Gospel Reflection for December 13, 2020 -3rd Sunday of Advent

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 61.1-2, 10-11; 1 Thessalonians 5.16-24; John 1.6-8, 19-28

John himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. “I baptize with water. Among you stand one whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” – John 1.8, 26-28

The Baptist is a witness to the existence we may take for granted, the light that rises with the sun each morning, the air we breathe. To testify to the light is to raise people’s consciousness that the life and light in which we live reveals God and is God’s gift. His time in the wilderness has heightened his awareness of the essentials.

John anticipates that the one greater than he is coming. He insists that “Among you stands one you do not recognize.” The words come down the centuries to haunt and taunt us into recognizing where we see Jesus among us. Our current political scene has awakened voices that divide us. What if this Christmas season we attempt to listen and learn from voices that differ from us? Can we recognize Christ speaking in their voices and values? Can we listen and learn from those we know only by stereotypes?

Like the Baptist ours is the task of recognizing God as work in that hardest of all places to see–in ourselves, in the pandemic, in our own unrelenting efforts to hold our families and communities together. We live in an unfinished drama and unfolding mystery that is God’s life-giving presence with us.

Describe a time of solitude that has revived your awareness of God’s presence with us. To whose voices today do you listen and live by?

Gospel Reflection for December 6, 2020 – 2nd Sunday of Advent

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; 2 Peter 3.8-14; Mark 1.1-8

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Holy One, make God’s paths straight.’” – Mark 1.1-3

Mark begins the gospel by identifying the voice of John the Baptist with the voice of Second Isaiah, whose preaching called the exiled Israelites home from exile about 540 B.C. Mark wants listeners to hear the Baptist as the herald of a new age of forgiveness and promise. God is faithfully present in Israel’s history, making a way where there is no way — in the exodus a path for slaves to freedom, in the exile a road home for captives.

Like Elijah the Baptist haunts the wilderness. Like Elijah who discovered God speaking not in storms and lightning but in silence, the Baptist in the silence of his wilderness life senses God is coming among the people in a new way. His preaching and baptizing bring people into the wilderness and ready them for this breakthrough. His baptism washes away a past of simply keeping and breaking the law and symbolizes openness to the reviving Spirit of God. John promises one more powerful than he is coming.

Advent prepares us to celebrate the incarnation — God becoming one of us. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, the one Israel’s prophets promised God would send. Jesus is the Christ, the anointed, the promised messiah. By loving us as one of us, Jesus shows us that our capacity to love is the image of our life-giving, creative God in us.

As we celebrate Christmas, love evolves in our relationships, in our world. In a year when we can’t sing in groups, carol and spread joy, our lights of every color light up the dark and pull us outside to enjoy them. We order gifts for one another and realize how sacred our family relationships are. Our lives of love and struggle are holy. We find our ways through the wilderness.

How do you see God with us this Advent?

Advent Resources

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Gospel Reflection for November 15, 2020 – 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings: Proverbs 31.10-13,19-20, 30-31; 1 Thessalonians 5.1-6; Matthew 25.14-30

A man going on a journey summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them, according to the abilities of each. To one, he gave five talents; to a second, he gave two talents; to a third, one talent. Immediately the servant who received five talents invested them and made another five. In the same way, the servant who received two talents doubled the figure. The servant who received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and buried the master’s money. After a long absence, the master came home. – Matthew 15.14-18

From the start Sunday’s gospel is a parable of judgment. Matthew’s gospel has three judgment parables in chapter 25–the wise and foolish girls (last Sunday), the talents, and the works of mercy (next Sunday). The parables anticipate Jesus will come in glory and judgment at some time and urge us to active faith.

In the parable of the talents the master sizes up his servants and entrusts his property to them according to their ability. Indeed the industrious and reliable first servant and the good and trustworthy second servant double their talents, advance to larger affairs, and share the master’s joy when he returns. The third servant buries his single talent and blames his master. Out of fear of his master’s harshness the third servants has done nothing with it. The master has no sympathy with the man’s fear and casts him out of the community of joy into which he welcomed the other two.

One talent is equivalent to 6,000 denari. One denarius was a day’s wage in Jesus’ time. The five talents the first servant receives would take 85 years for an ordinary laborer to earn. The master has not given the servants a pittance to trust their trustworthiness.

The priceless windfall each of us has received is life itself, our unique gifts, and family and friends whose lives we share. Our ancestors invested in relationships and efforts that have brought us to be. Jesus invested his life in the human race, opening to us all we can become in God. How do we use these extravagant down payments on ourselves?

With whom in the parable do you identify–the servants who risk their talents or the one whose fear paralyzes him? What gifts and talents are yours to put to work in our fractured society today?

Harmony

I was lucky to have a mother who never stopped teaching, even on a shopping trip. – S. Joan

"Now stay on the second note when I go up,"
mother coached me.
So for the 50 miles to St. Cloud in the car
we kept singing, mother repeating,
"When it's spring time in the Rockies…"
until I did it. I heard the harmony,
not just a second part I memorized;
I held my place in the chords,
that day mostly simple thirds
but ever after I could find a place
in a chord, make harmonies,
a gift awakened I didn't know I had
and later in the chapel choir
singers sometimes listened chords
into perfect pitch, the harmonics ringing
in octives beyond hearing,
evoking the sublime.
- by Sister Joan Mitchell, CSJ

Make December brighter, more prayerful with the Advent Names of God. Seven images and prayers rooted in Israel’s longings for a messiah, reimagined in our evolving cosmos today. Only $10! Read sample pages and order online at goodgroundpress.com.


Praying the Advent Names of God

Make December brighter, more prayerful with the Advent Names of God. Seven images and prayers rooted in Israel’s longings for a messiah, reimagined in our evolving cosmos today. Only $10! Read sample pages and order online at https://goodgroundpress.com/product/advent-names-of-god/.

Gospel Reflection for November 1, 2020 – Feast of All Saints

Scripture Readings: Revelation 7.2-4,9-14; 1 John 3.1-3; Matthew 5.1-12

“Blessed are the poor in spirit; the reign of God belongs to them.” – Matthew 5.3

The beatitudes turn our assumptions about whom God blesses upside down. The eight sayings challenge us to live in ways quite contrary to profit-motivated values. The beatitudes expand in detail what the commandments to love God and neighbor ask of Christians.  

God has not cursed or abandon but blesses people who are poor, sorrowing, and meek. God challenge us to bless them, too. The fourth beatitude blesses a hunger and thirst for holiness; the fifth blesses all who show the mercy they would like to receive. We are all capable of the actions the beatitudes ask of us.

The challenge to purity of heart often get sidetracked as about sexual issues but it’s about spirituality, about seeking and seeing God’s presence in our lives. Our world needs peacemakers who can open our eyes to others’ needs and experience and lead us to welcome rather than distain people different from us. We risk persecution in seeking justice but it’s part of treating our neighbors as ourselves.

Using this gospel on the feast of All Saints tells us the beatitudes outline the ordinary life of all Christians. A saint is a person in progress, not a finished product. Each of us offers a distinctive blessing on those we accompany in life. As St. Augustine writes, of the multitude of saints, “By passing along the narrow road they widen it; and while they went along, trampling on the rough ways, they went ahead of us.”

Think of a recent example in which you have experienced someone acting in the spirit of one or all of the beatitudes or is a distinctive blessing of his or her own.

Gospel Reflection for October 25, 2020 – 30th Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Exodus 22.20-26; 1 Thessalonians 1.5-10; Matthew 22.34-40
 
“Teacher, which commandment of the law is the greatest?”  Matthew 22.36
 
In the gospels of the fall Sundays, Jesus inhabits the temple courts, teaching and disputing questions with other Jewish teachers and officials. The issues — tenants, taxes, and this Sunday, which commandment of the 613 is greatest?

As citizens this fall, we dispute our own questions in the public square as we prepare to elect leaders. By whose authority shall we live? What kind of tenants shall we be on a planet home that is God’s gift and the inheritance of all? Who can our taxes help?

Matthew writes in the mid A.D. 80s after the Romans destroyed the temple, so for his Jewish audience the question intensifies — on what foundation do we build a future? Jesus’ answer is love God with your whole heart, spirit, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself (Deuteronomy 6.5 and Leviticus 19.18).

The first commandment calls us to love God with all our heart, spirit, and mind. On what or whom do we set our hearts? We live in mystery, existing without having made ourselves, and for what purpose? How do we listen to our spirit and the Holy Spirit? We can use our minds to envision our farthest goals, to laugh at failure, remember success, to cry, sing, dance, praise, to start over and over. To what use do we out our minds?

Love of God is inseparable from love of neighbor. In God’s creation no one is alien. The fourth to the tenth commandments are the hammer and nails of Christian community.

What sustains your heart and commitment to God? Who that you once considered alien have you come to treat as neighbor? What demonstrates love most convincingly to you?

Bible Study: The Gospel of Mark

In Advent this year (only 8 weeks away) we read from the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s gospel is the shortest; also the one written closest to Jesus’ time. This fall is the perfect time to start a Bible study with friends or parishioners.
 
Sister Joan explores the stories and themes of Marks’ Gospel in 11 short chapters, making it ideal for small groups to read and discuss. The book is equally helpful for homilists, who have a chance to explore Mark all year long.
 
Read the table of contents and a sample chapter. Then call 1-800-232-5533 to place your order.
 
The price is right—only $10.00 per copy. For groups of 10 or more, the price drops to $8.00. 
 
Call today or order online at goodgroundpress.com.

Friday Autumn Poem

This poem was first sent to me by a dear friend, Mary Gormley Frenza. For years, we sent it to each other every autumn. This year it goes to all of you. May the harmony of leaf and flower be your companion today.

APOLOGY TO MY NEIGHBORS IN AUTUMN

In these still days far lovelier than summer
There is no need of talk, no need to hear
Tales of strange places from each latest comer.
Rather avoid all comers, rather fear
The whir of motors chugging up the drive.
Like the assiduous bees who haste to hive
In attic windows, striving now to win
The last gold honey for the last wax bin,
So I for my own harvest must be free.
The humming silence is compelling me
To swing the hinges on each rusty door
That locked away my spirit, and let pour
Inward the harmony of leaf and flower.
I could sit, sun-drenched, on this hummock,
hour by hour,
Sloughing off worldliness, growing as sound
And simple as this pear tree on this ground.

Mildred Whitney Stillman


Visit goodgroundpress.com for daily prayers, free online retreats, and other spiritual resources.

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