Gospel Reflection for January 19, 2020, 2nd Sunday Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 49.3, 5-6; 1 Corinthians 1.1-3; John 1.29-34

“Now I have seen for myself and have testified, ‘This is God’s chosen one.'” – John 1.34

Theology is faith seeking understanding. Christology is faith in Jesus seeking to understand who he is and his purposes for us. Christologies grow out of images and insights we draw from the Hebrew Testament, the gospels, and our experience.

In Sunday’s gospel John the Baptist identifies Jesus as God’s chosen one. This title originates in the prophetic writing of Second Isaiah, who writes four songs describing the exiled people of Israel as God’s suffering servant. Isaiah gives the exiled people heart, insisting their suffering will heal others (Isaiah 53). He comforts the people and preaches that God forgives their faithlessness and disregard for people in poverty. He announces God will lead them home.

Isaiah sees the exiles as servants of God, specially chosen for making God known among their captors. The captives’ return from exile leaves a permanent mark in Israel’s history and becomes a frequent reason for praise in the psalms.

How does identifying Jesus with God’s servant people help you understand who he is?


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Epiphany Greetings!

The Coming of the Magi

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

T.S. Eliot

Gospel Reflection for January 5, 2020, Feast of the Epiphany

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 60.1-6; Ephesians 3.2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2.1-12

After Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem of Judea, magi from the east arrived on day in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.” – Matthew 2.1-2

The magi are not Jews; they are Gentiles, the term for all the other nations. They come by following a star; they study and seek the divine in the visible, natural world. This is the world we experience. This is the world we see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. This is the world that engages our affections and nightly turns our hearts toward morning and waking anew. We live its rhythms and by its lights.

Creation, not the written book of Genesis, is the first source of revelation. Creation manifests God’s living-giving and sustaining presence. Today we follow the stars with the successors to the Hubble telescope, which has confirmed Einstein’s theory that we live in an expanding cosmos.

We are seekers like the magi. Physics has taken us within the atom. Biology has decoded the human gnome and learned how molecules splice and proteins fold. In our world God acts not only in the beginning but in all 13.7 billion years of our unfolding. The God of our cosmic story is not fixed and static but dynamic and life-giving.

God comes to us from the future as we experience the lure within us to become all we can be, a drive we share with all beings. In our relationships with each other and our partnerships with Earth, evolution continues. In Jesus, God shows us all we can become.

When has the mystery in which we live astounded you?


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Feast of Mary the Mother of God

To celebrate this feast we share with you a video from Sister Joan, 
Sunday by Sunday editor. May you have a blessed day and the beginning of a holy year.

 

Gospel Reflection for December 25 & 29, 2019, Christmas/Holy Family

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 9.1-6; Titus 2.11-14; Luke 2.1-20

“Let this be a sign to you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger.” – Luke 2.12

Christians celebrate Christmas just after the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. In nature, daylight imperceptibly lengthens. In the first reading for Christmas a great light dawns on a people in darkness. Birth pushes a baby out of the dark security of a mother’s womb into the shared and challenging world of other people. Mary and Joseph share shelter with farm animals. With Jesus’ birth a life begins that changes the world.

Many people today may identify with how unusual Jesus’ family is. His mother is not married when he is conceived. His mother’s husband is not Jesus’ real dad. His mother is still a virgin, perhaps still a teenager.

The gospel writer Luke wants us hearers of Jesus’ birth story to recognize with the shepherds that this child is good news for the poor. The Son of the Most High is joy to poor shepherds and safe with temporarily homeless parents. It is Caesar’s census that brings so many potential taxpayers to register in Bethlehem that the inn is full. Jesus begin his life in a world without room for him or his parents. It is the child lying in the manger who incarnates the love and life-giving power of the universe, not Caesar, even though his subjects give him the title Augustus, the divine.

What experiences of births do you bring to hearing the Christmas gospel? Where might Jesus be born today to express God’s willingness to identify with the lowest among us?

Merry Christmas from Good Ground Press

The Ox and the Donkey’s Carol
poem by Sister Alice Smith, CSJ ~ art by Gertrude Mueller Nelson

The Christ child lay in the ox’s stall
The stars shone great
and the stars shone small,
but one bright star outshone them all.

The cattle stood in the cleanly straw,
and strange to them was the sight they saw.
The ox and donkey watched with awe.

The shepherds ran from the uplands wide,
the sheepbells tinkled, the angels cried
joy to the dreaming countryside.

The three kings bowed at the stable door,
their raiment trailed on the dusty floor.
They saw the sign they had journeyed for.

The kings came last in a lordly throng.
The shepherds ran in the space of a song,
But the beasts had been there all night long.
Noel     Noel     Noel

 

Jesus makes incarnate the heart of God, full of creative and merciful love that never stops calling us into the communions of family and church. Blessings on you and yours this Christmas.

Gospel Reflection for December 22, 2019, 4th Sunday of Advent

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 7.10-14; Romans 1.1-7, Matthew 1.18-24

This is how the birth of Jesus came about. When his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her husband, an upright man unwilling too expose her to the law, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when suddenly the angel of the Lord appear in a dream (Matthew 1.18-20).

Joseph is an upright, law-keeping man. Yet when he finds Mary with a child not his own, he knows he can bring the full force of the law upon her, but he makes a compassionate judgment instead. The gospel also tells us Joseph sleeps on his decision. Joseph opens his unconscious self to nourishing rest; he opens himself to the nonrational, spiritual world. He entrusts himself to Holy Mystery in going to sleep, and in sleep Joseph dreams the future of the child.

In our own lives we have to make the journey Joseph makes from the law and its requirements to compassionate judgments and action. This is conscience. Joseph’s story calls us to listen to the Spirit of God that lives within us in the deepest reaches of our psyches and never lets up on us, waking or sleeping, until we bring to life in our relationships what only we can do. Each of us is called like Joseph to dream a future for the children of promise among us today.

Who are children of promise in your life? What journeys of conscience have you made? What did you learn on the journey?  


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Gospel Reflection for December 15, 2019, 3rd Sunday of Advent

Gospel Reflection for December 15, 2019, 3rd Sunday of Advent

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 35.1-6,10; James 5.7-10; Matthew 11.2-11

In his ministry Jesus is not hacking dead branches off the family tree of Israel nor winnowing hypocrites from among repentant sinners as John expected he would. Jesus is so different from the axe-wielding, chaff-winnowing judge that John expected, that he sends messengers to ask Jesus –“Are you the one to come?” Jesus answers, “Go tell John what you see and hear: the blind see; the lame walk; lepers are cured; the deaf hear; the dead are raised to life, and the poor have the good news preached to them.” (Matthew 11.2-5)

As messiah, Jesus reveals the compassionate heart of God. He does not come to exert destructive, judgmental power over a suffering people but to bring wholeness and salvation. This gospel calls Matthew’s community and us today to examine our expectations of God’s reign and receive the blessing Jesus extends to all who do not stumble at his mission of compassion but continue his life-giving work.

What hopeful actions can you bring to those you love this season? What judgments can you let go?   


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Our Lady of Guadalupe Story

Our Mother Who Art

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Read her story. Share it with family and friends. The art and prayer on this page are by Sister Ansgar, CSJ. May you and our whole continent be blessed by the Protectoress of the Americas. Happy feast day!

You are the mother
of the dark and the light
the rich and the poor
the humble and proud.

You are the mother
of the young and the old
the strong and the weak
of those who rejoice
of those who weep.

You are the mother
of woman and man
of small and of great
of broken and whole.
You are the mother who art.


Sister Ansgar also created the art for Holy Women, Full of Grace. Check out the sample pages and to order online, or call Good Ground Press at 800-232-5533.

Visit goodgroundpress.com to see our other Advent resources.

Gospel Reflection for December 8, 2019, 2nd Sunday of Advent

Gospel Reflection for December 8, 2019, 2nd Sunday of Advent

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 2.1-5; Romans 13.11-14; Matthew 23.37-44

Ours are not the only troubled times. The prophet Isaiah describes in Sunday’s first reading an ideal king and a peaceable kin*dom. Small wonder, Isaiah lives in the years following the Assyria army’s destruction of the northern kingdom in 722 B.C.E. He lives 20 years later as another Assyrian general, Sennacherib, invades the southern kingdom and lays siege to Jerusalem. The army leaves terrible devastation behind. Archaeological digs find 289 village sites where people lived before this invasion and only 85 sites a century later.

In the face of so much threat and devastation, Isaiah imagines a sprout from the stump of Jesse, a leader filled with the Spirit of God, who lives and breathes wisdom and understanding, who acts with counsel and strength, who gathers knowledge, and experiences awe in God’s presence. Isaiah is confident that God is faithful and will send a Spirit-led leader who will judge the poor with justice and treat them fairly. Under this leader there will be no harm or ruin on God’s holy mountain. The wolf will live with the lamb, the calf with the lion. The weaned child will lay a hand on the adder’s lair.

Isaiah’s vision makes me ask, “What am I doing with my gifts of the Spirit?” How am I leading? Too often political organizers and too many religious leaders set us against each other. To prevail, they sharpen their messages and remove any middle ground where we might listen to our hearts and use our heads. Up or down, for or against, yes or no. It takes mature human beings to hold seeming opposites in tension without letting go of either. It takes wisdom to handle complexity, to keep on seeking understanding in all the places and in all hearts where it lives, to recognize we always have more to learn.

What seeming opposites have you held in tension and discovered something new?  


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