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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 16, 2017, Easter Sunday

13 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts.34, 37-43; Colossians 3.1-4; John 20.1-9 (and John 20.10-18 to read Mary Magdalene’s part in the Easter story)

“Then the disciple who arrived first at the tomb went in, saw, and believed.” – John 20.9
“Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the lord.” – John 20.18

The Easter Sunday gospel ends with the beloved disciple’s model faith. He sees the empty tomb and believes. Neither on Easter Sunday nor the Second Sunday of Easter does the Church proclaim Mary Magdalene’s encounter with Jesus risen. Without Mary Magdalene staying and grieving at the empty tomb, the Easter gospel presents only the mystery of the empty tomb but not the full revelation that Jesus is risen.

Significantly, Mary Magdalene meets Jesus in a garden, a setting that echoes the Genesis garden and suggests Easter is a new day of creation. First two angels and then a man she supposes to be the gardener ask Mary Magdalene, “Why are you weeping?” When the supposed gardener speaks her name, Mary Magdalene recognizes her teacher, risen and present. Jesus commissions her to tell the other disciples, “I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary Magdalene becomes the apostle to the apostles as she returns to Jesus’ followers and announces, “I have seen the Lord.” She is the first preacher of the good news that Jesus is risen. She shares with them that we share Jesus’ relationship with God. Jesus entrusts us as his brothers and sisters to his mission in the world.

Which disciple who goes to the empty tomb on Easter morning are you most like? Who responds as you would? The beloved disciple who sees the empty tomb and believes? Peter who goes back to the community of Jesus’ followers without saying anything? Mary Magdalene who stays at the tomb and grieves Jesus’ death, encounters Jesus risen, and then becomes the apostle of his good news to the others?

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Gospel Reflection for April 9, 2017, Palm/Passion Sunday

3 Apr

Photo via Flickr user Thomas Hawk

Scripture Readings: Matthew 21.1-11; Isaiah 50.4-7; Philippians 2.6-11; Matthew 26.14-27.66 or 27.11-54

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Matthew 27.46

Jesus’ passion is the reverse of the kingly life to which the devil tempted him and which the Church read on the 1st Sunday of Lent. Jesus does not rule the world, rather he is subject to the representative of Caesar, the Roman governor who knows he is innocent of the charges against him but allow Jesus to be put to death.

The events of Jesus’ passion test and manifest his love for God, for the world, for his friends, and for the community that gathers to this day in his name. Jesus endures not only the pain and shame of crucifixion but one friend’s betrayal, another’s denial, and God’s seeming abandonment.

What in your life has demanded more than you thought you had to give?

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Gospel Reflection for April 2, 2017, 5th Sunday of Lent

28 Mar

Scripture Readings: Ezekiel 37.12-14; Romans 8.8-11; John 11.1-45

Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha said to Jesus, “Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” – John 11.25-27

Jesus grieves in Sunday’s gospel with three people he loves. His friends Martha and Mary believe Jesus could have saved their brother Lazarus, but he didn’t come in time. By raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus in a sense puts himself in his friend’s place. News of this sign incites religious officials to plot Jesus’ death (John 11.45-53).

Both Martha and Mary go out to talk with Jesus when he finally comes to their house after Lazarus has been dead three days. In John’s gospel it is Martha who makes the same key proclamation of faith the in the other three gospels Peter makes. “You are the Mesiah.”

None of us knows what lies beyond death. We have only our experience of God in our world and in our holy history. Henry Nouwen compares dying to the trust between trapeze artists. One lets go, trusting the other will catch him or her. Christians are companions in hope that the God who creates and sustains the world will raise us up. We are companions in hope that the new life Jesus promises will be ours. We live in promise, not certainty. We walk with Jesus, who did not sidestep death but gave himself in trust and human unknowing.

What funerals to you remember especially? For what reasons?

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Gospel Reflection for March 26, 2017, 4th Sunday of Lent

22 Mar

Scripture Readings: 1 Samuel 16.1, 6-7, 10-13; Ephesians 5.8-14; John 9.1-41

“I do know one thing; I was blind, and now I can see.” – John 9.25

The man born blind becomes the talk of his neighborhood when suddenly he can see. His neighbors want to know how this happened. The man explains that a man named Jesus put mud on his eyes and told him to wash it off in the Pool of Siloam. He washed his eyes and can now see.

Jesus appears in this story only at the beginning and end. In between the man has to explain his new sight. His parents confirm the man was born blind but insist he must speak for himself.

“What do you have to say about Jesus?” the teachers ask. “He is a prophet,” the man tells them. The teachers insist that Jesus is a sinner because he has healed on the Sabbath. The man counters that unless Jesus came from God, he could not have done such a thing as given sight to a man born blind.

As the story ends, Jesus finds the man and asks, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

“Tell me who has is, sir, so I can believe in him,” the man says, seeming not to recognize Jesus by sight. He was blind when they met.

“You have already seen him,” Jesus says, acknowledging the man born blind sees with faith, and introduces himself, “He is talking to you now.”

“I believe, Jesus,” the man says.

Who opened your eyes to see with faith in Jesus? What turning points do you remember in your faith journey?

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Gospel Reflection for March 19, 2017, 3rd Sunday of Lent

15 Mar

Photo via Flickr user Ashley Van Haeften

Scripture Readings: Exodus 17.3-7; Romans 5.1-2, 5-8; John 4.5-42

“Many Samaritans from that village believed in Jesus on the strength of the woman’s testimony.” – John 4.39

The Samaritan woman meets Jesus at Jacob’s well. He asks for a drink. In their conversation the woman from Samaria moves from misunderstanding to seeking living water, coming to believe the man from Nazareth is the messiah. She recognizes that although most Jews consider Samaritans heretics, Jesus comes in spirit and truth to include her people in his community. Like the fishermen who leave their nets to follow Jesus, she leaves the water jar that symbolizes her work and goes to tell her townspeople she has found the messiah and brings them to hear Jesus for themselves. Her witness can inspire our own.

Whose witness led you to believe in Jesus? Who believes on the strength of your witness?

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Gospel Reflection for March 12, 2017, 2nd Sunday of Lent

9 Mar

Photo via Flickr user Carsten Tolkmit

Scripture Readings: Genesis 2.1-4; 2 Timothy 1.8-10; Matthew 17.1-9

 “This is my beloved Son, on whom my favor rests. Listen to him.” – Matthew 17.5

Matthew’s account of the Jesus’ transfiguration is the preeminent story of transformation, a crossroads event. Just a few verses earlier Jesus tells his followers for the first time that he will suffer, die, and rise on the third day. This summary distills Jesus’ whole story as the early Christians told it and the evangelists later wrote it down. In Sunday’s gospel Peter, James, and John are in the midst of living the story. In the transfiguration Jesus lets them glimpse the path through death to resurrection. The vision disturbs their lives. Jesus tells them not to fear.  We who read this account see Jesus in his place in history behind the prophets Moses and Elijah, and we anticipate with Peter, James, and John their future as Jesus’ disciples.

 Identify a crossroads experience in your life—a peak or valley.

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Gospel Reflection for March 5, 2017, 1st Sunday of Lent

27 Feb
Photo via Flickr user Adam Hinett

Photo via Flickr user Adam Hinett

Scripture Readings: Genesis 2.7-9; 3.1-7; Romans 5.12-19; Matthew 4.1-11

“Away with you, Satan. Scripture says, ‘You shall worship the Holy One your God; only God shall you adore.'” – Matthew 4.10

Each year the temptation story from one of the synoptic gospels is the gospel for the 1st Sunday of Lent. The devil in the story calls out Jesus for a show of divine power, something to prove he is God. But Jesus shuns divine stunts and recommits to the first commandment — to worship God alone. The story invites us to examine the God in whom we believe. Is our God one who inspires success and personal gain more than service and mercy? Perhaps we find God useless, a God who lets bad things happen to good people. Or perhaps God seems too old-fashioned, pre-scientific, and irrelevant to claim much attention. Jesus makes worshiping God alone the key to his life. The temptation gospel calls us to refresh our image of God, which we can do by taking observant walks outside in creation and by taking time for solitude and reflection on God’s word.

What is currently putting you to the test in your life?

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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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