Dave and Marie Kuemmel have built solid foundations

By Patti Pomerenke

Dave and Marie Kuemmel have built solid foundations throughout their 63-year life together- their faith, their family, and their relationship with their community. As long- time members of St. Matthias Parish, they have contributed to our Parish Family in so many different ways.  Dave and Marie have such an interesting story!

 

How they Met
Dave and Marie are both originally from the Milwaukee area, and were brought together in High School at Pius when one of the nuns sat the class in alphabetical order.   Marie Lewis (her maiden name) was seated by Dave, who was an underachiever and a trouble-maker along with his rough group of friends. Marie was quite the opposite–a stellar student who participated in school activities and followed the rules. Dave and Marie started talking, and even though Dave liked another girl at the time, he soon realized how special Marie was, and they began dating.   Marie’s academic success presented a challenge for Dave, since he didn’t want to be outsmarted by a girl, so he buckled down and earned straight A’s during his Senior year of High School.  Marie says that she converted Dave, and noted that she was helped along by the nuns at Pius who did not stand in the way of Dave and Marie’s interest in each other.

 

Early Life Together
Dave and Marie both went on to college–Dave at Marquette University for Civil Engineering and Marie at Alverno College for teaching.  In 1954, they both graduated from college, got married, honeymooned in St. Germain, and Marie became pregnant with their first child.   Dave was drafted in November of 1954.  Marie was able to teach for a short time before having to quit due to her pregnancy, as was the custom at the time while Dave worked as a Civil Engineer with Milwaukee.  Dave and Marie’s first child, Peter, arrived on Marie’s birthday in 1955.

Shortly after Peter’s arrival, Dave was able to have the family moved to Virginia, where they lived off-base and Dave commuted to the Army base daily. They had a close group of military families who kept them sane while all living in military housing.  Marie became pregnant again and was due shortly after Labor Day in 1956, the same date that Dave was to be discharged from the Army. This was concerning, since as a young family they had no extra money, and they needed the military benefits to pay for the labor, delivery, and hospital stay.  So, on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, they walked the Battle of Bull Run in Manassas, VA to try and induce labor.  It worked, and Jeanne was born the day after Labor Day in 1956!  Marie was released from the hospital on 9/9/1956, and Dave was discharged from the military on 9/12/1956, so fortunately their bills were covered!

Marie and Dave subsequently packed up their household for a move back to Milwaukee.  They shipped some of their belongings, and then carried 7 suitcases/boxes and their two small children with them to the airport!  A military friend, who was driving them to the airport, took a shortcut and got lost and they missed their flight.  Marie and Dave had to wait until midnight with their children and bags in order to catch another flight! Upon arriving in Wisconsin, they were greeted by Marie’s family (and several cars) to haul their belongings to Marie’s parent’s house, where they stayed for 8 weeks until Dave saved enough money to move out.

Dave had returned to his job with the City of Milwaukee as a Civil Engineer (and stayed there for 35 years), and they moved to a rented flat as soon as they could afford it. They stayed there for three years, until they saved their money, and were able to buy an empty lot in the newly annexed area in Milwaukee.  They eventually built a house on that lot in 1959.  Paul was born on New Year’s Eve, 1959.  Over the next 9 years, Marie and Dave had five more children: Catherine in 1961, Gina ’62, Rachel ’63, Andy ’66, and Phil ’68–eight children total within 13 years!

 

St. Matthias Family
In 1959, Dave and Marie joined St. Matthias Parish, which of course, did not have the Church building we have today.  Dave became a lector right away, and he can remember doing the readings in English while Father Kreig said the Mass in Latin.

Dave and Marie became heavily involved with the Christian Family Movement (CFM) which met regularly to discuss issues such as social justice, politics, and civil rights, and had St. Matthias Parish Priest Father Paul Daniels as their guide. The families who belonged to this group became very close.  They worshipped together at St. Matthias and participated in Civil Rights marches and social initiatives.  Eventually, the CFM initiative ended, but Marie and Dave still keep in touch with the families from CFM. 

Dave was on the building committee when the current Church building was built and he believes, at age 84, that he is the last living Parish member of that committee.

After CFM discontinued, Marie and Dave became involved with Milwaukee Marriage Encounter (MME), which was an Archdiocese program that sponsored marriage enrichment weekends throughout the year. Dave and Marie were a part of the leadership team of MME for five years, and presented 25 weekend sessions over several years to share their experiences in order to help other couples strengthen their marriages.

After MME, Dave and Marie were both elected (at different times) to the St. Matthias Parish Council, and served terms as leaders of our Parish.  In the late 1960’s, for five years or so, Dave and Marie taught Christian Formation for St. Matthias. They taught Seniors in High School (Christian Marriage), and welcomed the young adults into their home for the sessions.

In 1982, Dave, Marie and Fr. John Endejan and a few others from St. Matthias developed the Stewardship program, to encourage Stewardship as a way of life and bring it to the forefront of Parish activities. Dave and Marie co-chaired the committee, and St. Matthias was one of the first Parishes in the Archdiocese to have a Stewardship program.  The Archdiocese used it as a model for other Parishes. Marie was part of the Stewardship committee until about 2005, and Dave stayed with the Stewardship program for over 15 years.
In 2012, Dave started working with the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry, and is now Secretary of the group. He is one of those who ensure that the “shopping” for the pantry gets done before each pantry weekend. Rain or shine, Dave and others will travel to Feeding America or Hunger Task Force (or other places as needed) to load up the food which is distributed to the needy at the Saint Vincent de Paul food pantry.

Dave also organizes the monthly Hospitality event for the attendees of the 4 pm Mass.   He has recruited wonderful volunteers to help, and unlike the Sunday morning events, where donuts and coffee are served, this team serves wine, punch, cheese and crackers and other snacks after the Mass. (Dave encourages everyone who attends 4 pm Mass to stop in Steiger Hall after Mass on Hospitality Sunday weekend).

 

Long-Lasting Marriage
Dave and Marie have built quite a life together.  From humble beginnings, they created a family, built a home and raised their eight children with love and faith.  They sent all of their children through St. Matthias grade school and to Pius HS, and kept their family’s faith alive throughout their involvement with St. Matthias and other organizations.  During their life, they have also enjoyed a vacation condominium which they purchased. It is located in St. Germain, in the exact place where they Honeymooned in 1954!  Marie and Dave now have 20 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, and they down-sized to a smaller senior apartment 10 years ago. 

When asked about the secret to their long marriage, Marie says they did and do get angry with each other, but they fight fair–they bring the issues out in the open and then move forward.  Dave mentioned that they both always viewed their marriage as a commitment and that in a natural course of life, the passion of a young marriage gets replaced by companionship. Marie emphasized that respect is critical to a successful marriage, also.

 

Future of St. Matthias Parish
Marie and Dave mention that St. Matthias has been important to them because of the sense of community they have found here over the years. Currently, they are part of a group that attends 4 pm Mass and the group offers help and support to each other. Marie is in the midst of a long recovery from surgery and a fall, and the 4pm Mass group has shared in their grief and supported them with cards, letters, and prayers.  Marie and Dave know that St. Matthias has kind and generous people who have a lot to offer.

Dave and Marie both hope that the members of St. Matthias continue to be involved with Stewardship– getting involved with the Parish and developing bonds and a sense of community.  They do acknowledge that there are challenges to getting involved, such as time and transportation, but in their lives, the blessings of being involved have played out time after time.  During Marie’s current recovery from surgery and a fall, she has kept a mini prayer shawl in her pocket. When she gets discouraged, she looks at it and thinks of all the people praying for her, and it reminds her that we can’t go through tough times or through this life alone. That is the spirit of Community that has made Dave and Marie so happy to be a part of St. Matthias Parish, and the spirit that will continue to move St. Matthias forward.

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 20, 2017
Matthew 15:21-28

Background:

Last’s week’s gospel ended with the disciples giving Jesus homage. They had witnessed Jesus walking on water, rescuing Peter from the raging sea, and finally calming the chaos of the mighty winds. When their boat finally landed at Gennesaret, the people recognized Jesus and they brought the sick for him to cure. The Pharisees and Scribes from Jerusalem questioned Jesus as to why his disciples did not respect the tradition of washing before meals. Jesus responded by questioning their breaking of the commands of God by excusing someone from the obligation to care for a parent if they would declare that the money needed was instead dedicated to God. Jesus quotes the great prophet Isaiah to support his case. Then Jesus publicly humiliates them by turning his attention to the crowd that had gathered and offering them an instruction about what it is that really defiles a person. His instruction is only one verse, “It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.” (Matthew 15:11) The disciples approach Jesus to make him aware that he has offended the Pharisees and Scribes. Jesus disregards their concerns and continues calling them blind guides, and he goes on to explain his teaching on what it is that really defiles a person.

It is with that instruction on what truly defiles a person that Matthew begins his account of Jesus’ entrance to the pagan territory of Tyre and Sidon, and then he has the encounter with the Canaanite woman that is the gospel text for this week.

Mark also recounts Jesus’ traveling to this region and his encounter with this woman. (Mark 7:24-30) In Mark’s account of the encounter, the woman is described as Syro-Phoenician, not a Canaanite. Mark’s account omits part of the dialogue that Matthew has included in verses 22-24. Mark does not include Jesus’ praise for the woman’s faith that Matthew includes in verse 28. But Mark includes a statement from Jesus that the children of Israel must be fed first. The difference in their accounts is that Mark adds to his account that the woman went home and found that her daughter had been healed. Scholars believe that Matthew had access to Mark’s gospel, and some believe he also had access to another older account as well.

If we focus on Matthew’s text, the first verse indicates that Jesus entered the pagan territory of Tyre and Sidon without any indication that he was compelled to do so. His actions are a contradiction of his own instruction to the disciples when he sent them on their mission to the lost sheep of Israel. “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town.” (Matthew 10:5b) The understanding of the day viewed the border between Jewish and Gentile territory as being set by God, to separate God’s holy land, given to the people of Israel, from the pagan territory. The woman that Jesus encounters is described as a Canaanite. This description was rarely used at this point in history. It recalls the tribes that were occupying the land before the Jews gained control of the area. The Canaanites were one of the primary enemies of the Israelites. Besides being a pagan and one of the most hated enemies of God’s people, she was also an unescorted woman in a strictly gender divided society. All of these factors make Jesus’ contact with her a threat to his honor.

Jesus breaks with what was traditionally understood as sacred norms of behavior, enters the pagan lands, and encounters this mother whose daughter is possessed by a demon. She calls him “Son of David,” and asks that Jesus have pity and mercy on her. The request for mercy is a request to honor a debt that is owed. By calling Jesus “Son of David,” she is placing him in the line of King David and asking him to act according to David’s reputation of being a compassionate ruler. Even when she is ignored and insulted she continues to treat Jesus with respect and honor. Matthew does not tell us what is motivating the woman, but she seems to touch Jesus in a way that leads him to both cure the daughter and remark about the faith of the woman. There is no indication in the text that Jesus had gone there with the intention of extending the blessings of God’s healing to non-Jews. The opening part of the dialogue seems to indicate that he had no intention of doing so. Yet that is what happened.

Matthew’s account places more focus on the woman and the fact that she was a Canaanite, among the enemies of Israel, outside the covenant of Israel. As such, Jesus’ interaction with her is breaching serious boundaries. The catalyst for this encounter was the faith of this woman. “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” What had been a barrier between Jesus and this woman has become the bridge connecting them.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you recall an experience when you were called a name?
  2. Have you ever been the object of discrimination?
  3. Have you ever felt pressure to act with discrimination towards another?
  4. Why would Jesus even go into the region of Tyre and Sidon and risk such an encounter?
  5. Can you envision this scene as it unfolds? Where does it take place? Who is in the crowd? What is the mood of the crowd, of the disciples, of the woman, and of Jesus as the scene unfolds? What is your mood as the scene unfolds?
  6. What are some of the reasons that would justify Jesus’ initial response to this woman? Have you ever been asked to send away someone who was in need?
  7. What is it that connects Jesus and this woman?
  8. Have you ever felt like you were being ignored or sent away by God?
  9. Why would Matthew include this encounter in his gospel?
  10. How is God speaking to you in this text? How will you respond?

 

 

The reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM.
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel.

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

François Boucher, Saint Peter Attempting to Walk on Water, 1766

August 13, 2017
Matthew 14:22-33

 

Background:

The events that Matthew records leading up to this gospel text are: the death of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:3-12) and the feeding of five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21). Verses 22-23 suggest that the disciples boarded the boat, the crowds were dispersed, and Jesus then climbed further up the mountain to spend most of the night in prayer.

The text itself appears to be a fairly simple unfolding of events, but consider that there may be more here than a simple unfolding of events. Matthew records only two other occasions where Jesus goes off by himself to pray. The first is just a few verses earlier (Matthew 14:13-14), when Jesus learned of the death of his cousin, John the Baptist. “When Jesus heard of it, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them and he cured their sick.” (Matthew 14:13-14). The other time comes at the end of his life, when he leaves his disciples to go into the garden of Gethsemane to pray. (Matthew 26:36-46).

Each of the four situations described in today’s text is a very brief description of a much richer experience of what is taking place beneath the words. While Jesus spends most of the night alone in prayer, the disciples are out in the boat, probably fishing. The taxes for a fishing permit were high and kept the average fisherman in debt. It would be unlikely that a successful fisherman would pass up the opportunity for a night of fishing. The Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Gennesaret, is well known for its sudden and severe storms. Verse 25 says that Jesus appeared on the water during the fourth watch. The fourth watch is from 3:00 AM to 6:00 AM. When Jesus comes to them, the disciples have been out on the water fishing presumably most of the night. It is also possible that they have battling against the storm winds most of that time. First light would permit one to see objects on the sea, but not in detail. Also, in the world of the disciples, it is impossible for anyone to walk on water. So when they see Jesus coming toward them on the water, it is reasonable that they would presume that it is a ghost.

Jesus, walking on the stormy water, presents himself as one who is greater than the mighty evil forces of chaos that threatened the existence of people of the day. Water was a symbol of life because it was needed to sustain life. At the same time, it was feared because of the destruction that occurred when rivers and lakes raged out of control. By walking on the water, Jesus is demonstrating that he has the power to subdue the chaos of the water, and to subdue the fear of the disciples in the boat, who think that Jesus may be a ghost. Jesus comes to establish peace in creation, both on the stormy waters and in the hearts of those who are in the boat.

Peter may have been reassured and felt confident by the reassuring words of Jesus, or perhaps he was uncertain it was truly Jesus who approached on the water. Either way, Peter asks that Jesus order him to come to him on the water. And so it is ordered. Peter begins to walk, but when his attention shifts to how powerful the chaos seems to be about him, he begins to sink. Peter calls out for help, and immediately the hand of Jesus is extended to lift him from peril and bring him to safety and peace.

 

The last two verses describe the scene in the boat. Jesus and Peter join the disciples who apparently have witnessed all of this while they themselves were still being tossed about on a violent sea. After Jesus and Peter join them, the sea, the wind, and the water are calm, and the disciples pay Jesus homage by stating, “Truly, you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:33b)

 

Reflection Questions:

  1. What is your experience of water, both as life-giving and as a force of destruction?
  2. Have you ever been physically exhausted and feared for your life? How did that circumstance affect your ability to act rationally?
  3. Have you ever felt like you need to be alone with God?
  4. Why would Peter want to get out of the boat and walk toward Jesus?
  5. Have you ever been willing to leave your present situation in order to pursue some new opportunity, relationship, or life situation?
  6. How does fear affect your relationships with others and with God?
  7. Have there been times when your relationship with God vacillated between fear and confidence? How did that shifting back and forth affect your overall relationship with God?
  8. Who in this gospel text do you most identify with? Can you take some time to talk to God about your relationship with God as you reflect on this text?

 

The reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM.
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel.

Feast of the Transfiguration

August 6, 2017
Matthew 17:1-9

Background

The gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent is always from one of the gospel texts that recount the Transfiguration of Jesus, either Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, or Luke 9:28-36. In addition, in the years when the Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6) falls on a Sunday, its liturgy replaces that Sunday’s Ordinary Time liturgy. The fact that all three synoptic gospels recount the Transfiguration signals how important this event was for the early Christians.

Throughout his gospel Matthew presents Jesus as a Moses-like figure. Here, like Moses, Jesus goes “up a high mountain” and encounters the presence of God. Both the face of Moses and the face of Jesus become radiant, and the presence of God comes from a cloud. “As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while he conversed with the Lord.” (Exodus 35:29) In addition to the face of Jesus becoming white, his garments too “became white as light.”

The presence of each of the other figures in the account helps point to the superiority of Jesus. Jesus is seen conversing with Moses and Elijah. These two men represent the two pillars of the Jewish faith, the law and the prophets. By speaking with them, Matthew’s Gospel hints, Jesus is an equal to each of them. But as Matthew unfolds the event, it is only about Jesus that the voice from heaven speaks, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” At the end of the event, Jesus is left alone with his disciples to descend down the mountain. In a different way, the presence of Peter, James, and John signals the single importance of Jesus. First, their presence gives witness to the reality of the event. In addition, their response is the familiar response of humans when they recognize that they are in the presence of God: awe and fear. At first Peter suggests that they build tents so that they can stay in this place. Then, when they hear the voice of God, they fall to the ground in fear. Jesus responds to them like he will after the resurrection, with gentle presence, and by urging them not to be afraid.

Matthew will use similar images later in his account of the resurrection. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary will go to the tomb and encounter an angel who will roll back the stone. “His appearance was like lighting and his clothing was white as snow. The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men. Then the angel said to the women in reply, ‘Do not be afraid!’” (Matthew 28:3-5a) Matthew’s community would also recognize, in the white garment, the robe they put on after they were baptized.

In Matthew’s gospel, no one doubts whether Jesus has the power to heal and cast out evil spirits. However, Jesus is confronted about the source of that power. In Nazareth, after Jesus taught in the synagogue, Matthew says the people wondered, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?” (13:54) The chief priests and the elders asked Jesus “By what authority are you doing these things?” (Matthew 21:23) Moreover, Matthew records that some even accused Jesus of being in allegiance with the devil. “But the Pharisees said, ‘He drives out demons by the prince of demons.’” (Matthew 9:34)

When Matthew recorded the baptism of Jesus by John, he told his community “the heavens were opened [for him], and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’ Here, the words God speaks are almost identical. Now the voice of God seems to be addressed to the disciples, with the instruction that they are to “listen to him.” Jesus is not Moses who needs to go up the mountain to receive the teaching of God and then communicate it to Israel. The disciples go up the mountain to hear God say to them that Jesus himself has the favor of God, and they are to follow his instruction. Jesus will instruct them by leading them down the mountain and on to Jerusalem.

 

Reflection Questions:

  1. Have you ever felt like you were in the presence of God is some special way? What was your response to that realization?
  2. By the time the gospels were written, the early Christians had been waiting for Jesus’ return for decades. Is there any hope that you have prayed for, for decades, that still seems to have gone unanswered?
  3. Are you aware of ways that God has been present anew after long periods of faithful waiting?
  4. How significant would have been Jesus’ relationship with the people of his home town, and the elders and chief priests and the Pharisees? How do you think Jesus would have felt when these people doubted his motives for healing and casting out evil spirits?
  5. How are golden anniversary celebrations different from weddings, retirement celebrations different from the celebration of getting one’s first real job, and religious jubilees different from first professions?
  6. The disciples are described as wanting to stay right where they were. Have you ever been in a place where you wanted to stay right where you were, in a job, in a relationship, or in your spiritual life? What happened?
  7. Can you take some time with God to talk about your life situation right now, including your hopes and your fears?

 

The reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM.
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel.

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 30, 2017
Matthew 13:44-52

Background:

This week’s Gospel text, along with the text from the two previous weeks, has given the reader the opportunity to reflect on a block of Jesus’ parables that take up almost the entire 13th chapter of Mathew’s Gospel. All of these parables were addressed to the crowds that came to hear Jesus’ teaching. However, the explanation of the meaning of the parables was reserved for the disciples.

The three short parables that comprise the majority of the text for this week are all taken from familiar experiences of common people of the day–a farmer, a merchant, and a fisherman. The first two parables present the kingdom of God as a great treasure that is present, but hidden to the non-observant. This theme was hinted at by Jesus two weeks ago. When the disciples asked Jesus why he taught with parables, he responded: “This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’” (Matthew 13:13) The parable about the kingdom being like a fisherman’s drag net is similar to the parable of the farmer who let the weeds grow along with the wheat. In both parables, Jesus says that angels will separate the wicked from the righteous in the final judgment.

From another perspective, the three parables of the Gospel for today present three different ways that people discover the kingdom of God. In the first parable, the farmer finds a treasure in a field, which seems to suggest an unexpected discovery. The farmer responds with joyful enthusiasm that would be considered reckless by his fellow farmers. If the farmer sells everything to buy this field and the field does not produce a good harvest, the farmer is in danger of losing the field and the treasure. In the second parable, the merchant is diligently seeking the great pearl. The response to the discovery is equally enthusiastic as that of the farmer. The last parable is about fishermen who are about the ordinary task of the day–separating the fish from the other objects that the net picked up as it was dragged through the sea. The kingdom is present, but they are unaware of its presence until the very end when they discover what has been caught. Some of the “catch” will be kept and some discarded. This parable seems to echo the theme of the over-generous action of God as was described in the parable of the sower at the start of this chapter. (Matthew 13:1-9) These parables present a picture of God who is at work establishing the kingdom, and bringing people to an awareness of the kingdom through various efforts on their part. The theme that runs through the three parables in today’s text is that God has placed the Kingdom within the reach of common people, those who find the Kingdome realize that it is to be valued above all else, and discovery of the Kingdom brings great joy to those who discover it. 

Reflection Questions:

  1. When you reflect on your life journey, what are some of the things you have desired?
  2. What are some of the things that have brought you a sense of joy?
  3. Are the things that have brought you joy the same things that you have desired?
  4. Have you desired the wrong things?
  5. Have your mistakes at desiring the wrong things led you to a better understanding of what it is you truly desire?
  6. How would you complete the line: “The kingdom of God is like…”
  7. Does your image of God’s Kingdom leave you with a sense of being overjoyed?
  8. What are the things in the last week that have left you with a sense of joy?
  9. Which of the three parables in this text most attracts your attention? How would you like to respond to that fascination?
  10. When you reflect on your desires and how those desires have impacted your life, what would you like to say to God?

 

 

The reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM.
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel.

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 23, 2017
Matthew 13:24-43

Background:

The gospel text for this Sunday follows directly after the text from last Sunday’s gospel. Last week the first line described Jesus leaving the house and going down by the sea. After Jesus addressed the crowd that had gathered, he dismissed them and returned to the house. (Matthew 13:36) Like the parable of last week, the first two parables of the text for today are about the sowing of seeds. This text concludes with the same admonition which concluded the parable of last week: “Whoever has ears ought to hear.” (Matthew 13:9 and 43b) The repetition of the line indicates its importance. While there are a number of common elements in the parable from last week and those in the text for this week, what stands out is that the last parable is about a woman doing one of the most ordinary kitchen tasks, making bread. In the male-dominated culture in which Jesus lived, Jesus’ effort to include an example that every woman of the day would understand speaks its own message of the Kingdom. Even though the parable itself is short, the fact that its focus is a woman doing an ordinary task of her day would have been noticed by the gender-segregated society of Jesus’ day.

Another cultural aspect is important to appreciating these parables. It is the importance of maintaining one’s status within the community, and the enjoyment that naturally arises when one can make another look foolish. The modern reader may get some insight into what significance such activity played in daily life by reflecting on how often others tried to set Jesus up with a situation where they hoped he would look foolish in the eyes of the crowd who had come to hear him preach.

In the first parable of today’s text, an enemy has come in the night to sow weeds in the midst of his neighbor’s wheat field.  (Matthew 13:25). This enemy may be thought of more of as a neighboring farmer who will enjoy making his fellow farmer look a bit foolish. He will get the attention when others learn how he has made his neighbor look a bit ridiculous when the weeds and the wheat begin to grow. The possibility that an enemy might try to embarrass a fellow farmer by deliberately sowing weeds in another’s field was not just hypothetical.  Further, the farmer who did not try to rectify or retaliate in some fashion would appear even more foolish in the eyes of his neighbors, because he will be thought of as weak and not able to defend his property or his reputation. But as the parable unfolds he turns out to be the wiser of the two. He was wise enough to know that the weeds were not strong enough to choke off his wheat and were able to grow together. At the time for the harvest he has both his wheat harvest and fuel for his fire. For the Christians who will hear this parable through the Gospel, the parable also points to Jesus himself, who, in his passion, is strong enough to endure the wickedness of others without needing to lash out in defense–yet in the end he enjoys the final vindication.

The parables that Jesus tells in this text reveal a God who is imperceptibly at work in ordinary human ways, a God who at the same time is more powerful than any outside effort to thwart God’s intentions. This God’s kingdom is unfolding in the lives of farmers, women, and even Gentiles. (A common symbol for Gentiles was birds that came to nest in the branches of the mustard bush.)

This Sunday, a short form of the gospel text can be used which would only include the first parable (Matt 13:24-30). This option would strengthen a connection to the first reading (Wisdom 12:13, 16-19), but would eliminate the repetition of the line “Whoever has ears ought to hear,” and it would pass over the reality that Jesus made a significant effort to include women in the way he taught and pointed toward the kingdom, even in his very male dominated world.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you know people who enjoy playing practical jokes on others?
  2. Have you ever been the focus of someone else’s “practical joke”?
  3. What do you think the ordinary peasants of the day were thinking as they heard Jesus tell these parables?
  4. Who, in our society, might be symbolized by “weeds growing in the midst of the wheat”?
  5. Within you as a person, what values or behaviors might be weeds that are growing among the wheat?
  6. Who today speaks with the wisdom of the farmer who is willing to let the weeds grow with the wheat?
  7. What aspects of your life make you look or feel foolish? How might God be using those things to teach you something you need to understand?
  8. Do you ever feel that the kingdom of God is unfolding too slowly?
  9. Why would Jesus tell parables about the kingdom of God that focused on the experience of the most common of people, including women?
  10. Which of the parables in the gospel text speaks most strongly to you?
  11. What do you hear mostly strongly in this gospel? Can you talk with God about what it is you are hearing in this gospel text?

 

The reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM.
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel.

What is the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?

Probiotics are the microbes that live in your gut and prebiotics are the food they eat.
Prebiotics are very important for the health of your microbiome [your gut].

Prebiotics are a type of non-digestible fiber that helps your good bacteria. They are found in foods like: asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, jicama, bananas, oatmeal, legumes, and the skin of apples, onions and garlic.
Prebiotics pass through the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract, when they reach the colon they are the nutrient source for the beneficial bacteria that live in your gut.

Probiotics are found in: fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, cultured yogurt, raw cheese goat’s milk and sheep’s milk, apple cider vinegar, salted gherkin pickles, brine-cured olives, Tempeh and Miso.
Prebiotics and probiotics enhance our gut health.  Working together they help to battle inflammation and help in lowering overall disease risk.

Increase your intake of prebiotics.

Prebiotics are linked to benefits, including:

  • lower risk for cardiovascular disease
  • healthier cholesterol levels
  • better gut health
  • improved digestion
  • lower stress response
  • better hormonal balance
  • higher immune function
  • lower risk for obesity and weight gain
  • lower inflammation and autoimmune reactions

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Sower, Van Gogh, 1888

July 16, 2017
Matthew 13:1-23

Background:

The first eight verses of this gospel are usually referred to as The Parable of the Sower. However, the focus is not on the sower who seems to scatter seed indiscriminately. Nor is the focus on the seed, which, in Jesus’ explanation of the parable, is likened to the word of the kingdom of God. The focus of the story is on the ground, and especially the ground’s ability to receive the seed and produce an astonishing harvest.

The gospel text has three sections: the parable (13:1-8), the explanation of the need to teach in parables (13:10-17) and the explanation of the parable (13:18-23).

Most scripture scholars believe that the parable originally stood alone. As a teaching by itself it highlights the generosity and power of God that for people of the day is beyond comprehension. At the time of its telling, seeds were sown and then tilled under. When the harvest was complete, a farmer normally expected a yield four or five times greater than what was planted. Even a return of tenfold would have been surprisingly abundant.

The largely peasant audience who would have heard Jesus tell this parable would have been shocked at the wasteful manner in which the seeds were being sown. The precious bits of grain, if not sown as seed, could be ground into flour that could feed hungry people.  But because Jesus does not identify the sower, the audience would wonder who this sower is. If it is the landowner himself, the story does not contain good news because at the end of it he seems to be rewarded for his wastefulness. If the sower is a tenant farmer or a day laborer, the good news is that, even given the difficult land to farm, the harvest is sufficient to pay the landowner his share of the harvest, and pay the taxes, and still have sufficient grain for the sower to feed his family. But because the harvest is so abundant, it is obvious that it is result of a loving and caring God who looks after the needs of the less fortunate.

The explanation that is added moves the parable away from the daily struggles of peasants who worked the land. The focus is instead on the struggles of the early Christian community. More often than not, the early Christians’ efforts to spread the word of God were rejected outright. Many of those who showed an original interest, and even initial acceptance of the Christians’ way of life, had failed to remain with the community. In this context, the parable reassures the community that God is in control of the productivity of their efforts. It also gives them great hope because their efforts to spread the word of God are more fruitful than they expect.

 

Reflection Questions:

  1. Can you think of times in the life of Jesus when he might have needed some encouragement?
  2. What stories from the old testament might Jesus have prayed with in order to give him hope and trust in a generous Father?
  3. Can you envision Jesus addressing this huge crowd of mostly poor and needy from the boat as they stand along the shore? What kind of comments might those listening be making as this parable unfolds?
  4. Why do you think Jesus told this parable to the crowds that had gathered?
  5. Can you recall a time when you hoped in a God that was beyond imagination?
  6. The explanation of the parable seems to indicate that knowledge of the word of God has been granted to the disciples, and is key to the word having a dramatic effect. Earlier in Mathew’s gospel, Jesus says “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” (Matthew 11:25) What qualities of a child make them receptive to receiving God’s wisdom?
  7. Who are the people around you who seem to have the best attributes of being childlike?
  8. Do you know people who have the extravagance of the sower?
  9. Who in your community could use to receive a taste of the extravagance of God in their lives?
  10. How is the word of God growing within you, and in your parish, and in our world?
  11. What in this text draws your attention? Can you spend some time talking with God about whatever that is?

 

The reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM.
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel.

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 9, 2017
Matthew 11:25-30

Background:

The first part of this text, verses 25-27, is also found in Luke’s gospel. (Luke 10:21-22) Therefore scholars believe that it comes from an older source that both Luke and Matthew used as they composed their gospels. The style of the text is different than what is found in most of the synoptic gospels. It is more like what is found in John’s gospel. The second part of this text is unique to Matthew.

In Jesus’ day, the rich would become “patrons” of others who were not members of their family. The patron would treat these clients as if they were members of the family. In some cases, the “patron” would use an agent who would act on their behalf to arrange the relationship. This relationship benefited both the patron and the client. The client received the benefits of being included in the patron’s family, which was usually a significantly more prosperous situation, and the patron received the esteem of the community. The client was expected to make the generosity of the patron known. There was no “not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing” here. In Jesus’ culture, esteem or honor was so important that it was considered foolish to have the wealth to become a patron and not do so. That is the point of the parable that Jesus tells of the foolish landowner who had the wealth, but instead of taking on clients, decided to build larger barns so he could store up his wealth and not have to work. (Luke 12:16-20)

Looking at this gospel through the patron/client cultural lens, God the Father is the patron, those who are burdened are the clients, and Jesus is described as the broker/agent for the Father. In the first verse of this gospel text, God is described as “Father, Lord of heaven and earth.” The Father is being described as one who is responsible for bringing all of creation into existence. Verses 26 and 27 describe Jesus as the One the Father has chosen to act as His agent. The Father has sent Jesus to those who “labor and are burdened.” They are invited to take a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. It is an invitation to a relationship with God, the creator of the universe, who desires to make them part of God’s family and not a slave of some earthly master.

Reflection Questions:

  1. How would you describe your personal prayer?
  2. What happens within you when you praise God?
  3. If you were asked to design a set for a children’s play depicting God in heaven as Lord of creation, what would it look like?
  4. Jesus talks about God as having “hidden these things from the wise and the learned,” yet revealing them to “the childlike.” What do you think he is trying to tell us?
  5. Can you recall occasions in the gospels when Jesus invited those who were burdened to come, and to find rest?
  6. If Jesus has sent us, as the Father has sent him, what is your role to those who are burdened?
  7. How is your relationship with God a yoke? What would you like to say to God about that yoke today?
  8. When was the last time you can recall feeling burdened or worried? Where did you find rest?

Can you take time to talk with God about your relationship to God, especially the places where you have felt burdened, and those times when you have felt like God was helping you find rest?

The reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM.
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel.