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Gospel Reflection for April 23, 2017, 2nd Sunday of Easter

18 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts 2.42-47; 1 Peter 1.3-9; John 20.19-31

Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” – John 20.21-22

On the evening of the first Easter, Jesus’ followers lock themselves safely in their own company within their own walls. Most of us know a safe circle like this in which we all share the same values and express bewilderment at those different from us — the people who cook smelly food or accept same-sex marriage or love incense and Latin Mass. Many today have become the non-affiliated who stay in their own big chairs far from the rigidity and scandals of institutional religion.

The risen Jesus surprises the community of his friends who have gathered in fear and teeter between the fact Jesus is dead and the unsubstantiated news that he is risen. Jesus comes among them, breathes Spirit into them, and forgives them. He hands over to the community the work that God has sent him to do — to bring God’s love, forgiveness, and healing to people int he world. In John’s gospel, to believe is not only to share in the life Jesus receives from God but to be sent from God as Jesus was, to live in the world in the power if the same Spirit. The gift of love and forgiveness which Jesus gives his followers on the first Easter becomes their mission to others.

How do you continue the first disciples’ mission to love and forgive?

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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?

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Gospel Reflection for February 19, 2017, 7th Sunday Ordinary Time

14 Feb

Scripture Readings: Leviticus 19.1-2, 17-18; 1 Corinthians 3.16-23; Matthew 5.38-48

“You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say to your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for God makes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – Matthew 5.43-45

In the gospel this week Jesus asks us to take God as our standard in how we treat others. In this Jesus goes beyond the golden rule –“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The golden rule makes us ourselves the standard of how to treat others. To respond to enemies and evil with conscious, gracious, undeserved compassion goes farther. This is how a life-giving, merciful God acts.

Jesus exhorts us to be perfect as God is perfect. One translator of the word perfect suggests the meaning fully alive. Perfect can imply finished, completed, perfected, done. When one is fully alive, one is whole and wholly operational. We are able to use all our human capacities to know and love others, to live the values and strengthen the bonds that hold us together as families, neighborhoods, and today more than ever as a nation.

When have you made a friend of a seeming enemy? Who is at risk in your neighborhood? How can you help?

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Gospel Reflection for February 5, 2017, 5th Sunday Ordinary Time

2 Feb
Photo via Flickr user SidewaysSarah

Photo via Flickr user SidewaysSarah

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 58.7-10; 1 Corinthians 2.1-5; Matthew 5.13-16

“You are the salt of the earth….You are the light of the world.” – Matthew 5.13-14

Salt became a precious commodity because it allowed fish and meat to be dried and cured to last a long time. By comparing his disciples to salt, Jesus encourages them to recognize their value and encourages them to preserve their community from moral decay during the Roman occupation of their land. Jesus’ disciples 2,000 years ago and we today have a vital role in preserving justice and charity in our society.

Roman rule kept Jewish people subjugated with little hope of being free and respected. Nonetheless Jesus challenges them to be like lamps in the darkness, to stand tall and share their light with others. Kind, gracious, generous, respectful actions toward others invite the same in return. Christians are to illumine our society in its darkness.

What light shines in your actions? What values do you preserve?

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Gospel Reflection for January 22, 2017, 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time

17 Jan
Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 8.23-9.3; 1 Corinthians 1.10-13, 17; Matthew 4.12-23

Jesus said “Come, follow me. I want you to gather people into your nets.” – Matthew 4.19

As his first action in his public ministry, Jesus calls four fishermen to accompany and follow him. From the beginning Jesus gathers companions. In fact, it is for the work of gathering people into community that Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James, and John.

Many Christians today may wonder why the four so unhesitatingly follow a man who comes walking along the lakeshore and invites them to, “Follow me.” Matthew is telling the story of the first disciples’ call more than 50 years later. Their initial response to following Jesus expresses the full commitment they grow into. They give their lives wholeheartedly to spreading Jesus’ good news after his death and resurrection. Responding to Jesus’ friendship changes their lives.

Who has called and empowered you to minister? How did you respond? How did your response change your life?

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Gospel Reflection for January 15, 2017, 2nd Sunday Ordinary Time

11 Jan

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 49.3,5-6; 1 Corinthians 1.1-3; John 1.29-34

“The one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘When you see the Spirit descend and rest on someone, it is he who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen for myself and have testified, ‘This is God’s chosen one.’” – John 1.33-34

What is the story in which we live? Who tells it? What motivates the characters and moves the plot—greed, lust, power? Do the perils for Earth and Earth’s people from climate change testify to human self-absorption? Is profit our only moral compass? Is the human story ultimately tragic?

Pope Francis insists that we Christians are resurrection people. New action and attitudes can arise. What is the story we personally live? To what values do we give witness day in and day out?

A woman I know recently took light rail home from the airport. A homeless man came walking slowly down the aisle. He was missing a shoe. While she watched, a woman wearing nursing scrubs sat down beside the homeless man. “I think my shoes will fit you,” she said and put the shoes on his feet.”

The man thanked her but she was in a hurry. “This is my stop,” she said and stepped off the train in her stocking feet at the Veterans Administration hospital, a stunning witness.

Who have you witnessed living Jesus’ story? What is the story you live?

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Gospel Reflection for November 27, 2016, 1st Sunday Advent

24 Nov

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 2.1-5, Romans 13.11-14, Matthew 24.37-44

Thanksgiving gatherings are troubling many folks after the election. The gospel that begins the church year wakes us up to love one another. The gospel is about Jesus’ coming again, an event that seems far off, but the gospel uses the flood in the time of Noah and a thief in one’s home as convincing examples that the time to wake up to God’s coming among us is always now.

The birth of Jesus reveals a divine value in human life and relationships. The birth of God in human flesh is an emptying of divine prerogative and a privileging of our human capacities to heal, share, forgive, reconcile, free, accompany. Now is the time to live like Jesus. Now is the moment to feed the hungry, to forgive those we really love, to restore depressed spirits to joy. Now is the time to watch birds eating the seeds of last summer’s blooms and to let I love you and I’m proud of you no longer go unsaid. Now is the time to give ourselves to those we love and those whose lives we touch.

Isaiah urges us to train for war no more, to beat our swords into pruning hooks, our bombs into bread, to build peace in our families and our world.

What family rituals do you value most for holding those you love together?

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The Role of Women

18 Nov
Photo via Flickr user Anders Adermark

Photo via Flickr user Anders Adermark

On his recent flight from Sweden to Rome, Pope Francis told reporters, “Concerning the ordination of women in the Catholic Church, St. Pope John Paul II had the last clear word on this and it stands, this stands.” He added that it is not likely to ever change. The clarity of the statement surprised some in part because Pope Francis has been so supportive of the ministry of women in the church. He said, in fact, that “women can do many other things better than men.”

Are there fundamental differences in men and women that require such different roles in ministry? Making a gender role distinction by restricting women from overseeing word and sacrament, limits women, but also may limit men in the congregation. In a recent interview with Salt and Light, for example, Stephen Colbert shared a story about witnessing a female priest oversee Eucharist:

When I heard a woman say ‘This is my body,’ the freshness of hearing a woman say that gave the message a universality that it always should have — and I’m not saying it doesn’t coming out of a male priest — but it opened my ears to the possibility that it is also my body. That in my participation in the Eucharist, I participate in the gift that Christ gives me …

Saying women are better than men at many things also limits men. When he says women are better than men at some things, is it really because men are less capable of these things or is it because of society’s role restrictions? Take Glennon Doyle Melton passage from her latest book, Love Warrior, as an example:

God created woman as a Warrior. I think about the tragedies the women in my life have faced. How every time a child gets sick or a man leaves or a parent dies or a community crumbles, the women are the ones who carry on, who do what must be done for their people in the midst of their own pain. While those around them fall away, the women hold the sick and nurse the weak, put food on the table, carry their families’ sadness and anger and love and hope. They keep showing up for their lives and their people with the odds stacked against them and the weight of the world on their shoulders. They never stop singing songs of truth, love and redemption in the face of hopelessness. They are inexhaustible, ferocious, relentless cocreators with God, and they make beautiful worlds out of nothing.

It is a beautiful passage that made me nod my head and smile. It’s true. Women are amazing at this kind of love. I see it all around me. I think she is getting at what the Pope means when he talks about the essential ministry of women in the church. I have to wonder, however, aren’t these actions human actions, not feminine ones? Society calls on and expects women to hold families together, but that is not to say that men can’t.

Pope Francis’ statement about female ordination seems to carry some finality. Yet, in our love of God and neighbor, in our love of Christ and the Church, and in light of our recent presidential election, I believe it is essential now more than ever to continue to ask critical questions about how gender roles in our church and our world limit us all so that all of God’s children can flourish.

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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