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Gospel Reflection for November 26, 2017, Feast of Christ the King

22 Nov

Sunday Readings: Ezekiel 34.11-12,15-17; 1 Corinthians 15.20-26,28; Matthew 25.31-46

“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we you were a stranger and welcome you or naked and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” – Matthew 25.37-39

The church year culminates this Sunday and holds up Jesus Christ as the model leader of the human race. In becoming one of us, God’s Son identifies with all of us and holds up the least as the measure of discipleship. Love of God and love of neighbor are inseparable. Sunday’s parable of judgment makes clear and concrete in the works of mercy what love does. This vision calls us to work with others to transform us and our world into a community of justice and healing.

In what sense is everyday a judgment day?


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Gospel Reflection for November 19, 2017, 33rd Sunday Ordinary Time

15 Nov

Scripture Readings: Proverbs 31.1-13, 19-20, 30-31; 1 Thessalonians 5.1-6; Matthew 25.14-30

“The servant who received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and buried the master’s money.” – Matthew 25.19

The master in the parable of the talents puts servants in charge of huge amounts of money. A worker in Jesus’ time earned one denarius for a day’s work, so a laborer who worked six days a week earned 340 denarii a year. One talent equals a worker’s earnings for17 years. The master is not giving the servants a pittance to test their trustworthiness. They have received a windfall. The priceless windfall each of us has received is life itself. Our ancestors have invested themselves in relationships and efforts that bring us to be. Jesus invested his life in the human race, identifying with us totally unto death, opening to us all we can become in God. How do we use their extravagant down payments on ourselves? Sunday’s parable calls us to multiply the gifts entrusted to us.

If you were one of the 2,043 on Forbes Billionaires List 2017, how would you invest for the good of the whole? What is one of the most valuable ways you have invested your life energies? 

Gospel Reflection for November 12, 2017, 32nd Sunday Ordinary Time

8 Nov

Scripture Readings: Wisdom 6.12-16; 1 Thessalonians 4.13-18; Matthew 25.1-13

“The wise girls brought flasks of oil along with their lamps.” – Matthew 25.4

When Matthew writes more than 50 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Christians no longer expect Jesus’ immanent return. Instead, they are reflecting on how to live wisely and faithfully during the indeterminate delay before his second coming. No one knows when the bridegroom will come. We do recognize the wisdom of having oil in our lamps for the long night. In our faith journeys we need to explore what keeps oil in our lamps and lights the path of Christian living for us.

The oil may be time alone in solitude, retreats, mediation, spiritual reading, theological classes. The oil may involve interacting in groups, sharing faith and insights, transforming and affirming one another spiritual experiences. The oil may be Eucharist and the community of people who gather to remember what Jesus asked on the night before he died. All of us join in co-creating with /God what the world of which we are a part will become.  Christ is the omega point.

Omega is the final letter in the Greek alphabet. God comes to us not only from the past in creation and in Jesus Christ but from the future in the lure to become all love and compassion can create.

How does God come to you from the future, from your hopes and dreams? What action in your life has proved wisest and keeps your light burning?


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Gospel Reflection for November 5, 2017, 31st Sunday Ordinary Time

31 Oct

Sunday Readings: Malachi 1.14; 2.2, 8-10; Thessalonians 2.7-9.3; Matthew 23.1-12

“The greatest among you will be the one who serves the rest.” – Matthew 23.11

Perhaps some people in the early Christian communities claim more importance than others. When Matthew writes more than 50 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Christians may be living the early ideals of sharing goods and extending hospitality in mutual love with less fervor. Perhaps roles are creating rank in the household of Christ. The message in Sunday’s gospel strongly warns against being self-inflated rather than humble. It challenges us to learn from Jesus’ example and serve one another.

Today the Church has evolved as an institution with roles, robes, and ranks. Our model remains Jesus Christ, who identifies with the least and washes his friends’ feet before the last suppers as a servant. Jesus calls us to service, not station and status.

What has sustained you in the practice of serving others? What has deterred you?


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Gospel Reflection for October 29, 2017, 30th Sunday Ordinary time

25 Oct

Scripture Readings: Exodus 22.20-26; 1 Thessalonians 1.5-10; Matthew 22.34-40

“Teacher, which commandment of the law is greatest?”  – Matthew 22.36

Love God and neighbor without distinction. This is the distilled version of the mission of the  Sisters of St. Joseph, the religious community to which I belong. The mission calls us to act—to love and form relationships. It makes love of God inseparable from loving people in our lives—indistinguishable. The words “without distinction” also call us to reach out to people without sorting who we like best or who is worthy but with openness. All are welcome: immigrants, GBLTQ, people in poverty and in wealth, in sickness and in vigor.

Our mission originated in 17th-century France, where 90% of the people lived in poverty and famine and plague devastated the country. A Jesuit priest, Jean Pierre Medaille, worked with a small group of women who experienced God “seizing” them to respond to their neighbors’ needs. They divided the city and began doing all of which they were capable for and with their neighbors.

Actually our mission originates far earlier.  It is Jesus’ answer to the lawyer’s question in Sunday’s gospel, “What is the greatest commandment?” What is basic is the verb love, a call into relationships and community. In answer, Jesus quotes two commandments long on Israel’s books: Deuteronomy 6.5 and Leviticus 19.18. Seldom have people in our country and our world needed to live these commandments more than now, to make love of neighbor our firm foundation across all that divides us.

Who have you seen exploited? For whom are you feeling compassion? To what work of justice do these experiences call you?


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Gospel Reflection for October 22, 2017, 29th Sunday Ordinary Time

17 Oct

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 45.1,4-6; 1 Thessalonians 1.1-5; Matthew 22.15-21
 
“Whose image is on the coin and whose inscription?” – Matthew 22.20

In Sunday’s gospel Jesus confronts a worldview about who images God. Jesus insists that we cannot keep separate our obligations to God and those to government. God blesses and calls us to integrate the spheres of our lives and image the One who made us. Being made in God’s image and likeness calls the Christian to act as God acts with compassion and forgiveness for everyone.

Christians image God by helping people who are poor, caring for the abused and sick, visiting the imprisoned, grieving with those who mourn, listening to those in pain. We give to God our very selves through our goodness to

How do you participate in work for the common good?


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Gospel Reflection for October 15, 2017, 28th Sunday Ordinary Time

12 Oct

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 25.6-10; Philippians 4.12-14,19-20; Matthew 22.1-10


“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.  He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the banquet, but they would not come.  Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” – Matthew 22.2-4


The meal Jesus describes in Sunday’s parable is no ordinary dinner but the messiah’s wedding feast. The royal wedding setting is unique to Matthew’s way of telling the parable. Matthew adds other details to the parable that give the story double meaning. In this way he creates an allegory in which characters and action in the parable parallel events his own time in the A.D. 80s. The king’s fury at guests who refuse his invitation seems overkill until a reader realizes Matthew is connecting the parable with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the event that effectively ends Israel’s ancient temple-centered religion.  Matthew’s interpretation shows the danger of allegory; it fixes the meaning and  perpetuates an ancient conflict that led to genocide in the Holocaust.

The parable speaks more to us today without the allegory; it asks what we do with our excess and who we invite to our tables. Abundant food is one of the most fundamental blessings in our lives. The parable is very different in Luke’s telling (Luke 14.15-24). When people refuse to come to a great dinner in Luke’s version, the host invites in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.

How do you think the kingdom of heaven will be like a lavish dinner?


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Gospel Reflection for October 8, 2017, 27th Sunday Ordinary Time

6 Oct

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 5.1-7; Philippians 4.6-9; Matthew 21.33-43
 
“The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will yield a rich harvest.” – Matthew 21.43

Economically in Jesus’ time, 95% of the people were poor peasants who worked hard to survive. Roman soldiers from the occupying army often received land as payment for their military service and kept peasants as tenants to cultivate and tend their vineyards. Poor overtaxed peasants might have reason to resent and resist giving a Roman owner a share in the harvest. But the parable has no hint of this political motive.

The tenants simply want the whole harvest and the vineyard for themselves. Toward this end they kill the tenants and the owner’s son. The parable has an allegory that closely parallels Jesus’ life. In the allegory or double meaning God is the owner of the vineyard and Jesus the son.

In this parable Jesus is trying to reform his own religion. Jesus wants temple leaders to take responsibility for the poor, blind, and lame people who flocked into the temple after he cleansed it. Similarly Pope Francis connects repairing Earth with sustaining people who live in poverty.

With whom in the parable do you sympathize?


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Gospel Reflection for October 1, 2017, 26th Sunday Ordinary Time

28 Sep

Scripture readings: Ezekiel 18.25-28; Philippians 2.1-11; Matthew 21.28-32

Jesus told this parable. A man had two sons. He said to the first, “Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.” “No, I will not,” the first son said. But afterwards the son regretted it and went. The father asked the second son to do the same. “Yes, sir,” the second son said but did not go. “Which of the two did the father’s will?” asks Jesus.

Only Matthew’s gospel tells us that after Jesus cleanses the temple, the blind and lame come to him there, and he heals them.  Those he heals proclaim, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” hailing Jesus as messiah just as the people who welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem did.  The welcome, the temple cleansing, the healing, and acclaim anger the officials, the chief priests, scribes, and elders who witness these things.  In this volatile situation Jesus tells the parable of the father with two sons, Sunday’s gospel.

Jesus wants the temple leaders to change and do God’s work among the people as he does. Jesus invites disciples of every time and place to work in God’s world for compassionate relationships among people and with our planet home. Share bread with the hungry. If a neighbor asks for your coat, give your shirt as well. Do not put off until tomorrow the good you can do today.  Provide health care; it’s a human right. Help those who have become suddenly last and least through hurricanes and earthquakes.

What gospel duty do you carry out most? Avoid most?


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Gospel Reflection for September 24, 2017, 25th Sunday Ordinary Time

20 Sep

Photo via Flickr user Mat79

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 55.6-9; Philippians 1.20-24,27; Matthew 20.1-16

“So the last will be first and the first will be last.” – Matthew 20.16

The vineyard owner in Sunday’s gospel has a unique pay scale. The owner pays the full-day wage to those who find work only at the last hour. Some will perhaps count these workers as the laziest and resent that they receive the day’s wage the need to feed their families. In effect, this owner shows a preferential option for the least, for the people most in need. This is a basic principle of liberation theology.

The householder’s largesse invites us to ponder who this employer really is. As an image of God, the householder is not transcendent and distant but repeatedly seeks out workers in the market place and cares enough about their well-being to pay the living wage. We workers all stand in the same relationship to God, who owns the vineyard of all creation, resources for all to live.

When have you received more than you deserve? How like the vineyard owner is your God?  


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