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REFLECTIONS

THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT

This Sunday we hear the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. Before considering the story in detail it is important also to consider it in the context and sequence of the Gospel.
 
We note a great contrast here. Prior to this passage we heard about Nicodemus. Nicodemus is a  pharisee in the south city of Jerusalem in  Judea.  He is a male representative of the Jewish religious establishment.   In today’s Gospel we have a unnamed Samaritan woman.  She is a  representative of an enemy people a foreign woman.   She is surprised that Jesus talks with her.  The Disciples too are surprised that Jesus talks with her. 
 
John sets up this story in a dramatic form. 
 
1. WHO:  Divide up into parts:  l) Narrator, 2) Jesus, 3) Samaritan
woman, 4) disciples, 5) town's people. 
 
2. WHERE:  Three stages:
                          l) main stage (Jesus and Woman) (Jesus and Disciples).
                          2) back stage: town (where disciples go, where woman goes).
                          3) middle stage:  townspeople coming to Jesus.
 
 
3. WHAT: (1-4) Introduction: Jesus leaves Judea for Galilee to the
north. En route he passes through Samaria, where at Shechem he rests at
noon next to Jacob's well.
                  (5-26) First dialogue:
                                              a) living water (7-l5) _
                                                (a) (7) Jesus, (9) woman, (l0 Jesus)
                                                (b) (ll-l2) Woman, (l3-l4) Jesus, (l5) woman.
                                              b) worship in Spirit and truth
                                                 (a) (l6) Jesus, (l7) Woman, (l8) Jesus_
                                                 (b) (l9-20) Woman, (2l-24) Jesus, (25) Woman, (26) Jesus.
                  (27-30) Change of scenery: Disciples return, woman left, towns
people on way coming to Jesus.
                  (31-38) Second dialogue:

                               a) Jesus' food
                                   (3l) disciples, (32) Jesus, (33) Disciples.
                               b) the harvest (34-38) Jesus.
 
                  (39-42) Conclusion: belief of the Samaritans 


4. Progression in faith knowledge:  1) (9) Jew, 2) (12) greater than
Jacob? 3) (19) prophet, 4) (29) could this be the Messiah? 5) (42)
Savior of the world. 
 
5. Things to watch for:
                        1) why at noon? isolation.
                        2) stage directions: disciples leave, woman leaves.
                        3) stage prop, left her water jar at well.
                        4) living water, not the water of a cistern or a
well (dead) but water of a running spring or stream.
 
6.WHY:

   Applications:
                  l) This episode presents the Samaritan Woman as the
first missionary. (NJBC p. 956) (also Brown, Community of Beloved
Disciple, Woman in John)
                  2) The Sanaritan woman is offered to us as a person really meeting Jesus: growth in faith, from isolation to faith, to mission.  Jesus a person who knows the heart, is receptive and non-judgmental. 
                  3) Obstacles to meeting persons: prejudices, race,
family, past disagreements, sex of the person, other things that put us
off, sarcasm, abrasive, etc. 
                  4) Emphasis of commentators on immorality of woman,
doesn't occupy Jesus.  Seeing her raising question of place of worship
as a way to deflect conversation from her personal life.  So taken by
Jesus (prophet) that addresses to him the question preoccupying
Samaritans.
                  5) As true missionary, helps people to come to Jesus. 
Her importance decreases as they come into personal contact with Jesus. 
True disciple and missionary.
                  6) The challenges of the Samaritan woman are ours: to
come to recognize who it is that speaks when Jesus speaks, and must ask
Jesus for living waters.
                  7) Jesus never gets a drink from her, but she gets
living water from him.
                  8) Our faith journey like Samaritan woman's includes
questions:  Greater than Jacob?  Could this be the Messiah?
                  9) Emotions of Samaritan woman: suspicion, fear (9),
to almost brassy defiance (ll-l2), to a complex mix of intelligent
curiosity and blank misunderstanding, to half-hearted deviousness (l5),
to total & selfless enthusiasm and commitment.


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Samaritan woman:

1) Go through the various names or titles that the woman uses for Jesus.
2) Go through the various attitudes the woman reveals at the different
moments of the encounter, meeting. 
3) What does it mean for us?
    a) In life we have many different meetings every day, the majority
of them are routine, superficial.  Good morning.  How are you?  I'm
fine, how are you?  I'm fine.  Have a good day.  I hope that all of us
have some more profound meetings in our life.  
    b) The meeting of Jesus and the Samaritan woman is more than a
superficial or routine meeting.  Why?  What accounts for this?
       (a) it isn't as though this meeting is without obstacles.  What
are some of the obstacles here?  Prejudice, racial (that person is an
anglo, that person is a Mexican, Bosnia Herzegovina (Serbs and Muslims),
South Africa (black, white), etc. etc. , sexual (you can't reason with
her she's just a dumb woman/  You can't talk with him, he's so macho.). 
Misunderstandings (a word means one thing to one person and something
different to another).  Getting beyond attitudes that might put us off,
her brassiness, confrontational style, abrasiveness. 
       (b) the difference between a monologue and dialogue.  Here we
have a genuine exchange.  Jesus speaks, woman listens, woman speaks,
Jesus listens.  Genuine exchange.
 
    c) If our human exchanges are superficial, it is probable that our
exchanges with God are superficial. Someone has said that the depth of
our human meetings, encounters with others is the measure of the depth
of our encounter with God. 
       (a) the danger of speaking always when we pray.  We do all the
talking.
       (b) but to be quiet and listen to God is also dangerous, we may
hear that God is calling us to something in our life that needs to be
changed, some conversion that we are being called to.
       (c) the woman is willing to change.
       (d) notice that the woman goes from no faith, to questioning, to
some faith, to committed faith.  Her experience with Jesus leads her
beyond herself to tell other people about Jesus.  She becomes the first
missionary in John's Gospel. 
       (e) the challenges of the Samaritan woman are ours:  come to
recognize who it is that speaks when Jesus speaks and we must ask Jesus
for living water.
       (f) each of us has the ability to be truly present to another
person.  This is very often an unused ability.  When we have met a
person who radiates this ability we become changed in the encounter. The
kiss of peace at Mass can be another chance meeting, carelessly or
routinely dealt with or we can look at the other person and with the
eyes of faith see a person of extraordinary possibilities (una mirada de
fe) and have a different kind of exchange.
       (g) we won't meet someone by a well this week but maybe at a water cooler, or desk or locker, or some other ordinary place.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT

The Image of a journey for our life is often times used. 
In today's first reading, Abraham is called to go on a journey.  His
attentiveness to the call of God is also followed by a number of
promises.  In the Gospel we hear of a stopping off place on the journey
of Jesus, the Mountain of Transfiguration.

For Catholics throughout the world we are on the Lenten Journey. 
Last Sunday we paused with Jesus on the Mt. of Temptation.  Today we
pause at the mountain of Transfiguration.  On the following Sundays of
Lent this year we will pause with Jesus at the Well of the Samaritan
woman, will pause with the man born blind, will pause at the tomb of
Lazarus, will pause to listen again to the Passion story.
 
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The reflection today will have three points: 1) consider the story of
the transfiguration as told by Matthew; 2) look at the life of Jesus
according to Matthew in view of the five different mountains that are
mentioned; 3) try to apply the meaning of the Transfiguration to our
life. 


1) We have the story of the transfiguration in three Gospels, Mark,
Luke and Matthew.  The sequence these three Gospel writers follow is
similar.  Jesus exercises his ministry in Galilee, he makes his first passion
prediction, (In Matthew and Mark, Peter objects) and then we have the
story of the transfiguration. 

But the story is slightly different in these three Gospels.  Let us
look carefully at the differences in Matthew's account.  First of all
Matthew is the only one of the three to describe this experience
with the word, "vision."  When Matthew describes what happened to Jesus
he says, "His face became as dazzling as the sun."  This specific
description of what happened to Jesus is only in Matthew.  We recall
Exodus 34:29 "As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets
of the commandments in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his
face had become radiant while he conversed with the Lord.  33 "he put a
veil over his face."  And in the vision of Daniel (10:6) the heavenly
person is described, "his face shone like lightning." 

In Matthew’s account when Peter speaks after the appearance of
Moses and Elijah he refers to Jesus as Lord.  In Mark Peter refers
to Jesus as Rabbi, In Luke as Master.  Peter also portrays a 
submissive attitude before God for Matthew says,
"with your permission . . . "  After the voice speaks from the
cloud Matthew tell us, "When they heard this the disciples fell forward
on the ground, overcome with fear." NABR "they fell prostrate and were
very much afraid."  These emphases of Matthew turn the picture of Jesus
to accent his divine majesty.  When we pray for mercy at the beginning
of Mass we address Jesus as Lord have mercy, we do not pray teacher
or rabbi have mercy. 


But the other addition of Matthew gives another particular emphasis
to the Transfiguration scene as Matthew paints the picture.  Only
Matthew informs us, "Jesus came toward them and laying his hand on them,
said 'Get up! Do not be afraid." NABR "But Jesus came and touched them
saying, 'Rise and do not be afraid.'"  Matthew is careful to portray
this Jesus in his majesty but also in his tender compassion.
 
2)  Our second point is to look at the story of Jesus in Matthew's
Gospel with reference to the different mountains he considers.

(1) As we heard last Sunday the first mountain is the mountain of

temptation.  Jesus is alone with Satan.  He must make a decision.
Satan tempts him to be the Messiah of popular expectations. 
Jesus rejects this temptation and quotes the book of Deuteronomy.  It is
a turning point in Jesus’ life.   When he comes down from this mountain
he moves from the south, Judea, to the North, Galilee the region
near the lake of Galilee and the city of Caparnaum.  He begins his
ministry of teaching, proclaiming, and healing. 

(2) The second Mountain is the Mountain on which Jesus gives the
Sermon on the Mount.  In chapters five to seven we have heard the 
important teachings of Jesus.  When he comes down from this
mountain he also does a number of miracles.  He is either accepted
by people or rejected.  He finally predicts that he must go up to
Jerusalem to suffer and die and rise from the dead.  This is
not the type of Messiah the disciples desire.


(3) This leads to the third mountain, the mountain of
Transfiguration.  Though Peter would like to stay on this mountain Jesus
goes down from the mountain with the disciples.  Following this
experience the miracles of Jesus decrease.  Jesus tries mightily to
convince his disciples of the kind of Messiah he must be, to give his
life for others. 

(4) This leads to the fourth mountain (the mount of Olives followed
by) Mount Calvary.  Here Jesus dies for us.  What he taught in words in
the sermon on the Mount he now teaches in deed.  But the journey does
not end, this time his body is taken down and laid in a tomb.  But death
does not triumph over Jesus.  On the third day he rises from the dead. 
He appears to the apostles.  

(5) This leads to the fifth mountain, the mountain of commissioning. 
The apostles gather and Jesus commissions them to continue his mission
of teaching to the ends of the earth.  They are to baptize and he
promises to be with them till the end of time.
 
3) Lessons or applications for us from this Sunday.  The first lesson is
that for the Christian ashes, the human condition, sin and death are a part of our
life and experience.  But for us the promise of transfiguration,
grace and glory are also to be part of our experience.   What happened
to Jesus can also happen to us.  Transfiguration of Jesus also assures
us that within each of us there are extraordinary possibilities,
potentials for good.  God can also shine through us. 

A psychologist, Abraham Maslow, said that part of the experience of a
well adjusted person is what he called, "peak experiences."  These
experiences frequently involve wonder, awe, feeling of oneness with the
universe, and a loss of self.  As we look at the mountain experiences of
Jesus we can see that, though different, each one was special.  This
Sunday we are called perhaps to reflect on the mountain or peak
experiences in our lives.  Jesus had to come down from the mountain each
time, except for the last time.  Our life too alternates between highs
and lows.  Many times we return to a valley of tears.  But the promise
of Transfiguration is also ours.  This is the reason we have the
penitential season of Lent to be open to the call from God to ever
greater conversion, to a more open heart.

The Transfiguration experience as described by Matthew reminds us
that in Jesus we have a person of divine majesty.  He has the power and
ability to change us and situations in our life.  But we also have a
Jesus of tender compassion.  He wishes to touch each of us and tell us
not to be afraid.

There is nothing magic about Lent or Ashes.  If we do nothing during

Lent we will come to the end of Lent and will experience nothing. Lent
is a time to deepen our understanding of the teachings of Jesus, perhaps
to read each day from the Gospel of Matthew. We cannot call ourselves
Christians if we do not know what are the teachings of Jesus. If we
undertake Lenten practices, the promise is we will experience transformation and transfiguration in us too.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT


As we begin Lent the Gospel takes us back to the end of Jesus' forty days in the desert.  We are beginning our forty days in the desert of Lent (actually there are only 36 left).  We are presented with the temptations of Jesus.  Are these real temptations or are they symbolic?  If real did they happen at the beginning of Jesus' public life or during his public life?

The comparison of Jesus' temptations with those of the Jewish people in the desert cannot be coincidental.  Forty years for the Jews in the desert, forty days and forty
nights for Jesus in the desert.  The quotations that Jesus uses to repel the devil are all from the book of Deuteronomy.  Deuteronomy expands upon the meaning of the ten commandments given by God to Moses on Sinai. Even the specific temptations have resonances with those of the wandering Jews.  First, in the desert God provided Manna and the people still complained and wished to return to their previous existence.  They were seeking nourishment apart from God. Second, the people were testing God for the sake of their own self indulgence.  Finally when Moses went up the mountain and remained longer than the patience of the people allowed, they worshiped a golden calf.  They denied the true God to follow false gods.  These resonances would tilt us toward a symbolic interpretation.  The Jews were unfaithful, Jesus was faithful.

But the Gospel of John speaks of other temptations of Jesus during his life.

1) John 6:26 tells us that Jesus was tempted to multiply the loaves.  People came to him looking for more wonders, more bread.  They came for the wrong reason. 

2) Even his disciples called for spectacular signs to attract people (John 7:4).  He refused.  Even after Jesus multiplied the loaves the people came to make Jesus an
earthly king (John 6:l5).  Jesus passed through their midst.

3) Jesus was tempted to be a false Messiah, one of material things, the spectacular, earthly power.  He overcame all these temptations.  These examples from his life would lean us toward interpreting the temptations as being read back into the beginning of Jesus' public life from things that took place during his public life.
It is clear that the desert experience for Jesus is a cross roads in his life.  It is a "crisis" time.  The Chinese have a symbol for crisis which indicates danger and
opportunity.  Jesus must choose.  It is a decision time.

The suggestions of the devil are the popular expectations of the Messiah.  This is one road to take.  It is a broad and well traveled road. Many of the people of Jesus' time are on that road.  The other road is hardly a road at all.  It is untraveled and rocky.  This road means obedience to his God.  Jesus will later describe this road as narrow.  He will state that he came to serve, not to be served.  This road will end on the mountain not of power but the hill of Calvary.  Jesus is tested.  He sets his face to the task he sees God opening up before him.

The temptations of Jesus are not ours.  We cannot change stone into bread.  I don't know about you but I've never met the devil.  Though I have said that the devil made me do it.  I've never been tempted to throw myself from the Sears tower in Chicago or something similar.  But we do have the temptations to make the material more important than the word of God; to demand of God, rather than ask in humility;
to worship some kind of false God. For me however the greatest temptation is to live the "unexamined life."  How many of us go merrily on our way thinking that all is fine. We think we are in a groove.  Others observe us and say we are in a rut.  On this First Sunday of Lent we should conduct a little examination of conscience.

1) Am I afflicted with what seems to be a particular American malady?  For so many Americans the problem of weekends is that they are boring.  We almost don't seem to know what to do with ourselves when we are not at work.  A favorite word of many teenagers is "boring".  But it afflicts many people.  If we are bored the problem is within us, we are boring, not the world we live in.  We need some
conversion if we are having boredom problems.

2) For many of us there is a problem in facing our own limitations.  From my own experience can I painfully confess that I am truly the child of the couple in the garden?  A psychologist, Rollo May, wrote a book, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO
SIN?  That is a good question for us to ask during this Lent.  For the person of the unexamined life, there is no sin, but there is also little passion, zest for life,
enthusiasm, energy, aliveness.  Need for conversion.

3) For some of us all problems are outside ourselves.  When there are
difficulties with another person we can lay no claim to owning that I may be at fault.  It is always the other persons fault.  Or the other extreme is possible in the case of problems with others.  I am always the one at fault.  The source of all my problems is within me.  Either of these two extremes is wrong.  Life isn't lived that way.  Life's problems are a mixture of my fault and your fault.  A reflex reaction doesn't fit.  I have to examine things.  Either extreme, we need conversion.

4) Some people live as though people owe them something.  I was having difficulty with a particular person in a previous parish.  On vacation I was walking the beach
with my Mom and sister.  I asked, "Have you ever met people that feel and act as though you and the world owe them something?"  My Mom said, "Yes your brother is a little like that."  I probed to find out why my Mom thought people are like that.  She said, "when your brother was young he had scarlet fever, we had to give him special attention.  I think that some people, when they are sick when they are
young and get special treatment, think they deserve that special treatment for the rest of their lives."  If that's you you need conversion.

5) Most of us know somebody who always knows better. Did you get a good bargain on something?  They always know a better and cheaper place to get something.  Did you find a terrific wax for your car?  They know a better one and its cheaper too.  Did you have a good vacation?  They had a better one.  You get the idea.  If that person is you.  You need conversion.

6) Some people's basic response to life situations is to get angry.  Did you hurt them?  They say, "I don't need you anyway."  They didn't get picked for a scholarship. "Ah, they are all crooked anyway."  Their basic response to everything is anger.  Usually these people are covering up something, probably some vulnerability.  They don't want to be hurt, and they certainly don't want to let you know they are hurt.  So their response is anger.  Conversion is needed.

7) Or are you a person whose response to hurt is to withdraw?  These people get quiet, use few words, speak in grunts and groans. "Is something the matter?"  We get a muttered no.  They live in this moodiness for hours, days, months, years.  They are often times passive aggressive. They use silence to punish. Conversion is needed.

8) Some people want a quick fix, like the snap of the finger.  We get conditioned to this by the technical age we live in.  Go to McDonalds.  If you have to wait more than a short time at the speaker you can hear the engine being gunned or the speaker being tapped, or something more drastic.  This is supposed to be a fast food restaurant.  We live in the age of micro wave ovens, and foods of all sorts
that can be prepared in minutes.  In many stores the frozen food section is bigger than the fresh fruits and vegetables. Is something wrong in my life, my work, my relationship?  I want it fixed immediately if not sooner.  I want what I want, when I want it.  Ah conversion needed.

9)  We can mention the seven capital sins:  anger, pride, envy, avarice (greed), lust, gluttony, sloth (laziness).  Recent study of personality types can assist us
in examining our lives and our sinfulness.  A good Lenten practice might be to get one of these two books and do some Lenten reading: THE ENNEAGRAM: A JOURNEY OF SELF DISCOVERY, or, PERSONALITY TYPES, USING THE ENNEAGRAM FOR SELF DISCOVERY.  To the seven capital sins, the enneagram adds deceit and fear.  In 1992 a Japanese minister accused people in the U.S. of being lazy.  A tremendous outcry followed. We protested so strongly that we are not lazy.  As Shakespeare said, "Me thinks thou dost protest too much." He had touched and named a reality I believe.  Some of us are lazy once in a while.  Some of us are lazy most of the
time.  This isn't confined to any ethnic group.  We hear so much about burn out from overwork but little about what I think is a greater problem, Laziness.  It is time to look again at the Capital Sins.  We need conversion.

This examination of conscience is not meant to be comprehensive.  You may have recognized something of yourself in some of these things, or may not be in any of
them.  (The danger of recognizing many others and not myself is in itself a problem that calls for conversion.)  We all need conversion.  On Ash Wednesday we heard, "Come back to me with all your heart."  We must continue to turn our hearts and ourselves over to the converting power of God. We must decide on a Lenten practice to remind ourselves, I am dirt and will return to dirt.  I have a fallible, weak,
sinful part of me.  Yet God calls me to conversion, to journey with him during this Lenten season.  He also promises to journey with us.  God can work in our lives as
truly as he worked in the life of Jesus and the people during the time of Jesus.  The danger will be that we will come to the end of Lent and say, "You mean Lent is over.
I'm still exactly the same.  Jesus is risen from the tomb and I'm still in it."  The choice is ours.  Jesus wants us to share in the new and grace filled life of Easter.  To move
from death to life with him, we must make it our concern too.  There is nothing magic about Lent or ashes.  Theydon't work unless we do.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

 

ASH WEDNESDAY (1)

“Return to me with all your heart.” (Jl 2:12) At times we enter into Lent putting the emphasis on our wanting God to return to us.  But it is certainly a startling thought to hear God pleading for our return.

In the writing of Joel, God is begging Israel to return, “For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness and relenting in punishment.” (Jl 2:13)
How are we to hear these words of God, in Joel, for ourselves this Lent?  God is begging us to return.  The return is made easier by realizing that God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and rich in kindness and relenting in punishment.
We may have heard various words to describe what Lent is all about, reconciliation, conversion, repentance, penance, maybe even metanoia.  For me a simplified version of what Lent can mean was described by Mary Jo Tully.  Reconciliation is “being hugged by God.”  It is possible to think of Lent as our returning to the loving arms of the Father.  What do we experience from a good hug?  I believe we are affirmed in our own goodness.  But reconciliation calls us to more, to conversion. In a recent homily Pope Francis encouraged us to “remember when we first felt God’s love.”  If we forget we risk becoming lukewarm.  He also remarked “We must evoke our memory so as not to lose the beautiful experience of that first love which feeds our hope.”

A parishioner once said to Fr. Virgil Elizondo at the San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio: “I like to come to San Fernando because in hearing the words of Jesus explained to me, I discover good things about myself I had never suspected, and I can’t wait to leave church so I can put them into action.”  That is a beautiful description of the conversion that we are called to this Lent: to discover the goodness within us that we have not yet activated and put it into action.  The Gospel call to conversion is “Good News.”  When we return to God with our whole heart and let ourselves be hugged by God we make contact with our own goodness.  By putting that goodness into action we become bearers of the “Good News”.

In reading about centering prayer some years past I came upon this advice.  Choose a mantra of seven syllables to repeat.  Taking inspiration from the Psalms and my own aspirations I came upon this mantra: STEAD-FAST-SPIR-IT-OF FER-VOR.  It was my prayer to God, but looking back I see that it was also a description of the God who calls: “Return to me with all your heart.”  On a recent retreat the following words emerged: “Foster the development of the new creativity.”  It was my prayer to God but this Lent I’m going to let it be God’s words to me.

Perhaps this Lent we are being called to become more conscious of what our God is like and what God is asking of us.  We are to shift the emphasis from what we are asking of God to what God is asking of us.  May Lent be for us this type of reconciliation and conversion adventure.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

ASH WEDNESDAY (2)

 
This past week I heard this story.  A friend of mine went to visit a church in Mission, TX.   As she walked into the church she saw a banner covered with little hearts.  She learned that this banner was used for the children preparing for first Communion.  As part of the preparation they made their first Confession.  As each one finished confession they went to the front of the church and attached their individual little hearts to the banner.  The top of the banner read, CHANGE OF HEART.


We heard today from the prophet Joel, “Return to me with your whole heart.”  In these words we hear a simple explanation of what Lent is all about.  We must examine our hearts and hear what change of heart that God or Jesus is calling us to.

But during Lent we must not overly focus on ourselves.  True we should look at what God is calling me to change in my heart personally but we should do much more than that.   We must also focus on God.  Here is a simple way to do this.  I invite each of us that as soon as we wake up each morning of Lent to pray for someone in particular.  To say a short prayer for this particular person or persons.  The second day we should reflect on the previous day and see whether some particular person has come into our life or our consciousness, either at a personal level, or from afar.   We should then include them in our prayer.   In this way we will be thinking of God and neighbor as well as continuing to hear God’s call to Change our Hearts.  It isn’t enough to just receive the ashes.  We must not only look to receive from God.  We shall also look to give to God. 

Source of Reflection: Dave Jackson

 

EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Raymond Brown comments on this part of Matthew’s Gospel: “At our time when a consumer society is very concerned with the best in clothes and food and when a great deal of energy is put into being sure that we have financial security for the future, the Matthean Jesus’ challenge not to worry about what to eat, or to wear, or about tomorrow may be even more biting than in his own time.” Christ in the Gospels of Ordinary Time, p. 25 The issues about Ivanka Trump's clothing line and other things seems to me to indicate that a rich woman like her lives in another reality.  But it does make me reflect upon advertisements for clothes, the number of channels dedicated to food, and the high rate of anxiety in people.
 
WORRY is a recurring word in this section. It clearly is a recurring reality to us today.  The word is used at least five times in this passage. Warren Carter, p. 176 “Do not worry. It forbids what many, in an age of anxiety, clearly do, provoked by political and socioeconomic injustices as well as by philosophical and religious uncertainties.” This observation contains words that have their own bite in our time. Each of us is called to reflect on "what do I worry about?"


 It is interesting that Matthew balances male and female roles in talking about the birds and then grass.  Birds “neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns” (traditional outdoor male roles); Wild Flowers “neither toil nor spin (traditional female roles).


It is also significant that the first reading uses an image of God that is feminine: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.”
“You of little faith” This term will be used of the apostles  three more times in the Gospel (8:26; 14:31; 16:8).  It is true of us too.  Carter, p. 178 “ . . . indicates not the absence of any faith, but little faith which must grow stronger and not be swamped or paralyzed by apparently overwhelming circumstances.  It is to grow by discerning God’s immensely powerful, faithful and gracious sovereignty in creation, which Jesus promises is available to trusting disciples.” What are the overwhelming circumstances that we feel in our lives? Some families worry where the money to pay the rent, buy food, and pay for the utilities will come from.   Some might point to the war in Afghanistan, some to gun control, some to universal health care, some to immigration policy, some to the presidential actions of the present president, some . . . .   What am I, as a disciple of Jesus, called to do in my desire to strive?


Your heavenly father knows that you need all these things” The promise is for what we need, no excess or luxury.

Strive first for the empire/reign and its justice/righteousness.”  Strive means active doing.  What does this mean for me?

In Matthew’s time the disciples were living in the pervasive contexts of worry and trouble/evil.  We surely identify with this reality.
 
WORRY, FAITH, STRIVE.

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson

SEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Last Sunday we heard Jesus say to us: “ . . . unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees you shall not enter the kingdom of God.”
 
Today God says to us in the 1st reading from the Book of Leviticus: “Be holy, for I, the Lord, you God am holy.”  In the Gospel Jesus says to us: “ . . . you must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Those are ways of stating the theory.  But then the first reading gets down to particulars. “You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.


Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him.


Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people.


You shall love your neighbor as yourself.


I am the LORD.”

There are three DON’TS 1) Don’t bear hatred in your heart for your brother, 2) take no revenge, 3) do not cherish a grudge for your countryman.  These “don’ts” are followed by one “Do." 

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

 
In the second reading Paul speaks to the Corinthians and us about our dignity as temples of God.  He also calls us to be wise in the ways of God.
 
The Gospel of this Sunday is the real killer.  Jesus tells us that aggression is not to be returned and that we are to love not just our neighbor but even our ENEMY AND PRAY FOR OUR PERSECUTORS.
 

It is important to understand verse 39a.  Our translation reads: “But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.”  Barbara Reid in her commentary informs us: “Verse 39a is best translated “do not retaliate against the evildoer.”  The verb in Greek most often carries the connotation “resist violently” or “armed resistance in military encounters” (e.g. Eph 6:13) 

Warren Carter translates this sentence: “Do not violently resist an evildoer.”  The strange NRSV translation Do not resist an evildoer (or evil) forbids self protection. . . ” and invites a submissive approach to tyrants.  Prior to this four scenes have exhorted the audience to resist doing evil!  Following this  Verses 39-42 offer scenes of resisting oppressive power.  Armed revolt or submission are not the only alternatives.  Jesus’ third way is active nonviolent resistance.  “Four somewhat witty yet serious examples of this active nonviolent resistance follow.”

1) “turn the other cheek” Warren writes: “Rather than be subdued into non responsiveness, and rather than lashing out in violence and continuing the cycle, Jesus teaches a third response: turn the other also.  This action shows that one has not been intimidated or provoked into uncontrolled actions.  It is a chosen, active, nonviolent response to a system designed to humiliate.  The chosen action refuses submission, asserts dignity and humanness and challenges what is supposed to demean.  It refuses the superior the power to humiliate.”

2) “give your cloak as well” This means to strip oneself naked in court.  By standing naked before one’s creditor who has both garments in his hand, one shames and dishonors the creditor.

3) “go also the second mile” It is a strategy for responding to what is intended to humiliate by refusing to be humiliated.  It would also threaten the Soldier that he might be brought to task for what happened.

4) “give to him who begs” It counters a cultural understanding of giving as benefiting the giver or benefactor’s reputation and social position, and obligating the recipient to reciprocate by enhancing the patron’s status. 

“Do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” This means setting aside reciprocity and benefits from repayment, high interest rates, or default.
 

Jesus offers four examples of nonviolent resistance to oppressive power. They are examples of creative, imaginative strategies which break the circle of violence.  The servile refuse to be humiliated; the subjugated take initiative by acting with dignity and humanity in the midst of and against injustice and oppression which seem permanent.

Walter Wink describes Jesus’ third way (active non violent resistance)  in phrases such as: Seize the moral initiative, find a creative alternative to violence, assert your own humanity and dignity as a person, meet force with ridicule or humor, break the cycle of humiliation, refuse the inferior position, shame the oppressor, be willing to suffer.  Such actions exhibit different relationships and manifest the destabilizing, transforming reign of God..

Barbara Reid sums up the command to love our enemies and pray for them in these words: “Giving loving treatment only to one’s own people does not adequately fulfill the Law.  Verse 48 sums up: “There must be no limits to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds” The New American Bible reads: “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect”).” Mt. 5:48   Marcus Borg in his book  Meeting Jesus again for the first time (footnote 1, p. 62)  prefers the Lukan wording: Luke 6:36 “Be compassionate as God is compassionate.”  Compassionate” is to be preferred to Matthew’s “perfect”.  He points out that this is the translation in the New English Bible, the Jerusalem Bible and the Scholars Version.  He goes on to point out that several translations (King James, RSV, and NRSV) have  “merciful."

Source of reflection: Dave Jackson