Peak Moments

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

August 6, 2023 –Transfiguration of the Lord- Matthew 17:1-9

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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The account of the transfiguration of Jesus is one of the more challenging episodes recorded in the gospels. Its inclusion in the gospels suggests its importance, although its precise significance can be somewhat elusive. Here’s what I think is worth some thought on our part by reflecting on the experienced of a transfigured Jesus on the mountain with his closest disciples.

One of the most respected American psychologists was Abraham Maslow, born the same year as my parents, 1908. He wanted to make available insights from his research to assist ordinary people make their lives healthier and more vital. He was especially interested in the life experience of mentally healthy people.

In his writings he described the importance of what he called “peak experiences.” These were momentary events that were more intense than ordinary day-to-day living. During such moments people felt more alive and more alert to aspects of life that were never experienced before. He said that we should value such experiences that teach us about part of the deeper truths of human existence.

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Seeking Understanding

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

November 13, 2022 – 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 21:5-19

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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We are all accustomed to the inflated promises of politicians seeking our votes. Historians note that in 1928 Herbert Hoover promised to deliver a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. There have been countless variants of this kind of talk, including what’s being “promised” in current election claims.

Religious leaders have also offered claims of better times ahead to lure followers to their cause. In our day some preachers advocate what’s called “the prosperity gospel.” In brief, if you join their brand of Christianity, you will be rewarded by amazing success, financial and other wise. Was this based on solid evidence that this was the approach advocated by Jesus? Today’s gospel suggests it isn’t.

 

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Imagining Heaven

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home 

November 6, 2022 – 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 20:27-38

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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As my years here on Earth accumulate, my thoughts about what comes next seem to increase. With each passing day, I know that I move closer to my own death. Of course, that countdown has been going on for over eight decades. Still, my interest in what comes next is stronger today than ever before.

As a person of faith, I carry a hopeful faith rooted in the resurrection of Jesus. I remain strong in believing that I (along with others) will not cease living, but will enter a new kind of existence, one rooted in God’s life-giving love. Details of that life remain, to put it simply, unknown.

 

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Unexpected Grace

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

October 30th, 2021 – 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 19, 1-10

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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When reading this Sunday’s gospel, I could not help but smile at the short fellow climbing a tree to get a better view of Jesus as he passed by his home. Being a tax collector, he was not the most popular fellow in town. But he set that all aside, because he wanted to see Jesus. Imagine his surprise when Jesus stopped and asked “Shortie” if he might have dinner later at his house. Imagine also the look on the faces of his neighbors.

Like many gospel accounts, it shows Jesus reacting in surprising ways. Instead of ignoring the fellow who might have been the least popular citizen in Jericho (after all, he worked for the despised Romans) Jesus wanted to break bread with him as his home. At the very least, this move of Jesus would cause many to question their impression (and hope) that Jesus was someone sent from God.

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God Knows Your Heart

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

October 23rd, 2021 – 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 18, 9-14

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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This Sunday we hear again an inspiring parable of Jesus as he brings before us two people engaged in prayer at God’s holy temple. Near the front (a space reserved for “important” people) a Pharisee (a member of a respected religious group) recites his prayer. In brief he thanks God that he is very good and responsible person. He boasts that when it comes to religious practices (just in case God doesn’t know this), he does all that is expected. In his eyes, he is a model religious person.

Then The Pharisee notices in the back reaches of the temple a fellow he recognizes, perhaps from an earlier meeting they had. Maybe this is the tax collector who collects the Pharisee’s taxes. So, he decides to mention him in his prayer.

He thanks God that he is a better person than the tax man. He reminds God that the taxing profession was not done by good people. They engage in a profession known for cheating ordinary people to favor the ruling Romans.  Thus, his prayer ends with his judgment that he is a better person than that fellow in the back of the temple.

But the tables are suddenly turned by Jesus as he draws our attention to the prayer being said by the tax collector.

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Don't Give Up!

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

October 16th, 2021 – 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 18:1-8

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Today’s gospel is one of my favorites. Jesus wanted to teach a lesson about persistence and prayer. He described a feisty widow who kept pestering a local judge about an injustice that was done to her by an “adversary.” She wanted him to make a judgment “making things right.” He didn’t want to be bothered, so for a time he ignored her request. Day after day she appeared before him, repeating her need. Eventually he caved in and granted her request. Point of the parable: Don’t quit if you know you are right.

Recently, I made of list of turning points that I experienced during my life. And I realized that, in general, if I was rejected by someone or given a negative response to a request, I often stepped back for a bit and then tried again. Maybe just repeated my request or created another approach. I recall an old saying: If you don’t at first succeed, try and try again.

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Thank You for Your Gift

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

October 9th, 2021 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 17:11-19

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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As a child I wrote very few letters. Most of them were “thank you” notes to aunts and uncles who had sent me birthday and Christmas gifts. It was not clear to me back then why this seemed such a necessity. After all, my notes were mostly the same year after year. “Thank you for the ______. It was something I always wanted. Your nephew, David.”

As the years passed, I grew more and more negative about what I viewed as a waste of my time. So, I asked my mom about why I should continue writing letters that I felt were mostly meaningless. With her practical wisdom she responded. “So you’ll get another gift next year.” Case closed. Such practical wisdom.

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Rely on God

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

October 2, 2021 – 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time  - Luke 17:5-10

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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Recently I received one of those uninvited emails which caught my eye, especially since I am living in my retirement years. It asked me (and who knows how many others) how much money do you need in your possession to retire with peace and happiness, without fears or worries. Given the tenor of our times, it’s a question many, no doubt, struggle with. They want a number. A specific one. A sum that will put their worries and concerns to rest. And guarantee a wonderful future without financially related fears. I’m not going to share the figure that was given because for some, it would be too much, and for others too little. Besides, everyone knows that the so-called science of economics is mostly speculative and filled with much more opinion than with hard science. Still, economic concerns capture our attention. It’s a large part of the times we live in.

Now to today’s gospel. The disciples of Jesus were worried about a similar concern in their lives.

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See, Judge, Act

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

September 25th, 2022 – Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 16:19-31

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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We had “religion class” every day in the Catholic school I attended. But I can remember very little of what we were taught. Although I vividly still remember the story of the rich man and poor Lazarus, who are recalled in today’s gospel. It’s one of those stories that is hard to forget. It is vivid in detail and clearly an account where good eventually triumphs over evil. It is a story of great contrast.  

The Gospel of Luke is often called the gospel of social justice. And the challenge it presents was as valid in the time of Jesus as it is today. In fact, the story actually makes reference to the time of Abraham, the Father of the Jewish religion. In other words, the moral teaching encased in this story is timeless.

What I notice most is that the rich man, who uses his riches solely for his personal satisfaction, lives in the immediate presence of poverty, especially as it is embodied in the condition of poor Lazarus, who is described as destitute, sickly and starving. Lazarus is lying right as his door! He had to be noticed by the rich man, perhaps daily.

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Eternal Financial Planning

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

September 18th, 2022 – Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Luke 16:1-13

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
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During my lifetime, new professions have been created. They have names like IT specialist, astronaut or website designer. I even recall the first time I heard about someone becoming a financial planner. These were all professions that didn’t even exist when my parents brought me into the world.

Which leads me to wonder at the role Jesus took on when he gave “financial advice” to his disciples in today’s gospel. (He was always a bit ahead of his time.) This story is likely familiar to some, as it is read at Mass every four years. It is sometimes called the gospel of the deceptive steward. It’s about how an employee used his master’s money for his personal advantage.

Before saying something about the gospel, allow me to share a personal story.

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