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Contents: Volume 2 - 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – B – January 21, 2018







1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Barbara Cooper, OP

3. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

4. -- Brian Gleeson CP

5. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

6.. (Your reflection can be here!)





Sun. 3 B

The first and second readings today seem to tell the people of impending doom. In our time, the people of Hawaii received such a warning of imminent destruction just recently, thankfully in error. It initially sent them into quite a panic, thinking the end of their lives was very near.

Really bad news seems to smash into our lives at times. Challenges are there, at some level, almost always. They do not need to dominate us or consume us, however, no matter the intensity or constancy. We need to put events into perspective, but we do need some help.

In our Gospel story, Jesus had just heard that John the Baptist had been arrested, certainly not good news. He knew that John's message was not being received favorably by those in charge... and neither was his going to be. He did not panic or give up, but responded with positive action.

Jesus's spoke a challenging yet saving message to those he chose as apostles and to us, but it is truly the Good News of our Faith: "Repent, and believe in the gospel." The Gospel message is that our salvation has been won for us because Jesus already paid the price for our redemption. Jesus, by his words and actions, encouraged all not to feel scared and helpless, but that, with some changes in our lives, there was much better news to share with others.

Jesus called a few good people into his company and gathered with them to spread the Good News. Don't we gather within our homes, parishes, and work places as well as through technology in times of trouble or when action is needed? We certainly do... but what is the message we have in our hearts?

Now is time to sharpen our focus to remember the real purpose of our being. We are to serve God and share the Good News with others. We can do this, just as Jesus did, in community!

We are drawing closer to Lent. Today's readings have given us an early glimpse into how to take action to counteract whatever it is that may have us out of balance in our personal spiritual lives. The Kingdom of God is at hand, within us and around us, even in the midst of seeming chaos. Let us pray that we will be a positive part of it and work with others to benefit from the life-giving hope and nourishment such active membership supplies.


Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity





Third Sunday of Ordinary Time - B – January 21, 2018

Sometimes, when events in life seem overwhelming, the best therapy is a good laugh. So our first reading might be made for just this time.

The general view of modern scholarship is that the Book of Jonah was written in the post-exilic period after 530 B.C.E., by an unknown person using the prophet Jonah as the central character. Returning to Judah, the exiles were welcomed by ruins and destruction, much like people who return to Mosul today to find their city flattened. The prophet Nehemiah writes: "I asked them about the Jews that survived, those who had escaped the captivity, and about Jerusalem. They replied, "The survivors there in the province who escaped captivity are in great trouble and shame; the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been destroyed by fire." 4 When I heard these words I sat down and wept, and mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven...."

Under the direction of the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah, the people started to rebuild. They isolated themselves, trying to find protection in building walls and expelling anyone not of their "tribe". They rebuilt their temple, re-established the observance of the Law along with some favourite taboos, prayed to their god and looked down upon anyone who was "not them". They became more and more narrow, and restricted and...well, like the character of Jonah. The author of the book saw the danger. Instead of threatening or scolding, s/he used more effective methods- humour and laughter – a good remedy for people who take themselves too seriously and embrace a spirit of clanishness and security.

And so "the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, "Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me." Unlike the fishers in today's Gospel, Jonah did an about face and went in the opposite direction to Nineveh. He ran from God. He even bought a ticket on a boat, perhaps thinking that God couldn't find him there. Maybe he thought God was subject to sea-sickness.

But a great storm came up, threatening to break the boat apart. The sailors, foreigners and "heathen", prayed fervently to their god. Jonah meanwhile, was sleeping in the hold of the ship. The Captain had to wake him and urge him to pray to his god for deliverance from death.

The sailors meanwhile were casting lots to find a reason for the calamity that was overtaking them. Even after they found out Jonah was responsible for God's anger in the storm, and the solution was to throw him into the sea, these "heathen" sailors first tried to get the ship to shore. Unsuccessful, they finally agreed to throw Jonah overboard. The storm stopped, and a big fish came by.

So far, the righteous and religious Jonah has not come out as a shining example of discipleship: God calls, Jonah runs away. The pagan sailors pray, Jonah sleeps and has to be told to pray. The sailors are compassionate and reluctant to condemn Jonah.

We all know the poor fish had to stomach Jonah for three days. Then God delivered it from that bitter morsel and it vomited Jonah out on dry land.

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, "Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you." This time, Jonah thought it prudent to obey. So off he went, telling the people of Nineveh they would be destroyed if they didn't repent.

The people believed, and repented. When word reached the King, "he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes." He made a decree that all the human beings, all the other animals, even the little puppy dogs, were to wear sackcloth, and to fast and pray. Most important, "All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. This of course referred to the humans, not the donkeys, chickens or puppies.

When God saw the Ninevites had turned away from doing evil, God didn't bring the promised calamity upon them.

Jonah was angry. "O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing." Some people just resent others not getting their comeuppance. So Jonah found himself a hill outside the city, and sat down to pout and hope the city would be destroyed as he had said it would.

God caused a bush to grow by Jonah, giving him shade to protect him from the heat of the day. This bush made Jonah very happy. That night, a worm attacked the bush and it withered. As the heat of the day beat down on him, Jonah prayed again for death.

But God said to Jonah, "Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?" And he said, "Yes, angry enough to die." Then the Lord said, "You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?"

That question ends the text of the Book of Jonah. But it lives on. Do we who are called to follow Jesus, sent forth to proclaim the Good News of God's Kingdom, appreciate the grace of the Holy One in people who are "different"? A different Country? A different faith tradition or religion? Do we build walls, or bridges? Are our hearts open to those who God loves, but we don't like?

Do we behave like Jonah? Or like Jesus?

Barbara Cooper, OP

Vancouver Island, BC Canada





Third Sunday of Ordered Time January 21 2018

Jonah 3:1-5 & 10; Responsorial Psalm 25; 1st Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20

What a great story this Sunday for our Kids! Their imaginations are easily captured by images of an old ship tossed on stormy seas and by the big fish – we think, whale - swallowing a man and spitting him out. Unfortunately, that part of the story of Jonah isn’t part of our reading this Sunday. Parents may consider reading the four short chapters of Jonah to their children this week-end. It’s a great story.

The Jonah story is written as an instruction about the ways of the Lord. It answers the question, "What is God like?" Humans are hard-wired to understand others by their actions. Remember the words of Jesus? He advises his disciples they should evaluate others not by their words but by their actions. Observing God’s working in creation and in human history we learn how God relates to his creation. Our Responsorial Psalm is a lesson to us. We sing together these words: "Teach me your ways, O Lord!" And God teaches us by his work among us including and especially his Birth, the Cross, and the Resurrection.

The Jonah story teaches us God’s attitude toward us: well not really just to us followers of his Word. This story tells us that God cares deeply about everyone ---- even our enemies. That is the way of God – compassion and mercy even to those who deny his presence. This story fights against our usual and customary way of thinking about others, especially those who have done us harm.

Some background can help us understand this message. Nineveh was the capital city of ancient Assyria. That city is ancient and it still exists – well sort of -- as the Iraqi city Mosul. Nineveh was part of a commercial triangle making this metropolis so huge it took three days to traverse it. Nineveh (now called Mosul) was one point; Kalhu (now called Nimrud) was a second point; and finally Dur-Sharrukin (now named Khorsabad) was the final point. These ancient cities have been ruined by war and most recently by deliberate destruction by Isis. Nineveh and Dur-Sharrukin were capital cities of the Assyrian Empire. The Assyrians destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel around the year 721 B.C. The memory of that tragedy remained with the author of Jonah who wrote this story some 271 years later around 450 B.C. The Jews of the Southern Kingdom remembered the destruction of the Northern Kingdom and lusted for vengeance. With that as background, we can understand why Jonah did not intend to obey God’s instruction to preach repentance to Nineveh, warning them of their impending doom. Jonah wanted nothing to do with saving those hated conquerors. He boarded a ship bound for Tarshis, a city in southern Spain. In those days, Tarshis was literally the end of the earth, as far away from Nineveh as he could imagine. We remember the story: a storm comes up; the sailors cast lots to see who it is the gods are angry with; the lot falls to Jonah; he is cast into the raging sea and is swallowed by a great fish; three days later he is spit out by the great fish on the shores of Joppa where he first began his flight from God’s mission. If the story stopped here, we’d be led to understand that God is persistent, that God always gets his way. But there is more this story wants to tell us about God.

There is symbolism hidden in the story. The name Jonah means Dove. That is a name of affection Yahweh uses to name his chosen people. The great fish symbolizes Babylon, the successor of Assyria as conqueror in the Middle East. Babylon conquered Judah, the Southern Kingdom, taking them into exile in Babylon. The three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish are symbols of the hiddenness of the Jewish people held in exile in Babylon. It helps to remember that this story is written after the return from the Babylonian exile. Jonah’s author reaches into the memory of the Jewish nation to place the story so they could better relate to the message.

The story also contains satire. It refers to the stories about the great prophet Elijah found in the book of Kings. The events in the story of Jonah are similar but with opposite results. Elijah failed in his mission to bring the Northern Kingdom to repentance despite his extraordinary efforts: Jonah brought Nineveh to repentance even though Jonah did everything he could think of to avoid doing his job – taking a boat to nowhere, sitting under a vine waiting for destruction to hit Nineveh, taking three days to preach. Elijah was pursued by Jezebel who swore she will kill him; Jonah was welcomed in Nineveh and his message was accepted much to his surprise. Elijah sat under a broom tree in the desert, praying for death: Jonah sat under a vine hoping God would forget about him letting him free to return to his former life. Elijah was fed by a raven; Jonah was the food of the great fish. Elijah went to the mountain of the Lord – the place where Moses received the Law -- and rejoiced at the whisper of God’s passing; Jonah walked away from his success in deep depression because his nation’s enemies had been spared the wrath of God. And lastly, the Northern Kingdom of Israel denied their sin, their idolatry and was destroyed by the Assyrians whose capital was Nineveh. Nineveh recognized its sin, repented and was saved.

The story is full of details about the history of God’s Chosen People. What can we say is the basic message of Jonah? The Jonah story’s message is this: the ways of God are not our ways, are not reflective of the ways of our hearts. We do not have compassion for others; we fail to be merciful. We hold grudges. We accept hate speech, we believe in a caste system where people from other nations, from other races, from other languages, of different genders are believed to be less or greater than we. We name others with names of derision, attempting to rob those persons of dignity and worth. Power and wealth are how we measure the worth of others. Our discourse is mere confrontational diatribe, seeking only to defeat opposing views. We lack the compassion required for fruitful dialogue in which we truly listen to each other. We create a god of our own making and it is a god of hatred, divisiveness, and warfare. That god surely cannot look with compassion on those others, those lowly, those forsaken, those poor, those of another nation, or those of another political persuasion! Listen closely to the story of Jonah. If you still hold such thoughts in your minds and allow those thoughts to determine your hearts, then consider yourselves sinful. We miss what God has in mind for us if we fail to recognize God as the God of Mercy, the God of Compassion, and the God who loves his creation. We miss the standard by which God created us. We miss his benchmark. That mark is the "maker’s mark" which measures the depth, completeness, and wholeness (holiness) of each of us. Jonah shouts to us that God is full of compassion and loving kindness. Sin destroys us and if we fail to repent, we are buried in our sin and close ourselves to the compassion of God, the creator who gave us worth by making each human in his image and likeness. This is not a matter of obeying rules and precepts. It is salvation attained by the measure of our hearts.

The gospel selection from Mark this Sunday begins with the news that John has been imprisoned for preaching repentance. He is measured by the powers as treasonous and an affront to the image of Herod and the Jewish religious leadership. John the Baptist’s preaching attracted great crowds but failed to reach into the bastions of power and wealth. Those who lived there put him in prison to silence his call to repentance. It’s hard to admit we’re sinners. It’s even harder to take the time to uncover our sinfulness. It’s hard to repent, to turn away from our usual and customary way of living and follow the Lord. We are reluctant to sing our responsorial psalm as a prayer of petition: "Teach me your ways, O Lord!" The Ways of the Lord are a bridge too far for most of us.

The gospel tells us Jesus came into Galilee and proclaimed the gospel of God. Gospel means "good news." The good news Jesus preached is that God loves each one of us. There is not a single person who is not loved and cared for by God. This is new to the world; it is good news to everyone – even the rejected, those on the margins. Unfortunately, even after two thousand years, we’ve not yet come to believe and understand the cross as the absolute sign of the Love of God for each of us. If God so loves me, how can I harbor vengeance against even those who do me harm? If God so loves me, how can I do anything that makes another small and insignificant? If God so loves me, doesn’t he also love every other person? If we believe this good news, then how can we tolerate violence? If we believe this good news, how can we allow exploitation of the weak, the poor, the widows and orphans, the immigrant, the children of war? If we believe this good news, how can we tolerate the misuse of the world’s resources? How can we allow injustice to thrive? How can we think it’s great that the powerful and wealthy take all the prizes that come from the labor of the little people? We think God’s justice is a matter of law; a situation where a great lawyer can manipulate a judge’s ruling. However, God’s justice means every person has what he/she needs to thrive and flourish.

That is the good news Jesus preaches and which he teaches his disciples over the three years of his ministry. In that teaching, the disciples become "fishers of men," leading all to discipleship and to acceptance of the love of God within themselves. If anyone thinks this is an easy assignment they should consider applying this to their day-to-day living. Everyone of us who follows the Way of the Christ are called to discipleship, to be fishers of men. We don’t buy a soap-box to preach in Hyde Park. We preach by living the Way of Christ in all our daily relationships and work and words. That simply means that we look at all others – no matter their origins, no matter their gender, no matter their language, no matter their political allegiances – with compassion, mercy and love. This isn’t easy. Who among us would leave the tried and true worldly way of nets, boats, and partnerships to pursue a life of fishing for humanity? Who has the courage to live that way as we compete for a living for ourselves and our children? Remember the bunch who followed Jesus until he spoke about giving his body and blood for nourishment? They said, "Who can accept this?" And they returned to their old ways. Those who find their strength in the compassion, mercy, and love of God for themselves can say, "I believe, O Lord. Help my unbelief. Help me to treat others as you treat them."

In truth, this Sunday continues the theme of discipleship. We pray with greater intensity and understanding, "Teach me your ways, O Lord!"

"The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!"

Carol & Dennis Keller






In our various communities we are fortunately not all the same. We have health workers, lawyers, tradespeople, teachers and students. There are those who work more than one job, and those who simply cannot find work. There are adults and children, retired and semi-retired persons, family persons and single ones, those born here and those born overseas, sick people and healthy, carers and cared-for. There are big picture persons and those with attention to detail. There are passive people and there are active ones. There are those strong on theory and those that make things happen. There are those who talk a lot and those that do a lot. There are those who think a great deal and those who cannot concentrate.

For all our differences there are two things we have in common, which we treasure. We are human beings together and we are Christians together. We have been baptized by Jesus (through his Church) and have become his disciples. Within our different situations we keep striving to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus along the road of life and keep walking in his footsteps. What he has called us to be and to do become clearer from today’s gospel story.

Mark (1:16-20) relates that as soon as Jesus began his work in Galilee, he recruited Simon and his brother Andrew, and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, to be his companions and to work with him to make God’s loving rule happen over everybody and everything. Mark tells us that there and then they left their occupations and their families to live out his call. Such was the magnetism of his personality and the attraction of his call to mission, which Jesus describes as making them ‘fishers of people’!

The word ‘disciple’ in the gospels means ‘learner’. We note that his followers did not choose Jesus as their teacher. No, he took the initiative. He chose them to learn from him as life-long learners within a life-long relationship with him. As they journeyed around with him, they would experience his kindness, compassion and pastoral care over and over again, towards thousands of sufferers in need of healing and deliverance from physical, mental, or emotional illness. To his followers he would tell his parables and other most important teachings. They were to share his life-style, sufferings and hardships. Sometimes they, like their Leader, would even find themselves without a roof over their heads and sleeping rough.

But despite the trust and affection Jesus gives his disciples, they don’t come through the pages of the gospels as larger than life heroes who effectively and efficiently promote and expand the mission of Jesus. We note his first choices are, in fact, a bunch of uneducated fishermen, and the rest of his eight later choices hardly stand out as simply the best for the job. At times they misunderstand Jesus so badly that they come through as dull and stupid, thick as bricks. For all that, we recognise that they are the ones Jesus deliberately and personally chose to share his mission of bringing in the kingdom (the rule and reign) of God.

All this leaves you and me with a great deal of hope. Jesus has picked us, with all our faults and failings but with all our potential, to be on his Coming of the Kingdom Team. Right now we are even his Team of the Century.

The first thing to emphasize about that is that he needs us. His mission in our world will not happen without us. To illustrate! A poor boy in a ghetto was being teased by another boy who said, ‘If God loves you, why doesn’t he take care of you? Why doesn’t God tell someone to bring you shoes, a warm coat and better food?’ The little lad thought for a moment. Then, with tears in his eyes he answered, ‘I guess God does tell somebody, but somebody forgets.’

The beauty of the call of Jesus to each of us, communicated by his connecting us to him at baptism, means that each of us may think and say this:

He has chosen me not because of any merits and achievements on my part, but simply because he loves me and wants me on his Kingdom of God team. I have been chosen, not because I am more virtuous, more gifted, or more suited than someone else, but only because he loves me and wants me.

This means that for the mission of Jesus, which is the mission of God, I have a place in God’s plan. I am someone; I am a partner; I have a part to play; my life counts. Thank God for that!

"Brian Gleeson CP" <>





- Year B: 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men."

Some years ago, I knew a young woman, a teacher, whose dearest wish in life was to be married and to have a large family. However, her first problem was that she couldn’t find a "good man". Apparently there is a widespread shortage of "good" men. There are lots of men around, but apparently not many "good" men. But, eventually, when she was 32, she found a possible candidate. After only two years of courtship, agonised decision–making and huge telephone bills, they were married and settled down to live happily ever after.

But, after three years of marriage, she discovered that she could not have a child. It was a shattering blow for her. She had a long series of medical tests which were painful, unpleasant and expensive and which confirmed that she would never be able to have a child.

She was shattered. She thought long and hard about killing herself. But she decided that if God had given her Life, He must have done so for a Reason. Desperately, she wanted to know what that Reason was and how she could fulfill it.

She was so depressed that she had to stop work and go back to her home in her home country for a long holiday. There she was appalled and shocked by the number of homeless children in the streets, either abandoned by their parents or orphaned, often because their parents had died of AIDS.

She came back to Britain and her good paying job, yet remained distraught that she, with all her love to give, had not been given a child, while so many children of her own people in her own home town, had no-one to care for them. She was so angry with God that she lost her Faith, or so she thought.

It was not until a full year later that the penny dropped. And she and her husband returned permanently to her home country to found an orphanage. I heard from her recently. She wrote: "I thank my God that he did not give me only one child; he gave me a whole orphanage."

Let us pray to the Lord that we too may become fishers of men, women and children.

Dr Paul O’Reilly SJ






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