Show and Tell

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

September 27, 2020 – Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 21:28-32

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

I will date myself by the example I use to explain today’s gospel. I refer to a song that was part of a musical that was created many years back. (Of course, many of the oldies are now available through various sources these days.) The musical was called “My Fair Lady” and one of its songs has the following line, “You say that you love me. Show me!”

In other words, affirmations without deeds which prove the authenticity of the words, are incomplete. Or stated in another way, words without deeds might be hollow. Meaningless. Or to use a line that Pope Francis has used: Actions speak louder than words.

 

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God's Crazy Love

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

September 20, 2020 – Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 20:1-16a

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

What is the most common complaint of young children to their parents? Having been a parent for not a few children, my guess is the following> THAT’S NOT FAIR! I must have heard that sentence a thousand times. And my answer? LIFE’S NOT FAIR. GET OVER IT! Or something like that.

Most of those who are reading this Nazareth Page are quite familiar with today’s gospel. It’s a story Jesus told about a fellow who hired some workers for his vineyard in the morning, then a few more in the afternoon and finally a group right before work stopped at the end of the day. Then, all the workers that day were paid the same exact amount. “Not fair” hollered those who were hired early in the day. They felt that deserved more although when they agreed to work that day, they had agreed to what was to be given to them at the end of the day.

What’s Jesus talking about then? Doesn’t he know about the social teachings of the Church about just wages?

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Freeing Our Hearts

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

September 13, 2020 – Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 18:21-35

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

Today’s gospel is about forgiveness and math. A popular saying in the time of Jesus was that we should forgive others up to seven times. (I wonder if people kept a record of this.) When Jesus was asked about this practice, he said that the number had changed. We need to multiply that seven times by seventy. Even with my limited math skills I can see that totals 490. Biblical scholars suggest that number implies that there should be no limit to our forgiving. Just keep doing it. Clearly, that’s far from easy.

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God Is There

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

September 6, 2020 – Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 18:15-20

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

In my list of the top three most important words of Jesus, the concluding words of todays’ gospel are to be found. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them>” (Mt. 18:20).

They contain a basic truth of our lives and summarize a basic principle of the message of Jesus. Christianity teaches us about the importance and dignity of each and every person created by God, but it also describes how we should live together. Of special importance is that we are created with and for each other. God intends that we not be soloists or isolated individuals. Importantly, we are all to be interconnected and interdependent with one another. We are all part of God’s family!

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Cost of Discipleship

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

August 30, 2020 – Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 16:21-27

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

Some preachers advocate what’s called today “the prosperity gospel.” While made popular by some television evangelists, it takes on many forms. What’s common to it is the claim that if you are a faithful follower of Jesus, you will experience prosperity. You will be healthy, wealthy and successful. Especially in economic matters. God will reward you not only in heaven, but also in this life. Clearly this message might appeal to some, especially those who feel that they could use some of that good stuff that is being promised.

I doubt whether today’s gospel is often mentioned by those preachers. It is positioned in the gospel text right after Peter’s reaction to when Jesus said that he was eventually going to suffer at the hands of the religious authorities and was going to be killed. Peter did not like what Jesus said.

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God Is With Us

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

August 23, 2020 – Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 16:13-20

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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Many of us enjoy a good mystery story. We delight in books, movies and television shows where we are brought into a story where, for most of the narration, we are “left in the dark” about “who done it” or “what’s really going on.” We pay close attention because there are usually “clues” about the “what and the who.” Good stories always seem to have well-placed clues. Some are subtle and some are more obvious. We hope we don’t miss them.

Biblical scholars often point to today's gospel as one of those places where we are given clarity (a good clue) as to what’s really going on in the life of Jesus. While the event described is brief, it is packed with important information about Jesus. Through the words of Peter, we catch a glimpse of the deeper identity of Jesus and the mission of Jesus here on earth.

 

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Outrageous Love

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

August 16, 2020 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 15:21-28

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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Today’s gospel shows that Jesus will do things that he might seem not wanting to do. The narrative is set in a region outside the territory where the Jews lived, the Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon. While visiting there, Jesus is met by a Canaanite woman, implying that she was clearly not of the Jewish faith. Up until that meeting, the ministry of Jesus focused on his Jewish sisters and brothers. But here comes an “outsider.” Quite naturally, Jesus appears to ignore her, which would be customary back then.

But the narrative doesn’t end there with Jesus. She is a persistent woman. Like so many mothers, her concern is not for herself, but for her daughter. The daughter is described as “being tormented by a demon.” The mother believes that Jesus can heal those with such conditions. His reputation as a healer has traveled outside Jewish circles. Like so many mothers, she will do whatever she can to help her daughter. Even stepping outside social barriers.

Jesus sees into her heart and her spirit. He cannot resist such determination and spunk. So, he steps across the religious boundaries that separate him from her and frees the daughter from what assails her. This is a story about the spirit of this woman and the spirit of Jesus. At times, boundaries and divisions don’t matter. The love of God that is present in Jesus extends to all.

We often place boundaries on our generosity. This is quite natural. But maybe we set those boundaries too narrowly. We see some people as “us” and some as “them.” Some religious groups see themselves as “better” than others. There was a time when some Catholics believed that you had to be a member of the Catholic Church to be saved. Or to be holy. Or even to be saints. Appropriately, the Church declared that such a narrow understanding of God’s salvation was in error. There is no limit to God’s saving love.

Nor should we limit our faith and trust in God’s assistance to us. Or for anyone in our family. There are times when we might judge someone, even ourselves, unworthy of God’s attention and assistance. Or outsiders when it comes to God’s care. If we tend to set limits on God, we should think about that woman who didn’t let assumptions or even beliefs about God prevent her from approaching Jesus. She wanted help for her family. And despite what anyone might have assumed, she received it. So, don’t hold back from boldly requesting help from God. God is always listening to all of us.

©David M. Thomas, PhD


Save Me

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

August 9, 2020 – Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 14:22-33

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

We humans sometimes think we can do almost anything. “Illusions of grandeur” is how this tendency can be described. No task is too difficult for us. No goal is unachievable. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having high ideals. Humans can do amazing things. But we can’t do everything. That’s what Peter learned when he tries to do the impossible.

Today’s gospel offers the delightful account of Jesus walking on the water. And Peter’s reaction, which suggests a human response that many of us might have.

Let’s first think about what Peter might have been thinking when he stepped out of the boat into the choppy waters. He saw Jesus calmly walking on the water. For a fisherman, which was Peter’s trade, this skill of water-walking would be quite useful. One could fish anywhere on the lake and wouldn’t even need a boat. So, Peter asked Jesus if he should give it a try. Jesus said, “Why not?”

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Give What You Have

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

August 2, 2020 – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 14:13-21

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

Reading today’s gospel might bring on a smile or two. It describes a large number of people, five-thousand men, plus women and children, all gathering in one place to hear Jesus. My initial question was that this could not happen today. Too much closeness, too dangerous given our need to deal with Covid-19.

Yet there is also a dimension of the narrative that is timeless, and totally appropriate for today, or any day. Focus on the initial reaction of the disciples of Jesus upon realizing that the gathered crowd must be hungry. In their practical view of things, this crowd should be told to disperse and find food for themselves in neighboring towns. Perhaps they should return to their homes. It was dinner time.

How surprised they must have been when Jesus said the crowd should stay and simply be given what the disciples had available. So, a quick inventory was taken. Five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus said to give to the crowd what they had. It would be enough. And it was.

Here’s what I think Jesus wants us to know. Whatever the situation you find yourself in, whatever you judge its needs, share what you have at that moment and it will be enough.

To some this will sound impractical. Or unrealistic. I suspect the disciples of Jesus, after hearing his instructions about feeding the crowd, thought he was totally off his rocker. He was losing touch with reality. They likely told him that they needed more than five of this and two of that. Much more.

How often do we think along similar lines as parents or grandparents, as spouses, as friends, as neighbors? We see the needs of others, but we judge that we don’t have sufficient resources to really help. To solve the problems of the moment. To make it all better.

But Jesus, I believe, would say to us that we do. Give what you have. It will be enough. That’s all God expects.

©David M. Thomas, PhD

 


Claim the Treasure

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

July 26, 2020 – Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 13:44-52

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

I begin this reflection by quoting the first lines of today’s gospel where Jesus gives one of his many images of what the Kingdom of God is like. It is a passage many will be familiar with. It’s one of those “images” that can stick in one’s memory. Not so much because it’s meaning is clear. In fact, the opposite. It’s like a puzzle that defies an easy explanation.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Mt. 13:44)

The passage starts with the “treasure” that’s buried in a field. Someone discovers it, reburies it and then buys the whole field. Then leaves the treasure buried. On one level this does not make sense. If one acquires a treasure, doesn’t it make sense to use it and enjoy it? That’s what most of us would do. I would.

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