Bible Study: The Gospel of Luke

Everyone remembers a good Bible study. They remember what they learned about a portion of the scriptures, but also how they also shared faith, made new friends, and left with more hope in their hearts. We begin hearing Luke’s story of Jesus’ good news in Advent and continue throughout all of January and February. This is an ideal time to have Luke be the focus of your Bible study.
 
The easy-to-use format of Luke’s Gospel: Written for Us, by Sister Joan, makes Luke’s witness to Jesus’ life and teaching available in nine short chapters. It encourages us ordinary readers to become active bible readers as we explore the themes of the passages we hear at Mass.
 
This book is only $10.00 per copy. Call 800-232-5533 or go to goodgroundpress.com to order. 


Holy Women of Luke’s Gospel makes a great companion book to Luke’s Gospel: Written for Us. Discover in art, scholarship, reflection, and prayer each gospel woman’s significance. Order online at goodgroundpress.com.

Friday Poem

Daisies 

by Mary Oliver

It is possible, I suppose, that sometime,
we will learn everything
there is to learn: what the world is, for example,
and what it means. I think this as I am crossing
from one field to another, in summer, and the
mockingbird is mocking me, as one who either
knows enough already or knows enough to be
perfectly content not knowing. Song being born
of quest he knows this: he must turn silent
were he suddenly assaulted with answers. Instead
oh hear his wild, caustic, tender warbling ceaselessly
unanswered. At my feet the white-petalled daisies display
the small suns of their centerpiece, their — if you don’t
mind my saying so — their hearts. Of course
I could be wrong, perhaps their hearts are pale and
narrow and hidden in the roots. What do I know.
But this: it is heaven itself to take what is given,
to see what is plain; what the sun
lights up willingly; for example — I think this
as I reach down, not to pick but merely to touch — 
the suitability of the field for the daisies, and the
daisies for the field.


Visit goodgroundpress.com for daily prayers, Advent resources, and free online retreats.

Gospel Reflection for October 17, 2021 – 29th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 53.10-11; Hebrews 4.14-16; Mark 10.35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, asked Jesus, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” Jesus said, “What is it you want me to do for you?” “When you sit on your throne in your glorious kingdom, we want to sit with you, one at your right and one at your left.” “But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They answered, “We can.– Mark 10.35-39

Three times Jesus tells those who are journeying with him to Jerusalem that he will suffer, die, and rise after three days. Each time Jesus’ disciples object. First, Peter and Jesus scolds him. The second time lead to talk among the disciples about who is greatest. Sunday’s gospel describes what happens after Jesus’ third attempt to correct their image of the kind of messiah he is.

Each prediction widens the irony between hearers of the gospels like us, who know how Jesus’ story turns out, and disciples within the narrative like James and John, who don’t have a clue who Jesus really is and what following Jesus will demand of them. Mark’s gospel deliberately makes Jesus’ inner circle of disciples — Peter, James, and John — unenlightened about the meaning of discipleship.

James and John imagine the glory of following the messiah, the victories, the status, the revival of the nation. They seek the top positions in Jesus’ kingdom at his right hand and left hand. Jesus recognizes that the two brothers don’t know what they are asking. Jesus question them, “Can you drink the cup I will drink?” They respond with brash certainty, “We can.”

James and John imagine sharing a cup of victory, not of suffering. When Jesus prays in the garden, they sleep; when Jesus is arrested, they flee. Yet, they are also right about themselves; they do give their lives to spreading the good new of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Mark wants us to recognize that Jesus’ first disciples grow into their commitment as we can.

This brash commitment, possemus, in Latin; we can, in English, is the motto of the Sisters of St. Joseph. At every eucharist we drink the cup that Jesus drank. We brashly say amen, affirming this is the lifeblood of Christ poured out for us. It becomes part of us, a commitment to live into each day.

What are your spiritual ambitions? To what have you said a brash yes and only later discovered it demanded more than you anticipated?

A Christmas Gift for Your Whole Parish

This Advent begins Luke’s story of Jesus’ good news. What if everyone in your parish didn’t just hear the Sunday scriptures at Mass, but had them on their phone or their laptop? What if you gave each of them the gift of Sunday by Sunday.

Sunday by Sunday not only brings the Sunday readings but adds prayer, reflection, and questions that help relate the scriptures to our daily lives. What a gift for anyone seeking God!

Our special Advent pricing means you can easily afford to give Sunday by Sunday to every parishioner. For just $100.00 ($50.00 for small parishes), we will provide you with a password that anyone can use for the six Sunday by Sunday Advent and Christmas season issues. You can include the password in an email, print it in your bulletin, send it any way you like to as many people as you like. Sunday by Sunday is good for teens, too, and Confirmation candidates.

Go to goodgroundpress.com and click on the Special Advent Offer on the home page. Place your order online or call us at 800-232-5533 with any questions. Thank you.

May you be blessed by St. Francis this week

Francis lived a life of peace, joy, and simplicity. He loved and served poor and throwaway people. He has made his way down the centuries into our hearts.

May you be blessed with the heart of Francis today. “Remember,” he said, “your life may be the only sermon someone will hear today.” Trust Francis to be with you as you live this day. 

Living Like Francis Today is a short faith-sharing book of Francis’s spirituality. Read a sample chapter. Only $5.50. Order your copy online at goodgroundpress.com or by calling 800-232-5533. Find a friend to share the book with. You’ll be glad you did.

Gospel Reflection for October 3, 2021 – 27th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Genesis 2.18-24; Hebrews 2.9-11; Mark 10.2-12
 
Some Pharisees asked Jesus a question as a test. “Tell us, does the Law allow a husband to divorce his wife?” Jesus replied, “What law did Moses give you?” A Pharisee answered, “Moses gave permission for a husband to write a divorce notice and send his wife away.”

Jesus said, “Moses wrote this law for you because you are so hard to teach. But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female and for this reason men and women leave their fathers and mothers and the two become one. They are no longer two but one. Let no one separate what God has joined.” – Mark 10.2-9
 
The Old Testament law that allows divorce appears in Deuteronomy 24.1-4. It assumes a husband owns his wife and can send her out of his house. A woman’s sexuality belongs to her husband who expects virginity before marriage, fidelity during marriage, and no remarriage in the case of divorce. To repudiate a wife puts her outside the family social structure, in effect impoverishing her.

Among the rabbis who discuss divorce in Jesus’ time, some allow sending a wife away only in the case of her infidelity. Others allow divorce for trivial reasons, for example, finding a more comely woman. The law that allows divorce appears in Deuteronomy 24.1-4. It assumes a husband owns his wife and can send her out of his house. A woman’s sexuality belongs to her husband who expects virginity before marriage, fidelity during marriage, and no remarriage in the case of divorce.

What about divorce today? The Synod on the Family that Pope Francis convened in 2016 considered this question. Marriages fall apart. A spouse needs to escape violence or subjugation. Spouses lack the maturity to make commitments.
 
Today more partners than not expect equality and mutuality in marriage. They share the chores that keep a household going and the responsibilities for raising children. In Amoris Laetitia, Love in the Family, Pope Francis affirms the growing equality and reciprocity between men and women in their marriages today (#54).
 
Where legalists draw sharp unyielding lines, Pope Francis speaks pastorally about making room for grace and respecting people’s consciences. The Church that is a field hospital doesn’t cut off divorced and remarried couples from communion and the companionship of parish life. 

Marriage is the most common way Christians live out their discipleship. In marriage spouses promise to love each other faithfully and open their lives to each other’s family and friends. Marriage is a life work, a promise and a process couples live out over time. 
 
What is one thing you have learned about yourself through marriage?

Gospel Reflection for September 26, 2021 – 26th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Numbers 11.25-29; James 5.1-6; Mark 9.38-48
 
“Whoever is not against us is for us.” – Mark 9.40
 
This Sunday the disciple John raises a question about who can act in Jesus’ name. “Teacher, someone is casting out demons in your name.” John admits that he and the other disciples stopped the man. He was not one of their company, so he should not act in Jesus’ name, they reasoned.
 
Jesus’ response teaches his disciples not to box in his power. Jesus reasons that a person liberating another in his name cannot also speak evil of him. Jesus claims broad middle ground in this saying, “Whoever is not against us is for us.”
 
Such middle ground is fertile space for transformation. Often activists, liberal and conservative, reverse Jesus’ saying and eliminate middle ground. In trying to mobilize advocates for change in public policies, they insist whoever is not for us is against us, complicit.

Middle ground is valuable space to preserve. It’s where we explore what we have in common with others, what they have experienced, why they think the way they do. Middle ground is where people share their stories. What is the experience of a suburban stay-at-home mom, a refugee from Somalia in a foreign culture, an undocumented immigrant working a minimum-wage job at a hotel, an African American nurse who has experienced people shunning his or her touch.

Middle ground is where real people replace stereotypes and liberate each other from the demons of prejudice and unexamined certainty. Middle ground is where someone else’s lived experience can broaden and transform our own. 
 
What experience of middle ground becoming common ground have you had?What can you do to widen common ground in your parish? In your neighborhood? Work place?

Gospel Reflection for September 12, 2021 – 24th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 50.5-9 James 2.14-18 Mark 8.27-35ho do you say that I am?
 
Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.” Then Jesus sternly ordered his disciples not to tell anyone about him. He began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be put to death, and after three days rise again. Jesus said all this quite openly.

Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. At this Jesus turned around, and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on divine things but on human things.” – Mark 8.29-33
 
Mark’s gospel explores how the faith of Jesus’ disciples matures. For all of us, faith develops across the life cycle. As children, our brains limit our understanding. As adolescents, we share the faith of our families, neighbors, and the church in which we grow up. Some of us never examine the faith we receive.

In Sunday’s gospel Jesus begins correcting the disciples’ popular image of the prophet Daniel’s popular image of the Son of Man, who will come on the clouds to rule all people, nations, and languages. Jesus insists the Son of Man will suffer and die at the hand of officials in Jerusalem and rise on the third day.

Peter has to examine his faith in Jesus.  He objects to a suffering Son of Man and clings to his popular kingly notion of who Jesus is. Only Jesus’ death destroys Peter’s received idea. Only Jesus’ resurrection radically transforms his disciples’ understanding.

The empty tomb is the ultimate threshold that invites Jesus’ disciples to a profoundly new, committed relationship with him, the crucified and risen one. It is this leap to which Mark calls his hearers.

For us in our time, the young adult years are critical to examining received faith and establishing a firm sense of self. Young adults often leave their churches if they disagree with their teachings or stands on issues. Either/or thinking tends to rule.

Today the 26 million former Catholics are the second largest Christian denomination after Catholic. Parents lament their children leaving the Church after years of costly Catholic schooling. Homosexuality, women’s ordination, same sex marriage are critical issues that lead young people to resist belonging to the Catholic Church.

Some people grow able to hold tensions without resolving them. They welcome others’ views, appreciate differences, and negotiate conflicts. Both/and replaces either/or thinking. In our polarized political and religious climate we badly need folks like this.

Jesus’ disciples keep growing after his death and resurrection. Peter, whose vision is blurry in Sunday’s gospel and teary after he denies Jesus at his trial, later gives his life as a martyr during Nero’s persecution of Christians in A.D. 64. Mark wants those who hear his gospel to recognize that faith can begin in fear and confusion.
 
Who do you say Jesus is? What popular ideas of Jesus and religion have you outgrown?

Gospel Reflection for September 5, 2021 – 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 35.4-7; James 2.1-5; Mark 7.31-37
 
In the region of Decapolis people brought to Jesus a man who was deaf and who had an impediment in his speech. They begged him to lay his hand on him. Jesus took the man aside in private away from the crowd and put his fingers into his ears. He spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, Jesus sighed and said, “Ephphatha.” This word means “Be opened.”  Immediately the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. – Mark 7.31-36
 
Lack of hearing separates the man who is deaf from his society. He experiences the world as silent. Worse, his deafness impedes his speech and silences his voice in the conversations of the human community. These challenges marginalize the man and leave the seeing of his eyes and the commitments of his heart without words.

Yet, this man communicates. He has friends. His friends beg Jesus to lay his hand on him. When Jesus says, “Be opened,” he opens the man’s ears to human conversation and gives him voice.

In fact, as events turn out, the miracle sets this man, who is a Gentile, free to participate fully in Jesus’ mission. When Jesus loosens his tongue and calls him into speech, he cannot be silenced nor can his friends. They will not keep Jesus’ healing power secret. They tell everyone the amazing healing the man has experienced.

This miracle story shows us in cameo that God wants wholeness and freedom for people. It shows Jesus reaches out to include the marginalized. It invites us to identify who is silent in our society.

When have others silenced you? Who have you listened into speech?

Gather faith-sharing groups online with Sunday by Sunday.

Jesus said, “When two or three gather in my name, I am there with them” (Matthew 18.20). This past year we found out Jesus is with us online, too.

Sunday by Sunday brings groups together around the readings for Sunday Eucharist. Small groups gather in person or online to share the scripture and reflections. The prompts for faith-sharing in Sunday by Sunday help groups see what the Sunday Gospel is asking of them and the grace and mercy it brings them.

If you have felt isolated during the pandemic, this is your chance to make connections that will nourish you and those you love and serve.

Read our sample issues and imagine how Sunday by Sunday could benefit your parish, your family, your group of friends. Check our low prices.

Visit goodgroundpress.com or call Lacy at 800-232-5533 to find out how simple it is to get Sunday by Sunday into everyone’s laptop, computer, or phone. You may also print copies if you wish.

Sunday by Sunday has been bringing the Gospel to people for 31 years. This is our joy, one we wish to share with you.

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