An Invitation to the Feast

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

October 15, 2023 – 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 22:1-14

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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Weddings are generally important social events. And the manner in which the wedding is enacted and celebrated is what should be judged as most important. But also, on a lesser scale, is the list of those relatives, friends and associates who are invited to attend. In medieval times, the list of invitees was largely determined by social class. Even seating arrangements were prescribed. No one was allowed to be “out of place.”

Today, however, there’s more creativity and variety entailed in weddings. In general, they come in all styles and shapes. Recently, our family was present to celebrate the wedding of one of our daughters. Besides family, there was a rich variety of friends in attendance. Some from the couple’s work life. Some longtime schoolmates. There might even have been a wedding-crasher or two.

It took place outside with the garage transformed into a bar, a neighbor’s yard (with a great view of the mountains) into a chapel, a side yard became the dining area and as the bar became more popular, the driveway became a somewhat wild dance floor. And a very accommodating Mother Nature smiled overhead into the night.

Jesus knew the importance of weddings in his time and often connected wedding celebrations with his teachings.

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Tenants in the Lord’s Vineyard

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

October 8, 2023 – 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 21:33-43

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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I live in one of the largest states in the USA, the state of Montana. While we have a few medium size cities, most of the state is open land where one can travel for miles and miles and not see a single dwelling, or even a fence. A good part of the state is “owned” by the government, which often labels the land as “public.” That means it is land that can be enjoyed by hikers, hunters and anglers. We also have a wonderful national park (Glacier) where the general rule is this: Take nothing in and take nothing out but good memories, after seeing some of the most beautiful views anywhere.

 

Yet some feel they have a right to do whatever they want with the land especially if they own it. But they can’t because there are rules established by the government to protect and preserve the land right now, and for the future. We are all familiar with the phrase, “environmental protection.”

 

This can lead to arguments about ownership and responsibility – an issue that is imbedded in today’s gospel about a vineyard that was owned by a non-resident landlord. He rented his land to tenants who plotted to make the land all their own. If they succeeded, they could keep all the profits earned from the land for themselves. They wanted full control.

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Actions speak louder than words

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

October 1, 2023 – 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 21:28-32

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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Like so many others I have spent a good part of my life using words to communicate my thoughts and feelings. Most of my education took place through the words of lectures and books in the many subjects I studied. I made my living mostly through the words I said in the classroom and the books and articles I wrote for publication. These Nazareth Pages are constructed with words that are placed in my laptop and find their way around the world. The story of my professional life, and much of my personal life, is almost totally created out of words.

And words also play an important part of today’s culture. The words of government turn on the words of elected officials. Talk programs and podcasts delve into the major issues of our time. The rise of mass media and computerization is largely due to their ability to spread words and other symbols that can be communicated to virtually to every corner of the world.

But in today’s gospel Jesus boldly asks which is more important, words or deeds (actions).

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Questions About God Will Remain

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

September 24, 2023 – 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 20:1-16

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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I grew up in a family where there were four children. Three daughters and one son. That was me. We were a family of limited resources and our parents tried not to favor one of us over another. My mother was especially adept in matters where being fair was at play. Take for example desserts.

One of our favorites was chocolate pudding – the kind you cook and pour into equal portions in bowls. Naturally, my sisters and I each wanted the largest portion. If my mom poured a portion into each bowl, there was a good chance that one would have a bit more pudding than others. Thus, a stampede would ensue to get that larger portion.

 

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Forgive Without Limit

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

September 17, 2023 – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 18:21-35

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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A well-founded tradition notes that before Matthew left his occupation to follow Jesus, he was a tax collector. Those serving the Romans, who ruled Palestine in the time of Jesus, depended on tax collectors to support them by gathering sufficient funds from the locals. The Romans wanted exact population counts and precise records of how much was expected and how much was acquired each year. The health of the Roman Empire survived on precision. Its roads were straight, and its coffers were full.

This year we are reading excerpts from the Gospel of Matthew. This Sunday we learn about the teaching of Jesus regarding forgiveness. And we benefit from the precision with which Matthew recalls the specifics of the directives of Jesus as to exactly how much we are to forgive those who have offended us.

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Not Created To Be Alone

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

September 10, 2023 – 23nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 18:15-20

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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“Wherever two or three are gathered … .” You likely know the rest. These words of Jesus remind us of the simple fact that we are not created to be alone. Nor are we to live alone, although we know that close to a third of us do live alone in our primary dwelling. For some this is a choice. For some it is a necessity.

I also noticed that most people seem to drive their cars alone. I rarely do because my wife thinks I might get lost if I drive by myself. I think the same about her. We would qualify to drive in HOV lanes in big cities although where we live in rural Montana, we don’t have those road features. We’re lucky to have two full-size lanes.

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Carrying our cross and loving one another

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

September 3, 2023 – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 16:21-27

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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Everyone’s existence is rooted in a presence and power that lives outside us. We are not the cause of our own being. We are given living existence as humans. And we are also given the ability to freely choose a direction for our lives. Sometimes this is referred to as “God’s plan for us” or “God’s will.” To use language drawn from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, we are then challenged to “discern” the path we chose to walk.

The teachings of Jesus help guide our choices. Today’s gospel reminds us that the best way to live is to imitate the life of Jesus, which as he notes, involves carrying a cross. Not his, but ours. This may not be a direction that we would prefer, but there it is, in plain view in his recorded words. Take up your cross and follow me. These are not words that would get extra votes if one was running for political office.

 

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A Mind-Blowing Truth

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

August 27, 2023 – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 16:13-20

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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On most every night, when the sky is clear, I step outside into our backyard to gaze up to the heavens above and try to imagine all that I am looking at. Being a very amateur astronomer, I know that the extent of my seeing is very limited. For example, all of the stars and planets I see exist within our own galaxy, the Milky Way, which is but one of millions, or perhaps billions of similar star collections in the universe. Even on a clear night, I can see only a very small fraction of all that we know exists.  

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Doing What’s Good

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August 20, 2023 – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 15:21-28

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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Cheer, cheer, cheer for the home team – a line common to most of us. Around the world stadiums, sports arenas and fields fill with local fans urging their local teams to victory. In similar fashion, various regions, even whole countries stand in support of local citizens in pursuit of victory over “outsiders.” And unfortunately, this favoritism of locals can create battles and even wars over foreign enemies. And lastly, this “tribal” hostility and aggression can infect religions. We are all familiar with the concept of “religious warfare.”

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Facing Storms

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August 13, 2023 – 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 14:22-23

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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This Sunday we hear one of my favorite gospel narratives. It invites us to imagine what it might have been like that dark night when some of the disciples of Jesus decided to cross the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was not with them. Matthew mentions that he was busy praying.

Maybe they thought they might get in some fishin,’ which was their primary occupation before Jesus told them to leave their nets and follow him. Well away from shore, the wind suddenly howled, the waves rose and the boat rocked. Even being seasoned sailors, they suddenly became very afraid. I find it interesting that even today they say that the Sea of Galilee can at times become quite turbulent and dangerous.

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