God is Close to Us

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April 8, 2018 – Second Sunday of Easter
John 20:19-31

Behind locked doors, interesting things can happen. As they did to the disciples of Jesus after his Resurrection. There were two visits by the Risen Christ to them while they were still in Jerusalem. The first one had its own interesting dynamics. Without any warning, with the doors locked, Jesus was suddenly standing there in their midst. While his disciples were probably scared to death, Jesus greets them with a wish for them to be at peace. You can imagine that they were anything but peaceful at that moment.

Once all had settled down, Jesus got down to business. He was charging them with a mission. A mission that would include their being ambassadors for God. They would bring God’s merciful forgiveness to those needing that gift.

 

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Reclaiming Easter

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April 1, 2018 – Easter Sunday – Resurrection of the Lord

John 20:1-9 The celebration of Easter has some of the same problems as does Christmas. It’s been taken over by non-Christian concerns. Easter outfits, Easter baskets, Easter lilies, and a great event on the White House lawn, Easter egg rolling. In the Northern Hemisphere, Easter usually occurs with the arrival of springtime. Life survives the winter. Some Christian substance there, but not as deep as the Christian belief in the Resurrection!

So, what might we reflect on this Easter? First, of course, the event of Jesus rising from the dead. He did not wake up from sleep. He did not simply continue the life he once led. He was not resuscitated. According to St. Paul, Jesus attained a new condition and began a New Creation. The risen Christ left the condition of a death bound humanity to one of new life, a life that was available to all, a life of deep love, and a life that would never end. 

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Palm Sunday People

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A gospel meditation for the home
March 25, 2018 –Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
Mark 14:1-15:47

On this Sunday we hear the longest Sunday gospel of the year. It recounts the passion and death of Jesus Christ. Scholars suggest that this might be the first recorded part of the life of Jesus. They call Mark’s Gospel “a passion narrative with an introduction.” Much of Mark’s gospel is written to give an accurate account of the life and death of Jesus. The underlying theme is that what many expected when God came to save his people was inaccurate. God would not come as a great king restoring political power to the Jews. God would not come on a cloud with lightning bolts and other demonstrations of power to destroy God’s enemies. No, God came as one who appeared quite ordinary. He was a human like all others. Except as we read today, he was also the Son of God.

Most will be familiar with the various elements of the story. We hear about the Passover meal, the agony in the garden, the betrayal by Judas, the humiliation he suffered at the hands of the religious leaders, the strange encounter with Pilate, the humiliation and mockery he endured at the hands of soldiers, the cowardly response of Peter (supposedly, the Rock), the crucifixion itself, his death and his burial in a rock cave.

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To Love Like Jesus

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A gospel meditation for the home
March 18, 2018 – Fifth Sunday of Lent - John 12:20-33

To want to personally suffer is called masochism. To inflict suffering on others is called sadism. Both approaches to suffering are humanly harmful and are not sanctioned by God or God’s people, the church. But after reading today’s gospel it might seem that Jesus seems to be in favor of suffering. He speaks in positive terms about his own suffering and death.

I believe that there is good suffering and suffering that is harmful. The suffering endured by Jesus was the result of the evil in humans. We must be honest that some people did not like what Jesus said and did. His teachings on loving one’s enemies, generously giving to the poor and needy, not taking advantage of one’s position in society or religion and other teachings that called for giving rather than getting, were not what some wanted.

In fact, they were the opposite of what was hoped for. His own disciples were often left wondering. Does he really mean what he said? Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador was assassinated in 1980 because he opposed the government, which overlooked the poor in favor of the rich. He suffered and died too because he spoke like Jesus.

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Really Seeing

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A gospel meditation for the home
March 11, 2018 – Fourth Sunday of Lent - John 3:13-21

Today’s gospel is about life and death. It is also about light and darkness. These ideas can appear as abstract or poetic or words that can easily sail over our heads. We think that we’ve heard this all before. Even the sentence that begins, “For God so loved the world …” can come in one ear and out the other. For some, this gospel is not one that causes one to really sit up and listen. But that has changed for me this year when I read today’s gospel because of my experience of last year’s total eclipse of the sun.

I experienced that eclipse at the side of a highway in eastern Idaho. Like the millions who looked to the midday sky in total amazement, I viewed what truly can be called “a once in a lifetime” event. As an experience of nature, it was both baffling and beautiful.

While reading this Sunday’s gospel, it all came back to me. I pondered anew what Jesus was saying to Nicodemus. That he was the light of the world. That he also showed in that light, the deepest truth of all: that each of us is created by God to live forever with God in the light. In that sense, there is no darkness in heaven. Nor is there darkness (in that deeper sense) in this life when truly believing in God.

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Source of Our Life

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March 4th, 2018 – Third Sunday of Lent - John 2:13-25

We are now in the month of March. You know what happens in March besides basketball madness? It’s the beginning of “Spring Sale Time!” Special deals are available in automobile dealerships, appliance stores and in your favorite box store. Hurry. These sales won’t last. (At least until the “Welcome Summer Sale” begins.) I love sales. Who doesn’t? You can save a lot! (Notice no mention of how much you spend.) Yes, this business of selling and buying is well known to everyone on the planet. It keeps the economy going.

You will not be surprised that the business of commercial transactions even finds its way into the life of religion. Jesus encountered this kind of business going on at the Temple in Jerusalem. He was angered. This should not be, he thought. His Father’s house does not engage in business practices. Why not? The answer is simple. In God’s world there’s nothing for sale.

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Ups and Downs

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February 25th, 2018 – Second Sunday of Lent
Mark 9:2-1

On my fiftieth birthday I climbed to the top of Pike’s Peak, a well-known mountain in Colorado. I could have used a tram to the top or comfortably drive in a car, but I wanted the full experience and the joy that could only come by reaching the summit on foot. I was not disappointed. I still savour that moment when I stood atop that 14,000-foot mountain. It was one of the memorable “ups” in my life.

This Sunday’s gospel is about ups and downs. Jesus took his closest disciples up to the top of a mountain. Then after experiencing wonder at the top, they came down. The disciples, especially the rambunctious Peter, wanted to stay at the top longer. He wanted the pure joy that he experienced with Jesus transformed, standing there with two of the great Jewish figures of the past, Moses and Elijah, to last and last. But that was not to be.

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Kingdom Happening: Now!

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February 18th, 2018 – First Sunday of Lent
Mark 1:12-15

Don’t be fooled by the brevity of today’s gospel. Just a couple of lines, but those lines communicate one of the most important ideas in all the gospels. After noting the many days Jesus spent in the desert and his being tempted by Satan, we hear the big announcement from Jesus himself. “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

End of story? No, just the opposite. The Beginning! We will have to read all the four gospels, the many inspired letters of St. Paul and others, to give us the whole meaning of what that entails. Some prefer calling it “the reign of God” because the use of language more fitting to royalty might create the wrong impression. Certainly, Jesus was no king in the usual sense of that word. Also, the word “king” is obviously a masculine designation and the kingdom of God is for all.

 

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The Way to Deep Truth

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February 11th, 2018 – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
- Mark 1:40-45

A certain president created a stir when he claimed that the crowd at his inauguration was the largest ever. Apparently, he enjoyed popularity. As it seems, many do. Today’s gospel suggests that Jesus was ambivalent about popularity. Of course, he wanted to communicate a message from God, but not all the time. We might ask, “Why not? Isn’t that part of why he came to dwell among us? To tell us the truth about God and to show us how to live as disciples of the truth”?

In today’s gospel Mark describes Jesus healing a leper. Such a wonderful act would impress people. Leprosy was a dreaded disease at that time. Its victims were known in the locales where they lived. Their condition was visible and feared. Lepers were not allowed to live near others. They were forced to live outside the towns and villages and if anyone got close to them, they were told to ring a bell that would warn people of their presence. If someone healed a leper, they would immediately attract attention. So why did Jesus tell the healed leper to keep it quiet? Allow it to be something between just the two of them.

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All In for God

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February 4, 2018 – Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time - Mark 1:29-39

As I write this, the news is filled with statistics about those who have been afflicted with the flu. They say that this flu season is worse than predicted. It seems particularly hard on children and the elderly. Everyone is advised to get flu shots, but we are reminded that they are not 100% effective. In all of this we are reminded that we are not immune from the dangers of getting sick, or even dying. That’s just the way it is.

This Sunday’s gospel addresses the power of Jesus to heal. We are introduced to a situation involving Peter’s mother-in-law. I once had a scripture professor who took delight in pointing out that it was not Peter who requested help, but an unnamed “they.”

My professor called this a kind of mother-in-law joke. We all smiled. He also suggested that this passage implicitly meant that Peter, the first pope, was married. All of this was interesting, but it was not the main point in Mark’s gospel. Someone is ill, and Jesus heals her. By doing this, Mark was intent on communicating two other things. First, Jesus cared about others and second, that those who received his attention and care are then called into service.

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