Daily Gospel Reflections

Today was one of my days to reflect on the Gospel for I hope it encourages your day.

Today’s Gospel: Luke 12:49-53

Looking up today’s Gospel on the USCCB website reveals the title “Jesus: A Cause of Division.” It is challenging to think of Jesus as a divisive figure. It’s easy to imagine Jesus in a field of flowers surrounded by devoted followers, or to envision Him at the Last Supper with His disciples, or as a child helping Joseph in the workshop. We have pictures upon paintings upon statues of Christ in these and other warm situations. But how many of them depict Jesus preaching while followers are walking away? How many depict the crowds trying to stone Jesus, or throw him out of town?

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December 25, 2016 – Merry Christmas

For unto us a child is born,
Unto us a Son is given…
And His name shall be called
Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father
The Prince of Peace (excerpt from Handel’s Messiah)

Every year in high school (except maybe 1 I think, I blame pregnancy brain for my failing memory) the choir sang Handel’s Messiah. Anyway, these lyrics are some of my top favorite Christmas lyrics and tune. It’s happy, bouncy, almost bell-like and so full of promise.

Jesus’ birth brings forth a new dawn for humanity. He truly is Wonderful, our Counsellor, the Mighty God and the Prince of Peace. The sin of Adam and Eve brought sin, death, anxiety, worry and darkness. One of the curses placed upon Eve specifically is that children are now brought into the world through pain. Through this pain Jesus enters the world.

People approach the holidays, especially Christmas, with a variety of attitudes and memories. For some, Christmas is a time of joy, family, good food and fun memories. For others, perhaps Christmas brings sad memories, painful relationships, and loneliness.

Jesus’ birth is a beautiful juxtaposition of these wide variety of feelings. While the angels are singing “Gloria” and filling the skies with what would be the definition of joyful noise, Mary was experiencing the most explosive pain she had ever felt.

I believe this speaks to God’s love and generosity. God doesn’t swoop in a way that is beyond our comprehension, then give us a bunch of teachings that are challenging to understand and accept, then ultimately save us in a manner that is again, beyond our comprehension. Yes, the Incarnation is most definitely beyond our grasp. However, the pain of childbirth, the joy of seeing your newborn child for the first time, the pride in showing him off to visitors – these are relatable moments. I think this is what is so appealing about Christmas. Even though most of us can’t relate to giving birth in a stable or cave, there isn’t much that could be more fundamentally human than bringing new life into the world.

And now to quote myself (I hope everyone is ok with that), I would like to leave you with the last paragraphs from one of the last prayer experiences….

God continues in His generosity and overabundance. Jesus didn’t simply save the nations from the slavery of sin and death. He also gifted us with His very Body and Blood so that we might continue to be united in communion with Him and one another. He went even further than that. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus promised that His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, would come down upon the apostles and remain with them.

God-with-us isn’t just a historical event. Emmanuel isn’t only in the manger.

Jesus, Emmanuel, is the here and now. Even as we celebrate Jesus’ birth today, do not be fooled into thinking that He isn’t born anew each time you invite Him into your heart.

*** Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook pageDaily Graces.

What Can You Give? A 4th of July Message

Happy 4th of July! It is fitting that the Gospel and homily I heard yesterday coincides with this independence day holiday.

For those that need a refresher, yesterday’s Gospel reading was from the Gospel of Luke. Jesus was preparing  72 disciples to go out on mission ahead of him, telling of the Good News that Jesus had to share. He gives them specific instructions about what to bring, or rather, all the things they were to leave behind. They were not to bring money or baggage. They weren’t even permitted shoes! Why do you think Jesus was so explicit about the fact that these travelers were not permitted to bring anything other people would find necessary for travel?

Our priest had an interesting take on that question. Usually when I hear this reading I hear all the things the disciples had to do without. It is a lesson in simplicity, in solidarity with the poor and a call to let go of my clutch on material possessions. This is absolutely a fine message to interpret from this Gospel. Our priest, however, went another direction.

He asked us to think about what we had to give. We were each put on earth with something to give. Consider the disciples. They were not allowed to take things that would have possibly made their journey more comfortable – money for an inn, shoes to make traveling easier, extra clothes in the event that extra clothes would be desired or necessary. But he didn’t send them empty handed. They had their message, the courage of their conviction and their passion for their faith.

What they had seen and heard was convincing enough they felt compelled to share it with others. If they weren’t absolutely convinced in the person and message of Jesus, why would they travel with no money, feeling no anxiety about where they were going to sleep? Why would they travel with no shoes, harboring no worry about the length of the journey? Why would they bring no extra garments, not knowing what kind of weather or road conditions they would encounter?

The disciples trusted that what they had to give would be enough to take care of them. How many of us can say we feel the same? Do we give first and then graciously accept what is given to us? Or do we wait until we have received enough, only then to share what we consider extra? Another way of thinking about it is to consider whether Sunday is at the beginning or the end of your financial week. Do you give to God first (making Sunday the first day of the week), or do you wait to see what is left (making Sunday the last day of your week).

What Can You Give? A 4th of July Message. Daily Graces.
By Jnn13 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons. Text added by Kate Taliaferro 2016
It is my opinion that the founding fathers were looking first to give and then to receive. They wanted to give our people a freedom they had not known. They wanted to give citizens basic rights and privileges. They hoped to give the generations to come a country and government that had the people’s best interests at heart. They had a vision where citizens came together, giving to one another, so that in each other’s giving we all could reap a bountiful harvest of freedom, protection, representation and basic rights.

On this July 4, 2016, I hope that you are able to find a few quiet moments to thank those who have answered this call to give before receiving. May our country continue to flourish, holding true to the vision that brought it into being.

“In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” – Acts 20:35