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Contents: Volume 2 - The Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 23, 2018


 

The 25th

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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25 Sun. B

The Gospel this day demonstrates how off the mark our human thinking can be. More times than not, humans prefer to ignore, rationalize, or disbelief any impeding trouble or what doesn't suit them. Evidence can include the behavior of some in an approaching hurricane, just doing the minimal to squeak by a job performance review as the company is downsizing, or not heeding a warning about changing one's health habits.

Many times we just want our own way, how we want it, and when we want it. We may not actively plot against someone or skirt around the truth in our own quest for "comfort" or "happiness" as those in the first reading, but we can surely check out the news to see those who do. We wonder perhaps, why our world is not filled with people who are "peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity."

Perhaps it is time to recognize the many around us who do act in authentic righteous ways and then consciously try to become more like Jesus and them. Jesus tell us how to do this in today's Gospel. He simply tells us to become a servant of others and to receive children in his name.

Well, here I am, after raising two of my own children, trying to combine both of those commands with my grand daughter! I have been an educator for about 50 years now, retiring from paid work awhile ago but not really retiring. Working with children is exhilarating and draining, frustrating and enjoyable, and everything in-between! Serving children by helping them become the persons they were meant to be, whether your own, in CCD, as a profession, or just as a work of heart is, well, always rewarding.

These days, children are pretty complicated. They know far more than any of us did at their age! They need caring adults to walk with them far more than any of us did at our age.

If you are looking to folow Jesus's commands from today's Gospel, connect with children. Reading a book with them or playing a game of their choice, even with older ones, is a good start. Volunteering at a school or community center can ease you into a new perspective on life... and help reshape your own. I imagine trying will make Jesus smile.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Twenty Fifth Sunday of Ordered Time September 23, 2018

Wisdom 2:12 & 17-20; Responsorial Psalm 54; James 3:16 – 4:3; Gospel Acclamation 2nd Thessalonians 2:14; Mark 9:30-37

At first, the reading this Sunday seems to be in parallel with last Sunday’s selection. Recall, for a moment, that last Sunday we heard from second Isaiah about how the Servant of God, the Lamb who saves, will suffer. That suffering is not God’s will, but what happens when that person lives the law of God. It points out how contrary is God’s Way to the Way of the World. The evil that is in the world cannot tolerate the contradiction of persons who live according to the Way of God, the Way in which God created all things and persons.

We heard last week from James’ letter that we must be a source of support and care for those in need. When we fail to care about our fellowman and creation the faith we profess becomes empty and meaningless. Being a follower of the Way of Christ means we care about God’s creation, all of it including persons and the earth and all that dwells there. Clearly, James was keying his thoughts on God’s instruction to humanity in the Genesis creation story. God gave dominion over all creation to humanity. For centuries --- especially since Constantine made Christianity the religion of the Roman empire – most have taken this to mean we have full access to all the universe’s resources without concern for how it affects creation and its inter-relationships.. We forget the context in which Genesis was written. When a ruler assigned governors over sections of the empire, it was said that the emperor gave "dominion" over that land and its people. It was expected of the governor that he/she keep order, make certain that province was productive, that the peoples were encouraged to safeguard the lands and waters and make them flourish. Any governor who ruined the ecology, the economic and social fabric of the territory, the land, the waters, the people would be removed and imprisoned or executed for failure. Dominion in the context of Genesis means to care for, to support, to encourage, to inspire, and to bring healing and order to the communities formed by persons and creation. Self-profiting for administrators wasn’t part of the deal.

Last Sunday we heard the first announcement in Mark’s gospel of Jesus preparing the disciples for his battle with the powers that owned the Way of the World. In that battle he would lose his life. But that wasn’t the end of the battle. He would be raised from defeat and God, the Father and the Spirit, would transform the person of Jesus from defeat to ultimate and permanent victory. The Way of the World would ultimately lose its battle to overcome the Reign of God. That Reign is a reign recognized by the love that unites humanity and all creation in a Way of living that respects the dignity and worth of every person. And not only every person, but ever blade of grass, every creature great or small, every drop of water, every breeze. Exploitation of persons and things is overcome and violence ceases.

Into last Sunday’s message Peter – filled with pride at having recognized the Christ in the person of Jesus -- insists the Messiah would never undergo a violent death. Even though he and his fellow disciples had walked with Jesus for a couple of years, they still viewed him from the perspective of the Way of the World, the way of violence, the way of domination, and the way of exploitation. The victory of the Messiah was and is clearly misunderstood even by those with personal contact with Jesus. So it is no surprise that even we struggle with Jesus’ message and person.

This Sunday we continue the theme. The reading from Wisdom points out that persons who walk in the Way of the Creator are not accepted by the world. The follower of God’s Way is a contradiction to the Way of the World. Even so, that person lives in the world and thrives because of the world. What sort of paradox is this that the Book of Wisdom presents us? The Way of the World insists it will put the just one to the test to see if his/her heart is true. The test will be complete even to the point of the death of the just one.

As we continue to listen to James’ letter this Sunday, we should come to understand what James says is the cause of violence, jealousies, murder, and theft. These challenges to the goodness of God’s creation arise from jealousy, envy, and selfish ambition. We miss the bench-mark of God’s love when we fail to live the Way of the Lord.

In Mark’s gospel this Sunday, we hear again Jesus warning the disciples that he will be murdered by being handed over to men. His message, his work, and his very way of living are a contradiction to the Way of men. They cannot allow him to stand, to continue to live teaching a message of respect, dignity, worth, and purpose for all persons and creation. They cannot allow him to continue to build up a community of mutual respect, mutual caring, and appreciation for each life and each bit of creation. He must die. That is the Way of the World, the Way humanity has fashioned. Perhaps the disciples heard the part about being handed over, the part about being murdered. We have to wonder if they discounted this "the Son of Man will rise" part of the message. That part was likely outside thoughts these disciples may have had. Being raised was and is not part of human experience. Jesus would be absent to them and they would be on their own. They did not yet realize or understand that in his being raised up that the lives of those who follow his Way are also raised up. There would be a new and contradictory model for human life based on love and appreciation for all life. No longer would competition and violence be the necessary way of human life. In the unity provided by love and appreciation for every person and all creation a new Way is created. And this Way is the energy and efforts of the Kingdom of God.

The ending of this Sunday’s gospel reading is significant. Jesus knows his disciples were jockeying for positions of authority and influence. A child becomes the example of how authority must behave. Apostles were to receive even a child as deserving respect. Even a child must receive full dignity and worth. A child is an insignificant element of society. For a child adds no power, no wealth, no influence to a family or community. A child is a consumer of resources. Most think of this child only as a future resource to the welfare of the family. Yet Jesus insists that when a family, a community receives this child with full dignity and worth, the family and the community in fact receives Jesus. In receiving Jesus the family and the community receive our Father-God. There is no room in this teaching for pride and arrogance of position, of authority in our faith community. Clericalism, claims of prestige, looking down on others as lesser, developing special places for ourselves in our parish for the worth we bring to our parish are all outside the teaching of Jesus. James’ letter is a clear admonition for each of us to judge how we perceive our worth in comparison with others. Even within our ecclesial community, the Way of the World can and often does hold sway. Such hubris and arrogance lead us into sin and harm for many, especially the least among us. Let us listen closely to the Word of God and struggle mightily to apply it.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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BEING FAITHFUL TO THE WAY OF JESUS: 25TH SUNDAY B

It’s a well-known fact that many men read a newspaper backwards. This is because of their great interest, even fanatical interest, in sport. Their interest extends to all kinds of sports, even sports played in other countries. They may have noticed, then, that a while back the New York Yankees baseball team paid $30 million for a new star performer. As a result they began to win games galore.

What’s clear here, there, and everywhere is that the club with the most money can buy a champion team. What’s also clear is that the famous saying of American football coach Vince Lombardi rings bells with many people: ‘Winning isn’t everything,’ he said, ‘It’s the only thing.’

No doubt about it! Achievement, winning, success, being number one, and beating all opposition are among the strongest values of human beings everywhere. For that very reason, the parish bulletin, like cigarette packets, might have carried a counter-cultural warning today. It might have read: ‘Warning! Hearing and listening to the Word of God today might cause you dizziness, confusion, and disorientation!’

Why do I say that? Because the message God gives us today is so different. In a nutshell, WHAT GOD IS TELLING US IS THAT HE IS NOT ASKING US TO BE SUCCESSFUL BUT TO BE FAITHFUL. Jesus in particular is putting that path of fidelity to us no matter what our fidelity may cost us. In his case the price he paid for fidelity was the way of the cross - the way of pain, torture and humiliation. It was a path that would finally lead to victory, the victory of the resurrection. But to reach that victory he had to first pass through all the agony of his Passion and Death.

While I sense that the way of Jesus is ‘the road less travelled’ for most human beings, there are significant exceptions. One striking exception is a Sister Mary, who works in a health service for homeless people in London. After working most of her life as a doctor in Africa, she came home to England. She was horrified to discover enormous numbers of people living homeless on the streets of the capital. It made her angry that in such a wealthy country there could be so many people who were so poor, so uncared for, and so unloved. So rather than retire, she set herself to work for the homeless people she saw everywhere, including the offer of a free medical service.

One day, a man who had been homeless for about 30 years came into one of the hostels for the homeless. He was about 55 and had been abusing alcohol and other drugs for nearly forty years. When he arrived he couldn’t have been any dirtier. His entire body, clothes, hair and face were covered with a thick matted mess of dirt, vomit, and dried blood. There were even lice crawling on his skin. To protect the other residents, the warden of the hostel insisted that he could stay only if he had a bath. But the man refused point-blank.

Even on a bitterly cold January night in London, he would prefer to go back to the streets rather than take a bath. A male volunteer tried to talk to him, to reason with him, but he kept raving and shouting all kinds of nonsense, and would not listen at all. So the volunteer called his boss, Sister Mary, for advice. She said she would come and talk to him. She arrived after a few minutes. She said nothing. She just sat down beside him and held both his hands in hers. Instantly, he stopped shouting and began to weep. For a long time he said nothing and just sobbed his heart out. And then, after what seemed like an eternity he said: ‘That’s the first time anyone has touched me like that in twenty years.’

Softened by that touch, he had a bath, a shave, and a haircut, and put on a clean set of clothes. Within an hour he was a new man. But the real miracle was what happened next. From that day to this he has never again drunk alcohol or used drugs. Within three months he found a job and moved out of the temporary hostel into his own flat. That one moment of grace - of love and compassion communicated - has changed his life for ever

0f course such a dramatic change does not happen often or easily. But that’s exactly what did happen to that particular homeless man.

So Jesus really means what he’s saying to us now: ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me…’ I cannot think of a more powerful illustration of his teaching than the story of Sr. Mary and the homeless man. It leaves me in no doubt that the essence of true greatness is found in loving, serving, and helping others, and being the best we can be in doing that.

Surely, then, an authentic life is not about seeking out those people who can do things for us, but those for whom we can do things, and do them with the humility, kindness, gentleness, care, compassion and grace practised by Jesus himself, and doing them without any thought of reward or recognition other than believing and knowing that this is the way and will of Jesus.

His way and his will surely, for both you and me! Can we rise to his challenge?

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

 

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Year B: 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me."

If you go to Liverpool Street Station and you happen not to be in a terrible hurry to catch your train (or like me, are willing to admit that you have already missed it), you may notice, tucked away in an unobtrusive little corner, a sculpture in bronze of two small sad looking children - a boy and a girl - and a large suitcase.

And then you can look at it for quite a long time trying to work out what it’s supposed to be about. You will notice that the suitcase is really old fashioned, that the clothes are patched and ragged and that the boy is wearing a yarmulke – a skull cap typical of Jewish boys.

But eventually, you will give up and just do the sensible thing, which is to read the inscription which tells you that this is a memorial of the ‘Kindertransport’. And that is a story everyone should know.

As all the world now knows, between 1938 and 1945 something of the order of five and a half million Jews, plus three and a half million Catholics were murdered by people who regarded themselves as their spiritual and moral superiors. This was done in such secrecy that its full reality only became known when the invading allies over-ran the extermination camps. The vagueness of the numbers is part of the shame. Even in the hands of the most efficient, mass murder is an inexact science.

And of those five and a half million, one and a half million were children.

I say that "all the world now knows", but it took a long time for people to be convinced that such an evil could have been done as an instrument of state policy in a civilized Western European state. Even to this day, there are people who simply refuse to believe that human beings could really have perpetrated such an appalling crime against other people of their own species, race and nationality - and even against children.

But in this country of Great Britain, there were a few people who saw it coming. Some of them were Jewish leaders in this country concerned for the fate of their co-religionists, but most of them were Quakers motivated by a simple love of humanity. They read and heard what the Nazis said, and they could imagine what would happen if the Nazis got the chance to put state-sponsored hatred into practice. Sadly, in history, the Holocaust was neither the first nor the last nor even the largest mass murder committed by men who - in the words of the Hebrew Bible - had lost respect for both God and man. And they knew that they must at least save the children.

After Kristallnacht, the 10th November 1938, when all over Germany and Austria, a state sponsored riot coordinated attacks on Jewish people, homes, businesses and synagogues, they knew that the did not have much time. So they petitioned the British government for a change in the law that would permit unaccompanied Jewish refugee children to be admitted to the United Kingdom.

They were successful and the first party of refugee Jewish children landed at Harwich docks on 2nd December, 1938, just three weeks after Kristallnacht, and took the train to Liverpool Street Station. And over the following nine months before the war began, ten thousand Jewish children were rescued.

When the war ended the great majority remained in Britain, and as adults made considerable contributions to Britain’s services, industries, commerce, education, science and the arts, for the defence, welfare and development of their country of adoption. Four of them were honoured with Nobel prizes.

Long after the war, one of the Quakers who had founded the Kinder-transport movement was asked what really was ten thousand out of one and a half million - less than one per cent.

He replied, "It is ten thousand. In my dreams I hear one and a half million thanking me for the ten thousand."

With all due respect to those who fought heroically against Nazism, never in the field of human peace-making have so many owed their lives to so few.

So if you should ever happen to find yourself in front of that statue in Liverpool Street Station, take a few minutes just to look at that little girl; look into her sad little eyes and pray.

Pray that we ourselves may never lose our love of God and of humanity.

Pray that such things may never happen on our soil.

Pray that we may always be a nation in which everyone has a place to rest their head.

And Pray that we may always be a nation which suffers the little children to come to us.

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.

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