All Saints (Year B) Nov. 1 (Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; Psalm 24; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12)

The Book of Revelation can be a confusing and dangerous book — especially in the wrong hands and with a distorted understanding of its contents. But when it is used with its original intent it can speak directly to the heart and imagination.

God stands for new life

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{mosimage}30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Oct. 25 (Jeremiah 31:7-9; Psalm 126; Hebrews 5:1-6; Mark 10:46-52)

Sometimes one is given the gift of being able to see the far horizon beyond the chaos and negativity of the present. Jeremiah’s entire life had been dedicated to the thankless task of trying to rouse his own people to spiritual and moral renewal. His ministry involved preaching the unwelcome truth: all was not well with the nation and unless there was a radical change disaster was on its way.

Jesus did not waver in His suffering

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29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Oct. 18 (Isaiah 53:10-11; Psalm 33; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45)

Suffering — is it good or bad? We are appalled by the overwhelming amount of suffering in the world and we want to alleviate this suffering. At the same time, we speak of suffering in terms of a positive force with a redemptive value. Much depends on who is suffering and why.

We can experience the freedom of God's children

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28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Oct. 11 (Wisdom 7:7-11; Psalm 90; Hebrews 4:12-13; Mark 10:17-30)

Intelligence and wisdom are not the same — one can be a very educated and intelligent fool. In some of the most beautiful poetic prose in the Old Testament, the author of Wisdom paints a picture of something more valuable than power, fame, wealth or health. The marketers would probably love to get their hands on whatever it is — the ultimate luxury item. Unfortunately for them but fortunately for us it is not for sale and cannot be successfully counterfeited — no knockoffs! 

Of divinity and cocktail parties

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Questions of faith come up in the most un-churchly ways and places. You might be at a cocktail party making small talk, or in a bus waiting for your stop, and hear profound spiritual questions slipping in and out amidst the surrounding dialogue. As a teacher of mine liked to say, God is not really hard to find — “He’s everywhere.”

In my practice as a marriage and family therapist, faith questions surface unsought, in their own time and way. When given the time and space, people are generally eager to talk about them. Indeed, we suffer from carrying such
questions alone, often without the resources to help us probe and learn from them. But the questions are alive and well in real life.

In suffering, struggle, Jesus was perfected

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27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Oct. 4 (Genesis 2:7, 8, 18-24; Psalm 128; Hebrews 2:9-11; Mark 10:2-16)

There are two different versions of creation in Genesis. This description of creation — the second — is expressed in a far more human and homey manner than the first. God appears more as an artisan in His workshop than the cosmic force in the first chapter who creates with the power of His word.

We can all belong to Christ

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26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Sept. 27 (Numbers 11:25-29; Psalm 19; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48)

Spiritual power is not to be hoarded but shared. Unfortunately, possessiveness and the desire to have power over others neutralize so much of the work that God desires to do on our behalf.

Righteousness, peace the reward of opening up to God

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25th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Sept. 20 (Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; Psalm 54; James 3:16-4:3; Mark 9:30-37)

What did the righteous and upright man do to deserve persecution, torture and death? Precisely that — he was upright and righteous. Those who lie in wait for him secretly desire what he has: inner peace, integrity and a close relationship with God. His goodness makes them squirm and feel uncomfortable. They feel the sting of what they could and should be and the reality of what they are. They could have all of those things if they would walk the same path that he does, but then they would have to let go of their own selfish ways.

Faith must come from within

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24th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Sept. 13 (Isaiah 50:5-9; Psalm 116; James 2:14-18; Mark 8:27-35)

The image of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah stands in stark contrast to the ideal images of heroes in our own culture. For so many the perfect hero is one who responds to rejection, persecution or personal attack with a dazzling display of power and violence. Contemporary films and TV programs hammer home the measure of a hero: body counts and explosions.

Through the cross, divine love penetrates our suffering

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It was a beautiful, comfortable hotel, but it couldn’t protect us from reality. Before dawn, we heard hostile voices from the adjacent room. A woman and man were arguing. Later, I went out to the elevator area to get a newspaper. Down the hall rushed a weeping woman with a suitcase; she waited for the elevator, sobbing, then exclaimed, “My sunglasses,” and went back down the hallway. Loud, persistent knocking and cries of “I just want to get my sunglasses” were followed by her hurried return to the elevator amidst a renewed storm of sobs. The doors opened and she was gone. It all took a couple of minutes.

God will show us the way

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23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Sept. 6 (Isaiah 35:4-7; Psalm 146; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37)

To those who have been uprooted and driven from their homes the world seems to have ended. In the past century more people were displaced than at any other time in history. That century also gave birth to wars, genocides and persecutions on an unprecedented scale. What words of comfort can we possibly have for the victims? What can we do to ease their inner suffering?