Every month, Connections offers stories, images, reflections and meditations relating to the themes of each Sunday’s readings.  Material comes from the evening news and the every day, from the stage and screen, from the music world and the marketplace – all designed to help homilists “connect” the world of Monday through Saturday with the Gospel proclaimed on Sunday.

To give you an idea of what Connections is all about, we’ve assembled the following sampling of stories, meditations and 'connecting' reflections from recent issues of Connections:

First Sunday of Lent [A] – February 26, 2023
Second Sunday in Lent [A] – March 5, 2023
Third Sunday of Lent [A] – March 12, 2023
Fourth Sunday of Lent [A] – March 19, 2023
Fifth Sunday of Lent [A] – March 26, 2023
Passion (Palm) Sunday [A] – April 2, 2023

Easter – April 8-9, 2023
Second Sunday of Easter – April 16, 2023
Third Sunday of Easter – April 23, 2023
Fourth Sunday of Easter – April 30, 2023

Please note that, in every issue of Connections, we offer TWO stories/meditations for each Sunday’s Gospel.

After reviewing this “electronic sampler,” if you’d like information on subscribing – or receiving the next complete issue of ConnectionsCLICK HERE for subscription information and an order form.


First Sunday of Lent [A]

After being baptized, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  He fasted for forty days and forty nights . . .
Matthew 4: 1-11


Addiction is hard word – it conjures up horrifying images of life-threatening dependence on some narcotic or hallucinogen that robs us of our ability to control our lives.

But the fact is that every one of us has some addiction: the things we cannot imagine living without.  It may be eating, shopping, blaming, or taking care of other people.  We can be addicted to the latest, the newest, the hottest, the most fashionable.  Our addiction may be our obsession with our computer or electronic toys, our favorite band, or our golf clubs.  We are all addicted to habits, substances or surroundings that comfort us, that provide a refuge for us, that block out what scares or hurts us.

At some point in our lives, however, we find ourselves alone in some kind of desert or wilderness, deprived of our addictions.  We experience an emptiness within us that our addiction will not fill.  We are suddenly exposed, like someone addicted to painkillers whose prescriptions have just run out.  It is hard.  It is awful.  But to become fully human, it is necessary to encounter the world without our own anesthesia, to find out what life is like with no comfort but God.

That may be the simplest definition of addiction: anything we use to fill the empty place inside us that belongs to God alone.

[Adapted from “Settling for less” by Barbara Brown Taylor, in The Christian Century, February 18, 1998.]

The season of Lent calls us to leave behind our addictions and pacifiers, our comfort food and toys, and journey to the desert, to be alone with nothing but God.  It is a time to take a hard look at the “addictions” that control us and regain control of our time and values so that we may become the man or woman God created us to be.  May our “desert time” with God over the next 40 days, leaving our addictions and obsessions behind, help us re-fill our souls and spirits with the wisdom and grace of the God who constantly seeks us out and calls us back to him.

Second Sunday in Lent [A]

Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light . . . From the cloud came a voice that said:  “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
Matthew 17: 1-9

To become the person you once needed

When Sara became ill many years ago, bulimia was not yet a household world.  Filled with guilt at her uncontrollable behavior, she was taken to specialist after specialist until someone was able to identify the problem as something much more than teenage rebellion.  Slowly she fought her way back from the edge.  Sara was surrounded by many loving adults, but no one could understand why she was doing this to herself.  She didn't understand it either.  Sara fought her disease alone and managed to conquer it.

Now happily married, Sara read a story in her local newspaper about a new support group for those suffering from bulimia.  Although Sara had not suffered from its symptoms since she was a teenager, she was intrigued by the idea of a support group and went to the meeting.  It was a powerful experience.  The desperately ill young people there touched her heart.  While she felt unable to help them, she cared about them and continued attending the meetings.  Other than saying she had bulimia as a girl, Sara revealed little about herself at the meetings; she sat quietly and listened to the stories of others.

As she was about to leave one of the sessions, Sara was stopped by a painfully thin girl who thanked her for coming and told her how much it meant to know her.  The girl’s eyes filled with tears.  Sara responded with her usual graciousness, but was puzzled.  Sara could not recall ever speaking to this girl and did not even know her name.

As she drove home, Sara wondered how she could have forgotten something so important to someone else.  She was almost home when it dawned on her.

Her husband, who met her at the front door, was surprised to see that she had been crying.

“Sara, what's wrong?” he asked.

A smile broke through her tears.

“Harry, I've become the person I needed to meet,” she told him and walked into his arms.

[From My Grandfather’s Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.]

The lesson of the Transfiguration is that there exists within each one of us the spirit of God to become the person God calls us to be.  It is the same spirit, that same “divinity,” that Peter, James and John behold in Jesus on the mount of the Transfiguration.  The power of that sacred presence shines through us, as well, even when we do not notice.  Like Sara, we are a blessing to others, simply by being who we are.  We become what Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls “agents of transfiguration”:  “God places us in the world as God's fellow workers -- agents of transfiguration.  We work with God so that injustice is transfigured into justice, so that there will be more compassion and caring, so that there will be more laughter and joy, so that there will be more togetherness in God’s world.”

Third Sunday of Lent [A]

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.”
John 4: 5-42

“Everything I have done . . . ”

Their daughter sees today because of a cornea transplant.  Their joy is tempered by the realization that the cornea belonged to another nine-year old killed in an auto accident.  The deceased child’s family finds some peace in knowing that a part of their daughter will live on — and the recipient family is transformed by what they have received.  Not only a physical piece but the deceased child’s generosity and selflessness live on, as well, in the recipient’s family’s new dedication to advocacy work on behalf of organ donation.

He opened the letter from the college’s financial aid office informing him of the scholarship award.  Friends of “Mrs. G” had set up the scholarship and designated it for a student studying to be a math teacher like their beloved teacher and friend.  The scholarship letter included a biography of Mrs. G written by one her former students who had helped set up the fund at the college.  The incoming freshman realized what a remarkable teacher she was — this woman named for his scholarship award — and resolved to become the same kind of dedicated and generous teacher she was for her students.

They could not stop talking about it.  They had spent the day at the Habitat for Humanity site, sponsored by a local church.  It didn’t matter that they knew nothing about carpentry; there was plenty to do and skilled craftsmen there to teach them.  That evening in the dorm, they talked about the terrific people they had met — including the single mom and her two little girls who will live in the house.  The next Saturday, two of their buddies joined them on the site to help frame the house — and came back to the dorm as happily exhausted as their friends were the week before.

For the writer of the Fourth Gospel, today’s Gospel is not just about a sinful woman reconciled to God by Jesus but a woman who is so transformed by the encounter that she becomes a witness of his reconciling presence in the midst of her people.  We have all experienced such grace, such generosity, such compassion that changes our perspective and approach to life — we embrace the goodness that has embraced us; we become vehicles of the compassion and grace that has blessed our lives.  All of us who have encountered Jesus are called to the work of reconciliation (rather than judgment), to reach out and bring forth from one another the good each of us possesses as a son and daughter of God. 

Fourth Sunday of Lent [A]

The healing of the man born blind:  “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind.”
John 9: 1-41

Another busy day in the church hall . . .

On a given morning in the parish hall, the teenagers in the Confirmation class are packing up winter coats they have collected for the homeless.

Later that day, the hall kitchen buzzes with volunteers preparing soup and sandwiches for the parish’s regular turn that night at the downtown soup kitchen.

In the afternoon, a group of moms takes over the space and turns it into an after-school center for kids to come to do homework, enjoy a snack, receive tutoring help, and just have a safe place to hang out after school instead of going home to an empty house.

After supper, the knitting group will meet to make prayer shawls for the sick and dying in the parish.  Their work is a warm, comforting assurance to the suffering and hurting in the parish that they are embraced in the prayers of the community.

It seems the lights never go out in this parish hall. 

The many works and ministries that take place in the always busy parish hall are the real lights, reflecting the compassion of God dwelling in the church community.  As Jesus heals the blind man “so that the works of God might be made visible through him,” he opens our eyes to see and our hearts to make God’s works of justice and reconciliation “visible” in our own time and place.  In baptism, we are entrusted with those “works.”  Our least remarkable offerings of charity are extensions of the Eucharist we offer together at the Lord’s table; our unheralded, unseen efforts to bring healing and hope to others illuminate the unseen presence of God in our midst.   May our own water and clay — the time and talent we give in imitation of Christ’s healing compassion — make the love and grace of God visible in our homes and communities, our workplaces and classrooms, our parishes and gatherings.   

Fifth Sunday of Lent [A]

Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now, I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you . . . ”
Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face wrapped in a cloth.  “Untie him and let him go.”
John 11: 1-45

Saved by the belle

Colin describes himself as being helplessly uncool in junior high school.  He didn’t dress cool; he was awkward and nerdy.  And definitely “uncool”:  Colin was an active member of his church’s clown troupe.  So, Colin remembers, he just stayed happily “invisible” in school.

On the first day of sixth grade, a teacher had the students fill out a “get-to-know-you” questionnaire.  Colin assumed the teacher would read them privately, so he wrote about his work with the clown troupe.  But after collecting the sheets, the teacher shuffled them and redistributed them to the class.  Each student would then read aloud the answers from the questionnaire they had received.  The kid who ended up with Colin’s was one of the class’s coolest — and meanest — kids.

Colin’s answers were typical Colin — honest and definitely uncool.  The laughter grew and grew as each of his answers was read aloud.  The final question was What do you do you like to do on weekends?  The other kids wrote “hang out with friends” and “go to the mall.”  Colin wrote “perform with Clowns for Christ.”

The kids who weren’t laughing stared at Colin with disgust.  Colin wanted to melt into the floor. 

But then something amazing happened.  A voice from the back of the room said, “Guys, cut it out.”  And the room went silent.  The voice belonged to Michelle Siever.  Michelle Siever was popular and cool.  Michelle Siever had sway.  The room was quiet.

Michelle wasn’t done.  She turned to the teacher and said, “Why are you letting this happen?  What is the point if we’re gonna make fun of each other?”

Twenty-five years later, Colin doesn’t remember the kids’ name or the teacher, but he will never forget Michelle Siever.  She will always be Colin’s hero.

[Colin Ryan, The Moth Radio Hour.]

Sometimes a simple act of compassion can lift up the dead; a single word of truth can shatter the darkness.  That’s what Michelle does: she recognizes the mindless cruelty in which the kids around her are “entombed” and calls them out, releasing Colin from the bindings of embarrassment and restoring a sense of civility and respect in the class.  Every one of us has been called by Christ to take up the work that begins at Lazarus’ tomb: to help others free themselves from their graves of dark hopelessness and the fear and sadness that bind them, enabling them to walk in the Easter light of hope and possibility.  

Sunday of the Lord’s Passion: Palm Sunday [A]

The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road.
Matthew 21: 1-11

And about three o’clock, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Matthew  26: 14 — 27: 66

The life and death of Rosalind Franklin

In 1962, Doctors James Watson and Francis Crick accepted the Nobel Prize for medicine for their discovery of the chemical structure of DNA. 

It was one of the great injustices in the history of scientific research.

Because the real ground-breaking work that led to their discovery was done by an English researcher who had died before the prize was awarded. 

The story of Rosalind Franklin’s life and work remains one of controversy.  During her lifetime, she received little recognition for her contributions to one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century.

Rosalind Franklin was born in London in 1920.  A gifted student, her teachers described her as being “alarmingly clever.”  Rosalind went on to become a chemist, specializing in mineralogy.   Her work led to the development of a more effective gas mask that saved thousands of lives during World War II. 

After the war, she starting working on DNA, the material our genes are made of.  Ignored by her male colleagues, she produced the first X-ray image that revealed the double helical structure of DNA.  Without her knowledge, the photograph was passed along to Watson and Crick who used the photograph and her data in their work.  Dr. Franklin was never credited when their findings were published; she never realized the crucial role her work played in the discovery of the chemical structure of DNA.  If she did, she never expressed any bitterness or frustration.

Three years later, Rosalind Franklin was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  Her small circle of friends and colleagues are convinced she contracted the disease from the radiation given off from the X-rays she worked with.  She continued working in her lab until a few weeks before her death in April 1958.  She was 37.

Rosalind Franklin’s image of the DNA molecule was key to deciphering its structure, but only Watson and Crick received the Nobel Prize.  Nobel Prize rules prohibit the awarding of the prize posthumously. 

Rosalind Franklin’ ground-breaking work, in all probability, cost her life.  She died alone, betrayed by colleagues, her work taken from her. 

But the work of her life outlives her in the advances that have been made in medicine over the past six decades.

The story of Rosalind Franklin mirrors the story of Jesus’ passion and death.  The Passion account we read today is as much a story about us as it is about Jesus: in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ condemnation, suffering and crucifixion, we confront the greed, betrayal, and cruelty we are capable of.  But in the person of Jesus, God takes on our humanity in all its sinfulness in order to move us beyond our failings, to realize his grace and compassion in our lives.  As Rosalind Franklin’s work lives on despite the injustice and suffering she endured, Christ transforms death from the final humiliation into the beginning of something much greater and sacred.  

Easter:  The Resurrection of the Lord [ABC]

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb . . .
Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid!  I know you are seeking Jesus the crucified.  He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.  Come and see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised up from the dead, and is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him . . . ’”
Matthew 28: 1-10

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
John 20: 1-9

First light

While it is still dark, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb of the Jesus who healed her, who taught her, who accorded her the respect and love she never thought herself worthy of. 

The Easter story begins in the early morning darkness.  This is always how our discovery of the risen Christ begins: in darkness.

For many, this was a week of darkness:

Earlier this week, someone received terrible news from a physician. 

Earlier this week, someone suddenly lost his job. 

Earlier this week, someone heard the words “I don’t love you anymore.” 

Earlier this week, someone’s hope was crucified. 

And the darkness is overwhelming.

No one is ready to encounter Easter until he or she has spent time in the early morning darkness where hope cannot be seen.  In such darkness, Easter is the last thing we are expecting.  And that’s why Easter terrifies us.  We dread the darkness — but we fear even more what is beyond it.  Sometimes the darkness we know is preferable to what we don’t know — we have learned at least to function and exist in the darkness; we find a distorted solace in the fact that darkness means that nothing more can disappoint or hurt us.

Easter’s first light illuminates those dark places we have become used to; it focuses our vision and attention on what we have never seen before; it dares us to imagine possibilities beyond our limited understanding of what is possible.

Easter is not about bunnies, springtime and girls in pretty dresses. 

Easter is about more hope than we can handle.

[Adapted from a sermon by M. Craig Barnes.]

Easter calls us out of the darkness that shrouds our lives and into the light of possibility, of healing, of re-creation.  In his rising from the dead, Christ enables us to bring into our own lives all that he lived and taught and gave: the love, compassion, generosity, humility and selflessness that ultimately triumphs over hatred, prejudice, despair, greed, and death.  The empty tomb is the sign of perfect hope: that in Christ all things are possible, that we can live our lives with meaning and purpose, that we can become the people God created us to be become.  May we not fear or shrink from Easter morning’s first light but embrace that light and the hope it promises in the Risen One who is forever in our midst, shattering the darkness.     

Second Sunday of Easter [A]

“Peace be with you . . .”  And when he said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
John 20: 19-31

Peace starts here

Christine Kingery will never forget her grandmother’s stories. She shared some of them on the NPR series This I Believe

Christine’s Russian-born grandmother was captured by the Nazis and taken to a work camp in Germany when she was 17.  They shaved off her waist-length hair and tortured her.  She never saw her parents or siblings again.   The resourceful young woman escaped the camp and worked for many months as a nurse in underground movements in Germany and Belgium until she was captured a second time by the Nazis and taken to a concentration camp.  There she met Christine’s grandfather, and the two escaped.  Eventually, they and their newborn-daughter — Christine’s mother — came to America.

Christine remembers hearing these stories when she was eight years old.  She said to her grandmother, “I hate the Germans for what they did to you!  Don’t you just get so mad at them?”

Christine never forgot her grandmother’s response.  She said in her broken English, “The Germans are my friends.  When I escaped and had nowhere to go, the Germans gave me food, shelter, and clothes.  They were my friends even in the camps.  The Germans are the kindest people I know.”

Her answer shocked Christine.  It was her first introduction to the meaning of compassion.

A few years later, when Christine was in high school, she had the chance to go to Japan.  She visited Nagasaki.  The experience was overwhelming.  In every photograph, in every Japanese victim’s face in the museum’s exhibits, she saw her grandmother’s reflection.  Christine had to go outside to Peace Park on the bomb-site grounds.  Beautiful colorful origami cranes — thousands of them — were draped over statues and trees.  Christine sat on a bench and cried and cried.  An old Japanese woman saw the teenager on the bench.  She was about her grandmother’s age.  She sat next to Christine and put her wrinkled hands in Christine’s.  In broken English, the old woman said, “Peace starts right here.  Peace starts with you and me.  It starts today.”

On Easter night, the Risen Christ leaves his new Church the gift of his “peace,” peace that is so much more than the absence of conflict.  The peace of Christ transforms, re-creates and renews; it is a peace centered in wisdom, integrity and an attitude of thanksgiving.   It is peace born of gratitude and humility, peace that values the hopes and dreams and needs of another over one’s own, peace that welcomes back the lost, heals the brokenhearted, and respects the dignity of every man, woman and child as a son and daughter of God.  May we embrace the gift of such transforming peace in this Easter season and in every season.  

Third Sunday of Easter [A]

Two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.  And it happened that Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
Luke 24: 13-35

“Barefoot on the path” to Emmaus . . .

Kathleen and Harry met in college, “directionless and broke, barefoot on the path of life,” they remember.  Something clicked and the couple embarked on a journey together that has lasted 45 years.  They established careers, married, had two wonderful kids.  Like every good marriage, they celebrated moments of ecstasy — and, like the best of marriages, conquered the obstacles and survived the hardships.

Forty-five years later, with the children raised and settled with families of their own, Kathleen and Harry looked ahead to a new chapter.  But that all changed with three words:  “You have cancer.”  And so began a new journey — one of uncertainty, hope and fear shifting with every CT scan and lab result.  The cancer is inoperable and incurable, but doctors tell them that it’s controllable through chemotherapy. 

On this new road, Kathleen and Harry are traveling light, stripping away the excess baggage of their lives, relentlessly rooting out the things they don’t use, need or want.  The days of detailed calendars and planners are over — now they focus on the here and now.  They will always worry about the future of their kids and grandkids, but the endless noise of politics and division don’t even register.  The day-to-day stresses of building and maintaining a lifestyle no longer matter.  They read more; they talk more.  Their daily routine has become more interesting, more relevant.  Volunteering and community work are more fulfilling.  

Harry writes of his and Kathleen’s life in an essay in The Boston Globe:

“Our hearts and minds are much fuller . . . There’s no telling what this chapter in our lives will bring.  Or how long it will last.  Inevitably, one of us will start a new chapter alone, but it’s nothing we need to think about right now.  As we strip away the distractions and detritus of 45 years together, we are, once again, getting closer to what we were in the beginning: barefoot on the path of life.”

[From “Getting Back to What Matters Most” by Harry Viens, The Boston Globe Magazine, February 2, 2020.  Used with permission of the author.]

A couple travels the hard road between Good Friday and Easter, seeking to live these days to the fullest.  What illuminates their road to Emmaus is the love of God that first “clicked” for them 45 years ago and continues to be a living reality in this new, unpredictable chapter of their lives.  God travels with us on our own roads to Emmaus; God is present in the broken bread of compassion and healing we offer and receive from our fellow travelers.  Easter faith is to recognize God in our midst: in our wanting to understand, in our struggle to make things right, in our brokenness.  May this Easter season open our hearts and spirits to recognize Christ among us in every moment of our lives, in both the bright promising mornings and the dark, terrifying nights.    

Fourth Sunday of Easter [A]

“I am the gate.  Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture . . . I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
John 14: 1-12


Your teenager messed up — missed curfew, had a train-wreck of a report card, caught with something he or she shouldn’t have had.  So you grounded them.  Their social life was put on “pause” for the next month or so, giving them time to think about their responsibility to be safe, to focus on their school work, to realize that they are not kids anymore. 

Grounded . . .

It’s been more than a year since Boeing grounded its 737 Max jetliner.  The 737 was one of the most widely used aircraft in the world —until the world’s aviation safety authorities ordered the plane grounded after two crashes of 737s that killed 346 people.  This is not just a matter of making a mechanical or maintenance fix — the 737 Max won’t fly again until technicians can rewrite the code in the flight computer giving pilots greater control of the plane.

Grounded . . .

A professor insists that her MBA students spend as much time talking about business ethics and corporate responsibility as they do studying how to make and manage money.  They study not only management and financial strategies but the economic and social impact of those strategies on consumers, children, families, the communities.  Smart businesses, she believes, are grounded in the principles of justice and social responsibility.

Grounded . . .

A technician carefully grinds a piece of glass to the precise curvature and then polishes the glass to create a lens: a lens that might be used to study microbes, search the heavens — or enable a grandparent to see his grandson or a little girl to see the words in her book.

Grounded . . .

For most of us, “grounding” is or has been a negative and punitive, often limiting our freedom and options — but the opposite is true.  To be “grounded” is to find our footing in what we believe is right and just; to restore the balance between our individual wants and needs and our responsibility for the common good; to stop and reset our direction, fix what is broken and change what is not working.  As followers of Jesus, we realize that our lives must be “grounded” in the Gospel principles of compassion, peace and justice, if we are to realize the meaning and purpose of our lives.  This Easter season is a time to “ground” ourselves again in the Risen Christ, the “gate” to God’s Kingdom, the Shepherd who gathers us as his Church, the people of God.