Cost of Discipleship

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

August 30, 2020 – Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 16:21-27

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

Some preachers advocate what’s called today “the prosperity gospel.” While made popular by some television evangelists, it takes on many forms. What’s common to it is the claim that if you are a faithful follower of Jesus, you will experience prosperity. You will be healthy, wealthy and successful. Especially in economic matters. God will reward you not only in heaven, but also in this life. Clearly this message might appeal to some, especially those who feel that they could use some of that good stuff that is being promised.

I doubt whether today’s gospel is often mentioned by those preachers. It is positioned in the gospel text right after Peter’s reaction to when Jesus said that he was eventually going to suffer at the hands of the religious authorities and was going to be killed. Peter did not like what Jesus said.

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God Is With Us

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

August 23, 2020 – Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 16:13-20

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

Many of us enjoy a good mystery story. We delight in books, movies and television shows where we are brought into a story where, for most of the narration, we are “left in the dark” about “who done it” or “what’s really going on.” We pay close attention because there are usually “clues” about the “what and the who.” Good stories always seem to have well-placed clues. Some are subtle and some are more obvious. We hope we don’t miss them.

Biblical scholars often point to today's gospel as one of those places where we are given clarity (a good clue) as to what’s really going on in the life of Jesus. While the event described is brief, it is packed with important information about Jesus. Through the words of Peter, we catch a glimpse of the deeper identity of Jesus and the mission of Jesus here on earth.

 

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Outrageous Love

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

August 16, 2020 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 15:21-28

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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Today’s gospel shows that Jesus will do things that he might seem not wanting to do. The narrative is set in a region outside the territory where the Jews lived, the Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon. While visiting there, Jesus is met by a Canaanite woman, implying that she was clearly not of the Jewish faith. Up until that meeting, the ministry of Jesus focused on his Jewish sisters and brothers. But here comes an “outsider.” Quite naturally, Jesus appears to ignore her, which would be customary back then.

But the narrative doesn’t end there with Jesus. She is a persistent woman. Like so many mothers, her concern is not for herself, but for her daughter. The daughter is described as “being tormented by a demon.” The mother believes that Jesus can heal those with such conditions. His reputation as a healer has traveled outside Jewish circles. Like so many mothers, she will do whatever she can to help her daughter. Even stepping outside social barriers.

Jesus sees into her heart and her spirit. He cannot resist such determination and spunk. So, he steps across the religious boundaries that separate him from her and frees the daughter from what assails her. This is a story about the spirit of this woman and the spirit of Jesus. At times, boundaries and divisions don’t matter. The love of God that is present in Jesus extends to all.

We often place boundaries on our generosity. This is quite natural. But maybe we set those boundaries too narrowly. We see some people as “us” and some as “them.” Some religious groups see themselves as “better” than others. There was a time when some Catholics believed that you had to be a member of the Catholic Church to be saved. Or to be holy. Or even to be saints. Appropriately, the Church declared that such a narrow understanding of God’s salvation was in error. There is no limit to God’s saving love.

Nor should we limit our faith and trust in God’s assistance to us. Or for anyone in our family. There are times when we might judge someone, even ourselves, unworthy of God’s attention and assistance. Or outsiders when it comes to God’s care. If we tend to set limits on God, we should think about that woman who didn’t let assumptions or even beliefs about God prevent her from approaching Jesus. She wanted help for her family. And despite what anyone might have assumed, she received it. So, don’t hold back from boldly requesting help from God. God is always listening to all of us.

©David M. Thomas, PhD


Save Me

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

August 9, 2020 – Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 14:22-33

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

We humans sometimes think we can do almost anything. “Illusions of grandeur” is how this tendency can be described. No task is too difficult for us. No goal is unachievable. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having high ideals. Humans can do amazing things. But we can’t do everything. That’s what Peter learned when he tries to do the impossible.

Today’s gospel offers the delightful account of Jesus walking on the water. And Peter’s reaction, which suggests a human response that many of us might have.

Let’s first think about what Peter might have been thinking when he stepped out of the boat into the choppy waters. He saw Jesus calmly walking on the water. For a fisherman, which was Peter’s trade, this skill of water-walking would be quite useful. One could fish anywhere on the lake and wouldn’t even need a boat. So, Peter asked Jesus if he should give it a try. Jesus said, “Why not?”

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Give What You Have

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

August 2, 2020 – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 14:13-21

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

Reading today’s gospel might bring on a smile or two. It describes a large number of people, five-thousand men, plus women and children, all gathering in one place to hear Jesus. My initial question was that this could not happen today. Too much closeness, too dangerous given our need to deal with Covid-19.

Yet there is also a dimension of the narrative that is timeless, and totally appropriate for today, or any day. Focus on the initial reaction of the disciples of Jesus upon realizing that the gathered crowd must be hungry. In their practical view of things, this crowd should be told to disperse and find food for themselves in neighboring towns. Perhaps they should return to their homes. It was dinner time.

How surprised they must have been when Jesus said the crowd should stay and simply be given what the disciples had available. So, a quick inventory was taken. Five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus said to give to the crowd what they had. It would be enough. And it was.

Here’s what I think Jesus wants us to know. Whatever the situation you find yourself in, whatever you judge its needs, share what you have at that moment and it will be enough.

To some this will sound impractical. Or unrealistic. I suspect the disciples of Jesus, after hearing his instructions about feeding the crowd, thought he was totally off his rocker. He was losing touch with reality. They likely told him that they needed more than five of this and two of that. Much more.

How often do we think along similar lines as parents or grandparents, as spouses, as friends, as neighbors? We see the needs of others, but we judge that we don’t have sufficient resources to really help. To solve the problems of the moment. To make it all better.

But Jesus, I believe, would say to us that we do. Give what you have. It will be enough. That’s all God expects.

©David M. Thomas, PhD

 


Claim the Treasure

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

July 26, 2020 – Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 13:44-52

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

I begin this reflection by quoting the first lines of today’s gospel where Jesus gives one of his many images of what the Kingdom of God is like. It is a passage many will be familiar with. It’s one of those “images” that can stick in one’s memory. Not so much because it’s meaning is clear. In fact, the opposite. It’s like a puzzle that defies an easy explanation.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Mt. 13:44)

The passage starts with the “treasure” that’s buried in a field. Someone discovers it, reburies it and then buys the whole field. Then leaves the treasure buried. On one level this does not make sense. If one acquires a treasure, doesn’t it make sense to use it and enjoy it? That’s what most of us would do. I would.

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Everything Counts

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

July 19, 2020 – Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 10:26-33

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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Most of what most of us do each day is small. Our daily deeds are usually unnoticed. Our accomplishments never get into the pages of a newspaper, nor are they posted online. We pick up a discarded sock on the floor that was dropped by one of our children. We add a special touch to a salad for dinner. We empty the dishwasher or take out the garbage. We say “thanks you” to the check-out person as we leave the store. We always wear a mask in public to protect others and ourselves from Covid-19. Little things. Hardly anything. Easily overlooked.

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Keep On Planting Seeds

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

July 12, 2020 – Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 13:1-23

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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I have never been a farmer, but in my two primary jobs, that of being a parent and a teacher, I tried to do what farmers did. Be a good sower. Plant seeds, and hope that something results that is alive and grows to maturity. Today’s gospel is for anyone who tries to accomplish this goal.

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Respite with God

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

July 5, 2020 – Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 11:25-30

I really needed to hear the words from this Sunday’s gospel. I felt they were written just for me. Maybe you will think the same. Here are those words of Jesus: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

These are not only timely words that connect with what we learn from the daily news, but even more to our personal lives. It’s fairly easy these days to list burdensome items from the world around us. Like the pandemic that we are now suffering through, which leaves us with so much uncertainty and worries about what’s ahead. We cannot forget the suffering of families around the globe. Or the fears faced by minorities, not only in the United States, but in so many countries. There are the challenges related to improving police protection, which have no easy answers. And we ought not ignore increasing climate change and global warming that affect us in many ways.

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We Are Neighbors

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

June 28, 2020 – Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 10:37-42

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

Today’s gospel is complicated and one that I think is easily misunderstood. Some might think it is anti-family because it seems to say that our love for God (and Jesus) is in competition with our love of family. Or even that love of family is not important. I write these gospel reflections to help readers appreciate the importance of interpersonal life, especially as it exists in marriage, family life and friendship. I want to place those important relationships in the context of a vital Christian life. I try to show the importance of connecting our love of God with our love of neighbor.

 

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