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Contents: Volume 2 - Eleventh Sunday in Ordered Time

June 17, 2018


 

 The

11th

Sunday

2018

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

 

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Sun. 11 B

One particular phrase in this Sunday's Gospel caught my attention. In explaining how the scattered seed grows, Jesus told the crowds, "he (the sower ) does not know". As with many things, we do not seem to know either.

We try to understand "the will of the Father" by connecting to these parables. One of the most familiar parables is the one about the mustard seed. Here is where faith comes in, I think.

The parable of the mustard seed is pretty easy to understand and we all hope that our little bit of faith will grow, bear fruit, and be an example to others. We do not know how exactly that all happens though! We need to think about what nourishes faith.

The second reading from the second letter to the Corinthians reminds us twice that "we are courageous". We are told by the Lord in the first reading from the Book of Ezekiel, "As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do." This is the beginning of faith.

Faith assures us that the Lord's promises are true, no matter what they are or if they seem to be unfolding as we expected. We must be courageous and keep trying to ascertain and do the will of the Father. This liturgical season of Ordinary Time is the perfect time to use hindsight to determine where we have been and what has transpired in order that we might "recalculate" and change direction if needed. It seems that "keeping on keeping on" is one constant that nourishes faith!

A little bit of faith will help us begin that look over our shoulder. Just a little bit more, perhaps boosted by spiritual reading or a Scripture study group, might help us acknowledge where we are in relation to where we "should" be. Courage to look deeper with a friend or spiritual advisor plus relying on our loving and forgiving Lord will help us move forward in the right direction... little by little, just as the mustard seed grows. We may not know, but we can believe.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Eleventh Sunday of Ordered Time June 17 2018

Ezekiel 17:22-24; Responsorial Psalm 92; 2nd Corinthians 5:6-10; Mark 4:26-34

The gospel parable of the Kingdom of God of the mustard seed reminds me of my youth when my evening job on our farm was to hike to the back forty to bring in the cows for milking. It was a long walk and I’d spend it singing the bits and pieces of songs I’d heard on our little white Crosley radio. One of those songs was "I’m too old to pull the mustard anymore." The rhythm and repetition made it easy for a fourth grader to remember. It also related to our summer assignments. I and my two sisters each had our very own hoes. We’d be sent to the wheat or oats fields to remove competitive weeds. Especially hated were the clusters of mustard growing among the grain. Mustard plants always seemed too aggressive and too overwhelming for cultivated grain, robbing the grain of space, nourishment, and precious moisture.

The readings this Sunday are lessons that tell us what happens to us when we listen to the Word of the Lord. Once the words find a place in our minds and hearts the words begin to grow and expand our spirits. Ezekiel, the prophet, compares that difference to a fragile and insignificant little branch taken from a mighty cedar. God plants that tiny branch on a high mountain and it grows and grows and grows. It becomes so very large that every kind of winged thing – all sorts of birds -- finds refuge and comfort from harsh winds, bitter cold, and desiccating heat. The Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Scriptures frequently use birds as an image to describe all the nations of the world. That image compares all nations to migrating birds flitting about looking for nourishment, for refuge, and for survival in a challenging and violent world. That image portrays all nations of the world, all peoples, all tribes, all languages, and all categories of persons as searching frantically for purpose and meaning for their lives.

In the gospel, Jesus tells us that when the Word of God finds root in a person, it grows without the farmer doing anything about it. Day and night it grows, in favorable seasons and in seasons not favorable. The whole of that seed’s environment - the sun, the soil, the weather - contributes to its growth.

So it is with us. Even when we are not consciously paying attention to the Word it affects us. We continue to grow despite ourselves. As we grow, we become a refuge to others who seek. God works with, on, and in us in all circumstances. In war, in conflict, in peace, in prosperity, in poverty, and in all times and seasons the Word of God is at work within us. That is how the world is transformed into the Kingdom of God.

Our responsorial psalm amplifies this thinking. The people’s response to the verses is clear: "Lord, it is good to give thanks to you." When we thank others for the good they do us, we increase our awareness of that gift of goodness. When we give thanks to God for the good continually extended to us, we become more and more aware of God’s presence in the circumstances of life in the contemporary world. We shouldn’t forget that the second part of our liturgy of the Mass is the Eucharist. That word, Eucharist, is from a Greek word that means "to give thanks." The verses are worth repeating and dwelling on this coming week. "It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praise to your name, Most High; to proclaim your kindness at dawn and your faithfulness throughout the night." The second verse refers to Ezekiel’s prophecy. "The just one shall flourish like the palm tree, like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow; they that are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God." The third verse of our responsorial psalm encourages us older folk. "They shall bear fruit even in old age; vigorous and sturdy shall they be, declaring how just is the Lord, my rock, in whom there is no wrong."

Even though it takes time for us to become conscious of what happens within our spirits, there is constant growth and change within us. In ancient times, the cedars of Lebanon were one of the wonders of the world, growing tall, withstanding even the most severe of storms. Ezekiel compares us to those. Those majestic trees withstood all forces. So also we, when rooted in the Word of God, are well rooted against the storms and machinations of the world. When we allow truth and integrity to be bargained away for the passing gain of possessions or power or fame, the Christian’s roots are deep and hold us upright. Christians listen to the Word of God not only in the Scriptures but also in our daily relationships with God and others. Christians grow as the Word gradually, ever so softly, ever so gently moves our spirits toward reaching – as do plants – to the sun that is necessary for them to grow. Who can doubt that God is the Sun of our living?

The ending of our gospel adds a strange and mysterious note to these parables of how the Kingdom of God grows with us and the world in which we are rooted. "With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private."

We learn from stories. It seems as though our minds are drawn into stories. As those stories continue in the mind, we discover the truth contained in the story. So also in parables, Jesus instructed those who had not yet become connected with his presence and mission. To the disciples he spoke in private, more like a discussion group in which a leader encourages participation and sharing. Our experiences add to the grand story that is our Scriptures, providing meaning and purpose to the moments we live. The more we experience life in all its aspects, the more we are open to the presence of God in his Word. We fail miserably when we consider the world as irrelevant to God and our relationship with God. When we speak of the world as "secular" or "materialistic" or "consumer-driven" we deny the truth of who we are. If the Word of God is within us, then all things and events we experience are transformed into the Kingdom of God. There is nothing that cannot be made holy, truth-filled, and revelation to our consciousness of God’s presence.

What is evil always divides persons from persons. Evil divides our living into compartments that separate our consciousness, our efforts, our work, our pleasures, our joys, our sorrows from who we are. Evil works to fill lives with interior and external conflict. It’s amazing how successful evil can be in making us angry, frustrated, and genuinely unhappy. When we discover and embrace integration of all aspects of personal and communal life we live a wholesome, integral life. That is what Francis, bishop of Rome, writes about in his most recent writing, "Gaudete and Exsultate" (Be Glad and Rejoice). This is the way of Holiness. For to be Holy is to be "Whole," is to be "Complete" as the unique persons God created us to be. Following the way of wholeness is the Way of Jesus when he becomes for us the "Way, the Truth, and the Life." It makes all the difference in the world!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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HOW GOD WORKS IN OUR LIVES: 11TH SUNDAY B

When we want to explain something, particularly something so personal as falling in love, we may struggle to find the right words. Often we have to say that it’s like something else. When Jesus speaks about the kingdom - the reign and rule of God - and how God works among us to make his kingdom happen, he never says just what the kingdom is. Rather he speaks about what it’s like. So Jesus uses parables, comparisons, to teach his message that God is on the job, and that God’s kingdom is really and truly happening. All appearances to the contrary notwithstanding!

So in his first parable today Jesus compares the coming of the kingdom of God to what happens when a farmer sows seed in the ground. Once it’s sown, the farmer waits for harvest time. Even though nothing seems to be happening, the miracle of growth is taking place. The farmer cannot get a better crop by staying awake at night and worrying. The seed grows of its own accord and cannot be rushed. Neither can God’s work of making a better world, God’s kind of world, the world of God’s kingdom, be hurried. After all, it’s God’s kingdom, not ours.

A customer once went to a Farmer’s Market. Passing a stand heaped with luscious tomatoes, he asked the farmer behind it, ‘Did you grow these tomatoes?’ ‘No,’ he replied, ’I planted the seed.’ Afterwards the farmer said to God, ‘Thank you, Lord, for the fine harvest!’ Then he sensed God saying to him, ‘And thank you too for preparing the soil and sowing the seed! We did a good job together, didn’t we?’

In his second parable Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a tiny mustard seed that bit by bit grows into the largest shrub, big enough for the birds of the air to shelter in its shade. Once again in the work of God ‘small is beautiful!’

Both parables, then, are about the growth of seed. Jesus told them, and then writers like Mark retold them to encourage the first followers of Jesus who were worried about the slow growth of God’s kingdom. Their point in telling them was the need for their hearers and readers not to expect instant results to be patient, and to trust.

That message is timely and encouraging to us too, particularly to those of us who are always rushing around, like that woman in the poster who has to admit, ‘The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get!’ We live in an age of instant soup, instant tea and instant photos, just about instant everything, in fact. We can make many things happen simply by pressing a button or turning a switch. We forget that certain things cannot be rushed. For example! To mature fully as a human being takes a lifetime. To build a good relationship with another usually takes lots of time. To get to know and understand one’s children or one’s parents never happens instantly or automatically. To overcome one’s sins and weaknesses may even take a whole life-time, with God’s ‘amazing grace’ slowly but surely at work in us. When so much of life today is getting instant results we must remember that some things actually require considerable time and practice, e.g. the skills to play the piano, to sing opera, to play league football, or to successfully raise a family.

Those two lovely parables of the seed growing of itself show us that there is an almighty power working for us. Our part is to do a good job preparing the soil and sowing the seed. Then we must let God take over, as God usually does. Any farmer will tell you that if we do the right thing, if we do the very best that we can do, the harvest will surely come. God and God’s work in us and among us will ultimately triumph.

But can we be patient? Can we keep waiting? Can we keep on trusting that it will all work out in the end? In short, can we just let go and let God – let go of our anxiety and let God be God? Can we? Will we?

Today's first parable reminds us of what we do when we share our faith. We scatter seed. Once we do that, the seed is out of our hands. Will people be affected by what we share? Will they be touched by the Word or not? It's not, then, about our control. It's about God's active presence in the Word we share. That's why the first parable should be particularly consoling and encouraging to every one sharing our faith with others by our words, deeds, and example.

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Year B: 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cary Elwes)

‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’

Right after I was ordained, I spent five years working in the Amazon in South America. The area I worked in is called the Rupununi. That’s an area of Guyana about the size of Wales: 200 miles long; 150 miles wide. And over that 30,000 square miles, there are about 30,000 people all spread out across the dry savannah grassland.

And virtually all of them are Christian – in every sense of that word. I have never lived in a community more ordered to peace and to love than theirs.

And the reason that virtually all of them are Christian is the work of one extraordinary man called Cuthbert Cary Elwes of (I am proud to say) my religious order, the Society of Jesus – British Province. To modern ears, ‘Cuthbert’ sounds like a bit of a silly name, but don’t judge him by that. In 1909, one hundred and six years ago this month, Cuthbert was sent out by his superiors from Georgetown, the capital city of Guyana, into the interior of the Rupununi rain forest. He was missioned to go and make contact with the Amerindian peoples in the interior and see if any of them wanted to know about the Good News of Jesus Christ and its power to transform their lives. It was what Sir Humphrey would undoubtedly have described as a ‘courageous’ decision. At the time he was being sent, one of his superiors wrote that probably there was less than a fifty percent chance of them ever seeing him alive again (though perhaps wisely, he didn’t actually tell Cuthbert that).

In the following twelve years, which was all his superiors allowed him before they sent him to work somewhere else, Cuthbert walked from village to village throughout the Rupununi preaching the Good News and feeding the people with the bread of life.

He walked thousands of miles through jungle, rain-forest and dry hard savannah. He survived malaria, typhoid, dysentery and all sorts of diseases. And he evangelised an area the size of Wales.

{He reached as far north as Mount Roraima; as far south as Wai-Wai territory, what we now call Gunn’s strip.}

He was a man of tremendous faith, great courage and pretty strong legs! As a result of his work, there was a tremendous outpouring of the Holy Spirit throughout the Rupununi. All of the Church that exists today in the Rupununi, growing and developing throughout the country, is built on his original foundation and the rock of his faith.

When I arrived in the Rupununi, Cuthbert’s original mission territory had been divided up into three enormous parishes. My parish alone had 53 Catholic communities - in the two years I was there, we set up two more. The parish I was in now comprises around ten thousand people spread over twenty thousand square miles. Today the Church in the Rupununi has grown enormously from the single mustard seed of faith planted by Cuthbert Cary-Elwes almost a century ago in obedience to his Lord and ours, Jesus Christ.

He was certainly no saint: I’ve read his diaries. They talk very frankly about his good days and his bad days; his hopes and his despairs. He seems to have had rather more bad days than good days; more despairs than hopes. In fact, he comes across as a very ordinary bloke carrying out a very extra-ordinary mission under the most incredibly difficult circumstances. He constantly thought his mission was a failure. In fact, he never really saw its success. By the time the Church had really begun to grow in the Rupununi, his Jesuit Superiors had (in their wisdom and courage) sent him to spend the last twenty years of his life teaching in a school in Scotland – always something I try to look back on when I feel my own superiors have made another ‘courageous’ decision. As Jesus said, ‘one person sows; another reaps’. But I hope that in heaven, he looks with pride and joy at the Church that has grown from the seed he planted.

When asked about it in later life, he said that, as a young man, he had asked himself who Jesus really is. And the answer that had been given to him was that of St Peter: "You the Christ, the son of the living God." And after that, he felt, there was really no alternative to a life composed from that reality. That is the faith on which the Church in the Rupununi was founded by the Lord.

So, the next time you do something for God that doesn’t seem to work out, or your superior, spouse or ‘significant other’ makes a ‘courageous’ decision for you, remember Cuthbert (it’s easier to remember a silly name) and pray that God will make just one of your mustard seeds – just one of your unseen, unrecorded and apparently unsuccessful good deeds – grow into something beautiful for God.

Let us pray that we may hold our calling to be faithful branches of His Tree and a true leaven for the World.

And let us stand and profess our Faith in the God who planted his Church like a mustard seed in the World.

Paul O'Reilly <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John
 


 

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