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Gospel Reflection for April 28, 2019, 2nd Sunday of Easter

25 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts 5.12-16; Revelation 1.9-11, 12-13, 17-19; John 20.19-31

“Even though the disciples had locked the doors of the place where they were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood before them.…He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven them. If you hold them fast, they are held fast.” – John 20.19, 20-21

On Easter evening the risen Jesus breathes the creative, living Spirit of God upon the community of disciples locked in fear. Jesus’ gift of the Spirit empowers the disciples to become a reconciling community that forgives sins. The bible translation Catholic hear at Mass has Jesus add, “And whose sins you retain are retained.” This translation aligns Jesus’ words with those in Matthew’s gospel when he gives Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven (16.10).

Bible scholar Sandra Schneider observes that the Greek word translated retained or bound more commonly means to hold fast, to embrace. She argues that Jesus is charging the community to hold fast the people they forgive. As a reconciling community, they are to embrace and support those they forgive, not to hold them bound to their sins. This is our call in continuing Jesus’ mission—to be the face of forgiveness and mercy among those in our lives.

Jesus entrusts us to one another’s care. We can strengthen bonds among us, and we can shred relationships. We can remember wrongs that have been righted. We can exclude those who trouble and test us. In his gift of peace to the original disciples, Jesus insists that they have the power to build and hold together as a community.

Who holds you fast? Who do you hold fast?


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Gospel Reflection for March 24, 2019, 3rd Sunday of Lent

21 Mar

Gospel Reflection for March 24, 2019, 3rd Sunday of Lent

Sunday Readings: Exodus 3.1-8, 13-15; 1 Corinthians 10.1-6,10-12; Luke 13.1-9

Jesus spoke a parable. A man had a fig tree, came looking for figs, but found none. He said to the gardener, “For three years I have come looking for figs and found none. Cut it down. . .” The gardener said, “Sir, leave it one more year while I hoe around it and manure it.  Perhaps then it will bear figs.” – Luke 13.7-8

How do we see ourselves in Jesus’ parable? What to do with a tree that bears no fruit? Who likes to cut down a tree? If we think of the gardener as God, then God is nurturing, caring more about another chance to bear fruit than cutting it down. If we think of the tree as ourselves or our children, who doesn’t need or won’t give another chance to grow? A fourth, a fifth?

In the Old Testament steadfast, generative love is God’s signature characteristic. Sunday’s responsorial psalm provides one of the most famous descriptions of God: “Merciful and gracious is the Holy One, slow to anger and abounding in kindness” (103.8).

Our daily interactions cultivate conversion. Like the gardener we nourish and encourage one another. Listening to others can cultivate the fruit of compassion or courage or insight. Other believers can freshen our commitments.

In what ways are you like the owner of the fig tree? In what ways like the gardener? What or whom will you give one more chance to bear fruit? What special care with this require?


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Gospel Reflection for January 27, 2019, 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time

25 Jan

Sunday Readings: Nehemiah 8.2-4, 5-6, 8-10; 1 Corinthians 12.12-20; Luke 1.1-4; 4.14-21

“The Spirit of the Holy One is upon me, for God has anointed me and sent me to proclaim liberty for captives, sight to the blind, release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Holy One.” – Luke 4.18-19

In the first four verses of his gospel Luke tells us why he wrote the third gospel. He has investigated the events fulfilled among us and handed on by the eyewitnesses and ministers of the word from the beginning. Luke claims he has written an orderly account. The order that interests Luke is not a time line but the order of fulfillment.

The earliest Christians continue to worship in the temple, hear the words of the prophets, and pray the psalms. In these they find words that help articulate who Jesus is. In Sunday’s gospel, he pinpoint words that he will fulfill in his mission. He reads from the scroll of Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Holy One is upon me,
for God has anointed me and sent me
to proclaim liberty for captives,
sight to the blind,
release to prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the Holy One.”

Jesus rolls up and scroll, sits down, and begins to speak. His first words express his purpose and mission: “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” The Spirit anoints Jesus to announce “a year of favor,” a jubilee year when debts are forgiven, field lies fallow, and creditors return land to peasants. This is a mission not only Jesus but we his followers are called to fulfill.

How can you help fulfill Jesus’ mission where you live today?


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Gospel Reflection for December 30, 2018, Holy Family

27 Dec

Sunday Readings: 1 Samuel 1.20-22, 24-28; 1 John 3.1-2, 21-24, Luke 2.41-52

Jesus went down with Mary and Joseph and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor. – Luke 2.51-52

Only Luke tells a story about Jesus during the years between his infancy and public ministry. Sunday’s gospel takes place during his family’s yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem to join with friends and family in the Passover celebration. This detail tells us Jesus’ parents practice Jewish religious traditions. They make the four-day walk from Nazareth to Jerusalem.

The gospel suggests the journey is fun, with friends and family members walking together, visiting with different ones as they walk along all day, perhaps singing the psalms of ascent. Participating in the feast, stories, and traditions of his people is one way Jesus receives his religious education. He grows in wisdom in his family.

What importance has participating in parish worship and parish life as a child had on your adult faith? Who has most influenced how you lives your adult Christian life?


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Gospel Reflection for October 14, 2018, 28th Sunday Ordinary Time

9 Oct

Sunday Readings: Wisdom 7.7-11; Hebrews 4.12-13; Mark 10.17-27

“You need do only one thing more.”  – Mark 10.21

The young man in Sunday’s gospel wants to know what he can do to receive eternal life. Jesus names six of the ten commandments–no to killing, adultery, stealing, giving false witness, and cheating, and yes to honoring one’s parents. The young man claims he has kept the commandments since he was a child. This is when Jesus tells him, “You need do only one thing more.” So, what is it, the one thing more?

Jesus’ answers, “Sell your possessions and give the money to the poor.” This is the way to build treasure in heaven. What could be more opposite American wisdom, which tells us to invest in Wall Street expertise and let wealth managers build us a happy retirement? Wouldn’t doing as Jesus’ says literally make us one of the poor? In a moneyed society like ours, it is irresponsible not to take care of one’s self and family. Repeated advertisements say so.

What if Jesus is pointing out that we are all human beings together here on Earth? We are separate individuals but from day one we can’t live without care from others. We can’t thrive without solidarity with one another, without bonds among us. Not all of us get face cards in the hands life deals us.

Jesus is suggesting that our possessions may possess us rather than the well-being of family, neighbors, friends, employees, coworkers. As committed Christians we are brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ and one another and of those who need a living wage, who don’t speak English, who need food for their kids on the weekend, who need medication for chronic diseases, whose skin color scares us? The Second Vatican Council said a startling thing. We are not saved as individuals but through the bonds among us that form us into a people (Constitution on the Church 9). Jesus challenges us to build a community that love holds together.

What is “one thing more” you want to commit to do?


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 September 30, 2018, 26th Sunday Ordinary Time

29 Sep

Sunday Readings: Numbers 11.25-29; James 5.1-6; Mark 9.38-48

“Whoever is not against us is for us.”  – Mark 9.40

Often in our disgustingly polarized times, activists, liberal and conservative, reverse Jesus’ saying and eliminate the middle ground. They insist whoever is not for us is against us. Middle ground is liminal space, valuable to preserve for exploring what we have in common with others, what they have experienced, why they think the way they do. Middle ground is where real people replace stereotypes and liberate each other from the demons of prejudice and unexamined certainty. In the news the future of our democracy depends on finding common ground and common good, cups of water in Jesus’ name all around for all in need.

To what and to whom does the name Christian obligate us?


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Gospel Reflection for August 12, 2018, 19th Sunday Ordinary Time

9 Aug

Sunday Readings: 1 Kings 19. 4-8; Ephesians 4.30-5.2, John 6.41-51

“The Jews began to murmur about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven”  – John 6.41

Within the crowd following Jesus is a group whom the gospel writer calls “the Jews.” They murmur. They question how Jesus can be from heaven when they know his origins on earth. The conversation between Jesus and “the Jews” reflects the sharpening difference between the community of Christian Jews for whom John writes in the A.D. 90s and the Jews who follow other rabbis, faith to the law God gave Moses. Jesus and his followers are all Jews. The differences between between Jesus’ followers and other Jews develops after the temple is destroyed. Without temple worship to hold them together, the two groups grow into two separate world religions, Judaism and Christianity.

Jesus’ claims raise a question. Is God’s revelation only in the law of Moses and the God who supplied Israel quail and manna in the wilderness, or is God’s revelation in their midst in Jesus, the living bread?

None of the subgroups in the crowd respond well in John’s account of the loaves and fishes and what it points to about Jesus. Jesus’ disciples doubt their resources to feed 5,000. The crowd wants to make Jesus king like a pork-barrel hero but wants another sign of who he is the next day. Jesus’ claim to be the real bread of life from God is unbelievable to “the Jews.”

Where do you best fit — among the doubting disciples, the fair-weather crowd, or the Jews faithful to Moses’ law and the past?


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Gospel Reflection for May 6, 2018, 6th Sunday of Easter

2 May

Scripture Readings: Acts 10.25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1 John 4.7-10; John 15.9-17

“The command I give you is this: that you love one another.” – John 15.17

“You are my friends if you do what I command you,” Jesus says. Do is an active verb. Jesus isn’t talking about having friends, but about being a friend.”  Being a friend means laying down one’s life for each other. Liberation theologians have a term for laying down one’s life–acompañar. It means accompanying each other, entering into the life circumstances of one’s community. It recognizes we all share a common human condition. Friendship is the most inclusive way we love. It stretches us beyond our intimate relationships into wider circles.

Minimally, love challenges us to tolerate one another. More fully, love challenges us to talk to one another and learn from each other’s experience. Most fully, love challenges us to encounter one another and open our minds and hearts to experience and faith beyond our own.

The good thing is that we have a life time to learn this love and lots of chances a day to choose it. Conversation lies in wait in every human encounter.

Whose friendship is life-giving for you? 


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.

Celebrate Earth Day: April 22

17 Apr

This coming Sunday is a world-wide day to honor and support Earth. We suggest three websites to help you and your family think about your responsibility for our common home. May Earth Day be a blessing to you and may you be a blessing to Earth.

Catholic Climate Covenant: http://www.catholicclimatecovenant.org
Earth Day 2018: https://www.earthday.org/
Laudato Si, exhortation of Pope Francis. Especially chapter one.

 

Gospel Reflection for February 25, 2018, 2nd Sunday of Lent

23 Feb

Scripture Readings: Genesis 22.1-2, 8, 10-13, 15-18; Romans 8.31-34; Mark 9.2-10

“This is my son, my beloved. Listen to him.” – Mark 9.7

Each year the Church reflects on Jesus’ transfiguration on the 2nd Sunday of Lent. The vision challenges us to look toward Easter, to envision our hopes and prayers for transformation and renewal this Lent.

Today we face polarized times when neighbors and family members aren’t always talking. Fake news thrives. Violence is so frequent that fatigue sets in unless the violence touches us. What can transform us?

One answer is conversation, learning where others come from. Conversation followed Father Bryan Massingale’s talk on racism this fall at St. Catherine University. He used a ruler as a time line, explaining slavery lasted for 7.5 inches; reconstruction, 1 inch; Jim Crow, 2.25 inches; legal equality, 1.25 inches (1968). He made the point racism isn’t over. Indeed, an African American woman in her late 20s in my group of three remembered that her grandparents had to sit in a back section in the Catholic church where they worshiped.

A month later our religious community spent a Saturday morning on racism and white privilege. We talked in fives. One question asked, “When do you pretend?” Not much, I thought, but the gay man in our group said, “I have to decide all the time who I will be in groups and at work.”

Conversations also happened at a Come Together gathering of prayer and song. A student from Zimbabwe described worries for her family’s safety as she followed news that the only president she has known was forced to step down. A mom with a biracial child shared her fears for the child. The woman who helped start the Come Together movement described the police chase and shooting that threatened her children and led her family to move.

What conversations have opened your eyes to where others come from? 


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.

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