See and Believe

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

March 29, 2020 – Fifth Sunday of Lent - John 11:1-45

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
Download this simple process to Prepare for Sunday using the Observe, Judge, Act Method.

Although I live in a quiet corner of the Unites States, we enjoy regular train service. The Empire Builder is one of Amtrak’s remaining great passenger trains and each day it visits our town, once in the morning heading east and once each evening traveling west. It’s not always on time. In fact, when it is, locals notice.

In today’s gospel we are reminded of one of the greatest miracles of Jesus, his bringing his close friend Lazarus back to life after he had been entombed four days. Jesus was criticized because it was thought that if he had come earlier, he could have prevented the death of his friend. Maybe he could have, but he chose not to. Jesus was following his own timetable. In his view he was right “on time.”

Of course, the death of Lazarus saddened Jesus. He even wept as he approached the sealed tomb, a clear reminder of his humanness. But now it was time for Jesus to get to work. Later in John’s Gospel he will say that he is the way, the truth and the life. He is the Lord of life. He came to us on Earth so that we might have life in abundance. Thus, he would call Lazarus forth from the tomb. And in the presence of many, Lazarus came out. There is no record of the crowd’s response, or that of his sisters, Martha and Mary. Fittingly, the gospel today ends with the note than because of this miracle, many began to believe in Jesus. If we were there, we would likely do the same.

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See the Miracles

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

March 22, 2020 – Fourth Sunday of Lent - John 9:1-41

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
Download this simple process to Prepare for Sunday using the Observe, Judge, Act Method.

Today we hear again a familiar biblical story. A man was born blind. People wondered why this had happened. The narrowness of the time suggested that blindness, and other misfortunes, were caused by evil and sin. Bod things happened to bad people. At least, that was the general opinion.

In the gospels there are more than one cure of blindness, although the one read for this Sunday is the most striking because of its details. First, there’s the contrast. A man who never saw anything during his whole life suddenly can see. Next, there is the way Jesus performed it. He covered the man’s eyes with clay that he had moistened with his own spit. Then the man was directed to wash his eyes in a nearby pool. Suddenly he can see for the first time in his life. We are not told what he looked at, but that’s another interesting feature of the story. It makes us wonder what it would have been like for us if we had been blind and then we could see. What would be our reaction? More about that later.

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Love Ever-Flowing

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

March 15, 2020 – Third Sunday of Lent - John 4:5-42

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
Download this simple process to Prepare for Sunday using the Observe, Judge, Act Method.

What would you rather have? A thousand-dollar bill or a bank account that gave you money whenever you needed it? This is the kind of question that is suggested by today’s gospel, certainly one of the most unforgettable narratives in all of Holy Scripture. Commonly called “the woman at the well,” most know the main points of this part of John’s Gospel.

I want to focus on that part of the gospel where Jesus and the woman have a discussion about the need for water. They meet at a famous well -- it’s the same well where Jacob, an important Jewish figure in history hundreds of years previous, shared water from this well with Rachel, the daughter of his kinsmen. In that part of the world, with scarce rainfall, wells were needed for survival. They were also social gathering places, a bit like pubs in England and Ireland.

Without going into the wonderful details of this story, I will focus on the meaning of water as it was described by Jesus. It’s the way he will provide water to those who are thirsty. An important prop in the story is a bucket. She brought hers from her home and Jesus had none. He offers to supply her with water from the well, but she responds that he can’t do that because he happens to be without a bucket. This leads to his describing the water of life that he can offer her. He calls it “living water,” which will actually be “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

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Remember the Vision

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

March 8, 2020 – Second Sunday of Lent - Matthew 17:1-9

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
Download this simple process to Prepare for Sunday using the Observe, Judge, Act Method.

For hundreds of years faithful Jews prayed that God send to them a saviour, one who would come amid an impressive display of power and might. Perhaps God could arrange for major fireworks in the sky, or at least, a fully equipped army marching ahead that would destroy God’s enemies. But that’s not how it happened although there were a few moments that impressed those who were faithful to God. But many wanted more. They wanted to impress (and perhaps scare) God’s enemies. But that’s not how it all happened.

Today we hear about the transfiguration of Jesus, which took place before a small group of disciples, and far from the television cameras. Jesus gave his followers a brief glimpse of his identity and his closeness to God. He took on the appearance of a divine being and, of course, those present were suitably impressed. So much so, in fact, that they didn’t want to leave that mountaintop scene. They said that they wanted to build tents (like the one that once sheltered the Arc of the Covenant) for Jesus and for Moses and Elijah. Something a bit more permanent.

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The Tests of Lent

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

March 1, 2020 – First Sunday of Lent - Matthew 4:1-11

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
Download this simple process to Prepare for Sunday using the Observe, Judge, Act Method.

Lent is the Church’s season of testing. It begins with Jesus having to survive three tests – which also might be called temptations to do what was wrong. Years ago, I taught in three Catholic universities. During class time, I encouraged students to ask questions if they didn’t understand the mysterious topic I was discussing. I enjoyed this give and take between myself and the students.

But there was one question I never liked, and it came up all the time. “Doctor Thomas, is what you are talking about today going to be on the test?” I knew the attitude that was behind that question. If I said that it wasn’t, the students would put down their pens and fall asleep. If I said it would definitely be on the test, their attention peaked.

Today we hear about three “tests” that Jesus had to pass. We might call them the test about human need, the test about human trust and finally the test about human power.

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Love and Acceptance

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home 

February 23, 2020 – Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 5:38-48

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
Download this simple process to Prepare for Sunday using the Observe, Judge, Act Method.

Today’s gospel contains what may be the most unpopular saying in the entire Bible. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” It is difficult to water down these words to make them more palatable and acceptable. They are bold. They cut deeply. They make many of us a little uneasy.

In the US right now we are in the early stages of the next presidential election. Already potential candidates are in attack mode. At times they are caustic and condemning of their opponents.

Commentators say these days that we live in a divided country. We are friends of those we agree with and enemies of those we don’t. The descriptors, “right and left” or “conservative and liberal” or “pro-life and pro-choice” describes not only political positions, but also deeply divisive personal stances. They can divide one neighbor from another or family members from each other. Debated issues can even bring division within a church. Fully inclusive love and acceptance seems rare in our day of political and social conflict.

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God Sees the Heart

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home 

February 16, 2020 – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 5:17-37

Today’s gospel offers us important parts of what came to be called “The Sermon on the Mount.” Two ideas are woven through these sayings. One, to be a true disciple of Jesus requires not just certain actions, but more important deep attitudes. It includes not just what we do, but what’s in our hearts. Second, many of these qualify as what some call “the hard sayings” of Jesus. Jesus was not an “anything goes” sort of person. He challenged his listeners to do difficult things, back then and now.

Past US president, Jimmy Carter, has been respected by most of us over the years as a virtuous man, a good Christian. Well into his 90’s, he still takes his hammer to sites where Habitat for Humanity is building homes for needy families. Years back he confessed in public that he had difficulty with some of the teachings of Jesus. Particularly the one where Jesus condemned those who gazed at others with lust in their hearts. He would not be the only one, I suspect. We hear about that challenge in today’s gospel.

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Be Salt and Light

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home Depositphotos_40963647_s-2019.jpg 

February 9, 2020 – Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 5:13-16

Turn on the light and please pass the salt. These requests, while typical in today’s homes, packed extra meaning in the time of Jesus. First, something about light. Jesus lived a long time before Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. After the sun set in First Century Israel, people would light a fire or a candle to see. In the dark it could be dangerous. Customary daily activities had to stop. Think of the panic we experience when the power goes off in our homes.

So, when Jesus was called “the light of the world,” people immediately knew the meaning of such a reference. So too when Jesus said that they were to be a light to the world. In a sense, the world immediately around us was be illuminated by their presence.

 

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Thrill of a Lifetime

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home 

February 2, 2020 – The Presentation of the Lord - Luke 2:22-40

Imagine them. Two senior citizens. Waiting one year, two, three. And many more. They represented those who were hoping for better times. That God would in some way step in and help. Not having their desires fulfilled, they could only wait with patience and prayer. They did not quit. They did not walk away from what they felt was a longing, a holy longing that was placed in them by God.

Locals and strangers alike probably pitied them. And perhaps told them to use common sense. Don’t waste your lives just waiting. What if nothing changes? But these two continued their vigil of waiting. Year after year. They believed that God would not desert them.

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Jesus' News Team

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home St Jude Group 2019

January 26, 2020 – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 4:12-23

Reporting the news of the day creates interest in our world. Otherwise, we would not have so many television channels reporting newsworthy events - some, twenty-four hours a day. Granted not many people would be tuned into those broadcasts 24/7, but still, we are, in general, a news-hungry and news-conscious group.

In the time of Jesus there was no TV, radio or even newspapers. Thus, if a citizen wanted to know what was going on locally or more widespread, that person depended on people who brought the “news” to each local area. Most likely, “reporters” would simply enter a village or town, walk to a common area and in a voice that could be heard, tell the locals what was going on, perhaps in a neighboring village or with a local ruler or if there were invading armies. In other words, information that allowed locals to make practical decisions, sometimes dealing with matters of life and death.

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