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Contents: Volume 2 - Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – November 19, 2017


 

The

33rd

Sunday

2017

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Barbara Cooper, OP

3. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

4. -- Brian Gleeson CP

5. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

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

 

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Sun. 33 A

Our second reading reminds us to "stay alert and sober"! It seems that some things may not have changed since that letter was written to the Thessalonians. The trials and worries of life (and even fear of the end times) can drain our physical and emotional energy so that we are tempted to slide into laziness and/or depression, or take the easy way out... and forget about sobriety.

Our first and third readings, however, encourage us to turn our focus elsewhere. The "elsewhere" is to fulfilling the purpose in life that we have been given by the Lord through the blessings and talents we have. Grace and the faith to follow the Lord's lead is given to all.

I think it is important that each of us make and take the time to become refreshed and invigorated again, regularly and frequently, from "life". I think it is part of the second great commandment "to love our neighbor as ourselves". I think it is part of the fifth commandment "thou shalt not kill"... oneself ...through neglect.

Every once in awhile, I wish I could just pull the covers up over my head or just get off the world and let it keep spinning out of control without me, just for a little while! Hopefully, your life has less drama than that, but that feeling, I think, is not all that uncommon. God knows that.

God has given us our own talents and the talents of others to work together to combat that "combat fatigue" feeling that descends if not on us individually, then at least over the world scene once in awhile. God's investment in us needs to bear fruit and not be hidden away. Having a plan of what to do if and when that feeling of being overwhelmed hits, is essential.

As our liturgical year comes closer to its end, it is a good time to think about that plan and how we are nourishing ourselves. As we are shown each time we are on an airline, if a situation occurs, we need to put on our own oxygen mask before helping anyone else with theirs. It is time to take inventory of our prayer life, our connections to people who can help uplift us, to the sacraments, and to a day off.

With adequate fuel and rest for the journey of life, we can indeed focus/refocus on our calling. As the woman in the first reading or the great investor in the third reading, we can give glory to God in whatever way we have been asked. That is God's expectation, what we should do and what we can do... if only we plan ahead by taking regular care of ourselves as well as others.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – November 19, 2017

Today's Gospel reading presents something of an enigma. A talent was a very large sum of money – and the amounts given to the servants would represent decades of wages for a labourer. It might have felt like a homeless person winning the lottery. The first two servants invested the money entrusted to them and made a profit. They are rewarded by their master. The third servant returns the money given to him without any additional interest, and is severely punished.

There are a few things that puzzle me about the story. First, each servant is said to receive "according to his ability". If the third servant had no ability for profit, why give him the money and then punish him for failing.

Secondly, the third servant seems to be the only one obeying the law against usury in the Hebrew Scriptures. He acts as a "good Jew". Leviticus 25, and other writings command: "If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit." In other words, it was forbidden to charge interest on a loan to another Hebrew, and there were laws to protect a borrower, even a foreigner.

Given the astronomical amounts given to the servants, it's a big question for me how the first two had so much increase if they were acting legally, or justly!

So is Jesus praising the making of a profit through this sort of behaviour? Or is he stating an observation about money and how we use it? As the saying goes: "this is how it is - the rich get richer and the poor get poorer".

It was something of an eye-opener then to read on from verse 30 to the next section. It is the very powerful image of Divine judgment that seems to me to complete today's passage. Jesus is pictured on a glorious throne, with all the people of earth before him. And he separates them - sheep from goats. (Jesus has a soft spot for sheep as we know from stories like the "Good Shepherd". I presume that goats in his culture had a negative image for some reason. I like goats. Maybe we could say he separates the sheep from the fleas, or mosquitoes.)

At any rate, people are judged on how they acted toward the people they met. "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me."

I find these two stories very powerful when read together. They seem to me a contrast between the empires of this world and the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaims. It seems to me he is saying to us today that if you have piles of money/talents you can make deals and accumulate more, and more, and more. The "kings of commerce" will praise you and welcome you into their company. Or you can "bury" your cash by relieving the suffering of people who are in need. People Jesus identifies with. "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."

Which kingdom do you choose?

Barbara Cooper, OP

Vancouver Island, BC Canada

bcoop60@yahoo.com

 

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Thirty Third Sunday in Ordered Time, November 19 2017

Proverbs 31:10-31; Responsorial Psalm 128; 1st Thessalonians :1-6; Gospel Acclamation John 15:4 & 5; Matthew 25:14-30

We’re winding down the liturgical year featuring the gospel of Matthew. Next Sunday, competing with Thanksgiving gatherings, rich food, and travel to home is the grand feast of Christ the King. Unfortunately for that wonderful celebration, little attention will be paid to its Liturgy of the Word. Many will be on the road and miss the opportunity of gathering in their community to hear the mysteries and share in the communion sacrifice. Perhaps at the very least, they could go to their computers and look up the readings posted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB.org).

Were we to just whine about that lack of attention we would only be feeding a distraction from reflecting on the readings this thirty third Sunday of Ordered Time.

If we begin reflecting on the readings with the first reading we’ll discover a clue as meaning and an application of the gospel. That is how the first reading is chosen. That first reading means to lead us into the gospel. This Sunday’s first reading from the book of Proverbs seems to be an encouragement to young men in search of a wife to share their lives with. The first reading this Sunday describes the perfect wife. The reading encourages young men to look beyond the appearance a young woman and look for the character of a person who is industrious and applies themselves making use of whatever is available to them to provide a comfortable and safe life for her family. Looking further into this reading as obvious advice to young men courting a partner for life, the reflective Jew would have understood a deeper meaning to this admonition. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures Israel is said to be the bride of God. When the prophets shout against the sins of the nation, they condemn the nation and its leadership as adulterers. The nation is wed to God and God tends to the nation as a loving husband would tend to his bride. Worshipping other gods is to deny the nations marriage to Yahweh.

As the People of God we are the brides of God. Our Proverb reading encourages us to be industrious in work and care of our family. This admonition applies to work, to family life, to homes, and to the liturgy of Christian Service that flows from the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of Eucharist – the Communion Sacrifice. We are to take whatever we have at hand and make it better, add to its beauty, develop its strength, bring what is little to greatness and what is great to praise of the Creator. Our religious heritage insists we are to engage with the world. This is not a mere rendering to Caesar in some off hand way. We are to be engaged with the world. That directive e comes from God in the book of Genesis. "Take care of the earth and make it productive. Humanity’s work was to overcome its tendency to chaos and align it with the order of the Creator." This last command of God is often poorly translated as "dominate". This awful translation gives permission to those who would murder the living beings God created on the earth. They would rob from the waters in the heavens, in the rivers and streams of their life giving energies. They would pave over the fields of plants and trees and make of them a parking lot. Genesis is clear that there is life other than human and that it is the responsibility and joy of humans to see to it that such life thrives and flourishes.

This is an application of this reading from Proverbs. We persons and worshipping communities are to remember we are the brides of the Lord. It is our glory and the fulfillment of our very nature to lend our hands to the flourishing of God’s creation. We are not to sit idle as observers or as mourners. We are to engage, not merely comply.

Often this gospel of the talents is discussed as a judgment story. In this it follows the story of last week’s gospel of the wise and foolish virgins. Many preachers apply these two parables of Jesus to individual and personal death and judgment. There is room in these stories to do that. But doing so makes these stories threats and not instructions. If these stories are threats, we are meant to cower in fear and trembling before a judgment that is sure to come to each of us in our loneliness. If death seems yet some years down the road, we may think there is no application to our lives in this parable. But there is more meat to this parable than death and judgment. Let’s not miss this opportunity to learn something.

In this Sunday’s parable this wealthy person goes away but wishes his work should continue. His ability is great and he has great wealth and resources. These he distributes to his three servants without any instructions. Can you imagine that actually happening? Which wealthy person would just hand over his wealth to three servants without instructions? What happens? Two of the servants immediately – the gospel stresses "immediately" – go out and double the wealth given to them. The third one buries the wealth and goes about his daily life without any effort to caring for the wealth entrusted to him.

How did the two productive servants know what to do? How they knew what to do is an important part of this parable. How did they know? These servants had paid attention to how their master conducted himself. Following the master’s example they were able to achieve a great deal.

An interpretation of this gospel as it related to the people of Matthew’s life time identifies the three servants relative to how the Good News of Jesus was spread. The most productive servant refers to the Jewish people who used the history and ritual practices of Israel to understand the messiah, Jesus. Their preaching of the good news was most effective in bringing others to following in the Way of Christ. The second servant is identified as the Gentiles who came to follow Christ’s Way. They did not have the resources of the Jews but made the best of what they did have. Their resources allowed them a lesser impact as they shared the good news. The third terribly unproductive servant are the Jews who received the good news and did nothing with it either for themselves or for others.

Applying this gospel to our time encourages us to engage with the world according to our talents and resources. If we have been paying attention to the Life and Ministry of Jesus the Christ, then we imitate Jesus and in that imitation productively affect humanity, the living world, and the universe given to us to develop and make to flourish. How do we imitate Jesus? It’s pretty simple if we’ve been paying attention during this year of Matthew. In all his public ministry, in the collective memory of the Christian Communities that are the source of the Words of the Gospel and the understandings contained in the writing of the Apostles, everything Jesus did, everything he preached, every miracle he performed was performed in recognition of the dignity and worthy of every individual and of all creation. Every action and every preached word is about connecting persons to community. No one, not even the gentiles are excluded. His cross is the most complete statement of the Love of God for his creation and for the darling of that creation, humanity. That’s what we are to do if we are good and faithful servants, if we are faithful brides to God.

What happens if we are those faithful servants, the industrious bride? Ah, the answer to that question is given to us next week. Next Sunday, the Sunday after Thanksgiving this year, we celebrate the Reign of God established by the Christ. We know this last Sunday of the liturgical year as the Solemnity of Christ the King. We celebrate that feast day both as an accomplished fact and as a reality yet only on its way to completion. The message this Sunday is that we have a part in the completion of the Reign of God in creation. If we bury the good news in a hole in the ground we’ve failed to respond to the call of Christ to come and follow him.

May we engage with delight in the work offered us. May we fulfill the promise extended to us by our bridegroom.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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STAYING ON THE JOB: 33RD SUNDAY A

You and I are busy people. We rush here and we rush there. We do this and we do that. All kinds of activities occupy our attention. There is work. There is shopping. There is cooking. There is gardening. There is painting and decorating. There is study. There are children to bathe and feed. There are others to mind and entertain. There are friends and neighbours to visit and help. And when we come to the end of a typical day, there may hardly be enough time left to write a letter or an e-mail, glance at a newspaper, watch the news, or speak to God in prayer.

The amazing thing is that our list of things to do never runs out. Being so permanently busy means that we find it hard to take the Word of God as seriously as we should! At this time of the church year, the teaching in particular that the world as we know it is definitely coming to an end! This is sure and certain, St Paul insists. It will happen when people least expect it, he also insists. The suddenness of the end of the world and of the Second Coming of Christ will be like a thief suddenly breaking into a house at night or like an expectant mother who goes into labour all of a sudden.

Jesus teaches that while we wait for his return to earth at the end of time, we make the best possible use of all those gifts that have been given us for the love and service of God, for the benefit of other people, and to make the world a better place.

That’s the point of the story he tells us today about the three employees who were each entrusted with a huge sum of money, while their employer went away for an indefinite time. Two out of the three invested it wisely and well, doubling their employer’s money. The other hid his allocation in the ground and therefore did nothing. So when the boss returned and called all three to account, the industrious ones received fitting rewards for their work. But the one who was too afraid to take the risks of the market place found he was on the outer and thoroughly unhappy for simply ‘playing it safe’.

So let’s make the most of our opportunities. Let’s take a chance and visit that grumpy relative; figure out a way to feed the hungry and house the homeless; take our concerns about personal safety to that public meeting; become a reader in church or join some other ministry group; sit with a dying friend. The list of our opportunities to do good and to do it now is simply endless.

Several Readings around this time are a reminder that the delay in the final coming of Christ requires us to be vigilant, to be on the look-out for Our Lord’s return. Today Jesus is reminding us to be on the job, to be active, industrious and diligent in carrying out all our duties and responsibilities in life, and to be active, industrious and diligent in working for the coming of the kingdom of God on earth. After all, to be a Christian is to be a missionary, a missionary of God’s love. In short, the moral of the gospel today is to remember that ministry happens when our gift bumps into someone else’s need, and to do something positive, constructive, and life-giving with whatever gifts God has given us.

So, for the strength we need to make the most of every opportunity, and to be everything we can be day after day, let us pray to Jesus in our Holy Communion today! For both ourselves and the people around us, who just like us, have also been gifted by God for the love and service of other people!

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

 

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Year A: 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Well done, good and faithful servant. You have shown you can be faithful in small things. I will trust you with greater. Come and join in your master’s happiness."

I hope you are enjoying the rugby!

I have just one experience of full international rugby – when I was very briefly the match doctor for the Guyanese national team. For any of you who aren’t familiar with rugby, it’s a fairly rough game – if you are American, think of American football, but without the helmets and padding. In most matches several players are injured, sometimes quite seriously. So the organisers had asked me to be on-hand to help out those who got hurt – that is (perhaps I should make this clear) in my capacity as a doctor, rather than as a priest. It’s a rough game, but not that rough. And that was how I came to be standing on the touch-line a little nervously as the starting whistle went and thirty of the more solid citizens of Guyana and Martinique charged towards each other to spend eighty minutes disputing the possession of a small oval leather ball.

As it happened the injuries were few but complicated. The inside centre for Martinique scarcely blinked when his nose was broken at the bottom of a ruck, but burst into inconsolable tears when it was tentatively suggested that this might call into question his availability for selection in the next game.

I think St Paul would have enjoyed rugby. Perhaps more than any other, it is the great team game – a game in which everyone, no matter what shape or size has a place and in which each one’s contribution is vital to the common success. In the "pack" the mighty mastodons – anything up to 22 stones of human buffalo – struggle for the ball and win the "hard yards". Each one carries the ball on in turn, supported by his fellows and gains perhaps only a couple of yards – sometimes even only a foot or two before he is tackled, put down and has to lay the ball back to someone else. Each in turn lays his talents, skills and body courageously and painfully on the "gain-line". And each in turn makes a contribution which – seen individually – is insignificant, but which adds up to valuable progress for the team. Finally, the team achieves a position from which it can attack. At this vital moment, the scrum-half – usually the smallest and physically weakest player, but the "brains" of the entire team – makes the critical decision to spin the ball wide to the lighter faster backs so they can try to score. If they can breach the line of defenders, they pass the ball out to the wing – the fastest runner among them - and give him a chance to run for the try-line. The whole process has been orchestrated to this single moment of opportunity. Carrying the ball – and the hopes - of the entire team and its supporters, he must outpace or out-smart the remaining defenders between himself and the line. If he succeeds, then not he, but the entire team has scored a try. If he fails, then the entire effort – the struggle, the pain, the injuries sustained – have all been for nothing.

As a game, rugby is popular all over the world. I think that is because the elements of the game speak to something very profound in all of us – the basic common human desire to use all our skills, all our talents, our bodies and minds, our very All in the achievement of something we can genuinely believe is worthwhile – a real reason for living – the reason for which God put us on this earth in the first place.

As Christians we call that achievement – that desire – that hope - the Kingdom of God. Like scoring a well-worked try, it calls for the participation of every member of the church in the task which best suits her or his talents, skills and abilities. For many – in fact for most – the work will be the hard, unglamorous, unsung, painful, sometimes dangerous and largely invisible work of gaining the "hard yards" – living faithful Christian lives in the world of work, marriage, family and society. Fronting up to the challenges of life, propping up those institutions that enable our Society to work, locking the pack into a single community of purpose, scrabbling for hope at the breakdown.

A small minority of people will have the opportunity, privilege and heavy responsibility of carrying the ball – and the needs of the Church – in open play – in public. They must constantly remember that they are only in that position because of the hard and unseen work of countless people who have worked desperately hard, giving their labour and sometimes their lives – to give them that opportunity. And whatever is achieved is the achievement not of the individual but of the entire church and resounds to the glory, not of individual people, but to our common Father in Heaven.

Some people will feel they have little to contribute – they do not feel they are very talented. It is primarily to them that today’s parable is addressed. The tragedy against which Jesus warns us - the real tragedy of life - is not in being limited to one talent, but in the failure to use that one talent.

As the Pope John Paul 2 so often reminded us, there have been more martyrs for the Church in this century than in any other. Few of them will ever be formally canonised. The many have suffered, died and their names are forgotten to all except to God and to those – often including their killers – whose lives they touched with their faithful witness.

To each of us belongs an opportunity, a grace and a gift. One day we shall be called to account for its use.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who has given us both our gifts and our opportunity to use them to do something ultimately worthwhile.

Paul O'Reilly <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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