Greatness in Littleness

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for the home 
child helping hurt child
October 21, 2018 – 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 10:35-45

How many times did Jesus have to remind his closest followers about what was most important for him – and them? In today’s gospel we have a typical example of their misunderstanding. Of all things, they seemed really concerned about their upward mobility in the Kingdom of God. Pope Francis has had to deal with a similar misunderstanding when he reminded bishops about the dangers of what he called “careerism.”

In today’s gospel we meet the sons of thunder, James and John, asking that Jesus reserve for them a very high place in God’s Kingdom. Jesus was willing to do that for them provided they could do what was required for such places. When he told them what this was, they were both surprised and bothered.

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Rich in Grace

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October 14, 2018 – 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 10:17-30

It seems like commercials involving financial advice or investment are on TV all day long. Of course, money is important as is wise use of it. In fact, today’s gospel might be thought of as a lesson in fiscal wisdom. Jesus himself offers us today a lesson in divine economics. The title of his presentation might be this: How can we invest wisely so as to insure our future happiness? Most of us know this gospel. Maybe that’s because money matters seem to stick with us. Money talks, we say.

Recall the highlights of the story. A good man of some means came to Jesus wanting to know what he might do to be a better person. He wanted to be more involved in the Kingdom of God that Jesus was initiating. Let’s say that he wanted to get in “on the ground floor.” He already knew about the ways of the world. He also wanted to know about God’s ways.


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God's Creative Energy

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October 7, 2018 – 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 10:2-16

Need water? Go to Mars! That was one of the latest scientific findings coming our way. We live during a time of wondrous scientific discoveries about our universe. Our beloved universe. Our treasured world. Does that sound familiar? It should. These are words coming from Pope Francis who now enjoys more popularity in our country than any of our political leaders. Perhaps more than all of them put together!

Scientists tell us that the physical forces of the universe are quite complex yet perfectly attuned to create life in us and in all the wonderful beasts of the jungle, the ocean depths and in our own backyard. God, we have come to know, is an incredible architect. God’s plan for Creation is magnificent. It contains a long history we are gradually learning about. And each new lesson can lead us to deeper appreciation for the One who created it.

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On the Same Team

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September 30, 2018 – 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 9:38-43 ,45, 47-48

When Jesus wanted to make a point that is quite basic, he often talked about water. Water is necessary for life. Most of our body is water. Most of what we eat and drink is water. We can go for days without food, but we can hardly survive for a day or two without water. Humans over the years have lived near sources of clean water because without water, they would not survive. When Jesus wanted to describe God’s gift of eternal life, he spoke of “living waters” which are given to us by God’s Spirit. When Jesus died on the cross, the gospels note that blood and water flowed from him. Scripture scholars suggest that this relates to the sacraments of the Eucharist and Baptism. So, whenever water is mentioned in the gospels, it’s important to pay attention. Important matters are being presented to us.

Parents all have heard a child’s call for a drink of water during the night. While an initial response might be a call to the child to “get it yourself,” good parents know that this request for water is not just for a drink, but for the reassurance that comes from the parent’s immediate presence during the dark of night. They want water, but even more they want mom or dad. They want their water served with love.


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Who's On First?

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September 23, 2018 – 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 9:30-37

I grew up in a family with three siblings. So, four of us in all. While the term “sibling rivalry” had not yet been invented, there was nevertheless a continuous battle going on between myself and my three sisters. We each wanted to be “first,” especially where there was limited bounty to be shared. And my mom was brilliant in defusing our battle to be first by insisting on equality whenever possible.

Let me describe one of her most effective methods to achieve this. As kids, we all loved chocolate pudding. My mom would make it the old-fashioned way on the stove. Then, we took turns in pouring the steaming pudding into four bowls. Now here’s where her exceptional wisdom showed through. The one whose turn it was to divide the pudding into the four bowls was also the one who got to “choose” his or her bowl last! Meticulous measurement ensued, down to the last spec of pudding. This resulted in a situation where to be last was no better than being first. Like I said, maternal brilliance.

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Adjusting Expectations

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September 16, 2018 – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 8:27-35

Do you always get exactly what you want? If you are married, did your spouse end up being exactly the one you had hoped for? What about your children? All parents have hopes and dreams for their kids. Did yours turn out in accord with those hopes and dreams? Look at your life as a whole. Most have some ideal life they hope for when young. Did yours end up realizing everything you had hoped to accomplish? If all your hopes and dreams were realized in full, you may be from another planet. I’ve never met anyone here whose high expectations were fully realized. As a saying goes, happiness is found not in getting what you hope for, but being satisfied with what you receive.

Today’s gospel describes a time when Jesus gave a lesson to his closest disciples in reshaping their hopes and expectations about God’s messiah. He wanted to make sure that when they looked for God’s anointed one (that’s the meaning of the word, Christ), they would not miss him because they were looking for someone else.

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Can You Hear Me Now?

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September 9, 2018 – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 7:31-37

My grandson looked right at me and said, “Grandpa, you’re not listening to me. I don’t want oatmeal. I want corn flakes. Aren’t you listening?”

He was only five, but he already knew how to capture my attention. Accusation of not listening will do that. Ignoring a child’s request can be a major flaw of adults in the mind of young children. They were not yet old enough to know that their elders have at times similar thoughts. Honest listening is not easy for anyone, but it is very necessary for healthy and holy living. Even at breakfast.

All human communities, the Church included, struggle with good listening. Sometimes, there is just too much noise, too many distractions, that get in the way of listening. Sometimes we may not want to hear what’s being said. We can have what’s called “selective hearing.”

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Coming Clean

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September 2, 2018 – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Today’s gospel begins with the Pharisees (a religious group known for their passion about following the external practice of religious laws and customs) complaining to Jesus about the behavior of some of his disciples. Apparently, they would eat without first ritually washing their hands. That was a religious custom of that time. This is not totally unlike parents today who routinely say to their young children before a meal, “Did you wash your hands? Let me see them. I want proof.”

Of course, today’s parental reminder is mostly based on health reasons. Dirty hands can contaminate foods that are eaten with hands – a practice many children seem to have. But the Pharisees were focused on other matters, namely prescribed external acts that are part of their way of being religious. “Follow all the rules,” they would say.

First, note that Jesus does not give an excuse for the behaviour of his disciples. He does not defend them and their “dirty” hands. But he is concerned about what might lie beneath the surface of the Pharisee’s complaint. And what lies beneath the surface is always the concern of Jesus. Thus, he takes that moment to teach the Pharisees about what really is important, namely their basic religious attitudes about following God’s law. He is calling for full personal honesty.


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Our Loving Parent

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August 26, 2018 – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time  - John 6:60-69

Jesus was not a self-made man. He did not pick himself up by his own bootstraps. He was not self-sufficient. He was not a lone ranger. He was not his own man. All that he was and all that he did flowed to him and through him from God. And like the great mystic that he was, he was conscious of this connection.

He always went where God’s Spirit led him. He always said what that same Spirit instructed him to say. He loved and cared for others as God did. He was God’s hands and God’s heart. He was God’s message to the world. To you and me.


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Encountering Our Lord

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August 19, 2018 – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time  - John 6:51-58

What was it like to have really known and been close to Jesus as he walked the dusty roads of Galilee? Or shared a meal with him at a family home in a small village? Or to have been with him on the stormy waters of Lake Galilee? Through the four gospels we learn about many of the ups and downs experienced by Jesus and with Jesus during those years that are called his public life. And those gospels were written not just to give an historical description of the more important moments of his life, but to introduce later Christians to the one who continues to be among them.


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