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Contents: Volume 2 - Twenty First Sunday of Ordered time -C- August 25, 2019


 

The

21st

SUNDAY

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Deacon Russ O'Neill

4. --

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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Sun. 21 C

There seems to be a bit of disagreement between the second reading and the Gospel in our readings this Sunday. In the second reading, we see a reference to a reward for accepting the Lord's discipline resulting in a "peaceful fruit of righteousness". In the Gospel story, however, we see great confusion over who might be saved and the words "'I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!' when a reward was expected.

This uncertainty should lead to introspection for each and everyone of us. How might God be evaluating what prompts our thoughts and deeds? Do we bring our possible plans before God before we begin putting them into action or do we check things out along the way or when we run into doubts or trouble? Are things we do "in God's Name" truly in concert with God's priorities or just ours?

God is first and foremost a "people person", concerned with each and every one of us, deeply and individually. Do we conduct our lives and interactions with others, all others, that same way or do we restrict our care and comfort to a select few or group? These are some questions that might just realign us to God's way of thinking...now, before it is too late!

When we recline at table in the kingdom, IF we are among those who will recline, will we recognize those who are with God there as people that we have embraced or ignored? Let not our judgmental selves be surprised at who is there, whether the first or the last, but realize, starting right now and always, that the divine guest list is God's choice, not ours. God has issued an invitation through grace to be part of the kingdom.... will we live out our Baptismal calling to follow God's ways, not ours? Only that road is the one that leads through the narrow gate to the Divine Heavenly Banquet.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Twenty-First Sunday of Ordered Time August 25, 2019

Isaiah 66:18-21; Responsorial Psalm 117; Hebrews 12:5-7 & 11-13; Gospel Acclamation John 14:6; Luke 13:22-30

The first reading is from the third part of the Prophet Isaiah. It is written as the Babylonian Captivity is ending. This is the second of two Great Awakenings of faith for the Jews. The first awakening was the Exodus. That first great event freed the Hebrew from pharaoh. The journey that followed Egypt formed these twelve tribes into a nation of common purpose and common principles. It was an intervention of God the people formed a moral code and a ritual of worship. What made these peoples different from other nations is that their God was not formed by the thinking and experience of the people. God intervened, speaking with Moses on mount Sinai.

The second forming event was the Babylonian Captivity. The religious people and thinkers of Juda grieved that it seemed the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had abandoned them. Throughout the decades of Babylonian enslavement the people searched their history to discover the truth of their calamity. Ordinary folk continued practicing their faith, always looking for their God’s reason for allowing the events that left their lives and hopes in ruin.

Babylon was a time of study, of review, and, most importantly, the time of putting into writing the great myths and legends of their history. In case anyone thinks a "myth" is a fabricated, story created by someone’s imagination, we should understand that a myth is a narrative explaining and revealing the meaning and source of experienced events. For all ancient peoples, those myths contained recognition of divine intervention. It was during this time in Babylon that the first books of the Hebrew Scriptures put into written form. Those 70 plus years of servitude allowed the nation to study itself and its relationship to the God. What had they done badly? As they studied and reviewed their history they came to a greater understanding of God’s relationship with this people. The great kingdom established by David and brought to a brilliant glory under Solomon had deteriorated. The nation had lost its place as the Chosen People because of their idolatry. When they began to worship power and wealth they turned from attending to God’s will.

This narrative from Isaiah this morning must have come as a shock to the Jews. Isaiah challenges the belief and practice of the People of God that they are an exclusive nation. Isaiah’s prophecy reveals to them that they are a conduit of hope and faith to all nations. They are not the exclusive favorites of God that makes all other peoples and nations less than they. The Jews are God’s messengers and truth speakers. All nations will come to them for truth and for the gift of faith. This nation, these people chosen from the time of Abraham are not meant to be an exclusive club, and exclusive race, and exclusive language, or an exclusive worshipper and favored of God. The most exclusive group of Jews, even they the Priests and Levites, would find their ranks inclusive of persons from all nations and tongues and cultures. All were called to become God’s People. God’s mercy and loving kindness are available to all races, all nations, all cultures, and all human experience.

In a very obvious sense we can apply this lesson to our country and to the movements in our time and place. Our nation was founded on the principle that all people, all persons are created equal in dignity and worth. Dignity and worth carries with it clear and absolute rights that cannot be questioned taken away by customs or laws of anyone. Yet, just as in the time of Isaiah, there are many who cling to their exclusivity. The rise of white supremacy and the systemic efforts to rob persons of differing backgrounds or origins is an absolute denial of the "created equal" declaration of the documents on which our nation is founded. It is culturally acceptable to question rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness when someone is different that we are. There is a supreme difficulty for each of us to accept, honor, and welcome those who are different than we are. As Christians, we have need of repentance for the dark places in our hearts that exclude others.

Last week-end on CNN there was an interview of Steve Colbert, the comedian, by Anderson Cooper, a news anchor. During that interview they came to a discussion of grief. Colbert had lost his father and two brothers in a plane crash near Charlotte, N.C. Anderson had lost his father years ago and thirty years earlier a brother to suicide. In addition his mother recently died. Colbert’s response to that pain and grief was a startling statement. "What punishments of God are not gifts?" What a shocking statement. This identifies human sufferings as gifts from God! In the explanation of that statement, Colbert insisted that we lack the ability to love others until we suffer pain. In that suffering our egos are stripped away, our defenses laid bare and we find common ground in our experiences with others. Without that sharing of pain, we isolate ourselves in protective cocoons protecting our little exclusive worlds. Suffering breaks us free of this cocoon and lifts us on wings of caring and compassion.

Let’s carry that thought forward. Jesus became man – not clinging to a cocoon of divinity but coming to God’s creation as one of us. The Son of God was able to live as do all humans. He found joy, happiness, and inclusion. He was a friend, a neighbor, and a tradesman before he began his ministry. He suffered pain and grief as all of us do. As his ministry came to its end, he suffered and became totally immersed in the grief and suffering of all mankind. All suffering and pain from the beginning up to and including the end of human life came to bear on his spirit. Jesus as God in becoming man is opened in an intensely personal way to each of us. We come to him as a being that suffers. We have that in common then with God. Have we ever wondered why we turn instinctively to God when we are in pain, when we feel lost and abandoned?

The second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews expands on this. That author encourages us to "Endure your trails as discipline. God treats you as sons. For what ‘son’ is there whom his father does not discipline? At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain; yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained for it." This discipline extended by the Father is not harshness. It is learning. The word "disciple" is from the same root word as is discipline. We learn from our sufferings how to relate to others. We learn how to love them even when the world’s instinct is to hate them.

From yet another perspective, we discover our avenue to God through work and effort and the patient endurance of bad things and evil minded people. According to social and religious teachers, there are three ways of dealing with evil.

1. We can passively endure, waiting for the pain to cease and the evil ones to go away.

2. We can oppose evil with violence, fighting fire with fire and bringing about destruction of others, ourselves, and creation.

3. Non-violence in which we respond to hatred with compassionate and merciful love. This third approach is contradicted by our basic instincts and condemned by the way of the world. When hated we feel we should hate in return. What strange and weird person would espouse an approach that extends love to those who harm us? That weird person is Jesus. It is no wonder that it takes the Son of God to reveal such a difficult way!

In his ministry, Jesus abhorred passivity. When evil was exposed, Jesus never shied away from it. He named it and worked to overcome that evil. He overcame not with violence but with love for those who brought evil. Even on the cross he asked the Father to forgive those whose evil and self-preservation instincts harmed him. Jesus abhorred violence. "He who lives by the sword will die by the sword." In his ministry Jesus overcame evil by healing, by teaching, by modeling a life of faith in the Father. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed that the evil about to crush him could be taken away – but only if the Father saw another way for Humanity’s salvation. It is most telling that when Jesus came to the upper room on the first Easter Sunday, his first words we are, "Peace be with you." In this room are disciples and apostles who ran away when Jesus was captured and led away to a miscarriage of justice. Even Peter, the one who three times denied that he even knew Jesus, even Peter was there. Who among us would not have been angry: who of us would not have singled out Peter for reprimand? Who of us would have bothered with these fickle men running at the first sign of trouble? Yet, Jesus whispers, gently to this band of ingrates, traitors, and weak disciples, "Peace be with you!"

This leads us to the gospel. The persons who question Jesus about how many would gain entrance into heaven are persons who think they have the strength of will to get to eternal life on their own. It’s all about them as individuals. They are the ones who claim moral correctness. They are the ones who follow the rules, isolating themselves from evil that exists and thrives around them. There is no place in their hearts to suffer with those who suffer. They have failed to love neighbor as they love themselves. Just because they came to the dinners given in honor of Jesus, just because they applauded his words, just because they marveled and spoke about his healing miracles – just because; does not make of them or of us persons who loved God. In our self-sufficiency we push aside other’s pain and ignore their suffering. God does not will pain for us. It is part of us being created as free and self-reflective persons. The narrow gate is one which disciplines us and teaches us how to walk in the fullness of the possibilities given us by our Creator. It is a path that recognizes and appreciates and loves those others who walk with us. When our shields and self-protective armors are broken by suffering, we discover the seat of our faith. That seat is our hearts. The heart that is encased in self-sufficiency and exclusion of others will find no place in the Kingdom of Heaven.

It’s time to understand Jesus and his message for our time and our place. If our gods are power, wealth, fame, and pleasure, there will never be enough of a crack in our defenses to allow God to work in our hearts. When we knock on heaven’s door we can only enter if our hearts are filled with unconditional love. The non-violent way of Jesus is the way of love – even requiring loving our enemies and those who hate us.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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21st Sunday in OT, Cycle C

For the past several weeks, athletes from Lake, Hoover and other schools have been preparing for the fall season. Football players, cross country runners and soccer players have been hard at practice – running, blocking, sweating in the heat. They were dead tired at night, yet they dragged themselves out of bed every morning to start again. This effort takes discipline and dedication, a discipline that some people say is stupid. It’s a discipline that’s not for everyone. But if you’re willing to practice and persevere – to hang in there – you’re on the team. For football, at least, there are no cuts. You can only exclude yourself. And the effort and discipline is worth it when your team wins the meet or the game, or locks up the league championship. And at the end of the season, there’s a banquet, a dinner to celebrate team and individual accomplishments. But if you dropped out, you can’t attend the banquet. The invitation is withdrawn.

Today’s readings address the question of who is on the team and who has decided that God’s glory is not for them. The disciples ask Jesus in the Gospel, "Will only a few be saved? Who will make the holy roster?" Jesus encourages them to stay with the program, to be strong enough and dedicated enough to make it through the narrow gate. Living according to Jesus’ teaching, at times, can be as unattractive and tiring as running, blocking and tackling.

Jesus is the Messiah, the Inviter, the Coach, and while he doesn’t send anyone away, he does require discipline. In the reading from the letter to the Hebrews this morning, we are asked, "What son is there whose father does not discipline him?" For sons and fathers, daughters and mothers, discipline can be painful but later brings joy. How many times have we heard or said, "It might be hard now, but some day you’ll thank me!"

Our faith requires discipline, a discipline that the world laughs at and says is stupid. We see people – young people and some older people – turning away from Church, from faith, from God. It’s just not important enough, not worth the effort; they are not willing to endure the discipline.

In the past few Sunday Gospel readings, Jesus is teaching a kind of discipline that is so demanding as to be discouraging, so radical as to be lonely, so self-sacrificing as to be impossible – Don’t build bigger barns to store all your stuff; be like servants awaiting the master’s return; households will be divided against one another.

How do we translate that into life today? It could be a care giver, who goes through the day to day struggle of taking care of an elderly and ill parent, rather than relying on a nursing home; a student, who must choose whether to study or party – take the immediate pleasure and just get by or go for the far-reaching goal of better grades; a mother who consciously decides daily to do activities with her toddler rather than watch TV; someone who decides to fight the illness of alcoholism or depression by taking it one day at a time; anyone in a job that he or she hates, but goes in and does the job knowing it serves as support for the family.

Discipline is not punishment; it’s training….training to make moral and ethical decisions from the standpoint of faith. It brings us to that narrow door- that still, small place in the heart where one says "yes" or "no" to what one knows is true. It is the one place through which no external force can enter to coerce our choices. Finding the narrow door that leads to the center is not a matter of knowing the right people or reciting the proper formulas. It is, first and last, a matter of being totally honest before self, others and God.

We all want happiness. Winning the game, crossing the finish line, being crowned league champs makes us happy. But the ultimate happiness is salvation – being welcomed into God’s kingdom, being invited to the only end of the season banquet that really counts. Will we be strong enough? Like the athletes, we can find struggles believing and living his ways. Blocking our temptations to give up and tackling the challenges of faith, hope and love take practice and patience. I urge you, especially those of you who are young – don’t exclude yourself from the team; don’t drop out for what the world offers; don’t give up on Church and prayer and faith because it demands discipline. When you call to the Lord, will he know you? If you don’t pray, if you don’t celebrate your faith, if you don’t witness Christ to the world, then He may say, "I don’t know where you are from. I don’t know who you are." And that means you’re not invited to the banquet!

Deacon Russ O'Neill

Diocese of Youngstown

russon2330@sbcglobal.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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