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Contents: Volume 2 - The Third Sunday of Ordinary Time
January 27, 2019


 

The 3rd

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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Sunday 3 C

There is something very positive to be said about structure, abiding by a just law, a team approach to life and its problems, knowing the sequence of how salvation came to be, and fulfilling one's purpose in life. I read all these things into today's readings. Perhaps they are there and perhaps not.

Perhaps I want them to be because there is hope in these readings! Many parts of my personal world are stretched well beyond our limits and usual support systems seem stretched as well. Since I live in the USA, I must add to the downside of things that our government is still shutdown. Shutdown, not functioning, and causing much anguish either directly because one is involved somehow as a now unpaid government employee or because one is almost helpless in finding a solution to this very real humanitarian crisis.

In our Gospel reading, Jesus, the usual meek and don't put the limelight on me Jesus, tells everyone he is "the ONE". Because of his close connection in prayer to the Father, Jesus knew who he was and what he would do. Because we are his followers, many years later, we are not so sure what we should do, but we know we should do something to make the world a better place.

It is too easy to lapse into depression or apathy. We just can't. We, like the people of old in the first reading, must first cry with relief that someone's got our back. Someone, God, has our everything!

We, too, are told "Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!" In the midst of personal or widespread chaos or both, we do need to remember that God is "working overtime" with and for his people. What can we do?

I started with declaring an "invisible snow day" (sorry to those who are covered in too much snow) where my family had nothing to do but to do nothing but play. Great stress reducer! We all need to stop and "recalculate" the direction we are going.

We can pray and then join in efforts to solve the problems at hand as best we can. Look at the folks who are donating food or bringing meals to federal workers! There are banks providing no interest loans for house payments. There are ride share programs for those without money to get to work, essential but unpaid work right now.

The Body of Christ consists of many parts. Each person can find his or her niche within the Body so that the work of the Lord continues to be the light of the world through us. May the Light shine on us and on the problems that we face, small ones or overwhelming ones. "Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!"

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Third Sunday of Ordered Time January 27 2019

Nehemiah 8:2-10; Responsorial Psalm 19; 1st Corinthians 12:12-30; Gospel Acclamation Luke 4:18; Luke 1:1-3 & 4:14-21

Often as we live the gift of life we get very, very tired. Perhaps it’s an adult thing where the newness of living has gone stale. Maybe it’s the discovery that dreams of wealth, power, and glory disappear like the morning dew. More likely it’s when we discover there are no fairy god-mothers or benevolent wizards who snatch us up from the common, the ordinary of life into life as a princess or a Prince Valiant. All at some point realize our heroes and heroines are flawed even as we are flawed. When once touted wonderful leaders turn out to be self-serving bullies we sadly discover we’ve been duped into a faith they were working for us. Whether our heroes are economic, scientific, religious, academic, or political each at some point lacks what we hoped they would be.

This doom and gloom that arises when our trust in others runs into the truth of those others’ selfishness and arrogance robs us of the joy of living a life of industry, of community, and of family love and kindness. Disappointment of ecclesial response to the abuse of children and vulnerable adults steals the shaky faith of many. Their faith falls on rocky ground. The failure of political leaders to seek solutions to human problems because of their wish to hold power harms most of us. But for those on the margins of society it is a fatal flaw that steals and murders the vitality of the human spirit. Cut-throat competition of industrialists and wholesalers and retailers destroys the careers of thousands of bread earners, leaving them in a descending spiral of desperation, self-doubt, and despair.

Wow! What a horrific and dismal future we have before us. At its worst we picture ourselves accelerating into a global warfare that is dotted with mushroom shaped, man-made clouds of radioactive dust whose purpose is to eliminate human life altogether. Hiroshima and Nagasaki have proven nuclear destruction is possible.

There are some who look at our current situation as a prelude to the "rapture" or the "quickening" that is supposed to come to a select few when Armageddon finally comes. Armageddon is thought to be how the world and time will end. Those preachers teach an exclusivity of a select few. How very contrary to Judeo-Christian revelation, tradition, and faith! There are some who seek this violent end and do all in their power to encourage this is frightening. Isis formed its caliphate in Racca because it was near there that the final battle between good and evil was to take place. There are some who support Israel because they believe the final battle will occur between the religious of the Jews and the supporters of the devil. There are some who believe that our president is a reincarnation of Cyrus the Great of Persia who liberated the Jews from their captivity in Babylon thus opening the way to a renewed religious fervor. The fight over abortion is what calls so many of those who believe in the sanctity of life to support political parties and radical religious sects. Yet our Church insists that the fight over abortion is only a part of our faith that holds that all life – unborn, born, aged, infirm, and even condemned for crime – is God’s gift that cannot and must not be abused, ignored, or taken by violence, by economic policy, or by ethnic or social classifications. All lives are sacred, including those fleeing for their life.

When Jesus was asked at what time the end of the world would come, he said it was up to God the Father and him alone. Those humans who would hasten the end’s arrival are thinking they can manipulate God’s will. Pretty silly, that thought!

If we acknowledge the terrible situation of our world in our time in history, we’re likely to believe there is nothing we can do about it. It is as though we’re headed for the water fall hanging onto a piece of driftwood, knowing at any moment we’ll be thrown outward and shattered on the rocks below. The first reading from the prophet Nehemiah and the reading from the gospel of Luke this Sunday occurred pretty much in the same sort of predicament as we find ourselves in now.

The narrative of Nehemiah takes place after the Jews had begun to return from Babylon. They came to a city totally destroyed, its infrastructure beyond recognition. It must have looked like Germany at the end of World War II. Rubble everywhere, streets impassable, water, sewage, electric all destroyed. This was not a place to live. Even so, the ruin of the city wasn’t the most daunting problem. There were bandits, marauding bands of thieves and raiding parties of other nations looking to pick over and pillage what the Jews brought home from Babylon. Here was a nation defeated, bordering on despair, finding no future for themselves. In the ruins of its walls a scroll was discovered that contained the Law of Moses. Each day Nehemiah would read from the scroll the words that spoke of God’s presence with the people liberated from Egypt and the tyrant of Pharaoh. Pharaoh wasn’t named – pharaoh is the title of all despots whether that despot uses economies, technology, military might, or chains that capture the living spirit of persons. In the reading of the experience and the Law of Moses the people recognized that their God was with them in the terrible times of the past and that God was with them even now – even in the recent past when they were beaten and abused in Babylon. In this realization the people wept. It was a weeping of relief, a weeping of hope, a weeping at the realization that their God is not an absent God. This was no God of wrath and vengeance. This is the God of Loving Kindness experienced by those ancient ancestors freed from the clutches of pharaoh. They themselves were freed from the vice-grip of Babylonian military might. God is with us!

In the time of Jesus the oppression of the Roman Empire was a dark cloud. The occupation by the Roman Legion swiftly punished any sign of rebellion. It is said that Pilate’s soldiers crucified more than a thousand Jews in their efforts to stamp out rebellion. The roads to Jerusalem were lined with those crosses and the air filled with the screams of pain from those struggling to draw breath. It was not a great time to be alive. There was a need for God’s presence, for God to finally send a long promised Messiah to free this people chosen by God from cruel oppression and harsh occupation. It is in the environment of expectation that Jesus returns home to Nazareth one Sabbath and comes to the synagogue. Apparently by this time he has been teaching in other towns and villages and experiencing some fame. His name was known. The men in the synagogue and women in the gallery came to hear and be amazed at this son of their village. What great words would Jesus speak to them? What new and exciting hope would his words bring into their hearts? How would he declare the beginning of the new Kingdom descended from David? Instead Jesus finds the place in the scroll a quote from Isaiah, the prophet of hope and faith during the exile in Babylon. Jesus applies to himself that reading from Isaiah. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me." Jesus claims to bring hope to this people so oppressed and so anxious for tomorrow. Isaiah promises an unbelievable thing. That the blind would see, that those imprisoned and forgotten would be set free, that the poor would hear good news. These are events that just don’t happen. But Jesus claims to be the anointed one – in Greek, the Christ – who brings hope, freedom, and fullness of life. How was this to come about? Would Jesus form an army? Would he use the power of God to defeat the Roman Legions?

Jesus sits down after reading that passage. All looked to him wanting to hear why he had chosen that reading. He responded to their anxious stares with simple words. "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." Surely he would say more! Surely he would announce a plan! But that was it.

Living as humans, there is an urgency to discover meaning and purpose of the days of life. We are inclined to believe there is more to living than routines, more than eating, sleeping, loving, working, and dying. There is the truth. Our living is a movement toward understanding, toward consciousness. If we have accepted the gift of faith and have practiced it, we will become conscious of an energy that comes to us. It is the energy that binds us to one another with respect. That respect denies and overcomes feelings of anger, revenge, and violence. That energy, that consciousness grows from a tiny seed into respect for the dignity and worth of every person and every created thing.

The reading from Paul this Sunday teaches us about the Body of the Christ. He compares the person of faith to the cells of the body. There are no cells in the body that lack purpose for the health of the whole body. Only that which is foreign to the body harms it. Only those cells that are not functioning parts of the body harm the body. So it is with us. We are all parts of the body and when we realize how very essential others are to our health, we can only respect them. The message of Jesus in this Sunday’s gospel is that we are visited with the love of God. God is the I- Am-Who-Is-With-You in all the moments of our life. And that presence binds us each to all others in respect, dignity, and most of all in Love. It is the Spirit of God who binds Father to Son so uniquely and so totally that God is One. When we become conscious of the love of God for us and what love of others does to us, then the Kingdom of God grows and we can realize the wonder of ourselves and raise our voices in praise of the Creator. That is the Good News. That is the salvation that Jesus brings us today and every day of creation’s life.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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THE MISSION OF JESUS THEN AND NOW: 3rd SUNDAY C

There is a story (told by Flor McCarthy SDB) about a people who had never heard of the Gospel. One day a stranger arrived and announced, ‘I’m here to bring you the good news.’ Unfortunately he contracted a disease and died before he could tell them what he meant. They found a small book in his rucksack. The title read: The Good News of Our Lord Jesus Christ. They concluded that this is what the stranger was talking about. They began to read it.

Though the book was old, the message sounded brand-new. The central character Jesus Christ leaped out at them from its musty pages – a man full of vitality, yet possessing great gentleness and compassion. They read accounts of miracles he performed for sick and needy people. They read how he went out of his way to mix with outcasts. The beauty and authority of his words made a deep impression on them. ‘What a pity the carrier of the book died,’ someone said. ‘Obviously he was a follower of this Christ.’ ‘But there must be more where he came from,’ another said. ‘Could we not send someone there to see how the people live this new teaching? Then he could come back, make a report, and perhaps we could try it for ourselves?’

They chose Francis, a young man of deep integrity. He travelled widely and observed keenly. He went out of his way to meet as wide a cross-section of Christians as possible. He didn’t jump to conclusions or rush to judgement. Finally the day came when he felt he had seen enough, and so he headed for home. No sooner had he arrived back than he was bombarded with questions: ‘Do the adherents of the book love one another?’ ‘Do they live in peace with one another?’ ‘Do they live simply?’ ‘Are they happy? But all the questions could be reduced to one: ‘Do the followers of Christ live according to The Book?’ Here, in summary, is the account he gave them of his findings: -

‘Basically, I found five kinds of Christians. First, I found some who are Christian in name only. Even though they were baptised, they adhere to none of the observances of Christianity, and have no commitment to it. Secondly, I found some who are Christian by habit only. Even though they are committed to the outward observances, it doesn’t affect the way they live. As far as I could see, they live according to principles that have nothing to do with the teachings of The Book, and in many cases are contrary to it. Thirdly, I found some who are clearly devoted to the Christian faith. They are engaged in good works. Yet a vital element seems to be missing. They seem to possess few, if any, of the qualities which made their Master so appealing. Fourthly, I found some whom you might call practical Christians. It seemed to me that they have grasped the heart of what The Book is about. They are clearly concerned about other people, and are not ashamed to be seen to be Christians. In some places I saw them being persecuted. In other places I saw them meeting something which is probably worse – the deadly indifference of their fellow citizens. Lastly I met some, admittedly not many, whom I would have no hesitation in calling the genuine article. They are deeply spiritual people. In meeting them I felt I was meeting Jesus himself.’

But accepted or not, the gospel stands as good news – good news from God and with the authority of God behind it. It is summed up today in the Vision Statement which is also his Mission Statement that Jesus makes in the synagogue of Nazareth, his home town. There, making his own a text from the prophet Isaiah, he presents himself as the Messiah called by God, filled with God’s Spirit, and sent by God on this mission: - To be a missionary of God’s love and agent of God’s healing, wherever needed! To set people free from all kinds of evil, limits and handicaps!

The mission of Jesus then is also our mission now – yours and mine. To see how it is done today, just look to Pope Francis. He is passionately committed to poor and troubled persons in his own back yard, and further afield. He refused to live in the palace provided for him, but settled in two rooms of St Martha’s Guest House. He regularly sends a bishop to give food and money to poor persons in substandard houses. He has provided showers and toilets in St Peter’s Square for homeless people. Every now and then, he goes to prisons to comfort and encourage persons locked behind bars. A recent news despatch reports him dropping into a nursing home unannounced, to mix with the residents there, and going on from there unannounced to visit patients in a facility for the mentally ill.

If we are unable to do all the works of mercy our Pope is managing to accomplish, surely we can settle for at least one or two. Take, e.g. what Tracey Ryan, a school teacher in a state school, has been able to do with the grace of God. This is her story:

‘One of the new girls in my class is hunched over and her shoulder blade sticks up in the air. The first couple of weeks she had difficulty coming to school. Nobody would talk to her as she really looks "different" and, well, you know what kids can be like. They were never verbally unkind, they just didn’t include her in anything. I had meetings with her mother and the principal to try to remedy the situation but nothing worked. Eva, it seemed, was doomed to be an outsider. Then, an idea! There is a student in my class, Heather, who comes from a very poor economic background, has learning difficulties, but is very popular with everyone. I thought to myself: IF I CAN JUST GET HEATHER TO BEFRIEND EVA, WE MAY HAVE A CHANCE HERE. I put the challenge to Heather and she said: "No problem. I really like Eva." I was really delighted by her response. I told her what a special person she was and how grateful I was for her support. The next thing I know Heather has worked her magic. These days Eva can’t wait to get to school. She came up and hugged me the other day and said: "Miss Ryan, I LOVE school!" It just goes to show how a little bit of kindness can change a child’s life.’

"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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