Children of God

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

September 19, 2021 – 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 9:30-37

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

Children are rarely mentioned in the gospels, but when they are (like in today’s gospel) take note. Something very important is being communicated.

The disciples of Jesus were discussing where they would be placed on the organizational chart of the church after Jesus was gone. Perhaps a desire to be first is as timeless as the need for food. So they turned to Jesus to clarify matters. I wonder that, if after he told them the possibilities, they might have wished that they hadn’t asked him about this.

The one who is first, he noted, will be last and that person will serve all the rest. They will use their position and power to help others, not themselves. Then he brought forth a child, someone in many cultures who would not be considered very important. It’s worth repeating his words because they are absolutely central to how Jesus (and God) thought about such matters.

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Acting with Love

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

September 12, 2021 – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 8:27-35

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

Much of Mark’s gospel focuses on revealing the true identity of Jesus and the meaning of his mission. Some possible models were available during his life. Maybe he was a prophet, like those in the distant past. Maybe he was a reformer like John the Baptist. Historians note that in those times there were a few wonder-workers parading around who attracted followers with claims of personal or political greatness. Not unlike some of today’s politicians.

Or perhaps he would be like the great King David who would lead a rebellion against the political enslavement currently their lot. For decades the Jews living in Palestine at the time of Jesus survived under the thumb of the powerful Roman Empire. Rome ruled its conquered peoples with a combination of threat and savagery. The Romans had invented an especially violent form of capital punishment involving the public display of their adversaries, real or imaginary, hanging in public on wooden crosses. They were positioned in a way to discourage even the thought of political criticism or local rebellion.

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Right on Target

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

August 29, 2021 – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

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

This Sunday’s gospel cannot be classified as a happy one. It focuses on the reality of personal sin and what we should do about it. In brief, we are told to take steps to avoid sinning or to refrain from doing anything that might cause others to sin. Examples are provided.

If your eye is involved in sinning, pluck it out. If your hand is part of your sinning, cut it off. That same with your foot. At the very least, this account feels like a gory part of the gospels. And it is. It may be a part of the message of Jesus we might be tempted to overlook. You likely have heard that Thomas Jefferson authored his own version of the gospels where he left out parts he didn’t like. Perhaps this was a section that ended up on the cutting floor.

But let’s take another look because I perceive something very important and worthwhile is being communicated to us in this gospel.

 

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Choosing Jesus

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

August 22, 2021 – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - John 6:60-69

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

While we are sometimes described as “creatures of habit,” one of the great gifts we are given is that of freedom. In other words, an anti-habit power. We all have to ability to chose this or that, to turn right or left, to have our coffee with or without sugar and cream. We have lots of choices.

Today’s gospel describes those who followed Jesus faithfully and those who left Jesus after a while. What’s important to reflect on is that Jesus forced no one to follow him. It was their decision to do so or not. They were free to go this way or that.

 

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Everything for God

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

August 15, 2021 – The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Luke: 1:39-56

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

Rarely (except for this Sunday) does a major feast of the Church occur on Sundays, thus out-shining the importance of the ordinary Sunday liturgy. Today we celebrate the important feast of the Assumption, a feast that recalls and honors Mary who was taken by God into heaven. She is now fully present with the loving God and her son, Jesus Christ.

Let’s mindfully read the gospel chosen for today’s feast, which recalls Mary visiting her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth. I was struck by something I had never noticed before, namely, Mary’s reaction to Elizabeth’s attempt to praise Mary because of her role in God’s plan for us.

While Elizabeth wanted to praise Mary, Mary immediately diminished her own importance in pointing out that this was God’s doing. God, she said, should be the focus of attention, not her.

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True Presence

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

August 8, 2021 – 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - John 6:41-51

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

After hearing Jesus say that he was the bread of life from heaven, the gospel notes that the people murmured, a common biblical comment. That could mean that they didn’t understand what he had said, or that they disagreed with him, or that they thought he was a bit crazy. My guess is that it was all of that and who knows what else.

My own take is that the mind of Jesus saw the deepest reality of what creation, and our personal existence, was all about. It was rooted in the great mystery of God’s presence and care for us. But if you think that this all makes clear and reasonable sense, you probably don’t grasp the full truth of it. Understanding the teaching of Jesus always includes a stretch of our imagination, or as theologians say, “a leap of faith.”

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Soul Food

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

August 1, 2021 – 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time - John 6:24-35

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

My wife and I were making our weekly visit to our local Safeway when I asked her, “How do they keep track of all this food? There must be thousands of different items on the shelves. And how can one choose amid such plenty?”

She quietly thought about this and gave me her answer. “Just focus on those items under ‘the manager’s special’ sign. That makes our picks easier. Also, we only need what’s on our shopping list. And stay out of the candy aisle.”

So goes our weekly adventure of food shopping. We need to eat but we must also be careful of what we eat. It must be healthy, and it must be on sale.

Today’s gospel is also about food.

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Greatness in Small Acts

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

July 25, 2021 – 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time - John 6:1-15

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

Imagine the look on the disciples’ faces when Jesus pointed to the little boy with the five loaves of bread and two fish and then declared that this would be enough to feed the 5000 (give or take a few) who were out in the middle of nowhere – and were hungry. Yes, five loaves of bread and a couple of fish could feed a medium sized family. But a crowd like this? To use an over-used word these days, that was crazy!

We know the rest. They were all fed and departed for their homes that evening after having eaten that amazing feast of plenty. And I must add too that event also invented one of my favorite foods, leftovers!

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Reclaim Sunday Rest

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

July 18, 2021 – 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 6:30-34

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

A recurring theme in Mark’s Gospel is that of the growing popularity of Jesus during his public life. Small gatherings turned into large crowds. The task of caring for the many needs of these larger groups must have fell on those who accompanied Jesus as he went from place to place. This was trying work and Jesus noticed that his disciples needed a break. Thus, Mark quotes Jesus in today’s gospel saying that they should “come away and rest awhile.”

I am a student of culture, past and contemporary, which includes noticing how societal patterns develop in daily life, especially those that might be related to religious practice. For instance, the Jewish practices associated with “keeping the Sabbath” or the Christian practice of Sunday worship and rest.

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Better Together

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

July 11, 2021 – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 6:7-13

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

Today’s gospel recalls the time when Jesus sent out his first followers to communicate to others his message and report on his deeds. Yet he was not a soloist but a communal one who sought the help of others. So, he nurtured disciples not just for their own good, but for them to reach out to others, to spread the Word of God to the ends of the earth, a project by the way that continues to this day.

What’s especially notable to me is that he sent them out in twos. Would it not have been more efficient to send them out individually? Then they could cover more ground. Make more contacts. Be more efficient.

But he didn’t, and I think for good reason. The message and the ministry of Jesus is not intended as a private reality. It was to be shared. It was to be lived communally.

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