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Contents: Volume 2 - The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 15, 2018


 

The 15th

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. 15 B

In the Letter to the Ephesians, we hear/read that we have been chosen in Christ and have been given every spiritual blessing. We have God's favor, redemption, forgiveness, and the riches of his graces so we can be holy and without blemish before God. Moreover, we have heard the word of truth and have been sealed with the promise of the holy Spirit.

Why then, I asked myself, do I not feel empowered or energized? Instead I feel like Amos must have felt when he heard "off with you"! The Twelve were even given the OK by Jesus to shake the dust from their feet if they were not listened to. I can't go elsewhere.

I am back with Jesus last week, feeling like an unheeded prophet among my own. As is my habit when I read something like the selection from Ephesians that doesn't fit where I am spiritually, I re-read it more than once. As it turns out, it is comforting and uplifting, no matter where you are on the journey, who listens to you or not, or if you are a sole voice in the midst of a din or silence.

Introspection tells me I need a vacation, more time for prayer, "face" time with friends (NOT facebook time which I find too impersonal), and a whole lot more trust in "the fullness of time" concept! I am also reminded of what my pastor said last week, that parents and grandparents are like the prophets of the Old Testament! I think it is important as we each live out our baptismal call, to remember those "riches of his graces" and those moments where we have truly felt God's presence. They really are plentiful... if we are properly tuned into "God sightings".

Have you had one lately? I have had several this week including a lollipop left just for me, an impromptu hug from a recently not-so-cooperative child, and the real spiritual tug of listening to my nine year old granddaughter who was sitting next to me but who, although not invited, joined vocally with the soloist after Communion on Sunday, not missing a word or a beat. How could I forget her voice, totally caught up in the song, as she sang:

"And I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace

For I am Yours and You are mine."

I need to keep my eyes above the waves, for sure... and take some time off so I can focus more on those nearby blessings!

Wishing you blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@lebalnc.one

 

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Fifteenth Sunday of Ordered Time July 15 2018

Amos 7:12-15; Responsorial Psalm 85; Ephesians 1:3-14; Gospel Acclamation Ephesians 1:17-18; Mark 6:7-13

The readings for our celebration of the Liturgy of the Word each Sunday are like a two edged sword. Such a sword cuts whether it swings to the left or to the right, whether it is a blow given in a downward strike or an upward strike. When we listen to the Scriptures something happens within us of great value. There is wisdom for living a more complete and happy, harmonious life. Scripture itself tells us, "My Word is effective. It will not return to me empty handed." When we listen to the Scriptures for clues that explain our active participation within our Community we discover our God-given-mission to the world. In both cases attentive listening opens horizons to an appreciation of the wonder of life as well as how our living the Word lifts up others. We are family; we cannot live isolated and alone. Our living according to the Scriptures nourishes, heals, and enlivens the community of faithful gathered in the name of the Lord.

What amazes Carol and me is the effect the Word of God has on persons – even those who nod off during the first two readings and the Responsorial Psalm. There is gain in the proclamation of the gospel even to those who struggle to stand at the Gospel Acclamation and shift impatiently from foot to foot during the gospel proclamation. It is the Word that moves us.

It’s not, however, just words cast into the air that moves us. The words are made stronger in how the readings are proclaimed and the Responsorial and Acclamation is sung. The duty of reader and cantor is not an opportunity to dazzle the crowd as an exhibition of skill. Such presentations result in an overly flowery rendering that is more about the reader than what is read. At the opposite extreme is the monotonic presentation that encourages even the most attentive to day dream. There are those proclaimers and cantors who are obviously well prepared. These have studied the words, understand the circumstances of the narrative, and have thought about the message these words convey. There are those at the opposite end of the spectrum who have confidence in being able to read and so don’t prepare. They stumble over pronunciation and have no clue as to the meaning the words convey. They could just as easily be reciting an arithmetic times table.

Not all blame for the Liturgy of the Word lacking wisdom, healing, knowledge, wisdom and inspiration is on the shoulders of the proclaimers and cantors. Delivery is coupled with attentiveness of those who hear for the fruitfulness of the Word proclaimed. One professor in seminary was fond of proclaiming in Latin "quidquid recipitur recipientes secundum modum recipitur." In English this means literally "Whatever is received is received according to what’s in the head of the one hearing." The meaning of words for us comes in large part from what’s already in our memory, in our recollected experience, our attitudes toward our lives and the relationships we develop or destroy with others. Thoughts are filtered through our past experience. To gain from the proclamation of the Scriptures, there is a necessary openness in our minds and our hearts for the seed that is the Word of the Lord is to find a place to root and grow. We are terribly mistaken and closed to the Spirit in the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and the Liturgy of Christian Service when we come to our Assembly without preparation. Without openness of hearts and a searching, discerning mind our participation in this ritual connection with the transcendent God becomes a walking in our sleep. Our first ritual act at Mass is an examination of our past week. How have we hardened our hearts to others? How have we practiced the two great commandments? It’s the time to clear our heart of violence and anger. It’s a moment in which we once again turn to Jesus The Christ in full and complete surrender to his Words and Works. We need to come together for Word and Worship. To fail to come together denies us the necessary nourishment and healing we must have to survive spiritually in the world. If our attendance and participation in the three great liturgies is in response to a legal obligation or a cultural commitment we are like medieval serfs, lacking in freedom and denied personal worth. In the Gospel of John, Jesus insists he came so that we might have life and have it more fully. His Word and Work bring us to freedom to live this life unshackled by the way of the world. We are loved, we have dignity, and our worth is never contested. Our life in Christ is not just for a share in paradise after we finish our life. This life and its fullness begin now. We have time given us so we may grow. Or we don’t grow. How shameful to have lived a long life and appear before the Lord still a baby in swaddling clothes!

Considering the readings this Sunday from the perspective of a two-edged sword what can we make of the readings? Amos is a most unlikely prophet. His home is in the land of Judah, the southern kingdom. He is sent to prophesize in the land of Israel, the northern kingdom. These two kingdoms of the Chosen People didn’t care much for each other. Amos’ message from God was that they must repent of their idolatry or it would certainly lead to their nation’s destruction. Neither the king of Israel nor its priests wanted to hear of the impending doom and destruction. The priests were commissioned by both the religious and civil leadership to tell Amos aside to go home to Judah and leave them alone. Amos’ angry response is clear. "I never wanted to be a prophet. I’m a shepherd. And I have a second job just so my family and I can survive in your world. In my second job, I dress sycamores." Dressing sycamores means trimming the fruit of sycamore tree so that it could be eaten. Such fruit wasn’t found on the tables of the rich, powerful, or the famous. It was the food of the poor, the working class. Amos insists it wasn’t his choice to prophesize. He’d much rather herd sheep and work with sycamore trees than attempt to call the nation of Israel to repent of its ways.

Here is the two-edged sword of this reading. On the one hand, we are encouraged to listen closely to the prophets of our time. Just as in the time of Amos there were prophets in Israel whose message was prostituted by endorsing the idolatry of the civil and religious leaders of the nation, so in our time there is ample evidence that truth is set aside in favor of the idolatry of the gods of wealth, power, and prestige. It is remarkably easy for humanity to surrender its good sense and moral judgment to those with wealth, those who exercise power, and to those whose notoriety draws attention. Amos’ mission is to speak truth to power, to wealth, and to notoriety. That is our calling as well. Just as the Spirit of God forced Amos to Israel to speak the truth about their behavior, so also is it our mission to reject falsehood and to speak the truth always about the Gospel. For the majority of us this means living the truth of God in our relationships.

The second edge of the sword is that we hear the truth and live according to its reality. This isn’t easy; this isn’t popular; this is not how most persons grow in wealth, power, or prestige. In this reading from Amos we are called to be prophets to our time and place. In this we have true prophets. We must seek them out and listen closely to the prophets of our time as they speak to us about the truth of human life and its relationship with the Lord. The difficulty of listening lies in discerning true prophets from those who would lead us astray for their own purposes.

The richness of the Responsorial Psalm leads our hearts and minds from this first reading about Amos and his quandary to the prayer-song of Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. The response is a prayer: "Lord, let us see you kindness, and grant us your salvation." Always in the Hebrew Scriptures God’s responsibility in the Covenant is described as extending "loving kindness" to his people. And what God proclaims, wishes for us is Peace. This peace is not merely the absence of violence and conflict. This peace is a sharing in the bounty of the Lord. All creation becomes harmonious in this peace. Each person is lifted up; each person has what that person needs to flourish. In such an environment what is truth and what is kindness come together as one. What is just and what is peace are intimately connected. Truth and justice are sourced in heaven, the dwelling place of the Lord. The two edges of the sword are instruction and revelation of what leads to fullness in freedom for human flourishing. It is an encouragement to those who walk in the way of the Lord, who hear his message and the truth of creation to be ambassadors of peace, of justice, of kindness, and making real the glory that is God’s presence among us.

The beginning of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is likely a prayer-song sung in the early Christian Communities. The two edges of the Word of God sword are easily discernable. The first half of this reading is a revelation of the intervention of God in his creation. God has destined us for adoption as sons and daughters and has lifted us up from our transgressions and failures by the power of his blood poured out. The second half of the reading speaks of us being chosen for his purpose for the fulfillment of his creation. Interestingly enough, Paul mentions being redeemed by the blood of the Lord poured out. That blood theme runs throughout Scripture. Perhaps it’s best understood in the narrative of Cain and Abel. There the Lord hears the "Cry of Abel’s blood." The blood and suffering that spills out human lives cries out to the Lord for redemption, for being returned to dignity and worth. The Lord calls out to Cain, asking about his brother. That call of the Lord is the Lord’s answer to the "Call of the Blood." God is called by the "crying out of the blood spilt" to action. The "Call of the Blood" moves us to action. It is the power of the life-blood of God made Man, the cry of the spilt Blood of Jesus The Christ that calls God and those who live in the Way of the Lord to apply the redeeming power of the Lord’s blood poured out to those on the margins of creation and to the wounded earth which is our home. It is the cry of our blood spilt by those who abuse us for their own purposes that is answered by the Call of God to come among us.

The gospel’s two edged sword speaks of our mission. Our mission is not an individual matter; we live our mission in the company of others. We are sent out "two by two" to preach by example the kindness, peace, and justice of God’s Mercy and Compassion in which we live our lives. We do not rely on our own resources in this mission. It’s not about power, or money, or notoriety, or other resources used by the world. It is call to repentance, to a change of heart. For the most part we are not preachers but persons who live the Way of the Lord. We rely on the authority of the Lord to call out evil and to expose evil for what it is. Evil exists in our world whether we recognize it or not. Often we are complicit with evil. We fail to recognize it because it is all around us and is embedded so intimately into our culture. We judge ourselves and others by the power we attain, by the wealth we amass, and the prestige with which we are held by others. Yet none of these adds to us; none of these bring lasting fulfillment. When power, wealth, and prestige are recognized as passing good things and not the purpose of our lives, we’ve turned round and found the truth of our lives. The one side of the two edged sword is the revelation by our Creator of what is real and true about human life. The other edge is that we expose what is evil and hold it up to the critical gaze of all humanity by how we live.

The Liturgy of the Word has the power to open our living to the influence of God. We are recipients of the prophecies contained, prophecies that have the power to expand our understanding of the truth of reality and our place in it. We become members of the Body of Christ, of the Assembly called together, of the Church when we are baptized. The ritual of Baptism insists we are priests, prophets and kings and queens in this washing and rite of commitment. It is true there are some ordained – placed in an order – to specific service to the assembly. If we abdicate our commissioning as priests, prophets and shepherds in baptism, we ignore one of the sharp edges of the two edged. We are called to "bless", we are empowered to proclaim the Word of God by the content of our living, and we are called to serve the People of God "which serves the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things in accordance with his will so that we might exist for the praise of his glory."

May it be so!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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CHANGING FOR THE BETTER: 15TH SUNDAY B

We have heard Mark say in the gospel today: '... [the twelve apostles] set off to preach repentance' (6:12)

What did the apostles mean and what did Jesus mean when they called on people to 'repent'? In a nutshell, they were asking people to completely change their lives. Right now let's explore some of what repentance involves.

Repentance and conversion go together. They are about change and transformation. Conversion is turning away from something to something else. For every person, it involves turning away from how I live my life now to another way of living - a new, better, more genuine, more Christ-like way!

It happens when I respond to the gift of God to me, the gift of God’s love, God’s grace. It happens when I come to see and accept that God loves me with an infinite and unconditional love, a forgiving and everlasting love, a love that led his Son to stretch out his arms on the cross to embrace me, and a love that has been with me every step of my life’s journey.

This love that God has for me is brilliantly illustrated in the famous story Jesus told of the lost son who runs away from his father and family and their love, and gets himself into one hell of a mess (Lk 15).

As it happened with the prodigal son, the beginning of the process of conversion is marked by a loss of tranquillity, and by feelings of restlessness, dissatisfaction and disillusionment. This is necessary, for without unrest there is no felt need to change. Further along the path, conversion requires time and effort and struggle to grow and mature. It requires rooting out old habits, bad habits, and establishing new habits, good habits. It requires working at treating others differently, and working at creating a different environment, a more peaceful, harmonious and caring atmosphere around us in which to live and work.

It requires admitting and facing painful facts about myself: - I have done wrong. I have hurt others. I have let them down. I have deceived myself. I have flopped and failed again and again and again. It requires humbly admitting that I cannot change and become a better person without outside help, that I need to put my trust in the power and love of God to free, heal and change me. Only those can be liberated who know they are enslaved. Only those who have nothing can receive everything. The Word of God says so over and over again.

My conversion will be shown gradually in a change in my relationships – in how I relate to the members of my family, to my fellow parishioners, to the people I work with, to the people I pass in the street, to strangers, to the general public, to Jesus Christ in person, and to myself. My conversion will happen in the ways I begin to think about life and people, in the ways I feel about them, and in the ways I respond to them.

My conversion will happen too in my change of values, as I re-make my life-commitments in keeping with the best human values. These are not the values of this world where everything revolves around competition and success. No, my new values will be the values of Jesus – truthfulness; honesty; integrity; acceptance; affection; friendship; kindness; compassion; forgiveness; generosity; fairness; peace; patience; joy; fidelity and trust. I will remember that God does not ask me to be successful - for success is not a gospel value - but to be faithful, faithful always.

I will show my conversion by deliberately and consistently reaching out to the poor, the lost, the losers, and the broken. Was it not to them most of all that Jesus announced the coming of the kingdom of God? Did he not say that it belonged to them? Did he not say both in word and action that the kingdom of God is above all for the misfits, the ‘uglies’, the sinners, the tax-collectors, the lepers, the lonely, and the prostitutes? Did he not demonstrate over and over again that the kingdom of God is a kingdom for the messy and the losers rather than for 'the beautiful people' - the rich and famous celebrities of our glossy magazines?

It cannot be stressed strongly enough that conversion is about turning away and turning to - turning away, on the one hand, from selfishness, sin and evil, as well as the golden calves of money, prestige, status and power, and, on the other hand, turning to God, to Jesus Christ, and to our shared values as a church community - truth and integrity, goodness and love, justice and equality, peace and joy. Turning away and turning to, all through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit of God given to us with our baptism!

So, during the rest of our prayer today – with others and alone – let us ask God for the grace of conversion - for one another, for our church community, and for our society and its culture!

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

 

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Year B: 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Learning to Read the Gospel)

"Take nothing for the journey..."

A little while ago, someone was trying to teach me how to read the Gospel. You might think that, having been a Jesuit for thirty years and a priest for nearly twenty, that is something I really ought to be getting right by now. But she is a teacher of English and Drama and she felt that, if I could read the Gospel better during the Mass, it would help people to come to know, understand, appreciate and love the Scripture better. So she tried very hard with me for three hours and you may judge whether or not she succeeded by what you’ve just heard.

But, at one point, she said something which I thought was very significant – she said:

"you have to proclaim the Gospel, not as if your life depended on it, but because your life depends on it".

And I thought – how very true!

But for the Gospel, I would not be here today.

But for the Gospel, none of you would be here today.

But for the Gospel, we would all be doing something completely different.

All of our lives – our entire existence – are completely moulded by this Book – and not merely by the Book, but by the Word of Life – the Word of God – that it contains. It is not too much to say that our lives depend on this Book.

It is that awareness that our lives depend on the Word of God which takes Amos from being a nobody – a poor shepherd and a planter of sycamore trees to being a prophet with the courage, the honesty and the integrity to go and stand before the notorious anger of King Amaziah and tell him the things that God needs him to hear.

And that too is the message that Jesus gives the Twelve as they go out. "Take no purse, no haversack, no staff for the road." They do get to wear sandals – they are going a long way and Jesus is not stupid. But they are to depend entirely on the love of God as it is expressed in the kindness and hospitality of the people they meet. The Twelve, as we know, go out and do precisely as they are told, although they are aware of the opposition they will meet. And they do it, not as if their lives depend on it, but because their lives depend on it.

And that, I think is something which helps us today. We may think of ourselves as little more than the contemporary equivalent of shepherds and planters of sycamores – our lives may not seem to have much meaning in the greater scheme of things. But, because Jesus is the Word of God – because of the life of Jesus within this book – we are the prophets – we are the apostles that Jesus is sending out into His World. At the End of this Mass, when we say "Our Eucharist is ended – go in peace to love and serve the Lord – Thanks be to God", we are thanking the Lord that, just as much as Amos and the Twelve were, we too are being sent out to proclaim the Word of God in every word that we utter and every action that we perform and in our relationship with every person we meet. Let us pray that this coming week, we may faithfully proclaim His Word and that when we leave them, we may leave them just a little happier than they were before they met us.

It’s a worrying thought, but our Lives may be the only Gospel some people will get to read. So, as St Francis of Assisi is supposed to have said: "Preach the Gospel in season and out of season - use words only if you really have to".

Now, let us stand to profess that Faith – not as if our lives depend upon it, but because our lives depend on it.

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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