Here and Now

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December 9, 2018 – Second Sunday of Advent
Luke 3:1-6

Some might wonder why the Gospel of Luke goes into so much detail about the time when Jesus was born. Today’s gospel begins, “In the reign of Emperor Tiberius … “ and so forth. Why does it matter that we know who was the Roman Emperor when Jesus was born or who were those other political figures that were in office on the first Christmas? None of them became Christians. None of them even knew Jesus.

So, why are they so important? Why does the gospel writer, St. Luke, goes to the trouble of mentioning them, not only by name, but also where they ruled? Why doesn’t the gospel begin more like most ancient narratives with the usual, “Once upon a time?”

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Expecting again

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First Sunday of Advent - Luke 21:25-36

The first Sunday of Advent gives us a fig tree to think about. I don’t know much about fig trees, but I do know apple trees. We have one in our back yard and each spring, when the leaves first spout (something in common with fig trees), I look for apple blossoms. Why? Because that will give me hope for the eventual harvest. This year I had one blossom. And true to form, in the fall, I harvested one apple. My hope for a larger crop would have been fruitless.

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King of the Universe

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for the home 

Depositphotos_51136573_m-2015.jpgNovember 25, 2018 – Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe - John 18:33-37

Each church year concludes with an important feast day in honor of Jesus Christ who is presented to us in our revised liturgy as: King of the Universe. This description is a bit of a mixed metaphor because “kings” are part of life here on earth. And the earth is but a small part of the universe, as we know it today. But we can overlook this as we reflect on the deeper meaning that the church intends with this new descriptive language about Jesus.

The gospel text recounts Jesus’ meeting with Pontius Pilate after Pilate had been informed that some people are calling Jesus a king. This concerned Pilate because he was placed in charge of this part of the Roman Empire and the Romans “dethroned” all local kings. Only the Romans ruled.

Pilate was, no doubt, relieved to learn from Jesus that his kingdom was not “of this world.” That meant the realm of Christ was not rooted in sources present only in this world. That’s because the rule of Jesus came directly from God and God was the One who rules over everything and everyone and everywhere. This truth would likely fly over the head of Pilate. He only knew of “this world.”

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God's Got it

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November 18, 2018 – 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 13:24-32

Today’s gospel offers a dramatic description of how the world will end. It’s not written by an historian or a scientist. It is created by the imagination of Jesus who used stirring images well-known in his time. Those who questioned Jesus about this were not concerned with “how” this ending would happen, but rather, “when” it would it happen.

Reading this gospel carefully, we are given the impression that Jesus himself didn’t know. Only God did. This is a reminder that the human Jesus had limited knowledge. If he didn’t experience our limitations, he would not be human. Yes, he was also divine, but that did not take anything away from his human nature. Still, what he says about “the end” is important.

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Give It All

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November 11, 2018 – 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 10:38-44

Today, Jesus offers us a lesson in economics and “the cost of living.” It contains a powerful and important message. Let’s “follow the money,” as is sometimes said today.

We’ll begin here with a thought about how we calculate the cost or value of anything. According to today’s gospel about “the poor widow,” there are two ways to think about money.

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True Love

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November 4, 2018 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 12:8-34

 

Our parish recently sponsored a newcomers’ night that featured great food, warm hospitality and a Catholic Trivia Quiz. Name four of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Who was the first bishop of the United States? And what was the first parish in the world to be named after St. John Paul II? (The answer to that last question was none other than ours!) While Trivial Pursuit does not have the popularity it once enjoyed, most enjoy being tested about statistics and who won this or that.

Today’s gospel pits the scribes against Jesus in a contest of sorts. They asked Jesus to name the first of God’s commandments. Jesus not only answered it correctly but added to his response the naming of the second commandment. Jesus knew his religion!

 When Mark composed his gospel, he was clearly intent on including the major events of the life of Jesus that were valued in the early church. The account of his mentioning the two great commandments was included. It was a central part of the message and life of Jesus.

 Sometimes people claim that contemporary Catholicism is watered down with all this talk about love. Too sentimental, they say. Wishy-washy. All this love talk can make the demands of Jesus seem easy, even trivial, they claim. Of course, some aspects of contemporary culture do paint a rather syrupy and emotional description of love. Love can mean just a good feeling.  

 But what does the gospel say about love? For starters, there is the passage that says that love means that you give up your life for another. Or when Jesus is asked about love of neighbor, he tells the story of the Good Samaritan. And don’t forget Jesus saying that the Good Shepherd is described as giving his life for his sheep. Is that wishy-washy?

 When Jesus mentions the importance of love in the two great commandments, he is expressing the most challenging demands of the gospel. They summarize his whole life. Genuine love of God and neighbor is difficult. As the first commandment notes, loving God calls for the response of our whole heart, soul, mind and body. Truly loving our neighbour, especially those we live with and meet every day, requiresour loving efforts (not just feelings) day after day. Placing the commandments of love central to our religious faith does not make life easier. It’s the hardest thing we will ever do.    

 

David M. Thomas, Ph.D.

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Asking for Help

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October 28, 2018 – 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 10:46-52

Sometimes students find it hard to ask a question. They don’t want to bother the esteemed teacher. Sometimes children have difficulty in asking for things from parents. Sometimes people remain silent although they really need a helping hand from a friend. Sometimes men don’t ask for directions because they don’t want to appear inept. We seem to assume that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Grow up and be independent, we are taught. Don’t be a beggar. Don’t be dependent on others.

If we are among those who don’t ask questions, seek advice, or ask for help when needed, we will not understand today’s gospel story. It’s about a blind beggar who persisted in asking Jesus for help, even against the warnings of others.

Clearly, the man was desperate. He once had vision, but lost it. How terribly hard it must have been. Most likely he was unable to work. So he did what others in his situation did. He begged. Learning that Jesus was close by, he cried out, “Jesus, have pity on me.”

 

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Greatness in Littleness

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October 21, 2018 – 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 10:35-45

How many times did Jesus have to remind his closest followers about what was most important for him – and them? In today’s gospel we have a typical example of their misunderstanding. Of all things, they seemed really concerned about their upward mobility in the Kingdom of God. Pope Francis has had to deal with a similar misunderstanding when he reminded bishops about the dangers of what he called “careerism.”

In today’s gospel we meet the sons of thunder, James and John, asking that Jesus reserve for them a very high place in God’s Kingdom. Jesus was willing to do that for them provided they could do what was required for such places. When he told them what this was, they were both surprised and bothered.

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Rich in Grace

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October 14, 2018 – 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 10:17-30

It seems like commercials involving financial advice or investment are on TV all day long. Of course, money is important as is wise use of it. In fact, today’s gospel might be thought of as a lesson in fiscal wisdom. Jesus himself offers us today a lesson in divine economics. The title of his presentation might be this: How can we invest wisely so as to insure our future happiness? Most of us know this gospel. Maybe that’s because money matters seem to stick with us. Money talks, we say.

Recall the highlights of the story. A good man of some means came to Jesus wanting to know what he might do to be a better person. He wanted to be more involved in the Kingdom of God that Jesus was initiating. Let’s say that he wanted to get in “on the ground floor.” He already knew about the ways of the world. He also wanted to know about God’s ways.

 

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God's Creative Energy

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October 7, 2018 – 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 10:2-16

Need water? Go to Mars! That was one of the latest scientific findings coming our way. We live during a time of wondrous scientific discoveries about our universe. Our beloved universe. Our treasured world. Does that sound familiar? It should. These are words coming from Pope Francis who now enjoys more popularity in our country than any of our political leaders. Perhaps more than all of them put together!

Scientists tell us that the physical forces of the universe are quite complex yet perfectly attuned to create life in us and in all the wonderful beasts of the jungle, the ocean depths and in our own backyard. God, we have come to know, is an incredible architect. God’s plan for Creation is magnificent. It contains a long history we are gradually learning about. And each new lesson can lead us to deeper appreciation for the One who created it.

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