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Gospel Reflection for January 22, 2017, 3rd Sunday Ordinary Time

17 Jan
Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 8.23-9.3; 1 Corinthians 1.10-13, 17; Matthew 4.12-23

Jesus said “Come, follow me. I want you to gather people into your nets.” – Matthew 4.19

As his first action in his public ministry, Jesus calls four fishermen to accompany and follow him. From the beginning Jesus gathers companions. In fact, it is for the work of gathering people into community that Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James, and John.

Many Christians today may wonder why the four so unhesitatingly follow a man who comes walking along the lakeshore and invites them to, “Follow me.” Matthew is telling the story of the first disciples’ call more than 50 years later. Their initial response to following Jesus expresses the full commitment they grow into. They give their lives wholeheartedly to spreading Jesus’ good news after his death and resurrection. Responding to Jesus’ friendship changes their lives.

Who has called and empowered you to minister? How did you respond? How did your response change your life?

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Gospel Reflection for January 8, 2017, Epiphany

4 Jan
Photo via Flickr user Eileen

Photo via Flickr user Eileen

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 60.1-6; Ephesians 3.2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2.1-12

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.” – Matthew 2.2

The magi follow a star. They search for God in the visible, natural world. Creation is the first source of revelation. Creation manifests God’s life-giving and sustaining presence. Today we follow stars with the Hubble telescope, which has confirmed Einstein’s theory that we live in an expanding universe.

We are seekers like the magi. Physics has taken us inside the atom. Biology has decoded the human genome and learned home molecules splice and proteins fold. In our world God acts not only in the beginning but in all 13.7 billion years of our unfolding. The God of our cosmic story is not fixed and static but dynamic and life-giving.

God comes to use from the future as we experience the lure within us to become all we can be, a drive we share with all beings. In our relationships with each other and our partnerships with Earth, evolution continues. In Jesus God shows us all we can become.

How do you want God to come to you from the future?

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Gospel Reflection for December 18, 2016, 4th Sunday Advent

13 Dec

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 7.10-14; Romans 1.1-7; Matthew 1.18-24

“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother was engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her husband, an upright man unwilling to expose her to the law, decided to divorce her quietly. Then an angel of the Holy One appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Joseph, son of David, have no fear about taking Mary as your wife. It is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child. She is to have a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.'” – Matthew 1.20-21

In our own lives we have to make the journey Joseph makes in Sunday’s gospel from the law and its requirements to acting and judging with compassion. Joseph’s story calls us to listen to the Spirit of God that lives within us in the deepest reaches of our psyches and never lets up on us, waking or sleeping, until we bring to life in our relationships what only we can do. Each of us is called to embody the promise of the Spirit in us, to become Emmanuel, and bring God among those we love and try to love. Each of us is called like Joseph to dream a future for the children of promise born among us today.

Who are children of promise in your life? How do you respond to children in need in our world?

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Gospel Reflection for December 11, 2016, 3rd Sunday Advent

6 Dec

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 35.1-6,10; James 5.7-10; Matthew 11.2-11

John the Baptist sends messengers to ask Jesus, “Are you the one to come or should we expect someone else?” Jesus answers, “Tell John what you hear and see: the blind can see; the lame can walk; lepers are cured; the deaf hear; the dead are raised to life, and the poor have the good news preached to them.” – Matthew 11.3-5

In Sunday’s first reading the prophet Isaiah imagines the desert greening wherever God steps. The Israelite captives’ return from exile in Babylon brought healing joy and a new experience of God’s faithfulness to the people of Israel. In his ministry Jesus gives life: sight, hearing, healing that reveals God as the giver of life and the lover of us all, again making Isaiah’s prophecy come true in his time. It’s Sunday’s first reading. God is faithful and keeps on giving life.

In the first week of Advent I visited my brother at the University of Minnesota Hospital. It’s where he got a living donor liver transplant from his son. It’s where my mother died of the same liver disease that damaged that vital organ in my brother. Mother was part of the research that in three years initiated transplants. Doctors and nurses are helping Isaiah’s vision keep coming true. We take part in giving life in many ways–giving birth, nurturing our children, caring for our planet, being good news for people living on the edge of sustenance. Like our Christmas trees God is ever-green, the encircling, sustaining life, and holy mystery in which we live.

As one of our local priests often started Mass, “In the name of our ever-living, all-loving, unfolding God.”

What do we hear and see around us that makes the words of the prophet Isaiah that Jesus quotes keep coming true? 

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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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Finish coloring in your Lenten cross!

17 Mar
Click on the image to download your Lenten cross.

Click on the image to download your Lenten cross.

These are the last suggestions for your Lenten cross.

PLANT

  • Plant heirloom or organic seeds.
  • Start annuals from seed instead of buying flats at the greenhouse.

SIMPLIFY

  • Sort through your clothes and shoes. Donate what you don’t need.
  • Minimize the electricity you use for a day. Eat by candlelight.

PRAY

  • Count your blessings. Develop a habit of recognizing ten a day.
  • Pray for an enemy.

READ

  • Read Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, about her family’s experience of raising their own food for a year.
  • The Year of Mercy continues until November 20. Read Matthew 25.31-46. Go to goodgroundpress.com for a list of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

FAMILY AND FRIENDS

  • Tell friends and family ways they matter to you.
  • Make family meals or meals with friends a priority. Eat and talk together.

PARTICIPATE

  • Join or start a faith-sharing group or bible study.
  • Participate as a family in a local spring clean-up.

Lent Is A Time To Shine

18 Feb
Lentcrossweek3

Click on the image to download your Lenten cross.

The light of God showing through Jesus bedazzles his disciples in Sunday’s gospel of the Transfiguration, giving us a glimpse of Easter early in Lent. The Transfiguration calls us to our Lenten transformation into Christ, to shine with love of every neighbor.

Spring also calls us to the new life of Easter. Sunlight blesses us daily with vitamin D as it warms Earth. Trees and plants awaken for their invisible daily miracle of transforming sunlight into the air we breathe.

Let us praise God for all the warmth others spread in our lives — the lady who let us ahead in the supermarket line, the man who holds the door open, the baby who giggles at us over his mother’s shoulder. Like air and light these nearly invisible small acts shine and warm our community. We have lie as a gift from God to share in love.

If you have downloaded our Lenten cross, the following are suggestions for coloring it in. It’s not too late to start this activity with your family.

PLANT

When you do one of these activities, color a space marked 1 on your Lenten cross green.

  • Plant a tree.
  • Plant grasses and flowers on your boulevard or in your yard. A patch of prairie provides seeds for birds.

SIMPLIFY

When you do one of these activities, color a space marked 2 on your Lenten cross yellow.

  • Try a vegetarian food or recipe this week.
  • Clean unneeded clothes and shoes out of your closet. Donate what is good.

PRAY

When you do one of these activities, color a space marked 3 on your Lenten cross purple.

  • Take time for silence. Breathe in, saying, “Spirit of God with me.” Breathe out, saying, “Spirit of Love in me.”
  • Begin a family meal by having each person state a hope for the whole human family.

READ

When you do one of these activities, color a space marked 4 on your Lenten cross blue.

  • Visit the Half the Sky movement to read about their initiatives to end human trafficking.
  • Read Matthew 25.31-46 to find out where we can find Jesus any day.

FAMILY and FRIENDS

When you do one of these activities, color a space marked 5 on your Lenten cross red.

  • Give up a grudge, an imagined enemy, or an old hurt. Pursue happiness.
  • Call or email your oldest friend to say thanks for years of love and loyalty.

PARTICIPATE

When you do one of these activities, color a space marked 6 on your Lenten cross orange.

  • Volunteer to tutor kids or help people with groceries.
  • Imagine celebrating your next birthday by asking your friends to join you in a project that serves others, such as volunteering at a soup kitchen. Start planning.

Ash Wednesday: A New Beginning

5 Feb
Click on the image above to download your Lent cross.

Click on the image above to download your Lent cross.

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, is next Wednesday. If you have not downloaded the Lent 2016 cross from Good Ground Press, do so now. You can begin adding color to the cross by choosing from the activities below. The spaces on the cross are color-coded.

  1. Plant activities are green
  2. Simplify activities are yellow
  3. Pray is purple
  4. Reading is blue
  5. Family/Friends are red
  6. Participate is orange

Here are some suggestions for the first days of Lent. We will add more each week during Lent.

1. Plant  Buy a pot of bulbs that only need your care to grow.

2. Simplify  Minimize the electricity you use for a day.

3. Pray  Find a minute of quiet to let your concerns for others rise to God in prayer.

4. Reading  Read the Gospel for Ash Wednesday written below.

5. Family/Friends  Make the phone call you have been putting off.

6. Participate  Volunteer your energy or your money in some small way.


Ash Wednesday gospel reading

Jesus said to his disciples, “Be on guard against performing religious acts for people to see.  Otherwise expect no recompense from your heavenly Father.  When you give alms, for example, do not blow a horn before you in synagogues and streets like hypocrites looking for applause.  You can be sure of this much, they are already repaid.  In giving alms you are not to let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.  Keep your deeds of mercy secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
“When you are praying, do not behave like the hypocrites who love to stand and pray in synagogues or on street corners in order to be noticed.  I give you my word, they are already repaid.  Whenever you pray, go to your room close your door, and pray to your Father in private.  Then your Father, who sees what no man sees, will repay you.
“When you fast, you are not to look glum as the hypocrites do.  They change the appearance of their faces so that others may see they are fasting.  I assure you, they are already repaid.  When you fast, see to it that you groom your hair and wash your face.  In that way no one can see you are fasting but your Father who is hidden; and your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

Matthew 6.1-6, 16-18

 

 

Gospel Reflection for January 3, 2016, Epiphany

30 Dec
Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 60.1-6; Ephesians 3.2-3, 5-6; Matthew 2.1-12

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We observe his star at its rising and have come to pay him h0mage.”

(Matthew 2.2)

The three kings stand for all of us who do not share the Jewish identity of Jesus and his first followers. Jesus is not just for Jew or just for Christian either. Exclusiveness is a natural inclination. Life is easier with people who are like us, who think the way we think, and do things the way we do. But there is no mistaking the message of Epiphany. God is inclusive and wants us to be so in matters of faith and worship and managing the goods of the world. Jew or Gentile, Christian or Muslim, native or alien, black, brown, yellow, red, or white, male or female, straight or gay — whoever we are and wherever we are from — we are all invited and welcome to visit the child of Bethlehem and receive the good news of peace, mercy, and reconciliation he brings.

What have you learned from people of other faiths about what they value about Jesus?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
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God is With Us

23 Dec
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. –Matthew 1:18-25

A young man found the courage to weather a spoiled reputation to encounter God. Filled with anticipation of marriage, the life he expected shattered. The idea of the righteous family he was building came crumbling down.

Oh, the shame.

In the darkness, he grew quiet. Quiet enough to hear an angel. He changed his mind. He held a baby that did not belong to him, but the whole world. That baby changed everything. Forever.

Like Joseph, we get wrapped up in what the world thinks of us. We fear being disgraced and dismissed, clamoring to appear righteous and good. But this world does not have the final say. Jesus is coming to show us a new way. What greater gift could God give us than God’s very presence?

There are angels in our midst. They are calling to us in the quiet. But where is God? Where is God’s kingdom? We can’t see it.

We look again. God is here. In the darkness. Offering hope that surpasses all understanding. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

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