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Contents: Volume 2 - Eighth Sunday of Ordered Time
March 3, 2019


 

The 8th

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. 8 C

Both the reading from the Book of Sirach and the Gospel selection according to Luke place great importance on human speech. We are told that how a person speaks during a tribulation is a test of that person and gives others insight into "the bent of one's mind". There is also much truth in the words "from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks."

It seems rather ironic that one of the greatest gifts we have as humans, the gift of speech, is the one that often gets us into the most trouble! I am sure that there is no person alive who has said something without thinking that he/she wishes could be taken back or rephrased better if said in anger. What one says is something like toothpaste though... you just can't squeeze it back into the tube even though you might try to spin it in a million ways.

Surely we have been hurt by an other's words and have probably hurt others as well by ours. Often it is the words themselves. It is often the tone of the words, too.

In addition to a focus on more Christian-like speech in general, we are also cautioned about hypocrisy. People often miss or ignore their own faults while easily seeing and pointing out those of others, even similar ones. How true!

So, now what? What can each of us do to correct these two related problems? A better awareness of our common human tendencies will help build understanding and a willingness to stop the too quick flow of our own words would go a long way toward more peaceful conversations.

I think a really great place to start is close to home, with yourself and those with whom you live or have the most contact. Play back some recent conversations in your mind. Would you have talked to Jesus that way?

When I wrote the previous sentence, I immediately thought of Mary. How did she ever hold her tongue/choose her words carefully and raise Jesus who obviously thought outside the proverbial box!!!! The answer has to be prayer and letting grace take over whatever the task might be.

I am a woman, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and a parishioner in addition to being a writer. I have plenty of opportunities to practice what I just preached, not just as a writer in my choice of words etc. but before and during my daily interactions. Can you make more space in your life to let such prayer and grace take over whatever your task might be?

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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Eighth Sunday of Ordered Time March 3 2019

Sirach 27:4-7; Responsorial Psalm 92; 1st Corinthians 15:54-58: Gospel Acclamation Philippians 2:15-16; Luke 6:39-45

So what is the measure of a man, of a woman, of a child? What is the measure of a community, of a nation? What is the measure of a church? What are the characteristics by which we judge others, institutions, communities, or religious groups? How do we choose to follow examples? How do we declare for ourselves saints or sinners? Isn’t that what faith is about? The easy answer is this: "By their fruits will you know them."

If we were attentive to our teachers during lessons on ancient, medieval, and contemporary history we would have discovered that religion is used as a tool to develop and maintain power. In the early centuries of the Christian era, martyrdom was the lot of those persons who denied divinity to emperors. As Constantine sought to claim authority over both the eastern and western regions of the Roman Empire he claimed Christianity as the official religion of his empire and thus the unifying power for his empire. It was he who presided over the first Councils of the Church. It wasn’t his religious fervor that made him call those councils but his need for a united empire. He knew that dissent in the Church would weaken the unity of his empire.

For centuries after Constantine the Church and the State were closely aligned. Wars were fought between the Papacy and Civil governments for control. In the age of Enlightenment toward the end of the eighteenth century, there was movement to separate church and state. The church reluctantly accepted that separation though it continued to fight against that concept even in the first quarter of the twentieth century.

But what has this to do with the Scriptures for this eighth Sunday of ordinary time? Why bring in secular history? Very often we stray from the lessons of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. We’ve compartmentalize our faith and our secular lives into portions of the week. Sundays are for the Lord. Monday through Friday is for mammon. Saturdays are toss up days that can go either way depending on whether there are weddings or baptisms or religious instructions for the kids. It’s as though we’ve become split personalities. The urgencies of survival in a dog-eat-dog world block out and minimize what we hear and practice on the Lord’s Day.

That is what Sirach teaches us in the very short first reading this Sunday. The measure of a person has to do with the character of a person. This is a matter of the heart. It is a matter of what’s important to us. It is where we believe is right and just. It is the foundation of our relationships with ourselves, with family, with neighbors, with enemies, with other nations, other races, other genders. To summarize, it is how we relate to all that has come from God. This includes every person, every living being, every molecule, and even all of history. The heart is the center of relationships. Last week Jesus instructed us: "love even your enemies, even those who do harm to you."

The words that come from one’s mouth reveal to ourselves and to others the depth and focus of our characters. The Sunday actions of a person are exposed as empty husks, the left-overs of a threshing floor when push-comes-to-shove when we fall into the ways of the world. In the rough and tumble events of the survival part of our week, our character is exposed for what it is. Sirach tells us that faith challenged reveals what we are. What comes out when we are tested in the events of our secular life is the fruit of our tree. Good, luscious, delightful fruit comes to the tree when it has been cared for, nourished, and is well rooted in truth and reality.

The events of our time are evidence of this. When political leadership shouts and claims a pro-life stance for the unborn we expect those leaders to cherish and support all life. Yet in practice when it comes to children already born they reveal the lie of their political stance when they steal children already born from the protection, the care, and the love of parents. Their attempt to impose their thoughts on immigration policy exposes the truth of their pro-life stance. The test of their characters is more than a political wedge. It exposes their true intentions based on an idolatry of their own poorly formed moral character. For those of us who endorse actively or by our silence these horrors toward the gift of life expose the depth of our characters as well.

The same hypocrisy applies to our Church. That hypocrisy is exposed by the evil abuse of children by clergy and the tacit approval of such behavior by hierarchy. The emptiness of such faith calls to question their words and their works. The result among the faithful is turmoil and lack of trust in leadership. By their works you will know them.

In the selection from Luke this Sunday, Jesus tells us that faith is not a mere matter of speaking. Our actions and our words spring from our characters. We cannot presume to discover the faults in others if our basis for judging blinds us to the truth. The beam in our eyes prevents us from accepting the truth. The true measure of a man, of a woman, of a child is what is within their hearts. Character, the movements of our hearts, is formed continually from the moment of our birth to the very moment of death.

Religion and faith for the immature is about being found without sin at the moment of death. Religion becomes for the immature a way of avoiding perpetual pain and suffering for the evil within our hearts. True faith always has its home in the heart. The person who calculates only how to impress and manipulate others is an empty husk. They are the chaff that is worth only to be burnt as waste is burnt after the threshing. Faith is tested as gold and silver are tested in the furnace of daily activity. Pure gold and pure silver results from the testing. Trees planted in the hope of the fruit they are expected to bear are valued when their fruit appears and is harvested. So also the measure of persons’ characters are revealed in the daily test of their words and works.

God provides all humanity with the incomprehensible gift of life. It is as though that gift is a seed from which grows a plant. Whether that plant is a gift to the world or only a weed depends on the care that seed exercises as it grows. Does that plant absorb the nutrients, the water, and the sunlight of its environment? If so it belongs; it has value; it demonstrates its magnificence.

Christianity uses the word "holy" to describe those persons who are exemplars of faith. Often the image of holiness is a picture of a person with folded hands and a halo around their heads, isolated, alone, with only a relationship to an unseen transcendent being. Yet even a cursory study of the Scriptures, the source of God’s revelation to us, teaches that holiness is not about me. Holiness is about relationships with myself, with my fellow humanity, with the world in which I live, and ultimately with my relationship with God. Holiness is completeness. The gift of time allows us to strive to become complete. We should work to become a full person in our relationships. The more complete we become in ourselves, the more assured we are that God gives us help and nourishment. We begin to see ourselves not as competitors with others for power, wealth, or fame. We come to see ourselves as images and likenesses of God. And in that vision we see others and creation itself in the same light. All that is good reveals the goodness and magnificence of God. All that is evil demonstrates the destructiveness of lies, theft, and murders. As we begin to understand the people, the things, and the events of our lives as filled with God’s presence we grow toward completion of the gifted seed of life. Death then is not the end. It is harvest time when who we’ve become experiences God with the fullness of character we’ve become with God’s help.

The Gospel acclamation of our assembly during the procession of the Gospel Book is helpful. After the Alleluia, the Cantor proclaims, "Shine like lights in the world as you hold on to the Word of Life". The Word of Life repeated to us each and every Sunday is quite simple. God loves us unconditionally and is constantly looking down the road of our past, our present, and our future to satisfy his heart. He looks to find us coming home to his unfettered love. When we hold onto this truth, our living has meaning and permanence. This is no overly sweet, empty love. It is God loving us in the moments of time during which we grow or decay the gift of life. God is there tending the our tree of life so that the gift of life bears much good fruit. We are permanent and necessary elements to the building of the Kingdom of God.

May it be so!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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HELPFUL OR HARMFUL WORDS: SUNDAY 8 C

A little boy was saying his bed-time prayers in a very soft voice. 'I can't hear you dear', his mother whispered. Back came his firm reply: 'Wasn't talking to you.' One day the philosopher, Aesop, was asked what is the most useful thing in the world. 'The tongue,' the philosopher replied. 'And what,' they asked, 'is the most harmful thing in the world?' 'The tongue,' he answered once more. A famous duchess once confessed to St Philip Neri in Rome the sin of gossiping. He told her to go home, get a feather pillow, and come back to the steps of the church. When he met her there, he handed her a small knife and asked her to rip open the pillow. As she did, she watched the loose feathers dance round and round the church square and along the adjoining lanes. ‘Now go and pick up all those feathers,’ Philip said. ‘I can’t possibly find and collect them all,’ she replied. So Philip made his point: ‘You have no idea either where your words go, and you can never unsay them.’

I think we would all agree that God's gift of speech, when it is used well - to build up others but not to put them down - is enormously useful. It encourages others, it develops friendships, it promotes sharing and community, and it brings joy. On the other hand, when our words are angry, bitter, sneering, cynical, sarcastic, spiteful, contemptuous and abusive, they can wreck the self-confidence of others, foment hatred and hostility, and even contribute to wrecking a marriage or career.

No wonder then the Wise One states in our First Reading today, 'the test of a person is in conversation'. Jesus too was well aware of the capacity of speech to do good or to do harm. So he has a particularly strong message for any of us with a tendency towards 'foot in mouth disease'.

Before we blurt out anything, Jesus wants us to be careful about how we think and feel about others and how we judge them. So, what a cheek we have if, with our eyes blind to our own faults, acting like big logs in our line of vision, we find fault with our neighbour, whose faults, by comparison, may be like mere specks in the eye! How dare we then proceed to correct them! What hypocrisy!

Many of us find ourselves called to be leaders and guides. We may, e.g. be parents, teachers, and employers, and it’s our job and responsibility to set and uphold standards, and to communicate both expectations and limits. But as the saying goes, 'it's not what you say, but the way that you say it', that makes all the difference. When persons receiving our guidance know that we are speaking to them with tact, kindness and generosity, when they see that we are practising what we preach, when they see us as good, genuine and consistent, and when they know that we are for them, not against them, then great progress can be made in leader-follower relationships.

On the other hand, the kind of responsibility for others that is expressed as ‘don't do as I do, do as I say', which we frequently hear in arguments and rows on TV between parents and teenagers, gets nowhere.

Much of what Jesus is saying about this can be summed up in his wise words: 'Out of the goodness of the heart, a good person produces good, and out of a malicious heart, an evil person produces evil, for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.' We cannot afford to contract that kind of ‘heart disease’, those ways of thinking, feeling and living that leave us with hard hearts and cruel speech to or about other people.

On the other hand, Jesus has not taught that there is never a place for criticism, challenge, confrontation, and correction among his followers. Just that we have the responsibility to be very careful about what we say about others, and how we criticize and condemn them! Building and sharing a ‘dirt file’ on others and mangling their reputation can, in fact, be very harmful, evil and sinful.

It's appropriate, then, that we give our hearts a regular check-up. I recommend that at the end of each day, we run a little performance review on ourselves. 'How did I go today?, we might ask ourselves. 'Whom did I meet today? What did I say to her? What did I say to him? Was I helpful or hurtful? Was I friend or foe? We might then round off our reflection (what used to be called an 'examination of conscience') with a prayer. For any inappropriate words, a plea for mercy and forgiveness! For all the good things we said, a prayer of thanksgiving!

"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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