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Contents: Volume 2 - Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A –
July 9, 2017


 

14th

Sunday in

Ordinary

Time

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Barbara Cooper, OP

3. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

4. -- Brian Gleeson CP

5. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

6. – (Your reflection can be here!)

 

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1.

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Sun. 14 A

I don't think I know anyone or of anyone who, down deep, would not like to hear the words of Jesus in today's Gospel! Jesus says: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest." What does it mean to come to Jesus though?

We have heard of a "come to Jesus" moment, so perhaps that will give us a beginning point. A "come to Jesus" moment is a time of stark reality. To use political jargon, that means no "alternative facts", no "fake news", no disguises, no cover-ups, just the truth, the entire truth about ourselves.

I think it is a time of absolute honesty with Jesus, especially about our fears, our insecurities, and yes, our complaints. We are all burdened by something and that something greatly influences our life. Whatever is it that weighs us down the most... that is what Jesus is asking each of us to bring to him.

Jesus tells us that he will exchange our heavy burdens for his easy yoke and light burden. Wow, that sounds like a pretty good deal to me!! Why then, are not we all rushing to Jesus, waiting patiently in a long line of joyful Christians talking excitedly about this new, free exchange program that is offered... and guaranteed... by Jesus Himself?!!

I sure wish I knew the answer! Do we think it is too good to be true, perhaps? Maybe so. Maybe we think that slugging through the mud of life seems the way it is "supposed to be", grasping a bit of happiness only just here and there.

Jesus's words here and elsewhere state that he doesn't think so, however, and Jesus knows far more than we do. I think the point that I must be missing (and perhaps, you, too) is the part about a willingness to learn from Jesus and to become meek and humble. If I examine how I approach, view, or adjust to my "burden" to make it bearable , it often doesn't line up very well with being meek and humble or learning what Jesus wants me to learn from the problem.

Since Jesus is far stronger and far everything more positive than I am, being yoked to him gives Jesus the lead and lets hm carry the heaviest part of the burden. Am I willing to do that? Maybe so, but I really do not know how! If I truly want rest (and I do) as well as an easier and lighter burden, then I have to learn how to do this yoking thing from Jesus... continually.

There, perhaps, is the answer... a daily, hourly, or moment by moment commitment to listen to and follow Jesus's lead. Looking through Jesus's eyes and receiving his strength by being yoked together, whatever the burden may be, will automatically make it lighter. It is only through Jesus's way, however, not mine. I still have a lot to learn.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – July 9,2017

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,

and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,

for I am gentle and humble of heart;

and you will find rest for yourselves.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."

These are some of the most comforting and strengthening words for me. Jesus doesn't say: "Chin Up" or "Soldier on". Even more important he doesn't say we are burdened or in pain as divine punishment for our sins.

He says: "Come to me."

He says: "Learn from me."

He says: "Take up my yoke, my way.

What is it that burdens me? Causes me distress and anxiety?

Can I sit down with Jesus and listen for his word to me?

Can I embrace his teaching and allow his Spirit to find a home in me?

Will I bind myself to him in one yoke of labour for God's Kingdom of peace and justice?

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,

and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,

for I am gentle and humble of heart;

and you will find rest for yourselves.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."

Barbara Cooper, OP

Vancouver Island, BC Canada

bcoop60@yahoo.com

 

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Fourteenth Sunday of Ordered Time, July 9, 2017

Zechariah 9:9-10; Responsorial Psalm 145; Romans 8:9 & 11-13; Matthew 11:26-30

There doesn’t appear to be any connection this Sunday between the readings from Zechariah and from Matthew’s Gospel.

The prophetic book of Zechariah has two distinct sections; the first part being written in the early years after the Jews’ return to Jerusalem after being released from slavery in Babylon. That first part is a call to conversion, to a change of heart. Then, beginning with chapter nine, the second part was written around the time of Alexander the Great’s victories.

This second part focuses on the promised Messiah believed to establish a new kingdom. This Zechariah speaks of two "burdens" the people must carry as they are God’s instrument in establishing a renewed kingdom. The people must be completely purified if they are to participate in this work of the renewed Kingdom. In enduring these crushing "burdens" the people will rise to an enhanced awareness of God present to them. The "burdens" have the effect of bringing the people closer to God. These burdens are not only endured by the Jewish community, the ordinary people, but are also experienced by one identified as the "Good Shepherd" or, in another place, as the "transpierced one". These are titles we give to Jesus when we name him the "Good Shepherd" or when we gaze upon him "pierced through" on the cross. The nation will have a share in this one’s victory and his holiness by their bond of suffering with him. That bond is a sharing of the burdens.

Recall the words of our first reading this Sunday: "See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass." This description of the Messiah – the Good Shepherd, the transpierced one – entering the city of Jerusalem sounds very much like Jesus entering Jerusalem prior to his crucifixion and resurrection. The same words are used in the Gospel in our celebration of Palm Sunday, even though Zechariah wrote these words more than three hundred years earlier. This is not a conquering warrior. He comes into the city riding on a colt, an untamed foal of an ass. This is no charging warhorse, this is not a conqueror. His victorious entry into the city is more akin to the character of a shepherd than it is a Messiah King. He brings peace and harmony to the nation. But his dominion is over all the earth.

We stumble over the word dominion, thinking it means ‘ruling with an iron fist’. If we recall the Genesis story, we’ll remember the Creator gives humanity dominion over all that lives; plants, trees, and animals as well as the rocks, seas, rivers, plains and deserts. This dominion is not forced compliance to a set of laws; nor is it compliance to any self-serving national or individual agenda; nor is it commitment to accumulation of wealth; nor does it depend on autocratic power. This dominion is an ordering of nature and humanity for the safety and flourishing of every-thing and every-one. Each has a place; all things, all organic life, all life, all persons are individually included. Every person is engaged in this dynamic ecology, sharing a life of peace and growth that supports the good and flourishing of every individual. How do we apply this to our life? Is there anyone who would turn their back on such a way of life? What could ever motivate us to deny such a way of living? Yes, why do we?

How does this lead to and understanding this Sunday’s Gospel? To understand we must read and think about Matthew’s Chapter eleven not in pieces but as a whole. The chapter begins speaking about John the Baptist. John is concerned his message and Jesus’ message are different. John has been preaching repentance because "the kingdom of heaven is at hand". His preaching is based on his belief that the end of creation is at hand. Perhaps today, perhaps tomorrow, God will finish his work and only those who believe and practice the ancient faith in God will have a place in that kingdom. All others will be lost.

John sends his disciples to Jesus because he believes Jesus is the promised Messiah. He came to this belief when he baptized Jesus and heard God speaking. We can imagine that John preached with even greater intensity after baptizing Jesus, hearing the voice and knowing the Messiah had come! John clearly believed there would be a final conflict, a tremendous battle and the Messiah would be victorious. And that battle was soon!

But Jesus didn’t preach about the conflict, the Armageddon that would decide the good and condemn the evil. John’s disciples were sent to ask Jesus to testify. "Are you the Christ, the Messiah, or not?" If you are, why are you not preaching the end of the world? Where is the threat of violence? Why are you preaching love of neighbor? Why are you forgiving sins and mingling with tax collectors, sinners, and evil persons? Why are you going about healing, exorcising evil spirits, raising the dead? Are you the Messiah, or are we to look for another?

Jesus’ answer to John’s disciples was to testify to the signs they witnesses. Jesus quotes the prophets about the sick being healed, the lame walking, lepers cleansed, and the poor hearing the Good News preached to them. This was not how John thought of the Messiah. His was a warrior defeating evil in the world and executing evil doers. Perhaps there are some among us who would criticize John for mistaking the nature of the Messiah. Before we do that we should ask ourselves: "Who is our Messiah? In whom do we put our trust for safety, health, and prosperity?"

As John’s disciples leave to report to John, Jesus speaks to the crowds of John. He dressed as a prophet and preaches not about himself but about the coming Messiah. John is the return of Elijah foretold by the prophet Micah, meant to signal the Messiah had arrived. But this message is rejected with violence by those of the Way of the World. These are the violent ones, scheming and making war on those who hear God’s Word proclaimed in John’s message and Jesus’ healing, exorcisms, and his message. If we think about this we ask ourselves: "Who do I follow and believe in? Does violence, exclusion, and suppression of others the way I believe things will get better? Who do I follow?"

As we continue in this chapter of Matthew, Jesus speaks about the attitude of the people about God’s messengers. "It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another: ‘We played the flute for you but you did not dance; we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.’ Jesus compares attitudes about the Messiah to children who quickly lose interest in games of other children. They criticize John’s ascetic live style and condemn Jesus’ eating and drinking and associating with sinners and tax-collectors. Jesus says; "there’s no pleasing you who don’t want to hear the message." Jesus compares the fate of those whose petty criticisms deny subsistence to John’s and Jesus’ preaching to the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. Those towns would have repented had they seen the signs that Jesus worked in Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida.

At last we come to our Gospel reading this Sunday. Jesus prays to the Father. The prayer is a prayer of thanksgiving for those who have heard his word and see his miracles as signs. He calls them the little ones, the ones who are open to God’s Word and God’s Work revealed by the prophets and the law. The little ones are those who are have not filled their lives with opinions and attitudes that create gods of the goals of the world. These are those who are able to discover the Messiah walking among them. These are those who are not taken in by the power and violence of leaders and influential persons. These are those who do not look to the Messiah as a war-lord; these do not rely on power, wealth, influence and manipulations for their meaning and purpose.

While John the Baptist was looking for an end of all creation in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus preached and performed signs that pointed to a renewed creation. While John preached the end of the world, Jesus preached about a new beginning. In Jesus we find the fulfillment of the prophecies of Zechariah. The burdens to be carried by those who belong to Yahweh are carried by this Messiah. He is not one to eliminate the burdens but to give meaning and purpose to carrying those burdens.

So, is our Messiah the one who will violently overcome the evil in the world? Will our Messiah be one who consolidates political, economic, cultural, and psychological power and energy in one form of governance or cultural system? If so, we tend to look for strong men and women who are prone to violence and to fomenting discord and division. Will our Messiah remove our burdens, our pains, our sufferings that come from living each day in an incomplete world, in a world that includes evil persons? If so, do we become weak, cared for individuals without spine, without choice, without great and challenging tasks? Does human life then not lack purpose and meaning? Will our Messiah makes us all one by uniformity and blind following of regulations and rules? Perhaps our 8 year old grandson has the answer to this. "We are all the same, because we are all different!"

If we return to Genesis, we learn EACH is created in the Image and Likeness of God. If this is a core belief and understanding of our faith, then each person is a revelation of God and who God is and what God does. The Messiah’s preaching and ministry is a continual focus on including all in Community – if you will, a Kingdom – of diversity that follows a Messiah who experiences the burdens of being God’s creation. We are called together – in Hebrew a "quahal", in English a "Church" – where the operative force is NOT violence and exclusion and division. The operative force of our Messiah is the Life of God. And that life is Love of one another as we love our own self. Violence, division, exclusion are the Way of the World. Unity, care, healing, and diversity understood as images and likenesses of God are the Way of the Messiah. Just like John the Baptist, we must come to a new understanding of the Messiah and how the Messiah leads us. May it be so!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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JESUS COMFORTS AND ENCOURAGES: 14TH SUNDAY A

One of the most wonderful things about the person of Jesus has been and continues to be, his special love for ordinary people – for people like us. It comes out in two beautiful statements that he makes today. The first is in his prayer to God: ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children.’ The second is in his invitation: ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest.’

What leads him to make these statements? He has just completed a tour of the towns and villages of Galilee. In all of them he has preached the truth that God is the King of the whole world, and so everyone must know, love and serve God as the Lord and Ruler of their lives. On many occasions too he has made the kingdom of God happen, by curing sick people and setting them free from their handicaps, disabilities and afflictions. But it’s only the ordinary, everyday people who have appreciated his efforts, accepted his message and begun to follow him. The educated and clever have simply closed their minds and hearts to him, and walked away.

For the sake of developing our own personal relationship with Jesus, let us dip a little today into his relationship with those whom he called ‘the poor’ and ‘the little ones’! They are the same ones whom the high and mighty Pharisees called ‘sinners’ or ‘the rabble who know nothing of the law’. We might refer to them today as ‘the strugglers’, and ‘the battlers’.

In the gospels, the term ‘poor’ doesn’t refer only to those who had little or no money, even though it does include them. In the first place the poor were those who had to beg for a living. Of course in that society there were no hospitals, no soup kitchens, and no pensions. So the blind, the deaf and dumb, the lame, the paralysed, the cripples and the lepers were generally beggars.

The economically poor included the day-labourers who were often without work, the peasants who worked on the farms of wealthy landowners, and those who were slaves. Then there were the widows and the orphans, who had no way of earning a living and no one to provide for them. They depended on occasional handouts from the Temple treasury.

The poor Jesus knew found themselves at the bottom of the social ladder, with no prestige, no power, and no honour. They were social outcasts, and left to feel that their lives were without dignity, meaningless and hopeless. Their principal suffering, then as now, was their embarrassment at being totally dependent upon others.

People of the middle class (the educated and the law-abiding, such as the scribes and Pharisees), generally treated them as low-class scum, and spoke of them as ‘sinners’. They didn’t even have the consolation of feeling they were in God’s good books, because their social superiors kept telling them that they were displeasing to God, and surely ‘they ought to know’! So these so-called ‘sinners’ felt terrible frustration, shame, guilt, anxiety and misery.

But Jesus was different, strikingly different. As a carpenter, he was from the middle class himself and not one of the poor and oppressed. But he mixed socially with even the poorest of the poor. So much so that he became an outcast by choice, and even got the nick-name ‘the friend of sinners’.

Why did he do this? The answer comes across very clearly in the gospels, and may be summed up in just one word - COMPASSION. For example: - The plight and tears of the widow of Nain touches his heart to the core: ‘Don’t cry,’ he says to her, before bringing her son back to life. He is moved with compassion at the plight of a leper begging for help (Mk 4:41), for two blind men sitting at the side of a road and pleading for mercy (Mt 20:29-34), and for a crowd of people with nothing to eat (Mk 8:2). In each case he responds to their sufferings with the power, love, compassion and care of God.

All through the gospels, even when the word is not used, we sense the surge of compassion rising within his heart. ‘Don’t cry,’ he says, ‘Don’t worry’, ‘Don’t be afraid’ (e.g. Mk5:36; 6:50; Mt 6:25-34). He is not moved by the grandeur and beauty of the great Temple buildings (Mk 13:1-2), but by the generosity of a poor widow who puts her last cent into the Temple treasury (Mk 12:41-44). When everyone else around him is jumping for joy about Jairus’ daughter come back to life, Jesus is concerned that she be given something to eat (Mk 5:42-43)

His kindness and compassion were the most human and humane things about him. They are the most human and humane things about us too. Australian poet Adam Lindsay Gordon once wrote: ‘Life is only froth and bubble. Two things stand like stone, kindness in another’s trouble, courage in our own!’

So, on whose side are we? On the side of Jesus, the side of compassion, kindness, help, healing, and mercy? Or on the side of the scribes and Pharisees then and now - fierce, fault-finding, heartless, critical, and merciless? Will we take our cue from their cruel, harsh, and insensitive judgments and actions? Or will we take our inspiration from what we see in Jesus, and from his Invitation to the poor and the broken: ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest’?

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

 

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Year A: 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

"I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children."

I have a friend – a good and holy Jesuit who is also a world-renowned Biblical expert. I’ll call him Fr John Smith. And his particular expertise is in Biblical languages – he is supposed to know many of the languages which existed in Palestine in Old Testament times - which is not bad at his current age of 92!

But, to tell you the truth, he is also an excruciatingly boring teacher. And not all of his students could really believe that such a boring teacher could really be such a brilliant scholar. So, one day, his students decided to put him to the test. They got together and went down into the basement of the library. And there, amidst rows and rows of dusty shelves that clearly nobody had looked at for years, they found a copy of a document in Ancient Assyrian – at least that’s what it said on the cover. So, they took it out of its cover and, at his next lecture, Fr Smith found it waiting for him on the lectern – obviously a challenge. He picked it up, looked at it for a few moments, then read out a few lines, translating the text into English as he went along. His students were suitably impressed. And then he said, "Yes, it is Old Assyrian, but rather late Old Assyrian and not very good style. If you look on the next shelf above where you found this, fourth scroll from the right, you will find a much better piece." And with that he went on with his lecture, having earned his students’ undying respect – even if not their total attention.

However, when he came to teach me, he was 79. He told me that – three years previously – at age 76 – he had had the revelation of his life. It is one of the rules of St Ignatius that all of his men should, at least once a year, spend some time teaching "unlettered children". Fr Smith had decided to fulfil this obligation by conducting a Sunday school class for 15 year olds. He was very nervous about this because he knew he was a very boring teacher and he was not sure how he was going to get on. So he gave them a passage to read and think about and it happened to be the parable of the Prodigal Son. And then he started teaching them about it: about the significance of the journey of the prodigal son to a far country; its relationship to population movements in Ancient Palestine and some interesting parallels between Jesus’ manner of telling parables and the ancient Jewish tradition of "midrash" – the way in which the scriptures are augmented and amplified by rabbis to meet the practical circumstances of the modern believer.

Within about 15 minutes, three of the children were asleep and the rest were obviously bored silly. So, he stopped talking and, not sure what to do next, he asked if anyone else had anything they wanted to say. And a few people talked a little bit but didn’t say anything very much and then there was a long pause.

But he noticed one girl with very red eyes as if she was about to cry. And she seemed to be half wanting to say something and half too shy. So he asked her to speak. She was reluctant, but he encouraged her. And then she began to speak about how this passage reminded her of her father beating her and her mother. And how reading and praying over this passage made her realise that she had another father who is in heaven. And how this made her feel loved and cherished – really loved properly – for the first time since she could remember.

When she had finished speaking, nobody said anything for a very long time. And then they all prayed together. And John suddenly realised that, although he had given his entire adult life to the study of Scripture, he had actually completely missed the point. Scripture is not the study of ancient texts for what they tell us about the ancient near East, although that can be important and even interesting – if you’re that way inclined. But Scripture is the living encounter with God, whose Son came among us to bring us the Church. And it was his disciples who left behind these documents which the Church gathered together and called the Bible – through which we too can know what it was like to meet God on earth. And so, every day, Father John Smith of the Society of Jesus makes this prayer:

"I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to (and through) mere children."

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who reveals Himself to us.

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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