Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 9, 2017

"Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest." -- Matthew 11:29

“Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest.” — Matthew 11:29

July 9, Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle A. Readings

      1) Zechariah 9:9-10

      Psalm 145:1-2, 8-11, 13-14

      2) Romans 8:9, 11-13

      Gospel: Matthew 11:25-30

 

By Bozena Cloutier
Catholic News Service

When in England, I went to visit my nephew Dominic. He lives in a group home with several other mentally challenged young adults. Dominic, with severe Down syndrome, has no speech. On this visit it was clear that Dominic recognized me and even reached out to touch me, something he never had done before. I was deeply moved. Walking back to the subway my memory took me back to the time when he was born.

My sister had had a difficult pregnancy. This was her second child, and the birth of a boy was greeted with joy. However, shortly thereafter the doctors came bearing somber news: The baby had Down syndrome.

I remember the letter that my sister wrote to our mother soon after the birth. In it she gravely appraises mother of the facts and then goes on to reflect on the implications of the event. Unquestioningly she accepts this child as a gift from God especially entrusted to her.

That was 30 years ago, and my sister has died. Her life was marked by a single-minded commitment to Dominic’s welfare. Her marriage broke up under the strain, but she persisted in finding and promoting the very best for her special son. In the end she found an ideal placement for Dominic. At that point she seemed to relax, and the disease she had battled so successfully for so many years finally claimed her.

Why these memories? Because the Scriptures this weekend contain a familiar, but difficult text. “Take my yoke upon you,” Jesus says. “For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” Which one of us when carrying that yoke has not protested, perhaps silently, about the truth of those words? Was my sister’s yoke easy to bear? Definitely not. Was her burden light? No again. It was heavy, onerous, exhausting. Was the yoke made specially for her, did it fit her well? Here I have to say yes. And in bearing that yoke, she and Dominic became the best they could be.

QUESTIONS:

Recall some of the yokes you have had to carry. Did you ever reflect on Jesus’ words “my yoke is easy”? Were they true for you? In retrospect, how do you evaluate those experiences? Were they for your growth?

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Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 2, 2017

"And I promise you that whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these lowly ones because he is a disciple will not want for his reward." -- Matthew 10:42

“And I promise you that whoever gives a cup of cold water to one of these lowly ones because he is a disciple will not want for his reward.” — Matthew 10:42

July 2, Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle A. Readings:

      1) 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a

      Psalm 89:2-3, 16-19

      2) Romans 6:3-4, 8-11

      Gospel: Matthew 10:37-42

 

By Beverly Corzine
Catholic News Service

One winter morning I awoke to the sound of wind rattling loose windows and making a sorrowful sound that can only be experienced on the windswept Colorado prairie. I was an only and often lonely child in a world of adults, watching the light, sifting snow accumulate in the interior corners of my windowsill. As this particular day progressed, I realized that the storm I was observing was unlike any I had witnessed in my young life.

My mother and grandfather carried in load after load of snow-covered firewood, coal and canned goods from the cellar. “God only knows when I’ll be able to get out to the barn to feed again,” said my grandfather, closing the kitchen door behind him. I remember scraping frost from the windowpane and trying to catch a glimpse of him fighting his way through swirling snow on his way to the barn and henhouse. After what seemed hours to me, he burst through the kitchen door, cursing all snowstorms present and past while at the same time thanking God for being able to find the house in the blizzard that now raged against every living thing in its path.

After supper that evening we sat close to the gigantic brown heating stove. My mother had just begun the next chapter of the book she was reading to us when above the shrieking storm we heard a muffled knocking. I watched my mother and grandfather exchange perplexed looks. My mother resumed her reading. Then the knocking started again, this time at our front door.

I peered around his long legs as my grandfather opened the door. “In the name of God,” he shouted over the wind, “come in here and get warm!” Outside our front door in the sea of snow huddled a clump of people that turned out to be two snowbound couples and their exhausted, hungry children and young baby. I could not believe my good fortune. Children my own age had arrived and a baby besides. I would have playmates for more than a week until the thaw began. Life was good indeed.

Years later I understood that my grandfather really was welcoming our guests in the name of God. He and my mother would have extended the same life-saving hospitality to people in need on a warm spring day as they had during the winter of the deadly blizzard.

QUESTIONS:

Have you remembered to welcome others as one would welcome Christ? How has the hospitality of others been a sign of Christ’s love to you?

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Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, June 25, 2017

"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna." -- Matthew 10:28

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” — Matthew 10:28

June 25, Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time 

      Cycle A. Readings

      1) Jeremiah 20:10-13

      Psalm 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35

      2) Romans 5:12-15

      Gospel: Matthew 10:26-33

 

By Beverly Corzine
Catholic News Service

By mid-June, school vacation days have begun across most of the country. Breakneck schedules for families subside. During this blessed time, travel is usually on the agenda. Those of us who live where it is hot long to go to some place cool. On the other hand, those who have endured months of living in a deep freeze often plan trips to sunny realms.

No matter what direction the compass may lead us, the summer itinerary of most vacationers will include a visit to at least one historical site. Walking the same ground where our fellow human beings have been put to the test often mesmerizes us. Their past becomes part of our past, and their stories become part of our own.

I never will forget my first visit to the lush Pennsylvania farmland where fields rich with sweet corn create towering green roadside walls. My destination that day had once been simply part of the rolling landscape — an open field that stretches to a patch of trees in the distance. I was one of millions of people to have visited this quiet place where the echoes of birdsong and muffled voices fill the air. One of history’s great ironies lay before me. The green grass now covers ground that once was soaked with blood. In the peace of a summer day the thunder of war raged — men and animals alike were trapped in the great pandemonium of suffering.

As I walked around the field, I thought of Abraham Lincoln, tormented by loneliness and the anguish of leadership, waiting for the horrific battlefield reports telegraphed from Gettysburg in July. Biographers tell us he was a man of great prayer, a man chosen by history whose only constant was God.

The first reading for this Sunday comes from the prophet Jeremiah. When we hear this ancient voice, it is helpful to know something of the man. God called Jeremiah to preach a message of repentance to God’s people who had strayed far away from their faith. In times of doubt, Jeremiah thinks that perhaps God has made a fool of him. In today’s passage from this great prophet we have a window into his suffering. However, we also have a palpable example of his sustaining faith.

QUESTIONS:

What people in your life have been models of courage sustained through their reliance on God? When has your trust in God strengthened your ability to stand against the work of evil?

Posted in Word to Life

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, June 18, 2017

"Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life." -- John 6:54

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” — John 6:54

 

June 18, Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

      Cycle A. Readings:

      1) Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a

      Psalm 147:12-15, 19-20

      2) 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

      Gospel: John 6:51-58

 

By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service

My grandfather had been away from the church for more than 50 years. I only saw him a handful of times in my life because we always lived on opposite sides of the country.

I have a few memories of him though. When I was 16, he came for a visit, and I shook his hand with a rather limp effort. He looked me in the eye and proceeded to teach me how to shake another man’s hand: with a firm but not too powerful grip. I have put that into practice ever since.

When he was nearing the end of his life, my father went to visit him. In an attempt to help his father come back to the Lord, my father wrote a prayer on a piece of paper and gave it to my grandfather, then my dad came back home.

A few weeks later my grandfather passed away. When my dad went to the funeral, he stopped by the nursing home where my grandfather spent his final days and the nurse gave my dad back the piece of paper that he had given to his dad. The nurse explained that every day my grandfather would read this paper and say, “Dave (my dad) really loved me.”

The nurse went on to explain that after a few weeks of reading this prayer my grandfather asked to see a priest. He gave his first confession in more than 50 years and received Communion. The next day he died. I have always imagined the Lord keeping my grandfather alive long enough for him to come back to him.

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” For me, this verse has never been so true as in the life of my grandfather. Jesus offers us his body and blood as a ransom for our body and blood so that we can have eternal live. Though I did not get to know my grandfather very well on this earth, I look forward to having an eternity to catch up with him.

QUESTIONS:

How has the body and blood of Jesus impacted your life? If you know someone who has been away from the church for a long time, what can you do to help him or her come back?

Posted in Word to Life

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, June 11, 2017

"God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." -- John 3:16

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” — John 3:16

June 11, Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

      Cycle A. Readings:

      1) Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9

      Psalm: Daniel 3:52-56

      2) 2 Corinthians 13:11-13

      Gospel: John 3:16-18

 

By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service

Years ago I was a clown. Not in the Ringling Bros. sense of the word, but the clown ministry version. I loved my costume: I was kind of a prom date gone wrong with top hat, tails and all.

My time in this ministry was short-lived, and my great costume went into the closet to collect dust. Some time later a friend of mine who was still in the ministry asked if he could have my top hat for his costume. I was hesitant, thinking maybe I would pull it out for Halloween or some other random event. In the end I said no.

That top hat sat untouched on the top shelf in my office for the next 10 years. Every time I looked at it I remembered my unwillingness to give it away. My attachment to this small material object blocked the love I had for my friend.

Lucky for us, God does not behave like this. John’s Gospel tells us that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

Love is wanting good for another and being willing to do what it takes to bring about this good in the person’s life. God demonstrates this definitively in the sacrifice of his Son. It is God’s desire that every one of us spend eternity in union with him.

To bring about this desired good meant sending Jesus to earth to suffer and die for our sins. God was willing to do this. This was the first “big give” (sorry, Oprah).

John 3:16 is not just a great sign to hold up in the end zone of a football game. It is the defining statement of God’s love for us. Yet, at the same time, it is also the blueprint for how we are called to love.

God does not ask us to give up our children to save the world, but he challenges us to show our love for God and our neighbor through what we give, be that a lifetime of missionary work or an unused top hat. It truly is not how much we give but that we give.

QUESTIONS:

How would you make John 3:16 come alive for you? (You) so loved (name a person) that (you) gave (a gift) so that this person would have (name the good you want for him/her). What is a good you have received from someone’s love for you?

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Guest column: How are your technological ‘practices’ affecting your memory and imagination?

Brett Robinson is a guest columnist for Catholic News Service. He is director of communications and Catholic media studies at the University of Notre Dame McGrath Institute for Church Life. (CNS/courtesy Brett Robinson)

Brett Robinson is a guest columnist for Catholic News Service. He is director of communications and Catholic media studies at the University of Notre Dame McGrath Institute for Church Life. (CNS/courtesy Brett Robinson)

By Brett Robinson
Catholic News Service

As a father of four, I am familiar with practice. There’s hockey practice, piano practice and lots of practicing patience. My kids are learning what a C-sharp sounds like and how to track the puck when they are playing defense. These practices form our family by training perception.

I’m thankful for all of the kids’ activities, partly because they distract them from the screen. The screen is another venue for forming perception, though we rarely think of it that way. We tend to talk about media technology as a means for communicating or gathering information.

Meanwhile, the practice of using the technology is forming our perception in small ways that often go unnoticed.

One example is the blue light that is emitted from smartphones and tablets that interferes with the neurotransmitters that bring on sleep. Reading before bed can be a relaxing activity but doing it from a screen can tell your brain just the opposite, to wake up.

Media technology practice also has an effect on memory. How many times have you opted to Google something rather than try to remember it on your own? How many photos have you taken at a party or on vacation for fear that you might not remember how fun or beautiful everything was?

Practice forms habits and when they are properly ordered, habits can be salutary for the soul. However, habits can also turn into disordered obsessions or addictions. Today, we hear a lot about technology addiction but not a lot about technology practice.

There are certainly addictive qualities about media technology but even if we are not addicted, we are still engaged in the practice of using those technologies regularly. And those practices can alter our perception in ways that change our understanding of others, ourselves and God.

The question that needs asking is, What is all of this technology practice forming us for?

Our devices — even when they are put away — haunt us with the possibility that a new message or bit of news is ready to be consumed. It starts with a practice like using the computer for hours a day (required for most office workers) that spills over into leisure time with social media, games and plenty of Netflix.

For children, it is the threat of boredom that drives them to the screen. Boredom, a state once reserved for the free play of the imagination and memory, is conquered by their thirst for constant stimulation that can only be slaked by streaming media.

Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper said that leisure was the basis of culture. It’s leisure that gives us the time and space to contemplate God. Without it — in lives that are dictated by labor and the digital tools required to perform it — we lose our capacity to perceive the capaciousness of God. The ways that we spend our leisure time says a lot about what we ultimately value.

But there are upsides to the new technology’s effects on the senses, memory and imagination. There are practices that help us recognize the pain of another human being or get in touch with something transcendent.

One example is viewing family photos with a child and telling them stories about when they were little. It’s a small practice that forms their memory in ways that remind them that they are part of a family and a stream of memories, part of something much larger than themselves.

If the goal is finding a healthy balance with our technological creations, then we have to start with practice. Just as a doctor practices medicine, a Catholic practices religion. We know it’s the cure for our spiritual maladies, but sometimes we shirk our duty to rise and pursue the good.

Take a moment to revisit the practices in your daily life and to ask how they are forming your memory and imagination. As Catholics, we call to mind Christ’s passion, death and resurrection so that we can imagine a life of hope.

There’s even an app for that! It’s called 3D Catholic and 3D stands for three devotions: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It’s a simple reminder that our virtual technologies shouldn’t strip us of our physical bodies. Because those bodies can be used to commemorate Christ’s passion through prayer, fasting and helping others in very real ways.

– – –

Robinson is director of communications and Catholic media studies at the University of Notre Dame McGrath Institute for Church Life.

Posted in CNS

Guest column: I didn’t sign up for this. Or did I?

Laura Kelly Fanucci is a guest columnist for Catholic News Service. (CNS/courtesy Laura Kelly Fanucci)

Laura Kelly Fanucci is a guest columnist for Catholic News Service. (CNS/courtesy Laura Kelly Fanucci)

By Laura Kelly Fanucci
Catholic News Service

Stripping soaked sheets off a child’s bed for the third night in a row. Scrubbing vomit out of a car seat. Listening to a bedroom door slam with an angry “I hate you!”

“This is not what I signed up for.”

In the years since I became a mother, the tempting, selfish thought has sneaked into my mind a thousand times, dark and brooding.

But every time a quiet voice responds gently: “Are you sure?”

Before we had children, the prospect of parenthood played in my mind like a movie montage: the joy of holding our baby, watching a toddler take first steps, spinning around with a laughing child, playing soccer together at the park, tearing up at graduation.

I daydreamed about the highlight reel. I did not imagine any ugly moments on the cutting room floor.

I smile now at my naivete. What parent wouldn’t? We grow into this calling as it polishes our rough edges smooth over time. Our tolerance for noise, mess and chaos increases as our younger impatience fades.

But after late nights or weeks of sickness or one more exasperating argument, I still hear the temptation creeping into my mind: “This is not what I signed up for.” The sin of pride, taunting me to believe myself better than the work before me.

Back when I was a bright-eyed college graduate, I signed up for a year of service in France with the Sisters of the Assumption. What better way to put my newly minted French degree to good use?

I found myself working in a L’Arche home for adults with severe physical and developmental disabilities. Every morning I stripped soaked sheets, washed them and remade the beds. Every day I helped residents go to the bathroom, get dressed and eat lunch.

I remember ironing the same stack of clothes for the 12th time that week and muttering to myself: “This is not what I signed up for.”

No one cared if I could analyze a French novel brilliantly. No one gave a glowing grade to my work. No one knew if I’d gone to a great university or had some all-star resume.

What I had signed up to do was to serve. With love. Which meant setting aside my own ego and expectations and humbling myself to the place God had called me, where the people I came to serve were the ones who taught me everything.

Turns out that year at L’Arche was the best preparation for parenthood.

Today none of my children care that I have a graduate degree. None of them have ever asked to see my resume. What matters to them is that I show up each day and love them. This is exactly what I signed up for when I became their mom.

Whenever I’m tempted to think otherwise, I hear the quiet, gentle voice I have come to recognize as God’s. That peaceful voice reminds me that the work of love is my vocation.

Sometimes it means washing stomach-churning laundry. Or comforting a crying newborn for hours. Or working through the daily conflicts of a house full of humans.

It’s not always what I pictured, glamorous or enviable. But callings don’t come with promises of bliss and self-fulfillment.

God asks us to give our lives to each other in sacrifice and love. Whether we are parents or priests, single or married, professionals or caregivers, we all grow into the hard work that comes with vocation. This is where God calls us.

This is exactly what we signed up for.

– – –

Fanucci is a mother, writer and director of a project on vocation at the Collegeville Institute in Collegeville, MN. She is the author of several books, including “Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting,” and blogs at www.motheringspirit.com.

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