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Gospel Reflection for April 22, 2018, 4th Sunday of Easter

19 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts 4.8-12, 1 John 3.1-2, John 10.11-18

“I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep.” – John 10.14-15

The image of Jesus as the good shepherd is beloved among Christians, one we return to each year in the Sunday gospel of Easter. Shepherds know their sheep and sheep recognize their shepherds’ voices. Shepherds lead their flocks in and out of sheepfolds by calling them. Sheep will not follow another shepherd’s voice.

For early Christians and for us, the shepherd images expresses closeness and intimacy with Jesus. The verses in Sunday’s gospel emphasize the wholehearted love Jesus demonstrates in loving us unto death. Three times the short gospel passage repeats what makes a shepherd good–willingness to lay down one’s life for the sheep.

Who knows your voice? Whose voice do you know and hear? Who do you shepherd? For whom are you laying down your life?

Gospel Reflection for April 15, 2018, 3rd Sunday of Easter

9 Apr

Scripture Readings: Acts 3.13-15,  17-19; 1 John 2.1-5; Luke 24.35-48

“Thus it was written and so it happened that the Messiah is to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. In his name repentance and forgiveness of sins are to be preached to the nations.” – Luke 24.46

Jesus’ crucifixion ends the story his disciples thought they were living by following him. His resurrection begins a new story. It adds a day to the story creation, an eighth day. Sunday’s gospel climaxes Luke 24, the gospel writer’s chapter on Jesus’ resurrection.

The disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus have returned to the assembled disciples. Their report affirms the women’s account of encountering Jesus risen at the empty tomb. Then suddenly Jesus is in their midst, extending peace, which startles and terrifies them. Jesus invites his followers to touch him,  eat with him, and opens their minds to interpret the scriptures (the Old Testament) in the light of his resurrection.

Christian still keep Sunday by gathering, remembering Jesus, interpreting events in our world in the light of scripture, and breaking bread together as he asked. At least that is the long practice of Christians. Now in our time abuse scandals, rules and doctrines irrelevant to new generations, and the challenge to faith to keep up with science leads many to walk away from affiliation with churches.

Some people start over as the original disciples did in small communities that re-interpret the scriptures for today.

When have you found Jesus breaking into presence anew in a community of seekers?


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Gospel Reflection for April 8, 2018, 2nd Sunday of Easter

5 Apr

Scripture Readings: Acts 4.32-35, 1 John 5.1-6, John 20.19-31

“Peace be with you. Thomas, take your finger and examine my hands. Put your hand into my side. Do not persist in your unbelief, but believe.” – John 20.26-27

The testimony of those who saw Jesus leaves Thomas unimpressed. He doubts as many people do today. He wants hands-on proof. When Jesus appears again, he invites Thomas to go ahead, “Poke away. If this is what it takes for you to believe, I’m at your disposal.” Thomas responds with a confession that soars above all others, “My Lord and my God.” How do we later generations come to faith, we who are unable to touch the nail holes in Jesus’ hands or the wound in his side?

God is available in the Word. The Word has become flesh not only in the person of Jesus but in the story about him and the words spoken in his name. Sunday’s gospel concludes by expressing the reason for the writing of the gospel stories. “These have been recorded to help you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, so that through this faith you may have life in his name” (John 20.31).

The God who creates is the God who comes among us in Jesus to save, heal, forgive, and make whole. Jesus continues to live among us in the gospel story, which calls us to hear and believe what we can no longer see and believe.

When have you questioned as Thomas did? Where did your questioning lead?


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Gospel Reflection for April 1, 2018, Easter Sunday

26 Mar

Scripture Readings: Acts of the Apostles 10.34,37-42; Colossians 3.1-3; (Vigil Mark 16.1-7) John 20.1-18

“This disciple who had arrived first at the tomb went in. He saw and believed.”  – John 20.8

“Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord.'” – John 20.18

Mary Magdalene brings the whole community of Jesus’ followers the good news, “I have seen the Lord.” Easter testifies to the power of God’s love. Jesus’ resurrection testifies to the impossible coming to be. Every dawn testifies to the giver of our lives, the Holy Spirit, calling us into song like the birds, calling us into deeper roots like the bulbs, calling us with poet Gerard Manley Hopkins to recognize Easter is a verb.

We Christians welcome Jesus to easter in us. What Jesus has done for us in giving himself wholeheartedly we must do for one another. We weave with our love each day a community of love in our world.

How are Jesus and his Spirit eastering in you?


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Gospel Reflection for March 25, 2018, Passion/Palm Sunday

22 Mar

Scripture Readings: Mark 11.1-10, Isaiah 50.4-7, Philippians 2.6-11, Mark 14.1-15.47

Again the high priest asked Jesus, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus said, “I am.”  – Mark 14.61-62

A woman breaks open an alabaster jar of costly ointment and pours it on Jesus’ head.  Israel anointed its kings for office by pouring oil on their heads. The woman’s gesture is a prophetic act that, like the words of blessing that welcome Jesus to Jerusalem, identifies him as the messiah.

Jesus affirms that “wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Her action anticipates the reason the high priest condemns Jesus. It contrasts sharply with Judas Iscariot’s act of betrayal that happens next.

Artfully the narrative creates an inside and outside scene during Jesus’ trial. Outside in the courtyard of the high priest’s house Peter denies he knows Jesus.  Inside the house Jesus acknowledges he is the messiah. The high priest asks, “Are you the messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus says, “I am.”

Jesus is not alone as he dies on the cross. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, Salome, and other women disciples stand with him at a distance. The passion narrative leaves us in desolation.

Who are we like—the woman who has faith in Jesus; the betrayer; the disciples who flee when Jesus is arrested; Peter, who denies Jesus; the women who stand with him but cannot ease his suffering and anguish; Joseph of Arimathea, who shows up to bury him?


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Gospel Reflection for March 18, 2018, 5th Sunday of Lent

12 Mar

Scripture Readings: Jeremiah 31.31-34, Hebrews 5.7-9, John 12.20-33

“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it will bear much fruit.”  – John 12.24

The grain of wheat metaphor in John’s gospel uses the transforming process we call growth to help us understand all Jesus’ death and resurrection promises us. In the growth process, warmth and moisture swell a seed poked down in the soil until the life secreted within it bursts its hull. Actually, the seeds doesn’t fall into the earth and die but rather germinates. It swells with more life than the seed can hold. A new sprout pushes above ground into sunlight at the same time roots spread out underground in search of nourishment. With rain and sun, a grain of wheat grows a stalk that heads out with a hundredfold new seeds. The short life cycle of seeds dramatizes all that happens in the human life cycle, but the planting that we do in loving our children, teaching our students, being faithful in our relationships takes years to flourish.

The hour of Jesus’ death is a dynamic process, a passing over, a planting that will bear fruit hundredfold like the wheat. At the heart of Christian faith is Jesus’ life-giving resurrection from his self-giving death. Jesus challenges us to follow his self-giving way, to love and serve one another and in doing so lifting others up.

What seeds of hope are you planting with your life?


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Gospel Reflection for March 11, 2018, 4th Sunday Ordinary Time

7 Mar

Sunday Readings: 2 Chronicles 36.14-16, 19-23; Ephesians 2.4-10; John 3.14-21

“God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but so the world might be saved through him.” – John 3.17

Jesus’ mission is not to condemn the world but to save it. He calls us who believe in him to do like wise. Like Nicodemus to whom Jesus is talking in Sunday’s gospel, we find this hard to understand. We are accustomed to the harsh realities of our world, such as terrorism, war, collateral damage, market forces, corporate downsizing, torture, ethnic cleansing. We take the daily condemnation and crucifixion of millions of our fellow humans with disinterest and bad-news fatigue. Like Nicodemus, who later helps take Jesus down from the cross, we by the grace of God can come to the foot of the cross to stand in the light of the one like us who is lifted up. We can begin to see God’s kingdom in our midst and live the new life Jesus brings. We can do our part to take broken and suffering human begins off their crosses.


How do you respond to others pain and suffering? Whom does God send us to love?


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Gospel Reflection for March 4, 2018, 3rd Sunday for Lent

28 Feb

Scripture Readings: Exodus 20.1-17; 1 Corinthians 1.22-25; John 2.13-25

“Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” – John 2.6

Jesus seeks to reclaim the temple as a place of prayer rather than commerce. His short explanation is a great Tweet: “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disruptive actions of dumping out money and overturning tables would become breaking news online today.

Similarly Pope Francis has made direct, quotable statements about repairing Earth, which he reverences as God’s creation and our sacred home. He urges us to stop pollution and our wasteful ways. “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth,” he says (#21). “Earth is a shared inheritance. God created the world for everybody” (#93).

Jesus’ actions to cleanse the temple calls us to clean our houses this Lent and to examine our hearts. Our fast-paced, productive lives can erode our relationships with God and make us feel like cogs in the wheels of commerce rather than friends of God and one another. Lent calls us to assess what we consume and what consumes us.

What housecleaning do you need to do in your life? How can you change to help clean up our common home, the Earth?


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Gospel Reflection for February 25, 2018, 2nd Sunday of Lent

23 Feb

Scripture Readings: Genesis 22.1-2, 8, 10-13, 15-18; Romans 8.31-34; Mark 9.2-10

“This is my son, my beloved. Listen to him.” – Mark 9.7

Each year the Church reflects on Jesus’ transfiguration on the 2nd Sunday of Lent. The vision challenges us to look toward Easter, to envision our hopes and prayers for transformation and renewal this Lent.

Today we face polarized times when neighbors and family members aren’t always talking. Fake news thrives. Violence is so frequent that fatigue sets in unless the violence touches us. What can transform us?

One answer is conversation, learning where others come from. Conversation followed Father Bryan Massingale’s talk on racism this fall at St. Catherine University. He used a ruler as a time line, explaining slavery lasted for 7.5 inches; reconstruction, 1 inch; Jim Crow, 2.25 inches; legal equality, 1.25 inches (1968). He made the point racism isn’t over. Indeed, an African American woman in her late 20s in my group of three remembered that her grandparents had to sit in a back section in the Catholic church where they worshiped.

A month later our religious community spent a Saturday morning on racism and white privilege. We talked in fives. One question asked, “When do you pretend?” Not much, I thought, but the gay man in our group said, “I have to decide all the time who I will be in groups and at work.”

Conversations also happened at a Come Together gathering of prayer and song. A student from Zimbabwe described worries for her family’s safety as she followed news that the only president she has known was forced to step down. A mom with a biracial child shared her fears for the child. The woman who helped start the Come Together movement described the police chase and shooting that threatened her children and led her family to move.

What conversations have opened your eyes to where others come from? 


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Gospel Reflection for February 18, 2018, 1st Sunday of Lent

15 Feb

Sunday Readings: Genesis 9.8-15; 1 Peter 3.18-22; Mark 1.12-15

“Immediately after the baptism the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert.” – Mark 1.15

The whole of Mark’s gospel unfolds what awakens in Jesus after living in harmony with God and all creation in the desert. “God’s reign has come near,” Jesus announces. God is near, within, and around us–the reality in which Jesus lived in the desert.

Jesus’ relationship with God mirrors the relationship to which he calls us. We are God’s beloved. The Spirit drives us, too.

What if Jesus’ time in the desert evokes in us the value of time alone and the heightening of our senses that comes from slowing down?

What if it is our affections that pull us more strongly to accomplish our commitments than the ascetic disciplines we undoubtedly consider each Lent?

What if our senses are not the problems, leading us into temptation at every side, but are doorways to community?

What if we need to fall in love again with those closest to us, giving them time and ear to re-engage? What if we make a point this Lent to do with family and friends what unfailingly brings us joy and recharges our batteries?

What if we need to fall in love again with Earth, its beauty, diversity, and unfailing burst each spring into new life?

With whom or what might you fall in love again this Lent?


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