Tag Archives: compassion
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Gospel Reflection for July 10, 2016, 15th Sunday Ordinary Time

6 Jul

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

“But a Samaritan who was journeying along came on the beaten man 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.”

(Luke 10.33-34)

A marginalized person is often caught in cultural conflicts at the boundaries of society and communities. The Samaritan in Sunday’s gospel has compassion for a stranger left on the side of the road. During Jesus’ time Samaritans were the marginalized people in Israel, a heretical group detested and despised by Jews and pagans alike. For Jesus to hold up a Samaritan as a truly compassionate and wise person was to send religious and cultural shock-waves through his listener’s ears. People must have thought, “How could anyone make a Samaritan the hero of the story, a person obviously so unworthy and unacceptable?

Another unsung hero in the gospel is the donkey. The Samaritan acts out his compassion with the help of his animal. Pope Francis calls out our kinship with the whole of creation and its creatures in his encyclical Laudato Si’ on the environment. Jesus’ parable doesn’t tell us how far away the inn was or how big the injured person was. We do know the Samaritan couldn’t call 911 on his cell phone. He puts the injured person on his own animal that usually carries him or his loads. Together they help the wounded man.

When have you felt marginalized by economics, gender, sexual orientation, race, or personal crisis?

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Keeping Faith Today

17 Jun
Photo via Flickr user Natashi Jay

Photo via Flickr user Natashi Jay

A woman is sexually assaulted while unconscious. 49 people are shot dead in a nightclub in Orlando. The country responds with anger, confusion, fear, sadness and grief. My heart is heavy.

How do we acknowledge and honor our feelings without letting them shut us down? Anger, confusion, fear, sadness and grief all have the potential to consume us, invite us into isolation, or lead to paranoia and hatred. How do we feel what we feel and commit to staying open and vulnerable? How do we keep faith today?

Confusion can lead to dialogue. Fear can inspire us to unite. Anger can lead to peacemaking action. Sadness can lead to greater compassion. For me, that transformation requires deep faith. It requires me to return to the story of Jesus. His life centered around peacekeeping. In his death, he took anger, confusion, fear and hatred into his body and transformed it to life and love.

Jesus’ life and death inspired the Christian nonviolent movement. It continues to inspire individuals and groups to bring love out of hate and peace out of fear. That transformation is what I pray for. I pray for the courage to allow God to turn my pain into love in action.

Gospel Reflection for June 19, 2016, 12th Sunday Ordinary Time

14 Jun
Photo via Flickr user Ian Britton

Photo via Flickr user Ian Britton

Sunday Readings: Zechariah 12.10-11, 13.1; Galatians 3.26-29; Luke 9.18-24

“But you — who do you say that I am?”

(Matthew 9.20)

Immediately after Peter answers Jesus’ question, “The Messiah of God,” Jesus predicts his suffering, rejection, and death. His prediction contradicts the popular notion of the leader Israel awaits. To his early followers Jesus’ call to take up the cross and follow him is also daunting. The cross is the Roman Empire instrument of public torture, the electric chair of its day. For us today the cross is a revered symbol which inspires reverence more than fear. Yet, like the earlier Christians, we seek to understand what Jesus asks of us. He lays out three conditions of discipleship: deny yourself, take up the cross daily, and follow me. To follow Jesus means orienting ourselves toward others in our daily lives and standing for what is right and just in public life and anchor our hopes in Jesus’ way.

How developed is your habit of thinking of others and of God before yourself? From whom have you learned compassion?

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Gospel Reflection for June 5, 2016, 10th Sunday Ordinary Time

31 May

Sunday Readings: 1 Kings 17.17-24; Galatians 1.11-19; Luke 7.11-17

“When the Lord saw the widow, he had compassion on her.”

(Luke 7.13)

A large crowd follows Jesus and his disciples to the village of Nain. At the city gate they encounter a funeral procession, a widow burying her only son. A large crowd accompanies her, extending sympathy and friendship. The crowd from outside and the crowd from inside converge at the village gate, a doorway between life and death. Jews buried the dead outside the gates of the living.

The widow has lost both husband and son, leaving her without support. Unlike many suppliants in the gospels, the widow does not ask Jesus for help. Her plight moves Jesus to compassion. In Luke’s gospel Jesus brings a year of jubilee to the poor. He raises up the widow’s son. The gospel refers to Jesus as Lord, a post-Easter title, which reminds us Luke is writing his orderly account long after Jesus’ resurrection and in its light.

How can we act with Jesus’ life-giving compassion today?

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Gospel Reflection for April 24, 2016, 5th Sunday of Easter

19 Apr

Sunday Readings: Acts 14.21-27; Revelation 21.1-5; John 13.31-32, 34-35

Jesus speaks to his disciples at the last supper after Judas leaves. “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 1.34-35)

Love lived faithfully and sustained over time translates into actions. Love is a verb. Cook, clean, wash clothes, plan, shop, pay bills, fix. Like the bass drum in a marching band these actions set the pace and rhythm of our days. Hard won achievements become cymbal crashes. Acts of kindness and gratitude lift our hearts like babbling flutes.

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 lived long also ask in the end all we have to give.

Jesus stakes his claim with us in our capacity to love one another. In each act we transcend our individual selves and free the power that heals and gives life, that holds families and friends together, that inspires service of country and church, that draws neighbors into communities.

Whose love inspires your own?

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A More Compassionate Church

15 Apr
Photo via Flickr user Margaret Almon

Photo via Flickr user Margaret Almon

The other day, I listened to two Lutheran women talking about a Catholic wedding one woman went to. When it came time for communion, she wasn’t sure if she should go up. She saw other non-Catholics go, so she did, too. She took the wafer and dipped it in the chalice, as is the custom at her church. When she got back to her pew, a young man reprimanded her for how she took communion. “Are you even Catholic?” he asked.

She was taken aback and explained that she, too, is a child of God who believes in the practice of holy communion. He apologized, but clearly the moment left her confused and a bit hurt. Catholics do have a lot of rules around communion, including what the chalice should be made of and who can receive it. At times, we get so wrapped up in the rules that we forget the spirit of Jesus offering his body and blood to us. Christians have struggled with this tension between rules and grace since the beginning of the church. Take, for example, the Corinthians Paul writes to:

Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine. When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you! –1 Corinthians:19-22 

Paul reminds them that church is supposed to be different than home. It is supposed to be a sacred place where people are radically equal. The church meal is trying transcend and be different than meals society. The Corinthians, so soon after Jesus’ death, have forgotten and slipped back into their old ways.

Thousands of years later, at the Catholic wedding, this women did not feel love and inclusion during communion. She did not feel welcome, and was scolded for not following the human made rules of how to eat the meal. She was so hurt, in fact, that she made a disparaging comment about all Catholics in general.

The woman listening jumped in right away. “But have you read about the Pope’s last statement? I get so excited for what this Pope’s love means for the whole world, Catholic or otherwise. He touches people and says that the church is for all people, all sinners.”

Pope Francis’ statement on marriage and family life does make a clear turn in tone. He urges priests to be more compassionate and empathetic, building a more compassionate and empathetic church that meets people where they are at. For example, he asks priests to take a kinder approach to folks who have gone through divorce:

It is important that the divorced who have entered a new union should be made to feel part of the Church. “They are not excommunicated” and they should not be treated as such, since they remain part of the ecclesial community.

Like Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, Pope Francis is calling us back to a church where Jesus’ broken body is at the center of things. Where, in the midst of rules, love abides.

Gospel Reflection for March 13, 2016, 5th Sunday of Lent

8 Mar

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 43.16-21; Philippians 3.8-14; John 8.1-11

“Woman, where are they all? Has no one condemned you?”

(John 8.10)

Only John’s gospel tells the story of the hypocrites who use a woman they catch in adultery to trap Jesus. He can reject the law of Moses that requires stoning or break the Roman law against carrying out capital punishment. No real evidence exists that shows first-century Jews enforced the law against men and women who committed adultery. Jesus silences them when he directs, “Let the sinless one among you cast the first stone.”

The story is not about the woman dragged and humiliated before this impromptu tribunal — not until the end when the accusers slink away. Jesus empathizes with her, caught and shamed in a trap set for him. By standing with her, Jesus counters those who make her a spectacle. But what about the crowd? What can she do to find belonging again in the community? Can she go back to her husband? Her children? What wil the neighbors say who probably know her guilt?

How do you treat those you must forgive?

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Gospel Reflection for March 6, 2016, 4th Sunday of Lent

1 Mar
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Sunday Readings: Joshua 5.9,10-12; 2 Corinthians 5.17-21; Luke 15.1-3,11-32

Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons.  The younger said to the father, ‘Father, give me the share of your property that will fall to me.’  So the father divided up the property.  After a few days the younger son, having gathered together all of his things, went away to a far off country.

(Luke 15.11)

Most of us know Jesus’  parable of the prodigal son.  Indeed the focus commonly falls on the prodigal, the problem child.  Jesus focuses first on the father; it’s a parable about a man with two sons and his relationships with both.  It’s also a parable about the relationship of the brothers to each other.  For me, the parable brings up my younger sister, severely hard of hearing, to whom our teacher mother devoted constant phonics lessons.  My sister liked to hold her ears and claim I was shouting or worse whistling to hurt her ears.  I got a reprimand.  Is Jesus about the younger son who absorbs more attention that the other son?  Or is the parable about me, the dutiful oldest child, dependable and responsible, who ran errands the fastest?  Or is the parable about the older brother who resents his father welcoming back his brother and feels under appreciated.  Who is lost?  Or is the parable about the father who knows each son and reaches out to each?  Then there is the feminist question.  Where is the mother?  Is her absence the reason a favorite younger son grows apart and a dutiful older son fails to please his father no matter how hard he tries?  The story gives us no clue, but these questions introduce familiar family dynamics.

Who are you like in the parable–the wild lost son?  The dutiful son?  The challenged father?  The absent mother?

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