Gospel Reflection for November 27, 2022 – 1st Sunday of Advent

Sunday Readings: 1 Isaiah 2.1-5; Romans 13.11-14; Matthew 24.37-44

Be sure of this: If the owner of the house knew when the thief was coming he or she would keep a watchful eye and not allow the house to be broken into. You must be prepared in the same way. The Son of Man is coming at a time you do not know (Matthew 24.43-44).

The 1st Sunday of Advent begins the Church year with a focus on Jesus’ second coming, an event that seems even farther off to us than to the Christians for whom Matthew wrote. We celebrate liturgies in our churches that help us appreciate God’s presence and gifts in our lives. We celebrate rituals in many other places—tucking a child in bed every night, honoring birthdays with cake and memories, gathering in times of sorrow.

To not miss God’s comings, Jesus cautions us to stay awake. Staying awake spiritually simply means paying attention— living, loving, remembering consciously. Now is the time to live like Jesus. Now is the moment to feed the hungry, to forgive those we really love, to restore depressed spirits to joy. Now is the time to watch birds eating the seeds of last summer’s blooms and to let “I love you” and “I’m proud of you” no longer go unsaid. Now is the time to give ourselves to those we love and those whose lives we touch.

Advent says, “Just in case you have been dozing, wake up and be ready for something wonderful!” God promises us gifts and graces as the Church year unfolds. Many gifts will come through the liturgies of our lives together— tears shared together, ears that listen to our joys and sadnesses, eyes that appreciate the house bedecked once more for Christmas, hands that set the tree straight and deliver food baskets.

What gifts has God given me to share?

Gospel Reflection for November 20, 2022 – Feast of Christ the King

Sunday Readings: 2 Samuel 5.1-3 Colossians 1.12-20 Luke 23.35-43

One of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus and said, “Aren’t you the messiah? Then save yourself and us.” The other criminal, rebuking him, said, “Don’t you even fear God? You are under the same sentence of death yourself. We deserve it, after all. We are paying the price for what we have done, but this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise” (23.39-43).

This crucifixion scene shows us Luke’s gospel in cameo. As king of the Jews, Jesus reigns from the cross, not a throne. He forgives a thief as his final act, which completes the mission he announces in Nazareth, his hometown—a jubilee year, Israel’s tradition of freeing the indebted from prison, the enslaved from oppression every 50th year. A jubilee is about righting relationships, restoring earth, restoring community to equality before God.

In his gospel Luke tells his community and us that Jesus is God’s Spirit-filled prophet, innocent of charges brought and faithful to the mission for which the Spirit anointed him. He brings good news to the poor, freedom to the oppressed, sight to those who have lived in darkness.

To the good thief, Jesus acts as the bearer of God’s mercy and forgiveness. He welcomes the repentant thief to paradise. Luke emphasizes the mystery and universality of God’s favor and Jesus’ mission and message: the poor, the ignorant, and wrongdoers who recognize their need are the chosen ones and the kin of God.

What harm or injustice is within your power to set right?

Advent Resources

It’s not too late to plan for Advent. Good Ground Press can help you make this holy time special for just yourself, or for family and friends, or even for your whole parish. Between Advent readings and FREE family Advent activities, we hope we have something for you: https://goodgroundpress.com/resources/advent/.

Gospel Reflection for November 13, 2022 – 33rd Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Malachi 3.19-20, 2 Thessalonians 3.7-12, Luke 21.5-19

Some people were talking about the temple and how it was adorned with precious stones and gifts dedicated to God. Jesus said, “These things you are talking about—the day will come when not one stone will be left on another, all will be torn down. People asked, “When will this occur, Teacher? And what will be the sign it is going to happen?” Jesus said, “Take care not to be misled. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,” and “The time is at hand.’ Do not run after them” (Luke 21.5-8).

As Sunday’s gospel passage begins, people admire the stones and adornments of the temple. Jesus stands in this scene before a magnificent, 500-year-old building no one can imagine flattened. Yet by the time Luke writes more than 50 years after Jesus’ public ministry, these prophetic words have proved true. The Roman legions destroyed the temple in A.D. 70.

For Luke, Jesus, who was rejected as Messiah and put to death, has risen and become the cornerstone of a new community. Those who believe in Jesus are living stones in the new temple, the Christian community.

Jesus offers four imperatives for surviving the profound upheaval that wars, earthquakes, famines, persecutions bring among us. In the face of rampant virus, melting glaciers, rising seas, and  drought, Jesus recommends patient endurance—don’t stray from Jesus, don’t panic, give witness, endure.

Jesus has taught us how to live every day. Indeed every tragedy catches individuals in the midst of doing good, saving someone besides themselves, rescuing neighbors, helping the disabled, helping clear away wreckage. Christianity is about the verbs of everyday living: love, share, forgive, include, speak the truth, listen, learn, build, rejoice, have compassion, go an extra mile, lend a hand.

What would you like to be caught doing in a crisis?

Gospel Reflection for October 30, 2022 – 31st Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Wisdom 11.22—12.2; 2 Thessalonians 1.11—2.2; Luke 19.1-10

Murmurers in the crowd said, “Jesus has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus spoke to Jesus. “I will give half my possessions, Lord, to the poor. If I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Jesus replied, “Today salvation has come to this house for he, too, is a son of Abraham. The Son of Man has come to seek out and save the lost” ( Luke 19.1-10).
        
Jesus invites himself as a guest into Zacchaeus’s life, demonstrating his mission to reach out to all and enter our lives. In this act Jesus reaches out to befriend an outsider and a sinner. Jesus’ final statement in the gospel makes his mission clear: he comes to seek out and save the lost. Jesus draws the marginalized tax collector into the mystery of God’s unconditional love.

In response Zacchaeus pledges the almsgiving that marks a true Jew, a son of Abraham. He pledges half his possessions to people who are poor. He promises to repay anyone he has defrauded fourfold. He shares the love he has received, moving toward his neighbors, putting his wealth to work for the common good, acting for the well-being of the whole rather than his own. His actions show respect for the dignity of the poor and their rights to food, shelter, work.

For Luke, his actions demonstrate how Christians should use their wealth. In the gospels that end the Church year Luke invites us to evaluate with Jesus our place in the whole, to invest our gifts and wealth in the common good, and extend hospitality outside our usual circles. At every eucharist Jesus comes to our house. His gift of himself gathers us into a holy communion that we daily live out.

To whom outside your circle of friends do you reach out? How do you use your gifts for the common good?

Gospel Reflection for October 23, 2022 – 30th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Sirach 35.12-14,16-18; 2 Timothy 4.6-8,16-18; Luke 18.9-14

Jesus told this parable to his disciples. Two men went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed these things concerning himself—”I give you thanks, O God, that I am not like other people— greedy, unjust, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I pay tithes on all that I own.” The tax collector, standing far off, did not raise his eyes toward heaven. He beat his breast. “O God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am.” Then Jesus said, “I say to you, this man rather than the first went down to his house worthy in God’s sight. All who make little of themselves will be lifted up, but all who make much of themselves will be brought down (Luke 18.10-14).

Neither character is faultless. The pious Pharisee is boastful; the exploitive tax collector is humble. Both raise questions to ask ourselves. Who do we praise in our prayer, God or ourselves? Does the mercy we seek from God really lead us to change, to stop exploiting people who are poor, to seek reconciliation with those we hurt?

The Protestant Reformation began more than 500 years ago with Martin Luther’s insight that God is gracious, rather than judging. God freely bestows love and life upon all of us, not because we deserve it or have earned God’s blessings, but because God is God. God is love. In the end, perhaps the parable is really about God and the abundant mercy God has for all.

Finish the Pharisee’s prayer, “I thank you, God, that I am not like…” in your own words.Finish the tax collector’s prayer, “God, be merciful to me…” in your own words.

How does your prayer insulate you from others? How does your prayer connect you with others?

Gospel Reflection for October 9, 2022 – 28th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: 2 Kings 14-17 2 Timothy 2.8-13 Luke 17.11-19

On their way the lepers found they were cleansed. One of them seeing that he had been healed, turned back, praising God in a loud voice. He fell at Jesus’ feet, thanking him. This man was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Weren’t ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Did none return to give glory to God but this man who is not of our country?” –Luke 17.14-17

This miracle story ends with a twist that probes how the physical healing affects the ten lepers within themselves. Does the miracle lead to faith or require faith? Is the Samaritan the only believer? Is he grateful because he is whole or does he bring a grateful attitude to the miracle?

Gratitude has power within us. In her book Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We Are in Without Going Crazy, Joanna Macy reports studies that show we are more likely to help people to whom we are grateful. Gratitude builds trust because it marks times we have been able to count on one another.

Expressing gratitude plays forward; it creates a widening spiral of helping, trust, and cooperation. Macy also thinks gratitude prevents consumer values. A life of gratitude creates a reservoir to tap into when things don’t go well. One can remember and cherish all one does have.

Being alive calls us to appreciate the Creator. Evolution deepens the story of God’s creative love in which we live. We see with eyes that have evolved over millions of years in creatures that sought light. Our stem cells contain the memory of God’s love unfolding.

To be part of giving life gives parents a moment in the evolution of all that is. The birth of a child takes them to a place of awe and closeness to God. The child immediately breathes in the oxygen that plants and trees make every day out of sunlight.

What are 10 things you are grateful for today?

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?

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