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Contents: Volume 2 - The Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 5, 2018


 

The 18th

Sunday

Ordinary

Time

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

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

 

 

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Sun. 18 B

Today's readings remind us that we have a lot in common with those who lived at the time of Moses or Jesus. Imagine....the Israelites were not too interested in the quail or hoarfrost the Lord provided even though they were close to dying of famine! Those in Jesus's time wanted signs and more signs in order to believe, but only the kind of signs that fit what they wanted.

It seems that we, too, can have our minds set on certain things, things perhaps that cloud our vision so that we can not appreciate or even see what the Lord has provided for us. Although most of us don't face actual famine, today's world is full of many challenges that keep us "hungry" or thirsting", looking for something more than what is before us. ..and so we grumble big time.

Sometimes, we are just plain stiff-necked (or pig-headed!) and just want the things we want, how we want them, and when we want them! We often add to our own problems by a lack of flexibility. The challenges we face can provide strength and confidence, but we often just see them as obstacles.

Grumble, grumble... or worse! Thankfully, we hear/read two parts of a solution in the Letter to the Ephesians and in the Gospel. We are told: "be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth. " Jesus himself told us to believe in him for he is the Bread of Life and to work "for the food that endures for eternal life".

For me, all of what I read and hear tells me I need to take time to make an attitude adjustment. Many times, I rely on the more physical things around me rather than the spiritual things within me to work through the problems at hand. I need to slow down and pray! Focusing on the spiritual does bring me calm and also better "vision" including the use of hindsight, foresight, and putting things into a proper perspective to see God's bigger picture.

I find that I also grumble far less when I pray more! The animal lovers among us know that it really is better to wag more and bark less and/or to purr more and hiss less! Perhaps more time for reflection will help us humans make the attitude adjustment to smile more and frown/grumble less.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

 

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Eighteenth Sunday of Ordered Time August 5 2018

Exodus 16:2-4 & 12-15; Responsorial Psalm 78; Ephesians 4:17 & 20-24; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 4:4; John 6:24-36

There are those among us who read who-done-it stories. About half way through curiosity gets the best of them and they turn to the final chapter and typically the last two paragraphs of that chapter. The answer to the mystery is there. The problem with such behavior is that the rest of the story is lost. The step by step uncovering of the mystery is lost. And thus the book remains half-read. The joy resident in the words of the story-teller is lost.

In the first reading this Sunday from the book of Exodus, the excitement and happiness that came with escaping the harsh slavery of Pharaoh has begun to dissipate. The memories of the whip and the lash, the back breaking labor of construction and agriculture, the dishonor of picking up and cleaning up after wealthy and powerful Egyptians has begun to lose traction. The memories of Egypt are of established routines, the certainty of food for the day, the certainty of tomorrow, and the secret plotting against the wishes of the slave masters are recalled without the pain and lack of freedom. They had food, they had social interchange, they had established relationships even with their masters. Suddenly in this desert their daily bread, the goals of their labor, their place in society have been lost. The hope for a nation of their own seemed to be a mirage, now lost in the shimmering heat of the waterless desert. The struggles to form themselves into a society, into a nation seemed too hard and too protracted to give them hope. They wanted to skip to the end of the story or return to the tried and true way of life, even though it was a life of harsh slavery and subjugation.

All of us would like to skip to the end of the story in our lives. We work to achieve goals, hoped for results. The daily attention to detail, the work to complete projects, to build lives for ourselves and our families, and the planning and details of the path to achievement consume our days. We’d like to skip to the end of the story and see how these efforts turn out for ourselves.

The same is true about our lives as religious persons. Many thousands of years of human experience have enlightened us. Those years, however, don’t allow us to skip to the last two paragraphs of human existence. While we may think we know the end of the story of creation and humanity’s role in that story, we’ve got to live it; we’ve got to experience it. We’ve got to live one day at a time to grow as a people, as a nation, as a critical part of God’s creation. It’s like a child going to school to learn to read. It’s a step by step process. First there is an understanding of shapes, then of forms, then of alphabet, then of phrases, then of sentence structures. Finally the child can read. But even then the reading is primitive, simple words, simple thoughts, simple and uncomplicated relationships between words. Over a life time we continually learn, expand our capacity to understand, to arrive at a continually greater consciousness of the complexity of the world in which we live. The expanding complexity of technology is a clear example of this. Even more importantly, the complexity of human relations among ourselves arrives at our consciousness. We make choices in this growth process. Our persons grow either in the direction of unity or they dissipate in violence into unbridled individualism that seeks only the self. In that individualism, unity is destroyed and violence is always the result. Our history as humans makes that very clear. History is filled with a nearly constant warfare, of aggression, of death by sword, by famine, by disease much of which is caused by the death of thousands and millions of persons.

Paul, in our reading this Sunday, instructs us not to live as do the Gentiles. Paul tells us they in the futility of their minds. They don’t know, they don’t live in the truth that is in Jesus. Who doesn’t wonder about the truth that is in Jesus? What is this truth? Why is it important that Jesus should call himself the Way, the Truth, and the Light?

In the gospel for this Sunday, Jesus challenges the people who found boats to follow Jesus across the lake. These people left their ordinary, daily routines to find Jesus. Jesus challenges them. Were they looking for the truth of his preaching or were they drawn into following Jesus because he fed them. Did he appear to these crowds as a meal ticket that would relieve them of the tasks of daily work, of constant relationships with others for mutual common good, and of relief from the harshness of life involved in survival? Jesus reads into their hearts and sees how shallow is their reason for following him. They want to skip to the end of the story and sit happy at a banquet table, enjoying the company of others, eating rich foods, drinking fine wines. But heaven is given to no man. Only those who believe in the truth of Jesus can sit at the Lord’s banquet table, living eternal life. Jesus tells them to work for food that doesn’t perish. Of course, Jesus is not telling his disciples to depend on others for sustenance and nourishment. The work that Jesus teaches is for food that endures for eternal life has to do with our persons. During the course of our life time, we form and shape our persons. Who are we? What will friends and enemies say about us at our Mass of Resurrection? Will we have worked inch by inch, row by row to grow who we are? Will we work to achieve so much wealth, or power, or status that we forget about how to relate to others, how we care for the world that is our place, how we use our time that is our gift for growth? The growth of our character, of the very depth of who we are comes one moment at a time. The Hebrews were frightened to discover that their dependence on slavery robbed them of their freedom. They longed for the security of their slavery. They had food, they had shelter, they had meaning and purpose. But in the desert they came face to face with themselves. That is the reason Jesus is often said to go away to the mountains or to the desert to be alone in prayer. All that distracts, all that engages us in comfortable and repeated routine that adds nothing to our personal growth is comfortable no matter how it may rob us of the freedom of the children of God. It’s as though the world conspires against us to rob us of eternal life. That is the futility of the pagans that engages all their energies, efforts, and consciousness in the pursuit of what the world values as the greatest of values.

The truth that is Jesus is the truth that God’s life is the true and lasting goal of all human life. Just as the Hebrews spent forty years wandering in the desert to learn the importance of their faith in Yahweh, so also God has piled on the awesome gift that is our life the supreme gift of living with the energy, vitality, consciousness, peace, and joy that is God’s nature.

The message this Sunday is straight forward. We must understand our living as incremental steps toward living with the life of God in an eternal setting. But it is step by step. We learn through our experience, through our joys, through our sorrows, through the work of our hands, the questioning of our minds, and the sharing of our lives in a loving relationship with each other, with all of creation, and with God, the Trinity. Lest we forget, the life of God is Trinitarian. It is communal. That life is a life of three distinct and unique persons who are One. They are one because of the energy and power of what we experience when we love the other. Thus if we wish to live the life of God, we must learn how to love one and all. The bread, the daily bread for which we pray, is the moments of our life and the growth and nourishment of spirit that comes with living daily, moment by moment with the Truth that is Jesus.

May we reach out for this bread that is offered to us through the hands of the Lord! May we continually search for growth for our spirits that unites us one to another and thus to the God who gave us this marvelous gift of life itself. That which dis-unites us is of the world and the spirit that roams the world in search of victims. Jesus, the Christ, on the other hand continually journeys creation offering helping, healing hands to lift us up from the mundane, the meaningless, the empty promises the world extends as enticements for us to resort to hatred, theft, violence, and idolatry. Let us not be fooled! Let us walk in the truth and find in that truth the courage, motivation, and nourishment to come to greater and greater consciousness of the Divine that is among and within us.

In our efforts for spiritual growth we should discipline ourselves to stay with the story line and not skip to the end of the story. It is the moments and details of daily living that is the nourishment and energy that grows our spirits toward unity with creation, with humanity, and most certainly with the God that is the Community of Three.

May it be so!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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JESUS, OUR BREAD OF LIFE: 18TH SUNDAY B

‘Food, glorious food ...!’ Among the most popular shows on television are those about food. ‘Masterchef’, ‘My Kitchen Rules’ and Jamie Oliver’s cooking demonstrations draw large TV audiences. Many more people than so-called ‘foodies’ are drawn to them. The sheer number of fans tells me that there is a widespread and ongoing fascination with food – getting it, cooking it, and eating it. It’s not that most of us live to eat. Rather, it’s because we eat to live, and maybe just sometimes because we love to eat, that such shows are so appealing.

Over one hundred years ago, Nicolai Berdyaev, a Christian Russian philosopher, made this wise comment about bread: ‘Bread for myself is a material matter; bread for other people is a spiritual matter.’ I think that just about sums up the attitude of Jesus too in his teaching today. Only the day before has he fed the people on the far side of the lake with more bread than they can eat. But they are not satisfied, for on the very next day they return to him at his base in Capernaum, expecting another generous hand-out. So he challenges them: ‘You have seen,’ he says in effect, ‘wonderful things. You have seen how the goodness of God enabled a big crowd to be fed. Your thoughts ought to have turned to the God who did these things. Instead, all you are thinking about is yourselves, and filling your bellies with bread.’

His point was that they were interested only in physical satisfaction. On the famous ladder of human needs first identified by Abraham Maslow in 1943, they are clinging to the bottom rung of the ladder – bodily needs. But what about those higher needs higher up the ladder? How can a hearty meal and a full stomach replace e.g., belonging to others and being connected to others in loving relationships? Being approved, respected, and esteemed by others? Exploring, knowing and understanding the truth in facts and faith? Encountering and savoring order and beauty everywhere? And most of all realizing our potential to be everything we can be for the service of others and for a better world?

Most of all Jesus wants to lead these seekers (and ourselves too) to ‘work for the food that endures for eternal life’, for the bread that lasts and which God is offering. Jesus spells out just what that food is. It’s nothing less than a personal, interpersonal, life-giving and everlasting relationship with himself. He sums this up in powerful words, and especially in these:

1. ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ 2. ‘Very truly, I tell you ... the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ 3. ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’

His first hearers eagerly ask for this bread – ‘always’, they say – but they don’t understand what this bread really is. Jesus, the man standing before them, is himself the bread. In the way he lives, loves and dies for them, they are meant to see the face of God, entering into an intimate relationship with them.

Surely this gospel speaks strongly to us as well. But it also reminds us that there is some difference between knowing Jesus personally and simply knowing about him. To know Jesus personally is to respond to his person and message, to share our lives with him, to follow him, and as a result, to change our lives and become better people, more human and humane people. This is the knowledge that involves an experience of his presence, friendship with him, trust and prayer.

But the knowledge which comes from an inter-personal relationship with him gives rise to a desire, and perhaps even a yearning and a hunger, to know more about him, to learn more about his beliefs, his values, and how he lived his life. Faith in him, then, is a matter of both the head and the heart. When we hear or read about him, we also expect to meet him in the voices we hear and in the pages we read. But we do not seek a Jesus hidden behind the texts but a Jesus shown to us inside the texts, and most especially in the selected Readings about him Sunday after Sunday at church.

But the challenge remains to keep discovering how this great man from the distant past is also in significant ways one of us, and therefore very real and relevant. So much so, that as the song from the stage show Godspell has it, a song that echoes the prayer of St Richard of Chichester, we would want to keep praying for three things. These three, as the song puts it, are to 'see him more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly, day by day'.

Let’s keep taking up that challenge!
 

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

 

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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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