Tag Archives: Jesus

Gospel Reflection for May 24, 2015, Pentecost Sunday

19 May

Gospel-people2

Sunday Readings: Acts 2.1-11; 1 Corinthians 12.3-7, 12-13; John 20.19-23

“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

(John 19.23)

To send his friends forth with the good news of Easter, Jesus breathes the Spirit on the community gathered in fear and prayer. This is a sacramental scene. Breathing is Jesus’ sign of the Spirit of God’s power in us — invisible but life-essential air, moving into our lungs, hearts, blood, and brain, animating every cell of our bodies, coextensive with being alive. The Holy Spirit is a transforming give in us.

The Spirit calls us always toward peace, unity, and new life. Where bitterness, grudges, greed, pride, estrangement, addiction put up walls, freeze people out, fray family and friendship bonds, there the Spirit unsettles us, looking to mend.

The Spirit thaws the frozen, bends the stubborn, shakes the arrogant. The giver of life empowers us to be life-givers in our relationships and continuously renew the face of earth.

What is a peacemaking action you no longer want to put off?

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Ascension

12 May
Photo via Flickr user Katharina Friederike

Photo via Flickr user Katharina Friederike

“To them I have revealed your name, so that your love for me may live in them.” – John 17.26

Whose kindnesses and love bring this text alive in your life? How can you, too, have Christ’s love live on in your daily tasks?

Put a photo of someone you admire or love in a place where you see it daily. Give thanks to God for this person in your life.

Prayer for the week

Come, Holy Spirit.

Gospel Reflection for May 17, 2015, Ascension

11 May

Sunday Readings: Acts 1.1-11; Ephesians 1.17-23; Mark 16.15-20

“Go to the whole world and preach the gospel.”

(Mark 16.15)

The ascension is the hinge event between Jesus’ resurrection and his sending of the Spirit. Luke’s gospel ends with Jesus’ ascension and the Acts of the Apostles begins with the same scene. Luke draws on ancient imagery of God’s heavenly court to picture Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, returning to reign with God, to take his place at God’s right hand. As God’s incarnate Son, human and divine, Jesus is the firstborn of a new creation — the promise of who we are to become.

What are you looking to heaven for that you should be doing on Earth?

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6th Week of Easter

5 May
Photo via Flickr user Olga Lednichenko

Photo via Flickr user Olga Lednichenko

“Peace is my gift to you.” – John 14.27

Jesus promises his disciples peace. He sends them on Easter evening to be instruments of his peace and forgiveness as God has sent him. Be an instrument of peace in your family and office.

Look over the day each evening to see how what the Spirit of Christ risen is teaching you.

Prayer of the week: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

5th Week of Easter

28 Apr
Love-Large

Photo via Flickr user Farrukh

“I give you a new commandment: Love one another.”

John 13.34

The risen Jesus makes “Love one another” the simple command he leaves with his friends. Love is not only a feeling but a verb, actions we do. Serve. Include. Forgive. Share. Reach out. Listen. Comfort.

Pay attention to local and world news events about people of other cultures and religions, or those suffering neglect or hate. Pray for them. Live your prayer and the new commandment at home and in the office. Find a way to step beyond your usual circle to help someone in need of food, education, shelter, presence.

Prayer of the Week: God is good to all and compassionate toward all God has made.

Community Truth

24 Apr
Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The word

Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The word

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again,”Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. –John 20

Every Easter season we hear the same story. The tomb is empty. The impossible happened. Life wins. Every Easter season we are confronted by the absurdly hopeful idea that Jesus rose from the dead. Every year, we have to decide all over again if we believe. Unlike Thomas, we don’t get to stick our fingers in the wounds of Jesus for proof. We have not seen, but are asked to believe. At times, it can seem daunting, to decide what, in fact, I actually believe.

My spouse, who can read this text in it’s original language, pointed out something in this passage that offered me a sense of comfort this Easter season. Look at the differences between all the “we’s” and “I’s” and “you’s”. Look at the difference between what the disciples say and what Jesus says to the disciples, and what Thomas says. Jesus says “Peace be with you (plural). As the Father has sent me, so I send you (plural).” And the disciples say to Thomas, “We have seen the Lord.” Thomas, on the other hand, is all “I’s” and “me” and “my”: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

Now, that may seem like a small detail. Thomas is one person speaking, while the disciples are speaking as a group; of course Thomas would use singular pronouns. But there’s something bigger going on here. The truth of Jesus’ resurrection doesn’t rely on a singular person’s experience. It wasn’t just Mary Magdalene who saw the empty tomb; it was Mary and Simon, Peter, and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and then the others. And Jesus didn’t appear to just her or him. Jesus appeared to them.

The truth of Jesus’ resurrection doesn’t rely on a singular person’s experience. In fact, the truth rarely does. Truth is communal. Truth is held by communities. What is overwhelming to me at times is having to speak from the I singular. It is wonderful to concentrate on speaking from the I plural. I enjoy thinking, talking, studying and discussing as a community, knowing the community leans on years and decades and centuries of thought. I enjoy having my thoughts changed or grown or strengthened by the stories and experiences of my neighbors and my community and people across the world who think differently than I do. That support, that accountability, that communal discernment offers me comfort on the way. So let us, this Easter season, continue to work toward articulating and living out what we together believe.

Gospel Reflection for April 26, 2015, 4th Sunday of Easter

21 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts 4.8-12; 1 John 3.1-2; John 10.11-18

“I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and mine know me. Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep.”

(John 10.14-15)

As the good shepherd, Jesus reveals his Father’s continuing love for Israel and extends this love to all. God loves Jesus for freely laying down his life for the sheep because his action reveals the Father’s love for all.

Whom do you shepherd? For whom are you laying down your life?

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Gospel Reflection for April 19, 2015, 3rd Sunday of Easter

14 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts 3.13-15, 17-19; 1 John 2.1-5; Luke 24.35-48

Jesus stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” His disciples were startled and terrified…He said to them, “Why are you troubled? Why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet, that it is I myself.”

(Luke 24.36-39)

In Sunday’s resurrection scene from Luke, some believe, some question, some suspend judgement. For his disciples Jesus’ resurrection recalibrates who God is and what God does in our world.

Our time also puts God in new contexts and stirs mixed emotions. Some cling to past certainties. Many disaffiliate from institutional religions. Church scandals have sent many Catholics into the ranks of the none-affiliated. Others retreat from doctrines built on worldviews people today no longer hold.

Some of us stay and seek fresh insights in dialogue with science, technology, and other religions. We recognize that evolution doesn’t conflict with faith but our image of God as fixed and static seems inadequate in an evolving world. God is more than we previously imagined. God’s creative love unfolds dynamically from inanimate to living and conscious creatures. It’s a wow and a wonder. God addresses us as much from the future as the past.

My own faith in resurrection rests not only on the gospel testimony of the first witnesses but my experience of being with my mother in her last days. Her spirit became increasingly transparent in her body. This and creation itself keeps me open to the impossible coming to be.

What is the mix of your feelings this Easter season — amazement, joy, disbelief?

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3rd Week of Easter

14 Apr
Photo via Flickr user AshtonPal

Photo via Flickr user AshtonPal

“Do you love me?” – John 21.17

Three times the risen Jesus asks his friend and disciple Peter the question, “Do you love me?” Perhaps Jesus asks three times because Peter denied Jesus three times. Live your answer to Jesus’ question this week. Testify in your actions that you love those with whom Jesus identifies in this world.

Give a gift of attentive, uninterrupted listening this week to two people — the one you love most and one very different from you, perhaps foreign in culture. Remember each evening ways your actions said, “Lord, you know that I love you.”

Prayer for the Week: You know that I love you.

AND

10 Apr
Photo via Flickr user Sean MacEntee

Photo via Flickr user Sean MacEntee

Happy Easter to you! He is risen indeed, Alleluia.

During Jesus’ lifetime, people believed that when the Messiah came there would be peace in all nations. The Messiah would usher in a Messianic Age filled with prosperity and healing. Wars would end, boundaries would dissolve, and all would be well. They expected a power that more closely resembled kingly power on earth– big, gloating, sparkling.

If Jesus was the Messiah, then with his presence there should have been peace. The world should have changed, but it didn’t.

The women who went to see Jesus’ tomb knew this about the world. They knew that Jesus pushed enough political buttons to get killed. They knew the reality of crucifixion, and they knew that once you died you stayed dead. Jesus died, and the world didn’t change.

Despite all of this, the women went to the tomb. They knew better, they knew the dead stay dead, but they went anyway. And something had happened. It wasn’t what anyone expected, but it was real. The tomb was empty. No body. Death did not get the last word. In Ben Cieslik’s Easter sermon, he reminded me that Matthew said the women left with fear and great joy. As he said, Easter is a mixed bag.

Like these women who loved Jesus, we are called in this season of Easter to live with that same fear and great joy.

We celebrate Easter year in and year out, praying for the Messianic Age, praying for peace, for the world to change. Like people in Jesus’ time, we want Easter to mean that the world will be a little bit less of a scary place. But it hasn’t changed. The world is still broken and hurting. There will continue to be people senselessly murdered, more planes will crash, violence will continue to escalate in age old conflicts. Tomorrow’s world will look eerily similar to today’s world. But there is fear and great joy. The tomb is empty. Death does not win. This place will not be our resting place. This Easter, in fear and great joy, we hold onto the promise of the empty tomb. We trust that in the end, peace and love will be all we know.

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