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:

19th Sunday of the Year [C] / Ninth Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 14C] – August 7, 2022.
20th Sunday of the Year [C] / Tenth Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 15C] – August 14, 2022.
21st Sunday of the Year [C]  – August 21, 2022 [ROMAN lectionary].
11th Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 16C]  – August 21, 2022 [COMMON lectionary].
22nd Sunday of the Year [C] / 12th Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 15C] – August 28, 2022.

23rd Sunday of the Year [C] / 13th Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 18C] – September 4, 2022.
24th Sunday of the Year [C] / 14th Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 19C] – September 11, 2022.
25th Sunday of the Year [C] / 15th Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 20C] – September 18, 2022.
26th Sunday of the Year [C] / 16th Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 21C] – September 25, 2022.

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.

Enjoy!  



19th Sunday of the Year [C] / 12th Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 14C]

“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?  Blessed is that servant whom the master on arrival finds doing so . . .                                                                  
“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”
Luke 12: 32-48

“Faithful and prudent stewards” in the parish

Every so often there are people who want to make a spectacular gift to the church — something big, something that can be seen and identified; usually it’s a gift in memory of a deceased loved one.  No one ever says, “just apply this to the budget.”  That’s understandable.  There’s nothing flashy about paying the light bill or getting the carpet clean.

But there are folks in every parish who are willing to do just that: the unspectacular, the unflashy, the unnoticed that makes a big difference in the lives of the parish and the people it serves.

For example, there’s the woman who is very well off who writes a sizable check to the parish every week to be used to buy gift cards at the local supermarket for poor and struggling families.

And then there’s the college professor who volunteers her time every year to teach the fourth grade religious education class.  She’d be a great addition to the adult education and RCIA programs, but she finds that teaching the kids are a great leveler in her life.  She says her rambunctious group makes her a better teacher — and a better Christian.

He welcomes parishioners to the first Mass on Sunday mornings and handles the details of hospitality.  After Mass he goes through the church picking up bulletins from the benches and straightening out the hymnals and makes sure the rest rooms are clean for the next Mass.  He’s one of the city’s most successful and respected attorneys.  He’s always generous in giving legal help to the parish — but he shies away from taking a prominent leadership position.  No, he says, this is where the need is and he’s happy to be able to help fill it. 

We are all called to be “faithful and prudent servants” of the abilities and resources that the “Master” has entrusted to us and will call us accountable for — not for the breadth and depth of those gifts but for what we have done with those gifts for the sake of God’s Kingdom.  Humility is the grace to be grateful for what we have as gifts from God and to happily take every opportunity to put what we have to use for the good of others.  For the Gospel “servant,” no service that we can render is beneath us or demeaning to our dignity.  The faithful servant/disciple will lovingly use whatever he or she possesses to bring God’s reign of hope, justice and reconciliation to reality in this time and place of ours.  


20th Sunday of the Year [C] / 13th Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 15C]

“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!  There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
“Do you think I have come to establish peace to the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.”
Luke 12: 49-53

Bless the fire

Imagine:  Your house is burning, smoke is curling around everything you have ever owned, ever wanted, ever believed mattered: that favorite picture of the person you love, the dog’s favorite toy, the couch where you held each other when you cried.  All on fire, blazing.  The garbage that needed to be taken out yesterday goes up as easily as the receipt you saved from the first time the two of you had breakfast together.

Every object you love and treasure will soon be ashes.

Now, given the chance, what’s the one thing you would take out of the burning house?

The French dramatist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau was once asked that very question:  What would he take from his burning house? 

Cocteau’s answer:  “I would take the fire.”

[From “Letting Go of Stuff” by Edward Readicker-Henderson, Spirituality & Health, January-February 2008.]

Cocteau’s response strikes us, at first, as sarcastic and flip, incredibly insensitive to those who have experienced such a catastrophe.  But Jesus speaks about “fire” in much the same way: fire that purifies, that enlightens, that destroys the useless so that only the meaningful remains.  The reality is that the houses we have can burn and be destroyed — we run in, trying to rescue what we have convinced ourselves is important — and we find ourselves trapped inside the destruction, imprisoned by our possessions.  The “fire” that Jesus speaks of is humble, selfless love, love that can transform us and our world.  But, as Jesus warns us, it is a love that is often at odds with the demands and values of the world.  The Gospel calls us to risk power, prestige and even acceptance for the sake of the “fire” of equality, justice, compassion and reconciliation that every individual possesses by virtue of being a son and daughter of God.     


21st Sunday of the Year [C]

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”
ROMAN lectionary:  Luke 13: 22-30

Magic Woman and her secret formula

Nine years ago her dream came true – she lost a great deal of weight.  As a result, many wonderful things happened:  Her blood pressure went down and her energy level wept up.  Her feet, knees and back didn’t ache any more.  She no longer had to shop in the “big” women’s stores.

But something else happened that she hadn’t expected.  To her family and friends, she became “Magic Woman.”  How did you do it? they all wanted to know.  They were looking for that formula, that certain something to transform them, zap, from a size 22 to a size 12.

Here is what Magic Woman tells them:

“I can tell you what I did: I never gave up.  Losing weight was something I deeply desired, and I was relentless.  When I found what worked -- a way of balancing what I ate with how much I moved my body, my way of earning a living, my way of connecting with the people I love – I did it with all my heart and soul, every day, without fail.  When I [messed up], I kept going.  When I was afraid, I felt the fear and took the next step into the darkness.  When I was confused and uncentered, I pretended to know which end was up and kept plodding.  When I was empty and alone, I reached out to others.

“This morning I weighed myself.  But unlike many people I was satisfied with what I saw – a number that has scarcely changed in nine years.  And I saw the model for the rest of my life, if I’m willing to use it:  Look for the inspired right thing, then do it, without fail – imperfectly but sincerely – one day at a time, every day, for the rest of my life.  That’s the magic.”

[Gay Norton Edelman, Spirituality & Health, May/June 2004.]

Discipline and sacrifice are the hinges of the “narrow gate” that Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel.  All of the important things of life demand that we struggle through the narrow gate.  There are no magic words to loving and being loved, to creating a world of justice and peace, to forgiving and being reconciled with one another.  Jesus promises that anyone willing to struggle through the “narrow gate” will come to experience the life of God to the fullest and find welcome in the dwelling place of God.


11th Sunday after Pentecost  [Prop. 16C ]

Jesus cures a crippled woman on the Sabbath.
COMMON lectionary:  Luke 13: 10-17

Shabbat “permission”

In her book Hope Will Find You, Rabbi Naomi Levy tells the story of Michelle, the mother of 15-year-old Adam.  Michelle is desperate for help: she fears that she is losing her son. 

Adam had withdrawn from her and her husband.  He spent all his time alone in his room.  When his mother tried to enter his room, he’d tell her to get out.  When he’d come home from school, he’d grunt a hello at her, and head straight to his room.  He’d come out to grab food from the fridge and then she wouldn’t see him until he left for school the next morning.  Conversation about his day was confined to one-word, terse responses and mumbling under his breath.

The rabbi remembered Adam from his Bar Mitzvah as a delightful boy with big blue eyes, full of joys and full of questions.  Perhaps this was just a phase that most teenagers go through; he was carving out his own identity. 

“What was Adam like at the dinner table?” the rabbi asked.

“We don’t eat together,” Michelle replied, without missing a beat.  Her husband, Mitch, worked long hours at the office and often ate dinner over meetings.  Michelle ordered a lot of take-out and ate alone at the kitchen table.  Adam always ate in his bedroom in front of his computer.

“Naomi, I’m losing him.  Do you have any Jewish wisdom to help me get him back?”

Rabbi Naomi remembered her own family’s struggles and how they weathered the storms; and then replied to the distraught Mom, “Shabbat.  Shabbat is you opportunity to do it all differently.”

Naomi writes:

“I told her most people think of the Sabbath as a day of prohibition — you can’t do this and you can’t do that.  But it’s actually a day of permission, a day when we give ourselves permission to leave the workweek and all its demands behind so that we can breathe again, dream again, connect again.  I wasn’t advising her to suddenly observe the Jewish Sabbath in all its details.  I was encouraging her to experience the blessings Shabbat might offer her.

“We talked about what Friday could look like in her home.  We talked about turning off the electronics . . . and what a challenge that would be.  And what a relief that would be.  We talked about a home-cooked meal, about a return to the family table.  We talked about having a conversation with Adam across a table set with a white table cloth and flowers.  We talked about candles and blessings and time.  Time.  Time passes much more slowly when you have nowhere to go and nothing to turn on . . . ”

Michelle had her doubts but said she would think about it.                  

Three weeks later she came to see Naomi again.  There were tears streaming down her face.  Their Shabbat meals were beginning to make a difference.  They were becoming a family again.

They were making time for time.

Jesus’ healing of the ailing woman on the Sabbath challenges the synagogue community’s understanding of the Sabbath.  They saw the day as a proscription from God when, in fact, the Sabbath is a gift from God.  As Michelle and her family discover, the Sabbath is a time not to avoid but to do, to re-connect, to embrace the joys and meaning of life that the busyness of the rest of the week forces us to put aside.  The Sabbath — our Sunday — is God’s “permission,” God’s blessing to stop and rediscover the wonder of his gift of time to all of us and the love that is ours to give and receive within that gift. 


22nd Sunday of the Year [C] / 12th Sunday after Pentecost [Prop. 17C]

“Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position . . . ’  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Luke 14: 1, 7-14

Taking the “lowest place”

On a morning you’re running late (of course!), a construction detail is forcing two lanes of downtown traffic into one.  The demolition derby is underway: cars battling to squeeze into the one open lane — and compounding the confusion are those drivers who believe that their schedules are so much more important who honk and scream their way ahead of everyone else.  Such tangled commutes should make us pause and realize the patience and humility of the “lowest place.”

Or you’re trying to get two hours’ worth of errands done in 30 minutes.  You’re making good time — until you hit a line at one store.  The sales associate is young — and new.  She’s struggling to help this one customer who has an endless stream of questions.  She doesn’t know the stock well enough to answer them all so she has to constantly consult the manager.  Meanwhile, the line is growing longer and your patience is growing shorter.  Every customer’s order is a struggle for the poor kid.  By the time it’s your turn to check out, you’re barely civil to her.  You need to calm down and take the “lowest place.”

You love having people over for dinner.  But you’ve made it clear: it’s your kitchen.  Everyone’s welcome to gather and enjoy a glass of wine — but PLEASE DON’T HELP!  Your guests appreciate your hospitality — but chances are they would enjoy the evening even more if there was more of you.   So perhaps you might take your foot off the gas and welcome their contributions to the feast; let them help with the clean-up.  Cede control for the sake of the “lowest place.”

The “lowest place” Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel is more a matter of attitude than location, a question of generosity rather than place setting.  Jesus asks us to see one another from the perspective of Christ-like humility that realizes that we are not the center of all things but part of a much larger world and to embrace a spirit of Gospel-centered gratitude for all the blessings we have received, not because of anything we have done to deserve them, but only because of the complete and unconditional love of God for us.    


23rd Sunday of the Year [C] / 13th Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 18C]

The parables of the tower and the king preparing for war:  “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple . . . Anyone who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14: 25-33

Cross walk

It may begin with a phone call in the middle of the night: a child has been in an accident, a parent has suddenly taken ill.

Or it may take the form of a lesson plan you struggle to lead your students through — kids who are for more interested in video games than subject/verb agreement, algebraic equations, or the Gospel of Luke.

It may be trying to keep peace in the family despite a disagreeable relative or struggling to keep the project going while dealing with a clueless boss or an incompetent team member.

It can come as ridicule or addiction.  It is often formed by the intersecting beams of despair and abandonment, of exhaustion and anger.

It may be the money you have — or the money you don’t have.  It may be the passion you have for a cause or the compassion you feel for the victims.

The cross — those struggles and challenges we can’t avoid, those people and situations we try to sidestep, the hard reality that forces us to delay our hopes and abandon our dreams.

But the cross is not necessarily a death sentence or an instrument of torture.  In the right hands, the cross can be a means of healing, an instrument for transformation, a vehicle for resurrection.  It begins with realizing that another set of hands carries that cross with us, that another shoulder bears the load with us.

Christ’s.

To follow Jesus of Nazareth requires us to take up the cross.  We never know precisely when or how the cross falls to us: deep darkness of mind or heart, aching and persistent loneliness, foreclosure of a future, immeasurable loss, diminishment, breakdowns in society, the burden of speaking the truth.  But when the cross presents itself, we must pick it up and follow Jesus.  As we walk, the wide road leads to a narrow way; ruts and obstacles jolt us on the journey.  Jesus is just ahead of us, but we see him through a glass darkly.  Not much is clear.  Faith and love, hope and prayer are the meat and bread and drink that sustain us, along with the example of the saints who have walked this way before us — and who walk with us now. [From an essay by M. Shawn Copeland in America, January 26, 2007.]  


24th Sunday of the Year [C] / 14th Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 19C]

“’Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep . . . because I have found the coin that I lost . . . because your brother was lost and has been found.’”
Luke 15: 1-32 [or 1-10]

“My shepherd is my D.R.E. . . . ”

Every parish religious education direction knows at least one family who is perpetually lost –the parents who never read any of the materials sent home, who always seem to “lose” their child’s class schedule, who are just too overwhelmed with work, class and sports schedules to make it to Mass on Sundays as their family.  The D.R.E. spends as much time following up with visits and telephone calls to this one family as is spent organizing the entire program for the other 300 or 400 or however many other families involved in the program; the child’s teacher devotes more time helping their unprepared child grasp that week’s lesson than with the other children in the class combined.

The D.R.E. reaches a point where he or she wants to write them off and move on without them.  Why do they bother if it means so little to them?  Why do I bother if it means so little to them? the D.R.E. wonders, quite understandably.

But the moment does come when the “lost” is “found” – when the child comes to understand –
really understand – how much God loves us, that the child’s First Communion or First Confession becomes a moment of conversion for the whole family, when the parents come to appreciate what the D.R.E., the teachers and the parish community do for them.

Dealing with the “lost families” is frustrating, aggravating and, yes, unfair and unjust.  But, through the grace of God, they are “found.”  It is an experience of great joy for the family –
and for the D.R.E. and the teachers.

We all have “lost” sheep in our lives – well, if not lost, often “misplaced.”  They demand more love, take more of our time, usurp more of our energy and capacity to care than they are reasonably entitled to.  They anger us, frustrate us, sometimes reject us.  But Jesus asks us to “hang in” there with them, not to reject them or forget them or move on without them, because they are still worth it.  Such difficult love is but a taste of the great love of God for all of us.  Christ promises us the grace and strength to keep seeking the lost among us and rejoice in their recovery, their conversion, their “being found.”


25th Sunday of the Year [C] / 15th Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 20C]        

The parable of the shrewd manager:  “The children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light . . .
“No servant can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and mammon.”
Luke 16: 1-13

Land grab

Once there was a farmer named Pahom.  As a young man, he took over the family farm and made quite a success of it.  Soon he bought the neighbor’s farm, and then that neighbor’s neighbor’s farm, and so on until he owned thousands of acres of land.  He continued to buy land until he was the largest landholder in the district.

But it was not enough.  Pahom wanted more.  A traveler told him of the far away country of the Bashkirs, where acres and acres of the most beautiful land were waiting to be cultivated.  Pahom investigated the traveler’s story and found that it was true.  Pahom immediately sold his land and homestead at a hefty profit and journeyed to the land of the Bashkirs.

Upon his arrival, he presented himself to the Bashkir chief.  Pahom offered to buy as much land as they would sell.  The chief said the price was set:  One thousand rubles a day.

One thousand rubles a day?  What kind of measure is that?

“We do not know how to reckon it out,” said the chief.  “We sell it by the day.  As much as you can go round on your feet in a day is yours, and the price is one thousand rubles a day.”

Pahom was shocked.  “But in a day you can get round a large track of land.”

“And it will be yours,” the chief said.  “But there is one condition:  If you don’t return on the same day to the same spot where you started, your money is lost.”

The excited Pahom paid the money and agreed to begin his trek the next morning.  That night Pahom could hardly sleep, he was so excited.  The virgin soil was the most beautiful he had ever seen, rich and black, level and stoneless.  All of it would be his.

Just before sunrise the next morning, Pahom met the chief and his men at the appointed place.  As the sun appeared over the horizon at dawn, Pahom dug his spade into the dirt, marking his starting point.  The race was on.

Pahom walked as fast as he could, making marks along the way. As the day grew warmer, he cast aside his coat.  Soon he was running.  By noon he was very pleased at the great distance he walked – but time was wasting.  He did not stop to eat, but kept up his pace, almost running.  Pahom would not even take time to rest or take a drink of water.  Although near exhaustion, the promise of land kept him going.

All afternoon he ran.  But as the sun was about to set, Pahom realized that he had gone too far.  He had less than an hour to make it back to the starting spot.  Horrified at his blunder, Pahom ran faster and faster, his legs becoming heavier and heavier.  The sun began to set over the western horizon.  Pahom could see the Chief and the Bashkirs waiting for him.  Pahom dragged his body across the plain, crying for more time.

As the sun disappeared, Pahom dropped to his knees before reaching the mark he had made at sunrise.  But he had no strength left to make his final mark.  Broken and exhausted, Pahom collapsed before the Chief.

The Bashkirs picked up his shovel and buried Pahom on the spot. Six feet from his head to his heels was all the land he needed.

[From the story “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” by Leo Tolstoy, from Walk in the Light and Twenty-Three Tales.]

Jesus constantly warns his followers of the dangers of money and possessions.  Often we let the things we possess possess us, demanding our time and attention at the expense of the people we love.  The danger of owning things is forgetting that the value is not in the thing itself but in that thing’s enabling us to save time and make our life easier so that we can concentrate on the more important values that God offers us in the gift of life.


26th Sunday of the Year [C] / 16th Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 21C]

“Lying at the rich man’s door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.”
Luke 16: 19-31

The Lazarus girl

A rabbi remembers the moment he felt that God had called him to be a rabbi:

The summer before he was to begin rabbinical studies he volunteered to work on a building project in Ghana.  For two months he lived in a tiny village with no electricity or running water; he spent his days mixing concrete to make bricks for a new elementary school and his evenings reading by gaslight and chatting with his new Ghanaian friends.  It was the most constructive and fulfilling summer of his young life.

The day before heading home, his friends planned a going-away dinner in a small restaurant in Ghana’s capital city, Accra.  When he got out of the taxi, it was raining and the air was thick with fog and smoke from burning trash. 

Then he saw her: a young girl, lying by a sewer, red muddy water streaming by her, with her distended stomach and jaundiced eyes, her painful look of despair.  Lying quietly in the rain, barely moving, she looked up at him, and they locked eyes. 

He froze.  After a summer of building and teaching and learning, a summer in which he felt as strong and as powerful as he had ever been in his young life, he felt powerless.  He remembers:

“I felt like she saw right through me . . . Seeing this nameless girl dying before me was like seeing the demarcation between God’s dreams and our actions.  I felt the call not so much as a clear prophecy from God but as a clarion cry of suffering innocence . . .

“My friends grabbed me and pulled me inside. Needless to say, I had no appetite. I was mixed up and confused about what had just happened . . . When I returned outside, I looked for her.  She was gone.  Maybe someone saved her.  Maybe she was swept away.  I just don’t know.  It haunts me still . . .

“When I came home, I knew what I wanted to do with my rabbinate.  To bridge the gap.  To take pain away.  To cross the chasm between oblivion and redemption.”

[Rabbi Noah Farkas, writing in The Christian Century, July 3, 2019.]

In his encounter with a starving girl, a rabbinical student encountered Lazarus, who opened his heart and spirit to a new awareness of the gap that exists between the rich and the poor, between hope and despair, between emptiness and meaning.  Today’s Gospel challenges us to look beyond our own self-centeredness to see God in the Lazaruses at our gates: the poor, the forgotten, the isolated, the marginalized; to realize the dignity of every human being as created in the image of God; to possess the humility that enables us to embrace one another as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of God.