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Gospel Reflection for March 26, 2017, 4th Sunday of Lent

22 Mar

Scripture Readings: 1 Samuel 16.1, 6-7, 10-13; Ephesians 5.8-14; John 9.1-41

“I do know one thing; I was blind, and now I can see.” – John 9.25

The man born blind becomes the talk of his neighborhood when suddenly he can see. His neighbors want to know how this happened. The man explains that a man named Jesus put mud on his eyes and told him to wash it off in the Pool of Siloam. He washed his eyes and can now see.

Jesus appears in this story only at the beginning and end. In between the man has to explain his new sight. His parents confirm the man was born blind but insist he must speak for himself.

“What do you have to say about Jesus?” the teachers ask. “He is a prophet,” the man tells them. The teachers insist that Jesus is a sinner because he has healed on the Sabbath. The man counters that unless Jesus came from God, he could not have done such a thing as given sight to a man born blind.

As the story ends, Jesus finds the man and asks, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

“Tell me who has is, sir, so I can believe in him,” the man says, seeming not to recognize Jesus by sight. He was blind when they met.

“You have already seen him,” Jesus says, acknowledging the man born blind sees with faith, and introduces himself, “He is talking to you now.”

“I believe, Jesus,” the man says.

Who opened your eyes to see with faith in Jesus? What turning points do you remember in your faith journey?

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Lent Retreat – Week 3

16 Mar

This Lent artist Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ, and Sister Joan are praying the Gospels in words and images. You can join them by going to our homepage, goodgroundpress.com, and clicking on the Sunday Gospel images there. This coming Sunday is the story of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. Share this retreat with your parish by including our website in your church bulletin or by forwarding this email.

Gospel Reflection for March 19, 2017, 3rd Sunday of Lent

15 Mar

Photo via Flickr user Ashley Van Haeften

Scripture Readings: Exodus 17.3-7; Romans 5.1-2, 5-8; John 4.5-42

“Many Samaritans from that village believed in Jesus on the strength of the woman’s testimony.” – John 4.39

The Samaritan woman meets Jesus at Jacob’s well. He asks for a drink. In their conversation the woman from Samaria moves from misunderstanding to seeking living water, coming to believe the man from Nazareth is the messiah. She recognizes that although most Jews consider Samaritans heretics, Jesus comes in spirit and truth to include her people in his community. Like the fishermen who leave their nets to follow Jesus, she leaves the water jar that symbolizes her work and goes to tell her townspeople she has found the messiah and brings them to hear Jesus for themselves. Her witness can inspire our own.

Whose witness led you to believe in Jesus? Who believes on the strength of your witness?

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.

Gospel Reflection for March 12, 2017, 2nd Sunday of Lent

9 Mar

Photo via Flickr user Carsten Tolkmit

Scripture Readings: Genesis 2.1-4; 2 Timothy 1.8-10; Matthew 17.1-9

 “This is my beloved Son, on whom my favor rests. Listen to him.” – Matthew 17.5

Matthew’s account of the Jesus’ transfiguration is the preeminent story of transformation, a crossroads event. Just a few verses earlier Jesus tells his followers for the first time that he will suffer, die, and rise on the third day. This summary distills Jesus’ whole story as the early Christians told it and the evangelists later wrote it down. In Sunday’s gospel Peter, James, and John are in the midst of living the story. In the transfiguration Jesus lets them glimpse the path through death to resurrection. The vision disturbs their lives. Jesus tells them not to fear.  We who read this account see Jesus in his place in history behind the prophets Moses and Elijah, and we anticipate with Peter, James, and John their future as Jesus’ disciples.

 Identify a crossroads experience in your life—a peak or valley.

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.

Lent Retreat – Week 2

8 Mar

This Lent artist Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ, and Sister Joan are praying the Gospels in words and images. You can join them by going to our homepage, goodgroundpress.com, and clicking on the Sunday Gospel images there. This coming Sunday is the story of Jesus’ transfiguration. Share this retreat with your parish by printing goodgroundpress.com in your church bulletin.

Prayer For Ash Wednesday

1 Mar

Today is Ash Wednesday, one of the most popular holy days in the church year. Most of us will try to get to church during the day to receive a cross of ashes on our foreheads. If you are unable to do that, use this prayer service to begin Lent.

Gather with your family or in a communal space in your building or with other friends and neighbors. You can create ashes by burning some palm from last year’s Palm Sunday, or a small piece of paper or fabric. All you need for the prayer service is someone to lead and someone to read the scripture.

prayer-symbolLeader: Loving God, be with us as we begin the holy season of Lent.
All: Loving God, be with us.
Reader: St. Paul tells us “God has sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts. The Spirit urges us from deep inside to say, ‘Abba, my father.’ We are no longer slaves. We are God’s sons and daughters.”
Leader: During Lent we want to grow closer to you, Abba, our father, and to be more loving to one another. These ashes are a sign of the commitments we make to keep Lent.

Pass the dish of ashes around. Each person dips his or her thumb in the ashes and makes a cross on the forehead of the person on his/her right, saying:

__________ you are a child of God. Make loving choices during Lent.

Ask if people wish to share their commitments. Sing a simple song everyone knows to conclude your prayer.

Gospel Reflection for March 5, 2017, 1st Sunday of Lent

27 Feb
Photo via Flickr user Adam Hinett

Photo via Flickr user Adam Hinett

Scripture Readings: Genesis 2.7-9; 3.1-7; Romans 5.12-19; Matthew 4.1-11

“Away with you, Satan. Scripture says, ‘You shall worship the Holy One your God; only God shall you adore.'” – Matthew 4.10

Each year the temptation story from one of the synoptic gospels is the gospel for the 1st Sunday of Lent. The devil in the story calls out Jesus for a show of divine power, something to prove he is God. But Jesus shuns divine stunts and recommits to the first commandment — to worship God alone. The story invites us to examine the God in whom we believe. Is our God one who inspires success and personal gain more than service and mercy? Perhaps we find God useless, a God who lets bad things happen to good people. Or perhaps God seems too old-fashioned, pre-scientific, and irrelevant to claim much attention. Jesus makes worshiping God alone the key to his life. The temptation gospel calls us to refresh our image of God, which we can do by taking observant walks outside in creation and by taking time for solitude and reflection on God’s word.

What is currently putting you to the test in your life?

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.

What Do You See?

23 Feb

1-sunday-lent

Good Ground Press has a unique retreat opportunity for you this Lent — a free poster and a reflection for each of the Sundays. The first one is ready. Just click here or on the image. You can print this retreat out or view it on your computer. Each Monday we will put up a new poster and reflection for the following Sunday.

41 Ways To Celebrate Lent

13 Feb

Make Lent a time of love in your family. Visit goodgroundpress.com to print this free poster and hang it on your fridge. When members of your family do any of the loving and thanking actions, highlight or circle those words. By Easter you will have a 40-day history of love.

41-ways-to-keep-lent

Tall Buildings

18 Mar

“Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” –Mark 13:2

Sky scrapers are powerful modern day metaphors. We build them higher and higher, competing to have the highest. They make us feel powerful, invincible, protected, successful, prospering. They represent our ego, our desire to leave a tangible mark on the world, our fortress from our own mortality and suffering.

Lent is a time to take our buildings apart, one brick at a time, and let our souls flap in the wind. It is a time to be vulnerable to the elements, to come out of hiding and admit that our buildings cannot protect us. Maybe we are better off without protection. Maybe God is outside the walls. This verse in Mark rings in my heart. Not one single stone will be left. This world is temporary. Our buildings cannot protect us. So maybe power, invincibility, protection, success and prosperity are not, actually, what we should be focused on.

Sadly, it sometimes takes our buildings to literally crumble to remind us. How do we not go straight to memories of 9/11/01 when we watched our great buildings come crashing down? We worked hard and quickly to rebuild, to show our strength, to sharpen our weapons so that we might feel protected. Arthur Waskow reminds us that fortresses won’t protect us:

In 2001, just a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the Jewish community celebrated the harvest festival of Sukkot. Many did so by building a sukkah– a fragile hut with a leafy roof, the most vulnerable of houses. Vulnerable in time, since its roof must be not only leafy but leaky enough to let in the starlight and gusts of wind and rain.

In our evening prayers throughout the year, just as we prepare to lie down in vulnerable sleep, we plead with God, “Spread over us Your sukkah of shalom—peace and safety.”

Why does the prayer plead for a sukkah of shalom rather than a temple or fortress or palace of shalom, which would be surely more safe and more secure?

 Precisely because the sukkah is so vulnerable. 

For much of our lives we try to achieve peace and safety by building with steel and concrete and toughness:

Pyramids, Air raid shelters, Pentagons, World Trade Centers

But the sukkah reminds us: We are in truth all vulnerable. If as the prophet Dylan sang, “A hard rain’s gonna fall,” it will fall on all of us. And on 9/11/01, the ancient truth came home: We all live in a sukkah. Even the wildest oceans, the mightiest buildings, the wealthiest balance sheets, the most powerful weapons did not shield us. 

There are only wispy walls and leaky roofs between us. The planet is in fact one interwoven web of life. The command to love my neighbor as I do myself is not an admonition to be nice: It is a statement of truth like the law of gravity. However much and in whatever way I love my neighbor, that will turn out to be in the way I love myself. If I pour contempt upon my neighbor, hatred will recoil upon me. 

Only a world where all communities feel vulnerable, and therefore connected to all other communities, can prevent such acts of rage and mass murder.

The sukkah not only invites our bodies to become physically vulnerable, but also invites our minds to become vulnerable to new ideas. To live in the sukkah for a week, as Jewish tradition teaches; would be to leave behind not only the rigid walls and towers of our cities, but also our rigidified ideas, our assumptions, our habits, out accustomed lives. 

 “The Sukkah of Shalom,” Arthur Waskow, The Impossible Will Take a Little While, Ed Paul Loeb. Basic Book, New York City: NewYork, 2004, pp. 106-107.

This Lent, I’m trying to identify the ways I build tall buildings around my body, mind and heart. I’m trying to be brave enough to dissolve the walls and build a sukkah in its place so that I may come to feel more connection to my God in my vulnerability.

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