Gospel Reflection for September 11, 2022 – 24th Sunday Ordinary Time

The elder son tells his father, “For years now I have slaved for you. I never disobeyed one of your orders, yet you never gave me so much as a kid goat to celebrate with my friends. Then, when this son of yours returns after having gone through your property with loose women, you kill the fatted calf for him.” The father explains, “My son, you are with me always, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice! This brother of yours was dead, and has come back to life. He was lost, and is found” (Luke 15.31-32).

Jesus tells three parallel parables in Sunday’s gospel. A shepherd leaves 99 sheep to find the one. A woman with ten silver pieces loses one and sweeps until she finds it. A father has two sons, one is the well-known prodigal who breaks away from his father, wastes his inheritance, then feels desperate in a famine, repents and returns.

Each story ends in celebration. The shepherd carries his lost sheep home and calls friends and neighbors to celebrate. The woman calls her friends and neighbors to share her joy. Likewise, the father welcomes the son, dresses him in fine clothes, kills the fatted calf, and calls in the neighbors to eat and dance.

The first two parable conclude by comparing the lost to a sinner and emphasizing the joy in heaven when a sinner repents. A sheep, a coin, and one son have been lost and found. But the father has two sons, the elder responsible, hard-working, obedient son reacts with anger and jealousy when he hears his less than deserving brother is home and his father throwing a welcome party. The parable ends without him knowing what the elder son does.

What do we do with anger and jealous feelings? What would you do in the brother’s shoes?  

Gospel Reflection for August 21, 2022 – 21st Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 66.18-21, Hebrews 12.5-7, 11-13, Luke 13.22-30

Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. A person asked him this question. “Teacher, will only a few be saved?” Jesus replied, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us.’ Then the householder will say, ‘I don’t know where you come from.’”

A door or gate always represents choice. As long as a room has a door we can enter and exit it. We can choose to go in and choose to leave, to enclose or expand ourselves.

A doorway or threshold is a liminal space. The word limen means threshold, literally, the timber or stone that lies under a door. This space between inside and outside is transitional space, the boundary where one crosses between worlds and where we can imagine the persons we want to become.

The narrow door is Jesus self-giving way of life. His way means turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, loving even our enemies. In Luke’s narrative Jesus presses his followers to invest in the poor rather than in bigger granaries, to store up unfailing treasure with God. His way calls us to forgive other’s debts and invest ourselves and our wealth in providing a leg up for those our economy leaves behind and who have no hope of repaying us.

Luke places Jesus’ saying about the narrow door in the context of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and his clear commitment to his unfolding mission. The narrow door is not an isolated saying but an image of Jesus’ way.

What door do you want to open or shut this week?

Gospel Reflection for August 14, 2022 – 20th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Jeremiah 38.4-6,8-10; Hebrews 12.1-4; Luke 12.49-53

Jesus said, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!” (Luke 12.49-51)

In the first two sentences in Sunday’s gospel Jesus speaks with urgency first about fire, then about baptism. When Luke writes in the mid 80s of the first century, Jesus has completed his baptism—his suffering, death, resurrection, and return to God, but he has not come again in glory.

Meanwhile Christian faith has spread not only among Jews but among Gentiles and created conflicts. Baptism is one such conflict. Among Gentiles baptism takes the place of circumcision, the sign for men of Jewish faith. But some of the Pharisees who have become Christians object. They think Gentiles should be circumcised and instructed in keeping the law of Moses.

The first Church council convenes in Jerusalem in AD 49 to discuss and pray about whether Gentiles entering the Christian movement need to be circumcised. Both Peter and Paul agree circumcision is not necessary.

The fire Jesus wishes were already kindled points to this challenge of Jews and Gentiles in Christ working together to reconcile divisions, even in families and households. Fire is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, the giver of our lives, who coexists with us and accompanies us in success and failure.  Jesus anticipates fires will persist. To widen our perspectives, we have to interact.

Every election season lights fires and puts Catholic social teaching to work. Who includes the least among us in their vision of economic life? Who values the family and puts people to work? Who listens and learns as well as speaks and stands up for their constituents? Who can negotiate for the common good?

What divisions do you experience in the Church today? What value do you experience in talking about difficult, even divisive, questions?

Gospel Reflection for August 7, 2022 – 19th Sunday Ordinary Time

Do not live in fear, little flock. It has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give alms. Make investments that never depreciate; establish inexhaustible accounts for yourselves in the heavens. For wherever your treasure is, there your heart will be, too.

Be dressed for hard work; keep your lamps burning. Be like people expecting their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open up for him the moment he comes and knocks . . .

Bear this in mind: if a householder could know just when the thief would break in, the householder would never leave the house to be broken into! You have to be ready the same way, for the Son of Man will come at an hour you don’t expect (Luke 12.32-36, 39).

In Sunday’s gospel Luke gathers together sayings and parables that speak to an unpredictable delay in the glorious return of Christ. Many early Christians expected Jesus’ second coming in glory to be immanent and must have grown weary of waiting. The rich fool in last Sunday’s gospel sees his biggest problem as lack of storage space for his harvest. His wealth becomes his source of whatever confidence he has in the world. He wants to “Eat, drink, and be merry.”

The end times may be delayed but rush toward us in our own lives. The element of surprise pervades Jesus’ sayings. Jesus counsels us to dress for hard work and to keep our lamps burning. The kingdom may startle us, erupting as suddenly as a thief breaking in. The gospel calls us to establish inexhaustible accounts by continuing Jesus’ mission: to feed the hungry, heal the sick, and free the oppressed. The wedding feast of the messiah may delay but we foretaste this meal in every Eucharist, which calls become what we celebrate: the body of Christ in our world.

What in the way you live each day indicates where your heart is? When have you had to reassess your Christian hopes?  

Celebrating Mary Magdalene

Jesus chose a woman, Mary Magdalene, to be the first to see him after his resurrection and the one to announce this good news to his other disciples. St. Thomas Aquinas recognized Mary’s unique role and named her “the apostle to the apostles.”

Pope Francis elevated Mary’s feast day, July 22, to the status of a solemnity. All the other apostles are celebrated with solemnities and now so is she.

You can honor Mary on her feast day by honoring a woman you know, or know of, who witnesses to Jesus’ good news of love and mercy.

Gospel Reflection for July 17, 2022 – 16th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Genesis 18.1-10; Colossians 1.24-28; Luke 10.38-42

Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him to her home. She had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teachings. Martha, who was busy with all the details of hospitality, came to Jesus and said: Lord, is it of no concern to you that my sister has left me all alone to serve? Tell her to help me. Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset about many things; one thing only is necessary. Mary has chosen the better portion, and she shall not be deprived of it” (Luke 10.38-42).

Mary and Martha appear in two gospels, Luke and John. The five-verse story in Luke forms Sunday’s gospel. It sets the two sisters at odds and requires Jesus to mediate. In John both women are visible, central characters chapters 11 and 12. With Lazarus, their brother, they are friends Jesus loves.

To be remembered by name makes people stand out. Perhaps tradition remembers Martha and Mary because their home was not only a place Jesus stayed during his lifetime but a house church, where after Jesus’ resurrection, Martha welcomed a community of disciples to remember his teaching and break bread as he asked.  In Sunday’s gospel Mary seats herself at Jesus’ feet to listen to his teachings and Martha serves him. These two actions— listening to Jesus’ words and serving a meal—are the same actions that take place in the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the eucharist.

Luke’s gospel places Jesus’ visit to Martha and Mary during his historical ministry, A.D. 30. However, Martha addresses Jesus in the story not by name but by the post-resurrection title Lord. This detail reminds us that the community for whom Luke wrote lived some 50 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Women’s roles in house church have become controversial.

Sunday’s gospel shows Martha offering table hospitality as Christians do at Eucharist and Mary listening to the Word. Jesus tells Martha to give up welcoming others to her table and join her sister in preferring the better part—silent listening to Jesus. Jesus’ words effectively silence the ministries of both women.

What roles do you imagine Martha and Mary played in the post-resurrection community? Describe sermons you have heard preached on this gospel. What inspired you? What frustrated you?

For information on the global synod’s work on restoring and extending the work of deacons to women, visit DiscerningDeacons.org.

Live simply. Live prayerfully. Live in peace.

Living Like Francis Today puts you in touch with the God of love and mercy Pope Francis wants us to know. 

Each of the six short chapters begins and ends with a simple prayer from scripture or from the writing of St. Francis. 

Short reflections invite you to apply the themes in your own life.

Read a sample chapter. Then call us to order copies for you and your seeker friends. Living Like Francis is only $5.50 per copy.

Order online at goodgroundpress.com. We will put your books in the mail the same day we get your order.

Each of the Cosmos Cards has a fact about one of God’s creative moves and a blessing. These cards are ready to mail as a postcard for someone who needs a regular reminder that God is with them. $15 for all 25 cards. Order online.

Gospel Reflection for July 10, 2022 – 15th Sunday Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings: Deuteronomy 30.10-14; Colossians 1.15-20; Luke 10.25-37

The lawyer asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus told this parable: There was a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho who fell in with robbers. They stripped him, beat him, and then went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road; he saw him but continued on. A Levite came the same way; he saw him and went on. But a Samaritan who was journeying along came on him and was moved to pity at the sight. He dressed his wounds, pouring in oil and wine as a means to heal. He then hoisted him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, where he cared for him. The next day he took out two silver pieces and gave them to the innkeeper with a request. “Look after him, and if there is any further expense, I will repay you on my way back.” Jesus asked the lawyer, “Which of these three was neighbor to the man who fell in with the robbers” (Luke 10.29-36).

This gospel story stands at the heart of Jesus’ message of salvation. In effect, Jesus tells the lawyer (and all of us) that to be saved, whole, and happy we must love God and ourselves by loving our neighbors, including those for whom we may have no understanding or liking. Jesus insists that our relationships to God, to others, and to ourselves are intertwined.

Jesus’ parable asks the lawyer and us to stop, reflect, and embrace whom and what we most despise. He asks us to act as the Samaritan does when he stops to help and heal another marginalized person, someone whose wounds and distress everyone else has ignored. He asks us to allow compassion to change our hearts and lives.

The word compassion comes from the Latin, passio (suffering) and cum (with): to suffer or feel with. The Hebrew word for compassion, rahamim, expresses a deeply tender and empathetic love like that of a mother and father for their own child. Compassion may be understood as the capacity to be attracted to and moved by the vulnerability of someone else. It requires the willingness to risk, to stop and share one’s own strengths and vulnerability, rather than rushing on with our own preoccupations or stereotypes.

How have you learned compassion? Who has taken time for you in a crisis? What experiences in your life have taught you compassion?

Gospel Reflection for July 4, 2022 – 14th Sunday Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 66.10-14; Galatians 6.14-18; Luke 10.1-9

Jesus appointed 72 other missionaries and sent them in pairs ahead of him to every town and place he intended to visit. …Whatever house you enter, say first, “Peace to this house.”  . . . Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what they set before you and cure the sick there.  Say to them, “The reign of God has come near” (Luke 10.1, 5, 8-9).

July 4th is a day for singing “America the Beautiful.” Farmers are harvesting amber waves of grain beneath spacious skies in many parts of the country. Fittingly, in Sunday’s gospel Jesus is sending workers out for the harvest of seeds he has planted in his preaching and healing. The word to send in Greek is apostlein, from which we get the word apostle or missionary. A missionary is one who is sent to bring a message. The message is “the reign of God has come near.”

Only Luke describes Jesus sending out 72 missionaries in pairs. Only Luke finds the story of the early Church inseparable from the story of Jesus’ ministry and elaborates a second, companion volume to the gospel, his Acts of the Apostles. With the sending out of missionaries, Luke’s gospel turns to the people of the nations and anticipates a future that includes us who hear the gospel 2,000 years later.

In America it’s summer. It’s the Fourth. Families set out to camp and fish, eat hot dogs, and watch red, white, and blue fireworks cascade, explode, and spill down the dark night skies. Congregations plan services outdoors. Relatives gather for potluck picnics as they have for decades. Hometowns plan parades. We rise together to honor the flags that lead the parades.

Perhaps at our picnics we don’t talk politics or religion in order to keep our friends and keep peace in our families. On other days, the congressional investigations remind us as citizens that democracy takes watchful work. This Sunday the gospel reminds us as Christians Jesus’ messengers are to bring healing as he did.

For what about our nation are you grateful this 4th of July? Who has brought the good news of God’s nearness and healing to you?

Gospel Reflection for June 19, 2022 – Feast of the Blood and Body of Christ

Sunday Readings: Sunday Readings: Genesis 14.18-20, 1 Corinthians 11.23-26, Luke 9.11-17

Jesus spoke to the crowds of the reign of God, and he healed all who were in need of healing. As sunset approached, the twelve came to him and said, “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go into the villages and farms in the neighborhood and find themselves lodging and food, for this is certainly an out-of-the-way place.” Jesus replied, “Why don’t you give them something to eat yourselves?” The disciples insisted, “We have nothing but five loaves and two fishes. Shall we go and buy food for all these people?”  There were about five thousand men. Jesus said, “Have them sit down in groups of fifty or so.”  Jesus’ disciples followed his instructions and got the people all seated. Then, taking the five loaves and the two fishes, Jesus raised his eyes to heaven, pronounced a blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to his disciples for distribution to the crowd. They all ate until they had enough. What was left filled twelve baskets (Luke 9.11-17).

At every Eucharist, bread blessed, broken, and shared and a cup of wine blessed and shared become the sacrament of Jesus’ wholehearted love poured out for us even unto death. Participating in this sign can transform us into Christ. When we gather at every Eucharist, we remember Jesus’ giving his whole self for us. We find strength and courage to try this kind of self-giving ourselves. We gather again and again, so that we become more and more like him. We gather in pain and in delight. We pour out our lives as Jesus did. We put our lives on the altar with his. Like the sacrament itself, we become Jesus’ real presence in our world. We become what we receive.

How does celebrating Eucharist nourish you?

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