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Gospel Reflection for October 20, 2019, 29th Sunday Ordinary Time

17 Oct

Scripture Readings: Exodus 17.8-13; 2 Timothy 3.14-4.2; Luke 18.1-8

“There was a judge in a certain city who neither feared God nor respected human beings.  A widow in that city kept coming to him and saying: ‘Take up my case.  Give me my just rights against my opponent.’ For a while the judge refused but finally he said to himself, ‘I neither fear God nor respect people, but this widow—she is wearing me out.  I will settle her case justly lest in the end she disgrace me.’” – Luke 18.3-5

When Luke writes the third gospel about A.D. 85, many Christians are wondering when and if Jesus will come again in glory. The parable of the persistent widow offers a model for these believers. She persists in seeking justice in the face of a callous judge. She’s not the nagging widow we once labeled her but a model of keeping on keeping on, a relentless activist. Justice is her purpose.

In the gospel Jesus also holds up the woman as an example of praying always and not losing heart. What justice does our nation and world most need? For example, our times call us to persist in ending the mass incarceration of black men who as felons after prison can’t ever vote or get jobs with any ease. Read Michelle Alexander’s 2010 book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

What justice do you seek? What evils does the judge represent that Christians must resist? Whose persistence do you admire?


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Prayer for the Burning Amazon Forest

16 Oct

Loving God, the Amazon is on fire!
We come before you with a heavy and contrite heart.
We know your heart must be deeply grieved
as you hear the cries of the innocent trees, creatures,
rivers and indigenous communities as their home burns.

We pray that in your mercy, you will forgive us
for our way of life, for we have created the markets
for beef, timber and minerals taken from the Amazon.

We pray that you will forgive those who have set the fires
in the Amazon, those who have cut down the ancient trees,
those who plunder its precious resources,
to fulfill human desire for things.

Oh God, your mercy is infinite.
Only your power can save us from choosing destruction,
Grant us your grace to turn to better and kinder ways of living.
Rain down your love to heal the scorched earth and its inhabitants.
May your love, justice and peace reign for all creation always.

In the name of your son, Jesus the Christ, we pray. Amen.

Prayer by Clare Westwood


Day 7 of the synod meeting in Rome features the indigenous peoples of the Amazon region. Follow this link to read what they say. Join your prayer with theirs.

Gospel Reflection for October 13, 2019, 28th Sunday Ordinary Time

10 Oct

Sunday Readings: 2 Kings 5.14-17; 2 Timothy 2.8-13; Luke 17.11-19

“On their way the ten lepers found they were cleansed. One of them seeing that he had been healed, turned back, praising God in a loud voice. He fell at Jesus’ feet, thanking him. This man was a Samaritan.”  – Luke 17.14-16

A wise counselor challenged me to start finding ten things every day that I was thankful for. Ten seemed a lot at first, but practicing gratitude changed me. I began to notice more and remember bits of beauty and acts of kindness. Plus, others began to appreciate me in return. Being alive calls us to appreciate the Creator. Evolution deepens the story of God’s creative love in which we live. We see with eyes that have evolved over millions of years in creatures that sought the light. Our DNA holds the memory of God’s love unfolding.

Jesus has compassion on ten lepers in Sunday’s gospel. Jesus sends them on their way to the priests who can certify they have been cleansed of this illness. The ten set out on the strength of Jesus’ word and on the way discover the leprosy is gone.

What really happens in a miracle? How does physical healing affect people spiritually within themselves? What is the power of faith to transform us into whole people? Does a miracle require faith or lead to faith? Their healing doesn’t make nine of the lepers grateful people. Today doctors can cure Hanson’s disease in weeks. We still define and profile other humans beings by appearances and make them outsiders.

Who do we banish from our circles and society today? Who do we regard as too dangerously contagious to be in our company? What miracles have you experienced? 


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What are you thankful for today?

7 Oct

Weekly Prayer

Gospel Reflection for October 6, 2019, 27th Sunday Ordinary Time

4 Oct

Sunday Readings: Habakkuk 1.2-32.2-4; 2 Timothy 1.6-8,13-14; Luke 17.5-10

“Increase our faith, Lord.” – Luke 17.5

Faith is a setting of our hearts on what or who is ultimate. Faith has power. It lives in us. Like a seed it holds life and generates new life. A smidge can move mountains. The message speaks to our time when many confess they hang on to faith by a thread. Scandals in the church have disheartened many, and so has treatment of those in our families who are gay, lesbian, trans, Q. But a thread is enough, according to Jesus.

A question is enough, even a doubt. Curiosity, engagement, disgust can take us to a threshold that invites growth.

Faith lives in the currents of our relationships. Faith ties our lives to those we trust and thank. Faith grounds us in existence and purpose. Faith is about to whom and to what we belong.

Faith is to our conscious lives what blood is to the body; it sustains and animates our whole selves. Faith is our heart for embracing life, its giver and sustainer, the incomprehensible mystery of it all.

Often we inherit faith. In the sentence before Sunday’s second reading begins, the apostle Paul recalls how his protege Timothy came to believe in Jesus. “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and now I’m sure lives in you” (2 Timothy 1.5). Had there been a woman on the committee deciding the passages to read, the extra verse might have made the cut.

Why does so little faith go so far? 


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What power does faith have?

3 Oct

How does our faith strengthen us? According to Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel even a smidgen of faith is enough. Our part is to live the faith we have.

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Gospel Reflection for September 29, 2019, 26th Sunday Ordinary Time

27 Sep

Sunday Readings: Amos 6.1, 4-7; 1 Timothy 6.11-16; Luke 16.19-31

“Remember how well you lived when you were alive and how miserable Lazarus was. Now he has found comfort but you have found torment. He cannot help you. Between you and us is a great abyss that no one can cross.” – Luke 16.25-26

The great abyss that yawns between the poor man and the rich man in the abode of the dead exists already in the distance between them when they are alive. The rich man never notices the poor man Lazarus begging at his gate, never responds to his need. The rich man doesn’t know Lazarus exists, nor does the rich man have any idea that his riches are not well-deserved blessings from God. He has no other ethic than spending his money on himself. He has no connection with the poor man at this gate.

The two characters represent extremes. The poor man is sick, hungry, and poor–about as down and out as he can be. The well-clothed, well-fed rich man is oblivious as he can be. The story invites us to place ourselves on a continuum between the two.

The many people panhandling in our cities puts Sunday’s gospel squarely at our doorsteps. Like the rich man in the gospel, most of us have people who are poor at our subways stops, our ATMs, the doorways of our churches, our stop signs. Some have burned out every relationship in their lives for booze or drugs. Others struggle with mental illness and a lifestyle too unstable to stay on their medications. Prophets like Amos in Sunday’s first reading condemn comfort and complacency without regard for people in need.

What value do you find in distancing yourself from people who are poor? What value have you found in connecting and learning from them?


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Gospel Reflection for September 22, 2019, 25th Sunday Ordinary Time

20 Sep

Sunday Readings: Amos 8.4-7; 1 Timothy 2.1-8; Luke 16.1-13

A rich man summoned his manager and said, “What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager anymore.” Then the manager said to himself, “What will I do now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what I will do so that when I am dismissed as manager, people will take me into their homes.” – Luke 16.2-4

The dishonest manage forgives his boss’s debtors–50 of the 100 gallons of oil for one debtor and for another 20 of the 100 bushels of wheat owed. When the rich boss praises the dishonest manager, Jesus’ parable upends our usual way of looking at things. The self-serving manager does reduce the debts of the poor, carrying out what Catholic social teaching calls a preferential option for the poor.

The owner makes little of having his profits plundered for the sake of the powerless but instead admires the manager’s skillful exploitation of his accounts to create a future for himself. Luke’s gospel does not let the self-serving manager go without criticizing. Luke attaches a series of Jesus’ sayings to the parable, which pass judgment on dishonest people. The sayings insist that whoever is dishonest with a little cannot be trusted with a lot. No one can trust a cheater. No one can serve two masters.

The safest investment, according to the parable, is to throw in our lot with the poor–to serve God rather than pursue wealth. Jesus’ parables calls us to apply as much ingenuity for the sake of the poor as we do to exploit the poor for the sake of the economy.

How do you benefit from the labor of the poor? How do you invest in people in need?


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