Tag Archives: reflection

Gospel Reflection for November 19, 2017, 33rd Sunday Ordinary Time

15 Nov

Scripture Readings: Proverbs 31.1-13, 19-20, 30-31; 1 Thessalonians 5.1-6; Matthew 25.14-30

“The servant who received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and buried the master’s money.” – Matthew 25.19

The master in the parable of the talents puts servants in charge of huge amounts of money. A worker in Jesus’ time earned one denarius for a day’s work, so a laborer who worked six days a week earned 340 denarii a year. One talent equals a worker’s earnings for17 years. The master is not giving the servants a pittance to test their trustworthiness. They have received a windfall. The priceless windfall each of us has received is life itself. Our ancestors have invested themselves in relationships and efforts that bring us to be. Jesus invested his life in the human race, identifying with us totally unto death, opening to us all we can become in God. How do we use their extravagant down payments on ourselves? Sunday’s parable calls us to multiply the gifts entrusted to us.

If you were one of the 2,043 on Forbes Billionaires List 2017, how would you invest for the good of the whole? What is one of the most valuable ways you have invested your life energies? 

Gospel Reflection for November 5, 2017, 31st Sunday Ordinary Time

31 Oct

Sunday Readings: Malachi 1.14; 2.2, 8-10; Thessalonians 2.7-9.3; Matthew 23.1-12

“The greatest among you will be the one who serves the rest.” – Matthew 23.11

Perhaps some people in the early Christian communities claim more importance than others. When Matthew writes more than 50 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Christians may be living the early ideals of sharing goods and extending hospitality in mutual love with less fervor. Perhaps roles are creating rank in the household of Christ. The message in Sunday’s gospel strongly warns against being self-inflated rather than humble. It challenges us to learn from Jesus’ example and serve one another.

Today the Church has evolved as an institution with roles, robes, and ranks. Our model remains Jesus Christ, who identifies with the least and washes his friends’ feet before the last suppers as a servant. Jesus calls us to service, not station and status.

What has sustained you in the practice of serving others? What has deterred you?


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Gospel Reflection for October 29, 2017, 30th Sunday Ordinary time

25 Oct

Scripture Readings: Exodus 22.20-26; 1 Thessalonians 1.5-10; Matthew 22.34-40

“Teacher, which commandment of the law is greatest?”  – Matthew 22.36

Love God and neighbor without distinction. This is the distilled version of the mission of the  Sisters of St. Joseph, the religious community to which I belong. The mission calls us to act—to love and form relationships. It makes love of God inseparable from loving people in our lives—indistinguishable. The words “without distinction” also call us to reach out to people without sorting who we like best or who is worthy but with openness. All are welcome: immigrants, GBLTQ, people in poverty and in wealth, in sickness and in vigor.

Our mission originated in 17th-century France, where 90% of the people lived in poverty and famine and plague devastated the country. A Jesuit priest, Jean Pierre Medaille, worked with a small group of women who experienced God “seizing” them to respond to their neighbors’ needs. They divided the city and began doing all of which they were capable for and with their neighbors.

Actually our mission originates far earlier.  It is Jesus’ answer to the lawyer’s question in Sunday’s gospel, “What is the greatest commandment?” What is basic is the verb love, a call into relationships and community. In answer, Jesus quotes two commandments long on Israel’s books: Deuteronomy 6.5 and Leviticus 19.18. Seldom have people in our country and our world needed to live these commandments more than now, to make love of neighbor our firm foundation across all that divides us.

Who have you seen exploited? For whom are you feeling compassion? To what work of justice do these experiences call you?


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Gospel Reflection for October 22, 2017, 29th Sunday Ordinary Time

17 Oct

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 45.1,4-6; 1 Thessalonians 1.1-5; Matthew 22.15-21
 
“Whose image is on the coin and whose inscription?” – Matthew 22.20

In Sunday’s gospel Jesus confronts a worldview about who images God. Jesus insists that we cannot keep separate our obligations to God and those to government. God blesses and calls us to integrate the spheres of our lives and image the One who made us. Being made in God’s image and likeness calls the Christian to act as God acts with compassion and forgiveness for everyone.

Christians image God by helping people who are poor, caring for the abused and sick, visiting the imprisoned, grieving with those who mourn, listening to those in pain. We give to God our very selves through our goodness to

How do you participate in work for the common good?


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Gospel Reflection for October 15, 2017, 28th Sunday Ordinary Time

12 Oct

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 25.6-10; Philippians 4.12-14,19-20; Matthew 22.1-10


“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.  He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the banquet, but they would not come.  Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” – Matthew 22.2-4


The meal Jesus describes in Sunday’s parable is no ordinary dinner but the messiah’s wedding feast. The royal wedding setting is unique to Matthew’s way of telling the parable. Matthew adds other details to the parable that give the story double meaning. In this way he creates an allegory in which characters and action in the parable parallel events his own time in the A.D. 80s. The king’s fury at guests who refuse his invitation seems overkill until a reader realizes Matthew is connecting the parable with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the event that effectively ends Israel’s ancient temple-centered religion.  Matthew’s interpretation shows the danger of allegory; it fixes the meaning and  perpetuates an ancient conflict that led to genocide in the Holocaust.

The parable speaks more to us today without the allegory; it asks what we do with our excess and who we invite to our tables. Abundant food is one of the most fundamental blessings in our lives. The parable is very different in Luke’s telling (Luke 14.15-24). When people refuse to come to a great dinner in Luke’s version, the host invites in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.

How do you think the kingdom of heaven will be like a lavish dinner?


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Gospel Reflection for October 8, 2017, 27th Sunday Ordinary Time

6 Oct

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 5.1-7; Philippians 4.6-9; Matthew 21.33-43
 
“The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will yield a rich harvest.” – Matthew 21.43

Economically in Jesus’ time, 95% of the people were poor peasants who worked hard to survive. Roman soldiers from the occupying army often received land as payment for their military service and kept peasants as tenants to cultivate and tend their vineyards. Poor overtaxed peasants might have reason to resent and resist giving a Roman owner a share in the harvest. But the parable has no hint of this political motive.

The tenants simply want the whole harvest and the vineyard for themselves. Toward this end they kill the tenants and the owner’s son. The parable has an allegory that closely parallels Jesus’ life. In the allegory or double meaning God is the owner of the vineyard and Jesus the son.

In this parable Jesus is trying to reform his own religion. Jesus wants temple leaders to take responsibility for the poor, blind, and lame people who flocked into the temple after he cleansed it. Similarly Pope Francis connects repairing Earth with sustaining people who live in poverty.

With whom in the parable do you sympathize?


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Gospel Reflection for October 1, 2017, 26th Sunday Ordinary Time

28 Sep

Scripture readings: Ezekiel 18.25-28; Philippians 2.1-11; Matthew 21.28-32

Jesus told this parable. A man had two sons. He said to the first, “Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.” “No, I will not,” the first son said. But afterwards the son regretted it and went. The father asked the second son to do the same. “Yes, sir,” the second son said but did not go. “Which of the two did the father’s will?” asks Jesus.

Only Matthew’s gospel tells us that after Jesus cleanses the temple, the blind and lame come to him there, and he heals them.  Those he heals proclaim, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” hailing Jesus as messiah just as the people who welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem did.  The welcome, the temple cleansing, the healing, and acclaim anger the officials, the chief priests, scribes, and elders who witness these things.  In this volatile situation Jesus tells the parable of the father with two sons, Sunday’s gospel.

Jesus wants the temple leaders to change and do God’s work among the people as he does. Jesus invites disciples of every time and place to work in God’s world for compassionate relationships among people and with our planet home. Share bread with the hungry. If a neighbor asks for your coat, give your shirt as well. Do not put off until tomorrow the good you can do today.  Provide health care; it’s a human right. Help those who have become suddenly last and least through hurricanes and earthquakes.

What gospel duty do you carry out most? Avoid most?


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Gospel Reflection for September 24, 2017, 25th Sunday Ordinary Time

20 Sep

Photo via Flickr user Mat79

Scripture Readings: Isaiah 55.6-9; Philippians 1.20-24,27; Matthew 20.1-16

“So the last will be first and the first will be last.” – Matthew 20.16

The vineyard owner in Sunday’s gospel has a unique pay scale. The owner pays the full-day wage to those who find work only at the last hour. Some will perhaps count these workers as the laziest and resent that they receive the day’s wage the need to feed their families. In effect, this owner shows a preferential option for the least, for the people most in need. This is a basic principle of liberation theology.

The householder’s largesse invites us to ponder who this employer really is. As an image of God, the householder is not transcendent and distant but repeatedly seeks out workers in the market place and cares enough about their well-being to pay the living wage. We workers all stand in the same relationship to God, who owns the vineyard of all creation, resources for all to live.

When have you received more than you deserve? How like the vineyard owner is your God?  


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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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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?

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