Gospel Reflection for November 27, 2021 – 1st Sunday of Advent

Sunday Readings: Jeremiah 33.14-16 1 Thessalonians 3.12—4.2 Luke 21.25-28, 34-36

“People will die of fright when they anticipate what is coming upon the earth. The powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then people will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with great power and glory. When these things happen, stand straight and lift up your heads, for your redemption is near at hand.” Luke 21.26-28

Advent begins the Church year with a gospel that imagines the end — Jesus’ coming in glory. Sunday’s gospel fairly froths with frightening images. Scary gospels can hardly worry us more than our everyday events and headlines. The Covid virus mutates and thrives anew among us — like plagues of old that we thought were over. In my family we are waiting for Christmas in July to get us all together; too many unvaccinated to mingle among too many with compromised immune systems. Refugees pile up at our borders awaiting asylum. A man with multiple arrests drives through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Every day the availability of guns leads to new shootings and vigilantes.

I meet the sunrise each morning with hope in a new day, a faithful reminder that no matter how threatening personal or world events, we live from beginning to end in the embrace of God — God within, God among us, God beyond us.

In our experience of being alive, we find God within us, in each breath, in the energy of every pulse, in our conscious capacity to take inside us all that is — geese on the fly, the evergreens standing among bare limbs, the wonder of the moon these nights.

In turning to one another and bridging our separate selves, we find God among us. We find love and friendship, belonging and understanding.

In experiencing our human limitation, we find we have heart and hope for mystery — God beyond us. The God of our beginning is the God of all we will become. Rather than be afraid, Jesus insists we stand up straight and raise our heads. Jesus gives us every reason to hope that the loving actions he teaches will get us through not only every day but any day.

Only Luke records this final admonition. Praying involves how we see and sense, who we notice and appreciate. Prayer engages us with all we care about in the here and now. In pausing to stand upright before God, we breathe not only air but heartening Spirit. We recommit to the way of love Jesus traveled, the way of building community, forgiving enemies, including outsiders. Harvard professor Susan Abraham describes prayer as “a discipline of receptivity to the sacred,” which reenchants us with the world. Prayer expects surprise and transformation. Prayer for the world puts the afflicted in our face as we open our hearts to them. In prayer we often sight a difference we can make and find strength that we are not alone in carrying it out.

Whether we see Jesus’ coming again as a threat or a fulfillment, the gospel challenges us to stay watchful and pray for strength. In living consciously, attentive to people and life within and around us, we find God already with us.

What troubles does prayer keep in your face? What dulls your senses? What sharpens them? What practices help you live consciously? 

Gospel Reflection for November 14, 2021 – 33rd Sunday Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings: Daniel 12.1-3; Hebrews 10.11-14, 18 ;Mark 13.24-32
 
Jesus spoke to his disciples about the coming of the Son of Man. “In those days after trials of every kind, the sun will grow dark. The moon will have no light. The stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then people will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.

. . . “I assure you this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. The heavens and the earth will pass away, but my words will not. About the day or hour when these things will happen, no one knows. Neither the angels in heaven nor even the Son, only the Father.” – Mark 13. 24-26, 30-32
 
Why is the gospel ambiguous about when the world will end? Mark is writing in the wake of a cataclysmic event that demands interpretation — the destruction of the temple, which happened about 40 years after Jesus’ death. It coincided with Jesus’ eyewitness disciples reaching old age and with the deaths of Peter and Paul, martyred in the mid A.D. 60s.
 
We can speculate that people who thought the end would come in their lifetimes saw signs converging in A.D. 70. Mark recognizes a second early Christian voice in his apocalyptic chapter. This voice says only God knows when the end will come. All Christians should expect the end will be a positive experience.
 
The signs of chaos Mark describes surround us — COVID pandemic, climate change, extinct plants and animals, fire, persistent drought, oceans that teem with plastic. Having hope for our future as a society and a planet can seem foolish.  
 
However, Jesus also gives us a positive image of sap rising in the fig tree and green leaves bursting forth. Indeed we live in chaos, but what is chaos except a sign of something new emerging? What if the future is not scary, but full of hope?
 
What hope do you have for the future?

Pray the Advent Names of God

From childhood on, we have relied on Advent to bring us closer to God. This year Good Ground Press features Sister Ansgar’s Advent art in a 20-page prayer book. Click here to read the sample pages.

Advent Names of God is only $10.00, plus $4.00 shipping for orders of 1-10. Call 800-232-5533 to place your order, or order on our website – goodgroundpress.com.

Blessings on your Advent time.


We have plenty of other Advent resources. Visit goodgroundpress.com for the Advent gospels, posters, and free activities for your family and parish.

Gospel Reflection for November 7, 2021 – 32nd Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: 1 Kings 17.10-16; Hebrews 9.24-28; Matthew 12.38-44

Jesus observed people putting money into the collection box. Many rich people put in large amounts of money. One poor widow came and dropped in two small copper coins, worth about a penny each. Jesus called his disciples. ‘I want you to observe that this poor widow gave more to the treasury than all the others. They gave from their loose change what they could spare. But she in her poverty gave pennies she had to live on.'” – Mark 12.38-44

In Mark 12 Jesus daily visits the temple courtyards and disputes controversial questions with other learned teachers. In Sunday’s gospel Jesus points out a widow who lives at the margins of her society yet models a generous faith. Others give more money. This woman supports the temple with its system of sacrifices and its hierarchy of priests with money she needs to live. With only a widow’s meager livelihood she acts as a full member of the religious community. He values the widow’s simple gift more than the scribes’ long, public prayers. The widow is like Jesus himself, who gives his entire life for love of God and neighbor.

What marks a wholehearted Christian in your experience?

Advent Begins in 3 weeks!

Take time to celebrate Advent this year. All you need to make this a holy time and a peaceful preparation for Christmas is:
     · a few minutes each day,
     · an open heart, and
     · a willingness to be surprised by God.
 
We can offer you some resources for your holy time.
     · Sunday by Sunday reflections on the Sunday readings
     · Advent Names of God, nine ways to ask God to come to you
     · Free resources for you to choose from for yourself and your family.
 
May all of us who gather this Advent to pray and reflect on the mystery of grace and love, also love and support each other. We at Good Ground Press are happy to be part of your Advent. Order online at goodgroundpress.com or call us at 800-232-5534.

Gospel Reflection for October 31, 2021 – 31st Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Deuteronomy 6.2-6; Hebrews 7.23-28; Mark 12.28-34

A scribe asked Jesus, “What is the greatest of all the commandments?” Jesus answered, “The greatest of all the commandments is ‘Hear, O Israel! The Holy One your God is God alone. Therefore, love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ That is the greatest, and the second is, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ No other commandments are greater than these.” – Mark 12.29-31

For Jesus, as for all good Jews, no religious obligation is more sacred than keeping the Law of Moses, the commands of the Torah, all 613 of them as spelled out in the first five books of the Old Testament. The scribe aims to entrap Jesus to pick one of the commands as the greatest and set him up to be soft on all the others.

But Jesus chose wisely. What his life boils down to are words his original audience knew well, the Shema, the daily prayer of Jews. “Hear, O Israel! The Holy One your God is God alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

These words come out of the Hebrew bible. These are the words in the mezuzot Jews have posted on their doorways for centuries. These are the words that ultra-orthodox Jews keep bound to their wrists and foreheads. These are words of love: for God, for neighbor, and for self. The scribe who asks the questions agrees with Jesus’ response. The ultimate purpose for Israel’s faith and their laws is love.

When all is said and done, what really matters to you? How apparent are these values in your life?

Gospel Reflection for October 24, 2021 – 30th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Jeremiah 31.7-9; Hebrews 5.1-6; Mark 10.46-52
 
“Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting by the road. When he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was coming, he began to shout, “Jesus!  Son of David! Have mercy on me!”… Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go you way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the way.” – Mark 10.46-47, 51-52
 
Bartimaeus affirms Jesus is the messiah when he calls out, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” “Son of David” is a title that identifies Jesus as the long-anticipated king from David’s royal line.
 
Like many of Jesus’ followers, Bartimaeus is poor and inconsequential; he lives on the roadside of his society. Yet the early Christians storytellers remember him by name for becoming a ready disciple. Perhaps as Bartimaeus sat begging he heard people talk about Jesus. His shouting gets Jesus’ attention and expresses faith in him.  
 
Even before Jesus heals his blindness, Bartimaeus throws away his cloak, in which he probably collected the money passersby threw his way. He leaves the trappings of a life of begging, ready to follow Jesus. He accepts the call to discipleship before Jesus gives it. His desire to see transforms Bartimaeus from beggar to disciple.

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.

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