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Gospel Reflection for May 28, 2017, Ascension

22 May

Sunday Readings: Acts 1.1-11; Ephesians 1.17-23; Matthew 28.16-20


“I am with you always, to the end of the ages.” – Matthew 28.20

In our cyber age it’s easy to find reason to dismiss a dream before we try. Online forecasts show too many lawyers. Or, studies show the capacity to learn a language plummets after 40. Perhaps that is why the film Hidden Figures is so inspiring. It celebrates three African American women who achieve their dreams in the face of racism, Jim Cross laws, and stereotypes of women.

The three women, Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaugh, and Mary Jackson, each a gifted mathematician, meet as they work as human “computers” for the forerunner of NASA. They are part of a staff of black women who compute by hand the flight trajectories white male engineers’ request. The women join in the push to get someone into space and catch up with Russia.

The eleven disciples in the gospel go to Galilee because two women disciples fulfill their commission from Jesus to tell them they will see Jesus there.  The women themselves encounter Jesus risen on the way. The women disciples animate these men who fled at Jesus’ arrest rather than stand with him at the cross as they did (Matthew 27.57-61). Some of the eleven doubt even as the risen Jesus commissions them to go forth and make disciples of all the nations.

What is women’s importance in expanding and energizing Jesus’ mission today?

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Gospel Reflection for May 21, 2017, 6th Sunday of Easter

16 May

Scripture Readings: Acts 8.5-8, 14-17; 1 Peter 315-18; John 14.15-21

“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.” – John 14.18

Thanks to the pervasive power of God’s love, there is no where Jesus’ friends can go where God is not, and nowhere they can go where the Spirit is not, or where Christ is not. Through their relationship, Jesus’ friends will participate in his relationships with God–“I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” Jesus assures his disciples they have everything they need for their lives and mission after he is gone. The intangible bond of love, friendship, and discipleship last. The small and large gestures that make love visible last. Tenderness lasts and gets passed down generations in parents’ care for their kids, in friends’ presence in difficult times.

Jesus entrusts his first disciples and us with his mission to invest our hearts and hands in families and friends and extend our love beyond. Building community and welcoming diversity in our world are missions for us who are Jesus’ disciples today.

What is a relationship in your life that has lasted? In whom are your investing your love?

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Gospel Reflection for May 14, 2017, 5th Sunday of Easter

10 May

Scripture Readings: Acts 6.1-7; 1 Peter 2.4-9; John 14.1-12

“In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. If this were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” – John 14.2

Jesus fills his long leave taking after the last supper with advice for his friends and the promise of abiding with them. The word that we translate dwelling places comes from the verb meno in Greek, which means to abide, remain, stay, last. This verb has dynamic theological meaning. To be in Jesus is also to be in relationship to the Father, to abide in God, to dwell in God. To believe in Jesus is to let his words and promises take up residence in us. In faith we do Jesus’ works and embrace the people of our globe with his compassion. We are dwellers not just in God’s house but in God’s love. We are in relationship with God as Jesus is. The befriending Spirit is our advocate. That’s the post-resurrection state of things.

What difference does it make to think of heaven as a relationship, as abiding in God?

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Social Action Has Two Feet

3 May

Gospel Reflection for Sunday, May 7, 2017, 4th Sunday of Easter

1 May

Sunday Readings: Acts. 2.14, 36-41; 1 Peter 2.20-25; John 10.1-10

“I came that my sheep might have life and have it more abundantly.” – John 10.10

Walking together is what tracts Pope Francis to the good shepherd image. In speaking to parish priests, Pope Francis reflects, “What could be more beautiful than this: walking with our people, sometimes in front, sometimes in the middle, and sometimes behind: in front in order to guide the community, in the middle in order to encourage and support; and at the back in order to keep it united and so that no one lags too far behind.”

Pope Francis sees another reason for walking together. It is “because the people have a ‘nose’! The people scent out, discover, new ways to talk; it has a sensus fidei as theologians call it.” Sensus fidei means sense of the faithful. In the countless ways Christians live the gospels in our time, we the people teach and lead.

Where does your nose sense the gospel leads us today?

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Gospel Reflection for April 30, 2017, 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time

28 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts 2.14,22-23; 1 Peter 1.17-21; Luke 24.13-35

“Stay with us.” – Luke 24.29

The walk to Emmaus in Sunday’s gospel becomes a liturgy on foot for two of Jesus’ disciples. They talk about the scriptures (liturgy of the word) and break bread together (liturgy of the Eucharist).

As they tell how Jesus took hold of their hearts and hopes, the two get excited all over again about who Jesus is. Conversation with the stranger stirs the embers of their faith into flame. Breaking bread together reveals the stranger is Jesus with them.

So many times conversation repeats this liturgy of friendship. Talking together stirs the embers of old understandings and burst new insights into flame. The shared meal sends us forth humming, feeling understood and understanding, in communion.

With whom have you talked and eaten lately?

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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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