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Joy in Jesus’ Good News

23 Jun

by Sister Joan Mitchell, CSJ

via flickr user Catholic Church (England and Wales)

via flickr user Catholic Church (England and Wales)

Joy brims over in our circles of sisters and associates that gather on Wednesdays to talk about Pope Francis’s exhortation Joy of the Gospel.  Spreading joy is his intent.  Its source―“a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ” or at least opening ourselves to let Jesus encounter us.  His writing infects us with hope, Catholics and Protestants alike in our groups.

What is so infectious?  Francis writes out of his real life, what he prays and lives daily.  God loves us.  This is what Pope Francis wants us to experience and teach our children.  No one can take way the joy that God loves us.

The cross he wears images Jesus as a shepherd carrying a sheep on his shoulders, a lost sheep.  Francis identifies with the lost sheep.  “God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking mercy.  Time and again Christ carries us on his shoulders.  No one can strip us of the dignity of God bestowing boundless, unfailing love” (3).

Francis wants an evangelizing church that shares the joy of God’s love for us, a Church that is poor and for the poor.  Sharing our joy is really how Francis defines evangelization.  Joy attracts others.  It bubbles over into love of neighbors.  It infects us with hope.

“The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded.  That is what the angels proclaimed to the shepherds in Bethlehem: “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people” (23).

God excludes no one, which is why Francis goes on to call for a global economy of inclusion.  “An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh Christ in others” (24).  Francis wants us to smell like the sheep.

If you want to start talking about Joy of the Gospel, just type in the title online and print a copy or buy a book copy at your local Catholic bookstore or on Amazon.  Here are the questions we used to talk about paragraphs 1-49.  This blog will continue with other chapters.

1.    What joy do you experience in the Gospel, in your relationship with Jesus?  How does your experience compare with Francis’s description?  (paragraph 3)

2.    What does Francis think threatens our capacity for joy?  What threats do you experience? (2)

3.    What call do you hear in Francis’s urging us to become evangelizers who “take on the smell of the sheep?”  What sheep do you or should you smell like?  (24)

4.    How have base communities or small Christian communities helped sustain your commitment as a Christian?  How can parishes contribute to renewal?  (28)

5.    What message is “most essential, most beautiful, most grand, most appealing, and most necessary” in your mind? (35)  What communicates the gospel today?  What burdens people?

6.    “The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open.  …The Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems” (47).  What changes does Francis want to inspire in the church?

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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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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Gospel Reflection for May 11, 2014, Fourth Sunday of Easter

5 May
Jesus said, “The one who enters through the gate is shepherd of the sheep; the keeper opens the gate for him.  The sheep hear his voice as he calls his own by name and leads them out.”

John 10.30-31


The shepherd allegory offers the intimacy between shepherd and sheep as an image of the relationship between Jesus and believers.  The sheep know the shepherd’s voice.  The shepherd and sheep walk and pasture together, live together, make life possible for each other.

How do you shepherd others in your life?

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Gospel Reflection for May 4, 2014, Third Sunday of Easter

29 Apr

Two disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus and began talking to a stranger about Jesus’ death and all that had transpired since that time.  They did not recognize that the stranger was the risen Jesus.

While Jesus sat with the two disciples, he took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them.  Their eyes were opened, and they recognized, him but he vanished from their sight.

Luke 24.30-31


The mystery of God’s ways escapes the two disciples, even though Jesus had told his disciples three times that in Jerusalem he would suffer, die, and be raised up.  The disciples’ expect that their journey with Jesus will end in earthly triumph, which blinds them to the presence of God in the unprecedented and bewildering events unfolding around them.  They handle their confusion by retreating to a comfortable place they once came from.

When have your expectations blinded you to the presence of God at work in your life?

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Gospel Reflection for April 27, 2014, Second Sunday of Easter

27 Apr

Jesus’ followers were hiding from the Jews when Jesus appeared to them.

Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound.”

John 20.22-23


Easter is about transformation and action.  Jesus hands over to the community the work that God sent him to do.  They go forth to bring God’s love, forgiveness, and healing to the world and their divided community.  Jesus’ presence frees his fearful community for faith, joy, and the work of the Spirit—to forgive and to love, to loose and to bind.

What new life and mission is the Spirit breathing into you?

Gospel Reflection for April 20, 2014, Easter Sunday

14 Apr

Mary Magdalene had gone to the tomb and found that Jesus was missing. She could not find him and was crying.

Jesus asked, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?Mary supposed the man to be the gardener and responded, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

Jesus said, “Mary.”

Mary turned to Jesus and answered, “Rabbouni!”

 John 20.15-16
via flickr user Elvert Barnes

via flickr user Elvert Barnes


Mary Magdalene is the first of all of Jesus’ followers to have a personal experience of the risen Jesus. When Jesus speaks Mary’s name, she recognizes the gardener is her beloved teacher. Like the sheep who knows the shepherd’s voice, Mary hears her name and recognizes Jesus. She hears, turns, and believes.

When has Jesus called you by name?

Gospel Reflection for April 6, 5th Sunday of Lent

31 Mar

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life: whoever believes in me, though they will die, will come to life; and whoever is alive and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Martha responded, “Yes, Lord, I have come to believe that you are the messiah, the son of God: he who is to come into the world.”

John 11.25-27


Lazarus died before Jesus arrived to see him. When Martha and Mary meet Jesus, they each say, “Lord if you had been here, my brother never would have died.”  The repetition tells us this statement is important. Martha and Mary raise a question in the life of the early Christian community in which many expected Jesus to return in glory within their lifetimes.

Jesus’ delay in the story provides the reason for his dialog with Martha, who speaks the faith of the community that experienced this delay in history. Her brother’s death tests and transforms Martha’s faith.

Before what graves have you stood and asked as Martha and Mary do, “Why didn’t you save the one we love?”

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