Encountering Our Lord

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August 19, 2018 – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time  - John 6:51-58

What was it like to have really known and been close to Jesus as he walked the dusty roads of Galilee? Or shared a meal with him at a family home in a small village? Or to have been with him on the stormy waters of Lake Galilee? Through the four gospels we learn about many of the ups and downs experienced by Jesus and with Jesus during those years that are called his public life. And those gospels were written not just to give an historical description of the more important moments of his life, but to introduce later Christians to the one who continues to be among them.

 

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The Gift of Life

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August 12, 2018 – 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - John 6:41-51

One of the largest (and scariest) questions asked by those who are in their later years is this: Is most of my life behind me or ahead of me? To be personal for a moment, I will be celebrating my 80th birthday this year. I don’t have to be a whiz at math to calculate that my life here on earth is mostly behind me. But is there another way of thinking about this? Today’s gospel says there is.

 

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Good Food

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August 5, 2018 – 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time - John 6:24-35

People think a lot about food these day. Maybe now more than ever. And over time, our personal food preferences might change. When I was a kid, if something was labelled “organic,” you likely wouldn’t eat it – or even touch it! Anything called a health food might have required a doctor’s prescription. And items like “ancient organic Ghee” or “veggie samosas” would not likely find their way into mom’s grocery basket. Although they are all available today at a Whole Foods store.

Seriously, today’s interest in food is driven by increased awareness that being healthy includes eating the right food, food that contains only what helps our bodies to be healthy, Artificial additives are not recommended. We want our food to be “real.”

 

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Multiplication of Love

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July 29, 2018 – 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
John 6:1-15

There are many ways to interpret today’s gospel. It’s also one of the most immediately recognized gospels when mere mention is made of “the loaves and fishes.” What an amazing miracle! From five loaves and two fish Jesus makes enough food for thousands! And there are even leftovers. Twelves baskets! (Side comment: It was at this time that Jesus invented a kind of food that has nourished an untold number of families for centuries, namely, “leftovers”!)

But seriously, there is a very important point about this gospel. This account of Jesus feeding the multitude is a sign of God’s generous love, of God’s unlimited forgiveness and mercy. And why is this important to think about? Because we often limit our calculation in human situations, especially those involving the act of giving, to what is called “zero-sum thinking.” A word about that.

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Sabbath Refreshment

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July 22, 2018 – 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 6:30-34

It is mid-summer. It’s a good time to recall the song, “Summertime.” Many of us can fill in the next line: “When the livin’ is easy.” Summer is often connected with the idea of holiday and vacation. Travel and leisure. A time to take it easy. Today’s gospel addressed the importance of taking a breather when needed. It’s akin to a Sabbath rest – although in this instance, there is no mention of that. Still, Jesus noticed that the disciples were busy with pressing crowds and ceaseless activities and that they needed a break. So, he said, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.”

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Together in Mission

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July 15th, 2018 – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 6:7-13

Here are your orders for your first apostolic “sales” trip. Take one walking stick, no extra clothes, no food (you’ll be able to eat when you arrive at a welcoming destination) and travel with one other person. Two-by-two –- like Noah’s Ark.

Thus began the first venture at evangelization by the disciples of Jesus. They were also told to keep their message simple. If anyone does not want to listen to their “pitch,” they are to simply bid them adieu and move on to the next household. Mark’s gospel is disappointedly brief in this description. We’d like to know more.

 

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Holy in the Ordinary

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July 8th, 2018 – 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 6:1-6

Is Jesus not the carpenter’s son? We know his family. We know where he comes from. We saw him grow up in our midst. We know his laughter and his tears. We’ve watched him day after day. He played with our children. He danced at our festivals. He helped his dad at the shop. He’s not special because he is one of us. Don’t expect more.

I am adding to the words of today’s gospel but not without purpose. I want to highlight the “problem” that those who knew him well and concluded that Jesus was in no way special. And that same reasoning can also spill over into how we think about ourselves. Let’s call it the problem or familiarity. Let’s also call it the problem of thinking about ourselves as “just ordinary” and therefore, “insignificant.”

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Keep the Faith

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July 1, 2018 –13th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 5:21-43

Everyone experiences times of difficulty, even desperation. Relationships might be weakened, unpaid bills can come due, unexplainable pains might afflict our bodies. We all have stories of when we were pushed to the edge. Our strength and resources are simply not enough to deal with what’s afflicting us. It may be something physical. It could be a relational problem with a spouse, a close friend or one of our children. It can be almost anything that causes us to cry out, “I cannot do this!” At that moment we feel that we lack the strength and stamina to deal with what’s facing us.

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Part of a Great Story

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June 24, 2018 –The Nativity of John the Baptist - Luke 1:57-66, 80

It’s helpful to think of the events surrounding the life of Jesus as a drama, a play or a narrative. Many films makers have made movies about the life of Jesus. This can be done because the gospels contain so many elements of “the life of Christ.”

Many years ago, I was invited to play small roles in local stage productions. Once I played the role of “Knowledge” in the medieval morality play called “Everyman.” I also played a small role in a passion play. I was a Roman soldier (not the one who had his ear removed.) We are familiar with stage performances where there is a main character (or characters) and many bit parts. In stage jargon, I was “a bit player.”

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Seeds of Growth

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June 17, 2018 –11th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 4:26-34

What a great teacher Jesus was! And this is shown in no small way by the way he taught his first listeners (and now us) by using stories and images to help us understand the deep truths that he wanted us to know. We might also think of him as a great poet, one whose “poems” till speak to us today. And this is well illustrated by today’s gospel where he likens the Kingdom of God to the growth process of a mustard seed. Very small at the start and magnificently large and abundant in the end.

I have held mustard seeds in my hand. A diaconate student of mine runs a mustard seed business and one day he brought a small bag full of these remarkable seeds for everyone to inspect. They were indeed tiny and they would, if treated properly, result in becoming a giant bush. We were all impressed as were those who heard Jesus using this image in his teaching.

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