Being "on the street"

A Reflection For Passion Sunday (April 9)
by Greg Swiderski

Mark 11:1-10
Isaiah 50:4-7
Psalm 22:8-24
Philippians 2:6-11
Mk 14:1--15:47

The full text of the readings can be found here.

A few months ago Peter Steinfels wrote in the Religion Journal of the New York Times about the film of CS Lewis' famous book: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He quoted a writer who thought that the creature which might more fully represent the Christ of scripture was either a donkey or a sheep; the movie presents a lion as the "Christ figure." A lion never appears in the gospel and is never used by the writers to characterize Jesus. A lion seems a fierce figure, dominant and frightening; this seems at odds with the Christ of the gospels.

In the Christain sacred stories Jesus rides upon an ass as he arrives in Jerusalem; he is echoing Zechariah 9:9. He comes as a person of peace; a bellicose leader would ride a horse.

Jesus says to us, "Unbind him.."

Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Lent (April 2)

By John Houk

The Cycle A readings for this Sunday:
Ezekiel 37:12-14
Psalms 130:1-8
Romans 8:8-11
John 11:1-45

The full text of the readings can be found here.

The Lenten readings always take my mind back to Little Flower Parish in South Bend, Indiana. At this time of year the parish would focus on those entering the Church through the RCIA program. The Lectionary suggests that if a parish has an active RCIA program that it use the Cycle A readings, and not only did Little Flower do that, but they reenacted those readings for the whole congregation. This is the Sunday for the Lazarus story in the Cycle A readings.

The voice of Jesus would ring out through the church, “Lazarus, come out!” and chills went up my spine. Then the voice of Jesus would say, “Unbind him and let him go.” At that moment the Elect and Candidates knew, and the whole congregation remembered, that this Jesus was the one who could and would call us out.

Today the voice of Jesus not only calls Lazarus out, but also calls us out of our own little secure place, our little box, our cave with the stone rolled across the entrance. He calls us to life, to a way of life, to his Way of life. How much we all want that for ourselves. We wait and hope for that call which will send chills up our spine when we recognize our own name in the voice of Jesus.

God's Word For Today

Reflection on the Fourth Sunday of Lent (Mar. 26)

By Carole Brennan

The readings for this Sunday:
2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23
Psalms 137:1-6
Ephesians 2:4-10
John 3:14-21

The full text of the readings can be found here.

The Word of the Lord has been translated into our language, but not into our times. Let's look at the first reading today from the second Book of Chronicles and give it an updated perspective.

In those days all the princes (present administration) practiced all the abominations and polluted the Lord's temple (our earth).

Early and often did God send messengers to them (James Hansen of NASA, Philip Clapp of the National Environmental Trust, Bill Budd of the Antarctic Research Center, the EPA, Ralph Cicerone of the National Academy of Science, Richard Piltz of the Federal Science Program), but they mocked the messengers (gave tax breaks to buyers of SUV's), despised God's warnings (joked about global warming), and scoffed at his prophets (White House heavily edited all material pertaining to global warming, often deliberately changing information) until the anger of God against them was so inflamed that there was no remedy (in ten years the effects of global warming will become unstoppable - Hansen).

Abraham's new intimacy with God

Reflection on Second Sunday of Lent (March 12)

By Edward T. Brett

The readings for this Sunday:
Genesis 22:1-18
Psalm 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19
Romans 8:31-34
Mark 9:2-10

The full text of the readings can be found here.

This Sunday's reading from Genesis is perhaps the most puzzling and disturbing passage in all of the Bible. How could the God that we believe in, the God of compassion, mercy, and love, ask someone to murder his only son? But this is exactly what Yahweh commanded Abraham to do. And why? Because Yahweh seems to have some twisted need to be shown that Abraham so feared him that he would be willing to go against his own conscience and commit the most heinous and repugnant crime of all--filicide, the killing of one's own child. The fact that God stopped Abraham just as he was about to slit his son Isaac's throat is beside the point. God had demanded that Abraham kill an innocent child and since such a murder is a sin, it seems that God had asked Abraham to sin.

And how must Abraham have felt? Not one word of protest came from his lips. He didn't question Yahweh's command because he so feared the Lord. And yet as he grasped the knife and made ready to plunge it into his son's body, Abraham must have hated the Lord. He certainly could not have loved a God who demanded such a reprehensible act.

In the second reading from Romans, St. Paul is obviously trying to relate in some way to the Abraham-Isaac story, when he tells us that God so loves us that he was willing to sacrifice his son, Jesus, for us.

Entering the wasteland

Reflection on First Sunday of Lent (March 5)

By Donna Brett

The readings for this Sunday:
Genesis 9:8-15
Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
1Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:12-15

The full text of the readings can be found here.

I recently witnessed firsthand the powerful destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Most of the population have been uprooted, with their homes and businesses destroyed; 1100 are dead and almost 2000 are still missing. The floodwaters receded months ago leaving block after block, mile after mile, of hauntingly empty homes, schools and streets, where once there were neighbors chatting, children shouting and laughing, and traffic bustling about. Gone are the animals, not only the pets, but the squirrels and the songbirds; gone too are the flowering magnolias, crepe myrtles, and azaleas. New Orleans has become an eerily quiet wasteland.

Is this what Noah saw when the floodwaters receded from the land--a lifeless desert created, ironically, by water? Was God stirred by Noah's feelings of helplessness and despair at the sight of the desolation to send the rainbow as a symbol that there could be a future of promise and life for the people? Does God still inspire our world with hope?

New Wineskins

Reflection on the Eight Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 26)

By Rebecca Mertz

The readings for this Sunday:
Hosea 2:16b, 17b, 21-22
Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13
2 Corinthians 3:1b-6
Mark 2:18-22

The full text of the readings can be found here.

“Things aren’t what they used to be.” When you hear this phrase, you can be reasonably certain that whatever is being described is perceived to have gone from good to bad. The price of gas isn’t what it used to be. The movies aren’t what they used to be. Young people aren’t what they used to be. A neighborhood isn’t what it used to be. Church isn’t what it used to be.

The notion that there was a state of good and now that state is in serious decline holds tremendous sway over many Christians. We often talk as if Christ is something to be recaptured and his kingdom on earth something that has to be fiercely protected to keep it from sinking into decline along with the rest of society.

This week’s gospel challenges that notion by reminding us that Christ’s preaching was a challenge to the deeply religious and ritualized society in which he lived, proof positive that God’s revelations are anything but static. “New wine is poured into fresh wineskins.”

When I hear people express that the world is falling into decline I’m reminded of the fact that in my lifetime (40 years) the words idiot, moron and imbecile were clinical terms for the mentally disabled. Autism was blamed on unloving mothers. The mentally ill were treated to electric shock, institutionalization and heavy sedation. Victims of paralysis were crippled. People who experienced physical and mental challenges were seen as aberrations and had very few if any civil rights.


Ever New, Ever Alive!

Reflection on the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 19)

By Fr. Neil McCaulley

The readings for this Sunday:
Is 43:18-19, 21-22, 24b-25
Ps 41:2-5, 13-14
2Cor 1:18-22
Mk 2:1-12

The full text of the readings can be found here.

God, Our Father, does not get old or tired. He does not lose interest in the human family, give up, or run out of ideas on how to save each of us. "See, I am doing something new!" We love new things. In fact, running after "the latest" can be a vice. Not so if we run after God’s new things.

Jesus is the ultimate example of being ever new and ever alive. In the gospel today people do run after him and He does not disappoint them. He teaches with authority, He forgives sins, He cures illnesses, while at the same time trying to get through to the religious authorities whose criticism He must endure.

Meanwhile the people are awestruck. They say they have never seen anything like Jesus, His words and works.

Today, everyday, God does new things. Try to discover them. Look for the summer God (as John Shea says) i.e. where things bloom in your life. If we have joy in the Lord, confident of His commitment, concern, power and plan, it makes it easier to strive to build God’s Kingdom here on earth. We have hope and that is a true source of divine energy.

Imitation of Christ

Reflection on the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (February 5)

By Ed Hogan

The readings for this Sunday:
Job 7:1-4,6-7
Psalm 147:1-6
1 Corinthians 9:16-19,22-23
Mark 1:29-39

The full text of the readings can be found here.

I think that it would be interesting and instructive to take a serious look at Mark's Gospel for today. In a relatively short passage, Mark outlines for us the Christian life as exemplified by Jesus. It contains the essential elements of a life that Jesus laid out for us.

It started with Jesus in the synagogue and indicated the starting point of the day. Jesus went to the synagogue to be part of the prayer life of his community from which he drew the spiritual energy to carry on his mission.

The Church for us is the place where we should find a community of prayer to and adoration of God that will serve to energize us to lead a life of commitment. There is a lot to be gained by being part of a community of believers because our life of faith is nourished by our companions on the Christian journey. When one is alone in this task, the burdensome quality of the journey can be quite daunting, but when we travel together with others, the sense of companionship and care can be very supportive.