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Contents: Volume 2 - 31st Sunday 11-02-18


 

The 31st

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. 31 B

The Gospel message this Sunday sums up all the commandments into the simplest language. We are told to love God with our "all". Then we are told to love our neighbor as ourselves.

These two great commandments sound pretty simple but they are not simple to perform even if they are stated in simple words. I believe that their simplicity becomes reality in the self-knowledge of who we are and who we are meant to be. Such frequent reflection brings us to our very core, the "all" of our being.

For me, loving God with my "all" means giving God my "all" in return for the life I have been given. It means knowing what is easy for me, what challenges me, and how I can trust God to help me realize that "nothing is impossible with God". It requires adequate time for prayer and reflection in the hope that I will put God in the center of whatever I choose to do and not do... and to choose carefully.

If God is the center, then everything should, can, and will radiate from God. That requires my conscious effort brought about only by continuous contact with God. How I weave that contact through my daily activities is what loving and giving my "all" entails.

Now comes loving myself and my neighbor, a natural flow from loving and giving God my all. I think there is danger of a bottleneck here, depending on how one views oneself though. Being self-demeaning does not honor God's creation; neither does being pompous. An honest interior look at oneself should result in an humble acknowledgement of God's power and abundant mercy!

If we are able to accept this realistic view of ourselves and love ourselves with both our strengths and challenges, we will be a step closer to accepting anyone and everyone else the same way. We are loved equally by God, we are told. Each one of us is God's "beloved".

Now that is where it really gets difficult! We each can make a list of those people we dislike, some more than others, some far beyond dislike perhaps. How can God love me and ______________ the same, we might plead!? That is where the mystery, majesty, and mercy of God take over... take over only if we let them!

This is a difficult and not a simple task in our day and age when true inclusion is so rare and hate crimes too often pepper the news. Achieving this personal goal of accepting true equality is essential, however, if we are to fulfill the two greatest commandments. The humble, honest, and frequent self- reflection I suggest seems to have perfect timing for those in the US.

Election Day for the mid-term positions (and seemingly a silent referendum for the current administration) is this Tuesday in the US. As each person and initiative is contemplated and vetted in your own mind, I suggest adding how each person or policy measures up to the second greatest commandment. Reflect, pray, VOTE, and then pray again!

For all of those not in the US, please pray that closer attention to God's greatest commandments by all of us will replace the hate that is seeping into and poisoning "normal" life. Unfortunately, this is happening where you live and where I live and in too many places worldwide. This simply should not be the case anywhere in God's good Earth!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Thirty First Sunday of Ordered Time November 4 2018

Deuteronomy 6:2-6; Responsorial Psalm 18; Letter to Hebrews 7:23-28; Gospel Acclamation John 14:23; Mark 12:28-34

The human mind has a great capacity to segment events into what is of religion and what is secular. The Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Writings are filled with stories of deeply religious persons who are filled with cruelty toward their fellow humans. The tragedies that fill our air ways and our print media shock us for a few moments. Then just as quickly as the shock hit us, they recede into forgetfulness and pointlessness and lose the horror they contained. We are expert at forgetting what does not directly affect us.

"Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore you shall love the Lord, Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength." Thus proclaimed Moses as he said goodbye to the peoples he led out of captivity. These are the people who struggled to make sense of Yahweh. All other gods of the ancient worlds were demanding of sacrifice, of gold, of silver, of fragrant woods. The more vicious of those images made of clay and iron and gold and silver and acacia wood even demanded the sacrifice in fire furnaces of the first born sons of their worshippers. The God of Israel and our God as Christians is not vicious – does not demand the death of first born. Our God, the Lord alone, insists he will be with us. His self-given name states that. Yahweh means I am he who is with you!

But over and over and over again in our history humanity makes choices. We create gods of our own because we have this perverse inclination to needing power over our gods. We are in our hearts idolaters. We spend our lives pursuing wealth. We sicken our spirits and our bodies by conquering so that we can possess. We do battle with our fellow humans for control, for power. We sicken our bodies and bend our spirits to create public images of ourselves that challenge God for adoration.

We look for truth in all the wrong places. We believe charlatans and thieves who rob us of our humanity and our compassion. Truth is whatever works, whatever is practical. Our political environment is filled with diatribe, contentious and hurtful rantings that only serve the one with the loudest voice. The common good, the truth are victims to self-centered narcissism. What can we do? We are only a few!

That is an empty statement. As we watch the events of our tempestuous times unfold, we also hear in quiet voices, the thousands of persons who reach out to lift up those whose families have been struck down. We see heroism not only in our first responders but in the general populace. We see example after example of thousands – perhaps millions – of persons who exercise the love of neighbor in heroic ways. There is hope that resides in the hearts of those who have heard the final instruction of Moses. Hope arises from community action to heal, to support, to care for, and to lift up those who suffer from the avarice, greed, tyranny, and violence of those who would divide us into manageable mobs.

Yet even these great and marvelous believers in the goodness and loving compassion of God fall prey to the machinations of persons whose purpose in life is to control, to enslave, to manipulate the emotions of the people of our nation and of the entire world. Evil abounds! Evil will lose its ability when each of us questions, searches for truth, and looks out for every neighbor near and far. When we love the Syrian child whose childhood has been interrupted by bombs, chemical weapons, and terror we spread the influence of our merciful God. When we deny the distortions of truth regarding persons fleeing poverty, violence, and terror in the Central American countries, we take a stand for God’s love in the world. To condemn persons seeking a chance at a decent life as invaders, or an infestation is an aberration created to manipulate emotions to deny compassion and suppress love of neighbor. We forget the decades ago when fear of a Communist take-over of those Central American nations created a School of the Americas in Georgia that trained persons who went home and created death squads that targeted the poor. Why do we succumb to fear? Why do we allow division to tear at the fabric of our civil union?

It is the obligation of every Christian to vote. The Christian voter must discern persons of compassion from the wolves in sheep’s clothing. By their works, by what candidates do we will know, be able to discern who is of God and who is not.

Our God is the God of history. Our God is the creator of all that is. We are God’s dream. Our living with God is not only in our places of worship and community. God is with us in the market place, on the factory floor, in the halls of congress and in our executive mansions. Our God is with us on the streets, in homeless shelters, in the hospitals and mental institutions that seek to heal us. Our lives are not divisible into secular and religious. We are one person and we either carry our faith with us at all times or we are lacking in faith.

"Hear O Israel! The Lord is our God, our God alone!" Our God is the God of loving kindness toward all his creation. Our God is the God of mercy and compassion. Anyone who has faith in Our God will make every effort to imitate God. That is why there are really only two commandments – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your work, with all your strength. And Love your neighbor with the love with which you love yourself. And who is our neighbor? There are none excluded – every person we meet, know about, work with, share this good earth with is our neighbor. There is no division by race, by creed, by national origin, nor by gender, nor by orientation. There is no division by political affiliation. We either have faith in God’s love for ourselves or we don’t. If we have that faith in God, then we must love. If we fail to love then our faith is nothing.

Let us recall that Jesus the Son of God born a man shared our human living. He endured even the most cruel and painful death. This was not an encouragement to suffering as some might think. In his terrible death on the cross God himself experienced our terror, our suffering, and our pain. We cannot, must not ever forget what God our Father did about that. The very heavens shook with God’s response. "This death, this terror, this suffering shall not stand." And on the third day the Father raised his son as the first-born of a new creation. From every pain, from every struggle, from every suffering our faith in God insists, "It shall not stand. I love my people: I love my creation!"

Let us pray together for a clearer understanding of the Lord our God. Let us make efforts to love all that God has created, especially our fellow humans!

 

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE: 31st SUNDAY B

Jesus has just told you and me what is the most important thing in the world. That’s to be a loving person. So, we are meant to love our God with our whole self, i.e. with our whole mind, whole heart, and whole will - in fact, with every fibre of our being. The second part of being a loving person is to love and care for our neighbour every bit as much as we love and care for ourselves.

It’s only right that we should do so. After all God has loved us first. The very fact that we are alive and here today is because our God has loved us into life. In the second place Jesus calls us to love God with our entire being because his whole life and death have been a manifestation, and even a pouring out, of God’s tender love for every single one of us. Being loved into life by God as both our Creator and Redeemer, we are called to mirror and reflect the love that has made and redeemed us, by reaching out in love to other persons.

Reaching out to others with loving hearts involves our emotions. We feel for the different people in our lives. However, what is more essential and more important than any feelings we have about them is that we act for their well-being and happiness. When e.g. the gospels speak of the love in the heart of Jesus, they highlight his specific acts of kindness and generosity. To put this in a personal way: In loving another person I value that person. I value that person so much that I seek through my own resources, whatever they may be, to assist him or her in their wellbeing, happiness and development. I will seek to do so in concrete and practical ways. In the process I will extend myself beyond my personal needs, interests and concerns, to the interests, concerns and needs of the person I am seeking to assist.

This approach to loving one’s neighbour as another self is the opposite of selfishness and self-preoccupation. It overcomes a natural and inborn tendency to think of myself first, to put my needs before the needs of anyone else, and to keep telling myself that they must paddle their own canoe and I mustn’t get involved. So, it overcomes our natural instinct to keep thinking: ‘Just mind your own business!’ even when that other person in my life is in acute pain and clearly needs me now. But when I truly care for another person, I put the needs of that other person first and let their needs influence and alter my personal choices, priorities and actions.

For us Christians, our concrete ways of loving others are intimately connected with our love for God. Love for God, in fact, can be expressed only in a way which corresponds to our way of being in the world. It can function, then, only within the network of our interpersonal relationships. In fact, our love for God and neighbour are, in fact, one and the same love. So, our love and loving care for other human beings is not in competition with our love for God but the concrete and practical ways in which we express our love for God. In practice, the two commandments to be a loving person are just one commandment.

Let me give you one striking example of all this, from Preacher Exchange II: - When Paul O’Reilly, a Jesuit priest, was working in the Amazon rain-forest in South America as a medical doctor, he had a young patient called Jeffrey. When Jeffrey was ten, his mother died. Three months later, his father abandoned Jeffrey and his two sisters and emigrated to a rich country. The three children were taken in by an uncle who worked as a teacher in a very poor village deep in the rain-forest. One day, when Jeffrey was 12, he and his sisters did not have enough food to eat. So Jeffrey climbed a mango tree to try to get some fruit.

His uncle had told him not to, but Jeffrey couldn’t stand seeing his sisters going hungry. But he fell down 30 feet from the tree and broke his back. He was left paralyzed from the middle of his chest downwards. The people with him carried him on a stretcher 20 days walk through the forest to a little hospital in the nearest town. There he lay for a whole year. At the end of that year in hospital, he was in a bad way. He was just skin and bones and had pressure sores all over his back. He was in constant pain and was obviously dying. His uncle and sisters cared for him as best they could. But day by day he got worse and worse. So they decided to take him home -since they couldn’t bear for him to die in hospital. But unable to carry him another 20 days journey through the forest, they appealed to their local church community for help.

God touched the hearts of their next door neighbours Henry and Colette Melville, a married couple with children of their own, to take in the whole family and care for them. Colette, in particular, looked after Jeffrey night and day for six months till he died. And when he died she wept for him as for one of her own children.

Of all the people he has ever known, Paul says, she was the one who loved the Lord her God with all her heart, all her mind, all her strength and all her might. And more than anyone else he has ever known, she is the one who truly loved her neighbour as herself. What an amazing example for us of true love at work!

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

 

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Year B: 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time

"You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength and with all your might... and you must love your neighbour as yourself."

When I worked in the Amazon in South America, I met a young lad called Jeffrey and heard his story.

When Jeffrey was ten, his mother died. Three months later, his father abandoned him and his two sisters, emigrated to a rich country and was never heard of again. The three children were taken in by an uncle who had a farm in a very poor village deep in the rain-forest. One day, when Jeffrey was 12, he and his sisters did not have enough food to eat. So Jeffrey climbed a mango tree to try to get some fruit. His uncle had told him not to but he said that he couldn’t stand to see his sisters hungry. He fell thirty feet out of the tree and broke his back. He was paralysed from the middle of his chest downwards. So they carried him on a stretcher twenty days walk through the forest to the nearest town where there was a little hospital.

And there he lay for a year. And at the end of that year in hospital, he was in a bad way despite all the doctors & nurses tried to do for him. He was so thin that he was just skin and bones. And he had pressure sores all over his back. He was in constant pain and obviously dying. His uncle and sisters cared for him as best they could. But he was getting worse and worse. So they decided that they wanted to take him home – they couldn’t bear for him to die in hospital. But they couldn’t possibly carry him twenty days journey back into the forest. He was far too weak to survive the journey. So, they appealed to the local church community for help. And God laid it upon the hearts of their next door neighbours – Hector and Cheryll – a married couple with their own children - to take in the whole family and care for them. In particular, Cheryll looked after Jeffrey devotedly for the six months until he died. And when he died she wept for him as for one of her own.

Of all the people I have known, she was the one who I believe loved the Lord her God with all her heart, with all her soul and with all her mind. And she loved her neighbour as herself.

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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