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Gospel Reflection for August 28, 2016, 22nd Sunday Ordinary Time

23 Aug
Photo via Flickr user Stijn Nieuwendijk

Photo via Flickr user Stijn Nieuwendijk

Sunday Readings: Sirach 3.17-18, 20, 28-29; Hebrews 12.18-19, 22-24; Luke 14.1, 7-14

“When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. You will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.”

(Luke 14.12-13)

Jesus’ two healings on the Sabbath demonstrate God’s will for human beings. We read neither story among the Sunday gospels. Jesus straightens up a woman who for 18 years has been bent over in Luke 13.10-17 and heals a moan with dropsy (14.2-6). He restores them to praise and worship rather than leaving them among the forgotten whom God supposedly punishes. In his advice for making guest lists, Jesus prefers those who cannot repay their hosts with a return invitation and place of honor at their tables. Jesus wants us to widen the circle of those who eat at our tables to include people like the two he has just healed. He wants our guest lists to distribute food justly rather than cut people off as chronically inferior, deserving distance from us rather than place among us.

What places of honor might you give up? What would you lose or gain? Who might you add to your guest list? What would you lose or gain?

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The Times

19 Aug
Artwork by Sr. Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ

Artwork by Sr. Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ

Anyone who picked up the New York Times this morning saw the heartbreaking photo of a small, traumatized Syrian boy on the cover. Sister Ansgar, an artist, responded by creating a collage that put the child in the arms of Mary and gave him a mother for our prayerful contemplation. She found the photo of the Mary statue in the Art section. She calls the collage: The Times.

Neighbors on the Path

19 Aug

It isn’t a new lesson, but it is one I have to keep revisiting. The Good Samaritan. One man in Jesus’ parable saw the humanity of the man on the side of the road naked and broken. One man stopped. One man did what it took to ensure the victim’s full restoration. It seems so elementary, but I have so much trouble following his example.

Jesus tells this parable to a man trying to find a loophole and get around the law. When he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds, with the story of the good Samaritan, essentially saying, “Your neighbor is anyone who has been put in your path.”

We, too, are challenged by Jesus’ ministry and this parable specifically to see the humanity of all people put in our path. We are called to stop, let others change our plans, let the urgency of restoration work shape our days.

It is no easy calling. Jesus is asking us to get our hands dirty. He is asking us to move into the heart of conflict. This may risk our reputation, our schedule, and the ease of our known lives. It is often our busyness, our vanity and our fear of conflict that holds us back from acting like Jesus and the good Samaritan. I am guilty of all three, so I must revisit this parable again and again.

Really knowing our neighbors, the people in our path, requires seeing and stopping. That is often the hardest part. If we do engage with unexpected neighbors, like the good Samaritan did, like Jesus did, then we are often filled with the compassion necessary to move toward creative and effective reconciliation work. So this week, yet again, I pray for the courage to be open and willing to fully engage with all of my neighbors.

Gospel Reflection for August 21, 2016, 21st Sunday Ordinary Time

16 Aug
Photo via Flickr user Sailesh Vaghela

Photo via Flickr user Sailesh Vaghela

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 66.18-21; Hebrews 12.5-7, 11-13; Luke 13.22-30

“Strive to enter through the narrow door.”

(Luke 13.24)

A door or gate always represents choice. As long as a room has a door, we can enter and exit it. We can choose to go in and choose to leave, to enclose or expand ourselves. A doorway or threshold is a liminal space, which stand between inside and outside, between life as we know it and life as Jesus promises it. In Sunday’s gospel Jesus crosses a threshold in his ministry when he sets his face for Jerusalem. As he goes on his way, Jesus teaches; his teaching has the authenticity of one who lives his word. Jesus is on his way to his Father through the narrow door of his own suffering and death.

Who beckons you to participate actively in your community of faith? What door do you want to open or close?

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Restoring Peace

5 Aug
Photo via Flickr user Carolina Ponce

Photo via Flickr user Carolina Ponce

The disciples were fishing, and a man on the shore told them to throw their net to the other side of the boat.”It is the Lord,” one said to Peter. It was the third time Jesus appeared to his friends after the resurrection in John. Although Peter had not initially recognized Jesus, he jumped into the water to swim to shore. While the others stayed in the boat, Peter’s love for Jesus could not be contained.

The time between Jesus’ death and ascension is blessed, heavy with holiness and wonder. In these interactions, Jesus is teaching us a great deal about peace and reconciliation, which seems to be his focus in that middle time. “Peace. Peace be with you. My peace I give you,” he says as a greeting. It is done. In his death and resurrection, peace is possible. Now the disciples have to take that peace and make it real in the world.

In his life, death and resurrection, Jesus is a master healer. His healing brings restoration and transformation. It leaves the broken not only whole, but stronger. It is a ministry of true reconciliation. The scene that follows Peter’s endearing swim to meet Jesus is another example of the heart of Jesus’ ministry.

First, they eat. This is no small gesture. Imagine if we really took the time to sit down and share a meal with people we are working with, living among, and loving before launching into the business at hand. Then, after connecting to his friend, listening and laughing, he asks,”Peter, do you love me?”

“You know that I love you.”

“Peter, do you love me?”

“Lord, you know that I love you.”

A third time, “Peter, do you love me?”

It would have been easy for Jesus to assume Peter understood what the resurrection meant– that he was forgiven, that he was filled with Christ’s peace. Jesus creates an intimate moment between friends so that Peter will claim his freedom. Jesus asks not once, but three times. Peter is reminded of his own brokenness and thrice betrayal in the same moment he is released from it. He is free to take on the peace of Christ and spread it to the world.

This “Do you love me?/Lord, you know that I love you” refrain has been echoing in my head for a few days. It is Jesus intimately and tenderly taking my hand, helping me face my brokenness and claim Christ’s forgiveness and peace so that I too may engage in the ever-important work of reconciliation in our broken world. The peace of restoration– that same peace Jesus showed lepers and adulterers and his good friend Peter– is being given to us to claim and share.

Waging Peace

29 Jul
Photo via Flickr user Bruce Fingerhood

Photo via Flickr user Bruce Fingerhood

Do you hear the cries for peace? The longing is so urgent and real. It is easy to think of peace a simply a lack of violence. God’s vision of peace, however, is more beautiful than that and requires more of us than simply putting our weapons down.

What is God’s vision of peace? There are two biblical images in particular I have been meditating on:

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not raise its sword against nation, and they shall learn war no more.          –Ish 2:4

and

Everyone will live in peace and prosperity, enjoying their own grapevines and fig trees, for there will be nothing to fear.       –Micah 4:4

I love the visuals that come with these images of peace. One person taking a weapon and making it into a tool that will help bring forth food, abundance and life. Or another person, enjoying the shade of a tree that bears fruit. This biblical idea of peace, coming from the word shalom, is not just lack of violence. This is a peace that gets at the holistic well being of all persons. It is a peace that claims that access to food, safety and leisure time bring human dignity and should be available to all.

These images of shalom remind me of a statue I saw in El Salvador, a beautiful and hopeful piece of art made from melted down bullets used in their civil war. Tools for violence turned into art. It makes me think of organizations working with farmers to create more secure food options for families and communities all around the world.

I yearn for shalom. I pray for a time when we can put down our weapons because we are no longer afraid. I beg for an age when we can all sit in the shade of prosperity without fear. Shalom will only come when all people have enough, when the most vulnerable in our communities are seen and tended to as God’s beloved children. Peace is tied to being committed to the well being of all. Shalom requires us to believe that we can glimpse heaven here and now and engage in God’s work of reconciliation in this life.

Blessed are the peacemakers, those who do not just think about it, but build their lives around waging peace. Peacemaking is a vocation Jesus calls us to. This shalom peace is not just a lack of violence, but a commitment to the holistic well being of all God’s beloved creatures. And God’s creatures are crying out for peace.

I-Thou

22 Jul
Photo via Flickr user Harwig HKD

Photo via Flickr user Harwig HKD

This week, Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg’s Podcast Nurture the Wowcast reminded me of the importance of incorporating Martin Buber’s I-Thou idea of relationship when approaching my small child. This is one small way that parenting is a spiritual practice.

It is important, especially in the middle of a tantrum, to really see our children. Instead of seeing our children as a frustration or problem or obstacle in getting out the door, we are called to see the world through their lens. God wants us to see and honor their full humanity.

Buber categorizes relationships into I-It and I-Thou. I-It relationships happen when we see the other as an object. I-Thou connections are sacred. We see the beauty of the other’s full personhood. I-Thou is the relationship we have with God.

The podcast was a simple, powerful reminder to seek I-Thou relationships not only with my child, but with all the people I encounter in my day. How am I treating the worker at the grocery store? Another mom at the park? My co-worker? My spouse? Who is this person? Can I try to see them today?

We can remember to see the people, friends and strangers alike. We can look for the desire, needs, fear and complex nature of the soul in front of us. This posturing of curiosity and seeking, I believe, is sacred, and can make a difference in our increasingly polarized and digitized world.

Gospel Reflection for July 24, 2016, 17th Sunday Ordinary Time

20 Jul

Scripture Readings: Genesis 18.20-32; Colossians 2.12-14; Luke 11.1-13

Jesus said, “Say this when you pray: Father, may you name be held holy; your kingdom come…”

Jesus encourages us to pray for “the kingdom,” the vision he has for a just and loving society and world. To pray that God’s name be hallowed and that God’s kingdom come is to acknowledge that all barriers to love must be dissolved. Anything that separates race from race, rich from poor, gender from gender, age group from age group, Christian from non-Christian is a barrier to the holiness God wishes to share with believers. Biases have no place in the community that names God our father.  Especially as protests and politics set us against one another, we must cherish all we have in common and respect one another.

Make today a day to act out the Our Father and talk with folks who seem different from yourself. Pray for someone with whom you are angry or hurt.

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
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Mourning Into Action

15 Jul
Photo via Flickr user AK Rockefeller

Photo via Flickr user AK Rockefeller

When one man gets shot, when five police get targeted by a sniper, when a baby dies from gun violence, we all hurt. It happens to us all. As people of faith, there are helpful places we can go.

We can turn toward lament, knowing God can withstand our anger and pain:

Hear my prayer, O LORD! And let my cry for help come to You. Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my distress; Incline Your ear to me; In the day when I call answer me quickly. –Psalm 102:1-2

We can crack open our Bibles and read, yet again, about the life of Jesus. We can see with eyes anew how he dissolved boundaries and worked for peace and saw the dignity in all people, challenging us to do the same.

As a person of faith, I also know I need to continue to explore my own white privilege. I am called to see it, name it, and work toward being actively anti-racist in my day. For encouragement, and guidance, we can turn toward the US Catholic Bishop’s Letter on Racism from 1979 (!). It still rings true in 2016. The whole letter is helpful, but allow me to include a few quotes here:

Racism is an evil which endures in our society and in our Church. Despite apparent advances and even significant changes in the last two decades, the reality of racism remains. In large part it is only external appearances which have changed.

Racism and economic oppression are distinct but interrelated forces which dehumanize our society. Movement toward authentic justice demands a simultaneous attack on both evils.

Indeed, racism is more than a disregard for the words of Jesus; it is a denial of the truth of the dignity of each human being revealed by the mystery of the Incarnation.

God’s word in Genesis announces that all men and women are created in God’s image; not just some races and racial types, but all bear the imprint of the Creator and are enlivened by the breath of His one Spirit.

We can read The New Jim Crow, Between the World and Me, Walking With the Wind, or I Have a Dream, just to name a few, and watch Color of Fear, Eyes on the Prize, or 4 Little Girls. We can identify where in our lives we have power and skills and use them for good. Do you have the power of free time to show up at a peaceful protest? Are you a voter in a place that could benefit from some policy change? As a mom, as a teacher of youth, as a writer I can tap into my power. I can commit to spending more time being uncomfortable, listening, learning, and acting in response to the recent violence.

There is a time to mourn and a time to dance. In this time of mourning, may our faith call us also to act.

Image 9 Jul

Social-Action-Has-Two-Feet-(1)-2

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