An Open Mind

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

July 7, 2024 – Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Mark 6:1-6

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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We are moving through Mark’s Gospel these days. Scholars say that his gospel was the first written and gives us some interesting and important historical information about Jesus. Today we learn two things about him. First, that Jesus had worked at a trade – carpentry, like his father. Second, that he had brothers and sisters. This surprises some readers because we have been led to believe that Jesus was the only child of Mary and Joseph. But we also know that these other family members may be his cousins. References to one’s extended family were very important in his day.

Another interesting point in today’s gospel is that it describes (perhaps) his first public involvement in the life of his home synagogue. There was a custom back then that anyone could offer to the assembled a word or two of comment on the biblical readings of that day. Apparently, Jesus did not do this until the incident described today. And when he did speak, those gathered that day were surprised and amazed. Maybe even a bit disturbed, too. Mark’s gospel states that “they took offense at him.”

 

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Our Call to the Healing Ministry of Jesus

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

June 30, 2024 Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Mark 5:21-43

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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A parent worries about a sick daughter. A woman who has spent all her savings on ineffective doctors is frustrated and seemingly is about to give up. They come to Jesus seeking assistance. It is early in his public life, but already people are beginning to notice that he is different. He is committed to helping those in need. He cares. Perhaps he can help. And he does. But not to draw attention and fame on himself. But simply to help when help is sought.

Notice that there is a certain style in the life and ministry of Jesus. He rarely calls attention to himself. Rather, he reminds people that God (whom he describes in unusually familiar family terms) is loving, compassionate, caring. And always present. There is no mention of any divine hostile judgment, revenge or anger.

By simply touching the corner of his gown (typical Middle Eastern garb) the woman’s body is restored to health. Without fanfare he heals the sick child. He does not wait around for applause. In fact, he slips away unnoticed almost hiding from the amazed crowd. That’s his style. His mission is not about himself but about giving a clear, and perhaps new to many,  sense of God as concerned and loving. Later, he will inform his followers that it can flow through them as well. So be on the lookout for opportunities to make God’s care and concern real each day to others, especially to those close by.

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No One Escapes the Storms

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

June 23, 2024 Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 4:35-41

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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What is more common than conversations about the weather? Like many, I have family relatives and friends scattered across the country. Whenever we connect, there is always some mention of the weather. Pleasant? Uncomfortable? Miserable? Inquiring minds want to know. No matter where we live, weather conditions are usually a part of our thoughts and plans.

Another common concern is how the weather can change. More recently we are increasingly concerned of increased weather dangers. Especially impending storms. In today’s gospel we are given an account of a storm, a violent squall, that arose while Jesus and some of his disciples were on the water. Clearly a situation that could be quite dangerous, even fatal. In the midst of this danger, Mark adds that Jesus was calmly asleep on a cushion at the rear of the boat. An interesting detail.

The disciples began to panic. We don’t know much of what transpired except they woke Jesus to help. His reaction was basically to calm their fears and remind them of God’s care for them. The storm passed. They survived.

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Every Kind Word or Act Counts

The Nazareth Page

A gospel meditation for your home

June 16, 2024 Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 4:26-34

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

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In my lifetime I have been fortunate to have many good teachers. I would not be the person I am today without their assistance. And it’s one of the primary reasons when it came time for me to choose a career, I decided to be a teacher.

In today’s gospel I am reminded that great teachers have ways of presenting truth that is at times deeply complex and challenging. They do so in ways that their “audience” can understand. Of course, the greatest teacher ever was Jesus, who helped all of us grasp what God is doing with us and for us. He gave examples of what God is like and how we might recognize the presence of God’s actions in our lives.

One of the central teachings of Jesus described “the Kingdom of God” as it was unfolding with his arrival. And he noted that there are signs of it happening. Some may seem quite small, but that does not mean it had not begun. He held in his hand a very small seed. They were familiar with it as its bushes were common in the area. But he noted that no one should dismiss the mustard seed because of its size. It can become something much more.

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Personal to the Core

The Nazareth Page

A gospel meditation for your home

June 9th, 2024 Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time -Mark 3:20-35

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

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Perhaps one of the most astonishing aspects of the public life of Jesus was how he related to people he met each day. He was friendly, engaging and he didn’t seem to have favorites. His connecting with others was not prejudicial or judgmental. His interests were personal to the core and certainly not political. This bothered many religious people of his time. Their criticism might be summarized in their observation that he even ate with sinners and tax collectors. In those days one’s dinner companions were a quick way to make judgments about others, whether they were good people or perhaps not.

Todays’ gospel recalls an incident when Jesus was visiting places likely near his hometown of Nazareth. A crowd had gathered that eventually included his mother and brothers. This latter reference might be a reference to his extended family. In the customs of that time, it would be assumed that Jesus would want to excuse himself from “the crowd” and pay primary attention to this family who had recently arrived to where he was.

Surprisingly, he seems to ignore their presence and makes a point that everyone who does God’s will is his family. Please don’t read this as a snub of his biological family. He’s simply saying that he is close to all.

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A Meal For Our Souls

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

June 2, 2024 – Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ

Mark 14:12-26

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

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Many of my childhood memories were created around the dinner table. Especially on special days like Christmas and Easter. While good food and drink were essential, what I mostly recall were the conversations and banter created between bites. Now as a dad and grandpa, I treasure shared meals even more.  

Biblical scholars note that Jesus enjoyed communal meals too. Luke’s gospel reports eleven such occasions. And we all pay special attention to his “Last Supper.”

I can’t recall exactly when our family created a special meal ritual that continues to this day – something we call “positives and negatives.” After a meal prayer, it often begins

with the oldest one there, or occasionally with the youngest. Then it proceeds all around the table according to age.

The rule is simple. Share with those gathered at least one positive and one negative thing that is going on in your life right now. It can be something very serious or something quite lite, and in our rulebook, you must have one of each. Or you can have more.

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Three Persons United in Love

 

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

May 26, 2024 – The Most Holy Trinity -Matthew 28:16-20

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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There are three major monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. But there must be an additional footnote connected with Christianity because it also holds that within the one God, there is diversity, or as the Creed states: three persons in one God. Today is celebrated the feast of the Trinity where we bring to mind this dimension of our belief about God. Here’s why I think this is important and timely.

Allow me to use a human analogy. Government structures can take on many forms, but the big question always seem to focus on who is at the top. Who rules? Who is the king or queen, the one who has the ultimate deciding opinion? The one whose word is considered final, decisive and absolute. To illustrate that form of government, the pyramid shape is often used, with the tip of it occupied by one person, sometimes called a monarch.

But that’s not the way Christianity understands the nature of God. Yes, there is one God but within God there is plurality. The Creed most Christians accept speaks of three persons in one God. And here’s what I think is important for us to think about. We should focus our attention not on the three individuals, but on the relationship between them. What holds them together? The answer is profound. They are all united in love, always!!

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Act Three, Come Holy Spirit

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

May 19, 2024 – Pentecost Sunday - John 20:19-23

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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I find it helpful to think about God as acting in our regard as a three-act play. The play presents the one God who “stars” (so to speak) throughout, but each person in God takes turns in being featured in one act or another. God the Father initiates Creation in Act One. The work of God the Father ... opens the play “in the beginning” although God remains connected with all creation to this day …  and beyond.

The second act unfolds with the arrival of God the Son becoming human, born of the Virgin Mary and raised by her, with the assistance of her husband, Joseph. Jesus is born, raised and lives a public life where he teaches and gives expression to God’s presence and power among us. He gives fully of his life for us and dies on the cross. Yet the presence of God the Son continues in the person of the Risen Christ who eventually ascends into heaven. Thus, the curtain drops on Act Two.

Now we come to todays’ feast, Act Three, which begins in the coming of God, the Holy Spirit, who will dwell with us, enter into us and spiral around us until the end of time. We pray today to God’s Spirit to come to us ever more fully and fill us with the warmth and fire of God’s love. We ask to be moved ever more into that process of our sanctification that has been unfolding since that first Pentecost. And it’s happening right now, especially if we are aware and open to God’s Spirit being with us. To recall St. Augustine’s words, this Spirit of God is closer to us than we are to ourselves. What a deep thought for this day!

 

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One By Embracing Our Differences.

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

May 12, 2024 Seventh Sunday of Easter - John 17:11-19

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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My first thought after reading today’s gospel was that it is not applicable in today’s world. Jesus prayed that we all be one, just as he and God are one. But how is that even possible  today where people seem so much at odds with one another? Where wars and conflicts seem everywhere? Where one TV network supports one political view and another favors a party that seems opposite in almost every way.

 

I walk in my neighborhood and I know that differences between political attitudes and party membership is common. Some proudly fly American flags and others prefer to be flagless. Pundits on TV and on social media seem to relish such differences. Helps ratings, they claim.

 

I attend Sunday Mass where some kneel while others stand. My guess is that I am witnessing not only differences in bodily position, but diverse views on the nature of the church, including what is appropriate behavior while at worship. Yet Jesus prays in John’s Gospel “that we all be one.” Today, however, so many of us seem to live the opposite. On the surface is that wrong?

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Remain in My Love

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

May 5, 2024 Sixth Sunday of Easter - John 15:9-17

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

 

I begin this reflection with the opening words of Jesus recorded in this Sunday’s gospel. They are among the most important words he ever said. “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” That is a profound summary of the truth that inspires the entirety of the Bible. They also form the foundation for your life and mine. In fact, all that lives, that ever were, that exist right now and will be in the future.  

 

We are all created because we are loved by God. And we are shown how to live responding to that love through the example of Jesus. Our task is to believe this and accept being unconditionally loved by God. And live each day in response to that love. We are loved into life by God who intentionally created each of us, and will love you and me forever. This is not a generalized love, like one may have for a favorite team or cause, but one that is personal. God knows you and God knows me and despite our weaknesses, failures and faults God persistently loves each of us.

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