Tag Archives: Jesus

Gospel Reflection for March 8, 2015, 3rd Sunday of Lent

3 Mar

Sunday Readings: Exodus 20.1-17; 1 Corinthians 1.22-25; John 2.13-25

“Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”

(John 2.16)

Jesus’ cleansing the temple calls us to clean our houses this Lent — to examine our hearts. Our fast-paced, productive lives can erode our relationships with God, make us feel like cogs in the wheels of commerce rather than friends of God, who live and love in friendship with the Giver of Life. Coffee and conversation can help us reengage with those we love. Walks in the emerging spring can reawaken our connectedness to all that is, our place in the holy whole that is our Earth home. They can stir us to get practical about caring for creation where we live. Lent calls us to assess what we consume and what consumes us. It calls us to revive our faith in resurrection as a continuing process in our lives.

What housecleaning do you need to do in our life? How can we help clean up our biosphere so life on Earth becomes sustainable? What is one thing you can do?

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Gospel Reflection for March 1, 2015, 2nd Sunday of Lent

24 Feb

Sunday Readings: Genesis 22.1-2, 9, 10-13, 15-18; Romans 8.31-34; Mark 9.2-10

“Suddenly looking around, Peter, James, and John no longer saw anyone with them — only Jesus.”

(Mark 9.8)

The Orthodox Church sees in the transfiguration what the whole of Christian life is about — transformation into Christ. Prayer leads to transforming communion with God. This mystical experience to the prophetic; communion leads to action.

Both Jesus and his disciples need the profound, prayerful heartening of the transfiguration moment to sustain them on the journey to Jerusalem and beyond. Life at the foot of the mountain will test the vision.

What vision for your Christian future are you testing at the foot of the mountain?

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What Else?

20 Feb
via Flickr user Mufidah Kassalias

via Flickr user Mufidah Kassalias

Another day, a man stopped Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus said, “Why do you question me about what’s good? God is the One who is good. If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you.” The man asked, “What in particular?” Jesus said, “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself.” The young man said, “I’ve done all that. What’s left?”

“If you want to give it all you’ve got,” Jesus replied, “go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me.” That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.

–Matthew 19:16-22

I identify with the young man in this story, so much so that I have to chuckle. I am a doer, an achiever, one who wants to earn God’s love and promises on my own accord. In school and more recently as an employee, I acted like this young man, saying to my teachers and supervisors, “Ok, done. Did that. Checklist complete. What’s next? What else can I do?” Read: How can I show you even more how competent, efficient and productive I am and thus gain your respect and approval?

I even acted like the young man in Matthew 19 during Lent. I got good at giving things up as a young girl. When I was twelve I gave up soda and candy and eating between meals. It was easy. So then decided to give things up and do more good. For example, one Lent I sent a nice note to someone different every day in addition to giving up everything I thought to be a vice. Look at me go, God.

The young man in Matthew goes so far as to treat the Ten Commandments like a checklist. Check, check, check. Got it. Now what? What else can I do? What is next? I, like this young man, was looking to Jesus for the same rewards I got from my teachers and bosses. Jesus, like he so often does in his ministry, elevates the conversation. He let’s me and the young man know that we are not even playing the right game. Following Jesus requires a lighter load.

The season of Lent is a time that invites us to downshift our lives. We take a deep breath, look around, and take stock of what we are holding tightly and what we can’t bear to let go. Jesus gives us a hint that it’s probably the wrong stuff, and it’s the stuff that is limiting us from following him. For years, I couldn’t bear to let go of my accomplishments. I clung to my competence and my ability to do do do more and do it well. And when I was finished, I’d go back to see what else there was for me to do. I don’t need to let go of chocolate and add more to my Good Samaritan to-do list. This Lent, I am praying about playing the wrong game. It’s not about doing more. What I cling to is doing more. For me, it is about embracing the being part of human being. Following Jesus means letting go of the spiritual checklist to be more free to love.

Gospel Reflection for February 15, 2015, 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time

9 Feb

Sunday Readings: Leviticus 13.1-2, 44-46; 1 Corinthians 10.31-11.1; Mark 1.40-45

A leper cam to Jesus begging him  and kneeling. The leper said to Jesus, “If you choose you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said, “I do choose. Be made clean!”

(Mark 1.40-45)

Like the leper’s voice, the voices of the poor and powerless call for inclusion in society. In Israel’s earliest traditions, it is slaves crying out against their masters that God hears and sends Moses to free them. It is the voices of those left out who call us to widen our tents and add chairs at our tables. In asking for justice and equality, people express their dignity as human beings made in God’s image and likeness. They give voice to God’s purpose for us all — wholeness, a community of love on Earth that mirrors the divine community of love that is God.

With whom might you build a bridge from isolation to participation in economic life, parish life, or family life?

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Drawing in the Dirt

6 Feb

 

Photo via Flickr user Garry Wilmore

Photo via Flickr user Garry Wilmore

The other day I was tasked with teaching the story of Jesus and the Adulteress to seventh graders (John 8:1-11). In the heart of the story, Jesus does what he does so well throughout his ministry: He reframes the situation, and in so doing, he elevates the conversation. The Pharisees are trying to catch him yet again, and instead of engaging in their line of questioning, he addresses the heart of the matter. The woman, according to the law, deserves to be stoned to death. But Jesus doesn’t engage in an argument about the law. In elevating the conversation to one about sin, the woman is able to walk away. We talked about this for a bit. I asked where the adulterer is, and why the punishment is so unequal for the two consenting parties.

Then I admitted that with these stories of Jesus that we know so well, I sometimes like to stray from the center of the tale and imagine my way into the periphery to see if there are any other details that teach us about Jesus. I re-read them:

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.

The quote by Jesus is the heart of the story, the part is repeated again and again as Jesus’ lesson. On either end of it, though, bookended, we hear that Jesus wrote in the dirt. I love this detail. I meditate on this detail. Perhaps it is inconsequential. Sure. I like, however, picturing Jesus writing in the dirt. The image for me, conjures up a child in the corner of a sandbox drawing in sand, a student intently doodling on a piece of paper, a T-ball player picking dandelions in right field instead of watching for a fly ball. The image makes Jesus seem human to me.

What was he writing? We don’t know what it said in part, I assume, because words in dirt are temporary. As the story teaches, words and particulars, lessons and law aren’t always the point. And the not knowing what he wrote continues to invite us into the story to wonder. He was not dictating things to get etched in stone, but chose dirt that day instead. It has for me, the feel of him holding on loosely, confidently, and embracing the temporary like the man who writes poetry with water on stone. He was okay with his words, his drawing, his doodles, washing away without being captured.

Am I projecting too much into the story? Maybe. But imagining in front of the seventh graders, I saw some smiles and some minds start daydreaming. They were wondering, too, about Jesus and his personality. Was he the type of guy who liked to doodle? To draw in the sand? To pick dandelions? Maybe. Even the wondering reminded us that Jesus was fully human, with a personality all his own, and for just a moment, that brought this man who saved a woman’s life, this Jesus, a little closer. It invited him to be more fully present in the room with us.

Gospel Reflection for February 8, 2015, 5th Sunday Ordinary Time

2 Feb

Sunday Readings: Job 7.1-4, 6-7; 1 Corinthians 9.16-19, 22-23; Mark 1.29-39

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Now Peter’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her at once. Jesus took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

(Mark 1.29-31)

Jesus heals many people in Capernaum and moves on to preach and heal in other villages of Galilee. Jesus also heals Peter’s mother-in-law, who becomes his first woman disciple. Mark tells her story in a single verse (1.31). Jesus takes her hand and lifts her up. The Greek word for lifts up is the same verb Mark uses to describe Jesus’ resurrection. The woman responds to Jesus’ healing. She begins to serve the new community gathered in her house. The New American Bible translates the word serve(diakonie in Greek) as begins to wait on. Peter’s mother-in-law has one of the two credentials that distinguish the women from Galilee who stand at the cross after the men flee. They followed and served Jesus. Peter’s mother-in-law could have been among them with Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome.

Who models a discipleship of service that you try to follow in your life?

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Gospel Reflection for February 1, 2015, 4th Sunday Ordinary Time

26 Jan

Sunday Readings: Deuteronomy 18.15-20; 1 Corinthians 7.32-35; Mark 1.21-28

Just then there was in the synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?”

(Mark 1.23-24)

All of us have the work of discerning the spirits that drive us. What possesses us? Maybe ambition, an advanced degree, a higher-paying job. Alcohol or chocolate or drugs can possess us, becoming a comfort in our stress more perfect and pliant than any human friend. The unclean spirits are right to ask Jesus if he has come to destroy them. The answer is yes. Jesus claims us for wholeness.

What clamors for attention in yourself? What erodes your energy? What enlivens you?

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The God of Losers

23 Jan

Before his NFL playoff game on Sunday, January 18, Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, tweeted:

“All my hope is in You Jesus! You are my anchor that is never shaken!”

His team trailed the entire game by as many as sixteen points. With a few minutes left in the game, the Packers were winning 19-7. In what seemed like an inspired flurry of adrenaline, Wilson led the charge that tied the game in regulation and forced an overtime. In the extra time, Wilson threw a thirty-five yard touchdown to send his team to the Superbowl. He gathered with a few staff and players to pray on the field after the game, and in the post-game celebration, he tweeted:

“Headed back to the Super Bowl!!!! QBs in the House! Glory to God! One Mission. #MakeThemNotice.”

In a post game interview, he thanked God for the win and said he never lost faith, never doubted. He believes God prepared him and his team for this type of situation. As a Christian myself, I reacted to all of this God and Jesus talk surrounding the playoff game. I believe that God created Russell Wilson, and that Wilson does honor God by using his gifts to the best of his ability. I even support Wilson’s commitment to thank God and lean on something bigger than himself. I think my discomfort creeps in, however, because it could be easily misconstrued that God loves the winners more than the losers. God created Aaron Rogers, the losing quarterback, too.

Maybe Wilson would have gathered to pray and thanked God as profusely if the Seahawks had lost, but they didn’t. So what I see from the tweets coupled with the win is that what is being promoted is a God of winners. God rewards those who don’t doubt and have blind faith. That God is on the side of the winners and loves the winners and interceded for the winners. That God helped Wilson win because he is a believer. That, for me, is only part of the story, it is a theology of glory that limits our God.

The day after the Seahawks win, we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Here was a believer and preacher who saw God more readily on the side of the losers. He took other Christians to task for not living out God’s call to justice. He reminded other Christians that Jesus loves all people radically.

Shortly after the death of King, Rev. Dr. James Cone birthed Black Liberation Theology. The black Jesus Cone wrote about reminds us that God is present even more intensely with the marginalized and oppressed people in society.

“God is a God that makes liberation meaningful to those who are marginalized no matter where they are. God takes on that identity of the oppressed” – Dr. James Cone

The Civil Rights Movement and the black power movement gave rise to Black Liberation Theology. Today the #BlackLivesMatter movement reminds us that King’s dream of equity is not yet fulfilled. Today, we can call on King and Cohen to remember that God is with Russell Wilson on his way to the Superbowl, yes, but God is also with the losers. God is dwelling with the most vulnerable people in society, weeping with those who weep:

“The gospel at its best deals with the whole man, not only his soul but his body, not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well being. Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.”      -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Gospel Reflection for January 25, 2015, 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

19 Jan

Sunday Readings: Jonah 3.1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7.29-31; Mark 1.14-20

Jesus saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”

(Mark 1.16-17)

Mark writes the first gospel to call a new generation to faith in Jesus.  Until the Romans destroyed the temple in AD 70, Jewish Christians prayed with other Jews at the temple, offered sacrifices, and joined pilgrimages for the great feasts. Temple worship ceased as eyewitness disciples were reaching old age or had already died. The Christian community in Jerusalem fled the city during the rebellion that led to the destruction of the temple and city. How will the community hold together?

Like the generation for whom Mark wrote, Catholics today live in a Church in discontinuity with the past. The Church renewed itself and caught up with the modern world at the Second Vatican Council. We recognize the Spirit moves in all the baptized. We recognize we have obligations to the poor in the world. We dialogue with people of other Christian denominations and other religions. We text messages around the globe.

How does living Jesus’ good news make a difference for our time?

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Gospel Reflection for January 18, 2015, 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

13 Jan

Sunday Readings: 1 Samuel 3.3-10,19; 1 Corinthians 6.13-15,17-20; John 1.35-42

John the Baptist points out Jesus to two of his disciples, Andrew and another. They  follow Jesus, who turns, sees them, and ask what they are looking for.
 
 Andrew said to him, “Teacher, where are you staying?” Jesus said to them, “Come and see.” They went and saw where Jesus stayed and remained with him that day.

John 1.38-39

The few hours Andrew and his friend stay with Jesus changes their lives. Afterward Andrew immediately tells his brother Peter that he has found the messiah. Encountering Jesus impels Andrew to mission, to invite others to find out who Jesus is. Jesus’ disciples stay with him as he heals, teaches, and models how to live. They follow him through misunderstanding, bewilderment, footwashing, his death. Staying with Jesus on the journey of discipleship leads to abiding in lasting love.

What spiritual practice have you stayed with in your life?  How have your grown through this practice?   

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