Made in God's Image

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

October 25, 2020 – Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 22:34-40

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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Now available: The Gospels’ Greatest Hits. While this is only an imaginative guess, what do you think would be chosen to be included in this collection? My guess is that the gospel for today would be. It presents the central teaching of Jesus, which he offers when asked what he thought was the greatest commandment of God. From his Jewish background, he recited part of the Shema prayer, which is recited daily by prayerful Jews. It can also be the prayer by everyone!

Here’s how it appears in today’s gospel: “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” Note the repetition of the word all. The prayer is a reminder that every aspect of ourselves is to be part of our love for God. Nothing is to be held back.

Then Jesus states that there’s another commandment, one that is essentially connected to the Shema prayer. They are like two sides of a coin. We all know it well. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

What is worth our reflection is why Jesus connects these two commandments. It’s because of the way that God organized the world. We each are “images of God.” Then God breathed the Spirit of life into each of us. When we love our neighbor, we are, at the same time, loving God. When we claim that we love God, we must include loving our neighbor. This can be very challenging at times, but that’s God’s way of transforming the world.

Just recently, Pope Francis issued an encyclical letter that points to God’s presence and interest in our world. It focuses on the many ways we relate to each other as sisters and brothers. Called Fratelli Tutti. (Its title is taken from a letter written by St. Francis of Assist to the sisters and brothers of the religious communities he founded). The pope offers us a comprehensive teaching on social relationships, both those we experience each day and those we participate in around the world.

In this letter, he mentions the word love 125 times. Family is mentioned more than 40 times. World over 160 times. In other words, love of God and love of neighbor are connected over and over again. He concludes his letter with a prayer, ”Come Holy Spirit, show us your beauty reflected in all the peoples of the earth, that we may discover anew that all are important and all are necessary, different faces of one humanity that God so loves. Amen.

©David M. Thomas, PhD


Returning the Favor

The Nazareth Page- A gospel meditation for your home

October 18, 2020 – Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 22:15-21

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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Today’s gospel contains one of the most quoted lines in all the gospels: It reads, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” Some might recall an older translation which was, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”

When this was discussed in Catholic circles, I recall hearing that we should pay our taxes to the government, but also give generously to the church. Made sense. But I don’t think that was on the mind of Jesus when he first spoke those very important words.

As is true in many times in the life of Jesus, he gave a brilliant response to the tricky tax question, one that confused his enemies and gave his followers something to think about. What’s really due Caesar? And what’s due to God?

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You Are Cordially Invited

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

October 11, 2020 – Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 22:1-14

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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In my extended family we recently celebrated a wedding. My nephew was the groom. A few of those closest to the couple were present at the ceremony, all masked and socially distanced. I was “present” via Zoom, at home, as were many others. The wedding was originally planned for a large group. But given the situation with COVID-19, the numbers had to be limited.

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Co-workers in the Vineyard

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for the home

October 8th, 2017 – 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 21:33-43

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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Today’s gospel is R-rated for violence. Lots of killing in this parable of Jesus. It’s hard to give an exact number of how many die in it. Clearly, quite a few. In fact, at the end, even the owner of the vineyard gets the last word by killing his tenants, who had killed his son. So, what’s the point? Here’s what I think.

Jesus initiated the beginning of God’s Kingdom on earth. And he was quite serious about making this central to his message. And God will do all that God can do to make it successful. God will never cease working on this “project”, no matter what. Even if opposition arises, in the end, God will remain faithful. God doesn’t quit.

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

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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