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Gospel Reflection for February 17, 2019, 6th Sunday Ordinary Time

16 Feb

Sunday Readings: Jeremiah 17.5-8; 1 Corinthians 15.12, 16-20; Luke 6.17, 20-26

“Blessed are you poor because yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungering now because you will be filled. Blessed are you who are weeping now because you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, exclude you, insult you, and throw out your name as evil because of the Son of Man. Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for your reward will be great in heaven. This is how people treat the prophets.” – Luke 6.20-23

The gospel writer Luke confronts us repeatedly with questions of Jesus’ identity. Who is this person who breaks rules and seeks out those whom others wish to avoid? What kind of world will people inherit if others follow his path and break the rules of tradition and culture? The beatitudes show us the world Jesus envisions in which the poor are blessed, the hungering full, those in mourning filled with laughter, and the persecuted rewarded in heaven.

Jesus’ beatitudes in Luke are a strident warning about the danger inherent in prosperity and abundance. That abundance is not blessedness is a shocking idea then and now. Jesus overturns the popular and comfortable idea that poor people somehow bring on their own circumstances and that rich people deserve their abundance. In Luke, Jesus supplies four woes paralleling the four beatitudes and challenging us to become participants in his vision for the world and shape our priorities accordingly.

When have people who are poor, hungering, weeping, or persecuted blessed you? What concrete actions can you do this week to share what you have with those who have little?


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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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All Souls Day

2 Nov

 

All Souls Day in a small town meant visiting the cemetery and remembering those in our family who died. Today I am too far away to visit family graves, so I light a candle at the Catholic Relief Services website—crs.org—and select a prayer. I also remember Jesus’ promise, the gospel for November 2nd.

After Jesus told the crowds he was the bread of life, he made this promise. “All that the Father gives me shall come to me. I will never turn away anyone who comes to me. I have come not to do my will but to do the will of the Father who sent me. The Father does not want me to lose anything I have been given. Rather, God wants me to raise up all things on the last day.”

“I tell you the truth. This is the will of my Father: whoever looks upon the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life. I will raise them up on the last day.”  – John 6.37-40

May you find peace and comfort in these words and this day.


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Gospel Reflection for November 4, 2018, 31st Sunday Ordinary Time

1 Nov

Scripture Readings: Deuteronomy 6.2-6; Hebrews 7.23-28; Mark 12.28-34

A scribe ask Jesus, “What is the greatest of all the commandments?” Jesus answers, “The greatest of all the commandments is ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is Lord alone. Therefore, love the Holy One your God with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ That is the greatest and the second is, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” – Mark 12.29-30

For Jesus as for all good Jews, there was no religious obligation more sacred than to keep the Law of Moses, the commands of the Torah, all 613 of them as spelled out in the first five books of the Old Testament. Which is most important? A group of Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees set Jesus up with this question.

Jesus chooses wisely. His answer is what his life and teachings are all about. These are the words Jews nail on their doorways and bind to their wrists and foreheads. They are the words Jews pray every day much as Christians do the Our Father. Love is a a verb, a word we live among our neighbors and kin, especially this week of before the election with its bitter, too-often hateful debates. Jesus is debates and disagrees but without hate and demonizing.

What actions do the two great commandments inspire in your this week?


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Gospel Reflection for October 28, 2018, 30th Sunday Ordinary Time

24 Oct

Sunday Readings: Jeremiah 31.7-9; Hebrews 5.1-6; Mark 10.46-52

Jesus said to Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to Jesus, “Teacher, let me see again.” “Go, your faith has healed you,” Jesus said to him. At once Bartimaeus was able to see and followed Jesus up the road  – Mark 10.51-52

In Sunday’s gospel a blind beggar named Bartimaeus models the unabashed faith in Jesus that Mark’s gospel hopes from every hearer of the gospel. As he sat at the Jericho city gates, Bartimaeus must have heard others talk about Jesus. As soon as he hears that Jesus is near, he shouts out a greeting, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” In this greeting Bartimaeus recognizes Jesus is the long-expected king from David’s royal line—the messiah. The crowd cannot silence his shouting out. As soon as Jesus calls to him, Bartimaeus throws off the cloak in which he probably collected the money passersby threw his way. The blind beggar sees with eyes of faith.

What do you persist in asking Jesus?


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Gospel Reflection for October 21, 2018, 29th Sunday Ordinary Time

17 Oct

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 53.10-11; Hebrews 4.14-16; Mark 10.35-44

Jesus says to James and John, who ask to sit at his right and left hand in his kingdom, “You do not know what your are asking.  Are you able to drink the cup I will drink?”  – Mark 10.38

It’s ironic that James and John answer Jesus’ question, “We can.” They do the opposite. They forsake Jesus when he gets arrested and flee with all of Jesus’ men disciples except Peter. Peter follows Jesus until he denies even knowing him in the high priest’s courtyard. When following becomes life-threatening, neither James and John nor the others who are indignant at their ambition stay the course. Their commitment evaporates. They shrink from drinking the cup Jesus is about to drink. Who wouldn’t shrink? Mark want us to recognize that Jesus’ disciples have to grow into their commitment as we can.

At every eucharist we drink the cup that Jesus drank. We brashly say amen, this is the lifeblood of Christ poured out for us. It become part of us, a commitment to live into each day.

To what do you commit when at Mass you drink the cup that Jesus drank?


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Gospel Reflection for August 5, 2018, 18th Sunday Ordinary Time

2 Aug

Scripture Readings: Exodus 16.2-4, 12-15; Ephesians 4.17,20-24; John 6.24-35

“What must we do to perform the works of God?” – John 6.28

Jesus interests the crowd that he fed the day before in working for the food that endures for eternal life. Eternal life is the lure. That is why they ask, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Believe in the one whom God has sent is Jesus’ answer. The abundant bread proved no sacrament to them. They fail to catch on that it points to who Jesus is. They fail to see that Jesus’ teaching, healing, loving presence is the sign of God among them. The crowd wants another sign if they are to believe Jesus is from God. They are hungry for more than food?

For what do I hunger? Of what do I want more of? In a budding friendship each person wants to discover who the other is, what he or she is about, what and who is important in the other’s life? We yearn to know one another more deeply. A new book entices us to join a book club. An encounter with a neighbor leads to a joint gardening project. You try volunteering and find a whole new purpose. Faith may become a hunger that leads to a prayer group or to bible study. A hunger for justice may lead us to work for legislative action.

Who do you feed in your daily life and work? For what do you hunger?


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Gospel Reflection for July 15, 2018, 15th Sunday Ordinary Time

12 Jul

Sunday Readings: Amos 7.12-15; Ephesians 1.2-14; Mark 6.7-13

“So the twelve went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” – Mark 6.12-13

Jesus sends the twelve men disciples out to become one with the people in villages near Nazareth, to stay with them, and depend on their hospitality. Their actions  cultivate community in three ways. First, they preach repentance, turning toward God, opening one’s heart to the Spirit’s stirrings in us, opening our eyes to the holy in which we live. Second, the twelve cast out demons. Today we might call demons destructive drives and addictions that keep us from possessing ourselves and that erode our capacity to love others. Third, the twelve anoint and heal the sick as Jesus did.

We continue Jesus’ mission in our time just as the twelve do in Sunday’s gospel. We an testify to God’s presence in our lives. We can listen to and support friends and family members change their lives from too much work or drink, or too little voice or purpose. We can accompany the sick and elderly.

How do you continue Jesus’ mission?


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Gospel Reflection for June 24, 2018, Birth of John the Baptist

18 Jun

Gospel Reflection for June 24, 2018, Birth of John the Baptist

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 49.1-6; Acts 13.22-26; Luke 1.57-66, 80

On the eighth day Elizabeth and Zachariah came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after Zachariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name. Then they began to motion to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed and he began to speak, praising God.  – Luke 1.59-64

John is not unique in having God at work in his early life to prepare him for his vocation. John is not to follow his father into service as a priest of the temple. He lives apart from his culture and family and walks with God in the desert. He cultivates an awareness of God at work in him. In fewer than 30 words, Sunday’s gospel characterizes John’s 30 years of life prior to his public ministry as becoming “strong in spirit.” He needs strength for his prophetic vocation of preparing Jesus way. John offers us a model for activating the prophetic vocation that comes with our baptisms.

What strength of spirit do you have? Who challenges you to live gospel values?


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Gospel Reflection for June 10, 2018, 10th Sunday Ordinary Time

6 Jun

Sunday Readings: Genesis 3.9-15; 2 Corinthians 4.13-5.1; Mark 3.20-35

“Whoever does the will of God is my brother, sister, and mother.”  – Mark 3.35

Jesus is the talk of Galilee in the early chapters of Mark’s gospel. Only Mark tells this story in which enthusiastic crowds make neighbors his family question Jesus’ sanity. What makes neighbors think Jesus is out of his mind? He is saying the kingdom of God is near, casting out demons, healing the sick, and eating with sinners and tax collectors who don’t keep the religious laws.

Scribes from Jerusalem question by whose power Jesus preaches and heals? Jesus argues that it can’t be Satan freeing people from their demons, their destructive drives. The freedom and healing Jesus bring among the people manifest the Spirit of God drives him. To not see the Spirit in Jesus nor find the Spirit at work in ourselves is to refuse God’s love and God’s gift of our very selves and our lives. It’s a dead end beyond forgiveness. Whereas whoever has faith in God is family to Jesus.

What do Jesus’ words and actions reveal about who God is?


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