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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Be Not Afraid

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January 28th, 2018 Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 1:21-28

 The worlds described in much of contemporary literature and cinema contain all kinds of creatures. Some look like exotic and terrifying animals (often greatly enlarged) from an earlier era. Some look like they are part-machine and part-human. Some are small and slithery (often millions of them) and some are gigantic and very scary. Some stories come from ages long past and some from the distant future. All those worlds seem populated by a few good creatures and lots of evil ones. The goal is always the same: survival! Somehow the evil forces must be overcome, conquered, destroyed … or else! Fear abounds until a hopefully victorious conclusion.

You might be surprised to learn that people during the time of Jesus had created a world much like what I have just described. They believed that the world was filled with all kinds of spirits. Some were benevolent or angelic and others were the opposite. Belief in evil spirits or demons was commonplace. Unravelling what might be purely superstitious from reality was difficult. One thing was certain. The spiritual world as then imagined readily created fear and anxiety among many.

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Jesus Invites Us

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January 21st, 2018 Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 1:14-20

 Fishermen can be difficult people to live with. They can be moody. Set in their ways. Their success at fishing is dependent on their knowledge of the waters, their reading of the weather and most fisherman have their own secrets about how to be good at what they do. They are practical men who are proud of their profession and likely to be quite devoted to doing it well. In other words, they are self-directed. No one tells a fisherman what to do.

Thus, we read in today’s gospels the story of how four fishermen, seemingly only on an invitation from Jesus (who was NOT a fisherman), dropped their nets, left their boats, said good-bye to the sea and trailed after this stranger. Can you believe it? Seems like a fish story, doesn’t it?

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Meeting Jesus Changes Everything

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January 14th, 2018 Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, John 1:35-42

 This time each year features major football games. Whether you are a fan or not, it’s hard to avoid all the hype and banter about games that are scheduled to be played. All are considered by their advocates as important, monumental, once-in-a-lifetime events. And more than 99% of people who watch these games will be doing so from comfy couches at home or in their favorite sports bar. Few will actually be at the game. They will not enjoy the game in person.

And because of that, they will miss what true football fans know in their hearts, and that is this: real fans are there in the stands. Freezing, wheezing and shivering. Still, they would not want to be anywhere else. There is no substitute for personal presence.

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Epiphany Gifts

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January 7th, 2018 The Epiphany of the Lord, Matthew 2:1-12

 Every year I wonder what’s happening to the religious meaning of Christmas. Certainly, most Christians recall the birth of Jesus Christ, especially as it is described in Luke’s gospel. In our home, my wife has collected many diverse cultural expressions of the stable scene at Bethlehem. Thus, we have many reminders that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus.

But then, like a gigantic cloud that blocks out the light of the sun, another meaning of Christmas overshadows us. Its basic message is about gift-buying. Christmas becomes the time when we give or exchange gifts with others. It can become mostly a commercial event. A materialistic feast that could result in nothing more than giving and getting stuff. Not that this is all bad. Gift-giving and the celebration of Christmas go way back. We are reminded of this connection in today’s feast.

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