Tag Archives: Gospel of Luke

Gospel Reflection for July 17, 2016, 16th Sunday Ordinary Time

12 Jul
Photo via Flickr user Jim Forest

Photo via Flickr user Jim Forest

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.”

(Luke 10.38-39)

Luke puts Mary and Martha in their place in Sunday’s gospel passage. To be remembered by name in the gospel 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. John’s gospel also remembers Martha for gathering Jesus, her sister, her brother Lazarus, and friends for a meal (John 12.1-2).

In Sunday’s gospel Mary seats herself at Jesus’ feet to listen to his teaching 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. Perhaps Martha and Mary represent two forms of ministry evolving in the Christian community at the time Luke wrote — preaching the good news and gathering the community to break bread. In Acts 6.1-6, the twelve appoint deacons to serve and make sure all in the Jerusalem community get a fair amount of food, so that the twelve are free to preach. Perhaps by the time Luke writes in the mid-80s, the ministries of women in the Christian communities has become controversial.

Although Sunday’s gospel shows Martha offering table hospitality and Mary listening to the word, this scene effectively silences the ministries of both women. Jesus tells Martha to give up the ministry of her household, and perhaps her house church , and join her sister in choosing the better part–silent listening to Jesus. Perhaps their ministries of word and table made Martha and Mary too memorable in the life of the early Christian community to forget. Perhaps they were so important that Luke uses the voice of Jesus’ authority to put them in their place, the same subordinate position women are transforming today.

Who sustains the life of your faith community?

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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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Gospel Reflection for July 3, 2016, 14th Sunday Ordinary Time

28 Jun

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

“Whatever house you enter, say first, ‘Peace to this house.'”

(Luke 10.5) 

In Sunday’s gospel Jesus sends out 72 missionaries to announce the kingdom of God is at hand.  A missionary is someone who is sent to bring a message.  The word to send in Greek is apostlein, from which we get the word apostle, missionary.  Only Luke describes the 72 sent off in pairs to travel with little but their message and instructions to stay with people who reciprocate their greeting of peace, the same peace the angels announce at Jesus’ birth.

In this passage Luke double exposes the Church’s mission on Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem.  Only Luke finds the story of the Church inseparable from the story of Jesus’ ministry and inaugurates the mission of bringing God’s healing nearness to the nations and through this mission to us.

On the Fourth of July Americans rise together to honor the flag in parades down our streets.  On most other days, especially in an election year, we struggle to forge the vision the day celebrates.  We disagree about immigrants and whose lives matter.  Perhaps we don’t talk religion or politics to keep peace in our families.  Jesus’ message challenges us to include more than our own individual selves in the happiness we pursue.

For what are you grateful in our nation on this 4th of July?  To whom do you reciprocate a greeting of peace in your home and neighborhood?

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Gospel Reflection for June 26, 2016, 13th Sunday Ordinary Time

22 Jun

Sunday Readings: 1 Kings 19.16, 19-21; Galatians 5.1, 13-18; Luke 9.51-62

“As the days were being fulfilled for Jesus to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”

(Luke 9.51)

The men and women who follow Jesus as disciples serve an apprenticeship on the journey to Jerusalem. They are on the road together. A Samaritan village refuses them lodging. The two people Jesus meets on the road refuses Jesus’ invitation to follow. One must bury his father, another has to say goodbye. Jesus asks for commitment that supersedes family obligations and good-byes. A new community of faith is forming with ties stronger than blood.

Today following Jesus does not require leaving possessions, family, and friends behind. Christianity is now an acceptable and established world religion. It is as this long-established institution that the Church puts off many people today. It seems too encumbered by dogma and traditions, too unresponsive to today’s science and search, and too tainted by scandal.

Sunday’s gospel insists that faith in Jesus is a relationship so basic it supersedes and underlies all others. It calls us to do better than James and John who suggest raining down fire on the Samaritans who refuse to welcome them to their village. It calls us to embody love, forgiveness, and mercy — to be the gospel message in the flesh.

Imagine yourself on this journey with Jesus and his disciples. How might this journey be changing your life?

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Gospel Reflection for June 12, 2016, 11th Sunday Ordinary Time

7 Jun
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Sunday Readings: 2 Samuel 12.7-10; Galatians 2.16, 19-21; Luke 7.36-8.3

“Do you see this woman?”

(Luke 7.44)

“Accompanying Jesus were the twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities — Mary called the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.”

(Luke 8.3)

Sunday’s scriptures treat us to biblical soap opera — sex, sin, and extravagant repentance in both Old Testament and New. Sinner is the label that identifies the woman who models repentance in Sunday’s gospel — Luke’s memorable story of a woman washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair.

Sinner is a label little used today. Our news reports murder, fraud, sexual abuse, arson, robbery as crimes and acts of violence rather than sin. Sin is a religious word, which literally means missing the mark. In the bible sin refers to breaking the terms of the covenant relationship Israel made with God — the ten commandments. In Jesus’ time one could be labeled sinner for not keeping dietary laws or working with Gentiles as tax collectors did.

The woman labeled sinner in Sunday’s gospel has no name. That has not stopped commentators through the centuries from identifying her as Mary Magdalene. The four gospels hold no such evidence. The gospels contain maddening silences, nameless characters, and gestures from a culture 2,000 years ago that we readers must interpret. This Sunday’s gospel challenges us to look past labels and appreciate who people really are, especially when they change.

When have you connected the wrong dots and misinterpreted a person or interaction?

Read more about the woman who loved too much and about Mary Magdalene in Sunday by Sunday. If you like learning more about the women of the gospels, click here to subscribe.

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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 May 29, 2016, Blood and Body of Christ

25 May
Photo via Flickr user khrawlings

Photo via Flickr user khrawlings

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

“Why don’t you give them something to eat yourselves?”

(Luke 9.13)

When shared the food Jesus gives multiplies, just as love and forgiveness do. Jesus’ teaching nourishes. We hear and make his word our own in living it. We become what we eat in sharing the bread that becomes the body of Christ at Eucharist. The body and the self-giving love it signifies multiply. Both hearing Jesus’ teaching and sharing bread involve communion, an intimate sharing in which love and commitment multiply.

At the beginning of Sunday’s gospel Jesus urges his disciples to give the crowd something to eat. This is our call today – to hand on what we become in the Eucharist – nourishment in abundance for all.

How does celebrating Eucharist nourish you? How does Eucharist lead you to nourish others?

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Gospel Reflection for May 8, 2016, Ascension

4 May
Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Sunday Readings: Acts 1.1-11; Ephesians 1.17-23; Luke 24.46-53

Jesus spoke to his disciples, “Thus it is written that the messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance and forgiveness of sin would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations. You are the 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.”

(Luke 24.46-49)

Before we earthlings saw our planet home from space, the heavens belonged unassailably to God. In the cosmology of Jesus’ time, God and heavens were up and humans and Earth were below. Our 2,000-year-old gospel tells the story of the risen Jesus’ return to God in the worldview everyone assumed in the first century. To return to God is to go to the heavens. It is communion with God.

By hindsight in Luke’s gospel, his disciples see Jesus’ suffering and death as necessary. They have passed from confusion to Easter faith. The ascension is the hinge event between Jesus’ resurrection and sending of the Spirit. The Acts of the Apostles becomes the sequel to the gospel as they carry their witness to the ends of the earth.

How do you imagine the communion with his Father to which the risen Jesus returns?

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Gospel Reflection for March 20, 2016, Passion/Palm Sunday

14 Mar
Photo via Flickr user Thomas Hawk

Photo via Flickr user Thomas Hawk

Sunday Readings: Luke 19.28-40; Isaiah 50.4-7; Philippians 2.6-11; Luke 22.14-23.56

“Surely this was an innocent man.”

(Luke 23.47)

Luke’s passion account emphasizes Jesus’ innocence. When the crowd, the chief priests, and temple guard come to arrest Jesus, he says, “Am I a criminal that you come out after me armed with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you never raised a hand against me. But this is your hour — the triumph of darkness” (22.53-53).

Pilate and Herod can find no evidence of a crime. One of the criminals crucified with Jesus insists Jesus has done nothing wrong. The centurion who is at the cross as Jesus dies expresses Luke’s view, “Surely this man was innocent.”

Innocence is a powerful agent of change. The photo of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi found drowned along the Turkish coast went viral and raised awareness of the plight of immigrants fleeing the civil war in Syria. Turning the fire hoses on children in the Montgomery bus boycott stopped the violence. We cannot justify the violence to children that we do to other adults.

How does violence against the innocent affect you?

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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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