Gospel Reflection for July 17, 2022 – 16th Sunday Ordinary Time

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. Martha, who was busy with all the details of hospitality, came to Jesus and said: Lord, is it of no concern to you that my sister has left me all alone to serve? Tell her to help me. Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and upset about many things; one thing only is necessary. Mary has chosen the better portion, and she shall not be deprived of it” (Luke 10.38-42).

Mary and Martha appear in two gospels, Luke and John. The five-verse story in Luke forms Sunday’s gospel. It sets the two sisters at odds and requires Jesus to mediate. In John both women are visible, central characters chapters 11 and 12. With Lazarus, their brother, they are friends Jesus loves.

To be remembered by name 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.  In Sunday’s gospel Mary seats herself at Jesus’ feet to listen to his teachings 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.

Luke’s gospel places Jesus’ visit to Martha and Mary during his historical ministry, A.D. 30. However, Martha addresses Jesus in the story not by name but by the post-resurrection title Lord. This detail reminds us that the community for whom Luke wrote lived some 50 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Women’s roles in house church have become controversial.

Sunday’s gospel shows Martha offering table hospitality as Christians do at Eucharist and Mary listening to the Word. Jesus tells Martha to give up welcoming others to her table and join her sister in preferring the better part—silent listening to Jesus. Jesus’ words effectively silence the ministries of both women.

What roles do you imagine Martha and Mary played in the post-resurrection community? Describe sermons you have heard preached on this gospel. What inspired you? What frustrated you?

For information on the global synod’s work on restoring and extending the work of deacons to women, visit DiscerningDeacons.org.

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 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.

Each of the Cosmos Cards has a fact about one of God’s creative moves and a blessing. These cards are ready to mail as a postcard for someone who needs a regular reminder that God is with them. $15 for all 25 cards. Order online.

Gospel Reflection for July 10, 2022 – 15th Sunday Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings: Deuteronomy 30.10-14; Colossians 1.15-20; Luke 10.25-37

The lawyer asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus told this parable: There was a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho who fell in with robbers. They stripped him, beat him, and then went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road; he saw him but continued on. A Levite came the same way; he saw him and went on. But a Samaritan who was journeying along came on him and was moved to pity at the sight. He dressed his wounds, pouring in oil and wine as a means to heal. He then hoisted him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, where he cared for him. The next day he took out two silver pieces and gave them to the innkeeper with a request. “Look after him, and if there is any further expense, I will repay you on my way back.” Jesus asked the lawyer, “Which of these three was neighbor to the man who fell in with the robbers” (Luke 10.29-36).

This gospel story stands at the heart of Jesus’ message of salvation. In effect, Jesus tells the lawyer (and all of us) that to be saved, whole, and happy we must love God and ourselves by loving our neighbors, including those for whom we may have no understanding or liking. Jesus insists that our relationships to God, to others, and to ourselves are intertwined.

Jesus’ parable asks the lawyer and us to stop, reflect, and embrace whom and what we most despise. He asks us to act as the Samaritan does when he stops to help and heal another marginalized person, someone whose wounds and distress everyone else has ignored. He asks us to allow compassion to change our hearts and lives.

The word compassion comes from the Latin, passio (suffering) and cum (with): to suffer or feel with. The Hebrew word for compassion, rahamim, expresses a deeply tender and empathetic love like that of a mother and father for their own child. Compassion may be understood as the capacity to be attracted to and moved by the vulnerability of someone else. It requires the willingness to risk, to stop and share one’s own strengths and vulnerability, rather than rushing on with our own preoccupations or stereotypes.

How have you learned compassion? Who has taken time for you in a crisis? What experiences in your life have taught you compassion?

Gospel Reflection for July 4, 2022 – 14th Sunday Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 66.10-14; Galatians 6.14-18; Luke 10.1-9

Jesus appointed 72 other missionaries and sent them in pairs ahead of him to every town and place he intended to visit. …Whatever house you enter, say first, “Peace to this house.”  . . . Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what they set before you and cure the sick there.  Say to them, “The reign of God has come near” (Luke 10.1, 5, 8-9).

July 4th is a day for singing “America the Beautiful.” Farmers are harvesting amber waves of grain beneath spacious skies in many parts of the country. Fittingly, in Sunday’s gospel Jesus is sending workers out for the harvest of seeds he has planted in his preaching and healing. The word to send in Greek is apostlein, from which we get the word apostle or missionary. A missionary is one who is sent to bring a message. The message is “the reign of God has come near.”

Only Luke describes Jesus sending out 72 missionaries in pairs. Only Luke finds the story of the early Church inseparable from the story of Jesus’ ministry and elaborates a second, companion volume to the gospel, his Acts of the Apostles. With the sending out of missionaries, Luke’s gospel turns to the people of the nations and anticipates a future that includes us who hear the gospel 2,000 years later.

In America it’s summer. It’s the Fourth. Families set out to camp and fish, eat hot dogs, and watch red, white, and blue fireworks cascade, explode, and spill down the dark night skies. Congregations plan services outdoors. Relatives gather for potluck picnics as they have for decades. Hometowns plan parades. We rise together to honor the flags that lead the parades.

Perhaps at our picnics we don’t talk politics or religion in order to keep our friends and keep peace in our families. On other days, the congressional investigations remind us as citizens that democracy takes watchful work. This Sunday the gospel reminds us as Christians Jesus’ messengers are to bring healing as he did.

For what about our nation are you grateful this 4th of July? Who has brought the good news of God’s nearness and healing to you?

Gospel Reflection for June 19, 2022 – Feast of the Blood and Body of Christ

Sunday Readings: Sunday Readings: Genesis 14.18-20, 1 Corinthians 11.23-26, Luke 9.11-17

Jesus spoke to the crowds of the reign of God, and he healed all who were in need of healing. As sunset approached, the twelve came to him and said, “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go into the villages and farms in the neighborhood and find themselves lodging and food, for this is certainly an out-of-the-way place.” Jesus replied, “Why don’t you give them something to eat yourselves?” The disciples insisted, “We have nothing but five loaves and two fishes. Shall we go and buy food for all these people?”  There were about five thousand men. Jesus said, “Have them sit down in groups of fifty or so.”  Jesus’ disciples followed his instructions and got the people all seated. Then, taking the five loaves and the two fishes, Jesus raised his eyes to heaven, pronounced a blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to his disciples for distribution to the crowd. They all ate until they had enough. What was left filled twelve baskets (Luke 9.11-17).

At every Eucharist, bread blessed, broken, and shared and a cup of wine blessed and shared become the sacrament of Jesus’ wholehearted love poured out for us even unto death. Participating in this sign can transform us into Christ. When we gather at every Eucharist, we remember Jesus’ giving his whole self for us. We find strength and courage to try this kind of self-giving ourselves. We gather again and again, so that we become more and more like him. We gather in pain and in delight. We pour out our lives as Jesus did. We put our lives on the altar with his. Like the sacrament itself, we become Jesus’ real presence in our world. We become what we receive.

How does celebrating Eucharist nourish you?

Pray with the Women of Luke!

Meet, reflect, and pray with the women of Luke’s gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, inspiring women of faith, disciples who follow Jesus from the first, whose tables become house churches. Sister Joan and Sister Ansgar collaborate to bring you the women’s stories in word and art. This book is ideal for sharing in small groups and families. Read sample chapters at goodgroundpress.com. Call Lacy at 800-232-5533 to order your copy or you can order online.

Gospel Reflection for Sunday, June 5, 2022 – Pentecost

Sunday Readings: Acts 2.1-11; 1 Corinthians 12.3-7,12-13; John 20.19-23

It was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” After this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20.19-23).

Pentecost is the birthday of the Church, the birth day. The risen Jesus brings peace to his disciples all locked up together in fear and breathes the Holy Spirit upon them for the purpose of their becoming an actively reconciling community. Jesus breathes peace on them and sends them to spread peace and forgiveness. 

In the story of Pentecost from Acts 2, the Spirit comes upon the waiting community, 120 strong. Who receives the Spirit that transforms followers into fiery-tongued preachers of the good news. The community includes eleven of the original disciples, Matthias, who takes Judas’s place, Jesus’ mother Mary, and the women disciples who accompanied Jesus to Jerusalem and go to Jesus’ tomb and find it empty, for sure Mary Magdalene; Salome, the other of James and John; Mary the mother of James the younger; Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward; Suzanna; Jesus’ friends Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and many others whom Jesus touched in his teaching and healing. The Spirit transforms the community into fiery witnesses of Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection. So fiery is Peter’s tongue that his preaching adds 3,000 believers to the community that day.

The Spirit comes upon the tongues of the witnesses and ears of the many Jews from surrounding areas on every side of Israel. Each hears Peter’s message in his or her own tongue. The message is that Jesus, who was crucified, is both Lord and Messiah.

When has the Holy Spirit inflamed you to speak and act? To listen and learn?

Gospel Reflection for May 29, 2022 – Feast of the Ascension

Scripture Readings: Acts 1.111; Ephesians 1.17-23; Luke 24.46-53
Jesus spoke to his disciples, saying, Thus it is written that the messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. See, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you, so stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Then Jesus led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. As he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. They did him homage, worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God (Luke 24.46-53).
The simple words that begin Sunday’s gospel summarize Luke’s theology of fulfillment. “It is written that the messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.” At first Jesus’ crucifixion discombobulates his followers. How can the true messiah be so powerless that he suffers death by crucifixion like a criminal? Then Jesus’ resurrection puts his death in a whole new light. As Jesus’ followers continue to read and pray the scriptures of Israel, they find words and images that anticipate a messiah who suffers.

As a prophet bringing good news to the poor, release to captives, freedom for the oppressed, Jesus runs headlong into conflict with authorities, other Jewish teachers and priests, and ultimately the Roman Empire. Prophets make waves. In the last seven verses, Luke ties up loose ends of his gospel narrative. Jesus commissions his disciples to preach the good news of his resurrection and repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name. Then he blesses them, withdraws, “and was carried into heaven.

Why do Jesus’ disciples react with such joy at his withdrawing? In withdrawing from them, Jesus is entering his glory. His disciples bless God for all that has happened. They express their joy and thanksgiving as Jews by praying in the temple. Jesus’ disciples have a second reason for joy—his message of forgiveness. In Luke’s gospel they now see Jesus’ suffering and death as necessary. The disciples have passed from confusion to Easter faith.

Thirdly, Jesus’ disciples await what the Father promised—a clothing in power from on high. Luke’s story is only half over. The Acts of the Apostles is the sequel to his gospel. The ascension is the hinge event between Jesus’ resurrection and his sending of the Spirit.

Luke ends his gospel with Jesus’ departure and begins the Acts of the Apostles with the same moment. In the ascension Jesus passes over into communion with God, bridging the human and divine. He blesses this company of followers about to become a Spirit-filled community.

Who do you see among the joyful disciples blessing God in the temple and awaiting the Holy Spirit? Read Acts 1.12-14.

Gospel Reflection for May 22, 2022 – 6th Sunday of Easter

Sunday Readings: Acts 15.1-2, 22-29; Revelation 21.10-14, 22-23; John 14.23-29

These things I have told you while I am still with you. The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and help you remember all that I told you. Peace I leave to you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives, do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or fearful (John 14.25-27).

Israel’s wisdom writings insist God is knowable in creation. Wisdom begins in awe and wonder. Wisdom is always looking for a home, a dwelling place among the human race. Wisdom finds a home in Israel and wherever people recognize that creation comes from the hand of God. The Wisdom of Solomon says human knowledge or wisdom is “a spotless mirror of the workings of God “ (7.26).

In Jesus God comes among us as one of us. Jesus mirrors in his words and deeds who God is, just as wisdom mirrors the creator. In his farewell, Jesus promises his community of followers that his Spirit will stay with them, help them live his teachings, and love and serve one another as he has done. Jesus’ love for his friends unites them with him and his Father, brings peace, eases fear.

Jesus comes as a friend, an equal who does not exempt himself from the conditions of human life but lives them to the end, facing death on the cross at the hands of empire. By the time Jesus takes his leave, where he lives is clear. Wherever his friends lay down their lives for one another as he is about to on the cross. Wherever they serve one another humbly as he has done rather than lord or lady it over one another like earthly leaders. Where his friends love one another, they reveal God as Jesus does. They continue his work in the world.

Friendship is a joyful, free attraction, a delight in each others’ company. Common vision brings friends together. The love of friends always has room for more; it is an inclusive love, mutual, reciprocal. Friends are not dependent on each other but are responsible to each other. Friends trust each other. Betrayal is the way we sin against a friend. Sharing a meal and conversation are common activities of friends. To invite people to eat is to invite them to share something of one’s own with them. The Spirit befriends us from within and lives within us, breath by breath, as companion and advocate.

What best describes your relationship with Jesus—friend, disciple, follower, servant?

Gospel Reflection for May 15, 2022 – 5th Sunday of Easter

Sunday Readings: Acts 14.21-27; Revelation 21.1-5; John 13.31-35

After Judas went out, Jesus began to speak
“Now is the Son of Man glorified,
and God is glorified in him.
If God has been glorified in him,
God will, in turn, glorify him soon.
Children, I am with you only a little longer.
A new commandment I give you: love one another.
As I have loved you, so also you should love one another.
In this way, all will know that you are my disciples:
if you have love for one another
(John 13.31-35).

Love is a feeling, a warm embrace when spouses get home from work, the joy of getting flowers or holding a grandchild, the pleasure of someone making your favorite dessert. Love is sometimes passionate, sexual, sensual, intimate. But also the excitement of meeting someone who reads as much or as widely, who cares about sustaining Earth, who values hope over cynicism, someone with whom one can be oneself.

Love is a verb. Cook, clean, wash clothes, plan, shop, pay bills, fix what is broken. As in Jesus’ life, our lives sometimes ask more, even everything we can give. A sick child, a sick parent, mental illness, trips to the doctor, worry, fatigue. Our lives ask in the end all we have to give.

At his last supper with his disciples, Jesus reveals his great commandment: Love one another as I have loved you. Our capacity to love one another is our capacity to be like God. In each loving act we transcend our individual selves and gift energy that heals and gives life, that holds families and friends together, that inspires service of country and church, that draws neighbors into communities.

At the last supper in John’s gospel, Jesus models an act of service; he washes and dries his disciples’ feet. “As I have done, so you must do.” He makes footwashing rather than blessing and sharing bread and wine the symbolic action that anticipates and interprets the meaning of his death on the cross. The way to imitate Jesus’ ultimate service and love—his humiliating death on the cross—is to serve one another.

To love one another as Jesus does is to love to the end, all the way, with one’s whole life unto death. Discipleship in John’s community is not about status but about footwashing and service.

What is a personal commandment you keep? How is it like Jesus’ new commandment? 

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