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Contents: Volume 2 - 33rd Sunday 11-18-18


 

The 33rd

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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Sun. 33 B

The readings this week remind us that the liturgical year is about to come to a close. They also give a description about the end times. It is a good thing that Mark reports in today's Gospel : "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Given the state of the world today, "the time" might seem much too close if we knew... and then what panic might follow!!

In Daniel's vision we read/hear "it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress". Sounds a lot like what the people engulfed in the wildfires in California or those still struggling in Florida to find food, clothing, and shelter after Hurricane Michael are feeling. Those are just two quick but painful glimpses into extreme distress here in the US; there are many other places in the world which match this rather scary description.

Yet, the sun still rose this morning and set or will set this evening. How do we and those we care about most survive the emotional toll these and other horrendous events, global, local or personal, take on our lives? I wish I had a more specific answer than the one I repeat to myself.

My answer is a mix of "all will be well", "this too shall pass" , and many short prayers throughout the day. The Memorare has again emerged as a favorite prayer. I savor moments of happiness and add them to my unwavering sense of joy, joy in the Redemption and that "people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book."

We are told to live in the present, yet, to do that prayerfully we must look at the past and the future as well. There just are times when the present is beyond horrendous. We must look at past times of rejoicing to find similar times in the now and hope for the future.

My granddaughter celebrated a birthday this weekend with family and friends, called her Great Uncle to wish him a Happy Veteran's Day, was notified she won an archdiocesan essay contest, and served as an altar server for the first time. Today though she is really sad about some things happening at school, concerned about some illnesses in the family, and is over-tired and grumpy! She is looking forward to Thanksgiving Break next week with no stress or deadlines... and she is just 10! How can she not combine past, present, and future to emerge less grumpy and more like her usual joyful self?

I don't know the "right" answer to that one either but I have a plan. I think it is a plan for all of us. I think we all need to "breathe", remember how much we are loved and cared for by the Father, and put everything else on hold for a bit. Then we can look for prayerful solutions to the things that affect us most and pray that other folks will receive help they need with those things that impact them the most as well. When we are more like ourselves, we can turn to help others. Pretty soon, the turmoil will subside and we (the real us) will again emerge. Focusing on the good will help outweigh the not-so-good, always and forever!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Thirty Third Sunday of Ordered Time November 18 2018

Daniel 12:1-3; Responsorial Psalm 16; Letter to the Hebrews 10: 11-14 & 18; Gospel Acclamation 21:36; Mark 13:24-32

Many, many years ago now, when I was still a child I recall hearing a reading from the book of Revelation, the final book of the Christian Scriptures. This John who fled the persecution of Nero in Rome found himself on the island of Patmos and there had a series of horrific visions. The pastor preached on the horrors of the end of the world. We had just experienced – even though at a great distance – the terrors of World War II. Several young men from our rural Ohio parish died there, including one who days before he left for boot-camp carved his initials on a huge maple tree in our woods. He died on the beaches of Normandy – they never found his body. So I thought of that tree as his grave marker and visited it each time I was playing in the woods.

Those were terrible days. The first use of atomic bombs happened then. It was thought to be a good thing as it ended the war with Japan. Those were frightening days for kids and parents. It seemed like the end of the world. When the war was over and survivors returned home, "we were like men dreaming." It wasn’t so much that good triumphed over evil but that we had survived.

The first reading from Daniel makes us think again of the perilous state of our world. There is great uncertainty about our future. Millions of families and individuals are leaving their homes, fleeing violence that threatens their daughters and sons. The lack of economic opportunity forces thousands to leave their traditions, their culture, their languages, their religion, and their ancestral homes. It’s as though the whole world seethes with constant pain and anxiety. St. Paul likens this to the pain of a woman giving birth. He says that creation itself struggles to bring about the birth and fullness of the Kingdom of God.

I’ve read that military planners are strategizing to prepare for the next great conflict. Their planning is based on the effects of climate change. Projections into the future forecast the loss of significant amounts of arable land on which to grow food. Pure water needed for life is rapidly becoming polluted and lost to industrialization. The next great world war will not be about nationalism or even about shrinking supplies of fossil fuel energy. It will be about food and water.

The reading from Daniel presents a bleak forecast for the rulers of the once great Babylon. Their kingdoms will crash into meaningless heaps of rubble at the hands of future invaders. The vitality of city states will be stolen by internal dissention and untruth. Conquers would soon crush opposition swiftly and mercilessly.

In the gospel reading, we recognize two applications for the prophecy Jesus gives to his disciples. There is a warning about what is about to happen to him as he enters the city, Jerusalem. The sudden change in the acceptance of Jesus by the people will shock and shatter the hopes of the disciples. Jesus foresees his destruction at the hands of the Romans. His death is the result of the protocol of the world that denies and hates the way of living that Jesus teaches. His way liberates the oppressed through healing. His life models how to live the truth of human existence. In just a few years, Jesus made a commanding impression on those who followed him. His Way liberates those who hope in him from the desperation revealed in apocalyptic prophecies. Those who follow and live the Way of Jesus may suffer and even die but will never lose the gift of forever life. There are more challenging conflicts to human life than the conflicts imposed by thieves, charlatans, and despots.

The two readings are a form of biblical literature called apocalyptic. The word, apocalypse, means to uncover, to reveal. That form of writing presents in mysterious language a vision of the battle between good and evil. Those revelations are given to prophets either in fantastic visions initiated by God or by voices of angels. It intends to expose the meaning of past and present history. It uses past and present to speak about the ultimate and future establishment of God’s messianic kingdom. The evil in the world is the cause of the terrible events written. The ravaging, raging power of nature is unleashed on the world and its inhabitants because of the abuse mankind heaped on nature. Instead of caring and assisting nature in productive abundance, humanity has robs it of its energy to produce what is needed by living beings to flourish. The cycles of nature are subverted and misdirected. Great storms, great fires, great earthquakes, great shifts in tectonic plates are the result. The land no longer produces food; desertification is spreading at an alarming rate. Streams and rivers dry up or become polluted with the waste. Evil seems to have triumphed and visited the effects of greed and despotism on the citizens of the earth.

Do we recognize the face of evil in our world, in our time? Do we concede our habits of living, our culture, our faith to forces that expand the power of evil? Do we make an effort to discern good from bad?

The prophecy of Jesus about his impending death is clear. He is going to his death, never surrendering his message to the way the world thinks of human life. Some forty or so years after his death Rome grew tired of constant Jewish rebellions. Jerusalem was reduced to ruins. The temple was burnt and destroyed leaving only the West Foundational Wall as a reminder of what once was. Christians recalled the prophecy of Jesus and left the city before it came under siege. In Jesus warning in this Sunday’s gospel, the Jewish Christians recognized the "fig tree" sprouting. They understood it as predicted the season of horror rapidly descending on Jerusalem. As a group they escaped because they understood the signs of the times and heeded the warning in Jesus’ prophecy as relevant to their condition.

In the apocalyptic narrative in Daniel, the Persian Empire under Cyrus the Great destroyed the power of Babylonian slave masters. The sieges of Babylon and its city states were devastating and horrific. The streets of those cities ran with the blood of men, women, and children and all living animals. When the Romans captured Jerusalem no person was spared. Anyone found living was slaughtered. The once proud city on Zion’s hill was a smoking ruin.

So what is the message God imparts to us in these prophecies of doom and destruction? Is God merely trying to scare the hell out of us, force us through fear to repent of whatever evil we hold in our hearts? If we look at these readings this week-end in the light of next Sunday’s celebration of Christ the King, we’ll have an answer. Evil will continually try to conquer our hearts and minds. Evil wants us to believe there is nothing besides itself. We should all join in its violence, its violation of the human spirit, and live only for ourselves. Evil takes hold of humanity and humanities leadership to destroy faith in the Creator God who loves us. It shouts even now as it did on Calvary, "if God loves him, let him come and take him down from this cross!" Those who choose evil ridicule the followers of conscience, the followers of the way of Jesus, and those open to God’s loving kindness. They think the faithful who hope in the Lord are weak, lacking in backbone, holding onto myths and legends for their salvation. Violence is their convincing argument.

The apocalyptic narratives in both Hebrew and Christian Scriptures expose the purposes of what is evil. It is to rob us of hope in God’s love for creation. Evil would have us lose our faith in God’s abiding presence. The narratives insist evil will never win in God’s time. Even though the faithful may appear to be dead, they continue to live in the heart and mind of God. And it is in the heart and mind of God that all things have life.

God is God of history. Whatever evil attempts, it will ultimately lose. Just as the reach of the Kaiser’s armies in World War I were ultimately defeated; just as the Third Reich ultimately failed to achieve its thousand years domination with Aryan supremacy; just as the imperialism of Hiro Hito was ultimately crushed, so also God will triumph. That is our hope; there lies our faith in the presence of God with us; there is the basis and strength with which we love one another. We learn how that love works by understanding the history of many thousands of years of God’s effective presence. The Kingdom of God will ultimately flourish and thrive. That reign will be forever.

Let us not be fearful. Let us live the hope that is ours in the Ministry, Death, and Resurrection of one of our own who is also God’s own. May his Spirit inspire us and lead us to safety in this ongoing battle against what is evil in our hearts!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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THE PASSION OF THE EARTH: 33RD SUNDAY B

We've all heard, and heard with sadness, of the Passion of Jesus Christ. We are well aware of our own sufferings, and to some extent the sufferings of whole populations of people such as those in Myanmar, Syria and Iraq. What we need to become far more conscious of, however, is the passion of Mother Earth, the one and only planet inhabited by human beings, the one and only place where human beings can live, the one and only place where God has put us. Tragically, as a result of massive industrialization, our earth, is being exploited, assaulted, ravaged and destroyed at a rate unprecedented in history. For me, ‘the time of distress’ mentioned by Jesus in his gospel prophecy today, is the distress of the earth at the present time, and the distress of the peoples of the earth who, more than ever before, are asking questions of survival and sustainability: ‘Is it all over, Red Rover? Or is there anything we can do to save God’s good and beautiful world, not only for ourselves, but for all the generations of human beings who will come after us?’

Consider just a few facts about the damage that has been inflicted and continues to be inflicted on the finite resources of our earth by our modern, technological, industrial, consumer, throw-away society. In general terms and global terms our modern industrialized society is destroying our air, water, sunlight and soils, and causing the extinction of a vast number of creatures that God has placed on this earth with us. Every part of the globe and every ecosystem on earth is now affected, in some instances in an irreversible way.

There is a terrible problem with LAND. Poor land management, overgrazing, chemical agriculture, crops of one kind only, deforestation and population pressures have caused soil poisoning, soil erosion and desert territory on an alarming scale. About 3500 million hectares - an area the size of North and South America are affected by land degradation resulting in reduced cropping and ultimately desert territory. Experts at Cornell University, New York, estimate that world-wide about 85 billion tonnes of soil are lost each year. Here in Australia from a total of 5 million square kilometres used for agriculture and grazing, about 2.7 million square kilometres are affected by wind erosion, water erosion, and salinity. Applying the brakes will involve tree planting, improved farming techniques, organic farming and better land use, with or without government assistance.

There is a terrible problem with WATER. Human activity is polluting water in the oceans, rivers and lakes. More than 97% of all the water on earth is sea water. During the 1998 UNESCO Year of the Ocean it emerged that the oceans are being seriously over-fished and polluted. Areas of the ocean close to the continental shelf are contaminated with human, agricultural, industrial and radioactive waste, much of it toxic and carcinogenic. Because we human beings have tended to treat the oceans as sewers, the Baltic, Mediterranean, Black, Caspian, Yellow and South China Seas, are all seriously damaged. Even Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which runs for 1,284 miles, is under threat to its coral and sea creatures because of rising ocean temperature and agricultural pollution. According to a report by the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in 1995, over 70% of the world's marine fish stocks are either 'fully-to-heavily exploited, overexploited, or slowly recovering'. Many countries face problems in the supply of clean water for domestic purposes including drinking.

There is a terrible problem is with AIR. Chemical pollution is changing the composition of the earth's atmosphere, destroying the ozone layer, producing climate changes and exposing human beings to higher levels of dangerous ultraviolet radiation. Concentration of carbon dioxide, methane, carbons and other 'greenhouse' gases are expected to increase by 30% during the next 50 years. This build-up is likely to raise Earth's temperature by between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees centigrade by the year 2030. As the oceans warm up and expand, sea levels will rise, leading to ferocious storms and severe flooding over lowland areas. Some of our Pacific Island neighbours must either evacuate or perish. In the run up to the Kyoto meeting on climate change in December 1997, there was a call for a 60% reduction in the use of fossil fuels. The politicians settled for a miserly 6%. Australia opposed even that. Dependence on supplies of polluting oil for transport, building materials, cars, plastics and pharmaceuticals, means that our capitalist economies would simply collapse if the oil wells run dry.

There is a terrible problem with FORESTS. Tropical forests once covered 20% of the land area of the earth. They are now disappearing at an extraordinary rate. An area greater than the United Kingdom is cleared and destroyed each year, for logging, cattle ranching and agriculture. Since 1780 two-thirds of Australia's native forests and three-quarters of our rainforests have been removed, with drastic effects on land fertility, climate, rainfall, agriculture, human health, the health of rivers and estuaries, and the mega-extinction of species. In Australia 2,200 plant species are endangered, half of our mammals are threatened, 10% of our native birds, 20% of our reptiles, amphibians and freshwater fish. Mega-extinction is the direct result of the expansion of the industrial economy into fragile eco-systems like rainforests.

But so far too many of us have failed to even register what is happening, let alone respond to it in sustained and creative ways. How then, should we respond to the ecological crisis, this passion of Mother Earth? Unless and until we do so collectively and creatively, the question remains as the elephant in the room.

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

 

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Year B: 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near."

One of the things I have to do from time to time in my work as a doctor is to tell someone they are going to die. Well, in one way, that is no great surprise. Sooner or later, we are all going to die. And we will all die of something. But it always comes as a shock to anyone to know that they now have the disease which will probably kill them.

Telling someone that he is going to die is – for me – a little like going to confession. I don’t really like doing it. Truth hurts. Sometimes I feel like it hurts too much. But afterwards, I feel better because I know it was the right thing. Because every time I do it – every single time – the person says ‘thank you’. And that is odd because people don’t often thank doctors. Even when we do something really good, like making a clever diagnosis, or managing to cure some problem, people don’t often thank us. But every time I tell someone they are going to die and there is nothing ultimately that medical science can do about it – every time they thank me.

Why is that? Well, I don’t rightly know... but I have to think that it has something to do with the fact that we are telling them something they already know. Most often people have been sick for some time and they know perfectly well what is happening to them. And the last gift their doctor has to give them is honesty.

When I was training in geriatrics, one of the senior consultants suggested I should come with him on what is called a "domiciliary visit" – that’s when a hospital doctor comes out to see a patient in his or her home. This patient was an old lady of 92. Three months before, she had been fit enough to dig the garden she had tended for the last 50 years. But gradually she had noticed herself, feeling very tired, losing a lot of weight, her clothes suddenly becoming too large for her and lumps appearing all over her skin. She wanted to know what could possibly be causing this. As we listened to her story, around her clustered protectively her two daughters and her son-in-law.

My boss then did a very careful and thorough examination, which took about half an hour. Then the lady went away for a few moments to the toilet to tidy herself up. Instantly, the two daughters and the son-in-law broke into passionate argument imploring my boss that, if it was bad news, he should not tell her, because she would not be able to cope with it. They knew her well enough to know that she could not possibly live with any bad news - they were her two daughters and son-in-law. My boss looked at them very sadly and said that he would only tell her what the patient herself wanted to know.

When she came back in the room, he sat her down and said very simply: "Mrs <Jones>, I have come here to find out what is wrong with you. I think I know what it is. Do you want to know what I think?"

There was a pause and then she replied: "Yes, doctor," she said firmly.

And I will always remember what he said – if you wonder why, it’s because I’ve often recalled his words and wondered if I would ever have the courage to say the same. This is what he said:

"Mrs Jones, I think you have a very widespread cancer all over your body. If you wish I can take you into hospital and cause you a lot of pain and spend a good deal of the country’s money doing a lot of tests to find out if I am right or not. But I honestly think that I am right. So, if you are prepared to trust my judgement, then here is my telephone number. If you get any pain or any other problem that you think I might be able to help you with, please call it at once. Is there anything else you would like to ask me?"

The two daughters and the son-in-law all collapsed in an untidy heap. Mrs Jones ignored them. She smiled beautifully and said: "No doctor. Thank you very much. You have helped me."

After that there was nothing more to be said and we left. I never saw her again, but I happen to know that my boss called her every week for months after that until she did need help with her pain.

There are signs in our lives which, if we are willing to pay attention to them, tell us all we need to know about what is really happening with us – whether or not we are really living well – living the lives God created us for. But so much of our time is spent on other things – the daily grind – the pinprick problems of everyday life – that we forget those signs. Or worse, we try to pretend that they are not there. But the truth is that we cannot pretend forever. Sooner or later, reality bites. And then we have no choice but to be honest and alone before God, offering him the fruit of our lives.

Let us "Take the fig tree as a parable" of the shortness of our own time on Earth and our need to use it well.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who shows us how to live in His Light.

Dr Paul O’Reilly, SJ <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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