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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?


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Gospel Reflection for September 2, 2018, 22nd Sunday Ordinary Time

30 Aug

Scripture Readings: Deuteronomy 4.1-2,6-8; James 1.17-18,21-22,27; Mark 7.1-8,14-15, 21-23

“You forsake the commandment of God and hold to human tradition…It is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come.” – Mark 7.8, 21

Rules tend to multiply, and traditions accumulate. The Pharisees in Sunday’s gospel question why Jesus’ disciples do not follow Jewish traditions about washing their hands. In response Jesus raises a vital question: Are these rules human made or God-given? Do these rules lead people to God? Or, do these rules create unnecessary burdens? Jesus defends as more essential the moral law that declares greed, arrogance, deceit, murder, and adultery unholy. Declaring that the dietary laws have outlived their usefulness sets Jesus apart from all the authorities in the temple and synagogue. Laws like those of the Pharisees and many of the customs of the pre-Vatican II Church create a fence that was meant to keep people from even thinking about real hurtful, evil, destructive sins. Sunday’s gospel asks us to evaluate whether our rules help us become holy, open our hearts, and keep us from arrogance and obtuse spirits.

What rule do you practice that keeps your heart open to God and neighbor?


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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? 


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Gospel Reflection for February 11, 2018, 6th Sunday Ordinary Time

5 Feb

Scripture Readings: Leviticus 13.1-2, 44-46; 1 Corinthians 10.31-11.1; Mark 1.40-45

“A leper came to Jesus, imploring him urgently and kneeling as he spoke, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘I do choose. Be made clean.'”  – Mark 1.40-41
 
In Jesus’ time leprosy made its sufferers outsiders, obligated to stay away from others. Leprosy lumped together various skin conditions that like race, gender, age, and other realities show visibly on the body. Poverty can show in missing teeth and listless faces.

On the basis of appearance, we human beings start setting up boundaries between people like us and people like them, insiders and outsiders. We tend to stereotype and even demonize groups we don’t know. The voices of outsiders call for belonging among us, for equality and inclusion. The voices of those left out call us to widen our tents and lengthen our tables. In claiming justice and equality, people express their dignity as human begins made in God’s image and likeness. In healing the leper, Jesus gives voice to God’s intent for us all–wholeness and the communities love forms.

With who might you build a bridge from isolation to participation in economic life, parish life, neighborhood life, or family life?


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Gospel Reflection for October 29, 2017, 30th Sunday Ordinary time

25 Oct

Scripture Readings: Exodus 22.20-26; 1 Thessalonians 1.5-10; Matthew 22.34-40

“Teacher, which commandment of the law is greatest?”  – Matthew 22.36

Love God and neighbor without distinction. This is the distilled version of the mission of the  Sisters of St. Joseph, the religious community to which I belong. The mission calls us to act—to love and form relationships. It makes love of God inseparable from loving people in our lives—indistinguishable. The words “without distinction” also call us to reach out to people without sorting who we like best or who is worthy but with openness. All are welcome: immigrants, GBLTQ, people in poverty and in wealth, in sickness and in vigor.

Our mission originated in 17th-century France, where 90% of the people lived in poverty and famine and plague devastated the country. A Jesuit priest, Jean Pierre Medaille, worked with a small group of women who experienced God “seizing” them to respond to their neighbors’ needs. They divided the city and began doing all of which they were capable for and with their neighbors.

Actually our mission originates far earlier.  It is Jesus’ answer to the lawyer’s question in Sunday’s gospel, “What is the greatest commandment?” What is basic is the verb love, a call into relationships and community. In answer, Jesus quotes two commandments long on Israel’s books: Deuteronomy 6.5 and Leviticus 19.18. Seldom have people in our country and our world needed to live these commandments more than now, to make love of neighbor our firm foundation across all that divides us.

Who have you seen exploited? For whom are you feeling compassion? To what work of justice do these experiences call you?


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Gospel Reflection for October 22, 2017, 29th Sunday Ordinary Time

17 Oct

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 45.1,4-6; 1 Thessalonians 1.1-5; Matthew 22.15-21
 
“Whose image is on the coin and whose inscription?” – Matthew 22.20

In Sunday’s gospel Jesus confronts a worldview about who images God. Jesus insists that we cannot keep separate our obligations to God and those to government. God blesses and calls us to integrate the spheres of our lives and image the One who made us. Being made in God’s image and likeness calls the Christian to act as God acts with compassion and forgiveness for everyone.

Christians image God by helping people who are poor, caring for the abused and sick, visiting the imprisoned, grieving with those who mourn, listening to those in pain. We give to God our very selves through our goodness to

How do you participate in work for the common good?


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Gospel Reflection for September 10, 2017, 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time

8 Sep

Sunday Readings: Ezekiel 33.7-9; Romans 13.8-10; Matthew 18.15-20

“Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”  – Matthew 13.20

“Talk it through” is the nub of Jesus’ advice on what to do when one disciple wrongs another. Step one is one-on-one dialogue. If that fails, step two advises us to bring witnesses for another face-to-face talk. The aim is to win over an offending member of the community. If that fails, the person gets treated as a Gentile or tax-collector, an outsider. However, Jesus is famous for reaching out to just such people.

How much festering resentment and ill will can we avoid if we speak directly with people or organizations that wrong us–not to chide or scold but to let them know how we feel and how what they are doing affects us. The binding and loosing Jesus empowers his followers to do is not for punishing but for healing.

What value do you put on face-to-face conversation for clearing up a wrong or supposed wrong? What works to stop the spread of accusations on social media?


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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