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Gospel Reflection for June 26, 2016, 13th Sunday Ordinary Time

22 Jun

Sunday Readings: 1 Kings 19.16, 19-21; Galatians 5.1, 13-18; Luke 9.51-62

“As the days were being fulfilled for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”

(Luke 9.51)

The men and women who follow Jesus as disciples serve an apprenticeship on the journey to Jerusalem. They are on the road together. A Samaritan village refuses them lodging. The two people Jesus meets on the road refuses Jesus’ invitation to follow. One must bury his father, another has to say goodbye. Jesus asks for commitment that supersedes family obligations and good-byes. A new community of faith is forming with ties stronger than blood.

Today following Jesus does not require leaving possessions, family, and friends behind. Christianity is now an acceptable and established world religion. It is as this long-established institution that the Church puts off many people today. It seems too encumbered by dogma and traditions, too unresponsive to today’s science and search, and too tainted by scandal.

Sunday’s gospel insists that faith in Jesus is a relationship so basic it supersedes and underlies all others. It calls us to do better than James and John who suggest raining down fire on the Samaritans who refuse to welcome them to their village. It calls us to embody love, forgiveness, and mercy — to be the gospel message in the flesh.

Imagine yourself on this journey with Jesus and his disciples. How might this journey be changing your life?

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Gospel Reflection for June 19, 2016, 12th Sunday Ordinary Time

14 Jun
Photo via Flickr user Ian Britton

Photo via Flickr user Ian Britton

Sunday Readings: Zechariah 12.10-11, 13.1; Galatians 3.26-29; Luke 9.18-24

“But you — who do you say that I am?”

(Matthew 9.20)

Immediately after Peter answers Jesus’ question, “The Messiah of God,” Jesus predicts his suffering, rejection, and death. His prediction contradicts the popular notion of the leader Israel awaits. To his early followers Jesus’ call to take up the cross and follow him is also daunting. The cross is the Roman Empire instrument of public torture, the electric chair of its day. For us today the cross is a revered symbol which inspires reverence more than fear. Yet, like the earlier Christians, we seek to understand what Jesus asks of us. He lays out three conditions of discipleship: deny yourself, take up the cross daily, and follow me. To follow Jesus means orienting ourselves toward others in our daily lives and standing for what is right and just in public life and anchor our hopes in Jesus’ way.

How developed is your habit of thinking of others and of God before yourself? From whom have you learned compassion?

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Gospel Reflection for June 12, 2016, 11th Sunday Ordinary Time

7 Jun
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Sunday Readings: 2 Samuel 12.7-10; Galatians 2.16, 19-21; Luke 7.36-8.3

“Do you see this woman?”

(Luke 7.44)

“Accompanying Jesus were the twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities — Mary called the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.”

(Luke 8.3)

Sunday’s scriptures treat us to biblical soap opera — sex, sin, and extravagant repentance in both Old Testament and New. Sinner is the label that identifies the woman who models repentance in Sunday’s gospel — Luke’s memorable story of a woman washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair.

Sinner is a label little used today. Our news reports murder, fraud, sexual abuse, arson, robbery as crimes and acts of violence rather than sin. Sin is a religious word, which literally means missing the mark. In the bible sin refers to breaking the terms of the covenant relationship Israel made with God — the ten commandments. In Jesus’ time one could be labeled sinner for not keeping dietary laws or working with Gentiles as tax collectors did.

The woman labeled sinner in Sunday’s gospel has no name. That has not stopped commentators through the centuries from identifying her as Mary Magdalene. The four gospels hold no such evidence. The gospels contain maddening silences, nameless characters, and gestures from a culture 2,000 years ago that we readers must interpret. This Sunday’s gospel challenges us to look past labels and appreciate who people really are, especially when they change.

When have you connected the wrong dots and misinterpreted a person or interaction?

Read more about the woman who loved too much and about Mary Magdalene in Sunday by Sunday. If you like learning more about the women of the gospels, click here to subscribe.

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Gospel Reflection for June 5, 2016, 10th Sunday Ordinary Time

31 May

Sunday Readings: 1 Kings 17.17-24; Galatians 1.11-19; Luke 7.11-17

“When the Lord saw the widow, he had compassion on her.”

(Luke 7.13)

A large crowd follows Jesus and his disciples to the village of Nain. At the city gate they encounter a funeral procession, a widow burying her only son. A large crowd accompanies her, extending sympathy and friendship. The crowd from outside and the crowd from inside converge at the village gate, a doorway between life and death. Jews buried the dead outside the gates of the living.

The widow has lost both husband and son, leaving her without support. Unlike many suppliants in the gospels, the widow does not ask Jesus for help. Her plight moves Jesus to compassion. In Luke’s gospel Jesus brings a year of jubilee to the poor. He raises up the widow’s son. The gospel refers to Jesus as Lord, a post-Easter title, which reminds us Luke is writing his orderly account long after Jesus’ resurrection and in its light.

How can we act with Jesus’ life-giving compassion today?

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Gospel Reflection for May 29, 2016, Blood and Body of Christ

25 May
Photo via Flickr user khrawlings

Photo via Flickr user khrawlings

Sunday Readings: Genesis 14.18-20; 1 Corinthians 11.23-26; Luke 9.11-17

“Why don’t you give them something to eat yourselves?”

(Luke 9.13)

When shared the food Jesus gives multiplies, just as love and forgiveness do. Jesus’ teaching nourishes. We hear and make his word our own in living it. We become what we eat in sharing the bread that becomes the body of Christ at Eucharist. The body and the self-giving love it signifies multiply. Both hearing Jesus’ teaching and sharing bread involve communion, an intimate sharing in which love and commitment multiply.

At the beginning of Sunday’s gospel Jesus urges his disciples to give the crowd something to eat. This is our call today – to hand on what we become in the Eucharist – nourishment in abundance for all.

How does celebrating Eucharist nourish you? How does Eucharist lead you to nourish others?

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Gospel Reflection for May 22, 2016, Trinity Sunday

17 May

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Sunday Readings: Proverbs 8.22-31; Romans 5.1-5; John 16.12-15

“The Spirit will glorify me because the Spirit will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

(John 16.14)

Most Christians grasp as Creator and God as incarnate Son more easily than an image of God as Spirit and guide. We see the creator in parents and grandparents and as one who gives birth to all that is. We see in Jesus God become human, revealing as one of us what God is like.

The Spirit in whom we live, move, and have our being may elude us, until perhaps we lose a parent, grandparent, or friends and experience his or her spirit and voice arising within us. The Spirit is the love or relatedness between Creator, Son, and all that lives.

Jesus shows us God is triune, a community of loving interrelationships that is both one and many. In our human experience three is the beginning of the social threshold. Two people in I-Thous relationship make room for one more and one more to form families and communities. God’s love is always opening out to hold more in communion.

God is not only the Creator of old or the Savior of 2,000 years ago but the Spirit of our daily breath and the deepest present desires, conflicts, and challenges. The Spirit breathes in us today.

How do you experience the Spirit guiding you in your present life?

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Gospel Reflection for May 15, 2016, Pentecost

10 May
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Pentecost Sunday Readings: Acts 2.1-11, 1 Corinthians 12.3-7, 12-13; John 20.19-23

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

(John 20.21)

Pentecost is an event not only about the miracle of fiery tongues for Jesus’ disciples. It is also the miracle of the ear for all those from around the Mediterranean hearing the new message about Jesus, messiah and Lord. We may feel insignificant and powerless like the disciples, a minority among their people. We may be new immigrants trying to learn English, expecting not to understand or be understood. Or, we may be powerful leaders and authoritative persons in our community and church.

Today Christ breathes on each one of us in baptism, powerful and powerless, and sends us forth into the world. If we stand among the powerful, today is a day to listen to those too little heard. If we are among those who have little power, today is a day to speak out and act. The miracle of the ear for the powerful works together with the miracle of the tongue for the powerless. Both miracles are essential to make the Pentecost experience complete. The Pentecost interaction is one we badly need in our polarized nation.

What difference does it make to think of the coming of the Holy Spirit as a miracle of both tongue and ear?

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Gospel Reflection for May 8, 2016, Ascension

4 May
Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Sunday Readings: Acts 1.1-11; Ephesians 1.17-23; Luke 24.46-53

Jesus spoke to his disciples, “Thus it is written that the messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance and forgiveness of sin would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations. You are the witnesses of these things. See I am sending the promise of my Father upon you, so stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

(Luke 24.46-49)

Before we earthlings saw our planet home from space, the heavens belonged unassailably to God. In the cosmology of Jesus’ time, God and heavens were up and humans and Earth were below. Our 2,000-year-old gospel tells the story of the risen Jesus’ return to God in the worldview everyone assumed in the first century. To return to God is to go to the heavens. It is communion with God.

By hindsight in Luke’s gospel, his disciples see Jesus’ suffering and death as necessary. They have passed from confusion to Easter faith. The ascension is the hinge event between Jesus’ resurrection and sending of the Spirit. The Acts of the Apostles becomes the sequel to the gospel as they carry their witness to the ends of the earth.

How do you imagine the communion with his Father to which the risen Jesus returns?

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Gospel Reflection for May 1, 2016, 6th Sunday of Easter

26 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts 15.1-2,22-29; Revelation 21.10-14; John 14.23-29

 “Those who love me will keep my word and my Father will love them. To them we will come and make our home.”

(John 14.23)

Sunday’s gospel tell us that when people live like Jesus, they discover Jesus and his Father within them. We learn and relearn Jesus’ message from living it. Jesus comes as a friend, an equal who does not exempt himself from the conditions of human life but lives them to the end, facing death on the cross at the hands of empire.

Where does Jesus live after his death and resurrection? Wherever his friends lay down their lives for one another as he did on the cross. Wherever they serve one another humbly as he did rather than lord or lady over other like earthly leaders. Where his friends love one another, they reveal God as Jesus does. They continue his work in the world.

When have you learned Jesus’ message from living it?

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Gospel Reflection for April 24, 2016, 5th Sunday of Easter

19 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts 14.21-27; Revelation 21.1-5; John 13.31-32, 34-35

Jesus speaks to his disciples at the last supper after Judas leaves. “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you should love one another. In this way all will know that you are my disciples: if you have love for one another.”

(John 1.34-35)

Love lived faithfully and sustained over time translates into actions. Love is a verb. Cook, clean, wash clothes, plan, shop, pay bills, fix. Like the bass drum in a marching band these actions set the pace and rhythm of our days. Hard won achievements become cymbal crashes. Acts of kindness and gratitude lift our hearts like babbling flutes.

As in Jesus’ life, our lives sometimes ask more, even everything we can give. A sick child, a sick parent, mental illness, trips to the doctor, worry, fatigue. Our lives lived long also ask in the end all we have to give.

Jesus stakes his claim with us in our capacity to love one another. In each act we transcend our individual selves and free the power that heals and gives life, that holds families and friends together, that inspires service of country and church, that draws neighbors into communities.

Whose love inspires your own?

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