Gospel Reflection for August 28, 2016, 22nd Sunday Ordinary Time

23 Aug
Photo via Flickr user Stijn Nieuwendijk

Photo via Flickr user Stijn Nieuwendijk

Sunday Readings: Sirach 3.17-18, 20, 28-29; Hebrews 12.18-19, 22-24; Luke 14.1, 7-14

“When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. You will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.”

(Luke 14.12-13)

Jesus’ two healings on the Sabbath demonstrate God’s will for human beings. We read neither story among the Sunday gospels. Jesus straightens up a woman who for 18 years has been bent over in Luke 13.10-17 and heals a moan with dropsy (14.2-6). He restores them to praise and worship rather than leaving them among the forgotten whom God supposedly punishes. In his advice for making guest lists, Jesus prefers those who cannot repay their hosts with a return invitation and place of honor at their tables. Jesus wants us to widen the circle of those who eat at our tables to include people like the two he has just healed. He wants our guest lists to distribute food justly rather than cut people off as chronically inferior, deserving distance from us rather than place among us.

What places of honor might you give up? What would you lose or gain? Who might you add to your guest list? What would you lose or gain?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

The Times

19 Aug
Artwork by Sr. Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ

Artwork by Sr. Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ

Anyone who picked up the New York Times this morning saw the heartbreaking photo of a small, traumatized Syrian boy on the cover. Sister Ansgar, an artist, responded by creating a collage that put the child in the arms of Mary and gave him a mother for our prayerful contemplation. She found the photo of the Mary statue in the Art section. She calls the collage: The Times.

Neighbors on the Path

19 Aug

It isn’t a new lesson, but it is one I have to keep revisiting. The Good Samaritan. One man in Jesus’ parable saw the humanity of the man on the side of the road naked and broken. One man stopped. One man did what it took to ensure the victim’s full restoration. It seems so elementary, but I have so much trouble following his example.

Jesus tells this parable to a man trying to find a loophole and get around the law. When he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds, with the story of the good Samaritan, essentially saying, “Your neighbor is anyone who has been put in your path.”

We, too, are challenged by Jesus’ ministry and this parable specifically to see the humanity of all people put in our path. We are called to stop, let others change our plans, let the urgency of restoration work shape our days.

It is no easy calling. Jesus is asking us to get our hands dirty. He is asking us to move into the heart of conflict. This may risk our reputation, our schedule, and the ease of our known lives. It is often our busyness, our vanity and our fear of conflict that holds us back from acting like Jesus and the good Samaritan. I am guilty of all three, so I must revisit this parable again and again.

Really knowing our neighbors, the people in our path, requires seeing and stopping. That is often the hardest part. If we do engage with unexpected neighbors, like the good Samaritan did, like Jesus did, then we are often filled with the compassion necessary to move toward creative and effective reconciliation work. So this week, yet again, I pray for the courage to be open and willing to fully engage with all of my neighbors.

Gospel Reflection for August 21, 2016, 21st Sunday Ordinary Time

16 Aug
Photo via Flickr user Sailesh Vaghela

Photo via Flickr user Sailesh Vaghela

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

“Strive to enter through the narrow door.”

(Luke 13.24)

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, which stand between inside and outside, between life as we know it and life as Jesus promises it. In Sunday’s gospel Jesus crosses a threshold in his ministry when he sets his face for Jerusalem. As he goes on his way, Jesus teaches; his teaching has the authenticity of one who lives his word. Jesus is on his way to his Father through the narrow door of his own suffering and death.

Who beckons you to participate actively in your community of faith? What door do you want to open or close?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Simple Prayers

12 Aug
Photo via Flickr user Ashley Rose

Photo via Flickr user Ashley Rose

Praying can be intimidating because, well, God can be intimidating. If we have not established a regular prayer practice, that first prayer in a while can feel forced, awkward, inauthentic, or riddled with guilt. Whatever do we say to God? Where do we start?

I usually start by remembering that prayer does not have to be talking, on my knees with my head bowed and my hands crossed. Enjoying things we love–really good reading, music, food, company, exercise etc–can be prayer. Basking in creation is prayer. Action is prayer. Our lives are a prayer to God. I also try to remember that prayer goes better for me when I start not with talking, but with listening. To learn to pray, we must first learn to listen.

Yet, at some point, finding words in prayer is meaningful for me. Speaking words of prayer change my spirit and overflow to my life. Maybe God knows my words before I speak them, but the act of speaking is a way of showing up in God’s presence. Lately, I have circled back to Anne Lamott’s simple words of prayer: Help, Thanks, Wow. It is a helpful framework, a good start that invokes vulnerability, gratitude and awe, three things I want to cultivate in my life. If you find your prayer life is at a loss for word, give it a try.

Help:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the one Israel praises.
4 In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried out and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
–Psalm 22:1-7,11
Thanks:
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!
26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
27 The Lord is God,
and he has given us light.
Bind the festal procession with branches,
up to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
you are my God, I will extol you.
29 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
–Psalm 118:21-29
Wow:
For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. –Eph 3:14-21

Gospel Reflection for August 14, 2016, 19th Sunday Ordinary Time

9 Aug

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

“I came to bring fire to the earth…I have baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!”

(Luke 12.49)

When the evangelist Luke writes about A.D. 85, 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 but some Pharisees who have become Christians object. They think Gentiles should be circumcised and instructed in keeping the law of Moses.

The gospel anticipates dividing fires will persist. In his follow up the Synod of the Family that met in 2014 and 2015, Pope Francis invites the Church today into tough conversations that air differences. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy Pope Francis invokes the principle that “time is greater than space.” He favors processes that make room over time for mercy and grace to work in our lives.

What value do you experience in talking about difficult, even divisive, questions? How does time make room for grace to work?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

 

Restoring Peace

5 Aug
Photo via Flickr user Carolina Ponce

Photo via Flickr user Carolina Ponce

The disciples were fishing, and a man on the shore told them to throw their net to the other side of the boat.”It is the Lord,” one said to Peter. It was the third time Jesus appeared to his friends after the resurrection in John. Although Peter had not initially recognized Jesus, he jumped into the water to swim to shore. While the others stayed in the boat, Peter’s love for Jesus could not be contained.

The time between Jesus’ death and ascension is blessed, heavy with holiness and wonder. In these interactions, Jesus is teaching us a great deal about peace and reconciliation, which seems to be his focus in that middle time. “Peace. Peace be with you. My peace I give you,” he says as a greeting. It is done. In his death and resurrection, peace is possible. Now the disciples have to take that peace and make it real in the world.

In his life, death and resurrection, Jesus is a master healer. His healing brings restoration and transformation. It leaves the broken not only whole, but stronger. It is a ministry of true reconciliation. The scene that follows Peter’s endearing swim to meet Jesus is another example of the heart of Jesus’ ministry.

First, they eat. This is no small gesture. Imagine if we really took the time to sit down and share a meal with people we are working with, living among, and loving before launching into the business at hand. Then, after connecting to his friend, listening and laughing, he asks,”Peter, do you love me?”

“You know that I love you.”

“Peter, do you love me?”

“Lord, you know that I love you.”

A third time, “Peter, do you love me?”

It would have been easy for Jesus to assume Peter understood what the resurrection meant– that he was forgiven, that he was filled with Christ’s peace. Jesus creates an intimate moment between friends so that Peter will claim his freedom. Jesus asks not once, but three times. Peter is reminded of his own brokenness and thrice betrayal in the same moment he is released from it. He is free to take on the peace of Christ and spread it to the world.

This “Do you love me?/Lord, you know that I love you” refrain has been echoing in my head for a few days. It is Jesus intimately and tenderly taking my hand, helping me face my brokenness and claim Christ’s forgiveness and peace so that I too may engage in the ever-important work of reconciliation in our broken world. The peace of restoration– that same peace Jesus showed lepers and adulterers and his good friend Peter– is being given to us to claim and share.

Gospel Reflection for August 7, 2016, 19th Sunday Ordinary Time

4 Aug
Photo via Flickr user jd_09

Photo via Flickr user jd_09

Sunday Readings: Wisdom 18.6-9; Hebrews 11.1-2, 8-10; Luke 12.32-48

“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. Who is the faithful and wise servant the master can leave in charge of the household to keep everyone fed on schedule?” 

(Luke 12.39, 42)

Luke seems compelled to gather together sayings and parables to provide a spirituality for waiting for Jesus’ glorious return. Many early Christians expected Jesus’ second coming to be immanent. Its delay forced believers to question their faith. In Sunday’s gospel Luke speaks to a church whose leaders seem to teeter on the brink of despair. What commitments are worth ultimate trust? Jesus counsels us to keep our lamps burning. The kingdom may startle us, erupting as suddenly as a thief breaking in. This is a time to store up inexhaustible treasure in heaven.

What in the way you live each day indicates where your heart is?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Waging Peace

29 Jul
Photo via Flickr user Bruce Fingerhood

Photo via Flickr user Bruce Fingerhood

Do you hear the cries for peace? The longing is so urgent and real. It is easy to think of peace a simply a lack of violence. God’s vision of peace, however, is more beautiful than that and requires more of us than simply putting our weapons down.

What is God’s vision of peace? There are two biblical images in particular I have been meditating on:

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not raise its sword against nation, and they shall learn war no more.          –Ish 2:4

and

Everyone will live in peace and prosperity, enjoying their own grapevines and fig trees, for there will be nothing to fear.       –Micah 4:4

I love the visuals that come with these images of peace. One person taking a weapon and making it into a tool that will help bring forth food, abundance and life. Or another person, enjoying the shade of a tree that bears fruit. This biblical idea of peace, coming from the word shalom, is not just lack of violence. This is a peace that gets at the holistic well being of all persons. It is a peace that claims that access to food, safety and leisure time bring human dignity and should be available to all.

These images of shalom remind me of a statue I saw in El Salvador, a beautiful and hopeful piece of art made from melted down bullets used in their civil war. Tools for violence turned into art. It makes me think of organizations working with farmers to create more secure food options for families and communities all around the world.

I yearn for shalom. I pray for a time when we can put down our weapons because we are no longer afraid. I beg for an age when we can all sit in the shade of prosperity without fear. Shalom will only come when all people have enough, when the most vulnerable in our communities are seen and tended to as God’s beloved children. Peace is tied to being committed to the well being of all. Shalom requires us to believe that we can glimpse heaven here and now and engage in God’s work of reconciliation in this life.

Blessed are the peacemakers, those who do not just think about it, but build their lives around waging peace. Peacemaking is a vocation Jesus calls us to. This shalom peace is not just a lack of violence, but a commitment to the holistic well being of all God’s beloved creatures. And God’s creatures are crying out for peace.

Gospel Reflection for July 31, 2016, 18th Sunday Ordinary Time

26 Jul
Photo via Flickr user Phil Dolby

Photo via Flickr user Phil Dolby

Sunday Readings: Ecclesiastes 1.2, 2.21-23; Colossians 3.1-5, 9-11; Luke 12.13-21

The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What shall I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample good laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, and be merry.”

(Luke 12.16-19)

From God’s point of view a surplus harvest is not to provide one person with secure access to food, drink, and merriment for years to come. It can benefit people without enough. For Luke wealth is not a sign of God’s favor but of danger. It is not good or bad in itself but faces the person with a choice to act for good or for evil. For Luke, God clearly holds the ultimate power to redistribute the wealth of people who will not share. This is the fate of the rich fool who must leave his full barns behind and face God with whom he has stored up no treasure.

When and how has your giving connected you with others?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,569 other followers

%d bloggers like this: