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Contents: Volume 2 - Fourth Sunday of Ordered Time February 3, 2019


 

The 4th

SUNDAY

Ordered

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. 4 C

No matter who you are, clergy, religious or laity, perhaps you have sat before a Scripture reading, the Blessed Sacrament, a computer, tablet or journal, or even just you in a quiet place and wondered aloud or in silence, and then just sighed. It is clear to me from our readings today and from the realities of life, that human beings, even the wisest among us, indeed know only partially.

We try to figure things out and do our best to follow the will of the Father as we preach the Word. We often make well- intentioned but wrong choices or sometimes just wrong choices with or without thinking or praying about them.. Our personal spiritual "progress" and perhaps even that of those who are entrusted to our spiritual care is often seemingly slow, intermittent, nonexistent or even backward!

We may lose heart, stop trying, or at least sigh internally very heavily and wonder "Now what, Lord?"or just simply "WHY??" We can be very hard on ourselves. We forget that only God is omniscient. .. and also that only God is all powerful!

We forget the words in our first reading spoken by the Lord through Jeremiah: "They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD." We forget that not everything went smoothly for Jesus either. In today's Gospel according to Luke crowds were acclaiming him one minute and ready to hurl him over a cliff the next. One translation states "everyone in the meeting place was seething with anger"!

Jesus continued doing what he always did. "Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away" but not to sulk! This time, Jesus went down to Capernaum to continue teaching, drive out demons , and cure the sick including Simon Peter's mother-in-law.

Let's go back to the concept of our partial knowledge though. it is not like we are just clueless! Our second reading is perhaps one of the most well -known to Christians, certainly to those married or who counsel those preparing for marriage. It is often considered and/or chosen as a reading for a wedding ceremony.

It is about the power of love. It tells us how to live with those we love and really anybody and everybody. It is the formula that erases heavy sighs of doubt and replaces them with the power of God's love.

Re-reading this second reading is a good idea. Thinking about how it applies to the last few interactions one has had might be a bit eye-opening. It can also give us a future road map to follow that is more to the Lord's liking than the partially mapped out one we often draft for ourselves.

The reading also tells us that we are "fully know" by the Father. Surely the One who is all loving, all knowing, and all powerful will continue to be our All and guide us forward, even if the direction is not very apparent to us. Amen.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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Fourth Sunday of Ordered Time February 3, 2019

Jeremiah 1:4-5 & 17-19; Responsorial Psalm 71; 1st Corinthians 12:31-13:12; Gospel Acclamation Luke 4:18; Luke 4:21-30

This Sunday our readings focus on prophets. Jeremiah is called to serve the Lord as a prophet to Israel. Jesus is in his home town of Nazareth. There he understands his prophetic ministry. Jesus, like Jeremiah before him, is rejected by his own people. His life will be threatened by those who reject his truth-preaching. This is a warning to us who practice our baptismal commission to be prophets. When we speak the truth, we too will be rejected.

If we pay any attention to the history of the world, we discover a pattern in human endeavors. Leadership that serves its own purposes always ends in disgrace and shame. The terrible effect for the peace, safety, and well-being of nations is destroyed. This is a constant theme of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. Those who seek leadership in order to accumulate wealth, to wield power over lesser people or to grain notoriety are eventually shown to be examples of how not to behave.

We learn at our baptism that we are baptized as priests, prophets, and kings we have our life’s mission, our life’s purpose and meaning. We are changed in our individual spirit to be priests, prophets and shepherds to all. We think of the Christian priest as a person committed to blessing, healing and sharing the Word of the Lord in Word, in Work, and in Eucharist. That priesthood is a priesthood of thanksgiving and healing. This is the priesthood of each baptized person who lives in a secular, consumer driven culture. And in living such a life we share in the redemption of all creation. There is a further, more difficult mission given to those who are set aside to consecrate and lead the faithful in liturgy.

The prophet in us is focused on sharing and on a search for truth on the streets and byways of life. The prophet, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, discovers the meaning and purpose of events. The prophet experiences the presence of God in history both present and past all the while looking toward the future. The prophet sees the God of history present now, leading, cajoling, correcting, and begging us to love one another as God loves each. The prophet professes faith in the God of Creation, the God of blessing, the God of Hope, and God with us in all places and times. The prophet seeks truth and the place and purpose of truth in those who have the gift of faith and practice that gift in all the moments of life.

It is the role of king that most often trips us up and causes a fall into shame and ignominy. Kingship, royalty – just like priesthood and prophet-hood – is for the community, for the people. When leadership becomes a badge of honor and not of service, terrible things happen to the community. Repeatedly in the Hebrew Scriptures we see evidence of this. As kings seek power, wealth, and fame by accepting the false and empty gods of powerful neighbors; when the acceptance of false gods became the basis for treaties of military, economic, or social power, the nation began to doubt the presence of God and turns to idolatry. Then the nation struggled and was brought to its knees as it endures a cleansing period of servitude. That slavery is not vengeance of an angry God. It is God allowing freedom to his creation. The people are cursed by their own decisions. In those choices the people become entangled in untruth. Untruth brings pain; untruth brings destruction; untruth brings chaos and dis-ease; untruth brings death in untimely and violent manners.

In each of the roles of priest, prophet, and kingship/queen-ship there is an underlying need for humility. Any priest claiming privilege because of ordination or consecration denies his priesthood. We’ve come to call such pride of office by the name "clericalism." We blame the horrors of abuse soiling Christian churches on this pride of office. The evil of clericalism is the pride that sets itself over and above the little ones, those on the margins, and the faithful who seek the face of God. Those suffering from the awful mistake of clerical pride forget Jesus’ mandate that the priesthood ministry is about serving all with a concentration on service to the least among us.

A prophet who profits from his/her proclamation of truth is without truth. We experience this fact in media which informs us of persons whose self-importance is the center of their choices and efforts. Social, political, and economic pundits spin webs of half-truths in an effort to gain followers. Their leadership lacks attention to the common good. Half-truths are a slippery slope which begin the slide into lies and fabrications. The true prophet is one who seeks understanding and knowledge which demonstrate the truth of the present moment and of the century and the arc of history.

A Christian King/Queen is one who seeks to promote a fuller, more complete life for all in their community, their state, their nation, and the world. This is not domination for the sake of power, of gold, or prestige. This is leadership that brings with it concern for the very least in their communities.

The readings this Sunday focus on the call to prophecy of Jeremiah and Jesus. It is remarkable that the response to their call for truth, encouragement, and understanding elicits a negative response from their audiences. Jeremiah lived in a time of great turmoil. The political question was about alliances. Should the nation attach itself to Egypt? Would becoming a vassal state of Assyria be more beneficial? Perhaps tying itself to the emerging nation of Babylon would be the right political, economic, and social move. In the end Jeremiah was imprisoned, thrown into a cistern to starve to death, and eventually exiled to Egypt. Jesus’ teaching the truth of creation’s relationship with God ran up against the culture that allowed and encouraged compliance with oppression. The teaching of Jesus that God loves all humanity and that we are to love our neighbors by loving them got him murdered. It has been the teaching of the Christian Community from the beginning that our pride, our self-centeredness, our violence, our hatred of anyone not like us – those sins are connected to the sins of those who chose to eliminate Jesus and his teaching.

These thoughts are about our relationship with others and with the God of creation. For many, religion is about following rules. We judge ourselves more by compliance with laws and regulations than we do with the movements of our hearts. For many this is the easy way. When we break a rule, when we deviate from regulation, when we fail to complete a ritual of devotion – then we judge ourselves to be sinners. The message of the great Prophet Jesus, the truth of his revelation about God, is that we are to be more than followers of the law. We are to be more than faithful practitioners of ritual. We are to be more than obedient to law.

The message of Jesus is twofold. We are to love God with our whole hearts, our whole minds, and our very spirits. And secondly we are to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. This is obedience of the heart. This is following in the way of Jesus. For this we are baptized into the priesthood, the prophet-hood, and the Shepherd Royalty (Kingship) of Jesus. It is for this that God was present to the ancient Hebrews. It is for this that Jesus came. This revelation is meant to help us experience that great gift of life given to us and sustained in us. Jesus tells us he came that we might have life and have it to its very fullness. That is the truth of Jesus the Prophet. That is the truth of our Faith. Anything that is untrue tears at the very fabric of a lived faith in our Creator. Without love, we are nothing.

"If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. …..At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three: but the greatest of these is love."

Thank you St. Paul!

Carol & Dennis Keller & Charlie dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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3.

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TRUE AND FALSE RELIGION: 4TH SUNDAY C

Every now and then a family decides to leave the hustle and bustle of the big city and move to a small town or village in the country. City life has become too busy, too chaotic, too demanding and too impersonal. They go to some place where, they claim, people know one another and care about one another. They are looking for meaning, acceptance and belonging.

What such city people are looking for among country people generally happens, and especially in times of crisis, e.g. when someone’s hurt in an accident, somebody loses a loved one from a sudden heart attack, someone’s house burns down or is washed away in a flood. Such events bring out the best in neighbours. They arrive with kind words, hugs and kisses, and any number of casseroles to tide the family over till they can get back on their feet.

But there can be a down side to everyone knowing everybody else. Some people may become the target of suspicious, gossiping, mean and nasty neighbours. This is certainly what happens to Jesus when he comes back to his own people at Nazareth. At first they welcome him as the local boy made good, the town hero. They are full of praise for what they have heard about him - his good and kind deeds, and his powerful and challenging message.

But one influential group in the town becomes particularly jealous, angry and annoyed with him, the more they hear about him. He’s become too big for his boots, they say, too high and mighty. They begin to sneer: Who does he think he is? No better than anyone else, surely! Just the son of that carpenter, Joseph, that’s what! As ordinary as everybody else around here!

They, and more and more others like them, decide that if he has anything to offer, they, the people of his own home town, should be the first to benefit. Without showing any real faith in him as God’s agent and spokesperson, they begin to demand that he do in Nazareth some of the wonderful things he is said to have been doing elsewhere.

But Jesus says back to them the plain truth, the truth they need for their own good. In the community and kingdom of God that is his mission, there is no place for privilege. What matters most is to have faith, and along with faith, trust and love. God’s love and help begin wherever there is human need for it, as with the starving widow of Zarephath, and with Naaman, covered with leprosy. Both were Gentiles, non-Jews. But they were persons in need, and therefore loved by God like any Jewish person.

At this message of the indiscriminate love of God, the people of his home town are outraged. They turn on Jesus. They throw him out of the synagogue and even try to finish him off by tossing him over a cliff.

Jesus at Nazareth was experiencing the fate of all prophets. But prophecy, being a spokesperson for God, is not about pleasing people. It’s about speaking the truth, sometimes the truth that no one wants to hear, the truth that often gets covered up, and yet the truth that one must hear and heed for one’s own good.

But why did the locals turn on him with such fury? The first reason was because of what he said. But there was a deeper reason. It was because he showed up the ugly parts of their personalities. After all, if you stir up a stagnant pool, a lot of mud comes to the surface.

Sad to say, religion can become misunderstood, twisted and distorted. When that happens, it tends to bring out the worst in people. They become narrow and bigoted, feisty and fanatical, mean and nasty, hateful and hurtful, even to the point of wanting to kill anyone who dares to disagree with them.

True religion, however, and especially that of following Jesus, brings out the best in people. It liberates and humanizes them. It makes them friendlier, more accepting and more forgiving persons. It fosters harmonious relationships and builds community. When this happens, religion is something beautiful.

In true religion there is an essential link between faith and love – doing things for others because of what we believe. We heard St Paul say in our Second Reading: ‘there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love’. But what’s the use in having both faith and hope if we are lacking in love?

The question, then, each of us must ask, and ask here and now is this: What does religion bring out in me? Is it really and truly making me a better person?

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

 

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4.

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Year C: 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Moving to a bigger parish.)

"No prophet is ever accepted in his own country."

When I was about 15, somebody put up a Vocations poster at the back of Church. It showed a picture of the world taken from space – that famous one taken by ??? which gave the whole world the opportunity to – as Robbie Burns put it – ‘Oh that man would gie us, To see ourselves as others see us…’

And it looked just like it says in the song by Bette Midler, - now, now, just calm down, don’t worry, I’m not going to sing – this is not a Penance Service. But the words go like this.

"From a distance the world looks blue and green

And the snow-capped mountains so white

From a distance the ocean meets the stream

And the eagle takes to flight

From a distance there is harmony

And it echoes thru the land

It’s the voice of hope; it’s the voice of peace;

It’s the voice of every one."

That was just exactly how the photograph looked. And the caption underneath ran: "Becoming a priest means moving to a bigger parish".

For some people, that says all you need to know about clericalism – the arrogance of priests in general and Jesuits in particular that they alone are specially called to save the world. And you can look at it that way if you want to. But there is also a more positive way. Because I think that says something that is not just about priesthood, but is about all of Christian life.

Jesus, who we call the Christ, is for everyone: he is not confined to any people or place. He knows that – much more than James Bond ever did – he has a whole world to save - a whole planet to heal. That is why no true prophet is ever accepted in his own country – he no longer has a country. He has accepted his call to a universal loyalty.

That is why, I think, the people are so angry with Jesus – he is showing them that their God is too small. God is not the exclusive possession of any people at any time or any place. He is not just the God of Israel, but He is also the God of Sidon, of Samaria, of the entire world. He is for everyone at any time. And that is why God’s Church is not an exclusive club of people who think the same way, believe mostly the same things and get along with one another (ok, well sometimes). That is a sect and there are quite enough of them about. No, the Church is the presence of Christ in and throughout the world – united all over the world in communion with the Body and Blood of Christ. Our responsibility is to be truly Catholic and Universal – to treasure that communion, to strengthen it and to spread it to those whose thinking remains small-minded and sectarian. Becoming a Christian means moving to a bigger parish.

As the man who took that photograph might have said, "It is a small step for man, but it would be a giant leap for Mankind."

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who opens our hearts and our Lives to His Presence.

Dr 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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