Tag Archives: Keeping Faith Today

Gospel Reflection for September 17, 2017, 24th Sunday Ordinary Time

14 Sep

Sunday Readings: Sirach 27.30-28.7; Romans 14.7-9; Matthew 18.21-35

Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive?  As many as seven times?” – Matthew 18.21

We know Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question. Seventy times seven times. That’s always. In the Our Father we ask God to forgive us as we forgive others every time we pray it–scary. Forgiveness may not be our first impulse when someone hurts us. We may want to strike back or perhaps just nurse festering resentment, or perhaps like Peter we want to count. This is not God’s way or Jesus’ way.

The parable that follows Peter’s question and Jesus’ answer is about the servant who owes his master a big debt that a generous master forgives. Then the forgiven servant insists a fellow servant pay a debt of 100 denarii, refuses pleas for patience, and puts the fellow servant in prison. The master finds out and hands the unforgiving servant over to be tortured. The parable challenges us to recognize God’s expansive love and mercy and make room for growth and grace in our relationships.

How has making room for grace and growth helped you forgive others or yourself?


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Gospel Reflection for September 10, 2017, 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time

8 Sep

Sunday Readings: Ezekiel 33.7-9; Romans 13.8-10; Matthew 18.15-20

“Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”  – Matthew 13.20

“Talk it through” is the nub of Jesus’ advice on what to do when one disciple wrongs another. Step one is one-on-one dialogue. If that fails, step two advises us to bring witnesses for another face-to-face talk. The aim is to win over an offending member of the community. If that fails, the person gets treated as a Gentile or tax-collector, an outsider. However, Jesus is famous for reaching out to just such people.

How much festering resentment and ill will can we avoid if we speak directly with people or organizations that wrong us–not to chide or scold but to let them know how we feel and how what they are doing affects us. The binding and loosing Jesus empowers his followers to do is not for punishing but for healing.

What value do you put on face-to-face conversation for clearing up a wrong or supposed wrong? What works to stop the spread of accusations on social media?


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Poem of the Week

1 Sep

This is the last poem of summer. We have enjoyed sharing our favorites with you. Sister Joan wrote this one in the autumn on the north shore of Lake Superior.

The Chair
 


From the chair

on the deck

one can see across Lake Superior

where it ends at the sky

and rock there
in Grandma’s chair

and remember her lap

and rock to the waves

spilling on the basalt rock

the Earth’s core left here

five billion years ago

to crumble a little every day


I rock from time present

to time past

and back where

purple asters bloom

and maples will turn red tomorrow

I could be someone’s grandma
but I’m not

I while away a moment

Of the little time I have
 

Empty white chair

on a balcony overlooking blue sea

at the door of a room

with open windows

     showed me

     where every chair sits

     exactly between inside and outside
     here and there

     now and then

What steadies me

is knowing

that I got here
     where I’m going
             

Joan Mitchell, CSJ

Gospel Reflection for August 27, 2017, 21st Sunday Ordinary Time

21 Aug

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 22.19-23, Romans 11.33-36, Matthew 16.13-20

“Who do people say that I am?”  – Matthew 16.14

Jesus asks his disciples this question, “Who do people say that I am?”, halfway through his public ministry. Is he the long-awaited leader that prophets dreamed would bring peace? His disciples think so. Is her God’s servant like the Israelites in exile who pours out his life to reveal God’s vision of justice for the nations? Hmmm. Jesus’ disciples haven’t made that connection. Jesus’ question is a brave one. What are people saying about me?

We are still asking who Jesus is. Is he a prophetic reformer who hopes to breathe life into the legalistic religion of his day and whose example challenges us to do the same today? Is he a revolutionary whose inflammatory preaching catches him in the gears of the Roman Empire? Is he the greatest party giver of all time who invites everyone to come to his banquets.

In the new context of evolution we ask, “Isn’t Jesus, who is the Christ, the omega point in whom all creation will converge? Isn’t he the firstborn of a new creation who testifies that love is the ultimate transforming power in the cosmos?”

Who do people say you are? Who notices you are a Christian?


If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection, please visit the Sunday By Sunday page to order a subscription or request a free sample. Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Poem of the Week

17 Aug

This is a prayer-poem written by a woman mystic of the 1200s, Mechtildde of Magdeburg, from the book Praying With The Women Mystics by Mary T. Malone (Columba Press, 2013).

Why Not Soar?

You have the wings of longing.
You know the pull of hope.
You feel the flowing of desire.

So why not soar?

Fish cannot drown in water.
Birds cannot sink in air.
You cannot fall from my sight.

So why not soar?

Woman, I have adorned you.
Woman, I have delighted in you.
Woman, I have made my home in you.

So why not soar?

Be as the dove, I soar in her.
Lighten your heart, I soar in you.
Uplift your being, be an Easter song.

Why not soar?


 

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Image 15 Aug

Gospel Reflection for August 20, 2017, 20th Sunday Ordinary Time

14 Aug

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 56.1, 6-7; Romans 11.13-15, 29-32; Matthew 15.21-28

“It is not faith to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs,” Jesus said, but the Canaanite women said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” – Matthew 15.26-27

In both Matthew’s and Mark’s version of this gospel, Jesus refuses to help a Gentile mother who asks him to free her daughter from a demon. Both gospels preserve Jesus’ refusal, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” This saying insists Jesus’ mission is only to the Jewish people. In using the saying, Jesus not only refuses the woman’s request, his only refusal to help in the gospels, but he insults her. He uses an ethic slur. The saying makes her a dog.

How can Jesus, who everywhere else in the four gospels reaches out to sinners, lepers and crazy people, express such close-minded prejudice to this woman? This story reflects conflicts in Christian communities after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Some Christian must claim Jesus taught the saying, “Don’t throw the children’s food to the dogs.” In both Matthew’s and Mark’s gospels, the woman counters with the truth of her own experience. “Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” At her house both messy children and hungry dogs eat. Her comeback makes space for children and dogs at the same table, for Jews and Gentiles. Her quick wit challenges the meaning of the saying and shows exclusion is not Jesus’ teaching.

What practices today exclude you or fail to nourish you? What experiences have broadened whom you accept into your house or parish community?

Poem of the Week

11 Aug

August 15 is the summer feast of Mary.

Read this poem aloud to bring back to your heart all the ways we have learned to praise the Mother of God and our mother.

Lines for a Feast of Our Lady
by Alice Smith, CSJ

What shall be added to your praises?
The lip-worn, love-worn, heart-worn phrases
centuries out of choir and cell
and field and vineyard praise you well.
Like bells over the spinning earth
hour upon hour they tell your worth.
You are the Mother of Delight.
Over the sea you are the bright
star shining.  You are the ivory tower,
the ark of gold, the immortal flower
blossoming on a mortal root,
the good tree bringing forth good fruit.
You are the cloud raining the Just One.
Fair as the moon and bright as the sun,
out of the desert light of day
terrible as an army in array,
you come—the Gate of Heaven to heaven’s gate.
What can be added to your state?
The vast, uncountable choir of voices
down aisles of centuries rejoices;
in endless litany proclaims
the fertile flowering of your names.
Hell will not thank you nor death raise
its voice.  Only the living praise.
Then shed your grace upon the mind
that we here in these deeps may find
the words we seek, that like a vine
with strong roots in the soul may shine
the litany that climbs and grows
upon the lattice of the Rose.


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Gospel Reflection for August 13, 2017, 19th Sunday Ordinary Time

8 Aug

Scripture readings: 1 Kings 19.9,11-13; Romans 9.1-5; Matthew 14.22-33

“Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened. Beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his had and caught him.” – Matthew 14.29-30

This gospel reflects Christians struggles in the A.D. 80s between the experience of having Jesus among them in the flesh and the promise of his risen presence. How does Jesus continue with the community?

Peter puts Jesus to a test. He requests a miracle. “If this is really you, command me to come to you on the water.”  This if statement repeats the bystanders’ taunts to Jesus on the cross–“If you are the messiah, save yourself.”

Jesus quickly says, “Come.” The scene invites faith. It suggests the journeys of early Christians to baptism. An early Christian baptistry at Dura-Europa in Syria has this scene painted on its wall above a baptismal pool (A.D. 250).

Stepping into the water and the future requires faith for Peter and for all of us who follow. Boldly Peter steps our of the boat, outside the comfortable circle of disciples and friends in the boat. Immediately strong head winds and great waves take his attention off Jesus and fill him with fear and terror. As he falters, Peter cries out to Jesus, who saves him.

Where are you in over your head and faltering?  What do you cry out for?


If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection, please visit the Sunday By Sunday page to order a subscription or request a free sample. Start a small bible study. Be a leader.

Poem of the Week

4 Aug

Gate A-4
by Naomi Shihab Nye

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well— one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her. What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”

I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, shu-bid-uck, habibti? Stani schway, min fadlick, shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late, who is picking you up? Let’s call him.”

We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life, patting my knee, answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies— little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts— from her bag and was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not a single traveler declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the lovely woman from Laredo— we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.

Then the airline broke out free apple juice and two little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they were covered with powdered sugar too. And I noticed my new best friend— by now we were holding hands— had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought, This is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that gate— once the crying of confusion stopped— seemed apprehensive about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.

This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.


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