Weekly Word

Be inspired and encouraged with a weekly reflection on God’s Word and every day life.


ORDINARY TIME 23 | SEPTEMBER 4, 2022 | PHILEMON 9-10, 12-17 | LUKE 14:25-33

Reflection by Sr. Theresa Fox, OP

Behind today’s second reading are three people who were confronted with a difficult decision.  Because they had decided to become a follower of Jesus they had to face the reality of what his words really meant in their lives.  Jesus’ teachings forced them to face issues that they probably would not have chosen.

Paul wrote the letter to Philemon when he was in prison.  It is about a runaway slave Paul met and converted.  Onesimus wasn’t just any slave.  He was a slave to Philemon; Philemon was a friend of Paul’s and a Christian.  Paul is sending Onesimus back to his owner.  Paul must have thought and prayed long and hard before making that decision.  Read the Letter to Philemon and you can see the love Paul has for Onesimus.  Why would he have him go back to his slave owner?

Then there is Onesimus.  He had escaped from a life of slavery.  He was free from physical bondage.  Now Paul is challenging him.  Don’t be on the run.  You will always be looking over your shoulder.  To be true to Christ means you have to be true to yourself.  Did being a Christian mean that he had to give up his freedom and own up to his past?  He had no idea what he would encounter when he returned to his master.  By law Philemon could do whatever he wished with a runaway slave – even have him executed.

Then there is the struggle Philemon had.  Slavery was acceptable in his world.  It wasn’t until 1800 years later that Christians and society really began to see slavery as evil.  Paul encouraged Philemon to accept Onesimus not as a slave but as a brother.  According to the social order Philemon had lost a valuable possession and could use it any way he wished when it was returned.  Now Paul wants him to treat Onesimus not as a possession but as a brother.  It was unheard of.  Then what if his other slaves wanted to be baptized?  Shouldn’t they be freed too?  What does it mean to follow Jesus?

Each of us is called to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to help others to do the same.  That and only that is our purpose as Christians.  Yes, we have chosen to do that in this community, within the context of the Catholic Church, but it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that must be central to everything we do and say.

What about you?  How is Jesus calling you to live the Gospel?  What is the hardest thing to accept about the teachings of Jesus – not the hardest thing to accept in the church – but the most difficult Gospel teaching.  What is getting in the way of accepting that teaching?

Today’s Gospel tells us to sit down and consider the cost of being a follower of Jesus. A couple of examples of people calculating the cost of a venture are used.  Only after the cost is calculated should the project begin.  Even then there will be unforeseen problems.  Each time we encounter a new issue or a nagging problem we know we have to recommit ourselves to the project.  We have already committed ourselves to living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Where are we in this project?  Are there some issues that we ignore hoping they might go away?  Or we’ll deal with them next year?

Living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not for the faint hearted or the weak.  It is only for those who will face life head on and grapple with the Gospel.  And that’s not easy.  But that is what we have been called to do by our baptism.  That is what being a Christian really means.

Posted in News, Weekly Word

Prove It!

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

There was a posting the other day on Facebook and it read, “The Federal Government is not worthy of our trust.” Sooooo, what is worthy of our trust?

Every system and institution that this country has come to rely upon is broken, damaged and dysfunctional on a whole lot of levels. I think I could count on one hand the number of people who would question this assertion. I don’t even think those “1%ers” that we used to hear so much about feel they are really on solid ground anymore.

As Dominicans, we know that looking at the signs of the times helps us to create our ministries and break open the Word more effectively. Today the signs we are seeing are beyond anything we might have ever expected in this “powerful” country. It has become more and more apparent that that “power” has been derived from some pretty disgraceful actions in the cause of expansion and wealth to a few.

I believe that, at least for Dominicans, we must advocate for human dignity if nothing else. If we can be successful in that advocacy, more and more systems will be impacted, broken down and repaired, not with band aids but with solid Gospel teaching. Most of us born before the 60s have leaned heavily on the Judeo portion of our Judeo-Christian foundation. So eye for an eye is the acceptable way to treat anyone who has offended us in some way. The Christian portion is hard to actualize because it seems so weak: love your neighbor, turn the other cheek; that just doesn’t do it for us. We are powerful and those kinds of actions make us look weak. And besides, look what happened to Jesus when he tried to live like that. He died!

Are a lot of us stuck on Good Friday and wallow in the suffering Jesus? We can prove the death, but how do we prove the Resurrection? That’s on us. We can prove it. Our actions could be all the proof that someone needs to believe there is hope; there is possibility; there is life in the midst of all the brokenness.

Posted in News, Weekly Word

Can Nature heal a Broken Heart?

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, shown in her pottery studio

Recently, my sister experienced one of the most devastating losses a mother could know, when her 40-something daughter, Chris, died of a drug overdose. Anyone who has experienced the same horrendous loss knows this pain. It’s not possible to describe it adequately and my sister has been almost inconsolable. This is difficult on so many levels: emotionally, spiritually, psychically, and physically.

Addiction is a hideous, cunning, mean, and pernicious disease that impacts everyone around it — well beyond the person trapped in its clutches. I have struggled to find ways to comfort and support my sister who lives quite a distance away —it’s not like I can stop over for a cup a tea.

A few days ago, we talked on the phone. “I just can’t stop crying,” she said. “I think about Chris all the time.”

“I know, I just want to hold your hand. Tears are like medicine, it’s okay, I just want to hold your hand.”

We talked about when our brother, Paul died at 36, and when our sister, Chris died at 55. We thought there would be no end to our grief – those were impossible times then. Nothing helped. No one helped soothe the pain. But these — like other deaths that were expected — we could see their deaths coming after long illnesses and we could somehow prepare ourselves for loss. But this was sudden, like a crack of thunder. Even after years of struggle and darkness and the long-lasting ache of helplessness, the lightning strike came out of nowhere. Despite my thinking that someday we would get that phone call, it still stunned.

Marge sat on the back porch of her house while we talked. She noticed that the weather outside was beautiful: blue sky, cool breeze, the trees were blowing in the wind. Here too, it was a beautiful day: clear skies, dry and breezy. It was as if we shared the same space and time even though we were miles apart. The birds, the sun and sway of trees opened a portal so that we could sit on the same porch, smell the same air. We talked about how amazing the birds are as hundreds of them swarm in the sky all together. How is it that these tiny speedy creatures don’t crash into one another? We sat amazed at the mystery of nature. We saw the same trees swaying, the same blue sky with clouds floating by.

And for one silent, precious instance, there was peace.

Can nature heal a broken heart? I think so, I hope so. I pray for more moments when my sister can simply see God in the sway of trees and the sound of birds. I pray that what is most fearful and broken in her can rest and come to peace.

I Go Among trees, Wendell Berry

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their place
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

Then what is afraid of me comes.
and lives a while in my sight.
What it fears in me leaves me,
and the fear of me leaves it.
It sings, and I hear its song.

Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

After days of labor,
mute in my consternations,
I hear my song at last,
and I sing it. As we sing,
the day turns, the trees move.

Posted in News, Weekly Word

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reflection by Sr. Theresa Fox, OP

Reading 1 – Is 66:10-14c

Thus says the LORD:
Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her,
all you who love her;
exult, exult with her, all you who were mourning over her!
Oh, that you may suck fully of the milk of her comfort,
that you may nurse with delight at her abundant breasts!
For thus says the LORD:
Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river,
and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent.
As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap;
as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you;
in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort.

When you see this, your heart shall rejoice and your bodies flourish like the grass;
the LORD’s power shall be known to his servants.

Reading 2 – Gal 6:14-18

Brothers and sisters:
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
For neither does circumcision mean anything, nor does uncircumcision,
but only a new creation.
Peace and mercy be to all who follow this rule and to the Israel of God.

From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

Gospel – Lk 10:1-12, 17-20 

At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs
to every town and place he intended to visit.
He said to them,
“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.
Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way.
Into whatever house you enter, first say,
‘Peace to this household.’
If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him;
but if not,   it will return to you.
Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you,
for the laborer deserves his payment.
Do not move about from one house to another.
Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you,
cure the sick in it and say to them,
‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’
Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you,
go out into the streets and say,
‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’
Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand.
I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.”

The seventy-two returned rejoicing, and said,
“Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.”
Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky.
Behold, I have given you the power to ‘tread upon serpents’ and scorpions
and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you.
Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you,
but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

LUKE 10:1-10, 17-20, GAL 6:14-18

Years ago my parents took my sister and I to visit my brother who lived in Colombia. At the time he worked for the United States government in the AID program. While we were there the US ambassador’s wife had a luncheon at the ambassador’s residence for the wives of the US workers. Lisa took us to this luncheon. It was a lovely affair with good food, live music, gracious service and lots of women. One thing that impressed me was that the china that we used had the seal of the United States on them.

This story came to mind as I was reflecting on today’s readings. Two things struck me – being an ambassador and the seal of our country. An ambassador is someone who has the special mission of representing another – whether that be a nation, a cause or a person. The other thing was the seal of the United States on the china. The seal has no purpose in itself. Its purpose is to call attention to all the United States stands for.

Today we heard that Jesus sent the disciples – not just the twelve – but 72 of them to be ambassadors for him. Go and prepare the way for me. These are the towns I intend to visit. Tell them about me so they will be ready to receive me when I come. Paul in the second reading focuses on the seal of Christ. He wrote “may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” As Christians, the cross is our seal. It calls attention to the person we stand for.

Jesus sends us as his ambassadors and directs us to carry his seal with us. Jesus instructed his disciples – his ambassadors – and he instructs us. Whatever house you enter, first say, Peace to this household.

As we celebrate the birth of our nation this coming weekend and more especially as we live our daily lives, may we always remember that we are ambassadors of Jesus Christ and that we carry the cross as the seal that calls us Christian.

Posted in News, Weekly Word

Can we talk?

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, shown in her pottery studio

“Real dialogue is where two or more people become willing to suspend their certainty in each other’s presence.”

I wish I knew the source of this quote. But it has been hanging around my mind lately and it reached into the front of my focus today.  It so happened, that I recently attended an LCWR meeting about the future of religious life and a little flareup happened at my table when some of us disagreed with the notion of being “ecclesial women”. Sometimes all you have to do is mention THE CHURCH and sparks fly, tempers flare, and dialogue shuts down.

In this instance, the CHURCH meant the hierarchy, and the whole ball of wax around authority, moral failures, the chauvinistic, superior, clerical picture that is painted sometimes about the Catholic Church in the universal sense. As opposed to the beautiful, glorious, all-embracing, familiar, tradition that is also the Catholic Church in the universal sense.

Of course, Dominicans subscribe to the idea of “disputatio.” That is, the willingness of two people to listen carefully enough to each other that they can suspend their own judgment of each other. Both parties agree to engage in the pursuit of truth together.  Both are willing to recognize that pursuing the truth— by acknowledging the value in the other person’s thinking— can lead to a better understanding and acceptance of the other. Thus, both gain new insight and perhaps, a moment of peace.

But be warned, talking to one another in this way is not easy. There are costs and obligations of true dialogue.  It takes practice to become willing to suspend certainty in each other’s presence. It takes conscience effort to suspend your own judgment of each other. There is a burden in knowing the truth, in being open to the Spirit, who will tell you what you need to know.

And talking to each other in this way could cause a revolution. It might result in a more thoughtful approach to hundreds of things, like dinner table conversation, public hearings on social problems, not to mention a church where everyone can find a home and be respected for who they are.

Imagine our world when talking to each other actually results in action. If we can’t even talk to each other then how in heck are we to solve the serious social problems we face?  Can we talk? I’m not so sure today.

Dear God, grant me the courage to suspend my own certainty long enough to hear what another person is saying. Help me not see it as holding my breath until the other stops talking.  But that I would breathe through the conversation, inhaling their ideas and allowing my own to exhale in a gentle letting go. Help me to be patient, and willing to listen openly to others, especially the people with whom I disagree.


Posted in News, Weekly Word