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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 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 April 3, 2016, 2nd Sunday of Easter

31 Mar

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

Jesus breathed on his disciples and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

(John 20.22-23)

Bible scholar Sandra Schneiders observes that the Greek word translated as retained above or sometimes 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.

“Jesus is the human face of God’s mercy,” Pope Francis writes in proclaiming the Jubilee Year of Mercy. This is our call in continuing Jesus’ mission — to be the human face of forgiveness and mercy among those in our lives.

Who holds you fast? How do you use your power to make peace?

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Feed Your Spirit

10 Mar

What’s more Catholic than fish dinners?

Did you know the fish is an ancient Christian symbol? The word for fish in Greek is ichtus, pronounced ick-toose. The word fish in Greek letters look like:

IXOYS-FishThe first Christians, who were sometimes persecuted for their faith in Jesus, made an acrostic out of this word. In an acrostic, each letter is the first letter of a word.

I        Jesus

CH   Christ

TH   God’s (the Greek word is Theos)

U      Son

S      Savior

When Christians wanted to show someone else they followed Jesus, they might draw a fish symbol on paper or on the ground. The fish meant the person drawing it believed in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Savior.

So patronize your local fish dinner this Friday. Bring a neighbor or carry fish back to a shut-in person. Do it in the name of Jesus.


 

Click on the image to dowload your Lent cross.

Click on the image to download your Lent cross.

Choose an activity each day to keep Lent alive. Add color your your cross.

PLANT

  • Work in your yard. Meet and visit with neighbors.
  • Plant a tomato in a large pot. Put it in a sunny spot and wait for your first BLT.

SIMPLIFY

  • Organize a storage area.
  • Turn off the TV for the whole evening.

PRAY

  • Thank God for spring. Make a litany of life, using each letter of the alphabet.
  • Pray for Pope Francis and the future of the Church.

READ

FAMILY AND FRIENDS

  • Tell a family member five lovable things about him or her.
  • Let go of a grudge you have held on to long enough.

PARTICIPATE

  • Go to a fish dinner.
  • Contribute to a food shelf at church or in your neighborhood.

Gospel Reflection for March 13, 2016, 5th Sunday of Lent

8 Mar

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 43.16-21; Philippians 3.8-14; John 8.1-11

“Woman, where are they all? Has no one condemned you?”

(John 8.10)

Only John’s gospel tells the story of the hypocrites who use a woman they catch in adultery to trap Jesus. He can reject the law of Moses that requires stoning or break the Roman law against carrying out capital punishment. No real evidence exists that shows first-century Jews enforced the law against men and women who committed adultery. Jesus silences them when he directs, “Let the sinless one among you cast the first stone.”

The story is not about the woman dragged and humiliated before this impromptu tribunal — not until the end when the accusers slink away. Jesus empathizes with her, caught and shamed in a trap set for him. By standing with her, Jesus counters those who make her a spectacle. But what about the crowd? What can she do to find belonging again in the community? Can she go back to her husband? Her children? What wil the neighbors say who probably know her guilt?

How do you treat those you must forgive?

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Gospel Reflection for March 6, 2016, 4th Sunday of Lent

1 Mar
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Sunday Readings: Joshua 5.9,10-12; 2 Corinthians 5.17-21; Luke 15.1-3,11-32

Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons.  The younger said to the father, ‘Father, give me the share of your property that will fall to me.’  So the father divided up the property.  After a few days the younger son, having gathered together all of his things, went away to a far off country.

(Luke 15.11)

Most of us know Jesus’  parable of the prodigal son.  Indeed the focus commonly falls on the prodigal, the problem child.  Jesus focuses first on the father; it’s a parable about a man with two sons and his relationships with both.  It’s also a parable about the relationship of the brothers to each other.  For me, the parable brings up my younger sister, severely hard of hearing, to whom our teacher mother devoted constant phonics lessons.  My sister liked to hold her ears and claim I was shouting or worse whistling to hurt her ears.  I got a reprimand.  Is Jesus about the younger son who absorbs more attention that the other son?  Or is the parable about me, the dutiful oldest child, dependable and responsible, who ran errands the fastest?  Or is the parable about the older brother who resents his father welcoming back his brother and feels under appreciated.  Who is lost?  Or is the parable about the father who knows each son and reaches out to each?  Then there is the feminist question.  Where is the mother?  Is her absence the reason a favorite younger son grows apart and a dutiful older son fails to please his father no matter how hard he tries?  The story gives us no clue, but these questions introduce familiar family dynamics.

Who are you like in the parable–the wild lost son?  The dutiful son?  The challenged father?  The absent mother?

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Year of Mercy

10 Sep

JubileePoster

Corporal Works of Mercy are those that tend to bodily needs of others. In Matthew 25:34-40, Jesus tells his followers they will be judged on six specific works of mercy, the first six below.  The last work of mercy, burying the dead, comes from the Book of Tobit.[3][4]

To feed the hungry.
To give drink to the thirsty.
To clothe the naked.
To shelter the homeless.
To visit the sick.
To visit the imprisoned.
To bury the dead.

The Spiritual Works of Mercy relieve spiritual suffering. They come to us from Tradition.

To instruct the ignorant.
To counsel the doubtful.
To admonish sinners.
To bear wrongs patiently.
To forgive offenses willingly.
To comfort the afflicted.
To pray for the living and the dead.

Forgiveness

5 Mar
Photo via Flickr user Quantumlars

Photo via Flickr user Quantumlars

For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart. –Matthew 18: 23-35

Ok, nothing like a light, cheery story to start your day. The only comfort we can find in this passage, amidst the throwing people into prison and the handing people over to be tortured is that fact that it’s a parable. The allegory is clear. We’re the slaves, and it’s not going to go over well with God if we don’t forgive the people in our lives. But maybe Jesus doesn’t expect us to take the parable literally? We hope?

We can get lost in the weeds, digging into the details here: A talent is a whole heck of a lot more than a denarius, so the Lord is forgiving a much larger debt than the slave refuses to forgive his peer. We could muse about how hard it is to ask for patience from other people, how humiliating it is to admit that we need more time, more help, more money. But we can only skirt around the last two verses for so long. This forgiveness thing is serious. Scary serious.

So he means it—that we are actually supposed to do the impossible– forgiving not just seven times but seven times seven. Or in other words, always, all the time. Perhaps Jesus wants to blow our hair back a bit here with this violent parable because of those last two words—your heart. It is your heart on the line. Refusing to forgive, as the Buddha points out, is like grasping hot coal to throw at another. It is the throwers hand that gets burned. Holding onto hurt hurts us. Forgiving is our healing work, too. When we are brave enough to forgive from our own heart, it is our heart that is changed. That heart change frees us to live more fully, to love more fiercely, to know God more closely.

Forgiveness is the way out. It opens up a whole new future full of possibility. The landowner shows the slave the way out, but he doesn’t choose to follow. God shows us the way by forgiving us every day. Then, God invites us to give it a try, to find freedom in letting go of the need to keep score, letting go of the anger inside of us. We’ll fall short. Of course. We’re human. But the more we ask for God’s patience and recognize that we are shown mercy, the more courageous we can be to have a change of heart ourselves.

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