Tag Archives: compassion

Gospel Reflection for February 19, 2017, 7th Sunday Ordinary Time

14 Feb

Scripture Readings: Leviticus 19.1-2, 17-18; 1 Corinthians 3.16-23; Matthew 5.38-48

“You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say to your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for God makes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – Matthew 5.43-45

In the gospel this week Jesus asks us to take God as our standard in how we treat others. In this Jesus goes beyond the golden rule –“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The golden rule makes us ourselves the standard of how to treat others. To respond to enemies and evil with conscious, gracious, undeserved compassion goes farther. This is how a life-giving, merciful God acts.

Jesus exhorts us to be perfect as God is perfect. One translator of the word perfect suggests the meaning fully alive. Perfect can imply finished, completed, perfected, done. When one is fully alive, one is whole and wholly operational. We are able to use all our human capacities to know and love others, to live the values and strengthen the bonds that hold us together as families, neighborhoods, and today more than ever as a nation.

When have you made a friend of a seeming enemy? Who is at risk in your neighborhood? How can you help?

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Gospel Reflection for February 5, 2017, 5th Sunday Ordinary Time

2 Feb
Photo via Flickr user SidewaysSarah

Photo via Flickr user SidewaysSarah

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 58.7-10; 1 Corinthians 2.1-5; Matthew 5.13-16

“You are the salt of the earth….You are the light of the world.” – Matthew 5.13-14

Salt became a precious commodity because it allowed fish and meat to be dried and cured to last a long time. By comparing his disciples to salt, Jesus encourages them to recognize their value and encourages them to preserve their community from moral decay during the Roman occupation of their land. Jesus’ disciples 2,000 years ago and we today have a vital role in preserving justice and charity in our society.

Roman rule kept Jewish people subjugated with little hope of being free and respected. Nonetheless Jesus challenges them to be like lamps in the darkness, to stand tall and share their light with others. Kind, gracious, generous, respectful actions toward others invite the same in return. Christians are to illumine our society in its darkness.

What light shines in your actions? What values do you preserve?

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Gospel Reflection for January 15, 2017, 2nd Sunday Ordinary Time

11 Jan

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 49.3,5-6; 1 Corinthians 1.1-3; John 1.29-34

“The one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘When you see the Spirit descend and rest on someone, it is he who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen for myself and have testified, ‘This is God’s chosen one.’” – John 1.33-34

What is the story in which we live? Who tells it? What motivates the characters and moves the plot—greed, lust, power? Do the perils for Earth and Earth’s people from climate change testify to human self-absorption? Is profit our only moral compass? Is the human story ultimately tragic?

Pope Francis insists that we Christians are resurrection people. New action and attitudes can arise. What is the story we personally live? To what values do we give witness day in and day out?

A woman I know recently took light rail home from the airport. A homeless man came walking slowly down the aisle. He was missing a shoe. While she watched, a woman wearing nursing scrubs sat down beside the homeless man. “I think my shoes will fit you,” she said and put the shoes on his feet.”

The man thanked her but she was in a hurry. “This is my stop,” she said and stepped off the train in her stocking feet at the Veterans Administration hospital, a stunning witness.

Who have you witnessed living Jesus’ story? What is the story you live?

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Gospel Reflection for December 18, 2016, 4th Sunday Advent

13 Dec

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 7.10-14; Romans 1.1-7; Matthew 1.18-24

“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother was engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her husband, an upright man unwilling to expose her to the law, decided to divorce her quietly. Then an angel of the Holy One appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Joseph, son of David, have no fear about taking Mary as your wife. It is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child. She is to have a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.'” – Matthew 1.20-21

In our own lives we have to make the journey Joseph makes in Sunday’s gospel from the law and its requirements to acting and judging with compassion. Joseph’s story calls us to listen to the Spirit of God that lives within us in the deepest reaches of our psyches and never lets up on us, waking or sleeping, until we bring to life in our relationships what only we can do. Each of us is called to embody the promise of the Spirit in us, to become Emmanuel, and bring God among those we love and try to love. Each of us is called like Joseph to dream a future for the children of promise born among us today.

Who are children of promise in your life? How do you respond to children in need in our world?

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Gospel Reflection for November 20, 2016, Christ the King

14 Nov

Sunday Readings: 2 Samuel 5.1-3; Colossians 1.12-20; Luke 23.35-43

“Jesus is the face of God’s mercy,” Pope Francis writes in announcing the Jubilee Year of Mercy that ends this Sunday. “These words might well sum up the mystery of Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him.” In Sunday’s gospel Jesus shows us mercy is his signature act; he forgives the good thief on the cross. Forgiveness is the balm of mercy that Pope Francis hopes has reached everyone this year.

In this crucifixion scene the evangelist Luke gives us the gospel in cameo. Luke tells the community for whom he writes and us that Jesus is God’s Spirit-filled prophet, innocent of charges brought against him. He brings good news to people who live in poverty and hope to those burdened with debt and exploited for profit. Jesus is our kin, who knows our sufferings and seeks to heal people and set them free. This is the mission we continue — kinship or solidarity with all.

To whom have you yet to show mercy in this year of mercy? Who among the kin of God or kin of Jesus stretches who you regard as kin?

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Dying Well

11 Nov
Bruce Kramer

Bruce Kramer

I know Bruce Kramer only through his blog Dis Ease Diary about living with and dying from ALS. A profoundly wise man, Bruce died of ALS in 2015. In his writing, he wanted to ask questions in a way that united people. What a worthy endeavor. When I heard Cathy Wurzer was speaking about her relationship with Bruce and their book project, We Know How This Ends on All Saints’ Day, I knew I had to go. His spirit filled the sanctuary as Wurzer projected pictures and played audio of Bruce.

In choosing to die well, Bruce continues to teach us so much about how to live well. Bruce claimed that ALS was the greatest teacher of his life. It helped him become the man he was meant to be. He invited those around him to be vulnerable, to stay present in the day, and to cut straight through to love. In so doing, he got to know people on a different level and at a different depth, which changed his life.

Through adaptive yoga, he learned how to breathe and ground himself even at the very end. He was able to forgive his body for dying like it was supposed to do, just faster than he would’ve liked. One son stayed connected to Bruce through yoga, another came three times a week to shave his face with a straight blade, an intimate interaction. Bruce recorded himself reading children’s books so his grandchildren could hear his voice after he was gone. He took full advantage of the time he was given at the end. He allowed death to focus his life. The title of Bruce Kramer’s book comes from a line he repeated a lot after his diagnosis: “We’re all headed to the same place.” Indeed. Death opened his eyes to how precious life is, and he never stopped growing.

Wurzer grew close to Kramer over the years of interviews. He required it, actually. When they started working together he asked her, “Will you be here in the end, when I die?” She kept her word and got her buddies at NPR to play one of his favorite pieces on classical radio as he was taking his last breaths. When her colleague asked her in the aftermath, “What do you make it all?” She answered, “I think I gave grace a microphone.”

As the poignant evening came to a close, Wurzer projected a Peanuts cartoon with two characters sitting on a dock. One says, “Some day we will all die.” The other says, “True, but on all the other days we will not.” This is the gift of All Saints’ Day. There is grieving, loss and sorrow, but also great joy. I am alive today and living better in part because Bruce Kramer, faced with a horrible fate, committed to dying well.

 

Gospel Reflection for November 13, 2016, 33rd Sunday Ordinary Time

9 Nov

Sunday Readings: Malachi 3.19-20; 2 Thessalonians 3.7-12; Luke 21.5-19

“By patient endurance you will save your lives.” – Luke 21.19

In the face of war (Syria, Afghanistan), earthquakes (Oklahoma after fracking), and plagues (Zika virus)–all the regular stuff of breaking news, Jesus recommends patient endurance. Persevere. Jesus has taught us how to live every day. Indeed every tragedy catches individuals in the midst of doing good, saving someone beside themselves, rescuing neighbors, helping the disabled, helping clear away storm damage. Christianity is about the verbs of everyday living: love, share, forgives, include, speak the trust, listen, learn, build, rejoice, show compassion, go an extra mile, lend a hand. As Hillary Clinton directed her supporters in her concession speech, quoting Galatians 6.9, “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest if we do not give up.”

Faith is not certainty in the face of terrifying events. But it is trust that no other than Jesus, who passed through death to life, offers words of eternal life. Faith in Jesus is our deepest anchor and surest model for enduring the shifts and swells of social and personal upheaval.
 
What would you like to be caught doing in the midst of a crisis? How might you make today a non-judgment day?

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Bodies Broken Open to Love

28 Oct
Photo via Flickr user Ian Britton

Photo via Flickr user Ian Britton

I am in my last two months of pregnancy. My body no longer belongs to me. The baby who has taken up residence in my womb the past months is making him or herself known in a whole new way. I will be perpetually uncomfortable, absorbing internal blows, adjusting to weight gain, rubbing sore feet, hips and shoulder blades. I will only sleep, I will be only as active as the baby allows. Someone else is calling the shots. All I can do is wait.

I have a joyful little boy running around, reminding me exactly how worth it the third trimester of pregnancy is. This resident alien is a person who I will fall deeply in love with and be in constant awe of. It will be the deepest honor to the its mommy. I keep reminding myself. It helps. It also helps that I know the pain and discomfort are productive, the consequences of generating life. Suffering that is a part of life and love make us better people in the end.

The temporary powerlessness of late pregnancy brings with it great compassion. Knowing that the pain and discomfort are in the service of life, I welcome the opportunity to be broken. It is good, for a season, that I don’t get my way. It keeps me from aligning myself as the center of the universe. This world is not about me. It invites me to contemplate people whose bodies are broken and not their own due to illness, abuse, or poverty, things that don’t bring life and love.

To bear another life in my body is messy. It’s beautiful. It’s annoying. It, maybe more than anything, teaches me about love.

Last week I had a conversation with a 7th grade boy about how we turn images of an angry God into images of a loving God. “What stories can you think of that show God as a lover?”

After a long pause he said simply, profoundly, “The crucifixion.” I took a moment to let the unexpected wisdom of this young man sink in and then asked him to say more. “God became a person, and that person, God’s son, died so that we could live. That’s love.”

Yes. On the cross, Jesus takes our broken humanity into his very body and dies a human death with all the pain, suffering and abandonment that comes with that. In do doing, he offers us his divinity so that we may know life. God points to this act on the cross and declares Jesus Lord. The cross is mess, beautiful, and teaches us about love. Life wins. Love has the final word.

This simple reminder that the cross is the true sign of God’s love was a gift to me as I waddle through my remaining days of pregnancy. May my manageable, baby-growing discomfort break me open to love better and may it invite me to contemplate the mystery of God’s love through the cross.

 

Mother, Now Saint

9 Sep
Photo via Flickr user Mammovies

Photo via Flickr user Mammovies

A mere 19 years after her death, Pope Francis declared Mother Teresa a saint last week. In his homily during the ceremony at the Vatican, Pope Francis commended Mother Teresa for her generosity of mercy and for defending the discarded of society.

Indeed, in her tireless work, Mother Teresa gave people dignity by seeing their full humanity. She called urgent attention to the hideous and unnecessary poverty plaguing our globe. Taking Jesus’ gospel call to advocate for the poor quite literally, she devoted her life to the daily work. Rightly, Pope Francis lifted up Mother Teresa as a model of holiness.

And then, also rightly and with so much style we have come to expect of him, Pope Francis served pizza to 1,500 homeless Italians who were bused in for the event.

The declaration of Mother Teresa’s sainthood is exciting. In elevating our heroes, it is also important to remember their humanity as well. I can distance myself from them, venerating their holiness, while excusing myself from the call. We are all capable of making a life-long commitment to advocate for the vulnerable members of our society. I read the same Gospel that she did, one where Jesus models mercy, compassion and ministry to us. She was a mere mortal who had the same choice I do as to how to live out our daily lives.

I remember as a young child, being taught by nuns, I was curious about the monastic lifestyle. I wondered, “What would I do with my time if I committed to a simple, celibate life? What life would I build? Who would I love?” Now, with a spouse, children and a job, I must ask other questions. Mother Teresa’s sainthood throws back into relief for me the importance of doing Gospel work in my daily life, here and now, in any way I can. Instead of allowing her holiness to distance herself, I can pray for her holiness to call me to a life of mercy and compassion, too.

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