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Gospel Reflection for October 2, 2016, 27th Sunday Ordinary Time

28 Sep

Sunday Readings: Wisdom 9.13-28; Philomen 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14.25-33

“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, spouse and children, brothers and sisters, yes, even life itself, cannot be my follower; whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14.26-27

Jesus continues on his journey to Jerusalem, teaching his disciples as he goes. Jesus is out to shock them out of popular expectations of the messiah. The conflicts Jesus faces will demand suffering and ultimately his life in a cruel death meant for insurrectionists against Rome. The sayings in Sundays gospel insists discipleship may ask our all, too. Our commitment may pull us away from family and safe and comfortable homes. Jesus’ life and work were scandalous, and disciples who try to live and do as he did can expect to endure shaming, harassment, and even violence. His disturbing words frighten us. Like the disciples we are on a journey. Our commitment unfolds day by day in our giving.

Share an experience that challenged you beyond anything you imagined.

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Gospel Reflection for September 11, 2016, 24th Sunday Ordinary Time

7 Sep
Photo via Flickr user Marcia

Photo via Flickr user Marcia

Sunday Readings: Exodus 32.7-11, 13-14; 1 Timothy 1.12-17; Luke 15.1-32

“Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep…..Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.”

(Luke 15.6, 9)

Losing, finding, rejoicing — that is the pattern in each of the three parables Jesus tells in chapter 15. Who doesn’t bother to look for the sheep that has wandered apart from the hundred and has not just strayed but is lost? Who forgets a lost coin and doesn’t bother to retrieve 10% of current assets? The lost sheep and lost coin invite us to hear the story of the man with two sons with the questions, “Who is lost?” Is it the party son who wastes his inheritance and comes home to his welcoming father or is it the responsible son who resents his father’s mercy? Which son am I? Let us rejoice in Pope Francis’ reclaiming in this year of mercy the deepest mystery of who God is.

Which son are you? How are you benefiting from this year emphasizing God’s mercy?

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Gospel Reflection for September 4, 2016, 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time

29 Aug
Photo via Flickr user Othree

Photo via Flickr user Othree

Sunday Readings: Wisdom 8.13-18; Philomen 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14.25-33

“None of you can be my disciple if you do not renounce all your possessions.”

(Luke 14.33)

Proclaiming the good news of God’s abundant loving kindness toward all people contradicts conventional wisdom that there is not enough love or anything else to go around, so it must be reserved for our own kind.   Healing the sick free of charge, no matter who they are or where they live or how they got that way brings condemnation from those who despise the afflicted or aim to profit from their misery.

In his best paradoxical fashion, Jesus insists, “Less is more.”  Possessions, however many, are never enough.  The generous economics of discipleship turn accepted economic theories on their heads.

In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis writes, “Every ecological approach needs to incorporate a social perspective which takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and underprivileged.  The principle of the subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods, and the right of everyone to their use, is a golden rule of social conduct and ‘the first principle of the whole ethical and social order'” (#93).

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Gospel Reflection for August 28, 2016, 22nd Sunday Ordinary Time

23 Aug
Photo via Flickr user Stijn Nieuwendijk

Photo via Flickr user Stijn Nieuwendijk

Sunday Readings: Sirach 3.17-18, 20, 28-29; Hebrews 12.18-19, 22-24; Luke 14.1, 7-14

“When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. You will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.”

(Luke 14.12-13)

Jesus’ two healings on the Sabbath demonstrate God’s will for human beings. We read neither story among the Sunday gospels. Jesus straightens up a woman who for 18 years has been bent over in Luke 13.10-17 and heals a moan with dropsy (14.2-6). He restores them to praise and worship rather than leaving them among the forgotten whom God supposedly punishes. In his advice for making guest lists, Jesus prefers those who cannot repay their hosts with a return invitation and place of honor at their tables. Jesus wants us to widen the circle of those who eat at our tables to include people like the two he has just healed. He wants our guest lists to distribute food justly rather than cut people off as chronically inferior, deserving distance from us rather than place among us.

What places of honor might you give up? What would you lose or gain? Who might you add to your guest list? What would you lose or gain?

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Neighbors on the Path

19 Aug

It isn’t a new lesson, but it is one I have to keep revisiting. The Good Samaritan. One man in Jesus’ parable saw the humanity of the man on the side of the road naked and broken. One man stopped. One man did what it took to ensure the victim’s full restoration. It seems so elementary, but I have so much trouble following his example.

Jesus tells this parable to a man trying to find a loophole and get around the law. When he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds, with the story of the good Samaritan, essentially saying, “Your neighbor is anyone who has been put in your path.”

We, too, are challenged by Jesus’ ministry and this parable specifically to see the humanity of all people put in our path. We are called to stop, let others change our plans, let the urgency of restoration work shape our days.

It is no easy calling. Jesus is asking us to get our hands dirty. He is asking us to move into the heart of conflict. This may risk our reputation, our schedule, and the ease of our known lives. It is often our busyness, our vanity and our fear of conflict that holds us back from acting like Jesus and the good Samaritan. I am guilty of all three, so I must revisit this parable again and again.

Really knowing our neighbors, the people in our path, requires seeing and stopping. That is often the hardest part. If we do engage with unexpected neighbors, like the good Samaritan did, like Jesus did, then we are often filled with the compassion necessary to move toward creative and effective reconciliation work. So this week, yet again, I pray for the courage to be open and willing to fully engage with all of my neighbors.

Gospel Reflection for August 21, 2016, 21st Sunday Ordinary Time

16 Aug
Photo via Flickr user Sailesh Vaghela

Photo via Flickr user Sailesh Vaghela

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 66.18-21; Hebrews 12.5-7, 11-13; Luke 13.22-30

“Strive to enter through the narrow door.”

(Luke 13.24)

A door or gate always represents choice. As long as a room has a door, we can enter and exit it. We can choose to go in and choose to leave, to enclose or expand ourselves. A doorway or threshold is a liminal space, which stand between inside and outside, between life as we know it and life as Jesus promises it. In Sunday’s gospel Jesus crosses a threshold in his ministry when he sets his face for Jerusalem. As he goes on his way, Jesus teaches; his teaching has the authenticity of one who lives his word. Jesus is on his way to his Father through the narrow door of his own suffering and death.

Who beckons you to participate actively in your community of faith? What door do you want to open or close?

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Gospel Reflection for August 14, 2016, 19th Sunday Ordinary Time

9 Aug

Sunday Readings: Jeremiah 38.4-6, 8-10; Hebrews 12.1-4; Luke 12.49-53

“I came to bring fire to the earth…I have baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!”

(Luke 12.49)

When the evangelist Luke writes about A.D. 85, Jesus has completed his baptism — his suffering, death, resurrection, and return to God, but he has not come again in glory. Meanwhile Christian faith has spread not only among Jews but among Gentiles and created conflicts. Baptism is one such conflict. Among Gentiles baptism takes the place of circumcision but some Pharisees who have become Christians object. They think Gentiles should be circumcised and instructed in keeping the law of Moses.

The gospel anticipates dividing fires will persist. In his follow up the Synod of the Family that met in 2014 and 2015, Pope Francis invites the Church today into tough conversations that air differences. In this Jubilee Year of Mercy Pope Francis invokes the principle that “time is greater than space.” He favors processes that make room over time for mercy and grace to work in our lives.

What value do you experience in talking about difficult, even divisive, questions? How does time make room for grace to work?

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Gospel Reflection for August 7, 2016, 19th Sunday Ordinary Time

4 Aug
Photo via Flickr user jd_09

Photo via Flickr user jd_09

Sunday Readings: Wisdom 18.6-9; Hebrews 11.1-2, 8-10; Luke 12.32-48

“If a householder could know just when the thief would break in, the householder would never leave the house to be broken into? You have to be ready the same way, for the Son of Man will come at an hour you don’t expect. Who is the faithful and wise servant the master can leave in charge of the household to keep everyone fed on schedule?” 

(Luke 12.39, 42)

Luke seems compelled to gather together sayings and parables to provide a spirituality for waiting for Jesus’ glorious return. Many early Christians expected Jesus’ second coming to be immanent. Its delay forced believers to question their faith. In Sunday’s gospel Luke speaks to a church whose leaders seem to teeter on the brink of despair. What commitments are worth ultimate trust? Jesus counsels us to keep our lamps burning. The kingdom may startle us, erupting as suddenly as a thief breaking in. This is a time to store up inexhaustible treasure in heaven.

What in the way you live each day indicates where your heart is?

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Waging Peace

29 Jul
Photo via Flickr user Bruce Fingerhood

Photo via Flickr user Bruce Fingerhood

Do you hear the cries for peace? The longing is so urgent and real. It is easy to think of peace a simply a lack of violence. God’s vision of peace, however, is more beautiful than that and requires more of us than simply putting our weapons down.

What is God’s vision of peace? There are two biblical images in particular I have been meditating on:

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not raise its sword against nation, and they shall learn war no more.          –Ish 2:4

and

Everyone will live in peace and prosperity, enjoying their own grapevines and fig trees, for there will be nothing to fear.       –Micah 4:4

I love the visuals that come with these images of peace. One person taking a weapon and making it into a tool that will help bring forth food, abundance and life. Or another person, enjoying the shade of a tree that bears fruit. This biblical idea of peace, coming from the word shalom, is not just lack of violence. This is a peace that gets at the holistic well being of all persons. It is a peace that claims that access to food, safety and leisure time bring human dignity and should be available to all.

These images of shalom remind me of a statue I saw in El Salvador, a beautiful and hopeful piece of art made from melted down bullets used in their civil war. Tools for violence turned into art. It makes me think of organizations working with farmers to create more secure food options for families and communities all around the world.

I yearn for shalom. I pray for a time when we can put down our weapons because we are no longer afraid. I beg for an age when we can all sit in the shade of prosperity without fear. Shalom will only come when all people have enough, when the most vulnerable in our communities are seen and tended to as God’s beloved children. Peace is tied to being committed to the well being of all. Shalom requires us to believe that we can glimpse heaven here and now and engage in God’s work of reconciliation in this life.

Blessed are the peacemakers, those who do not just think about it, but build their lives around waging peace. Peacemaking is a vocation Jesus calls us to. This shalom peace is not just a lack of violence, but a commitment to the holistic well being of all God’s beloved creatures. And God’s creatures are crying out for peace.

Gospel Reflection for July 31, 2016, 18th Sunday Ordinary Time

26 Jul
Photo via Flickr user Phil Dolby

Photo via Flickr user Phil Dolby

Sunday Readings: Ecclesiastes 1.2, 2.21-23; Colossians 3.1-5, 9-11; Luke 12.13-21

The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What shall I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample good laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, and be merry.”

(Luke 12.16-19)

From God’s point of view a surplus harvest is not to provide one person with secure access to food, drink, and merriment for years to come. It can benefit people without enough. For Luke wealth is not a sign of God’s favor but of danger. It is not good or bad in itself but faces the person with a choice to act for good or for evil. For Luke, God clearly holds the ultimate power to redistribute the wealth of people who will not share. This is the fate of the rich fool who must leave his full barns behind and face God with whom he has stored up no treasure.

When and how has your giving connected you with others?

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