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Gospel Reflection for October 15, 2017, 28th Sunday Ordinary Time

12 Oct

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 25.6-10; Philippians 4.12-14,19-20; Matthew 22.1-10


“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.  He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the banquet, but they would not come.  Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” – Matthew 22.2-4


The meal Jesus describes in Sunday’s parable is no ordinary dinner but the messiah’s wedding feast. The royal wedding setting is unique to Matthew’s way of telling the parable. Matthew adds other details to the parable that give the story double meaning. In this way he creates an allegory in which characters and action in the parable parallel events his own time in the A.D. 80s. The king’s fury at guests who refuse his invitation seems overkill until a reader realizes Matthew is connecting the parable with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the event that effectively ends Israel’s ancient temple-centered religion.  Matthew’s interpretation shows the danger of allegory; it fixes the meaning and  perpetuates an ancient conflict that led to genocide in the Holocaust.

The parable speaks more to us today without the allegory; it asks what we do with our excess and who we invite to our tables. Abundant food is one of the most fundamental blessings in our lives. The parable is very different in Luke’s telling (Luke 14.15-24). When people refuse to come to a great dinner in Luke’s version, the host invites in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.

How do you think the kingdom of heaven will be like a lavish dinner?


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Gospel Reflection for June 4, 2017, Pentecost

2 Jun

Photo via Flicker user Lawrence OP

Scripture Readings: Acts 2.1-11; 1 Corinthians 12.3-7, 12-13; John 20.19-23

This weekend the Church celebrates Pentecost, the climax of the Easter season and the birthday of the Christian community. In Acts, Luke describes 120 disciples awaiting the Holy Spirit. They have no cell phones for messaging, no practiced words for public speaking, no organizational flow chart. They have only their lived experience of Jesus out of which to weave a new community.  These disciples learned by accompanying Jesus, learned by his doing, found hope in his teaching, and awakened to the promise and purpose of his resurrection. At Pentecost the Spirit sets them on fire to live and spread the good news Jesus is. Crowds from around the Mediterranean hear Peter’s first fiery sermon in their own language.

Our world today challenges us to live the gospel globally as well as locally. We of the third millennium have seen Earth from space. We can phone home from almost anywhere on the planet. Evolution tells us we are part of one great cosmic whole. Our mission seems clear: love one another, heal, forgive. Feed the hungry, welcome the stranger. Weave common bonds.

Around what does your tongue catch fire in your daily conversations? Who do you hear speaking in your own language?

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Gospel Reflection for April 30, 2017, 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time

28 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts 2.14,22-23; 1 Peter 1.17-21; Luke 24.13-35

“Stay with us.” – Luke 24.29

The walk to Emmaus in Sunday’s gospel becomes a liturgy on foot for two of Jesus’ disciples. They talk about the scriptures (liturgy of the word) and break bread together (liturgy of the Eucharist).

As they tell how Jesus took hold of their hearts and hopes, the two get excited all over again about who Jesus is. Conversation with the stranger stirs the embers of their faith into flame. Breaking bread together reveals the stranger is Jesus with them.

So many times conversation repeats this liturgy of friendship. Talking together stirs the embers of old understandings and burst new insights into flame. The shared meal sends us forth humming, feeling understood and understanding, in communion.

With whom have you talked and eaten lately?

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Gospel Reflection for January 1, 2017, Mary, Mother of God

29 Dec

Sunday Readings: Numbers 6.2-27; Galatians 4.4-7; Luke 2.16-21

“Mary pondered all these words in her heart.” – Luke 2.19

Sunday’s gospel about the shepherds visit to Mary’s child and offers only a single sentence about her. That sentence turns on the word pondered, in Greek the word if symballein. Ballein means to throw. Literally the Greek word means to throw together, to wrestle with together. Cymbals have the same root, bringing together to make noise. For Mary to ponder is to interpret the events life is throwing at her. Her faith seeks understanding. Significantly in Luke’s birth narrative, Mary and Joseph can find no place to stay in Bethlehem. Mary gives birth and begins mothering her child in a stable or cave for animals. The sign the shepherds go to Bethlehem to see is the savior, lying in a manger, born among the poor, one of them.

What do you imagine Mary is pondering at age 15 when she give birth to Jesus? At 45 when Jesus starts his ministry? At the foot of the cross?

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Gospel Reflection for December 25, 2016, Christmas

20 Dec

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

“While Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to have to child. Mary gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.” – Luke 2.6-7

In the Christmas story the angels know who Jesus is and give humble shepherds, and us, a sign. The sign is the baby, lying in a manger. A manger is a feed trough, so Jesus’ first crib hints that he will give his life to nourish ours. A manger is a place of low status, a place among animals at the margin of human society. The gospel writer Luke wants us to recognize with the shepherds that this child is good news for people like them who live in poverty.

Jesus begins life in a world without room for him or his parents because descendants of David have crowded Bethlehem to register in a Roman census. People hail Caesar as savior, give him the title Augustus, the divine, and pay his taxes. But it is the child lying in the manger who incarnates the love and life-giving power at work since day one in our evolution. In Jesus God becomes one of us and shows us God’s love.

How are you making room for the Christ child this year? How can we join Jesus in his work of saving the world?

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Gospel Reflection for November 20, 2016, Christ the King

14 Nov

Sunday Readings: 2 Samuel 5.1-3; Colossians 1.12-20; Luke 23.35-43

“Jesus is the face of God’s mercy,” Pope Francis writes in announcing the Jubilee Year of Mercy that ends this Sunday. “These words might well sum up the mystery of Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him.” In Sunday’s gospel Jesus shows us mercy is his signature act; he forgives the good thief on the cross. Forgiveness is the balm of mercy that Pope Francis hopes has reached everyone this year.

In this crucifixion scene the evangelist Luke gives us the gospel in cameo. Luke tells the community for whom he writes and us that Jesus is God’s Spirit-filled prophet, innocent of charges brought against him. He brings good news to people who live in poverty and hope to those burdened with debt and exploited for profit. Jesus is our kin, who knows our sufferings and seeks to heal people and set them free. This is the mission we continue — kinship or solidarity with all.

To whom have you yet to show mercy in this year of mercy? Who among the kin of God or kin of Jesus stretches who you regard as kin?

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Gospel Reflection for November 13, 2016, 33rd Sunday Ordinary Time

9 Nov

Sunday Readings: Malachi 3.19-20; 2 Thessalonians 3.7-12; Luke 21.5-19

“By patient endurance you will save your lives.” – Luke 21.19

In the face of war (Syria, Afghanistan), earthquakes (Oklahoma after fracking), and plagues (Zika virus)–all the regular stuff of breaking news, Jesus recommends patient endurance. Persevere. Jesus has taught us how to live every day. Indeed every tragedy catches individuals in the midst of doing good, saving someone beside themselves, rescuing neighbors, helping the disabled, helping clear away storm damage. Christianity is about the verbs of everyday living: love, share, forgives, include, speak the trust, listen, learn, build, rejoice, show compassion, go an extra mile, lend a hand. As Hillary Clinton directed her supporters in her concession speech, quoting Galatians 6.9, “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest if we do not give up.”

Faith is not certainty in the face of terrifying events. But it is trust that no other than Jesus, who passed through death to life, offers words of eternal life. Faith in Jesus is our deepest anchor and surest model for enduring the shifts and swells of social and personal upheaval.
 
What would you like to be caught doing in the midst of a crisis? How might you make today a non-judgment day?

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Gospel Reflection for October 16, 2016, 29th Sunday Ordinary Time

12 Oct

Sunday Readings: Exodus 17.8-13; 2 Timothy 3.14-4.2; Luke 18.18

“Take up my case. Give me my just rights against my opponent.” – Luke 18.3

The widow in Jesus’ parable this Sunday is not asking for food and basic necessities. She is seeking her “just rights.” The word in Greek, ekdikeo, is not the usual term for justice but a word that means settling with an adversary. We have a widow with the means and moxie to take someone to court. When the judge finally acts, it is because he fears the widow will disgrace him.

This widow is a woman of voice and action who wants a judgment against her adversary and won’t be silenced. She is like the Mothers of the Plaza de May who have protested the “disappeared” in Argentina since 1977. This year the founder Hebe de Bonafini met with Pope Francis, who told her, “When I meet a woman whose sons were murdered, I kneel down before her.”

How is the widow in the gospel a model for Christians? What evils does the judge represent that Christians must resist? Who do you know who protests like the widow?

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Gospel Reflection for October 9, 2016, 28th Sunday Ordinary Time

5 Oct

Sunday Readings: 2 Kings 5.14-17; 2 Timothy 2.8-13; Luke 17.11-17

Jesus asked, “Weren’t ten lepers cleansed? Where are the other nine?” – Luke 17.17

In Sunday’s gospel only one of the ten lepers Jesus heals returns to thank Jesus. The passage prompts us to practice gratitude to God and to one another. Being alive calls us to appreciate the Creator. Evolution deepens the story of God’s creative love in which we live. We see with eyes that have evolved over millions of years in creatures that sought light. Our stem cells contain the memory of God’s love unfolding. To be part of giving life gives parents their moment in the evolution of all that is. The birth of a child takes them to a place of awe and closeness to God. The child immediately breathes in the oxygen that plants and trees make every summer day out of sunlight. Our lungs tie us to the outside world we share with all that squirms, flies, blooms, and in each of us says than you. Our hearts tie us to one another.

What are 10 things you are grateful for today? Use the question every day.

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