Posts tagged: gospel

Jesus Loves His Friends

By , April 5, 2014 4:48 am

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April 6th, Fifth Sunday of Lent

Oh, today’s Gospel! This is one of my favorite texts in the entire bible whether you are talking about Old or New Testaments. Today’s Gospel excerpt is drawn from the 11th chapter of St. John’s Gospel and for me it is wonderfully meaningful. The whole thrust of this Gospel is John, communicating to the first generation of the life of the Church, his memory what Jesus revealed about himself.

Sometimes our Lord communicated with words and other times just extraordinary actions. Today I am making reference to what I consider a wonderful extraordinary aspect of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. That is the fact that he was a MAN.
Members of the Christian community always recognize that Jesus is God dealing with us through a human nature. We know that. We believe that. But can we get our arms around it? Can our limited brains really grasp the awesome reality that within this Jewish carpenter from Nazareth the Godhead dwelt?

Well, today’s text really helps us to go in that direction. You know the story so well. Jesus goes to visit his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus but on arriving, he is told that Lazarus died several days before. The text says that he was “troubled in spirit, moved by the deepest emotions” and then listen to this, he began to WEEP!

Did we all catch that? Jesus of Nazareth is weeping. This Divine Presence is torn by emotions, saddened and filled with a sense of loss. Can we really grasp that? I think the principle underlying the scene is that Lazarus was a friend of Jesus. Jesus liked him. Jesus was crushed on learning of Lazarus’ death. I like to transfer that concept to the rest of us. Yes, we are followers of Jesus, yes, we believe in him, but do we really see him as our friend? What a gift.

If we live a good life and if we do the things I just mentioned, we are his friends. Would your acquaintances be impressed if you were at a meeting and they announced that the president of the United States has called for you and has asked you to return the call? Would it seem important to you if it were only the governor or the mayor? My friends, if we are living a good life, we are the friends of Jesus. There is nothing better than that.

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Let the Lord Do It!

By , March 2, 2014 4:09 am

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March 2nd, Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s Gospel is drawn from that of the 6th chapter of Matthew and it presents us with a beautiful scene affecting God’s love for all of His creation. In the midst of that lovely scene, we are also challenged to have faith, to be detached and have boundless hope because of God’s love for us. But that is so cheerful and I think we have to start thinking about Lent, so I would like to flip to the second reading which presents us with a couple of tough lines from St. Paul’s occasionally blistering first letter to the Corinthians.

Paul challenges the Corinthians and tells them how he should be treated. “Men should regard us (St. Paul) as servants of Christ and administrators of the mysteries of God!” I believe that this is certainly true. That was Paul’s role at that time and in that place. However, I think such a strong stark statement is a reflection of the fact that there was real conflict within the Christian community in Corinth. That, of course, is the principal reason why Paul wrote the letter. He had started the community there and continued to provide oversight, but he really wanted to be treated with respect and have them treat each other in the same way.

He then repeats to his distant parishioners that he is the administrator of Christ’s work and that requires that he be trustworthy. He reminds them that they are not to judge him; that it is the Lord who will do the judging. Naturally, from that would flow the principle that they are not to be judging each other. Evidently, rash judgment was a frequent failure in the early Church and because we are still very human, that regrettable human weakness continues to pervade our lives and our communities.

Let’s try hard to remember that it is the Lord who will be doing the judging. He is certainly better at that than we are.

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What A Gift – What a Goal

By , February 15, 2014 5:02 am

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February 16th, Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

My readers may be getting tired of my many references to the fact that the Sunday readings are a catechetical process. Think of it. All the Catholics of the world who are attending Mass on Sunday are sitting in the same Scripture class and the teacher is no one other than the Holy Spirit.

Each Sunday, the three readings or excerpts from the sacred texts form a collage with a special message. Sometimes the message is very clear. Sometimes you really have to reach for it. Today, the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, is very clear but I must admit that you do have to reach for it.

The class carries us back to Sirach, two centuries before the birth of Jesus, and Sirach tells us that we need to live our lives according to God’s wisdom. In other words, we must make judgments that will keep us on life’s right path and protect ourselves from disaster.

St. Paul picks up the same theme while writing to the Church in Corinth and he talks in a very interesting way that God’s wisdom is “mysterious, a hidden wisdom.” However, if we live by God’s wisdom, we will have a marvelous reward because Paul reminds us that “eye has not seen nor ear heard….what God has prepared for those who love Him.” Sit and think that over quietly. Wow! How wonderful!

Matthew’s Gospel ties in as usual with the first reading and is all about good judgment – how we ought to live with each other fairly, generously and in keeping with the Commandments.

The message of today’s liturgy all ties together that we must use the two great gifts that God has given us – our intellect giving us the power to use our will, our decision making capability. All sin is is the deliberate misuse of those two awesome gifts. We must direct our mind towards God and with our will choose those things which draw us to God.

Onward towards the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time.

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An Easy Assignment

By , December 24, 2013 4:32 am

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I am always appreciative of those who take the time in their busy day to give a glance at my blog. Since people only do this of their own volition, I am in no position to hand out reading assignments but today I am going to do it and hope for the best.

Tomorrow is Christmas.

You will hear your reading assignment when you go to Christmas Mass, but I am going to ask you to do something that is very simple, very meaningful and for me at least, very helpful.
Would you turn to Luke’s second chapter and sitting quietly read these words out loud and rather slo-o-o-wly and endeavor to vicariously experience each sentence.

Now it happened that at this time Caesar Augustus a decree a census should be made of the whole inhabited world.
This census– the first — took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.
So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee for Judaea, to David’s town called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s House and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
Now it happened that, while they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the place where travelers lodged.
In the countryside close by there were shepherds out in the fields keeping guard over their sheep during the watches of the night.

An angel of the Lord stood over them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’

And all at once with the angel there was a great throng of the hosts of heaven, praising God with the words:
Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace for those he favors. (Luke 2:1-14)

Have a blessed Christmas!

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Why the Apostles Were Confused

By , November 16, 2013 5:07 am


23rd Sunday, November 17th
From time to time I try to encourage readers of the bible that it contains many different forms of literature. Some is history, some is biography, some is poetry, etc., etc. If one is to really get the maximum meaning from a sacred text, the reader should always be clearly conscious of what literary form is being presented by the sacred author.

Of course, there is also the fact that the various segments of the bible are written over centuries and they do not tie together like a neat modern novel that begins at the beginning and ends at the end.

Today’s texts are a good example of the importance of understanding context. In the Gospel, we have our Divine Lord looking into the future and warning the apostles that tough times are coming and if they are to be faithful to him, they must be brave and courageous. He describes the end of the world and the final Judgment and it is an awesome scene of violence and destruction. The fact is that there are two points of termination in our story. The first is our own individual death when we report in as to how we have used the life that has been given. The second, of course, is the termination of history as God’s plans for the human story will have been fulfilled. What a scene.

St. Paul would know about this prophecy from Jesus but he keeps his feet on the ground, uses horse sense and cautions his followers that while they realize the end is coming, they still have to get by in a practical day to day manner. Paul was faced with the fact that many members of the early church decided that they could just sit back and wait for Judgment Day. Paul says, “No you can’t!” He says, “Imitate me! We did not live lives of disorder when we were among you nor depend on any one for food. Rather we work day and night laboring to the point of exhaustion. Indeed when I was with you I laid down the rule that anyone who would not work neither let him eat.”

Two thousand years have passed. The end of the world does not seem to have arrived but Paul’s principle is still very valid. We have to make every effort to provide for ourselves.

Since Paul was constantly taking up collections for his poor Christians, however, he also clearly understood that while our first obligation is to provide for ourselves and our families, we have a secondary obligation to provide for the poor, the sick, the elderly and helpless children.

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Time Is Running Out

By , October 19, 2013 5:58 am


October 20th, 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Well, we are gradually bringing the Church year to a close. Do you remember when it started back on December 7th as the First Sunday of Advent? We will end it on the week of November 24th when we celebrate the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ is king of the universe. The excerpts for today are excellent aids in sharpening our thought processes, encouraging us to be conscious that not only is the liturgical end approaching but the end of our own individual lives are approaching as well. However, for believers in Jesus Christ this is not a sad thought.

The Responsorial Psalm encourages us to, like the psalmist, look up towards heaven. “I lift my eyes towards the mountains from whence help to me shall come.” The text encourages us to be clearly conscious of the fact that God is close to us. Think about that sentence. God is close to us. Are you driving a car? Are you sitting comfortably in your living room? Regardless of where you are the Infinite God who created all existence surrounded us, embraces us and loves us. What a wonderfully encouraging thought.

Nor or we without advice and directions. In today’s second reading, Paul is writing to his young assistant, Timothy. He reminds him that, “From your infancy you have known the sacred scriptures, the source of wisdom which comes through faith in Jesus Christ and leads to salvation.” Here we need to give ourselves a little sharp criticism. Very few of us utilize the sacred scriptures as much as we should even though we recognize, like St. Paul, that, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, reproof and correction and training in holiness.”

I find sadness in the fact that we know our lives are limited, we know that God is with us and around us and loves us, we know that we have extraordinary messages directly from him and yet we are careless in their use. We should make a commitment to really try to learn more about God’s word, to read it carefully and make it apply to our lives in concrete situations.

Finally, in this closing part of the Church year, the Church urges us to pray constantly, to let our minds and hearts be aware of God’s presence around us, his love for us and to respond in like manner. Once again, the problem of finding ourselves distracted. It seems that prayer comes easier to us when we really want something badly. To just simply pray in adoration to God, to recognize his infinite presence, power and love, it is not all that easy.

The liturgical year rambles on and we must travel on with it.

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Just Keep On Walking

By , October 14, 2013 5:50 am

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On Saturday, I got involved in geography and history. Now let’s go to the main point of Sunday’s Gospel which came from St. Luke. Luke describes Jesus, as he does so many times, continuing on his way to Jerusalem. All of St Luke’s Gospel is in many ways a journey to Jerusalem which really means a journey to Calvary, death, resurrection and redemption.
One of the events is the crowd of ten very sick men. They have leprosy, a disease that rots the skin. They have heard about the power that Jesus has manifested and as a group they pray for healing. Our Lord tells them to go and present themselves to the priests in the temple. In so doing, they are cured.

My guess is that most of the nine were thrilled at what had happened and went straight home to tell their wives but one man runs and catches up with Jesus. He falls flat on his face in adoration. Our Lord asks a question that could be directed to each one of us. Do we appreciate what God has done for us? Do we manifest that appreciation? Do we allow the goodness of God to pass through us into the lives of others? Are we like that Good Samaritan or the ungrateful nine? That sounds like the name of a bad musical band.

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Knowing Geography Can Help Us Understand Scripture

By , October 12, 2013 5:48 am

October 13th, 28th Sunday of the Church Year

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Today’s Gospel is a very important one but as I was thinking it over in my mind before starting this blog I was distracted by some of the geography that was involved. The opening line of the excerpt tells us that Jesus passed along between the borders of Samaria and Galilee. We would also understand what we are reading in the scriptural text if we actually understand the history, geography and economics that were involved at that time. Naturally, not everybody can do this for every text but let’s take a look at this little excerpt which is so important because it is a reflection of the power and sensitivity of our Divine Lord.

Samaria and Galilee? To get a picture of the land in which Jesus lived, try and visualize three panes of a window, each one above the other. That bottom pane is Judea and Jerusalem. It is very mountainous. The upper pane is Galilee and the Sea of Galilee is in the middle. Both Judea and Galilee are overwhelmingly Jewish but that middle pane is Samaria and Samaria is in some ways a problem. They have strong Jewish roots but at the time of Jesus had overwhelmingly separated themselves from Judaism. So when our Lord goes back and forth from Nazareth to Jerusalem he actually passes 30 or 40 miles through a foreign country. Needless to say, all three areas are controlled by the Roman Empire so none of these people are in real control of their own territory.

Given these facts, I find it interesting and even delightful that the Samaritans keep popping up in one story after another. Think for a minute and you can remember several of them. In today’s Gospel, it is the Samaritan who returns to give thanks. When the man is beaten by robbers it is a Samaritan who rendered aid. When Jesus talked to the mysterious woman at the well she was a Samaritan and she in turn brought faith in Jesus to the Samaritans living in the village.

Sometimes when our Lord wanted to make a point he would use the image of a Samaritan, an outsider, one not really liked, to convey to his listeners that not everything is actually the way it seems. Goodness can come from unexpected places. The source of a new generous experience may be a surprise to you so don’t be confused. The Samaritans are frequently the star performers in these parables.

Well, I wanted to talk about gratitude. That will have to wait until tomorrow. Be grateful that this one is not too long.

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Pope Francis

By , October 3, 2013 5:57 am

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Last month Pope Francis made extraordinary news around the world. He had given an in-depth interview to Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor in chief of La Civiltá Cattolica. It was wonderful. The pope unveiled his beautiful and gentle pastoral views on how the Church should nurture its people. He stressed that the Universal Church must be open to change and have the courage to embrace it knowing that it is guided by the Holy Spirit.

I think for the next week or two I am going to be lifting part of it to share with my readers. This document has provided a wonderful infusion of hope to the millions of us who have been frustrated by the slow but steady pulling back from the Second Vatican Council. Let me start with just one comment from Francis. He is discussing the constant need for change and adaptation in the Church.

“This then is the Kingdom of God that Jesus preached. It is renewal, true renewal and this renewal begins first of all in our hearts. The newness of the Gospel is a newness in the law itself which is inherit in the history of salvation. It is a newness that goes beyond us and renews the structures. That is why Jesus said, “New wine needs new skins.” Even in the life of the Church there are ancient structures. IT IS NECESSARY TO RENEW THEM. The Church has always been attentive to that through dialogue and cultures. Always renew according to places, times and peoples.”

Life in the Church always has the potential for excitement and challenge. Those of us who are living today are going to get our share of it.

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Help the Rich Man?

By , September 28, 2013 5:25 am

Photo by Gustave Doré

September 29th, 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
At last the summer is coming to an end and we are still traveling. We are walking with Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem and death. The days may be cooler now but the message from God that comes to us through the Church is continuing the tough challenge of last week. We are to live just lives. It is the gifts that we receive and one that is fair, generous and loving. Good old Amos thunders, “Woe to the complacent in Zion lying upon beds of ivory, stretched comfortably on their couches. They eat lambs taken from the flock and calves from the stall but they are not faithful!” Amos warns them that these luxury loving idolaters will be the first to go into exile and their happy times will be over.

The scene in the Gospel contains the same theme but more directly Jesus describes a rich man who has fantastic wealth and ignores the needs of the poor. While the rich man is nameless, the poor man is given that dignity by our Lord himself. His name is Lazarus. He is very sick. He has leprosy but he is destitute and from afar he sees the inordinate luxury of the rich man.

Oops! Suddenly the scene changes. Lazarus is dead and the rich man is gone as well but he is in a difficult place and suffering for his selfishness, for his greed, for his indifference to the needs of the poor. The rich man cries out for help from father Abraham. When the wealthy man finds out that there is no crossing over into the better world of Lazarus he shows his good side and begs that Abraham would send a message to his father’s house and warn his five brothers so that they wouldn’t make the same mistakes that the rich man made. Then he is turned down and Abraham reminds the rich man and all of us that while we are struggling here on earth it is very important that we live good lives because evil and sinfulness cannot be undone in the next life. It has to be done here.

Let’s all listen to the voice of Abraham.

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