Gospel Reflection for June 20, 2021 – 12th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Job 38.1,8-11; 2 Corinthians 5.14-17; Mark 4.35-41

As evening came Jesus said to his disciples — “Let us go across to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, his disciples took Jesus with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A terrible windstorm arose, and waves beat into the boat so that it was being swamped. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion; the disciples woke him up. “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?”

Jesus awoke, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea — “Peace! Be still!” Then wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. Jesus said to his disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?”  -Mark 4.35-41
 
In the musical “Hamilton” after Aaron Burr kills Alexander, his wife Eliza has the final song — “Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?” Eliza lives another 50 years, helps plan the Washington Monument, founds an orphanage, speaks out against slavery. She tells her husband’s story.

Jesus is the person in the gospel who lives, who dies, who is raised up to new life. Jesus also doesn’t tell his story; his eyewitness disciples do. Those who witnessed his healing and forgiving actions become the proclaimers of his good news. Their preaching and storytelling create communities of believers who tell and shape the oral traditions as they gather in Jesus’ name and break bread together as he asked.

Forty years later Mark gathers the oral traditions about Jesus and writes the first gospel, which travels through the centuries. Sunday’s sea crossing is a story to which Christians of every generation can relate. A boat full of disciples gives us an image of Church, of Christian believers traveling the seas of time and facing storms that raise our fears and call us to faith.

At Jesus’ request the disciples are heading for the other side of the Sea of Galilee, the Gentile side. The destination hints the role of Jesus’ followers to bring his good news to the nations. Jesus sleeps in the boat as waves roll over the sides. The disciple’ prayer is as desperate as ours sometimes are: “Don’t you care that we’re perishing?” Jesus calms the storm.  The disciples more from fear to awe, the threshold of faith: “Who is this that even the wind and sea obey him?”

How have your experiences of awe affected your faith? How do you tell and live Jesus’ story?

Holiness and Hammocks

Take your laptop or phone to a hammock and enjoy one of these summer retreats. Each of them is a pause that refreshes. All you need is a sweet summer breeze and 15-20 minutes to yourself. Then welcome the Spirit and choose a retreat below. Blessings on your time.

• Why Not Soar?
• The Our Father Retreat
• Holy Women, Full of Grace
• Tiny Retreat: Hildegard of Bingen, Patron Saint of Green and Growing

Gospel Reflection for June 6, 2021 – Body and Blood of Christ

Sunday Readings: Exodus 24.3-8; Hebrews 9.11-15;  Mark 14.12-16, 22-26

A colleague who helps primary children prepare for First Communion has a wonderful way to help them understand at their level what eating and drinking Jesus’ body and blood is about. She tells them how much she liked chocolate chip cookies when she was a child like them. In fact, sometimes her mother told her, “You are going to eat so many chocolate chip cookies you will turn into one.”

Her example explains well why we celebrate Sunday’s feast and why we celebrate Eucharist weekly and daily. We gather as the body of Christ to become the body of Christ. We share the body of Christ because as persons and as an assembly we want to turn into the body of Christ — to embody who Jesus is in our world.

The body of Christ that we become through sharing eucharist is an image of the Church, of all of us in communion. Baptism makes us one in Christ as Sister Shawn Copeland describes, extending Galatians 3.28, “In Christ, there is neither brown nor black, neither red nor white; in Christ there is neither Creole nor mestizo, neither senator nor worker in the maquiladoras. In Christ, there is neither male nor female, neither gay/lesbian nor straight, neither heterosexual nor homosexual.”
 
In gathering for Eucharist, Christians see in one another who they can be, who they can turn into. At Jesus’ table we share the food that fuels us to become his body — Jesus’ feet, hands, eyes, ears, and heart in the world. Participating in this sacrament aims to transform us over our lifetimes. It is the font of Christian community.

As what part of the body of Christ do you think of yourself — feet, hands, eyes, ears, heart?

Celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ

In honor of the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ, we offer you a tiny retreat based on the feast’s Gospel. This retreat is especially for those on our email list who do not get Sunday by Sunday. Please feel free to pass the retreat on to a friend.

To begin place yourself in the presence of Jesus. Jesus, this is ___________.  I have been fed by you at the Eucharist for ___________ years. This Sunday, June 6, is the day we celebrate your gift of the Eucharist. I begin by reading this story from Luke’s Gospel. 

Why don’t you give them something to eat?

Narrator: Jesus spoke to the crowds of the reign of God, and he healed all who were in need of healing. As sunset approached, the twelve came to him.

Twelve: Dismiss the crowd so that they can go into the villages and farms in the neighborhood and find themselves lodging and food, for this is certainly an out-of-the-way place.

Jesus: Why don’t you give them something to eat yourselves?

Twelve: We have nothing but five loaves and two fishes. Shall we go and buy food for all these people?

Narrator: There were about five thousand men.

Jesus: Have them sit down in groups of fifty or so.

Narrator: Jesus’ disciples followed his instructions and got the people all seated. Then taking the five loaves and the two fishes, Jesus raised his eyes to heaven, pronounced a blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to his disciples for distribution to the crowd. They all ate until they had enough. What was left filled twelve baskets.

Luke 9.11-17 


Jesus, you feed people who follow you hungry for healing, hungry for the words you speak, and hungry because it has been a long day. You feel compassion for them and tell your followers to feed them. When they say they have only a little food and little money to buy more, you —

  • Take the food they offer you,
  • Bless it, acknowledging it is a gift from God,
  • Break it into pieces,
  • Give it to your followers to distribute to the people.

This is what happens at our Eucharist today. We offer the bread and wine that is our lives. It becomes your body and blood to nourish us. As in your time, when we have all eaten there is plenty left over, plenty to share.

  • How does celebrating Eucharist nourish me? 
  • How does Eucharist lead me to become nourishment for others?

A friend’s mother told her that if she didn’t stop eating so many chocolate-chip cookies, she was going to turn into one. The mother exaggerated about the cookies, but her example holds true for the Eucharist. When we gather at Eucharist, we remember how Jesus gave his whole self to us. We find the strength and courage to try this kind of self-giving ourselves. Because we gather together over and over, we remember over and over. We become more and more like Jesus. We become his real presence to our world.

  • When have I experienced myself as Christ present in the world? 
  • How has God acted in me and through me for nourish others?

To conclude make a prayer of thanks and praise for the many times you have received the Body of Christ. Remember the people who prepared you for this sacrament and those you have shared Eucharist with all these years. Conclude your retreat with the Alleluia verse from the feast day liturgy.

Alleluia, Alleluia! I am the living bread that come down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever (John 6.51). Alleluia!


Now is the time to order small note cards with envelopes for only $1.50 each. Two Sister of St. Joseph artists—Ansgar Holmberg and Joanne Emmer—have created images of life, light, and beauty for you. Go to goodgroundpress.com to choose the cards you need. 

Gospel Reflection for May 30, 2021 – Trinity Sunday

Sunday Readings: Deuteronomy 4.32=24,39-40; Romans 8.14-17; Matthew 28.16-20
 
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. When they saw him, they fell down in homage; but some doubted. And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe all I have commanded you. Know that I am with you always to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28.16-20 
 
We Catholics bless ourselves with holy water when we enter a Church. The Sign of the Cross reminds us we are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This baptismal formula, which we still use today, is very ancient, stretching back into the Church’s earliest tradition and finding a place in the great commissioning that ends Matthew’s gospel. The risen Jesus promises to be with the eleven in continuing his mission of baptizing and teaching his new law of love.
 
Christians follow Jesus’ example in naming God in intimate, relational terms. As baptized Christians we follow Jesus in calling God Father; we claim kinship with God, creator and source. We claim Jesus as one of us, God’s Son, redeemer and liberator. We live in the Spirit, the animating giver of life, the sustainer and sanctifier, who brings to fulfillment all that God has begun in creation and revealed in Jesus the Christ.

Our God is no smug solitary being enclosed in egocentric self-regard but the living God, three persons in free communion, always going forth in love and receiving love. Three is one more than two, the starting point for social life, notes Brazilian theologian Ivone Gebara. A pregnancy calls married couples to make room in their relationship for another. Gebera grounds her reflection on the Trinity in our human experience of being diverse and multiple but one in origin and being.

As human persons we live in relationships that like molecules with a positive valence stay dynamically open to other bonds. In the social interaction at the heart of our thriving, we experience the dynamic at the irrepressibly generative, life-giving, love-outpouring heart of God.

What does creation tell you about God? What does the incarnation reveal about God? What does the activity of the Spirit in your life tell you about God?

Gospel Reflection for May 23, 2021 – Pentecost Sunday

Sunday Readings: Acts 2.1-11; 1 Corinthians 12.3-7, 12-13; John 20.19-23
 
“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ After this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” – John 20.19-23
 
 On the evening of the first Easter, the risen Jesus breathes his spirit upon the disciples assembled in a locked room. Breath is the invisible life within us. In this Easter scene the disciples receive Jesus’ spirit rather than fire.

As he stands among his disciples, Jesus shows them his hands and side. John wants us to recognize the risen Jesus is the crucified Jesus. The one who gifts the community with his Spirit is he whose wounds remain in his glorified body. John’s gospel sees an integrity in Jesus’ death, resurrection, and handing over of his Spirit — a single event.

John is unique in not designating the twelve as the only receivers of the peace and power of the Spirit. In Sunday’s gospel, the whole community of believers receives peace and the power to forgive. In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke counts 120 people assembled on the first Pentecost (1.15).

If the community graciously shares the peace and forgiveness Jesus bestows on them, then the Spirit lives in their midst. The twelve are not the only disciples called to forgive. Forgiveness, like love and peace-seeking, is a mission we share, for we are the Body of Christ. The commission is ours.

Whom have you forgiven? How has forgiving or being forgiven renewed you, your family, parish community, or work place?

Gospel Reflection for May 16, 2021 – Ascension

Sunday Readings: Acts 1.1-11; Ephesians 1.17-23; Mark 16.15-20

“Go into the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” – Mark 16.15

Theologically the Feast of the Ascension celebrates the risen Jesus’ return to God — the culmination of the paschal mystery and promise of our own life with God. In Sunday’s first reading Jesus says farewell to his disciples, is lifted up, and a cloud takes him from sight. In the gospel Jesus is taken up and sits down at the right hand of God.

Up is where God is in the ancient world. Up still represents the highest position, the top rung, the penthouse suite, the upper echelon, the seat of power. We lobby for public policies that lift people out of poverty. Upward mobility expresses power and achievement. The ladder of success goes up.

The view of Earth from space, however, has pushed us to revise our images of the heavens above as God’s home and throne. As astronauts have circled Earth, they see the thin blue line of atmosphere that shelters us from the limitless space. The cosmos appears a vast, dark unknown rather than God’s paradise in the clouds as it does from Earth.

Indeed rocket liftoffs are not the only way we free ourselves of gravity and all that weighs us down. Lifting up can also express movement into solidarity with others. We lift up people and their needs in prayer. We identify with their needs.

In returning to God, the risen Jesus does not come apart at some seam that holds his humanity and divinity together. Jesus remains God incarnate, the firstborn of a new humanity that shares transforming life with God. The promise of Christian faith is the communion with God to which Jesus returns.

What is an experience that has lifted you up? How do you imagine communion with God?

Sunday by Sunday is about sharing.

Now, you can share FREE access to Sunday by Sunday with your friends. When you respond to this post, we will send you a link to the June issues of Sunday by Sunday. Forward the link to help start faith-sharing groups. We suggest:

  • The pastoral director of your parish
  • The adult faith-sharing director
  • Your parents, siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews
  • Friends with whom you share most deeply
  • Anyone with a spiritual longing
  • Anyone else you can imagine who needs the gospel message

Just email sisterjoan@goodgroundpress.com and tell us your name and the email you want us to use when we send you the link. You can also call us at 800-232-5533 if that is easier for you. We will fulfill your request immediately, and add a prayer that your contacts may find Sunday by Sunday a blessing on their faith journey. 

Gospel Reflection for May 2, 2021 – 5th Sunday of Easter

Sunday Readings: Acts 9.26-3; 1 John 3.18-24; John 15.1-8
 
Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.” – John 15.4
 
A vine is a single plant. All its branches share the life its roots draw from the soil and its leaves from the sun. A vine can spread extravagantly from its roots but one life flows through the whole plant. Jesus isn’t talking plants in his farewell conversations with his friends after the Last Supper. He is talking about how these disciples will continue to share friendship with him after he has returned to God. Their relationship will remain; its life-sharing energy will persist. Jesus’ words will keep working in us to transform us.
 
A vine is a great image of the Church. Its root is in Jesus Christ and its mission is to grow to the ends of Earth. Like his disciples, all of us who follow Jesus share the life of the vine. Our roots in Jesus’ life and love empower us to branch out and bear fruit where we live: to call others to faith in Jesus, to serve our families and communities, to make the small differences that build the common good. 
 
In what relationships do you abide? How do these relationships help you understand Jesus continuing presence with us?

Gospel Reflection for April 25, 2021 – 4th Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings: Acts 4.8-12; 1 John 3.1-2; John 10.11-18

“I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and mine know me, just as the Father know me and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep.” – John 10.14-15

Many of us live in close relationship with animals. We have met each others’ cats and heard their dogs on Zoom calls. What an amazing analogy in Sunday’s gospel that a shepherd’s’ relationships with their flocks is like Jesus’ relationship with his Father. My palomino quarter horse and I spent hours of my growing up years together. I still put myself to sleep at night remembering the roads and trails our rides together took us. Those rides opened the infinities of a prairie horizon and vast blue sky that connected me with God.

The scriptures of Israel frequently use shepherding as an image of God’s care for the people. God is the shepherd of Psalm 23. For early Christians and for us, the shepherd image expresses closeness with Jesus. Sunday’s gospel emphasizes the wholehearted love Jesus demonstrates in loving us unto death. Three times the short gospel passage repeats what makes a shepherd good–willingness to lay down one’s life for the sheep.

What appeals to you about the image of Jesus as the good shepherd? Who do you shepherd? For whom are you laying down your life?

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