Come Down From the Mountain

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

February 25, 2024 – Second Sunday of Lent, Mark 9:2-10

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

 

On my fiftieth birthday I climbed a famous mountain in Colorado called Pikes Peak. It is over 14,000 feet high and offers a wonderful view of the surrounding landscape. While there was a touristy gift shop atop, I thought it would be a wonderful setting for a home. But I immediately saw the impracticality of that. No one lives on a mountain top.

Today’s gospel is one that most of us are familiar with. It describes an event in the life of the closest disciples of Jesus when he was “transfigured” before them. Some biblical scholars say that Jesus assumed an appearance reminiscent of his resurrection. The scene is placed right before the account of his suffering and death. The contrast is obvious, one scene being horrendous and painful, the other being glorious and triumphant.

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The Big Game Has Begun

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

February 18, 2024 – First Sunday of Lent, Mark 1:12-15

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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We begin the holy season of Lent by recalling the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert before he began his public life. Perhaps this chapter of his life was done in memory of the forty years the Jews wandered in another desert as they made their way from Egypt to the Promised Land. Today, this desert time of solitude in his life is recalled when we spend the forty days of Lent focusing on praying more, some fasting from food on occasion and in doing additional good works. It’s a time when we pay more attention to being closer to Jesus.

In times past most Catholics followed a fixed set of religious practices during Lent. I recall “giving up candy for Lent.” If I was given or acquired any candy during that time, I would store it on a container that was in my mom’s kitchen, and eat most of it the minute Lent ended. Back then this was at noon on Holy Saturday. Looking back, this was a rather stupid practice of mine.

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A person for others

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

February 11, 2024 – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Mark 1:40-45

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

One of the most feared ailments in the time of Jesus was leprosy. It was a contagious condition and was widespread. Lepers had to live in locales outside populated areas. There was no known cure for it although perhaps some recovered from it on their own. Perhaps it was felt that some kind of magic was at play in their healing.  

One day Jesus met a leper who asked him to be cured. Maybe the reputation of Jesus as a healer was known. Jesus cured the man’s ailment. Jesus told him to go to the local religious authority to have the cure verified. That was the custom of the time.

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Circle of Service

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

February 4, 2024 – Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Mark 1:29-39

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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Today’s gospel invites us to think about the life of Jesus once he began his public ministry. In brief, he spent his time teaching and healing the various ills of ordinary people. We are taken first to the home of Peter’s mother-in-law, a fitting start for the work of Jesus. Scholars have called our attention to three interesting aspects of this narrative.

 

First, since Peter had a mother-in-law, he must have been married. Although nothing more about this is ever mentioned in the gospels. Second, “they” (not Peter) requested the help of Jesus regarding her “fever.” Jesus reacted and she was made healthy. And third, once back to her normal self, she waited on them. Jesus helped her and she helped others. This creates what might be called “a circle of service.” We are helped by God, and we respond by helping others.

 

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Mending Walls

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

January 28, 2024 – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Mark 1:21-28

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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When in college, I took a course on speech and drama. As part of the course requirements, I was required to select a poem and recite it to the rest of the class. We were allowed to choose any poem we wanted, but it should we one where we had strong feelings for its message. In other words, no “Roses are red …” selections.

My favorite poet of that time was Robert Frost. Partly because I liked his messages, and it was clearly presented. The poem I selected was called “Mending Wall” and tells the story of two men who met each spring in a field they shared, each one owning half. Between their sections they had built a rock wall, which required repair each spring because the frost had made some rocks fall on the ground.

As I read today’s gospel “my poem” of choice back then came to mind. Jesus enters the synagogue and meets there a man who is described as having an unclean spirit. He was likely segregated from the regular congregation because the text reads that he asked Jesus why he was associating with him (and implied, “others like him.”)

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A Season of Hope Remains

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

January 21, 2024 – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Mark 1:14-20

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

 

“Tis the season” is a phrase that many will recognize as connected with the annual celebration of Christmas. Soon we will enter “the Lenten season,” a time for perhaps more prayer and good works. Some will be watching more basketball when we enter “March Madness.” And on and on we go, passing from season to season which invites certain attitudes and activities. We anticipate, we celebrate and then we recall how it went.

 

Something similar regarding “a season of new possibilities” was in the air when Jesus entered his public life. The Jewish people were hoping for a messiah, someone who would restore better times, like how it was during the glorious reign of King David. Living under the domination of the mighty Roman Empire was not their idea of a good time.

 

Thus, the power and importance of the words Jesus said when he told his disciples that “the kingdom of God is at hand.” This was clearly Good News to those who believed him. A new season of hope, expectation and possibility had dawned with his arrival. And after his resurrection he again reminded his followers that this “season” will remain until the end it time. Good times are ours.

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Our Unique Role in God’s Plan

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

January 14, 2024 – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, John 1:35-42

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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People seem to be paying more attention to naming their children these days. It seems to me that they are trying to use names to identify something special about each child. In today’s gospel Jesus changes the name of one of his disciples from Simon to Peter. Jesus wanted him to play a special role in his life as a follower of Jesus. In that sense, the name change was an indicator of a new role, a new life for Peter.

I like the fact that parents today are expressing more creativity in naming their children. That wasn’t always so. When I was in grammar school, my two best friends were both named Dave. We were called by some “the three Daves.” The founder of Wendy’s and I share the same first and last name. (I have tried to get a discount on a Frosty, but this has not worked so far.)

Back to Peter. His role involved him playing a very important leadership role in the life of the church.

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God is present outside and inside

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

January 7, 2024 – 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.

 

Two ways of how God communicates are present in today’s gospel. Let’s start this reflection by rereading the first words in the Bible that describe creation. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That more of less covers everything. It tells us that God is present, if we know where to look. Our search is basically in two places: the Universe around us and our intelligence within us. Outside and inside. The outside includes everything that we “see” when we look upwards toward the whole of the created cosmos. And inside, when we turn our gaze within by examining our consciousness, thoughts, feelings and imagination.

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The Holy Family

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

December 31, 2023 – The Holy Family, Luke 2:22-40

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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In recent weeks we have focused on Mary, the wife and mother of the Holy Family. In contrast to the lower status of women back then, Mary is presented to us as having an extremely significant role in God’s plan for all humanity. What we can take from that is that in God’s eyes women and men are fully equal in dignity, a view that contrasts with social systems of that time, and certainly later too. On today’s feast to the Holy Family, the spotlight focuses on the very young Jesus and affirms his importance even as a child.

 

He is brought to the temple according to the Jewish customs of his day to be presented to God where, according to Luke’s account, he was to be consecrated to God. In the presence of an old woman (even the detail that she was 84 years old is mentioned) named Anna and an older man named Simeon, Jesus is identified as one who will be a light for Gentiles and bring God’s glory to Israel. In other words, Jesus was related to all of us, then and now. Scripture elsewhere calls him “the new Adam.”

 

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Living Faith

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

December 24, 2023 – Fourth Sunday of Advent-Luke 1:26-38

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

Earlier this month on the feast of the Immaculate Conception we recalled the visit of an angel to Mary informing her of the role God would like her to play in “the greatest story ever told.” Mary was taken back by this request from God. At first, she was confused and disturbed. What she was being told did not make sense to her. In a sense, she felt it was beyond her. Luke states in today’s gospel that she was disturbed. Who wouldn’t be?

But we know that eventually she agreed. “May it be done to me according to your word.” And she said this not really knowing all that was ahead. She was accepting a role without knowing the full script. In other words, she trusted that whatever happened later, she would be able to deal with it. Implied, of course, is her trust in God’s help when needed. And I’m sure many such situations came her way in the time ahead.

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