Tag Archives: religion


15 Jan
Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

Photo via Flickr user Waiting For The Word

The characters in Jesus’ story who have captured my imagination this week are the wise men, or magi, or kings. We think if these men as learned and wealthy, that with their titles and expensive gifts. They are not the type of folks we typically imagine packing up their things at the sight of a star to head off to the unknown hoping to meet a new king. Yet this is exactly what they do.

These men were clearly waiting for a Messiah and hoping he would come soon. Their hope and excitement urged them to take a chance on this particular star.

What was it about this star they saw that convinced them to pack up and take a quest? Are they foolish or brilliant? Did other men scoff at them, sighting reason and logic that so often override our wonder and awe?

We so often make the mistake of replacing wonder with knowledge. We pit science and religion against each other. We see God getting smaller instead of bigger as we learn more about the universe. Yet we are living in an exciting age where science is re-embracing wonder. We are curious about multiple universes and admitting the more we know the more we realize we don’t know. We are embracing wonder as the beginning of wisdom.

I think these men have something to teach me. They are inviting me back to a place of wonder where I can encounter God. Their journey to pay tribute to this baby shows humility, wonder, openness, and hope that I want to embody in my faith life. They show the lengths they are willing to travel, literally, to encounter God. In addition to keeping their noses in their books, they also turn their faces to the sky, recognizing that faith requires both our intellect and our wonder, our ideas and our willingness to be in authentic relationship. They understand that part of worshipping God entails taking risks and venturing into the unknown. They know they are on a sacred journey and remind me that I am, too.


Gospel Reflection for October 6, 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

30 Sep

Jesus told the apostles, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, 1Be uprooted and planted in the sea,1 and it would obey you.”

Luke 17.6

Jesus’ saying about faith insists that faith can command a sycamore to be uprooted from the ground and replanted in the sea.  Why transplant a tree in the sea?  The exaggeration makes the point―faith can do the impossible, the unimaginable.  “Faith can move mountains” is such a familiar saying we don’t notice the exaggeration.

Jesus’ saying makes a little fun of the wonder we often want our faith to do.  We may not want to uproot trees or transplant them where they won’t grow.  But we do want to uproot every danger from the paths of those we love, heal their every ill, transplant every pain, move seemingly immovable biases out of their way.

What experiences have you had of faith moving mountains or uprooting deeply rooted wrongs?

 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.

Gospel Reflection for August 18, 2013, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

14 Aug

Jesus said, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”

Luke 12.49

The fire Jesus wishes were already kindled points to this challenge of Jews and Gentiles in Christ working together to reconcile divisions. Fire is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Early in Luke’s gospel John the Baptist connects fire, Spirit, and baptism when he anticipates one more powerful than he who “will baptize not with water but with the Holy spirit and fire” (Luke 3.16).

How do you work to reconcile divisions in our communities of faith today?

 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.

Gospel Reflection for August 11, 2013, 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

5 Aug

Jesus said, “From those to whom much has been given, much will be required; from those to whom much is committed, how much greater the demand!”

Luke 12.48

Luke admonishes those who are leaders in the Christian community, those who have been entrusted with the care of “the little ones.”  Their faith is to be sturdy and their patience unwavering patience as the community awaits Jesus coming again in glory.  It is those who encourage the faithful not to lose heart, not to become consumed with the dalliances of daily life, not to “eat, drink, and get drunk.”  The task of remaining awake and alert belongs to every Christian, but to the leaders belongs the ministry of keeping us together in hope.

Think about a time of having to reassess your Christian hopes.

 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.

Gospel Reflection for August 4, 2013, 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

29 Jul

Jesus said, “Take care.  Avoid greed in all its forms.  For one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

Luke 12.15

In his gospel Luke urges us to see ourselves within a web of social relations, to stand in solidarity with those in need rather than alone like the rich fool.  Like God, wise believers hear the cry of the poor and do their parts to empower those left behind or left out to participate in our common economic life. “To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity,” writes Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical, Caritas in Veritate.  “The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbours, the more effectively we love them”(7).

What wealth do you share with ease?  What do you tend to protect?

 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.

Gospel Reflection for Lent: How does the Holy Spirit work in our world?

18 Feb

In the gospel for the 1st Sunday of Lent the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness, where he duels with the devil.  The Spirit fills Mary, Elizabeth, Zachariah, and Simeon before descending upon Jesus at his baptism and leading him into the desert.  All these activities culminate in Jesus’ first preaching, his inaugural address in his hometown synagogue.  He reads from the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and has anointed me to bring glad tiding to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year of God’s favor” (4.18-19).  Jesus rolls up the scroll, sits down, and with all eyes on him, develops his first sermon—9 words in English, under 50 letters, perfect for Twitter:  “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  I am that Spirit-filled prophet.

The Holy Spirit anoints Jesus to stir up a year of favor, the jubilee year the Old Testament Book of Leviticus requires every 50 year to give the poor a fresh start, to prevent a permanent underclass.

Makes me wonder what the Holy Spirit is stirring up in our time.  Pope Benedict has done something new is resigning, an act of humility.  He’s done what he can with the strength he has.  Benedict set in motion a Year of Faith that celebrates the 50th anniversary of Vatican II.  Fifty, hum, could it be time for a jubilee year in the Church, a new beginning?  By my lights we profoundly need a Spirit-filled leader who can reengage the Church with the needs of the times and find God coming from the future and not only the past.

Once on a two-hour car ride with my youngest sister and her youngest daughter, we shared our answers to the questions: What two people have most influenced you in your life?  My two were both wise, learned women older than me.  My sister’s two were her children.  Her answer stunned me.  I hadn’t thought about learning from younger people.  As a nun I don’t have children to learn from, and of course, neither do the cardinals who will gather on March 15 to elect a new pope.  Will they elect a leader like their predecessors who appointed them?

How does the Holy Spirit work in our world?  Richard Gaillardetz maintains that one of the most important acts of the Second Vatican Council happened in the first 15 minutes when the bishops voted to recess rather than accept the list of bishops the Curia proposed for membership on the commissions preparing council documents.  The bishops gathered, met one another in language groups, and learned about each others’ abilities.  A greater diversity of members on the commissions resulted.  Diversity opened the doors to the Spirit.  So did, celebrating Eucharist during the Council in various rites, the Byzantine, Syriac, Melekite.  The bishops experienced a bigger church than most knew.

Already in 1963, some bishops noticed the Council included Protestant observers but no Catholic women.  Cardinal Suenens led the rally to include women.  Carmel McEnroe tells about the 23 women who attended Vatican II as auditors in the book Guests in Their Own House. The woman were heads of international organizations of lay people and heads of religious orders, except for one married woman, who with her husband were the head couple in Mexico of the Christian Family Movement.  They had 12 children.  She had a big job representing married Catholics.  The 23 women contributed most to the commission that preparing the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes. the document closest to the Spirit-filled mission that Jesus announces in his inaugural message, the document that calls Catholics into solidarity with those in our world poor and afflicted.  It is the fullest statement of Catholic social teaching and human rights.  Here is a paragraph the women succeeded in getting into the document.

“With respect to the fundamental rights of the person, every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language, or religion is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God’s intent (GS29).

Now is a crucial time for we the People of God, the whole People of God, the Baptized, male and female, clergy and laity to participate fully, actively, consciously in our life as Church.  Now is a time to pray for sure.  Now is also a time to let the Spirit of God do something new in all of us.  Benedict started to twitter online.  Maybe we can create access to the cardinals online.  We can give voice to the needs of the poor, the need for women to become fully equal in the Church, the need to welcome and connect with alienated Catholic.  Let the whole Church find ways to text and tweet, blog, and send cards and emails, dialogue with our neighbors, and be part of the election.  Visit Futurechurch.org.

I heard Father Geoffrey Diekmann speak on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Vatican II.  Someone raised a hand and asked him why there were no women scripture scholars on the committee that created the new lectionary.  “We never thought of it then,” he said.  What about now?

As we begin Lent, Jesus challenges us to live God’s word as he does.  May the Holy Spirit lead us as well as the Irish say to speak the truth and shame the devil.

Peace Be with You

20 Apr

via Peace Be with You. by Claire Bischoff

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 24:35-48), Jesus utters a seemingly simple greeting upon appearing to his disciples after his resurrection: “Peace be with you.” It is the same salutation we offer to others sitting around us at mass each week for the kiss of peace. Saying “peace be with you” has become such a habit for many of us that we may have stopped thinking about what Jesus has wished for us and what we wish for others. Peace.

My guess is that many of us consider ourselves to be peaceful people and to have peace in our lives. I have never had to suffer through war waged on the soil of my country. I have never used physical violence against anyone or had it used against me. I even feel guilty if I accidentally hit a squirrel while driving, and I always try to take bugs trapped inside my home outdoors instead of squishing the life out of them. Yet the type of peace I allude to here is what some have called “negative peace,” that is, peace that is simply the absence of violence. Of course, negative peace is much better than violence or oppression and as such is an important baseline measurement of peace. But I believe when Jesus says, “Peace be with you,” he is calling us to live into a peace that goes beyond this baseline understanding, a type of peace that can be called positive peace.

Positive peace is a lot more difficult to identify and achieve than negative peace. In fact, given the reality of sin in the world, positive peace is more of a journey than as a destination. Positive peace encompasses positive content and is something we can strive for across the full range of relationships in which we find ourselves: relationship to self; relationship to other individuals; relationships within groups of people, communities, societies; and relationships with the planet on which we live and the other living things that also call this planet home. What might positive peace entail in each of these relationships?

Relationship to self: Peace in relationship to the self involves being kind to yourself; not being overly critical of yourself when you make mistakes; and accepting and respecting who you are, your body, your personality, your spirit. Living in peace with yourself means respecting and treating your body as a temple of God–eating well, exercising, and resting. It involves seeking help for physical, emotional, intellectual, or any other kind of problem you may be struggling with.

Relationship to other individuals: Peace in relationship to others involves actively seeking ways to be kind to others, including offering help if you notice someone needs it. It involves accepting and respecting other people for who they are. It also means working to restore relationships when relationships are challenged by disagreements or misunderstandings.

Relationship to society: Peace in the larger society involves working to help create social systems that serve the needs of everyone, especially the needs of the poor and oppressed. As the bumper sticker says, “If you want peace, work for justice.” (Before this was a bumper sticker, it was the title of Pope Paul VI’s address on Peace Day in 1972.) It also means finding constructive ways to deal with conflicts—be they religious, political, etc. In other words, peace does not mean there is never any conflict. It means that “people are interacting non-violently and are managing their conflict positively—with respectful attention to the legitimate needs and interest of all concerned.” (Quotation from Irenees.net, a website of resources for peace)

Relationship with Earth: This relationship is especially appropriate to reflect on this Earth Day 2012. Human beings have not always treated the earth and the other living things on this planet with the respect due them as part of God’s good creation. Restoring peace in our relationship to the Earth means finding little things we can do every day to lessen our carbon footprint—walk, bike and carpool more; go meatless one or more day a week; and reduce purchasing and purchase products with as little waste in packaging as possible. It also means getting involved in larger projects—like the high school students in this week’s Spirit who started a recycling program at their high school—and advocating for governmental policies that protect the environment.

Go through the four areas of relationship listed above. How can you work for more positive peace in each of these areas in your own life? What is one thing you can do for more peace to be with you this week?

Photo courtesy of  Inspire Kelly (Vita Bella) via Creative  Commons License
%d bloggers like this: