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My Sisters Gospel Reflection, Uncategorized

Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time

In the Gospel reading for this Sunday we are hearing the apostles having a conversation about who is the greatest among them. At times it may happen to us in our daily lives that a feeling such as this may happen. Jesus doesn’t rebuke or chide them. He simply, as the One who is meek and humble of heart shows them the better way to holiness.

This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:

“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”

This beloved Gospel scene of Jesus welcoming and embracing a child has been portrayed in stained glass and paintings for centuries. It is so popular that we may miss its powerful message that forever changed our understanding of service. Immediately before this Gospel scene, Jesus tells the apostles for a second time that he will suffer, die, and rise. Shortly after, on their way to Capernaum, the group begins discussing which of them is the greatest. The apostles are clearly not immune to competition!

The Gospel writer tells us that Jesus then sits down and calls the Twelve together. The Master uses this incident as an occasion to teach them. The detail that Jesus sits down is important. To teach from a sitting position symbolizes that Jesus is speaking from his authority as Teacher and Lord. Each year we are reminded of this in our liturgy when we celebrate the Chair of Saint Peter, the “chair” that symbolizes the teaching authority of the apostle whom Jesus chose to serve as the visible head of the Church.

In Jesus’ time, children and servants had no legal status or rights; they were considered unimportant. A free man would consider it unbecoming to serve or to do the duties of a servant or a woman. Jesus turns the standard of greatness and service upside down. His disciples are called to serve the poor and all those who cannot repay. Jesus’ action of placing a child in the apostles’ midst and embracing the little one is the answer to their question about greatness. To receive and to serve those who are weak, defenseless, and without worldly status is to show respect for each person’s human dignity, and to receive Jesus and the Father. Jesus revealed his greatness in his humble acceptance of his passion and death and his service to all. For a disciple of Jesus, greatness lies not in domination but in openhearted service.

If you have enjoyed this meditation, you’ll find meditations on all the Gospels in the Ordinary Grace series:  Ordinary Grace Weeks 18-34

Inspiration

Everyday Grace: How to enter into another’s pain

We all have felt the intense pain of loss, and know how terribly isolating it can be. But in some ways it’s even more difficult to be with someone who is in pain than it is to experience it ourselves. We want to fix things, to make it all right again for them, and when we cannot, we feel frustrated and angry. How can we deal?

  • Remember God is there. God doesn’t rush in to fix things or to sugarcoat anything; God is there for us for the long haul, though everything. If we remember that, it helps us to just be with someone else who is suffering.
  • Validate the other person’s pain. The worst thing you can do is say “Cheer up, it’s not really that bad.” Even if it doesn’t feel “that bad” to you, it does to them. Respect that and don’t minimize others’ feelings.
  • Be Christ to the person in pain. Don’t try to come up with answers; just offer Christ’s presence. The most difficult thing is to do nothing and just be; but you’re not doing it by yourself.

No one understands why we suffer, and there are no “right” prefabricated answers to pain. All that there is, is presence. You can be that presence; you can make sure that the person in pain is not alone. The ability to freely enter into the suffering of another is a reflection of God’s love, and it’s what we’re all called to do.

 

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Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

The disciples have been following Jesus for a good while. They have seen him in action and have heard his words spoken with authority. Most important, they have seen that he lives what he preaches. Now Jesus wants them to say now what they are thinking in his regard. Do they believe in him? Have they understood who he really is and why he has come into their lives and into the world?

This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:

“You are thinking not as God does . . . ”

At first it seems that Peter “gets it.” He confidently exclaims, “You are the Christ.” But Peter’s vision of the Messiah does not coincide with that of Jesus. Jesus describes what he must undergo, saying that he “must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.” This overwhelms Peter and clashes with his ideas, so he adamantly rejects it. It cannot be this way.

While Jesus understands Peter’s human way of thinking, Jesus must be faithful to his mission and wants to lead Peter beyond his narrow human perspective. Jesus is always inviting us “beyond.” He loves and accepts us where we are, but he wants to move us beyond, into a way of thinking, feeling, and living that is in tune with his own. In this, Jesus’ constant reference point is the Father. The goal of Jesus’ life is to be faithful to the Father’s plan of love for humanity. Like Peter, we can easily get stuck in our narrow, human perspective. Without the teachings, example, and grace of Jesus, we remain stuck. But in every situation, Jesus is at our side, inviting us to see things just a little bit differently, to think about reality with a God-perspective that can change our lives. Is there a situation in my life right now that God is inviting me to see in a different way?

If you have enjoyed this meditation, you’ll find meditations on all the Gospels of  Ordinary Time in:  Ordinary Grace Weeks 18-34

Inspiration

How Mary strengthens us as we carry the cross

This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14). Early in the fourth century, Saint Helena, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, went to Jerusalem in search of the holy places of Christ’s life. During the excavation for the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher (to be built on the spot that tradition held was over the Savior’s tomb), workers found three crosses. Legend has it that the one on which Jesus died was identified when its touch healed a dying woman. The cross immediately became an object of veneration.

The following day, September 15, is the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Mary, the Mother of Sorrows, stood with her Son as he hung on his cross, and she stands here with each of us as we carry the cross beside her Son. Whether the cross enters our life through loss, failure, sin, illness, relationships, Mary is with us because she knows our sorrow. She herself has lived through the agony of the moment-by-moment struggle to make sense of pain, to find a way forward, to try to reframe what is happening into something our minds can comprehend. And she knows the final leap of faith, the only thing that can make sense of the struggle between the force of Love and the shadows of darkness.

Here are three ways Mary strengthens me as I carry the cross:

  • She teaches me to see. When life is brought to a shabby wreck through illness, failure, fractured human relationships, the bitter awareness of sin, Mary assures me that my own Calvary’s are paradoxically the places of my greatest hope.
  • She teaches me to wait. The cross cannot be explained away. It defies logic. Mary teaches me that conclusions I may reach with my mind are necessarily incomplete when I am  dealing with the painful situations of life. As she pondered in her heart the death of her Son, she slowly waited for understanding.
  • She teaches me to trust. The cross is essentially how God works in and through the way-things-are to defeat the darkness that still struggles for the upper hand in my life. I have been blessed to realize, at least in my better moments, that I want to let God act. In the words of Mary, I am finally able to say, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your will” (Lk 1:38).
These have made me stronger and you may find that they also make you stronger also when the cross looms large in your own life.

I’d like to introduce you to our new Just a Minute Series. When your burden is heavy these small take-me-with-you books will bring you light, love, and healing. It is like opening a window, taking in the fresh air, and gratefully receiving the sunshine. Each meditation takes just a few minutes to read, can be chosen at random, and is filled with encouragement and simple insights. These short meditations will enable you to connect with God’s heart through scripture and listen to what he is saying to you right here, right now.

by Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, fsp
author of Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments

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Victory Over Faults

I fervently ask for victory over my principal fault and love for others that our founder expects of us and that you expect of us, my God. Most Holy Trinity, Mary most holy, Saint Paul, my guardian angel, my patron saint, bless my resolutions and help me remain faithful to God until death. Thanks be to God. May your will be done. (T 1, January 1927)

Venerable Mother Thecla Merlo

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Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s Gospel relates the healing of a man who is both deaf and mute. By healing him Jesus opens the man’s ears and mouth so that he might hear and proclaim the Good News. Before that can happen, however, Jesus and the man have a private meeting. Since Jesus is traveling in Gentile territory, it is likely the man who is healed is also a Gentile.

This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:

“[Jesus] took him off by himself away from the crowd.”

 In Jesus’ day it was inconceivable for a Jew to talk to, let alone touch, a non-Jew, yet Jesus does this. He goes further. Jesus draws the man away from the crowd. This isn’t a case of Jesus hiding what he is about to do for fear of what his fellow Jews might think of him. Instead Jesus places all the man’s needs to the forefront in order to minister to him in a personal way. If they had stayed with the crowd the sensational healing would be seen, but the subtly nuanced essential might be missed.

What is essential here? Is it that the man is physically healed, or is it the message that God in Jesus yearns to heal the man’s most profound wounds in a personal way? Hearing and proclaiming the Good News is not possible without this kind of personal encounter with the Lord. By extension we also are invited to the same. We pray with Scripture because of the way Jesus draws us apart from the crowd, from the hustle and bustle of our overloaded lives. In many Gospel accounts we read how Jesus pulls a person away from the crowd. Does that not point to the sacredness of being alone with God? Will all our problems go away, will we be immediately healed of physical infirmities because of our private moments with Jesus? Perhaps not. But the authentic encounter with God results in his grace being poured out in us, thus enabling us to hear and proclaim the Good News.

If you have enjoyed this meditation, you’ll find meditations on all the Gospels of  Ordinary Time in:  Ordinary Grace Weeks 18-34

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Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Here is a profound reflection of a Jesuit Father, Pedro Arrupe that speaks to our heart…

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:

“. . . their hearts are far from me.”

The Pharisees and their predecessors had formulated many rules, which they felt would help people keep God’s law. But the letter of the law can become everything, and its spirit nothing. Jesus challenges the Pharisees to recognize that they have gone off track. “This people honors me with their lips,” he quotes, “but their hearts are far from me.” Probably Jesus’ purpose is to recall the Pharisees to their duty—reminding them that interior dispositions have more value than pious exterior actions. Mark’s purpose may have been different, since he seems to have written for the Christian community in Rome, which was partly Gentile. Mark may have been chiefly interested in what Jesus said about Jewish dietary laws.

And what is the Church’s purpose in presenting this Gospel reading to us today? Although we might have the attitudes that Jesus warned against—exterior piety, interior vice—this Gospel could have another message for us: Where is our heart? Where do our thoughts roam? What do we do for enjoyment, and how often? Are we addicted to some substance or activity? A person can be addicted to far more than tobacco, drugs, and alcohol. Other addictions, for example, could be greed, envy, and other vices mentioned in this Gospel passage, as well as certain foods or favorite types of novels, films, TV shows, and other forms of entertainment. Not all diversions are addictions, but if they interfere with our responsibilities—the duties of our state in life—they become problematic. In all this, how much room is there for God? It’s a challenge to keep God in the forefront of our lives. The First Commandment states: “you shall not have other gods besides me” (Ex 20:3). Following this commandment can be difficult, because we don’t see God. Praying, reading Scripture and spiritual books, and contemplating nature or sacred images are all means of keeping in touch with God, so that he may never find our hearts “far from” him.

If you have enjoyed this meditation, you’ll find meditations on all the Gospels of  Ordinary Time in:  Ordinary Grace Weeks 18-34

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United to Jesus

I unite my prayers and sufferings to the intentions of Jesus in the holy Host, and I want to renew this offering with every beat of my heart. At night, may every breath I take while asleep be an act of continual communion with you, my God. With every breath I take, I want to say: Jesus is with us and we are with Jesus.

Venerable Mother Thecla Merlo