Follow That Impulse

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

January 24, 2021 – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark1:14-20

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

I live in Montana where many of my friends, acquaintances and neighbors love to do two things: hunt and fish. Winters are for hunting. Summers are for fishing. Many homes are decorated with stuffed trophies gained on trips into the wild. But I grew up in a midwestern city where very few hunted and fished. My dad was a golfer and hunting and fishing meant hunting for lost golf balls hidden in the weeds or fishing for them submerged in the water. But I digress.

Today’s gospel is about four fishermen who fished not for sport but for their livelihood. Theirs was a family operation. A business. Dads taught their sons how to fish. It was serious schooling. Their survival, along with those who bought part of their catch, depended on this rich supply of protein and nourishment. And it was honorable work, something one could be proud of especially after a good day’s catch.

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In the Game

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

January 17, 2021 – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - John 1:35-42

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

I grew up near a neighborhood park. Most days the boys living close by would gather in the park for games of baseball, football and the like. This was before sports for kids were organized. But there were still rules for play. Two kids, usually older ones, were designated as captains and they would choose their team from those standing around. Being chosen first was everyone’s hope. Being the last one picked – well, not so good. Still, being chosen was of value. It meant you were going to play.

Today’s gospel described how Jesus began what was called his public ministry. Certainly one option might be that he would strike out on his own, preach about God and capture the attention of people by his good actions, especially on behalf of those in need. But that wasn’t how he wanted it to be. He wanted others to help in spreading the Good News about God’s reign on earth that was then beginning. And to show what it was like by their lives.

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Living Water

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

January 10, 2021 – The Baptism of the Lord - Mark 1: 7-11

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

Jesus is standing in the river Jordan. John is doing his thing. No one might be impressed except for one addition to the gospel account. As this baptismal event was winding down, the heavens opened. That changes everything!

Here we might have to modify some of the images of “heaven” that we learned in our earlier years. I am referring to a three-story world where heaven is above, where God and the angels live. We are in the middle on earth. And you know who is below. This is called mythological imaging. It’s totally appropriate for children but we are adults. If we don’t reimagine “heaven,” we’ll miss the incredible message embedded in this gospel narrative.

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Seeing God

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

January 3, 2021- The Epiphany of the Lord - Matthew 2:1-12

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

He came to be seen. But not as one hoping to hear the cheers of the crowds. Not to receive the wealth of a head of state. Not to gain the attention given to a great king. But rather as one of us. An ordinary person. A remarkable person to be sure. But never wanting the spotlight to shine on him and him alone.

Today we are reminded of some of the first humans to see the Word of God made flesh. To see the appearance (that’s what the word, epiphany means) of God in human form. Yet what they saw was simply a newborn child, who looked quite like all the babies born at that time. But in reality, he was so different. For they were seeing God, the creator of the entire universe, as an infant.

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Keep Seeking

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

December 13, 2020 – Third Sunday of Advent - John 1:6-8, 19-28

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

In my earlier years, I was a fan of a number of singing groups. Some of them featured folk music and sometimes they entertained sing-along audiences at crazy concerts called “hootenannies.” Full disclosure, I was a member of one of the least known of those groups. In fact, we were so unknown that we didn’t’ even have a name.

As I read today’s gospel, I was reminded of two of the more accomplished groups who were called “the Searchers” and “the Seekers.” I thought of them because today’s gospel is about searching and seeking. Specifically, the one being sought is the Messiah. Hopes for his arrival among the Jewish people were high back around Zero B.C.E..

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Prepare the Way

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

December 6, 2020 – Second Sunday of Advent - Mark 1:1-8

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

The message of John the Baptist is clear. “Prepare the way for the arrival of the Lord.” It’s a message that was first proclaimed two thousand years ago. And it’s a message repeated today. Why it is good for us to hear this again? Because preparing for God’s Spirit to enter our lives is always timely. We forget about God’s coming to us Each Day! We are distracted, so we ignore the signs sent our way. We assume we have already prepared. We may claim that we don’t need to do this again. But we’re wrong. And here’s why.

To aid our reflection on “preparing for the Lord,” I offer a narrative from the life of our family right now. Yes, we are preparing for Christmas, although this year it will be a somewhat muted celebration. It’s still the usual decorating customs. A few lights on trees in front of our home. A stable is placed in our living room. A Christmas tree will be cut from our son’s land. (He lives in the woods.) But like most of us, this may simply be a copy of last year’s Christmas – and like the ones for many years before. Of course, maybe our preparation can be different this time - in the sense of “better.”

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Keep Your Eyes Open

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

November 29, 2020 – First Sunday of Advent - Mark 13:33-37

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

At this moment we are back to the same place in the Universe in relationship to the sun that we were a year ago. But much has changed on our planet during its last annual solar circumnavigation. And if we are thoughtful (as most are), a lot has happened to each of us during the last year. Most agree it’s been a tumultuous year. Lots of challenges, and lots of sadness especially when we think about the pandemic now still raging. I’m thinking about a year’s passage because this Sunday marks the first day of the New Church Year.

The gospel message placed before us is timely and well worth our consideration. It recounts words of Jesus when he said: Be watchful! Be alert! For what, you might ask. Is there something on the horizon that might place us in danger? Some might remember the fears that some had when we entered the New Millennium. But little happened except changing our calendars.

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Our Brother's and Sister's Keeper

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

November 22, 2020 – Christ, King of the Universe - Matthew 25:31-46

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

No one would be surprised at this gospel being chosen to conclude the liturgical year. Although the concept, “The Last Judgment” is not specifically used, most of us raised in the Christian faith will easily connect this gospel with it. The account comes directly from Jesus. So high authority is at play.

Using the image of a shepherd dividing sheep from goats, we are most drawn to the criteria used in judging one group from another. Taking this personally, we want to know how each of us will be judged by God. What evidence or criteria will be used as we stand before the Almighty? This would be very good to know, especially if we are still on our way to that momentous moment when our life here on earth will be assessed and used to determine our final destination.

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Use Your Talents

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

November 15, 2020 – Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 25:14-30

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

If you want investment advice, go to God, Inc. or God’s Spirit.com. No one has had more insight, experience and success (although possibly a few failures) than God’s divine investment firm. And its investment portfolio includes all of us, including you and me.

As today’s gospel states it, each of us have been given a variety of talents. In ancient times “talents” also referred to currency, but here let’s think of them as God’s gifts of knowledge, skills, opportunities and the like. Basically, we are being encouraged in this gospel parable to use our God-given talents as fully as we can.

When it comes to the matters of talents, the idea that “one size fits all” should be set aside. We each possess uniqueness. We each have a singular package of talents, especially created for us. Added to this, we each have a unique history. Our life stories are incomparable to others. We may face similar opportunities and challenges, but we react in distinctly unique ways. That’s why we are called persons and not things. Things can be alike. Persons are all different.

And that’s clearly the way God wanted it to be. God encourages us to act in accord with our calling. We each have what might be called “a personal vocation” that is supported by the talents God has given to each of us.

God desires that we should take what we have been given and develop it in our own way. Put your stamp on your life. Don’t be afraid to take chances. Don’t be fearful of being different. In fact, to do otherwise would be an affront to God’s genius in creating each of us as unique “images of God.”

We may play similar roles but we each do so in our own manner. Think of the family. Not only are there mothers and fathers, but often kids – each of whom are unique. There may be an appearance of similarities in each family, but if you ask its family members, they will tell you of how different each one is.

A good reflection on this gospel would be for each one of us to list our personal talents. And then recall the ways we have used, and even developed them throughout our lives. I believe that God is quite interested in what we would include in our personal list of talents because such a list is partly created by God’s own infinite imagination.

©David M. Thomas, PhD


Pay Attention

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

November 8, 2020 – Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 25:1-13

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

We might place today’s gospel about the wise and foolish virgins in a file called “practical advice.” Today, Jesus might have said to make sure we have enough gas in our car if we were about to take a long drive. Or enough cash in the bank to pay our bills. In other words, practical stuff. Plan for the future, especially if it contains uncertainties.

But there’s another message that might be missed. One that reminds us to be constantly ready for when an opportunity comes to be more Christian, more spiritual, more alive in response to God’s invitation. More aware of God’s gift of life to us.

And that could happen at any time. Awareness of God’s close and loving presence is not a scheduled event. Nor does it happen only in certain places. No, it is always and everywhere possible. And that is the deeper message of today’s gospel. The bridegroom (God) might come at any time. So always be ready. Always be expectant. Always be alert.

A trusted spiritual practice involves placing oneself in a setting of silence. When we quiet the noise around us, we open our ears and hearts to hear the more subtle and quieter sounds coming our way. These may not be not be audible sounds but rather like the quiet wind passing by that is felt only when you attend to its presence. When outside distractions are eliminated, increased awareness of what’s right around us and inside us is gained. We notice more of all that’s there, including ourselves. And God’s Spirit!

I spent part of my younger days living a monastic life. Most of the day was spent in silence. It was in that setting that I learned that I had an interior life. My senses became more attuned to the environment in which I sat, or to the outside world that I walked in. I learned to listen for the quiet voice of God.

Given the omnipresence of television broadcasting, cell phone calling and inviting social media, there might well be too much “noise” in our daily lives. God’s immediate
“words” to us might be muted by too much external noise. As we enter a time when there is more darkness than light, we might take the opportunity to add more contemplative quiet to our lives. Be ready. God might be wanting our attention at any time with some good words to bring us greater peace and happiness. If we are listening.


©David M. Thomas, PhD



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