Tag Archives: Mary

Gospel Reflection for April 2, 2017, 5th Sunday of Lent

28 Mar

Scripture Readings: Ezekiel 37.12-14; Romans 8.8-11; John 11.1-45

Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha said to Jesus, “Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” – John 11.25-27

Jesus grieves in Sunday’s gospel with three people he loves. His friends Martha and Mary believe Jesus could have saved their brother Lazarus, but he didn’t come in time. By raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus in a sense puts himself in his friend’s place. News of this sign incites religious officials to plot Jesus’ death (John 11.45-53).

Both Martha and Mary go out to talk with Jesus when he finally comes to their house after Lazarus has been dead three days. In John’s gospel it is Martha who makes the same key proclamation of faith the in the other three gospels Peter makes. “You are the Mesiah.”

None of us knows what lies beyond death. We have only our experience of God in our world and in our holy history. Henry Nouwen compares dying to the trust between trapeze artists. One lets go, trusting the other will catch him or her. Christians are companions in hope that the God who creates and sustains the world will raise us up. We are companions in hope that the new life Jesus promises will be ours. We live in promise, not certainty. We walk with Jesus, who did not sidestep death but gave himself in trust and human unknowing.

What funerals to you remember especially? For what reasons?

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Gospel Reflection for January 1, 2017, Mary, Mother of God

29 Dec

Sunday Readings: Numbers 6.2-27; Galatians 4.4-7; Luke 2.16-21

“Mary pondered all these words in her heart.” – Luke 2.19

Sunday’s gospel about the shepherds visit to Mary’s child and offers only a single sentence about her. That sentence turns on the word pondered, in Greek the word if symballein. Ballein means to throw. Literally the Greek word means to throw together, to wrestle with together. Cymbals have the same root, bringing together to make noise. For Mary to ponder is to interpret the events life is throwing at her. Her faith seeks understanding. Significantly in Luke’s birth narrative, Mary and Joseph can find no place to stay in Bethlehem. Mary gives birth and begins mothering her child in a stable or cave for animals. The sign the shepherds go to Bethlehem to see is the savior, lying in a manger, born among the poor, one of them.

What do you imagine Mary is pondering at age 15 when she give birth to Jesus? At 45 when Jesus starts his ministry? At the foot of the cross?

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The Times

19 Aug
Artwork by Sr. Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ

Artwork by Sr. Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ

Anyone who picked up the New York Times this morning saw the heartbreaking photo of a small, traumatized Syrian boy on the cover. Sister Ansgar, an artist, responded by creating a collage that put the child in the arms of Mary and gave him a mother for our prayerful contemplation. She found the photo of the Mary statue in the Art section. She calls the collage: The Times.

Making Room For Jesus

8 Jan
Photo via Flickr user Steve Corey

Photo via Flickr user Steve Corey

The season of Epiphany, this sacred time after Christmas, always brings me back to Mary, and how she made room in her life for Jesus.

When she learned of the child growing inside of her, I imagine her having to rearrange her mind and heart a bit to make room for another person. She had to welcome this detour, this unexpected gift as her path, her life shifted forever.

While pregnant, her body literally made room for him. A pregnant woman’s organs shift dramatically as the child grows. Her lungs rise, the bladder gets pressed on, the intestines shift, and the heart has to work harder.

Then after Jesus was born, I imagine how her world changed. Like so many new parents, I’m sure her love for her child took her breath away. She most likely immediately had to adjust to less sleep, less free time, and the growing responsibility of keeping a person alive and healthy. Her heart broke open in love for her baby.

And yet Jesus was not just any child. Think about the confusion, excitement, fear, pride and trepidation that must have come with watching her son’s ministry grow. Ultimately, she had to watch her son die on a cross. She had to go on without him, something no mother should have to endure.

Mary made room in her body, her heart and her life for Jesus. How can we make room for Jesus to dwell in our lives?

God is With Us

23 Dec
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. –Matthew 1:18-25

A young man found the courage to weather a spoiled reputation to encounter God. Filled with anticipation of marriage, the life he expected shattered. The idea of the righteous family he was building came crumbling down.

Oh, the shame.

In the darkness, he grew quiet. Quiet enough to hear an angel. He changed his mind. He held a baby that did not belong to him, but the whole world. That baby changed everything. Forever.

Like Joseph, we get wrapped up in what the world thinks of us. We fear being disgraced and dismissed, clamoring to appear righteous and good. But this world does not have the final say. Jesus is coming to show us a new way. What greater gift could God give us than God’s very presence?

There are angels in our midst. They are calling to us in the quiet. But where is God? Where is God’s kingdom? We can’t see it.

We look again. God is here. In the darkness. Offering hope that surpasses all understanding. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

Gospel Reflection for December 25 & 27, 2015, Christmas/Holy Family

21 Dec

Christmas Gospel Readings: Luke 2.1-14; Holy Family Readings: 1 Samuel 1.20-22,24-28; 1 John 3.1-2,21-24; Luke 2.41-52

“Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the in.”

(Luke 2.7)

The child who is God’s joy for the world is born among the poor to include the poor in God’s good news.  Christmas opens doors and widens tables in the spirit of making room for the Christ child for whom there was no room in the inn.

Fittingly the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family on the Sunday after Christmas.  Already in the gospel for that day Jesus is a tween, a 12 year old who goes his own way instead of journeying home from Passover with his parents.  When Mary questions why he didn’t tell them where he was, Jesus expects they should have known he’d be about his Father’s business.

Mary gives us a model of a reflective disciple.  She is amazed at Jesus’ insight and wisdom; baffled by why he left their company; reproachful about the hurt and fear she experienced; and finally, willing to keep reflecting on what happened.

With what young people have you talked about how you live and practice your faith?

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Mary’s Yes

18 Dec

Mary and Gabriel

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” –Luke 1:26-38

What is Mary calling us to this Advent?

Here she is, engaged, anticipating a certain life. Thinking, maybe, that she had some control over where her story was heading. Then an angel came and spoke. She was open enough to hear. Her life changed instantly. Her role changed. Her path changed. She’d need to weather the possibility of being dismissed, disgraced as her belly grew. She did not, in fact, have control over her story.

Yet, she did have control over her response. “Here I am.”

I like to imagine this wasn’t an immediate response. She seems more relatable to me if I envision a period of serious turmoil, confusion, disappointment and fear. Maybe she grieved for the story she thought would be hers. Yet her response remains remarkable. She chooses to embrace the life that was given to her. She said yes to a role she was not anticipating or feeling ready for. She fell in love with her new path. She wanted the life that she got. Instead of clinging, she opened her palms to what was indeed out of her control.

This Advent, can we walk lightly enough to notice the angels among us? Can we admit that we are not in total control of our lives? Can we open our hands, our lives, and our hearts to unknown paths? Can we be brave enough to walk down the unexpected path? Can we, too, say, “Yes?”

A young pregnant girl in a backwater town encountered God in the unknown. Maybe we can join her in saying, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus.”

Gospel Reflection for December 20, 2015, 4th Sunday of Advent

15 Dec
Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Photo via Flickr user Lawrence OP

Sunday Readings: Micah 5.1-4; Hebrews 10.5-10; Luke 1.39-45

“Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child of your womb.'”

(Luke 1.41-42)

The encounter between Mary and her kinswoman Elizabeth is spiritually electric. Each woman has responded to God alone. As they meet, the Spirit arcs between them like sparks. At Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s baby leaps in her womb. Her words express ecstatic awe at the holy happening within their wombs. The new life that is good news for the world does not come from within the existing temple structure but in the wombs of two believing women. In Elizabeth’s time, new life is stirring among unlikely people — Gentiles, people who are poor, women, tax collectors. Perhaps now like then, people at the margins experience enough discomfort with things as they are to open their hearts to impossible, transcendent hopes.

What do you see coming to birth in younger women? What do you see coming to birth in older women? In yourself?

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Gospel Reflection for December 25, 2014, Christmas/Holy Family

23 Dec

Christmas-Tree

Christmas Readings: Isaiah 9.1-6; Titus 2.11-14; Luke 2.1-20

“The angel said, ‘You have nothing to fear.  I bring you good news, a great joy to be shared by the whole people.  For this day in David’s city a savior has been born to you, who is Christ the Lord.  Let this be a sign to you; you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’”  

Luke 2.10-12

Many people today may identify with how unusual Jesus’ family is. His mother is not married when he is conceived. His mother’s husband is not Jesus’ real dad. His mother is still a virgin, probably still a teenager. Mary and Joseph face all the challenges any child presents new parents, but Luke’s story also tells us their baby is extraordinary–the savior, the messiah, God’s Son.

These titles make claims about who Jesus is that eventually get him arrested and condemned to death. Angels announce Jesus’ identity to shepherds and give them and us a sign. The sign is the baby lying in a manger, a feed trough. Jesus’ first crib hints he will give his life to nourish ours. A manger is a place of low status, a place among animals and shepherds who live at the margins of society. The child is good news for the poor, joy to all of us, and safe with temporarily homeless parents making do.

Where might Jesus be born today to express God’s willingness to identify with all of us, especially the lowly and left out?

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Gospel Reflection for December 21, 2014, 4th Sunday of Advent

16 Dec

Sunday Readings: 2 Samuel 7.1-5, 8-12, 14-16; Romans 16.25-27; Luke 1.26-38

“The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city in Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph of the house of David. The girl’s name was Mary.”

Luke 1.26-27

In Mary, the Most High will overshadow and dwell in a human person, intensifying God’s presence among us. No longer will God only tent among Israel’s tents and dwell in a house among Israel’s homes, but God will become human incarnate, one of us and one with us. How can this be? This same God who created all that is will make the impossible come to be in Mary.

The becoming human will happen in Mary’s womb. She will feel the first stirrings of salvation within her own body. God’s Son will look like her. She will nurse and rock him after he is born.

How is Mary’s call like the call of every Christian?

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