Gospel Reflection for July 11, 2021 – 15th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Amos 7.12-15; Ephesians 1.2-14; Mark 6.7-13

Jesus called the twelve, began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits . . . So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” – Mark 6.7, 13

In this gospel the twelve perform three actions that cultivate Christian community. First, they preach. Their message is to repent, to turn afresh toward God, and open our hearts to the Spirit’s purposes for us.

Second, Jesus’ disciples cast out demons. Today psychology helps us name the demons of the human spirit, the destructive drives and addictions that keep us from possessing ourselves, that erode our capacity to love and keep faith. In Jesus’ time these demons probably also included mental illnesses. Jesus’ mission aims to free people to love and listen, to value one another, and care for one another in community.

Third, the twelve anoint and heal the sick as Jesus did. Oil soothes and salves. In anointing and attending to the sick, Jesus’ disciples in his time and we today keep people connected to the community, in its weave where people share their burdens, pain, and joy. Simple listening to their stories can help people in anxious economic situations. Listening can open up ways to help.

We continue Jesus’ mission in our time just as the twelve do in Sunday’s gospel. We can testify to God’s presence in our lives. We can participate in helping friends and family members free their capacity to love from too much work or drink, or too little voice or purpose. We can attend the sick.

Who have you helped through listening? How have you helped people stay connected during the pandemic?

Gospel Reflection for July 4, 2021 – 13th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Ezekiel 2.2-5; 2 Corinthians 12.7-10; Mark 6.1-6
 
Jesus came to his native place with his disciples. When the Sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not his sisters here with us?” They took offense at him….Jesus could do no deed of power there. – Mark 6.1-3
 
Surprisingly, Jesus can work no miracles is his hometown, Nazareth. Jesus’ homefolks can’t get beyond their certainty that they know who he is. His preaching astounds some, but the majority can’t accept him as a wise and prophetic teacher. He is a tradesman who can terrace your hillside or build a wall.

This is a story of rejection, of dismissing the gifts of a homegrown prophet. This is our story, too, every time we refuse to change or doom new possibilities to fail.

A doctor commented about certainty in our small Christian community. “Certainty can kill a patient,” he says. “I teach medical students to stay curious, look further, keep probing for diagnosis and cure. It’s so easy to miss clues.”

“The opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty,” theologian Bernard Lonergan writes. Doubt implies questioning, challenging, actively engaging a person or a thought. But certainty dismisses the need for further search and for living with questions.

What is valuable about doubt and curiosity in your experience and dangerous about certainty?

Summer Refreshment

Summer is about taking time to garden, to read, to sit on the porch, to visit. We will send you a poem now and again this summer that might help you find a place to be peaceful. The one here is from Hafiz, the most beloved poet of Persia who lived over 600 years ago. Of his 5,000 poems, only 700 or so have survived. This is one of them.

A GREAT NEED

Out
Of a great need
We are all holding hands
And climbing.
Not loving is a letting go.
Listen.
The terrain around here
Is
Far too
Dangerous
For
That.

Gospel Reflection for June 27, 2021 – 13th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Wisdom 1.13-15; 2.23-24; 2 Corinthians 8.7,9,13-15; Mark 5.21-4

Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” His disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’”  He looked around to see who had done it. The woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth” – Mark 5.30-33

The two stories in Sunday’s gospel are about daughters. The child is a daughter of Jairus, a synagogue leaders. Jesus addresses the hemorrhaging woman as daughter after she tells the whole truth of her healing. She is a daughter of his new community — a believer.

Twelve is an important number in both stories. The child is 12 years old, an approximate age for menstruation to begin. The woman has suffered a flow of blood for 12 years and has for these years been excluded, according to the law of Moses, from the worship of her people in the temple.

Mark connects these two stories with Jesus’ own story. Mark calls the woman’s flow of blood a scourge. In Acts 22.24 and Hebrews 11.36 this word refers to floggings or scourgings. The word makes the woman’s suffering resonate with Jesus’ own in his passion and death. The woman’s lifeblood keeps hemorrhaging from her body just as Jesus’ lifeblood pours out in his suffering and death.
 
While the woman’s story emphasizes a long-time daily suffering, the child’s story emphasizes Jesus raising her up from near death. Jesus commands her, “Arise.” This is the same word that describes Jesus raising up Peter’s mother-in-law and his own rising from the dead. Together the stories of the two daughters echo in ordinary people’s lives Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection.

This gospel is one of Mark’s literary sandwiches, a story with in a story.  As in a sandwich, the meat is in the middle. The woman healed of hemorrhage hears about Jesus, touches his cloak from behind in a crowd, and is healed. She makes public witness in the crowd, telling he whole truth of what has happened to her. She is an anonymous one of us who testifies to her faith and builds up the community in her generation. Her witness is the model to which the gospel calls us.

From whom did you first heard about Jesus? How do you give witness to your faith in Jesus?

Bishops and Communion

“I want to write a longer piece about those bishops who seek to keep some from the table of Christ, but for now I will say this: it is not your table (nor mine). Bishops, priests, etc. are neither the hosts nor the bouncers nor the ones who wrote the guest list. The Eucharist is the resurrected body of Christ given for the life of the world. Jesus Christ is the one who invites the guests (“all you who labor”); he is the host of those who come; he is the setter of the table; and he is the feast which is shared (“Take this, all of you. . .this is my body, this is my blood”). We are guests at the meal, and sometimes (by his calling) servers. So stay in your lane, please. The wait staff doesn’t get to exclude those who want to come. If you don’t like the company Christ calls (and, admittedly, it is a rag tag bunch of sinners, one and all), it’s you who need to leave the table, not them.”

John D. Whitney, SJ

Live simply. Live prayerfully. Live in peace.

Living Like Francis Today puts you in touch with the God of love and mercy Pope Francis wants us to know. Each of the six short chapters begins and ends with a simple prayer from scripture or from the writing of St. Francis. Short reflections invite you to apply the themes in your own life.

Read a sample chapter. Then call us at 800-232-5533 to order copies for you and your seeker friends. Living Like Francis is only $5.50 per copy. Order online at goodgroundpress.com. We will put your books in the mail the same day we get your order.

Gospel Reflection for June 20, 2021 – 12th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Job 38.1,8-11; 2 Corinthians 5.14-17; Mark 4.35-41

As evening came Jesus said to his disciples — “Let us go across to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, his disciples took Jesus with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A terrible windstorm arose, and waves beat into the boat so that it was being swamped. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion; the disciples woke him up. “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?”

Jesus awoke, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea — “Peace! Be still!” Then wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. Jesus said to his disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?”  -Mark 4.35-41
 
In the musical “Hamilton” after Aaron Burr kills Alexander, his wife Eliza has the final song — “Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?” Eliza lives another 50 years, helps plan the Washington Monument, founds an orphanage, speaks out against slavery. She tells her husband’s story.

Jesus is the person in the gospel who lives, who dies, who is raised up to new life. Jesus also doesn’t tell his story; his eyewitness disciples do. Those who witnessed his healing and forgiving actions become the proclaimers of his good news. Their preaching and storytelling create communities of believers who tell and shape the oral traditions as they gather in Jesus’ name and break bread together as he asked.

Forty years later Mark gathers the oral traditions about Jesus and writes the first gospel, which travels through the centuries. Sunday’s sea crossing is a story to which Christians of every generation can relate. A boat full of disciples gives us an image of Church, of Christian believers traveling the seas of time and facing storms that raise our fears and call us to faith.

At Jesus’ request the disciples are heading for the other side of the Sea of Galilee, the Gentile side. The destination hints the role of Jesus’ followers to bring his good news to the nations. Jesus sleeps in the boat as waves roll over the sides. The disciple’ prayer is as desperate as ours sometimes are: “Don’t you care that we’re perishing?” Jesus calms the storm.  The disciples more from fear to awe, the threshold of faith: “Who is this that even the wind and sea obey him?”

How have your experiences of awe affected your faith? How do you tell and live Jesus’ story?

Holiness and Hammocks

Take your laptop or phone to a hammock and enjoy one of these summer retreats. Each of them is a pause that refreshes. All you need is a sweet summer breeze and 15-20 minutes to yourself. Then welcome the Spirit and choose a retreat below. Blessings on your time.

• Why Not Soar?
• The Our Father Retreat
• Holy Women, Full of Grace
• Tiny Retreat: Hildegard of Bingen, Patron Saint of Green and Growing

Gospel Reflection for June 6, 2021 – Body and Blood of Christ

Sunday Readings: Exodus 24.3-8; Hebrews 9.11-15;  Mark 14.12-16, 22-26

A colleague who helps primary children prepare for First Communion has a wonderful way to help them understand at their level what eating and drinking Jesus’ body and blood is about. She tells them how much she liked chocolate chip cookies when she was a child like them. In fact, sometimes her mother told her, “You are going to eat so many chocolate chip cookies you will turn into one.”

Her example explains well why we celebrate Sunday’s feast and why we celebrate Eucharist weekly and daily. We gather as the body of Christ to become the body of Christ. We share the body of Christ because as persons and as an assembly we want to turn into the body of Christ — to embody who Jesus is in our world.

The body of Christ that we become through sharing eucharist is an image of the Church, of all of us in communion. Baptism makes us one in Christ as Sister Shawn Copeland describes, extending Galatians 3.28, “In Christ, there is neither brown nor black, neither red nor white; in Christ there is neither Creole nor mestizo, neither senator nor worker in the maquiladoras. In Christ, there is neither male nor female, neither gay/lesbian nor straight, neither heterosexual nor homosexual.”
 
In gathering for Eucharist, Christians see in one another who they can be, who they can turn into. At Jesus’ table we share the food that fuels us to become his body — Jesus’ feet, hands, eyes, ears, and heart in the world. Participating in this sacrament aims to transform us over our lifetimes. It is the font of Christian community.

As what part of the body of Christ do you think of yourself — feet, hands, eyes, ears, heart?

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