Gospel Reflection for September 24, 2017, 25th Sunday Ordinary Time

20 Sep

Photo via Flickr user Mat79

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 55.6-9; Philippians 1.20-24,27; Matthew 20.1-16

“So the last will be first and the first will be last.” – Matthew 20.16

The vineyard owner in Sunday’s gospel has a unique pay scale. The owner pays the full-day wage to those who find work only at the last hour. Some will perhaps count these workers as the laziest and resent that they receive the day’s wage the need to feed their families. In effect, this owner shows a preferential option for the least, for the people most in need. This is a basic principle of liberation theology.

The householder’s largesse invites us to ponder who this employer really is. As an image of God, the householder is not transcendent and distant but repeatedly seeks out workers in the market place and cares enough about their well-being to pay the living wage. We workers all stand in the same relationship to God, who owns the vineyard of all creation, resources for all to live.

When have you received more than you deserve? How like the vineyard owner is your God?  


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Advent and Lent packs are available!

15 Sep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gospel Reflection for September 17, 2017, 24th Sunday Ordinary Time

14 Sep

Sunday Readings: Sirach 27.30-28.7; Romans 14.7-9; Matthew 18.21-35

Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive?  As many as seven times?” – Matthew 18.21

We know Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question. Seventy times seven times. That’s always. In the Our Father we ask God to forgive us as we forgive others every time we pray it–scary. Forgiveness may not be our first impulse when someone hurts us. We may want to strike back or perhaps just nurse festering resentment, or perhaps like Peter we want to count. This is not God’s way or Jesus’ way.

The parable that follows Peter’s question and Jesus’ answer is about the servant who owes his master a big debt that a generous master forgives. Then the forgiven servant insists a fellow servant pay a debt of 100 denarii, refuses pleas for patience, and puts the fellow servant in prison. The master finds out and hands the unforgiving servant over to be tortured. The parable challenges us to recognize God’s expansive love and mercy and make room for growth and grace in our relationships.

How has making room for grace and growth helped you forgive others or yourself?


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Gospel Reflection for September 10, 2017, 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time

8 Sep

Sunday Readings: Ezekiel 33.7-9; Romans 13.8-10; Matthew 18.15-20

“Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”  – Matthew 13.20

“Talk it through” is the nub of Jesus’ advice on what to do when one disciple wrongs another. Step one is one-on-one dialogue. If that fails, step two advises us to bring witnesses for another face-to-face talk. The aim is to win over an offending member of the community. If that fails, the person gets treated as a Gentile or tax-collector, an outsider. However, Jesus is famous for reaching out to just such people.

How much festering resentment and ill will can we avoid if we speak directly with people or organizations that wrong us–not to chide or scold but to let them know how we feel and how what they are doing affects us. The binding and loosing Jesus empowers his followers to do is not for punishing but for healing.

What value do you put on face-to-face conversation for clearing up a wrong or supposed wrong? What works to stop the spread of accusations on social media?


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Poem of the Week

1 Sep

This is the last poem of summer. We have enjoyed sharing our favorites with you. Sister Joan wrote this one in the autumn on the north shore of Lake Superior.

The Chair
 


From the chair

on the deck

one can see across Lake Superior

where it ends at the sky

and rock there
in Grandma’s chair

and remember her lap

and rock to the waves

spilling on the basalt rock

the Earth’s core left here

five billion years ago

to crumble a little every day


I rock from time present

to time past

and back where

purple asters bloom

and maples will turn red tomorrow

I could be someone’s grandma
but I’m not

I while away a moment

Of the little time I have
 

Empty white chair

on a balcony overlooking blue sea

at the door of a room

with open windows

     showed me

     where every chair sits

     exactly between inside and outside
     here and there

     now and then

What steadies me

is knowing

that I got here
     where I’m going
             

Joan Mitchell, CSJ

Gospel Reflection for September 3, 2017, 22nd Sunday Ordinary Time

1 Sep

Sunday Readings: Jeremiah 20.7-9; Romans 12.1-2; Matthew 18.21-27

“Those who want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16.24

Many people in Jesus’ time expected a warrior messiah, who would restore Israel to independence and power. They wanted to be great again. A messiah who suffers and dies contradicts this popular idea of the messiah’s might and mission. A powerless messiah seems no messiah at all. In Sunday’s gospel Peter, on whose faith the Christian community builds, wrestles with this contradiction.

Jesus’ predictions of his suffering invite us to reflect on the meaning of his death and resurrection for ourselves. How will we give ourselves to Jesus’ mission in our world? Jesus lived his prophetic mission all his days and faced the consequences in death at Roman hands. He healed the sick, freed the possessed, and brought God’s love near. His resurrection calls us to faith that new life is always possible–in relationships, in work for peace, in sustaining Earth. Daily we give ourselves in loving one another.


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Gospel Reflection for August 27, 2017, 21st Sunday Ordinary Time

21 Aug

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 22.19-23, Romans 11.33-36, Matthew 16.13-20

“Who do people say that I am?”  – Matthew 16.14

Jesus asks his disciples this question, “Who do people say that I am?”, halfway through his public ministry. Is he the long-awaited leader that prophets dreamed would bring peace? His disciples think so. Is her God’s servant like the Israelites in exile who pours out his life to reveal God’s vision of justice for the nations? Hmmm. Jesus’ disciples haven’t made that connection. Jesus’ question is a brave one. What are people saying about me?

We are still asking who Jesus is. Is he a prophetic reformer who hopes to breathe life into the legalistic religion of his day and whose example challenges us to do the same today? Is he a revolutionary whose inflammatory preaching catches him in the gears of the Roman Empire? Is he the greatest party giver of all time who invites everyone to come to his banquets.

In the new context of evolution we ask, “Isn’t Jesus, who is the Christ, the omega point in whom all creation will converge? Isn’t he the firstborn of a new creation who testifies that love is the ultimate transforming power in the cosmos?”

Who do people say you are? Who notices you are a Christian?


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.

Poem of the Week

17 Aug

This is a prayer-poem written by a woman mystic of the 1200s, Mechtildde of Magdeburg, from the book Praying With The Women Mystics by Mary T. Malone (Columba Press, 2013).

Why Not Soar?

You have the wings of longing.
You know the pull of hope.
You feel the flowing of desire.

So why not soar?

Fish cannot drown in water.
Birds cannot sink in air.
You cannot fall from my sight.

So why not soar?

Woman, I have adorned you.
Woman, I have delighted in you.
Woman, I have made my home in you.

So why not soar?

Be as the dove, I soar in her.
Lighten your heart, I soar in you.
Uplift your being, be an Easter song.

Why not soar?


 

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Image 15 Aug

Gospel Reflection for August 20, 2017, 20th Sunday Ordinary Time

14 Aug

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 56.1, 6-7; Romans 11.13-15, 29-32; Matthew 15.21-28

“It is not faith to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs,” Jesus said, but the Canaanite women said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” – Matthew 15.26-27

In both Matthew’s and Mark’s version of this gospel, Jesus refuses to help a Gentile mother who asks him to free her daughter from a demon. Both gospels preserve Jesus’ refusal, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” This saying insists Jesus’ mission is only to the Jewish people. In using the saying, Jesus not only refuses the woman’s request, his only refusal to help in the gospels, but he insults her. He uses an ethic slur. The saying makes her a dog.

How can Jesus, who everywhere else in the four gospels reaches out to sinners, lepers and crazy people, express such close-minded prejudice to this woman? This story reflects conflicts in Christian communities after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Some Christian must claim Jesus taught the saying, “Don’t throw the children’s food to the dogs.” In both Matthew’s and Mark’s gospels, the woman counters with the truth of her own experience. “Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” At her house both messy children and hungry dogs eat. Her comeback makes space for children and dogs at the same table, for Jews and Gentiles. Her quick wit challenges the meaning of the saying and shows exclusion is not Jesus’ teaching.

What practices today exclude you or fail to nourish you? What experiences have broadened whom you accept into your house or parish community?

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