Do we go to church to hear what we want to hear? This week’s gospel reflection by Father Steven LaBaire

father steven labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

 

 

This Sunday’s gospel tells us that Jesus began to speak publicly in the synagogue (Luke 4:21-30).

At first, the people seem to like what he has to say. “And all were spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.”

But then, things suddenly change.

Jesus makes a reference to Old Testament story about how God worked great deeds through some non-Jewish folks in the past.

He infers that God’s grace is being extended beyond the Jews to Gentiles.

Theresa J. Marquez Jesus is preaching in the synagogue, Flickr Creative Commons
Theresa J. Marquez Jesus is preaching in the synagogue, Flickr Creative Commons

That’s not what the congregation wants to hear.

And that’s when things start going downhill…literally.

When the people hear this, they drive him out of his own town. They are furious.

They even try to throw him down a hill.

But Jesus escapes and moves on to the next town.

The story raises some good questions about the gospel we hear on Sundays.

The message of Jesus wasn’t meant to please audiences the way political candidates sometimes craft their messages to please their audiences and to get applause.

Jesus was popular as long people liked what he had to say. When they didn’t, popularity wasn’t one of Jesus’ assets.

www.slideshare.net
www.slideshare.net

Do we go to church to hear what we want to hear?
To reinforce what we already think?

The gospel is always “good news” but it isn’t always comfortable because it stretches us beyond our comfort zones.

And, over the course of time we’re bound to hear something at Mass that unsettles our ideas about right and wrong:

  • about justice, mercy and forgiveness;
  • about our responsibility in the face of human misery;
  • about death and our ultimate accountability and judgment;
  • and about the dignity of every human life.

There’s an old saying that the gospel (and the sermon) is meant to “trouble the comfortable and comfort the troubled.”

When we feel challenged or unsettled by the Gospel, what will our response be? Amazement or fury?

Will we “expel” the message and the messenger as did the inhabitants of that unreceptive village?

Or, will we ask for the Grace, to re-think everything in life and ask the Divine Teacher to lead us where we need to go?

00 twitter profile 400x400both books river first-640Join my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
to subscribe to this blog.
Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new books, River of Grace
and Louisa May Alcott: Iluminated by The Message!
Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Find Susan’s books here on AmazonPurchase Susan’s CD.

 

.

Advertisements

Changing your Outlook: Reflections on the Sunday Gospel (John 6:1-15) by Father Steven LaBaire

father steven labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

In preparation for mass this Sunday:

This morning the U.S. Surgeon General was interviewed on the radio. Not surprisingly, he was talking about medicine and health.

He said, “People tend to think that healthy people are happier people… That might be true.”

“But,” he added, “ so much science and research is pointing to the fact that happy people are healthier people.

People who choose to be happy, end up being healthier overall. So it works the other way around. Choose happiness first and health follows. “

Riccardo Cuppini Happiness, Flickr Creative Commons
Riccardo Cuppini Happiness, Flickr Creative Commons

That’s an interesting way of looking at it: Happiness is a choice we make. It isn’t something that just suddenly “happens.” A person’s chosen outlook can often change the course and outcome of things.

That goes to the heart of this week’s gospel: Jesus feeding an immense crowd of people with very few resources, some bread and a few fish.

Some argue that Jesus simply got  everyone in the crowd to share what they brought with them. Who would bother to leave home and travel in the wilderness without food in the first century? If people saw Jesus and his disciples sharing a few loaves and fishes with others and by that were inspired to share what they had brought themselves, isn’t that miracle enough? Good point.

On the other hand, if humans can fly to the moon and defy the laws of gravity, why couldn’t God defy the laws of nature and “miraculously” multiply loaves to feed a huge crowd in order to teach a lesson about how we ought to live? Can’t God do more than our minds can imagine? That’s a good point too.

Either way, there is a lesson here about life: God begins to work in us when we focus on what we have rather than what we lack.

BK Gratitude changes the way we look at the world, Flickr Creative Commons
BK Gratitude changes the way we look at the world, Flickr Creative Commons

Start your day, start your next big project  focusing on what you have been given, blessed with.

Focusing on what you lack, on what you don’t have will leave you disappointed and afraid.

Jesus got people to be grateful and use what they had. He dared them to trust that what had would go much further than they imagined.

And somehow,  they ended up dealing with the challenge at hand: everybody got fed.

Outlook can change a lot. Jesus knew that.

Our way of looking at the day can leave us feeling happy or starving.

You choose.

I choose.

We all choose.

00 twitter profile 400x400River of Grace Creative Passages Through Difficult TimesJoin my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
to subscribe to this blog.
Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new book, River of Grace!
Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Slave or Free? Less or More? Reflections on the Sunday Readings for May 31, 2015

The Sunday Readings: Deuteronomy 4: 32-34, 39-40, Psalm 33, Romans 8:14-17, Matthew 28: 16-20

Why is it that so many people today attack Christianity?
What are they so afraid of?

Is it because the Church is perceived as an authority figure bent on depriving us of personal freedoms, especially that of choice?

Is it because it is seen as an institution that deprives rather than as a life choice that fulfills?

For it is a choice.

God gave us free will which we can exercise as we please. Since choices have consequences, we need to be well informed before deciding.

God gave us his Holy Word as a means of helping us to make an informed choice. A thoughtful examination of this week’s Sunday readings points to reasons why inviting God into our lives could be considered a good choice.

Powerful and generous

Lawrence OP Moses teaches the Law
Lawrence OP Moses teaches the Law, Flickr Creative Commons

The first reading portrays a powerful God, generous in spirit, going out of his way to demonstrate his love for his people. In Deuteronomy 4: 32-34, 39-40 Moses reminds the Israelites of all that has been done for them: “Did anything so great ever happen before?” referring to their miraculous release from slavery in Egypt. God intervened directly, raising a leader in Moses to take the people to a new land and a new life. The subsequent commandments of the Lord that Moses presented to the people were meant for their well-being, to ensure that they “may prosper” and have “long life.”

Does it sound like these people were being deprived?

The second reading from Romans 8:14-17 spells out the benefits of choosing God clearly: we are no longer slaves but children, heirs to a great fortune–a meaningful (though not trouble-free) life on earth and eternal life in paradise.

Deprived or privileged?

Michael Radwin Noam and Abba at Father's Day brunch
Michael Radwin Noam and Abba at Father’s Day brunch, Flickr Creative Commons

Children are disciplined and schooled, guided into adulthood by the love of their parents. We have the privilege of calling the Omnipotent God, the God we cannot see or ever hope to understand “Abba,” Daddy!

Slaves are deprived; children are privileged.

Spreading the word

With this in mind, today’s Gospel from Matthew 28 shows Jesus sending his disciples forth to spread the Word, the Good News, to inform the world that we can choose to be children; and not to be slaves.

Making a choice

Hartwig HKD Universe in a magic Drop
Hartwig HKD Universe in a magic Drop, Flickr Creative Commons

It’s that constant paradox that is Christianity: Submission means freedom. God’s commands leads prosperity and long life.

The choice is ours to make. How will we decide and where will it lead us?

It’s time to do the homework, to ponder and consider the consequences.

Our lives are too important to waste.

 

 

 

River of Grace Creative Passages Through Difficult TimesJoin my Email List (special surprises just for you!)
to subscribe to this blog.
Keep up with news and free giveaways regarding Susan’s new book, River of Grace!
Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
Read Susan’s blog, Louisa May Alcott is My Passion