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Contents: Volume 2 - The Thirteenth Sunday - June 30, 2019


 

The

13th

Sunday

 

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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Sunday 13 C

What is it that sets us free and allows us to live with contentment? That was the question that quickly came to my mind as I read this Sunday's readings. In modern times it seems that upheaval is more the norm than an aberration. I think spending some time reflecting on that question might bring forth some answers that could benefit each of us as individuals and our society as a whole.

Right now, this is a profound question for me personally. Upheaval doesn't get close to an adequate description of some things going on in my family's life. Yet I am still supposed to be the "glue" that usually keeps things together.

God does work in mysterious ways. "Wondering" about them seems to fit right in with Jesus's comment in the Gospel about himself not having a place to rest his head. The rest of Jesus's message, as I read it, encourages us to move forward and proclaim the kingdom of God... no matter what.

Jesus's comments strongly suggest that this proclamation in not really an option but rather one of several important directives to follow as a Christian, a follower of Jesus. It seems that maintaining an unwavering focus where the message is the center of one's life is important. Jesus is not an add-on to a busy life just when there is extra time, for instance. Instead, keeping Jesus in mind helps us manage a busy life by connecting each of our activities to his word and promise.

It is the "unwavering" part that I find difficult in super stressful times. Ironically, "unwavering" reminds me of the waves of life and Jesus's words when he calmed the storm at sea not to be afraid in storms. For me, having that familiarity with Scripture helps me to remain more calm. It helps me to recall that Jesus also said "I am with you always".

it seems that for me, knowing, believing in, and recalling Jesus's words sooner rather than later sets me free. They give me a better chance of riding out those inevitable waves of stress and live more contently. Making the time for prayer through the Scriptures simply must be a priority!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Thirteenth Sunday of Ordered Time June 30 2019

1st Kings 19: 16 &19-21; Responsorial Psalm 16; Galatians 5:1 & 13-18; Gospel Acclamation 1st Samuel 3-9 & John 6:68; Luke 9:51-62

At first thought, the readings for the Liturgy of the Word this Sunday seem to focus solely on vocation. Elijah, the greatest prophet of the Northern Kingdom – also known as Israel – chooses a successor. His life’s work is nearly finished and God chooses Elisha as his successor. Elijah will soon be taken away in a fiery chariot described as a wheel within a wheel. Legends grow and insist he will return to announce the Messiah. But in the end the hard work and effort of this prophet seems to have been for nothing. The Northern Kingdom is lost to the Assyrian armies and the people served by Elijah and Elisha is exiled to the four winds. These are the legendary Lost Tribes of Israel. The narrative this Sunday describes Elisha’s response to the call. With twelve yoke of oxen for plowing at his command he certainly was a man of wealth. His response to the call was to ask Elijah for time for goodbyes to family and friends and to dispose of his wealth. Elijah’s response is an insistence it was Elisha’s choice to accept the call of God to prophesize to the people of the nation. Elisha’s response was a whole-hearted response. He eliminated any turning back, his resources given as food for his people.

The Responsorial Psalm is a song of commitment to the Lord as well. The antiphon is "you are my inheritance, O Lord." In our economy we work for an accumulation that will sustain us in our advancing age and as a start for our children. The psalmist looks to God for his refuge, for his delight in living, for hope at the point of death. Certainly when this poetic prayer came from the pen and went to the lips of the psalmist it was already after he or she had experienced life. Things passed quickly and things, and authority, and fame carried no lasting support for the spirit. It is only in God that our hearts find their rest. It is only in union with God that we find permanence and lasting inheritance which we receive first as a gift and then as growth in our living in the light of the Lord.

Paul’s ending to his letter to the Galatians is classic Paul. In his writings – and most certainly in his teaching and preaching – his understandings and knowledge of God’s enduring presence soar in majestic phrases. But his words often require us to study and seek counsel about their meaning. However, in each of his writings, Paul always ends his presentation of theological insight with a practical note. Wonderful concepts, majestic insights, and inspiring words are really nothing if those instructions cannot be lived. In this letter he gives us a path for how the community is to relate to each other. He insists that through the ministry of Jesus we are made free. But that freedom is not a freedom to take, to abuse, to murder, to insult, or demean anyone. That freedom releases us from the way of the world. The follower of the Christ does not live with a dog-eat-dog mantra. No, the Christian is to serve others through love. The freedom Jesus brought us is the freedom from the way of the world, from the way of the flesh. Those who live by the Spirit realize that the flesh – the way of the world – is in conflict with the way of the Christ. Those who cannot discover how to love their neighbor live as though they were biting and devouring others. That is the way of the flesh that seeks only its own benefit. When one loves others, the law is not relevant. The law of the Spirit, the way of the Christ is the way of loving one another. That is our calling.

Our practice of praying for vocation seems to me to be very short sighted. We pray for vocations to priesthood and religious life. Yet most of us are called to a vocation of married life. Many are called to the vocation of single life. All of us are called to service in love of each other. Our prayer can be amended so that each member of our community will live their lives based on the love demonstrated by Jesus, enlivened by the inspiration of the Spirit, and with a permanent foundation in the truth of the Father. All of us are called! All of us are to serve one another. Some have lives that are ordered to worship, continual prayer, and teaching. But all of us are called! The message this Sunday is not for those who choose priesthood, or religious life, or service in third world countries. The message is for each of us.

The gospel begins with a narrative about Jesus setting his face toward Jerusalem where he will undergo his trial, his proof of his love and commitment to the truth of God. The story of the rejection by the Samaritan village is a warning to us. When we set our face to the New Jerusalem, we will experience rejection, the derision of those who wield power for their own benefit, and the suspicion of those who practice the way of the world. We should expect it and not be deterred from our journey to the New Jerusalem, the place where God dwells among his creation.

The narrative unfolds as several come to Jesus vowing their commitment. Jesus warns them and us that the wealth of the world and its security is not always available to those who follow him. The young man invited to follow Jesus says, "Yes, but first let me bury my father." That seems like a simple request. If the father has died, yes, go and bury him, honor his life with a service of memorial. Jesus seems cruel and unfeeling at the loss this young man has experienced. However, all is not as it seems. This young man’s father has not died yet. The young man wants to make sure of his inheritance when the father finally finishes his life. So also with the person who said he would follow Jesus but first wanted to say goodbye. Just how long would those goodbyes take? Once a decision to follow the Christ has been made, there is no looking back.

Again, each person is called to follow Christ. Following the Christ is no solely about priesthood or religious life. Each person is called to follow in the way of the Christ. That service must be based on love of others. Just as God loves us each, so also we must enter a path that is a path of discovery. That discovery is that God is with us. The loving God is found where ever we seek God. This is especially true when we love one another. Each is in the image and likeness of God. And if we love one another, we become aware of the divinity that resides in each other. This takes work, this takes walking on the path Jesus demonstrated for us. This is not about law and commandments. It is about discovering God abiding with us and loving what we discover. We are on a journey. When our eyes are opened to the light brought by the Christ, our lives change. Our growth and development in our relationships with others and ultimately with the Lord transform us. And that transformation allows us to sing, "You are my inheritance, O Lord!"

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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PUTTING GOD FIRST: 13TH SUNDAY C

I was once talking with a man who was tiling a bathroom in the house where I was living at the time. He does a lot of work for Christians and a lot of work for Muslims. He claims that Christians and Muslims have this much in common: 'Some are fully dedicated,' he said, 'some are half-dedicated, some a bit dedicated, and others not the least bit dedicated.' His words remind me of the message of Jesus in the gospel today.

Luke, our story-teller, speaks of Jesus beginning his final journey, his journey to the city of Jerusalem where he will suffer and die, and his journey beyond Jerusalem, when he is destined 'to be taken up to heaven'. Luke tells us that 'Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem...', or, as another translation puts it, '[Jesus] set his face to go to Jerusalem'. Luke is emphasizing the single-minded determination of Jesus, his total dedication to God’s plan for his life. Even though reaching Jerusalem will bring him rejection, betrayal and death, Jesus keeps his focus on full fidelity to his mission.

As Jesus walks along the road with his first disciples, the question comes up concerning how much dedication Jesus expects his followers to have. Is there to be one standard, the highest standard, for Jesus personally, and a lesser standard, an easier standard, for people like you and me? Jesus answers that there is one standard, one standard only, both for him and for us. That standard is total dedication to God, and total dedication to the people to whom God sends us.

What he expects of us comes through his three replies to three would-be followers. One person says to him in a burst of enthusiasm: 'I will follow you wherever you go.' Jesus answers with the plain facts: 'Foxes have their dens, and birds have their nests. But my friends and I have no home.' In other words, you cannot follow me and at the same time live a completely comfortable and hassle-free life.

Jesus says to another person: 'Come and join my company of friends.' The man hesitates: 'I have to go back for my father's funeral. Let me do that first.' This was required by Jewish law and is surely a reasonable request. But Jesus insists: 'There's something more important than a funeral - even your father's funeral. That’s to keep moving and keep telling the good news of God's love and God's ways.'

A third person says: 'I'll come and join your company of friends, sir, but let me first say good-bye to my family.' That too is a reasonable request. But you cannot plough a straight line in the ground unless you keep your focus on what you are doing. So Jesus says to him: 'Nobody who starts plowing and then keeps looking back at the field behind is living in God's way.'

The seeming exaggeration and unreasonableness of Jesus in these situations emphasizes one point. It’s simply this. The greatest love of our life has to be God and the things God wants of us. Ask any religious sister, brother or priest just how many times they have been asked to live somewhere else to do a new and challenging ministry there, and you may be surprised to hear just how many times this has happened. The amazing thing is how happy, peaceful and contented we have been when we burnt our bridges behind us and did what we were asked to do, instead of digging in and doing our own thing.

Of course, there are other loves in our lives besides God, legitimate loves - our homes, e.g., our families, our friends, our work, our hobbies, our sport and our leisure. But in the words that Jesus is using to make his point, he insists that God alone, God's will alone, and God's plans alone, must have first place in our lives. Everything and everyone else must be secondary and subordinate.

Where does this teaching of Jesus leave us? It challenges us to renew our commitment to God and to the people God has given us as our responsibility, and to do so during this Eucharist. We know from experience, perhaps from bitter experience, just how easy it is to make promises and to undertake commitments, but how difficult it is to go on living and working without any turning back or any taking back what we have promised.

I remember the words of the writer Michael Quoist about this: 'Only God is faithful, he says, ‘our fidelity lies in the struggle to be faithful amid all our infidelities.' The teaching and example of Jesus also encourages us not to rely on our own power and strength to live up to our commitments, but to put all our trust in the power and goodness and fidelity of God. While it’s true that Jesus the man 'set his face to go to Jerusalem', he did so only because he was relying on the power and support of God, the power and support which were given him in his prayer to God.

All of us here have taken on big responsibilities to God and to others, whether we are married or single persons, whether we have children or not, whether we are priests or religious. What sort of a line have we been plowing? Has it been straight, or has it been wavy or even going round and round in a circle?

Being baptized followers of Jesus, we are committed people, and so we cannot walk away or run away from our responsibilities and simply become another ‘drop out’ or ‘drop kick’. For, as the saying goes, 'when the going gets tough, the tough get going'. So let me recommend that in our Holy Communion, our close sharing with Jesus about all that concerns him and all that concerns us, we remember that it was through communion with God that Jesus 'set his face to go to Jerusalem'. Words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta are connected to this. ‘God doesn’t ask us to be successful,’ she says, ‘only to be faithful.’

May I also recommend that through our mutual love and support, we encourage one another to be more faithful to our different responsibilities and commitments than we are already? Isn’t that what St Paul is saying in his words to us in our Second Reading: ‘Serve one another in works of love’?

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

 

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June 29th: Feast of St Peter and St Paul (Vigil) (Orat pro Soc).

"You will stretch out your hands and somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go".

Until about five years before his death, Father – I’ll call him Father John - was not the best loved man in the British Province of the Society of Jesus - not by a long chalk. He was respected certainly, admired even, for his zeal, commitment, sheer hard work in every mission to which he was sent, but he was sometimes disliked - even a little feared - for his irritability and short temper.

Then he had a stroke.

It paralyzed the whole of his right side -arm and leg. He lost the power of speech. After two weeks in the hospital, he recovered most of his speech and some of the power in his right arm and leg.

After three months, it was clear that he was going to be permanently disabled. He was barely able to talk, to walk and to look after himself. He would certainly never be able to work again.

He met with the Provincial, the Superior of all of the Jesuits in the country. It was not a happy meeting. He cried for the first time in fifty years. Despite the Provincial’s best efforts, he left the meeting in despair. Having given his life and his life’s work to God and the Society of Jesus, he felt that he had just been dropped, let go, made redundant, made surplus to requirements, returned to sender. And of all he had ever hoped for, he had nothing left. With hindsight, he was prepared to admit that he gave way to bitterness and I can personally testify that he was not an easy man to live with. Never did I see a man more angry with God.

But his lowest moment came when he received the annual Province catalogue - the list published every year of all the Jesuits in the country and their jobs. Against his own name were written the words "Orat pro Soc". It is a Latin abbreviation the sentence "Orat pro Societatem Jesus et Ecclesiam", which translates: "He prays for the Society of Jesus and for the Church". That is something every Jesuit is supposed to do every day, but they only write it against your name when it is the only thing you can do. For the first time in his life Father John wished he was dead.

The next morning, it occurred to him that, never actually having prayed much for the Church and the Society, he wasn’t too sure how to go about it. So he tottered slowly and painfully down to the Chapel, committed his heart to the Lord and thought about the Church and the Society.

Nothing much seemed to happen - which, to be honest, didn’t greatly surprise him. Towards the end of his hour, he found himself being distracted by the thought of how fortunate the community had been in its superior – a man who, he felt, had really spent himself in trying to bring the community together as genuinely a union of hearts and minds in the service of God. And it occurred to him that, through the various busynesses of life, he had never found the time to tell him so. But now, he had nothing but time. So, as soon as his hour of prayer was finished, he set himself to walk down to the superior’s office to set right that tiny wrong.

The next day, his prayer went no better. And he found himself increasingly distracted by thoughts of all the people who had done good things for him and had never been thanked. They seemed to be legion; many of them were no longer alive. So, after his hour’s prayer, he said a special Mass for all of them. And then he went back to his room, lifted his telephone and started making some calls to those who were still able to answer the phone.

In subsequent days, he found himself increasingly distracted by thoughts of the younger men in the Society who, he felt, were doing good work in difficult circumstances – in a Province of declining numbers, in a nation of aggressive secularism. He wondered if anyone ever told them they were doing a good job. He thought, probably not. So he decided that was something he could do.

Anyone who has ever lived in a religious community can finish this story for themselves. Even those blessed with the calm, even, tranquillity of family life (at least that’s what they tell me) might just be able to guess at it. It was not long before Father John became the living, beating, vibrant heart of our community. We became a place where no good deed went unappreciated; no man went unaffirmed; nobody at all could feel that there was no port in a storm. Speaking personally, I invite you to imagine how it makes you feel as a newly ordained priest, that a crippled old man feels the need to climb four flights of stairs to tell you that he thought you said a good Mass today.

So it is true that Father John’s worst fears were realized. He never fully recovered from his stroke. He never was able to work again. He never was able to contribute meaningfully to the material support of his community. What saddened him the most was that he was never able to say a public mass. But, in his last years I never saw a happier man. And, believe me, we miss him now he’s gone. And in his memory, I would like to suggest that the next time any of us feels absolutely useless, valueless, a waste of space, a useless eater, and that the world might be a better place without us - and remember that most have us have such moments – think of Father John. Make your way to the Chapel and pray for the Church and the Society. Ask the Lord if He can use one more faithful servant. And notice how that changes your heart and your life. There are worse jobs that ‘Orat pro Soc’. And that is the fundamental call of every Christian.

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.

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