Tag Archives: Sister Joan

Gospel Reflection for October 14, 2018, 28th Sunday Ordinary Time

9 Oct

Sunday Readings: Wisdom 7.7-11; Hebrews 4.12-13; Mark 10.17-27

“You need do only one thing more.”  – Mark 10.21

The young man in Sunday’s gospel wants to know what he can do to receive eternal life. Jesus names six of the ten commandments–no to killing, adultery, stealing, giving false witness, and cheating, and yes to honoring one’s parents. The young man claims he has kept the commandments since he was a child. This is when Jesus tells him, “You need do only one thing more.” So, what is it, the one thing more?

Jesus’ answers, “Sell your possessions and give the money to the poor.” This is the way to build treasure in heaven. What could be more opposite American wisdom, which tells us to invest in Wall Street expertise and let wealth managers build us a happy retirement? Wouldn’t doing as Jesus’ says literally make us one of the poor? In a moneyed society like ours, it is irresponsible not to take care of one’s self and family. Repeated advertisements say so.

What if Jesus is pointing out that we are all human beings together here on Earth? We are separate individuals but from day one we can’t live without care from others. We can’t thrive without solidarity with one another, without bonds among us. Not all of us get face cards in the hands life deals us.

Jesus is suggesting that our possessions may possess us rather than the well-being of family, neighbors, friends, employees, coworkers. As committed Christians we are brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ and one another and of those who need a living wage, who don’t speak English, who need food for their kids on the weekend, who need medication for chronic diseases, whose skin color scares us? The Second Vatican Council said a startling thing. We are not saved as individuals but through the bonds among us that form us into a people (Constitution on the Church 9). Jesus challenges us to build a community that love holds together.

What is “one thing more” you want to commit to do?


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Gospel Reflection for September 30, 2018, 26th Sunday Ordinary Time

29 Sep

Sunday Readings: Numbers 11.25-29; James 5.1-6; Mark 9.38-48

“Whoever is not against us is for us.”  – Mark 9.40

Often in our disgustingly polarized times, activists, liberal and conservative, reverse Jesus’ saying and eliminate the middle ground. They insist whoever is not for us is against us. Middle ground is liminal space, valuable to preserve for exploring what we have in common with others, what they have experienced, why they think the way they do. Middle ground is where real people replace stereotypes and liberate each other from the demons of prejudice and unexamined certainty. In the news the future of our democracy depends on finding common ground and common good, cups of water in Jesus’ name all around for all in need.

To what and to whom does the name Christian obligate us?


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Gospel Reflection for September 23, 2018, 25th Sunday Ordinary Time

21 Sep

Sunday Readings: Wisdom 2.12,17-20; James 3.16–4.3; Mark 9.30-37

“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and the servant of all.”  – Mark 9.32

Jesus’ disciples aren’t catching on to his words about the Son of Man being betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him and three days after being killed, he will rise again. We Christians 2,000 years later know how Jesus’ story turns out so count Jesus as having divine foreknowledge and the disciples missing the trending conflicts with other teachers. But Jesus doesn’t need divine foreknowledge to anticipate growing opposition as his reputation for care and healing spreads. Israel’s scriptures contain numerous examples of what happens to prophets who speak out for people who are poor and need care. The disciples have more banal topics to engage them; in this care, who is greatest? Whoever wants to be top must be the servant of all.  Perhaps this is a cure for clericalism.

So a servant leader must listen to all, must seek to understand where others come from, work for the good of all, their education and health, praise all specifically for the gifts they contribute to the enterprise, respect all, even his or her opponents or slackers, refuse special privileges.

What qualities make servant leader in your experience?


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Gospel Reflection for September 16, 2018, 24th Sunday Ordinary Time

13 Sep

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 50.5-9; James 2.14-18; Mark 8.27-35

Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.”  – Mark 8.29

Jesus finally calls the question in chapter 8, the midpoint of Mark’s gospel. In a miracle just before Jesus asks this question, he has to try twice to open the eyes of a blind man. At first the man can see only blurry shapes that look like trees. This two-stage miracle anticipates the disciples response when he asks, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers forthrightly, “You are the Messiah.”

Back to back with Peter’s declaration of faith in Jesus, Jesus teaches for the first time that the Son of Man will suffer, be put to death, and rise after three days. To this, Peter objects and takes Jesus aside to rebuke him. Instead Jesus rebukes Peter for setting his mind on human things. Peter’s vision is blurry at this point. Only Jesus’ death destroys Peter’s received ideas of a warrior messiah. Only Jesus’ resurrection transforms his disciples’ understanding. Mark’s gospel explores how faith in Jesus develops in his disciples and calls us to the same threshold of faith at the empty tomb.

What popular ideas of Jesus have you outgrown?


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Gospel Reflection for September 9, 2018, 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time

5 Sep

Gospel Reflection for September 9, 2018, 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time

Sunday Readings: Isaiah 35.4-7, James 2.1-5, Mark 7.31-37

“Ephphatha, Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Then Jesus order them to tell no one, but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.”  – Mark 7.34-36

Jesus pays profound attention to the man who is deaf in Sunday’s gospel. Jesus uses his senses. He listens to the man’s friends with his ears and hears the man’s story. Jesus sees the mans with his eyes and takes him aside. Jesus puts his fingers in the man’s ears and touches them. From his own mouth Jesus spits and touches the deaf man’s tongue. From his mother he speaks words of healing, “Be opened.”

This miracle story not only shows Jesus healing the man with divine power but attending to his with human hands and using human gifts in healing the man. Our ears like his can listen to human needs. Our eyes like his can see people on the margins. Our minds can imagine ways to draw people fully into the human family. What Jesus does with human hands reveals the love we can give with our hands.

When have words failed you? When have others silenced you? Who have you listened into speech?


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Gospel Reflection for September 2, 2018, 22nd Sunday Ordinary Time

30 Aug

Scripture Readings: Deuteronomy 4.1-2,6-8; James 1.17-18,21-22,27; Mark 7.1-8,14-15, 21-23

“You forsake the commandment of God and hold to human tradition…It is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come.” – Mark 7.8, 21

Rules tend to multiply, and traditions accumulate. The Pharisees in Sunday’s gospel question why Jesus’ disciples do not follow Jewish traditions about washing their hands. In response Jesus raises a vital question: Are these rules human made or God-given? Do these rules lead people to God? Or, do these rules create unnecessary burdens? Jesus defends as more essential the moral law that declares greed, arrogance, deceit, murder, and adultery unholy. Declaring that the dietary laws have outlived their usefulness sets Jesus apart from all the authorities in the temple and synagogue. Laws like those of the Pharisees and many of the customs of the pre-Vatican II Church create a fence that was meant to keep people from even thinking about real hurtful, evil, destructive sins. Sunday’s gospel asks us to evaluate whether our rules help us become holy, open our hearts, and keep us from arrogance and obtuse spirits.

What rule do you practice that keeps your heart open to God and neighbor?


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Gospel Reflection for August 26, 2018, 21st Sunday Ordinary Time

23 Aug

Sunday Readings: Joshua 24.1-2, 15-17, 18; Ephesians 5.21-32; john 6.60-69

“The words I have spoken are spirit and life. But there are some among you who do not believe,” Jesus says. Many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. Jesus said the the twelve: “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter said, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life? We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

In John’s gospel the multiplication of the loaves and fish sets off a long reflection on bread and wine as the signs of Jesus’ presence with us. Those who believe Jesus comes from God and is the living bread from heaven participate in this sacrament of his love. The reflection draws an increasingly sharp line between believers and unbelievers over the course of the 71 verses in the chapter. John wrote in the midst of contentious relationships between Jews who follow Jesus and those who follow others rabbis and eventually split into two great world religions.

Jesus does not offer ordinary bread and wine, but rather the transforming experience of entering into new life with him. Can we imagine ourselves standing in the company of the disciples trying to comprehend the mystery of this bread and wine and Jesus’ continuing presence in these signs of eating and drinking. “Do you want to leave?” Jesus asks. We live in the dynamic tension between that question and our new lives. We know how Peter answers. How do we answer?

How does participating in eucharist help transform your life?


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Gospel Reflection for August 18, 2018, 20th Sunday Ordinary Time

16 Aug

Scripture Readings: Proverbs 9.1-6; Ephesians 5.15-20; John 6.56-57

“Those who eat this bread and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. The one who eats this bread will live forever.” – John 6.58

Sometimes people speak of food and drinks as if they have a relationship. I just love peanuts. Or, I like pizza but it doesn’t like me. What if there really is a food that is a sign of a real relationship? Jesus makes bread a sign of himself and his self-giving actions, so eating the bread means having faith in him. Sharing the bread summons all who eat it  into relationship with all who believe, the whole body of Christ. It calls us into holy communion with one another. Eucharist is never solitary, me and Jesus. The bread is broken and shared; it is about solidarity.

How does joining in Eucharist give you life?


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Gospel Reflection for August 12, 2018, 19th Sunday Ordinary Time

9 Aug

Sunday Readings: 1 Kings 19. 4-8; Ephesians 4.30-5.2, John 6.41-51

“The Jews began to murmur about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven”  – John 6.41

Within the crowd following Jesus is a group whom the gospel writer calls “the Jews.” They murmur. They question how Jesus can be from heaven when they know his origins on earth. The conversation between Jesus and “the Jews” reflects the sharpening difference between the community of Christian Jews for whom John writes in the A.D. 90s and the Jews who follow other rabbis, faith to the law God gave Moses. Jesus and his followers are all Jews. The differences between between Jesus’ followers and other Jews develops after the temple is destroyed. Without temple worship to hold them together, the two groups grow into two separate world religions, Judaism and Christianity.

Jesus’ claims raise a question. Is God’s revelation only in the law of Moses and the God who supplied Israel quail and manna in the wilderness, or is God’s revelation in their midst in Jesus, the living bread?

None of the subgroups in the crowd respond well in John’s account of the loaves and fishes and what it points to about Jesus. Jesus’ disciples doubt their resources to feed 5,000. The crowd wants to make Jesus king like a pork-barrel hero but wants another sign of who he is the next day. Jesus’ claim to be the real bread of life from God is unbelievable to “the Jews.”

Where do you best fit — among the doubting disciples, the fair-weather crowd, or the Jews faithful to Moses’ law and the past?


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New Hedgerow Class!

8 Aug

Sister Joan is teaching a class at Wisdom Ways beginning September 17. Click here for more information.

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