest; he opens himself to the nonrational, spiritual world and to the infinite, whole picture he seeks.  He entrusts himself to Holy Mystery in going to sleep.

The angel in Joseph’s dream tells him:

  • Not to fear
  • The Spirit of God has conceived this child in his fiancé.
  • Mary will have a son
  • Joseph is to name and claim the child as his own.

The name reveals the child’s mission.  The name Jesus means he saves.

How is sleeping on a decision an act of prayer?

What Are We Waiting For? Homily by Sister Joan Mitchell, CSJ

16 Dec

In the gospel of December 15, John the Baptist sends messengers, asking Jesus,
“Are you the one who is to come? Or, are we to wait for another?”
It’s a question for us. What are we waiting for?

I wait for every day with a little contemplation.
I have a rooster candle stand on our sun porch.
I light the candle it holds and sit in Aunt Maggie’s old rocker
in the deep darkness of our northern winter.
Like the rooster I await the dawn.
The rooster is a symbol of resurrection. The word means awakening.
I still go hunting partly just to walk to my deer stand in the embrace of night
and feel my place in the great cosmic womb of life
and the promise of the stars overhead,
to welcome first light with the pheasants croaking and sparrows chirping.
I await each day simply to take in the wonder
of being alive and part of life unfolding
I awake not only to the snowy world outside
but to the mystery of conscious life
and my place at the cutting edge of life evolving
around me, within me, in my choosing and interacting, my loving and hoping.

Hope runs deep in us to become more.
We are the children of the algae that left the sea to take root in the land.
We carry in our DNA the whole story of the evolving cosmos.
We sit here calmly, breathing in and out, as if we aren’t each a miracle,
billions of years in the birthing and not done yet.
We descend from the bacteria in which Earth first stirred into life,
bacteria that moved toward light. That’s how the eye developed,
the pull toward light, the creative impulse.
And we still 4 billion years later turn toward the light and count the Advent weeks
until the world turns and the sun stays longer in the sky.
Hope is deep and ancient within our genes.
We are made of holy stuff with the capacity to become more

This is how evolution works, making ever more complex wholes
That hold the old and generate the new
Like us Jesus is born of stardust,
of the elements forged in the supernovas of the stars.
In his birth Jesus makes incarnate the heart of God,
In his mission Jesus makes people whole.
He’s the one who makes the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame dance.
He restores the senses we use everyday to work our own miracles
To see where new life is growing in the cracks
To hear where people we have written off are coming from
To dance our joy, touch, embrace, and bridge our separate selves.
God comes to us from the future, pulling us toward all we can become

What am I waiting for? I’m waiting for people
to discover God lives and we live in God.
I’m waiting for people to recognize we ARE the Church.
We are tugboats churning away to turn the giant ship of the Church toward the future.
Who are we waiting for? Another Jesus, or Dr. King, another Nelson Mandala.
Perhaps we have such a leader in Pope Francis.
What a relief! He’s the one we are waiting for, not me, not us.

We know how to be church to one another.
We know how to show up at each others’ side in times of trouble.
We are church in twos and threes, in groups around the gospels,
in families that know how to celebrate anniversaries,
in families breaking bread around our tables remembering for the children
the story of a holy child born among the poor
perhaps among the refugees in Syria if born today,
a man who taught people who they are—healers, lovers and forgivers, life-givers.

I’m waiting for us to listen to one another. That’s a cheap Christmas present.
Give someone you love the gift of uninterrupted listening—10 minutes, even 30.
I’m confident the Irish will save civilization because they keep on talking.
My grandpa used to stop old Pastor Bodine, the Norwegian Lutheran pastor,
who didn’t speak to Catholics and talk to him in Norwegian.
Breaking boundaries is work we can all do.

I’m waiting for cynicism to cease. It’s a terrible violence—writing ourselves off.
I can’t make a difference. I’m not the one anyone is waiting for.
I’m a cipher, not a cocreator of the future with God.
I’m waiting for people to catch on that Pollyanna is right. I have the old video.
Her father taught her the glad game—to find something good in even the worst situation.
The more you look for the good the better you get at it.
One of our African American sisters in St. Louis has a personal practice of expecting people will treat her as a human being, not dis her for her color.

I’m waiting for meadowlarks to return,
for enough milkweed to save the monarchs
for Monsanto to terminate the terminator seed,
for Congress to fund school meals for kids who go hungry. It’s our work.
May we participate each day in bringing to birth
the holy communion Jesus shows us we can become.
May we trust our hope and move always toward the light.
May Christmas remind us what we already know: how to be family, how to be church.

Living the Gospel Today with Joan Mitchell: Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation

12 Dec

The second video in Sister Joan’s series “Living The Gospel Today” is about Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation.

Gospel Reflection for December 15th: Third Sunday of Advent

10 Dec

When John the Baptist heard in prison about the works Christ did, he sent a message by his disciples to ask, “Tell us, are you the one to come?”

Matthew 11.2-3

In his ministry Jesus is not hacking dead branches off the family tree of Israel nor winnowing hypocrites from among repentant sinners as John expected the messiah would. Jesus is so different from the axe-wielding, chaff-winnowing judge that John expected that John has to send messengers to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or do we look for another?”

Where do your expectations of God stand on a continuum between winnowing judge and compassionate healer?

Gospel Reflection for December 8, 2013, Second Sunday of Advent

2 Dec

John the Baptist speaks about Jesus, saying, “I baptize with water for the sake of reform, but the one who will follow me is more powerful than I.  I am not even fit to carry his sandals.  He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire.”

 Matthew 3.11

Fierce and holy like the prophet Elijah, John the Baptist is a lone voice in the wilderness, calling people to repent and prepare for one who will baptize them in Spirit and fire.  The Baptist says the one for whom he prepares will carry a winnowing fan.  This is the shovel people used in John’s time to throw grain in the air and let the wind separate the wheat from the chaff.

What points in your life have been days of judgment—of winnowing seed from chaff?


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