Friday, September 4, 2015

Reflection: Luke 5:33-39

Friday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 5:33-39

The scribes and Pharisees come to Jesus and say to him: “The disciples of John fast and offer frequent prayers, as do the Pharisees. However your disciples eat and drink.” Again the scribes and Pharisees were criticizing him. If you were in Jesus’ sandals, how would you respond? I am sure I would be a bit angry.

However, Jesus answers them: “Do the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?” I wonder if the Pharisees were confused by Jesus’ question. Did they look at each other in confusion and wonder what in the world Jesus was talking about? Or did they realize that he was using this analogy of the bridegroom as a reference to himself?

Jesus then tells them: “No one patches an old cloak with a new piece of cloth.” Jesus knew that anyone with sense would realize that if a new piece of clothing was sewn onto an old, worn cloak, it would tear. Then Jesus uses another image: wine and wineskins. Everyone knew that if you put new wine into an old wineskin, the wineskin would burst. It simply did not have the elasticity of a new wineskin. If wine was being made, it needed to be put into a new and pliable wineskin.

Jesus is sending a message to the Scribes and Pharisees. He will not be following in their footsteps. Rather, Jesus is doing something new. The Scribes and Pharisees are controlled by the letter of the law. For Jesus, the law of love always reigns supreme. Jesus is creating waves that disturb and unsettle them. And the Pharisees do not like it. Perhaps they also are jealous of Jesus’ popularity with the people.

Ask yourself: are you a legalist? Do laws and rules reign supreme in your life? We definitely need laws and rules. These help make life more humane and structured (in a good way). Yet, love is the supreme law. Today I invite you to be mindful of what law reigns in your life. Will it be the law? Or will it be love? This is a decision only we can make. And it always is our decision!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Reflection: Luke 5:1-11

Thursday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 5:1-11

In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls his first disciples. Jesus was proclaiming the word of God at the Lake of Gennesaret. As he was standing by the lake, he saw two boats on the shore. The fishermen had just come in from the lake. They were washing their nets and cleaning their boats.

Jesus went over to them and climbed into Simon’s boat. I wonder how Simon reacted to this man climbing into his boat without saying a word to him. In today’s world, it would be like a stranger getting into your car when you are stopped at an intersection. Jesus boldly asked Simon to row out a short distance from the shore. Simon did so. Then from the boat, Jesus began to teach the crowds.

When Jesus finished his teaching, he told Simon to put out into the deep water and then to lower his nets. I wonder what Simon’s inner reaction was when Jesus told him what to do? After all, Peter was a professional fisherman. He had been doing this for years. Simon’s response to Jesus implies that he was a bit aggravated. He skeptically tells him: “We fished all night long and caught nothing. However, I will do as you command.” And as we know, they caught such a great number of fish that their nets were unable to bear the weight of the catch and they began to tear. Simon and the other fishermen called out to the men in other boats to come and help them. They had caught so many fish that the fishermen were afraid that both the boats would sink.

All of the men were amazed at the size of the catch. They had never caught such an enormous number of fish at one time. Simon Peter was filled with awe and wonder. He fell at the knees of Jesus and said: “Jesus, depart from me for I am a sinful man.” Jesus responded to him and said: “Don’t be afraid. From now on you will be catching men (and women).” The disciples were so astonished at this miracle that they left their families and homes to follow Jesus.

Most likely, we will not be fishing today (at least for fish). However, if we keep our eyes and hearts open, we may recognize the abundance of Jesus’ gift to us. It may be the love and care we experience from others. Or it may be that your day goes well and you experience satisfaction at all you were able to accomplish. For many human beings, it almost is a natural tendency to focus on what goes wrong in our day rather than what our blessings have been. True, something may go wrong but there may be many more instances of what has gone well. Be alert and be thankful!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Reflection: Luke 4:38-44

Wednesday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 4:38-44

Today we experience the healing power of Jesus. After leaving the synagogue, Jesus went to the home of Simon. When he arrived, Simon’s mother-in-law was very ill with a high fever. Her family was hoping that Jesus would pray with her, but ultimately they were hoping that Jesus would heal and fully restore her health. When Jesus arrived at the home, he went to the woman. He rebuked the fever and immediately the woman was fully restored. She got up from her bed and began to serve them.

At sunset, many people who were ill were brought to Jesus. They had a variety of diseases. Jesus laid his hands on each of them and they were cured. Demons came out from some of the people and they began to shout at Jesus: “You are the Son of God.” However, Jesus firmly rebuked them. He did not allow them to speak because they recognized that he was the Christ.

At daybreak, tired and weary, Jesus left town to find a deserted place. He needed some time to rest, pray and be alone. However, the crowd came looking for him and tried to prevent him from leaving. (Who wouldn’t want a healer close by?) However, Jesus firmly told them that he must go and proclaim the good news of the Kingdom.

Jesus calls each of us to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom. We are his disciples in our world and we are called to share his love and message with our world. I invite you to take ten minutes or so today and ask yourself: Do I proclaim the good news of the Kingdom in my small corner of the world? Or do I ignore Jesus’ call and depend on others to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom?

As Christians and disciples of Jesus, each one of us is his messenger. Today I invite you to share Jesus’ good news in small and simple ways. Most people typically don’t like being preached to. However, they may appreciate a subtle reminder of what we all are called to be and to do. Spread the good news today! You may find that you enjoy sharing good news with the people you encounter.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Volunteers show how to "zag"

This summer, we had a group form Illinois come for a week for a “Mission Trip.” As with many mission trips, there is always painting to be done… and sometimes the weather doesn’t always cooperate. They were supposed to paint railing and banisters around the grounds, but rain was all around.

Time passed and they felt like they never finished the project, so the weekend before school started, seven young ladies came back to finish the job.

That weekend when they had lots to do to get ready for school, they choose to “zag.” They came, painted, played, prayed, and, of course, ate with us here at the Monastery. When the world was zigging that weekend, they zagged!

—Sister Teresa Gunter, OSB

Learn more about how the Sisters of St. Benedict "zag" on our web site!

Reflection: Luke 4:31-37

Tuesday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 4:31-37

In today’s Gospel, Jesus travels to the town of Capernaum in Galilee. When he arrived there, he taught the people. His listeners were astounded at his teaching. As they listened to him, they realized that Jesus was different than any of the teachers they had heard before. Jesus spoke with great authority, authenticity and yet with humility.

There was a man in the synagogue that was possessed by an unclean demon. When the man heard the people talk about Jesus and the astounding deeds he had done, the man cried out to him: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Are you here to destroy us? I know that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus then rebuked the demon by saying: “Be quiet! Come out of this man!” The demon threw the man to the floor and then came out of his body. The man was not harmed.

All the people who witnessed this healing were amazed and astounded. They said to one another: “What is it about this man? Where did he get this authority? How does he have the power to exorcise unclean spirits?” And the news of Jesus and his power to heal and to drive out unclean spirits spread throughout the region.

Take a moment and ask yourself: What are the unclean spirits that possess you? How do these unclean spirits affect your life? Do you long to be free of these unclean spirits? Or have they become an integral part of your life? Have you asked Jesus to exorcise your unclean spirits?

If you desire to have these unclean spirits rebuked by Jesus, go to Jesus and beg him to rid you of the unclean spirit that is destroying your life. Every day come to Jesus and beg him to heal you. You may not get an immediate miracle. However, you may begin to notice a difference in your life, in your emotions and in your trust in Jesus. Jesus is with you! Open your heart and trust him!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Reflection: Luke 4:16-30

Monday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time — Luke 4:16-30

Today Jesus is in his hometown of Nazareth. It was the Sabbath day and as was his custom he went to the synagogue. When he entered the synagogue, Jesus stood up to read. He was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He read this passage: “The Spirit of God is upon me because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim a year that is acceptable to the Lord! Then he rolled up the scroll and stated: “Today this passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Take a moment and put yourselves in the shoes of the people listening to Jesus. Remember, he was in his hometown of Nazareth. Many of these people had watched him grow up, watched him play and most likely corrected him at times. They knew Jesus very well. Since he was so familiar to them, it would have been easy for them to dismiss his words and his proclamation. However, they spoke highly of him and they were amazed at his ability to preach. Yet, they also said: “Is this man the son of Joseph, the carpenter? Where did he get all this knowledge and wisdom?”

Jesus was well aware that typically a prophet was not accepted in his home town. Yet he also desired to share his good news with the people he had known and loved from childhood. Sadly, the people did not open their minds and hearts to Jesus. He was far too different from what they expected him to be. After all, who did he think he was to come and preach to them? Did he believe he was better than they were? The townspeople became so angry with Jesus that they took him out of town, intending to hurl him off a cliff. He simply was too much for them. However, Jesus sadly yet calmly, walked through the crowd and went away.

Our initial reaction to this Gospel might be shock or dismay due to the reaction of his neighbors and friends. However, have you ever rejected Jesus because he was not who you thought he should be? Or because he did not do what you hoped he would do for you? If so, perhaps you can identify with Jesus’ neighbors. It may be easy to judge or criticize Jesus when he is not acting as we expect him to act.

Imagine the rollercoaster of emotions that Jesus must have experienced in these moments. These were the people who had watched him grow up, who supposedly knew him. He had grown up with them, played with them, eaten in their homes and worshiped with them in the temple. Yet, now they were rejecting him simply because he was acting in a way they did not expect him to act. And sadly they refused to listen to him because he had a wisdom and knowledge far beyond any individual in Nazareth. Luke writes: “He was too much for them!”

Can you identify with Jesus? Have there been times in your life when you were rejected because you were not the person a family member or friend expected you to be? I assume so. Even good people get jealous, envious and angry at times. And have there been situations in your life when you rejected another person because they were not being the person you wanted them to be? I would assume that all of us have been on both sides of this fence. Today I invite you to be mindful of your judgment of the people you encounter. It is true that judgment often is automatic and almost unconscious. However, when we become aware we are judging another, we then can choose to step back from judgment and let God be the Judge. It will not only free the other person, it also will free us!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Reflection: Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

Sunday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time — Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

The Pharisees continue to scrutinize Jesus’ preaching and his behavior. Today they observe that some of Jesus’ disciples did not observe the purification ritual that was required before eating any meal. For the Pharisees, this gave them the perfect opportunity to once again criticize Jesus. For the Pharisees, the law always reigned supreme.

They came to Jesus and asked him: “Why don’t you and your followers observe the proper purification rites? They are eating their meal with unclean hands.” Jesus responds to them by quoting the prophet Isaiah: “This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrine what are human traditions and precepts.” Then Jesus bluntly tells them: “You disregard God’s commandments and cling to human tradition.”

Jesus then proclaims to the crowd: “Listen to me and hear me! Nothing that enters a person from outside can defile that person! It is what comes from within that defiles the individual.” Jesus then names fifteen emotions and acts that defile individuals.

Today may be a good day for us to ask ourselves: At times, do we judge or critique others because they are not following the law, be that the law of God or the law of the land? I assume we do. Many of our judgments are automatic. They may be leftovers from what we were taught as a child. Judgments simply are part of our human condition. And often we may not be fully aware that we are judging another person for breaking one of the laws or rules we consider to be important. Most all of us do not like it when another person judges us. Yet at times, we automatically judge others when we may not have the complete picture. It is not our place to judge others. This is God’s work to do.

If/when you find yourself beginning to judge another today, stop, breathe, and pray. Then go on about your day. You may find your day is lighter and brighter without so much judgment!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Reflection: Mark 6:17-29

The Passion of John the Baptist — Mark 6:17-29

On this feast of the Passion of John the Baptist, Mark writes of John’s arrest, imprisonment and death. It is a horrific story and it mirrors the atrocities that we human beings continue to perpetrate on one another. John’s crime was that he bluntly told Herod that it was not lawful for him to marry Herodias, his brother’s wife. When Herodias heard this, she harbored a grudge against John and she wanted to kill him. However, she did not have the authority nor the means to do so.

Herodias was a clever and conniving woman and she devised a plan. Herod had planned a great feast for Herodias’ birthday. He had invited many esteemed guests for this grand celebration. Herodias’ daughter performed a beautiful dance that enchanted Herod and his guests. Herod was so taken by her performance that he said to the girl: “Ask of me whatever you will and I give to you, even if you ask for half of my kingdom.”

The girl went and consulted with her mother. When she asked her mother what she should ask for, her mother immediately replied: “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl returned to Herod and told him that she wanted the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod was shocked and distressed. He admired John and respected him. Yet he had made a public oath. And all of his guests had witnessed his oath. What would they think of him if he did not keep his word? Herod truly was in a bind. Finally, he gave the order to have John beheaded. And so it was. John’s head was brought back to Herod on a platter. Herod gave it to the girl and the girl gave it to Herodias. And the feast continued.

I assume that at times all of us have been in a bind. Perhaps we were asked to do something that we knew was not right. And most likely, in the future we will be in a similar situation. It is difficult to stand up and do what is right, when there is pressure from others to please them or to conform. Do we have the strength and courage to stand our ground and do what is right and just? Or do we cave in to please others or to look good?

Today may we pray for the strength and courage to live what we believe, even if others may not approve of our choices and actions. May we strive to have the integrity and courage of John the Baptist, who stood firm in his beliefs even though it ended up costing him his head!