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Contents: Volume 2 - The Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 8, 2018


 

The 14th

Sunday

Ordinary

Time

 

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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1.

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Sun. 14 B

In today's Gospel, Jesus was teaching with conviction and doing amazing things and yet, "they took offense at him". Were they relatives of the rebellious bunch of the first reading?? We all seem to be somewhat related because there is something within our human nature that renders us "skeptical" rather than accepting in situations such as Jesus found himself.

Many of us have been on both ides of that issue, questioning and questioned! I am not sure if the root of the issue is one of jealousy and resentment or an honest vetting of someone as a way to seek the truth. More often than not, sadly it seems like the former. If we are on the receiving end of such criticism, like Jesus, not much we say or do seems to have any positive effect.

At first response, that truth seems like a deal buster: why bother then? Why bother to parent, to teach, to minister, to lead, to care? Perhaps, as someone in one of those categories, you have asked yourself that very question!

So much of what we believe goes far beyond appearances! St. Paul's acceptance of his own weakness in our second reading reminds us that God takes over especially when the messenger is weak. There are many Scripture passages that remind us that we only plant the seeds and others bring them to fruition. Our faith and the final result of what we do or not do is not based solely on us. Remember the workings of the Holy Spirit.

At times, that is a bittersweet reality. We may rejoice that we are off the hook. We may also feel a bit useless. Our faith is not easy! Neither is being a messenger of such an awesome God.

Jesus received his strength from his interactions with the Father. We, too, must stay connected to our Triune God and the many messengers of the Word in our midst. When we feel discouraged or ineffective, let us remember Calvary but focus on the Resurrection. Then let us parent, teach, minister, lead, and care with all the strength that each receives!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Fourteenth Sunday of Ordered Time July 8 2018

Ezekiel 2:2-6; Responsorial Psalm 123; 2nd Corinthians 12:7-10; Gospel Acclamation Luke 4:18; Mark 6:1-6

"A prophet is not without honor except in his native place." A common mistake we make about prophets is we think of them as fortune tellers. We think they’ll tell us what the future is for us. We hope the future in their visions is one of prosperity, of peace, and of dignity. In one sense this is true. A prophet tells us about the future. But their foretelling is based on what’s happening now. They warn us, they threaten us, and they show us the reality of our future if nothing changes. The Hebrew Prophets were not welcomed. Prophets had two parts in their warnings. The first part was about the impending doom certain to come. It’s not that destruction, death, and slavery are the Will of God. It isn’t that God wishes punishment of the people he loves so intensely and intimately. Not at all! If we look to God as a god who gets angry at our stupidity, at our hatred and violence, or even our worship of empty and lifeless gods, we haven’t been reading our Scriptures. In fact, we don’t understand our own lives very well. Our God is the God of Loving Kindness. Our God is the God of justice. And God’s justice is not the same as our sense of legal justice. God’s justice is that everyone is to have what they need to flourish. Our God is Yahweh – that is "I am the one who is always with you." If we listen closely to the first reading from the Book of Ezekiel we see why calamity and destruction come to us. The Lord God speaks to Ezekiel telling him his prophetic responsibility is nearly impossible. "Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day. Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you." Ezekiel is warned that his work as prophet will not be welcomed.

So what happened with the prophet Ezekiel? Scholars who study the circumstances of Ezekiel’s time and place conclude the Book of Ezekiel has two parts. The first part is the part of doom and gloom. It warns all will be lost. His prophetic work begins during the period of great political intrigue. There were two factions in Jerusalem that captured and divided the nation. The one faction sought alliances with Egypt while the other sought to placate and align with Babylon. A third faction most prophets of that time preached insisted the nation should not depend on military, political, or economic strengths of any other nation. Instead the nation must turn to Yahweh and to living according to the Covenant. This would mean a return to faith in God’s Loving Presence. It meant a change of heart. It meant their faces would be softened with care for others especially the poor and those without resources. Ezekiel’s warnings resulted in him being ejected from the seat of power and worship. He was exiled from Jerusalem. Those in power and authority didn’t want to hear about God. They believed in their skills, in the power of their politics, in the strength of their economic and social status, and in their military strength dependent on treaties and alliances. The city of Jerusalem was utterly destroyed in this first part of the Book of Ezekiel. Contemporary historians writing of destruction of Jerusalem shuddered in their accounts of the slaughter of children, of women, and of men in Jerusalem. Blood ran in the streets; no one, no living creature was spared from the sword. The few middle class and educated persons who escaped death were dragged off into exile and indentured as slaves to the Babylonian elite. And there they stayed for decades.

The second part of Ezekiel’s prophecies is speaks of hope for the restoration of the People of God. Their restoration would be like the experience of their ancestors who were freed from the harsh and servile life under Pharaoh. Once again, these people, Chosen by God as a light to the nations, as the hope of humanity – these chosen to learn, to grow, to come to greater consciousness of God as the "one who is with you" – once again these people are freed from the results of their own hard-heartedness, their self-interest, their abuse of those without resources. In Ezekiel that narrative is his vision that begins with him looking over a vast valley filled with dried up human bones scattered over a vast field. The bones are strewn, unconnected, dried by a hot sun. As Ezekiel observes these bones, the spirit of God comes over the valley and the bones join together to form skeletons. Then sinew and muscle bind those bones together: then breath returns to these cadavers and they become living breathing humans. This vision teaches that God will restore what has been slaughtered. That which was destroyed is made new and vital.

This is the work of a prophet. The prophet begins by pointing out the darkness and disorder of human life. But who wants to hear about this? As humans we are adept at adjusting to conditions so that even pain becomes commonplace. We lose track of the visions of hope and charity that bind us together as the family of God. Instead we become small-minded, closed to the welfare of others and of the world in which we live. Our focus becomes our own survival. When we become accustomed to evil in society, in our socio-economic culture, in our idolatry of our self-fashioned gods, and in our lack of compassion and mercy we enter into a darkness of spirit that will certainly end badly. We find ourselves going along to get along.

The readings this Sunday warn us to listen to the prophets among us. No one wants to hear that our way of living is not just. No one wants to stand in opposition to the movements of evil that surround us. It’s much easier to fall in line with the self-centered values of the world. That’s what happened to the Jews of Ezekiel’s time. The temple was destroyed, tore down, and reduced to rubble. Its destruction was a sign to the Jews that God was no longer present with the nation. The prophets insisted God had not abandoned them. It was the people in their loss of faith who dismissed Yahweh. It was their lack of faith in God and their abandonment of the loving kindness of God in their daily lives that obscured God’s presence.

The message this Sunday is that we must listen to the prophets of God among us now. The voices of self-made prophets compete with the voices of true prophets. How can we know which of the prophets are sent from God? How can we discern and listen to the ones God sends to us in our time of great distress, of threatening violence, of false values, and especially of death and destruction of truth and integrity? Repeatedly in the Writings – both Hebrew and Christian – the qualities of God’s interaction with humanity are recognized by the unconditional love they demonstrate. God’s attitude toward his creation is mercy, compassion. The ancient covenant God – Yahweh – enacted with the Hebrew Tribes is described by the prophets as "hesed." That word is translated by the phrase "loving kindness." Any leader, any prophet whose message is one of division, of exclusivity, of dependence on violence, on wealth, on power insists that compassion and mercy are weak virtues. Yet our scriptures insist that is God’s way. Perhaps that is the most significant crisis of our time. Perhaps we’ve become so enamored with power and wealth that we cannot understand the overwhelming power of love of neighbor. The family is where we learn either love or hate. The question is which do we choose?

The bishop of Rome, Francis, has written several instructions about our world and what we must do to live well and in peace. The document titled "the Joy of the Gospel" is a message of prophecy for us. There are criticisms within that writing that have been roundly rejected by many, perhaps because of the hardness of their hearts. In his work on the "The Care of our Common Home" Francis warns of the crisis threatening our earth. Even persons of faith devalue Francis’ words because to change our way of living would threaten our economy and way of life. In his work, "The Joy of Love", Francis lays out the basis for human relationships and the essential structure of the human family. The family is the very basis of human society and efforts to destroy family unity and love threaten secular life and are the source of violence and division. His most recent writing insists that each one of us is called to holiness in the small and large events of our daily life. All are called. No one is excluded from his Mercy and Compassion. Each of us is loved unconditionally by God whose love is boundless.

We have prophets in our midst even now. Prophets are not well received even in the faith traditions in which they work. It has to do with the hardness of our hearts, the stiffness of our necks and cherished ways of making life meaningful. Ever it has been this way. So, "a prophet is not without honor except in his native place."

May our hearts and minds be opened to hear and understand the prophecies of the Scriptures! May our hearts and minds be inspired to discern true prophets from those who come to us disguised in sheep’s clothing. Such false prophets distract us from the compassion and mercy and loving kindness of God’s work with us. May we work inspired by the Holy Spirit to strengthen the love within our families and our Assemblies so that we experience the support necessary for us to hear and heed the Word of God proclaimed!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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THOSE THAT SPEAK FOR GOD: 14th SUNDAY B

When people from ordinary backgrounds become celebrities, e.g. Meghan Markle, now the wife of Prince Harry, the football star David Beckham, and the pop idols Adele and Guy Sebastian, journalists and television crews often seek out the family and neighbours of the new star to find out what they think of their local boy or girl made good. Mixed impressions and reactions are given. Some show their surprise, some their shock, some their delight, some their pride. But others show their disbelief or jealousy. While some locals claim they saw it all coming, others refuse to admit that anything out of the ordinary has happened. They urge caution, and claim that all the hype and hoopla will soon fizzle out. The saying is just too true: ‘Familiarity breeds contempt!

In our Gospel today Jesus comes back to his home town of Nazareth. This is not a social visit. Like the other towns in Galilee, Nazareth too has to hear the Good News that with Jesus God has stepped into this world and begun to rule over everything and everyone as their King. When Jesus highlights this in their local synagogue, his listeners are amazed. They wonder about the wise things he has said, about where he got his ideas, and about how on earth he has been curing so many sick and handicapped persons. But despite their favourable first impressions of him, they later let their prejudices, their pre-judgments, take over. They decide that all along Jesus has been fooling them into thinking he’s someone special. ‘Just who does he think he is?’ they sneer, ‘Local boy made good? No way!’

They try to cut him down to size, their own size. They sniff: ‘Once a carpenter always a carpenter! Don’t we all know his mother, his sisters and his brothers? There’s nothing special about them. He’s got too big for his boots!’ Mark summarises their negative reactions in six sad words: ‘And they would not accept him.’ For them his sheer ordinariness as their local tradesman cancels out their first impressions of his new and special wisdom and of the reports reaching them from other places of his extraordinary deeds.

How does Jesus react to these locals and their prejudices against him? In the words of the story-teller, he is ‘amazed at their lack of faith’. So he tells them: ‘A prophet [i.e. one who speaks for God] is only despised in his own country among his own relations and in his own house.’ Mark has told us already that even members of his own family were convinced he was out of his mind (3:21). His being rejected by his former friends and neighbours now makes his experience of rejection complete.

His rejection in Nazareth by his own people also makes him powerless for the most part to work any miracle among them. The negative way they react to him and their lack of trust actually imits his ability. So after curing just ‘a few sick people’, he moves elsewhere, and it seems, sad to say, that having moved on he never sets foot in Nazareth again.

In the 1960s there was a popular song called ‘The Sounds of Silence’. One remarkable line says: ‘The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls.‘ The messages of prophets are two-way communication. They state what God wants to tell people for their own good. But rejection or resistance to the message tells God what the people think of both the message and the messenger.

I think you will probably agree that it’s an extremely painful thing to try to tell someone what they need to hear for their own good only to be told: ‘What’s it got to do with you? You back off, you butt out!’ Parents know that pain, when their children tell them ‘What would you know? You’re so last century, so out of date! You’re a has-been, you’re a loser!’, or something else just as rude and insulting. Teachers know the pain of it when their pupils just scoff or giggle at the lesson they’ve so carefully prepared and presented. Police know the pain of resistance and opposition when they try to restore order in the midst of mob madness or violence, and for their trouble are spat upon and called ‘pigs’ or worse by drunken revellers.

Day by day you and I face situations in which God is calling us to stop, look and listen, in order take in and accept some message for our good, a message being delivered to us by another person in our lives, someone who is on our side, someone who is also a real prophet, a spokesperson for God, an actual godsend, whether they know it or not.

So in our prayer together today let us ask God both for ourselves and one another, that we might always be open to hearing and heeding the Word of God, in whatever way God speaks to us, and through whatever person or persons God sends us as his messengers, his agents, his angels!

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

 

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Year B: 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"He could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them."

As a doctor, I have always loved the last line of this reading. It seems like - for St Mark - just healing a few sick people doesn’t really count as a miracle! He takes it for granted that healing is a natural part of God becoming really present in a human life.

Well, a few days ago I had a young man in my office with his girlfriend - both much in need of healing. Both of them had just tested HIV positive. Like many people who are newly diagnosed with HIV, they were in despair. They wept tears of pain, grief, shame and bitterness. And the young man said something which struck me particularly: "Why does this have to happen? I’ve got all my life in front of me. How can it happen to me?"

His reaction is really very typical of many people I have looked after with HIV. Most of them are or were previously fit young adults whose whole lives were suddenly brought up short by the shattering reality of sickness and mortality. One of the joys of youth - and I think I’m still just about young enough to be able to say this - is that death seems a long way away. We have all our lives in front of us. Everything and anything is possible for our future. We mostly haven’t made any really bad mistakes - yet . Young people always believe they will live forever.

But when it happens, the cold reality that death may actually be very close changes us all - but in so many different ways. Sadly, there are some for whom a diagnosis of HIV destroys all hope and they feel their lives are over even before they have properly begun. Many of them, sadly, kill themselves. But for many others the diagnosis brings about remarkable changes which pervade their entire lives in very unexpected ways. One can almost hear them say "if I cannot live longer, then I will at least live better!"

One of the most remarkable people I have met with this condition is now a counsellor for a Catholic service for people with AIDS. She was 21 and newly qualified as a nurse when she received her diagnosis. Like many others, she was initially shocked and terrified. But, over the following three years she has found herself reconsidering the entire course of her life. She found within the Church the love, care and support she needed. (There’s a sentence I wish I could say more often.) Returning to the practice of her previously disregarded Catholic faith, she began, as she puts it, "to pray for real - like it really mattered as much as a telephone call to your best friend". And, in developing her relationship with the Lord, she found the love that she had desired to feel all her life and had never previously encountered. When I last spoke with her - about six months ago - she told me this:

"You know, for months now I can’t even feel sorry that I got AIDS. Everything that has happened since then has been so good for me that I can’t bear to think that I might have gone through the whole of my life - supposedly healthy - and not discovered what life was really about. AIDS may shorten my life, but it’s taught me how to live it".

The next time you hear that someone has contracted HIV, please remember Carmel and pray that they too may find the healing hand of the Lord laid upon them.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who makes all life worth living

Paul O’Reilly, sj. <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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