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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 January 1, 2017, Mary, Mother of God

29 Dec

Sunday Readings: Numbers 6.2-27; Galatians 4.4-7; Luke 2.16-21

“Mary pondered all these words in her heart.” – Luke 2.19

Sunday’s gospel about the shepherds visit to Mary’s child and offers only a single sentence about her. That sentence turns on the word pondered, in Greek the word if symballein. Ballein means to throw. Literally the Greek word means to throw together, to wrestle with together. Cymbals have the same root, bringing together to make noise. For Mary to ponder is to interpret the events life is throwing at her. Her faith seeks understanding. Significantly in Luke’s birth narrative, Mary and Joseph can find no place to stay in Bethlehem. Mary gives birth and begins mothering her child in a stable or cave for animals. The sign the shepherds go to Bethlehem to see is the savior, lying in a manger, born among the poor, one of them.

What do you imagine Mary is pondering at age 15 when she give birth to Jesus? At 45 when Jesus starts his ministry? At the foot of the cross?

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Gospel Reflection for July 17, 2016, 16th Sunday Ordinary Time

12 Jul
Photo via Flickr user Jim Forest

Photo via Flickr user Jim Forest

Sunday Readings: Genesis 18.1-10; Colossians 1.24-28; Luke 10.38-42

“Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him to her home. She had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teachings.”

(Luke 10.38-39)

Luke puts Mary and Martha in their place in Sunday’s gospel passage. To be remembered by name in the gospel makes people stand out. Perhaps tradition remembers Martha and Mary because their home was not only a place Jesus stayed during his lifetime but a house church, where after Jesus’ resurrection, Martha welcomed a community of disciples to remember his teaching and break bread as he asked. John’s gospel also remembers Martha for gathering Jesus, her sister, her brother Lazarus, and friends for a meal (John 12.1-2).

In Sunday’s gospel Mary seats herself at Jesus’ feet to listen to his teaching and Martha serves him. These two actions — listening to Jesus’ words and serving a meal — are the same actions that take place in the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Perhaps Martha and Mary represent two forms of ministry evolving in the Christian community at the time Luke wrote — preaching the good news and gathering the community to break bread. In Acts 6.1-6, the twelve appoint deacons to serve and make sure all in the Jerusalem community get a fair amount of food, so that the twelve are free to preach. Perhaps by the time Luke writes in the mid-80s, the ministries of women in the Christian communities has become controversial.

Although Sunday’s gospel shows Martha offering table hospitality and Mary listening to the word, this scene effectively silences the ministries of both women. Jesus tells Martha to give up the ministry of her household, and perhaps her house church , and join her sister in choosing the better part–silent listening to Jesus. Perhaps their ministries of word and table made Martha and Mary too memorable in the life of the early Christian community to forget. Perhaps they were so important that Luke uses the voice of Jesus’ authority to put them in their place, the same subordinate position women are transforming today.

Who sustains the life of your faith community?

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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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