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Gospel Reflection for April 21, 2019, Easter Sunday

18 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts 10.34,37-43; Colossians 3.1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5.6-8; John 20.1-9 (10-18)

Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ So Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and she told them he had said these things to her. “ – John 20.16-18

Easter Sunday celebrates Jesus’ resurrection to new life. This is the core of Christians faith: that God raised Jesus, who was crucified, from the dead. His resurrection promises that we who believe in him will be raised up to new life with God as he has been. He is the firstborn of a new humanity.

Jesus reveals that God’s power lies not in magic or military might but in love. Love is the power that gives life. Self-giving actions such as forgiving, sharing and welcoming strangers take us beyond the boundaries of ourselves and open us to God’s presence and power among us. The power of these actions in our lives and the lives of others gives us the same hint as spring does that we have the Spirit at work in us, more power than our own for building human community.

What do you see in the empty tomb? What do you hear in Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Jesus that affirms your faith?

Gospel Reflection for April 14, 2019, Passion/Palm Sunday

11 Apr

Sunday Readings: Luke 19.28-40; Isaiah 50.4-7; Philippians 2.6-11; Luke 22.14-23.56

Second criminal: “We are only paying this price for what we have done. This man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you enter into your reign.” Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23.41-44

The liturgies of Holy Week give worshipers parts to act out: processing with palms, footwashing on Holy Thursday, venerating the cross on Good Friday, following the newly lit Easter candle into the dark church on Holy Saturday. We walk with Jesus to his cross and follow the women to the empty tomb at dawn on the first day of the week. This is the week to go to church and rediscover who Jesus is, stir our dead roots, and revive our commitment to mission in the world.

Luke’s passion account emphasizes Jesus’ innocence. Pilate finds no evidence of a crime. The criminal to whom Jesus talks on the cross testifies to Jesus’ innocence. “This man has done nothing wrong.” At his death the centurion at the foot of the cross expresses Luke’s view, “Surely this man was innocent.”

Innocence is a powerful agent of change. The cries of children separated from their parents at the U.S./Mexican border has awakened citizens to the immigration issues more than the plight of adults. Turning the fire hoses on children in Montgomery had the same power during the struggle for Civil Rights for African Americans. The violence we so readily justify toward one another we cannot justify doing to children.

How does violence against the innocent affect you? Imagine yourself as one of Jesus’ acquaintances or one of the women disciples who accompanied Jesus from Galilee and stands at a distance watching him crucified. What do you feel and think?


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Gospel Reflection for April 7, 2019, 5th Sunday of Lent

3 Apr

Scripture 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

A group of men who oppose Jesus catch a woman in the act of adultery and bring her to Jesus to set a trap. The Romans don’t allow Jews to administer the death penalty. Both Jesus and his opponents know this and know that the Mosaic law prescribes stoning a married woman guilty of adultery (Deut. 22.23-24). Actually the law calls to stoning both a man and woman caught in adultery. Where did the man she was with go?

The woman seems the obvious sinner as the gospel begins. But Jesus’ opponents are using the woman and making her an object of public spectacle and shame. Jesus famously writes in the dirt as the accusers speak and then says, “Let the sinless one among you cast the first stone.” According to the law, a witness to a crime must throw the first stone and take responsibility for a sinner’s death. In fact, the law requires two witnesses. The accusers drift away, acknowledging their sinfulness and complicity in shaming the woman.

By standing with the woman, Jesus counters those who make her a spectacle. But what about the crowd that has gathered? How will the woman find belonging in the community again? Can she go back to her husband? Her children? What will neighbors say?

How do you treat people you must forgive? How have you been treated when you needed forgiveness?


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Gospel Reflection for March 31, 2019, 4th Sunday of Lent

27 Mar

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

“Your younger brother came, and your father killed the fatted calf because he has him back in good health.  The older son was angry and would not go in, so his father came out and begged him.” – Luke 15.27-28

For the younger, prodigal son in Sunday’s gospel, the pig trough turns out to be a holy place.  He is entirely wrong about which relationships in his life are most sustaining. He gathers fair weather, party people around him. Only when he bottoms out at the pig trough does he change his mind and heart about what he wants. His self-centered lifestyle has starved him into recognizing he needs a sustaining relationship. The younger son goes home to ask forgiveness.

One lost son is found but the older son is lost in resentment? He wants to see his brother punished. The merciful father who has welcomed one son home has to seek out and beg the older son to come to the party? Will he come? The parable does tell us.

When have you been the repentant, prodigal son? When have you been the forgiving father? When have you been the resentful son?


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Gospel Reflection for March 24, 2019, 3rd Sunday of Lent

21 Mar

Gospel Reflection for March 24, 2019, 3rd Sunday of Lent

Sunday Readings: Exodus 3.1-8, 13-15; 1 Corinthians 10.1-6,10-12; Luke 13.1-9

Jesus spoke a parable. A man had a fig tree, came looking for figs, but found none. He said to the gardener, “For three years I have come looking for figs and found none. Cut it down. . .” The gardener said, “Sir, leave it one more year while I hoe around it and manure it.  Perhaps then it will bear figs.” – Luke 13.7-8

How do we see ourselves in Jesus’ parable? What to do with a tree that bears no fruit? Who likes to cut down a tree? If we think of the gardener as God, then God is nurturing, caring more about another chance to bear fruit than cutting it down. If we think of the tree as ourselves or our children, who doesn’t need or won’t give another chance to grow? A fourth, a fifth?

In the Old Testament steadfast, generative love is God’s signature characteristic. Sunday’s responsorial psalm provides one of the most famous descriptions of God: “Merciful and gracious is the Holy One, slow to anger and abounding in kindness” (103.8).

Our daily interactions cultivate conversion. Like the gardener we nourish and encourage one another. Listening to others can cultivate the fruit of compassion or courage or insight. Other believers can freshen our commitments.

In what ways are you like the owner of the fig tree? In what ways like the gardener? What or whom will you give one more chance to bear fruit? What special care with this require?


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Gospel Reflection for March 17, 2019, 2nd Sunday of Lent

15 Mar

Sunday Readings: Genesis 15.5-12,17-18; Philippians 317-4.1; Luke 9.28-36

“Suddenly two men were talking with Jesus–Moses and Elijah. Appearing in glory, they spoke of his exodus, which he was about to fulfill in Jerusalem.” – Luke 9.30-31

Jesus’ prayer on the mount of transfiguration is a turning point in his ministry. A few verses later he “sets his face for Jerusalem” (Luke 9.51). The transfiguration gospel calls us to set our sights toward Easter, to enter more deeply the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection, which transforms us still. Luke calls us to prayer–to take time as Jesus does in his 40 days in the wilderness to hear and integrate the Spirit’s urging into his life.

The transfiguration connects Jesus with the two prophets in Israel’s history who have interacted most intimately with God–Moses and Elijah. Like the lawgiver Moses, who led an exodus from slavery to freedom, Jesus leads an exodus from death to new life. Like the prophet Elijah, Jesus will confront the officials of temple and empire after his prayer in the silent stillness of a mountaintop.

Who like Moses and Elijah are holy people who help you envision your call into the future?


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Gospel Reflection for March 10, 2019, 1st Sunday of Lent

8 Mar

Sunday Readings: Deuteronomy 26.4-10; Romans 10.8-13; Luke 4.1-13

“Not by bread alone shall a person live.” – Luke 4.4

Turning stones to bread does not tempt Jesus. He recognizes that our relationships with others and with others nourish us as surely as food does. We humans are social beings who cannot grow out of infancy without care and who flourish in the bonds of family, friendship, and collaborative work.

In fact, Jesus always eating with people in Luke’s gospel. These meals with the messiah often turn the expectations of the righteous upside down, for Jesus welcomes and reconciles sinners at these meals. Jesus nourishes us, ultimately, by pouring out his love and life for us in meals, miracles, and the cross.

Today in North America we exercise our freedom endlessly in malls and groceries. Choices abound. What bottled water do we prefer? What flavoring do we like best in our double latte? Our choices determine personal style, but they may not nourish Christian identity. Jesus challenges us not to live by consuming alone but by choosing to lift up those who have little chance to thrive without our help.

By which of God’s words do you live? With whom do you need a renewing meal? Who might you welcome to your family table?


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Gospel Reflection for March 3, 2019, 8th Sunday Ordinary Time

25 Feb

Scripture Readings: Sirach 24.4-7; 1 Corinthians 15.54-58; Luke 6.39-45

“A good person brings for goodness from the good in his or her heart. The mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart.” – Luke 6.45

Sunday’s gospel offers a collection of wise sayings. The blind can’t lead the blind. Students are not greater than their teachers. A tree is known by its fruit. Don’t try to take the splinter from your neighbor’s eye when you don’t see the plank in your own. The Greek word for plank refers to a board used for a rafter or a wall stud. The difference between a splinter and a plank is not only between tiny and immense but also between a single splinter and a fault that can threaten a whole building. From a practical point of view, criticizing others invites their scrutiny in return.

These sayings and many more that Luke includes in Jesus’ sermon on the plain provide concrete, everyday wisdom. Out cultural proverbs today tend to express values such as consumerism, individualism, or competition, for example, “Take care of yourself; no one else will.” They stand in tension with Christian values, such as sharing goods, solidarity among the members of the human family, and cooperation.

What proverbs do you try to live by? What proverbs did your parents or guardians quote often? What proverbs do you quote to your children, students, or co-workers?

Gospel Reflection for February 24, 2019, 7th Sunday Ordinary Time

21 Feb

Sunday Readings: 1 Samuel 26.2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; 1 Corinthians 16.45-49; Luke 6.27-38

“Love your enemy and do good to those that hate you. Bless those who curse you and pray for those who insult you. When people slap you on one cheek, turn and give them your other cheek. When people want you coat, give them your shirt, too. When someone takes what is yours, do not ask for it back. Do to others what you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6.27-32

Jesus’ teachings don’t get harder than the challenge to love our enemies. Much in our culture reinforces a win or lose, destroy your enemies point of view. We mark our history by our wars. Video games develop skills to blast, shoot, shatter, and kill rather than negotiate conflicts. What if we practiced making friends of enemies? What if games challenged players to find the mutual interest opponents did not recognize they have or to get out all the facts so the game can move on to the negotiation level? What if players scored points for creative and cooperative solutions to real-life problems?

To love our enemies is the heart of Jesus’ teaching. It is the challenge to which Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. gave their lives in our times. Ultimately our identity and self-worth are at stake in our conflicts.

When and how have you successfully negotiated a conflict or difference or made a friend of a seeming enemy?


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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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