Gospel Reflection for September 20, 2020 – 25th Sunday Ordinary Time

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

“Call the workers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.  When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the daily wager.  Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more, but each received the daily wage.” – Matthew 20.8-10

Last Sunday’s parable and this Sunday’s are more about who God is than about how envious and exacting we humans can be. The owner forgave his manager last week rather than through him in jail until he paid his debt. But the manager refused to forgive a servant who owed him a debt and instead threw him in jail.

We learn God, who freely gives us life, makes forgiveness the standard in the kingdom. We pray in the Our Father that God forgive us as we forgive those who harm us.

In case you find yourself thinking these parables seem old fashion. An story in the morning news shows this parable playing out in Florida. A recent statewide election returned the vote to ex-felons but legislators set up requirements to pay court costs first, which few can afford.  

This Sunday’s parable introduces a generous vineyard owner how pays those who worked the last hour of the day the same as those who worked all day. Needless to say, those who worked all day grumble and complain to the manager they deserve a higher wage if those who worked only an hour get the full daily wage.  

The owner asks, “Am I not allow to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or, are you envious because I am generous?”

The parable is not about the wages workers deserve but about the householder’s generosity and a Christian social order. In effect the vineyard owner shows a preferential option for the last, for the poorest. The householder repeatedly seeks workers in the marketplace and cares that all receive a living wage.

Jesus calls us in this parable to be generous like God is generous, to include people who are poor in the common good. We all stand in the same relationship to God, who owns the vineyard of creation. No one goes home in this parable without the daily means to feed a family.

What makes a person first or last in our society? In Jesus’ eyes? 

Gospel Reflection for September 13, 2020 – 24th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Sirach 27.30-28.7; Romans 14.7-9; Matthew 18.21-35

Peter came and asked Jesus this question. “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” “Not seven time, but I tell you, seventy times seven,” Jesus replied. – Matthew 18.21-22

How can a servant who has his own debt forgiven turn around and throttle a fellow servant who owes him far less? Why doesn’t he forgive as he has been forgiven? Why throw the debtor into prison, the very punishment the servant had pleaded not to receive.

Forgiveness was not the normal thing in the merciless servant’s world. Putting a debtor in prison or selling a family into slavery were customary ways to settle accounts. It is the king’s change of heart that was astoundingly abnormal. He didn’t just give the servant more time to pay him back; he wrote off the debt completely.

So the servant’s treatment of his fellow servant becomes unfair only in the light of the king’s extraordinary mercy. That’s the parable’s message: The reign of God turns things inside out, backwards, and upside down. Mercy and forgiveness, not payback and punishment, are the norm in God’s kin*dom.

Pope Francis describes the mercy of God as “the beating heart of the gospel” in his exhortation On Love in the Family. Relationships take time to build, the pope says. “There is a need to accompany with mercy and patience the eventual stages of growth as these progressively appear,” making room for “the Lord’s mercy, which spurs us to do our best” (#295).

Who has forgiven you? Whom have you forgiven? In your dealings, are you generous like God or more exacting like Scrooge?

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Online Program for Adult Faith-Sharing

Sunday by Sunday, our faith-sharing weekly for adults, will be totally online beginning with the October 4 issue. It is ready for you to read on your phone, computer, tablet, iPad — the device that works best for you. You will find all 52 weeks of Sunday by Sunday right in your hands, ready to use, ready to share. 

All you need to do is tell us you want to receive Sunday by Sunday in this format. We will send you a password. Go to our website — goodgroundpress.com — enter that password, and go right to the current issue. You can read the issue on any device or print it out. Let us know you want to receive Sunday by Sunday beginning October 4 by calling us toll-free 800-232-5533, or by clicking here to get to our website. The cost for a year-long individual subscription is $25.00. Our low-cost bulk subscriptions may be ideal for your parish or your faith-sharing groups. 

If you are not familiar with Sunday by Sunday you can read samples at our website. These days when we cannot go to Sunday Eucharist together, Sunday by Sunday brings the Sunday Gospel to you.

Gospel Reflection for August 9, 2020 – 19th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: 1 Kings 19.9,11-13; Romans 9.1-5; Matthew 14.22-33

“Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” – Matthew 14.27

Both the prophet Elijah and the apostle Peter live and lead in unsettled times and experience questions we are asking today. Where is God in this mess? Where is Jesus in this cross wind?

Like them we may find God when we are hearing no answers or when we are in over our heads. When Jesus invites Peter to walk toward him on the water, Peter steps out of the boat but the strong head winds and great waves take his attention off Jesus. He cries out in fear. In faltering he finds Jesus’ present.

The risen Jesus is not with his followers in the same way the historical Jesus was.  Matthew pictures Peter in a community struggling between the experience of having Jesus among them in the flesh and the promise of his risen presence. How does Jesus continue with this community? Is he a ghost, a memory, a real presence?

The boat full of disciples is going to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, Gentile territory. As Gentiles become Christians conflicts arise with family members and with what practices Jewish Christians expect them follow. Today the Church faces headwinds and cross currents on a global scale. 

To escape with his life, Elijah runs to Mt. Horeb where God gave Moses the commandments. He does not hear God’s voice in the old ways–thunder, lightning, earthquake. Instead Elijah hears God is sheer silence, encounter God’s voice within, speaking within the interior silence of his consciousness.

What waves of uncertainty do you face? What are you crying out about? What do you hear in silence?

July 26, 2020, 17th Sunday Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings: 1 Kings 3.5,7-12; Romans 8.28-30; Matthew 13.44-52

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in joy goes and sells all he has and buys that field.” – Matthew 13.44

Sunday’s gospel begins with two parables about finding, selling, and buying. A farmer finds a treasure in a field and a merchant finds a pearl of great value. Buying the field and the pearl totally realign their lives and resources. What treasure is worth selling all one has to find joy? What has the farmer found? What pearl is worth every thing? What is the merchant really looking for?

Jesus lets us reveal ourselves in what we imagine the treasure is. Is it family, spouse, purpose? Is it Jesus? The parables make most sense if we understand the treasure or the pearl as a relationship. I find a person who becomes an abiding source of joy in marriage. I find a purpose worthy of my life, love, and energy.

The first Sisters of St. Joseph describe themselves as seized by God’s love. The love that seized them not only engaged them wholeheartedly but also revealed a treasure within each one, a passion for ministering to poor people in their midst.

When African slaves encountered Christianity in America, the gospel delivered a message radically different from the docility slave owners intended. The slaves heard that God loves all people and that Jesus has died and risen to new life for all people — slaves and free. God’s love seizes them and gives them dignity.

Black Church grows up around a liberating God who knows and hears the suffering of slaves. The gospel empowers them to sing their suffering and look over Jordan in hope, to resist debasement and work toward freedom.

Faith in Jesus costs nothing and everything. To follow Jesus requires a wholehearted willingness to love others as Jesus as loved us.

How has God’s love seized you? What treasure do you seek? What does it reveal about you? What gives you joy?

Celebrate Women of the Gospel

Today, July 22, is the feast day of Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene is first witness to Jesus’ resurrection in all four Gospels. She was among the women from Galilee who follow Jesus and provide for him out of their resources. From early Christianity she has been called “the apostle to the apostles”, the bringer of good news to them and to us all. You can read her story, as well as the stories of 14 other women of faith, in Sister Joan Mitchell’s book Holy Women of Luke’s Gospel.

Gospel Reflection for July 19, 2020 -16th Sunday Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings: Wisdom 23.24, 26-29; Romans 8.26-27; Matthew 13.24-43
Jesus put another parable to the crowd. “The householder’s slaves came to him, “Master, did you now sow good seed in your field? Where did these weeds come from?” The master answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said, “Do you want us to go and gather them?” The householder replied, “No, in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with the weeds. Let both of them grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” Matthew 13.24-30  

His disciples ask Jesus to explain the parable about the weeds. The interpretation turns the parable into an allegory with double meanings. The sower is the Son of Man, a messianic title. The field is the world. The good seeds are children of the kingdom; the weeds are children of the evil one. The harvest is the end of the age, a scary time when weeds get burned and wheat gets gathered into barns.

Only Matthew’s gospel includes this parable and its fiery ending, making this a parable of judgment rather than pastoral patience. Who are the weeds and who are the grains of wheat? Matthew writes about A.D. 85 as Jews who follows Jesus and Jews who follow other rabbis are forming separate groups. Or perhaps Christian Jews and Gentiles belong in the same communities but have differences. Perhaps some resist Jesus’ example in eating with outcasts and sinners and extending God’s love for everyone. The parable suggests the patience of God in allowing weeds and wheat to grow together util the harvest forebodes an eventual sorting. The parable is both about being pastoral and about judgment.

Pope Francis encourages a pastoral approach  in the first of his apostolic exhortations The Joy of the Gospel. “Time is greater than space,” he writes, giving priority to processes that build and develop communities over time and that allow time for healing and grace in relationships and families. “Unity is greater than conflict,” he insists. “The Spirit can harmonize every diversity.” Most of us recognize we so often magnify difference when we have more in common than divides us.

Sunday’s gospel also include short parables about mustard seed and leaven. A tiny seed grows into a great bush, a home for the birds of the air. Leaven invisibly transforms wheat flour into large, airy nourishing bread dough. Both parables suggest the mystery of God at work in our lives. Life takes time; God’s reign will take time. In the end human wisdom is not God’s wisdom. 
What judgments about yourself, other people, or about the Church have you made that proved wrong? What changed your perception? What leaven do you hope you are in your community of faith?

Feast Day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha

Today is the feast day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, who was declared a saint in 2012. We invite you to celebrate and learn her story.

Visit goodgroundpress.com for weekly gospel reflections, daily prayers, and free online spiritual retreats.

Gospel Reflection for July 12, 2020 – 15th Sunday Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 55.10-11; Romans 8.18-23; Matthew 13.1-23

“Other seeds fell on good ground and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” – Matthew 13.8

Jesus’ parable of the sower is prophetic. It promises that Jesus’ word will yield a thirty, sixty, hundredfold harvest. The yield, however, does not happen in the gospel narrative. When Matthew’s gospel ends, Jesus is commissioning his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations (24.19). The seeds have yet to grow and yield.

Within the gospel narrative, Jesus’ teachings fall well-worn paths, on rocks, and in weedy patches where in each case the seeds fail to flourish. The disciples who flee when Jesus is arrested are like the seeds on the path that the birds eat. They vanish.

Peter, who name means Rock, is like the rocky ground where seed grows up quickly but dries out for lack of soil in which to root. Peter enthusiastically affirms Jesus is the messiah but then rejects a messiah who suffers and denies he even knows Jesus during his trial.

The rich young man in Matthew 19.16-23 is like the seeds shown among thorns. The lure of wealth spoils his yield.

Before his death and resurrection Jesus’ word doesn’t take deep root, even among his disciples. They mistake who Jesus is and don’t stand by him. Only after the community experiences Jesus’ risen presence do the teachings take root and the disciples begin spreading the good news of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The yield is among the hearers of the good news in every generation, today among us.
What kind of soil are you most like? What has hearing the gospel yielded in your life?

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