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Gospel Reflection for February 26, 2017, 8th Sunday Ordinary Time

22 Feb
Photo via Flickr user alamosbasement

Photo via Flickr user alamosbasement

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 49.1-5; 1 Corinthians 4.1-5; Matthew 6.24-24

“Which of you by worrying can add a moment to his or her lifespan? As for clothes, why  be concerned? Learn a lesson from the way the wild flowers grow. They don’t work; they don’t spin. Yet I assure you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was arrayed like one of these.”  – Matthew 6.27-29

Our childhoods live within us for better and worse. Mine has given me a lifelong, sustaining intimacy with God in creation. When Jesus challenges those listening to his sermon on the mount to learn a lesson from how the wild flowers grow, I’m with him. This is my spirituality, learning from Earth. We have existence as a gift.

We see in the cosmos God’s irrepressibly creative love everywhere expanding, growing more diverse, and coming to consciousness in us. We humans know that we know, which sometimes makes us anxious but also makes us the chanticleers of the universe, the ones able to live in praise and care for one another.

The gospel insists that we can’t give ourselves to God and money. If we give our hearts to God in faith, we appreciate all that is. We see beauty around us, in us, and in one another. We value ourselves as God does all creation. We judge one another by God’s standards. We live the golden rule and provide for one another out of God’s abundance rather than creating the scarcities that worry the poor.

What lessons do the wild flowers teach you? What conflicts do you experience between God and money?

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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 12, 2017, 6th Sunday Ordinary Time

6 Feb
Photo via Flickr user Fredrykrynde

Photo via Flickr user Fredrykrynde

Sunday Readings: Sirach 15.15-20; 1 Corinthians 2.6-10; Matthew 5.17-37

“So when you offer your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5.23-24

Jesus challenges his hearers not only to keep the commandments but to deal with the daily actions that have killing effects, the false promises that betray trust, the desires that misdirect our lives. Jesus wants his followers to build communities that show forth the power Jesus reveals as God’s own–love and reconciliation.

Anger can be a harmful habit. To break a habit one needs tools for small daily reconciliations. Some newly married couples met with Pope Francis on Valentine’s Day to ask his blessing and advice. “What do I know?” he said laughingly but then offered three daily habits that can help make a marriage work: “I’m sorry.” “Thank you.” “May I, please?”

Anger can seem dangerous and unmanageable but it is also user friendly, alerting us that we have choices to make.

What helps you deal with anger?

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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 29, 2017, 4th Sunday Ordinary Time

24 Jan

Scripture Readings: Zephaniah 2.3;3.12-13; 1 Corinthians 1.26-31; Matthew 5.1-12

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5.3

Who does God bless? The obvious answer is people with a security guard at their gates and a home for every season. Jesus has a different take. He insists God blesses people who are poor, sorrowing, lowly. Those who work that everyone have health care and enough to eat will have their fill. Those who work for peace will find themselves among the children of God, the one family. The beatitudes open our eyes

In Jesus’ time all wealth flowed toward Rome. In our time all wealth has flowed toward the wealthiest 1%. But God blesses 100% of us, not only the rich and powerful. The beatitudes challenge us to find God’s blessings in our own experiences of losing status, of mourning loved ones, of hungering for fairness. The beatitudes call us to solidarity with those who live in poverty or oppression, to be God’s blessing to those in need.

What signs of being blessed do you see people in our culture valuing today?   

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 January 8, 2017, Epiphany

4 Jan
Photo via Flickr user Eileen

Photo via Flickr user Eileen

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 60.1-6; Ephesians 3.2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2.1-12

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.” – Matthew 2.2

The magi follow a star. They search for God in the visible, natural world. Creation is the first source of revelation. Creation manifests God’s life-giving and sustaining presence. Today we follow stars with the Hubble telescope, which has confirmed Einstein’s theory that we live in an expanding universe.

We are seekers like the magi. Physics has taken us inside the atom. Biology has decoded the human genome and learned home molecules splice and proteins fold. In our world God acts not only in the beginning but in all 13.7 billion years of our unfolding. The God of our cosmic story is not fixed and static but dynamic and life-giving.

God comes to use from the future as we experience the lure within us to become all we can be, a drive we share with all beings. In our relationships with each other and our partnerships with Earth, evolution continues. In Jesus God shows us all we can become.

How do you want God to come to you from the future?

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Gospel Reflection for January 1, 2017, Mary, Mother of God

29 Dec

Sunday Readings: Numbers 6.2-27; Galatians 4.4-7; Luke 2.16-21

“Mary pondered all these words in her heart.” – Luke 2.19

Sunday’s gospel about the shepherds visit to Mary’s child and offers only a single sentence about her. That sentence turns on the word pondered, in Greek the word if symballein. Ballein means to throw. Literally the Greek word means to throw together, to wrestle with together. Cymbals have the same root, bringing together to make noise. For Mary to ponder is to interpret the events life is throwing at her. Her faith seeks understanding. Significantly in Luke’s birth narrative, Mary and Joseph can find no place to stay in Bethlehem. Mary gives birth and begins mothering her child in a stable or cave for animals. The sign the shepherds go to Bethlehem to see is the savior, lying in a manger, born among the poor, one of them.

What do you imagine Mary is pondering at age 15 when she give birth to Jesus? At 45 when Jesus starts his ministry? At the foot of the cross?

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Gospel Reflection for December 25, 2016, Christmas

20 Dec

Christmas Readings: Isaiah 9.1-6; Titus 2.11-14; Luke 2.1-20

“While Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to have to child. Mary gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.” – Luke 2.6-7

In the Christmas story the angels know who Jesus is and give humble shepherds, and us, a sign. The sign is the baby, lying in a manger. A manger is a feed trough, so Jesus’ first crib hints that he will give his life to nourish ours. A manger is a place of low status, a place among animals at the margin of human society. The gospel writer Luke wants us to recognize with the shepherds that this child is good news for people like them who live in poverty.

Jesus begins life in a world without room for him or his parents because descendants of David have crowded Bethlehem to register in a Roman census. People hail Caesar as savior, give him the title Augustus, the divine, and pay his taxes. But it is the child lying in the manger who incarnates the love and life-giving power at work since day one in our evolution. In Jesus God becomes one of us and shows us God’s love.

How are you making room for the Christ child this year? How can we join Jesus in his work of saving the world?

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