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Gospel Reflection for October 7, 2018, 27th Sunday Ordinary Time

4 Oct

Sunday Readings: Genesis 2.18-24; Hebrews 2.9-11; Mark 10.2-12

“God made humans male and female, and for this reason men and woman leave their fathers and mothers and the two become one.”  – Mark 10.6-8

Some Pharisees ask Jesus in Sunday’s gospel, “Does the law permit divorce?” This question is still controversial today. The law of Moses does permit men to divorce their wives. To repudiate a wife puts her outside the family social structure, in effect impoverishing her.

Jesus endorses marriage by quoting Genesis 1 that the Creator makes humankind in the divine image and gifts them with sex, “male and female God created them” (1.26.27). The creation story in Genesis 2 describes men and women made of the same bone or essence, equally human and made for becoming one. Jesus insists that in the case of adultery wives should be able divorce their husbands just as men can divorce their wives, a move toward equality.

This Church teaches marriage is indissoluble. Marriage is the most common way Christians live out their discipleship. Marriage builds bond of blood and networks of love and friendship–the social weave that holds us together. In countless daily ways spouses build their union and at the same time their individual wholeness.

Today Pope Francis recognizes the general rules in regard to marriage don’t fit every situation. He wants to make room for conscience and for grace. For him, mercy is the beating heart of the gospel. He cautions in his exhortation Love in the Family, “At times we find it hard to make room for God’s unconditional love in our pastoral activity. We put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete significance. It’s the worst way of watering down the gospel” (#311).

What do you value about marriage? What is hardest?


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Gospel Reflection for September 30, 2018, 26th Sunday Ordinary Time

29 Sep

Sunday Readings: Numbers 11.25-29; James 5.1-6; Mark 9.38-48

“Whoever is not against us is for us.”  – Mark 9.40

Often in our disgustingly polarized times, activists, liberal and conservative, reverse Jesus’ saying and eliminate the middle ground. They insist whoever is not for us is against us. Middle ground is liminal space, valuable to preserve for exploring what we have in common with others, what they have experienced, why they think the way they do. Middle ground is where real people replace stereotypes and liberate each other from the demons of prejudice and unexamined certainty. In the news the future of our democracy depends on finding common ground and common good, cups of water in Jesus’ name all around for all in need.

To what and to whom does the name Christian obligate us?


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Gospel Reflection for September 2, 2018, 22nd Sunday Ordinary Time

30 Aug

Scripture Readings: Deuteronomy 4.1-2,6-8; James 1.17-18,21-22,27; Mark 7.1-8,14-15, 21-23

“You forsake the commandment of God and hold to human tradition…It is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come.” – Mark 7.8, 21

Rules tend to multiply, and traditions accumulate. The Pharisees in Sunday’s gospel question why Jesus’ disciples do not follow Jewish traditions about washing their hands. In response Jesus raises a vital question: Are these rules human made or God-given? Do these rules lead people to God? Or, do these rules create unnecessary burdens? Jesus defends as more essential the moral law that declares greed, arrogance, deceit, murder, and adultery unholy. Declaring that the dietary laws have outlived their usefulness sets Jesus apart from all the authorities in the temple and synagogue. Laws like those of the Pharisees and many of the customs of the pre-Vatican II Church create a fence that was meant to keep people from even thinking about real hurtful, evil, destructive sins. Sunday’s gospel asks us to evaluate whether our rules help us become holy, open our hearts, and keep us from arrogance and obtuse spirits.

What rule do you practice that keeps your heart open to God and neighbor?


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Gospel Reflection for August 5, 2018, 18th Sunday Ordinary Time

2 Aug

Scripture Readings: Exodus 16.2-4, 12-15; Ephesians 4.17,20-24; John 6.24-35

“What must we do to perform the works of God?” – John 6.28

Jesus interests the crowd that he fed the day before in working for the food that endures for eternal life. Eternal life is the lure. That is why they ask, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” Believe in the one whom God has sent is Jesus’ answer. The abundant bread proved no sacrament to them. They fail to catch on that it points to who Jesus is. They fail to see that Jesus’ teaching, healing, loving presence is the sign of God among them. The crowd wants another sign if they are to believe Jesus is from God. They are hungry for more than food?

For what do I hunger? Of what do I want more of? In a budding friendship each person wants to discover who the other is, what he or she is about, what and who is important in the other’s life? We yearn to know one another more deeply. A new book entices us to join a book club. An encounter with a neighbor leads to a joint gardening project. You try volunteering and find a whole new purpose. Faith may become a hunger that leads to a prayer group or to bible study. A hunger for justice may lead us to work for legislative action.

Who do you feed in your daily life and work? For what do you hunger?


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Gospel Reflection for July 22, 2018, 16th Sunday Ordinary Time

18 Jul

Sunday Readings: Jeremiah 23.1-6; Ephesians 2.13-18; Mark 6.30-34

“As he went ashore, Jesus saw a great crowd. His heart is moved with pity for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. He began to teach them many things.” – Mark 6.34

In Sunday’s gospel the twelve return from the mission to preach and heal which Jesus sent them out to do in last Sunday’s gospel. They come back woofed. Jesus’ growing popularity surrounds them with crowds and keeps them from eating let alone resting. Mark often creates literary sandwiches, a story within a story. Last Sunday’s gospel served us the first slice of story–Jesus sending the twelve out in pairs; this Sunday we hear the second slice of story–the return of the twelve. We don’t hear the 17 verses that form the meat in the middle of the sandwich. These verses tell the story of John the Baptist’s senseless and gruesome beheading. They do more than supply time for the twelve to be out on mission. The story of John the Baptist’s tells us the twelve have embarked on the same mission that cost the Baptist and Jesus their lives. It foreshadows the cost of prophetic ministry.

Jesus cannot shut off his compassion to the people to come to him in droves. The gospel call us to preach the good news with our lives, to turn on our compassion, not turn it off.

When has pity or compassion moved you to action?


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Gospel Reflection for July 8, 2018, 14th Sunday Ordinary Time

3 Jul

Scripture Readings: Ezekiel 2.2-5; 2 Corinthians 12.7-10; Mark 6.1-6

“Jesus was amazed at their unbelief.” – Mark 6.6

When Jesus preaches in his hometown synagogue, his neighbors experience his astonishing wisdom but quickly dismiss his gifts. Their certainty and cynicism quickly tame their amazement at his preaching and healing. Jesus is a carpenter and no prophet. They cannot recognize God present in one of their own. Theologian Bernard Lonergan says, “The opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty.” Many of us shun controversy and debate, especially in our polarized times. We have to ask ourselves what we are too certain about to question and rethink.

What phrases do you use in conversations to let people know you are open to listening and conversing? 


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Gospel Reflection for June 17, 2018, 11th Sunday Ordinary Time

12 Jun

Scripture Readings: Ezekiel 17.22-24; 2 Corinthians 5.6-10; Mark 4.26-34

“This is how it is with the reign of God. A farmer scatters seed on the ground, goes to bed, and gets up day after day. Through it all the seeds sprouts and grows without the farmer knowing how it happens.” – Mark 4.26-37

A farmer in Jesus’ time and all of us who grow plants today inherit the leap from ocean to land that early cellular life made. We can ready the field, sow the seed, and sleep awhile. It’s organic. Seeds have it in their DNA how to grow and mature with rain and sun. We live in a dynamic, evolving world in which all that is has the capacity to become more, to self-organize into new wholes. We humans live and thrive in relationship with others–in mutual, reciprocal love for family, friends, neighbors. Who do we count as neighbors, we Christians who embrace the moral challenge to do unto others what we do for ourselves–to act like one human family?

I am feeling shame these days that the law of our land requires splitting up parents and children at the Mexican border. Kids are crying there and all over the country where deportation is happening. Who has a stomach for cruelty to little kids? One can go bed and let the consequences play out while we sleep. Yet who of us like these children’s parents does not want safety, education, and a good life for their children? That’s what I want for my family. That’s what the kin*dom of God is like.

What’s in our Christian DNA? What can each of us do today to make caring the hallmark of our civil society?


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Gospel Reflection for May 13, 2018, Ascension

7 May

Sunday Readings: Acts 1.1-11;Ephesians 1.17-23; Mark 16.15-20

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.”  – John 16.15

“Why do you stand looking into the heaven?”  – Acts 1.11

Up is where God is in the ancient world. Up still represents the top rung. The ladder of success goes up. The view of Earth from space, however, has forced us to revise our images of the heavens as God’s home and throne.

When I visited the site of Jesus’ ascension in Israel, the guide pointed out a rock with two side-by-side swirls that looked a little like footprints. When I saw the rock, I remembered reading about it as a child and accepting as real that Jesus would leave his footprints in a rock when he returned to God.  Did I think Jesus blasted off with foot rockets to leave such molten footprints? Until the early teen years,all of us have only concrete brain operations. We can only take stories literally as I did.

The gospel writer Luke draws on how people saw the world in Jesus’ time. In ancient Mesopotamia people imagined God lived in the heavens, commanding storms and hosts of heavenly beings, a divine army. Luke pictures Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, returning to reign with God. In his final words Jesus calls his disciples to await the Spirit and then become his witnesses to the ends of the earth. As the account in the Acts of the Apostles ends, two men ask, “Why do you stand looking into the heavens?” Their question brings us back to the Earth we know where Jesus calls us to be his witnesses.  Get busy.

What are you looking to heaven for that you can be doing here on Earth?

Gospel Reflection for May 6, 2018, 6th Sunday of Easter

2 May

Scripture Readings: Acts 10.25-26, 34-35, 44-48; 1 John 4.7-10; John 15.9-17

“The command I give you is this: that you love one another.” – John 15.17

“You are my friends if you do what I command you,” Jesus says. Do is an active verb. Jesus isn’t talking about having friends, but about being a friend.”  Being a friend means laying down one’s life for each other. Liberation theologians have a term for laying down one’s life–acompañar. It means accompanying each other, entering into the life circumstances of one’s community. It recognizes we all share a common human condition. Friendship is the most inclusive way we love. It stretches us beyond our intimate relationships into wider circles.

Minimally, love challenges us to tolerate one another. More fully, love challenges us to talk to one another and learn from each other’s experience. Most fully, love challenges us to encounter one another and open our minds and hearts to experience and faith beyond our own.

The good thing is that we have a life time to learn this love and lots of chances a day to choose it. Conversation lies in wait in every human encounter.

Whose friendship is life-giving for you? 


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Gospel Reflection for April 29, 2018, 5th Sunday of Easter

26 Apr

Scripture Readings: Acts 9.26-31, 1 John 3.18-24, John 15.1-8

“Abide in me as I abide in you.” – John 15.4

Jesus’ words live in us and keep working in us to transform us. They have a continuing cleansing and converting effect. Today these gospel words call us to bear fruit in a world that is global and cosmic. The Second Vatican Council challenges us to make our own the joys and anxieties, the grief and anguish, of the poor and afflicted. This is a call to solidarity, to respond to the people of Earth as a common family. It is also an abiding ethical challenge in our market-driven society that measures success in wealth, not relationships.

We are all artisans of the common good. How we drive helps set the tone of a neighborhood. Our welcoming attitudes help immigrants resettle. Our roots in Jesus’ life and love empower us to branch out and bear fruit where we live: to call others to faith in Jesus, to serve our families and communities, to make the small differences that build the common good.

What words of Jesus unsettle you and push at you to put them into action?


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