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Contents: Volume 2 - Sixth Sunday of Ordered Time
February 17, 2019


 

The 6th

SUNDAY

Ordered

Time

 

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. 6 C

If there ever was a Gospel selection that demonstrated the stark difference between the message of the Kingdom and the message of society, today's reading from Luke is it! Jesus tells the disciples and us to " rejoice and leap for joy" if they/we are poor, hungry, weeping, hated and insulted. They/We are warned by the jolting "woe to you" if they/we are rich and living well, laughing, and if others speak well of them/us.

How are we, we who are also told to be joyful and truthful and share our goods with those in need along with the Good News, to understand these words? Most of us find comfort in the "blessed" messages especially in times of sadness, doubt, and discouragement. Perhaps we even feel that we should ignore the other part, but it really won't help us to grow spiritually if we just discard Jesus's words when we don't like them!

I think most of us partake of both kinds of feelings and treatment by others. Life and ministry both have ups and downs. Comforting words enable us to keep going; challenging words help us not to get 'stuck' in complacency or self-glory when things go well.

Above all else, Jesus the Man was a realist. Jesus, the God Man, was all -knowing. For me, Jesus's seemingly conflicting statements pointedly give us a fuller picture of life and ministry's actualities. Jesus knew people would acclaim him but then ultimately crucify him, based on his words and actions. Perhaps he was preparing the disciples for the same inconsistent treatment... and us, too.

Jesus's words remind me how important self-reflection is. While I may know how I am feeling, perhaps the reason needs to be re-examined. Where is my focus, on me or on sharing the Good News? Are Jesus's words purely about life's physical things or do they reach deeper in meaning to spiritual things?

I'm not quite sure that I am able to "leap for joy" in dire circumstances, but I do feel quietly blessed because of Jesus's presence. I also find it hard to cringe when I am laughing, but I can tone it down and be aware of those who are in less fortunate circumstances. Jesus's words are often confusing... but Jesus is always there to continue to talk them over with us.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Sixth Sunday of Ordered Time February 17, 2019

Jeremiah 17:5-8; Responsorial Psalm 1: 1st Corinthians 15:12 & 16-20; Gospel Acclamation Luke 6:23; Luke 6:17 & 20-26

The Declaration of Independence contains a shocking statement – often glossed over when we think about our relationships with others.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that are among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."

It’s interesting that we are not guaranteed happiness but only the right to pursue happiness. A question arises from lived experience, especially as we reach middle age. Just what is this elusive thing called happiness? What has the power, the energy, and the substance to make me happy? So often we find a nagging question that echoes the Peggy Lee song, "Is that all there is?"

Jeremiah in our first reading tells us happiness certainly doesn’t come from trusting human beings. He might add to that trusting in systems, in institutions, in wealth, in power, and certainly in fame are futile exercises in the pursuit of happiness. Systems fail and the security we thought to achieve through them and the institutions created to maintain them are an illusion. If we look at the three of four thousand year history of the Middle East, the place of what we’ve come to call the "Holy Land", we are appalled at the horrible violence and suffering of those people. It is from those people that we have our inheritance in faith. What is wrong with our living out of that faith tradition that derived from Abraham? Why have we managed to take that message of God’s presence and loving kindness toward us and turn it into a terror filled global threat to the safety and peace of humanity. It is the little ones, the children, the babes in the arms of their mothers who suffer most. It seems as though what is wrong with faith has spread throughout the known world. We separate children from their parents and forget to keep track of where parents are and where the children are. Their fate is covered over with diatribe and invective about security. Persons fleeing a miserable life threatened by violence, lack of opportunity, lack of education, lack of health care are treated like cattle. That all seems to come from what Jeremiah is speaking about this morning. It comes from trusting in human beings. How does any of this trusting make us happy? The truth of the matter is that it doesn’t. It makes us frightened: it makes us isolated: it makes us think that lies are truth: it makes us small in our hearts. When our hearts are captivated and seduced by the way of the world, we lose the content and strength of our faith in a compassionate and loving God. It seems that God, our understanding of God as a loving father, disappears in the smoke of battle. That God is glossed over by layers of gold and silver and the pursuit of wealth robs our hearts of compassion and love. When we lose compassion and love from our hearts we effectively lose the presence of God here and now.

In this context, Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians makes a lot of sense. He focuses on the revelation that is Jesus ministry and his commitment to the law of love. His death was a testimony to the insistence of God that he loves each person with unconditional love. Nationalism, wealth, power, fame have no mitigating effect on God’s love for each of his creatures or for any of his creation. The proof of this is that Jesus was raised from the tomb. That Resurrection is proof positive of God’s commitment to his people. That is the proof positive that evil will not ultimately triumph over the goodness of creation. Evil is anything that does harm to any of God’s creation. Those who suffer for the truth of God’s love will be raised. Paul never implies that suffering is something good. Those who endure and persist in their faith in the love of God may be crushed by the efforts of those who embrace the way of the world. But ultimately all who live the faith in the revelation that is the person and the work and teaching and experience of Jesus the Christ will be raised into a new and more complete life.

The reading from Luke this week-end is one of Luke’s famous twists. Last week we saw ordinary fishermen changed into fishers of men. This week we hear the four beatitudes as Luke presents them. These blessings are extended to the poor, the hungry, those who weep, to those who are despises. Luke has Jesus preach this good news on a flat plain – not on some high mountain as Matthew presents his eight beatitudes. It is as though Luke wants everyone to know this is the ordinary way of blessedness. This is no exalted mountain top. Matthew wants to present the beatitudes as the New Law. Luke focuses attention on the ordinary – those who are poor, those who lack food, those who mourn because of their love and compassion, those who are hated, scapegoated as the cause of society’s problems.

Most likely the majority of those who hear this message of Jesus have experienced one or other of these blessings. Most experience some sense of poverty at some point in our living. Most of us go without food because of lack of resources or because we give what we have to others. All of us experience the loss of loved ones or suffer from the attacks of others on our goodness, on our integrity, on our reputation, on our intentions, or on the lives of the ones we love. Even the very wealthy, the very powerful, and the very famous experience hatred. Typically that hatred is because of their wealth or power or fame. It is not because we follow in the footsteps of the carpenter, that Son of God/Son of Man.

The truth of the matter is that there is goodness in the world. There is also evil that attacks what is of goodness. What is most clear is that unless we have the faith and practice that faith we will become vulnerable to the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune at the hands of evil selfishness. Our faith insists that we are loved by our Creator. We are meant to be free of what hurts us. In our faith we are indeed free of what can harm what we are. Even though our legitimate wealth, power, and fame can be stolen from us, our faith tells us we are more than what we possess or what power we wield or the fame that puts us above others. That faith tells us we are loved. And in that love we practice love of others, of creation, and even of ourselves. As Paul insists, "So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Matthew in his Sermon on the Mount when Jesus teaches the eight beatitudes does not include the four "woes" that Luke includes. In Matthew’s beatitudes, the evangelist lists the behaviors necessary for a good life. Luke’s vision is more that those who suffer in this life will have their condition reversed in the life to come. The "woes" refer then to those who fail to live the faith in God’s compassion and loving kindness. They fail in that they fail to love as God loves.

These are easy words to write, to speak. But the living out of these beatitudes is not so easy. We live in a secular culture which has extreme strong attractions for us. The good life is not something we look forward to after a life of effort and growth into the Love of God. We want it now and we see and experience others who seem to have it now. If we check our love of God and of our neighbor at the door of the church after liturgy, we lead a life that is inherently contradictory. What we learn of God from our liturgies and from our living in community we must apply to our secular living. The practice of that is a life-time project and one that takes effort to see with the eyes of faith.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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7th Sunday in ordinary time

(2007)

A few years ago, when I was teaching a Scripture course at Walsh University, we were studying the Gospels one night and read this passage from the Sermon on the Mount. After the person reading the passage finished, a middle-age lady shouted, "That’s stupid!" And I said, "Well, I’m not the one who said it . . . Jesus is." I think many people today will have a similar reaction to what Jesus says, even if they don’t shout it out – bless those who curse you, turn the other cheek, give to everyone who asks of you, love your enemies. Jesus knew that many would consider his words too challenging – or even stupid. That’s why he begins. "to you who hear, I say…" We claim that we have heard, and so Jesus reminds us of the deeper challenge beyond the Beatitudes that we heard last week. Jesus lays out the concrete conduct that establishes the kingdom, and it truly is extraordinary and challenging in its demands.

But it can be done! John Christian is a black Baptist minister in Columbus. A few years ago, he and one of his foster children were driving home on Interstate 70, when a 16-year old boy threw a cannonball-sized rock off an overpass. It shattered Rev. Christian’s window, broke nearly every bone in his face and blinded him. He has had at least a dozen surgeries and has countless more to go as doctors rebuild his face. He uses a cane to walk. Doctors have reconstructed his nose and forehead, reset his jaw several times and removed one of his eyes. I was caught up in this story when I read in a newspaper article how Rev. Christian has forgiven Jacob, the teenager. He said he had no choice but to forgive the teen, who pleaded guilty and his serving a prison term, because he is like many of the 30 troubled foster children that Rev. Christian has cared for – a good person who made a bad decision. "If my own children don’t see me forgive this kid, then how can they forgive?" he said. Some would say of Rev. Christian’s response, "That’s stupid!"

A few years ago in St. Louis, a young college girl who had her whole life ahead of her was murdered. We can only imagine the shock, the pain, the anguish of her family at the news of the tragic death of their loved one. The man who committed the murder was caught, tried and found guilty. The parents of the murdered girl forgave the man and pleaded with the judge that he not receive the death penalty. I’m sure many people thought, "Boy, that’s stupid."

Then there’s the story of the lady in downtown Cleveland whose coat and gloves were stolen from a restaurant. When the thief was caught, the woman refused to press charges. "I have other coats," she said, "and she must really need this one."

Finally, a mother overheard her daughter and a few friends concocting a scheme of revenge against another girl who apparently had done something mean to them. She took the girls aside and said, "It seems to me that you are doing to her exactly what you do not want her doing to you. That is not the Golden Rule as Jesus taught us, is it?" "Well," replied one of the girls, ‘the Golden Rule is OK for Sundays, but for every other day I prefer to have an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Not exactly what Jesus taught!

And this is the way the world looks at things. It makes sense to most people to take revenge on their perceived enemies and to love only those who love them. Jesus calls us to a much higher standard. We are to live in such a way that our lives would make no sense at all, if God did not exist. That, my friends, is a real challenge. To live a ‘normal’ life, all we have to do are the things that the world does. We, however, are personally called by Jesus, not to live ‘normal’ lives, but to live ‘supernormal’ lives – lives that the world cannot understand. The words of Jesus cannot become mere slogans that we put on the bumpers of our cars or have framed to hang on the walls of our homes. Jesus prefers that we speak and live his words in our everyday lives. His message may be hard, it may sound stupid, but if Jesus is indeed the Lord, the Son of God, then he must be right!

When Martin Luther King Jr.’s house was burned down by a group of white men, his friends wanted to get guns and gasoline and go set fire to the homes of the white people. One of the things that Martin Luther King told the crowd that night as he calmed them down was this: "When you live by the rule ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ you end up with a nation of blind and toothless people."

The Christian is called to bring an experience of God to the world. The Christian is called to proclaim salvation. The Christian is called to proclaim Jesus Christ. You and I are called to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, to do good to those who mistreat us, to give to everyone who asks of us, to lend money without expecting repayment. This is what Jesus says "to you who hear." And don’t be surprised if, when you live this, other people say, "That’s stupid!"

Deacon Russ O'Neill <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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Volume II Archive

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