To Love Is to Serve

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

May 9, 2021 – Sixth Sunday of Easter - John 15:9-17

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

In recent times a new phrase has entered many conversations, especially those that take place via the phone. Just before the traditional “bye” is voiced, there’s often a hurried “love ya” said. I certainly wouldn’t be one to criticise an increase of “love” in the world, but when an expression of love become so common, so habitual and so customary, well, I’m not sure exactly what it means anymore. Maybe we need more than one word to say “love.”
And certainly, we should not be guilty of cheapening the importance of genuine love.

When Jesus reclined at table with his closest friends – for the last time – he decided to use this opportunity to clarify how he understood the meaning of love, especially between us. Not to leave it as a vague feeling between people (or as a quick phrase before saying bye on the phone) he said that we should love each other as he loved them. This was right before he gave his life for them.

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Stay Connected to Jesus

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

May 2, 2021 – Fifth Sunday of Easter - John 15:1-8

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

Hardly any image is more familiar to Christians than Jesus’s use of the vine and the branches. Unfortunately, most of us are not caretakers of a vineyard, so the full impact of that image may be lost on us. So, let’s reflect a little on the art of growing good grapes, especially those used in the production of wine. We begin with recalling the importance of wine in the cultures of the Middle East during the time of Jesus.

Most of us pay little attention to what we drink throughout the day. There’s ample safe water in our taps, various prepared drinks in our refrigerators and abundant choices of coffees or teas in our cupboards. Rarely do we worry about thirst, unless we simply forget to drink adequate fluids throughout the day.

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Leading Our Families Wisely

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

April 25, 2021 – Fourth Sunday of Easter - John 10:11-18

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

Sheepherding was a dangerous occupation in the time of Jesus. There were no fences to keep sheep safe. The shepherd had to be “on duty” round the clock. At any time of the day or night wolves (and sheep robbers) could steel precious sheep, who were often the means of livelihood and survival for many families. Thus, when Jesus talked about shepherds and sheep, all his listeners knew exactly what he was describing. Good shepherds literally needed to give their time, most all of it, to caring for and protecting their sheep.

He noted that “a good shepherd” is one who would “lay down his life for his sheep.” Of course, his reference is a universal one, not limited just to that occupation. So while it directly applied only to shepherds (which may today be 0.000001 of the population), it was intended for all of us. Laying down our lives for the care and protection of others touches the lives of all.

 

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The Mission Continues

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

April 18, 2021 – Third Sunday of Easter - Luke 24:35-48

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

We continue to hear accounts in the gospel of the life of Jesus after his resurrection. They are often called “appearances” but there’s a danger in such a description. That’s because we might interpret them as akin to ghost stories, something even Luke, the gospel’s author, was aware of. Jesus is not portrayed as a kind of mystery figure who comes and goes. (Like now you see him. Now you don’t.) If you read today’s gospel carefully, you will notice that Jesus meets these disciples as actively present, as a teacher, as someone who is very much involved in their lives, even after his resurrection.

In the church of my youth, there was a large stained glass window depicting God in heaven. From catechism class I learned that there were three persons in God. This window showed me how they were in heaven. Two God persons were seated side by side overlooking the congregation from their heavenly vantage point. God the Father had a beard and looked like a kindly grandfather. The Son sat next to him, clearly looking like Jesus as he was commonly portrayed in the art of that time. The Holy Spirit was shown as a dove emanating golden rays. It was all very impressive to my eight-year-old imagination. But it was dangerously misleading because it gave the impression that God was then just sitting on a heavenly throne, watching the game of life that the rest of us were involved in.

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In Touch with Jesus

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

April 11, 2021 – Second Sunday of Easter - John 20:19-31

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

Some of you may have favorite parts from the gospels. I certainly do and today’s gospel is one of them. And it’s not just because I share the name of one of its main persons, the so-called “doubting Thomas.”

In fact, I believe that this characterization of Thomas is a bit of a put-down because I think of him as simply being very human and honest. He was less a doubter than a thinker, a person who wants more than just the word of others. He wanted to know on his own terms. He wanted to fully experience the joy of discovery, the satisfaction that comes from asking questions, seeking evidence and information, and then making up his own mind. I can appreciate that kind of person. Especially because there’s some of Thomas the apostle in me.

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Easter Hope

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

April 4, 2021 – Easter Sunday - John 20:1-9

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

Many conversations today begin with the question: How are you doing these days? Implied in this inquiry is the fact that we continue to live in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic. Times are different these days. Daily options are limited. Routines have changed. We wonder what’s ahead. How will we be a few months from now?

For Lenten reading this year, I read Victor Frankl’s account of his experiences while living in Nazi concentrations camps during World War II. His thoughts are available in one of the most important books of the last century, Man’s Search for Meaning. An accomplished psychiatrist, Frankl lived in four camps (including Auschwitz) and was a keen observer of how people dealt with daily living under the worst of circumstances. Surely much worse than we are now experiencing. Yet we still can learn much from his observations. And they are clearly related to todays’ celebration of Easter.

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Jesus Gave Us His All

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

March 28, 2021 – Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord - Mark 14:1-15:47

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

Very rarely do we find similar accounts of any event in all four gospels. The birth of Jesus is found in only two gospels. The parable of the Good Samaritan in only one. But all four gospels record the passion and death of Jesus. Biblical scholars suggest that this aspect of the life of Christ was the first to be remembered by the first Christians. Its importance could not be forgotten.

While we have a commonly agreed upon narrative, there is little discussion of why Jesus suffered and died the way he did. Why did God’s son, the beloved one, the man who went everywhere doing good, end up being condemned, tortured and crucified, a terrible kind of death by all accounts?

So, we are left to figure out for ourselves why Jesus died the way he did. Various theories have been suggested over the years. As scholars and theologians learn more about the historical conditions that prevailed around the time of Jesus, clearer explanations have come forth. Here are a few.

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God's Wants Only Your Good

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

March 21, 2021 – Fifth Sunday of Lent - John 11:1-45

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

We have no record of what Lazarus was thinking when he walked out of the tomb where his body was stored for four days. All we have are the complaints of his sisters, Martha and Mary, which they voiced to Jesus. Their general point was why didn’t Jesus come earlier and cure their brother before he died.

Theirs was a concern for timing and reflects our human desire to control the events of the day, a need that all of us have at one time or another. We have no difficulty siding with the two sisters. If we have a desire for one thing or another to happen, we commonly want it done sooner rather than later. And at a time when we want it to happen.

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God Put Love into Action

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

March 14, 2021 – Fourth Sunday of Lent - John 3:14-21

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

This Sunday’s gospel, while brief, is one of the most important passages in the Bible. And it is known and valued by most Christians. You might even see it referred to on bumper stickers or on large signs at major sporting events (when fans were once allowed). It begins with the words: God so loved the world …” We instinctively know the rest. And with the Catholic Church having us reread this passage each Lent, we are reminded of its importance.

One way to understand the depth of this passage is to describe some of what the passage rejects. Allow me to suggest a few of them. What first comes to minds is the idea that God is indifferent to what happens in our world. That God does not care about us or our daily lives.

 

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Standing Up for the Powerless

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

March 7, 2021 – Third Sunday of Lent - John 2:13-25

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

Some scenes in the gospels create vivid images in us. Partly because they are quite dramatic. Sometimes, because they are so unique. This Sunday’s gospel about Jesus visiting the temple does both.

I remember my reaction to this gospel when I was a child. Children often remember times when their parents were angry and seemed to act out of character. That’s what we see in Jesus when he went to the holy temple in Jerusalem, likely to pray. But that’s not what happened. In a sense, we might say that he lost it. Others conclude just the opposite. He did what he rightfully had to do.

We all know that organized religion can be a source of great good. But we also are aware that it can be misused and cause harm, even great personal harm. Those with religiously sanctioned power over others can use that power to dominate and take advantage of the vulnerable.

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