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Contents: Volume 2 - Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A –
July 16, 2017


 

15th

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. 15 A

 

The readings for today offer hope and direction to us all as we balance our efforts with God's purpose for our lives. The selection from Isaiah reminds us that God is fully in charge. It is God's power and grace that make good things happen. And they will happen.

 

Although not said, this first reading implies "even if our efforts fall short", God's will will be done. I am sure that many of us could list the times when we have tried extra hard to accomplish a certain something "for God" and it just didn't work. That is not a good feeling, but it does keep us grounded in reality. It provides a bit of humility especially if it is not used as an excuse to maintain our own ineptness or deficiencies. What a soothing reality check... life is more about God than it is about us!

 

The Gospel reading tells of randomness about where the seed of God's Word falls. To me, it also encourages our involvement in preparing and seeking the right kind of soil to receive God's Word and for it to flourish. We need to pursue understanding God's word actively. I think reflecting on the Sunday readings before they are proclaimed and sharing one's insights both before and after the "official" proclamation on Sunday keeps one open to grace. It helps to explore different viewpoints and deepen our knowledge. There are almost too many commentaries on the Scriptures that can aid us... if we use one at all. A community that provides various opportunities like these for learning and sharing is preparing fertile ground for God's Word to take root and soar.

 

Eyes willing to read, ears willing to listen, and lips willing to discuss are often attached to hands and feet that are willing to serve! God can touch the hearts of such people to proclaim the Word both in words and deeds. That sounds like an excellent balance to me.

 

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – July 16,2017

 

Our Spring time here was chilly. Early June felt more like early November. Seeds planted didn't germinate and grow. Those that did, died a while later when the temperature soared for a week, then turned back to chilly. Things seem "out of sync" as I now wait for berries to ripen and carrots to grow. Gardens can be frustrating sometimes, as Jesus reminds us in today's reading.

 

As I read the story of the sower, it has three images of where I might fit into the narrative. First there is the farmer who went out to sow. He or she is dedicated and diligent, planning the work for the best time and result. Sleep and meals are secondary to the great work. Nothing is more important.

 

Or maybe I'm like the seed, sowed generously, not in straight, uniform lines, but broadcast widely and plentifully. Not all of it germinates and bears fruit in time. Some things are beyond the ability of the seed which depends on the earth.

 

It is the Earth I feel closest with this time, and I'm about to complicate a simple story that has one focus. The rocks and the thorns are considered obstacles to nurturing the seed. And they are. if we see only one interpretation of the story. (which might be what the author intended, but I think stories are meant to be "played with", enlarged, explored, personalized, turned "this way and that" !) The rabbit hiding within a thorny bush as a predator circles above would not consider the thorns detrimental at all.

 

I'm starting to deeply feel the Earth as life-giver, in-spirited by the Creator and Sustainer of all. All - The deep rich earth that produces a hundred-fold, the rocks that get in the way of our plans, the thorns that make life harder than we would wish. But the rocks and thorns also influence the seed of God's Word because we are not helpless in how we grow. The parable has a valid point, but it neglects the reality that we, born of Mother Earth, can form our relationship to life's "thorns and rocks". They can become a part of nurturing the seed.

 

As Jesus sat by the sea with the crowd gathered around him, what did he perceive of sowers, seeds, and earth. Perhaps he had the sense of our being active in all three. We are sent out with the seed of God's Word, hopefully scattering it abundantly by word and deed. We are also the ground that receives the seed.

 

This story Jesus tells is passed on to us. Play with it, make it your own. What other thoughts, images, feelings, arise in you sitting in your "garden"? How will you nurture them? What new plant will grow in your life?

 

Barbara Cooper, OP

Vancouver Island, BC Canada

bcoop60@yahoo.com

 

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3.

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Fifteenth Sunday of Ordered Time, July 16, 2017

Isaiah 55:10-11; Responsorial Psalm 65; Romans 9:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23

 

The Gospel this Sunday with its lengthy parable about the Sower is well known. We tend to think of ourselves in that parable as the good ground, rich and containing nutrients that will allow the seed to produce a hundred fold, sixty fold, or perhaps a more realistic thirty fold.

 

Perhaps we’re not the rich dirt but the seed sown by God. Maybe we’re the seed that lands on rocky land. Or maybe we’re misfortunate enough to land among the briars and thorns. The parable is so familiar that many of us in assembly this Sunday will sleep stand during the gospel. There is the story awakening us from our lethargy and ennui. Who has not fallen asleep during our years of schooling? We must awake and be stirred by the Word.

 

The Isaiah reading insists that the Word of God does not return to God without having done its work. The Word of God is effective. It creates life. It continues the creative work God begun when God said "let there be...". Isaiah wrote these words at a very difficult time for the Jews. Pretty much like our own time.

 

If God’s Word is with us and effective, how is it our world is such a flaming mess? The largest membership of religion in the world is Christianity. Surely the Word of God would find rich loam to grow and bring forth a return to the Lord. Where has the Word of God gone? Perhaps we find an answer in the letter to the church at Laodicea in the book of Revelation. That city was a shining city on a hill through which flowed a life giving river. As the river becomes a water fall, it falls into a desert and is absorbed in the sand. The life giving water disappears amid the dry, dusty environment of daily living. So in our living, the Word of God is often absorbed and loses its power to form an effective relationship with God. The Voice (a voice speaks words) warns the city about neither being hot or cold. Because of that the Lord will spit them out. Those whom God loves endure suffering that comes without surrendering the Word. God is present in the world in his Word and in his Works. We only need to look for His presence.

 

That is the message Isaiah to the Jews held captive in Babylon. God is with us even in the darkest of times. God’s Word is for us and supports us. God’s Word is effective. Just as rain waters the earth, making it fertile, breaking up clods, making the land blossom and bloom with life and life giving nourishment, so is God ever present with us in his creative Word.

 

For many, this may seem far from the truth. For those, the physical world and its pursuits and the dimension where God is and works are very separated from each other. The real world is the place where we live and work and struggle to survive. God’s dimension is ethereal, a dimension where we come to pray now and then. To such thinkers the world of God is irrelevant to the days of their lives. What happens to the world and people living in the world isn’t relevant to God’s world. Balderdash!!! Can a mother forget her child? Can God forget his Dream?

 

The message this Sunday is the relevance of God’s Word. The earth is our home, the place where we come into being. The world is given to each one of us as our employment. It is the place and object of our work. It gives meaning and purpose to our days and creates our identity. As we increasingly use up its resources and desecrate its beauty and resources we destroy our home. The economic model and culture in which we live is not sustainable. Will there be some marvel of technology to save us from overheating? Will some massive scrubbing machine or electronic invention remove the 92 Billion tons of carbon lifted into the atmosphere on an annual basis by how we produce our energy and move from place to place? However, God’s Word is with us even in this briar patch of time. Who recognizes its presence? Are our days lacking in hope for a resilient return of a balanced earth? The devastation of the earth is a result of greed by those with power and wealth. The earth is capable of satisfying the need of humanity. It will certainly buckle under the weight of rapacious greed. Why do we allow our Common Home to be so abused? Have we forgotten it came into being through the Word of God? Who has drugged us; who is the hypnotist?

 

The Word of God brings all things and beings together. Jesus taught that when he was lifted up on the cross he would draw all things and persons to himself. This is the Word of God informing us how we are to relate to each other. Yet who does not understand our socio-economic and political reality controls by dividing us? Corporations merge with corporations not for efficiency but for monopoly and to reward executives with unneeded and excessive compensation. Health care is an urgent necessity and executive compensation practices rob the poor and middle class of needed resources. One insurance executive’s annual compensation is in excess of twenty million dollars. Who has such a need? This all the while basic health care is unavailable to millions of citizens.

 

Political power in Bible-think is about service to the people. Those in governance are portrayed in the Word of God as shepherds. A shepherd is one who cares for the common good of the flock while never losing sight of the individual, the lambs, the weakest. Yet governance has been parlayed into special interests. Money suppresses common good. Violence is an acceptable tool for compliance. Manipulation through marketing techniques knowingly obfuscates the truth. When pharmaceutical houses spend more on advertising than on research and development, the scales have been rigged. The Word of God lies buried in accumulated dirt. Isaiah insists the Word will spring forth even from that filth and bear fruit because it is the Word of God.

 

We’ve used our science to develop machines of violence and use the threat of ultimate destruction to control other nations. We spend billions more on armaments than the next eight nations in the world combined. The mistaken notion that hearts and minds can be controlled by violence is contrary to American’s success rebuilding Europe and Japan after the second world war. Where once was rubble and ruined lives, there are thriving nations. Will we come to see the Middle East and Africa as the new Europe? How can we forget the fantastic contributions to knowledge and understanding of God’s presence developed in those now destroyed nations? Why can we not hear the Word of God speaking to us – why can we not hear the earth crying out, soaked as it is with the blood of Abel, our brother? Violence divides us, separates us. Violence springs from dishonesty, empty promises, and lies which are the word of the evil one.

 

The troubles and corruption of the world is seductive. The latest gadget and the ability to borrow for its purchase divides the haves from the have-nots. While millions of children are starving around the world, more than forty percent of our nation’s food supply is wasted, thrown away. What does the Word of God say about that? We still divide in terms of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and language. We forget all are God’s creation.

 

Where is the Good News? Where is there hope? Listen carefully to the words from Isaiah and Matthew. The Word of God will not desert us. We need to awaken from our sleep. We need to understand God is with us, still guiding us, still loving this dream of his making. We should read again, Vatican II’s Constitution on the Church in the Modern World and Pope Francis’ On the Care of our Common Home. These documents bring the Word of God into contemporary focus and guide us to discovering the way going forward, the Way of Christ in our time. It is encouraging to notice the first words of the Vatican II document are "The Joys and Hopes" (Gaudium et Spes).

 

God is active now. Even though our lives are full, busy, and clogged with the events and demands of our days, God continues speaking with us. When we let the times overwhelm us and block our ears, we fail on two counts. We fail to discern the truth of what is happening. We also fail as Christians when we celebrate power, wealth, influence peddlers, or the seduction of consumerism. When we fail, we set ourselves up for another century like the last one. In those hundred years we struggled with two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East, ethnic cleansing in Ireland, Serbia, Rwanda, totalitarian governments in Russia, El Salvador, Chile, and Argentina among others. Murder, disappearances, torture and death squads arose from our complicity. When we isolate ourselves, our focus is on what is good for us, not the common good of all. Instead of being masters of our times, we become slaves and victims to those who manipulate our feelings and emotions. That is not why God chose Abraham and Sarah to found a chosen people to reveal his presence. That is not why God led Joseph to interpret dreams and save not only his clan but also a nation not his own. That is not why God led the Hebrews out of Egypt: that is not why God chose David to lead the Israelites into a kingdom and form the city of Peace – Jerusalem. That is not why God endured the Babylonian captivity with the Jews and why he released them and brought them home. That is not why his son was born of a woman bringing divinity up close and personal to adopt us as his sons and daughters. This is why Jesus taught, healed, and died on the cross and was raised. Being Christian means we live in the world. We are not of the world, but we live in the world. By the seed planted in us we bring forth the Kingdom of God in all that we touch.

 

We cannot allow the noise of the world to entice us to believe noise is truth. Each period of drastic change is preceded by turmoil. Can our experience be the beginning of a new age? Are we on the threshold of more a peaceful, more inclusive world? The Word of God is about unifying love. The Word of God brings the hope of a strong, enduring relationship with God and, through God, with all creation. God plants the seed of his Word because God is interested and cares for his creation. We must be aware of the "signs of the times" and reflect on how God’s Word leads to hope and unity. We have God’s promise: the Word is fruitful and establishes the Kingdom of God.

 

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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TRACES OF GOD EVERYWHERE: 15TH SUNDAY A

 

Our gospel today contains a complaint, a serious complaint. It’s aimed at us, at you and me. Jesus is telling us that God's word is often unfruitful, unproductive in our lives. It gets trampled underfoot, it dries up, it gets choked, or it doesn’t grow at all. It simply makes no difference.

 

We fail to see the signs of his presence which God puts into our lives. We do not see, hear, feel, touch or recognise them. Because they pass us by, they cannot therefore make us any better.

 

It's deeply disappointing to the heart of God when we fail to recognise the traces of his presence and the traces of his messages. It's far more disappointing than when we either ignore our fellow human beings or fail to notice them.

 

A young man had a misunderstanding with his girlfriend, a very serious one. He tried to phone her, but when he heard her voice he did not know what to say. So he hung up. He tried to write her a letter. But when he finished it, it sounded silly. So he tore it up. Then he remembered that she liked roses, deep red roses. He bought her one, only one, because roses were very expensive at that time of year. The woman in the flower-shop added some ferns to the rose and wrapped it for him in nice tissue paper.

 

The young man went to his girlfriend’s apartment. He put the rose down in front of her door. He then hid round a corner, and waited for her to come home. Right on time she arrived from work, looking as lovely as ever. His heart leaped in his throat, and suddenly his mouth went dry. He watched as she opened her purse, took out her key, nudged the door open, stepped inside and closed it behind her. But she did not bend down to pick up his beautiful expensive rose. In fact she did not seem to even notice it. What a disappointment! What a let-down! What a missed opportunity! What a heart-break! What a tragedy!

 

Every day of our lives God gives us signs, trying to get our attention. It might take the form of a flower, a thought, a feeling, a dream, a child, a news story, a chance meeting, a friend’s remark, some pangs of pain or even of guilt. God has all sorts of wake-up calls. God may speak to us in sunshine, in rain, on a beach, on a mountain, by a river. God may have something to say to us in a play or a movie, a song or a piece of music. God may speak to us in Readings at Mass and in the homily about them. It’s quite likely that God will speak to us in the richness of a loving relationship. As the last song in Les Miserables, the Musicale puts it, 'to love another person is to see the face of God'.

 

The messages of God are so many and so different that the poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, makes the claim: 'The world is charged with the grandeur of God.’ But how often do we notice? How often do we see, hear or feel God speaking to us? And if we do, how often do we stop and say back: 'Hello, God! Thank you, God! What would you like me to do, God? Will you help me, God?’

 

I wonder if all too often we tend to live ‘like those who have eyes but do not see, like those who have ears but do not hear’. Not only as far as God is concerned, but also with the people around us. We may be more like the first man, not the second, in the famous quip: 'Two men looked out from prison bars; one saw mud, the other saw stars' (Frederick Langbridge)

 

Today, as our response to the gospel message of Jesus, let’s ask ourselves a few matter-of-fact questions: -

 

1. Do we believe that God speaks to us through a series of signs – e.g., through other people? Through things that happen to us? Through things that are said to us? And through such marvels of nature as ‘the wonder and the glory of the everlasting stars’ (Australian poet, AB Paterson)?

 

2. Are we convinced that there are all around us many, many traces of God's loving and caring presence?

 

3. Do we believe that at our Sunday Eucharist God speaks to us in quite special ways - in the people we meet and greet, in the readings, in the homily, in the consecrated bread and wine, in Holy Communion, and in the priest who leads our celebration?

 

Let’s take a few silent moments now to consider those questions, before continuing to celebrate the living and loving presence of Jesus Christ to us, here in our Sunday Eucharist together!

 

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

 

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Year A: 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

"Listen, anyone who has ears."

 

An old friend of mine is a cardiologist - a specialist heart doctor. In fact, he is probably the most respected specialist heart doctor in his country. After a stellar academic career, he became at 43 the youngest professor of cardiology in his country’s history. Through his research, he has introduced new techniques and better treatments which have saved the lives of many hundreds of patients. And he is also a good man - a man of great prayer and personal holiness – rather more so than is usual among my friends. He is a good husband and a good father. And he is - or rather was - also a talented rugby player, middle distance runner and a musician. His life had been one long chain of merit and success right up until one day at the age of 48 when he himself had a heart attack.

 

He is proud of the fact that, having treated so many in other people, he diagnosed it very quickly in himself. And so he was rushed by ambulance to his own hospital. And he lay in the same bed in the same Intensive Care Unit where he had treated so many patients. And he was looked after by the same junior doctors who normally work under his direction. And he was given the same treatment that he had prescribed for so many others.

 

But since then, he tells me, his entire life has changed. For one thing, he cannot work as hard as he used to - he gets tired more easily. For another, he suddenly knows the meaning of the word ‘fear’ - when you are gripped in the middle of the night by the sudden certain conviction that you too, like all others, must one day die. But most of all, he was shocked, surprised and renewed by the realisation that heart attacks do not happen just to patients, or even just to people in general; they happen to people like me - in fact they happen to me. And not even being the ranking professor of cardiology in the country can prevent it from happening to you. He said it was the best lesson he has ever learned in medicine. And it has transformed his approach to looking after his patients.

 

This parable of Jesus is a lot like that - if you like, a heart attack for the soul.

 

"Listen who has ears to hear."

 

There is something enormously tempting about parables. And the temptation is this: it is to believe that the parable is about somebody other than myself.

 

Of course, we all prefer to tell and to listen to stories about other people. It’s called gossip and we all do it. And the reason we all do it is because one way of feeling better about the failures and inadequacies in myself is to point out the failures and inadequacies in other people. So I could tell you endless stories about people who fit into each of the groups in the parable. (Any member of my community will vouch for me on this!)

 

"Some seed fell on the path": Well, in my own work as a doctor during the week, I am constantly meeting people who have fallen on the wrong path and are living in ways I think are seriously unwise – and I am full of good advice for how other people can make wise and healthy changes in their lives.

 

"Some seed fell on stony ground."

 

I can tell you about people who became Christians with great enthusiasm and went to Bible study every night - and a year later had given up being Christians at all, because there was no depth and strength in their Christianity.

 

"Some seed fell among thorns."

 

Well, I can tell you all about people who rejected the love of God and the love of humanity and had their lives destroyed by alcohol, drugs and disease.

 

But that is not the point.

 

Listen anyone who has ears.

 

This parable is not about other people; this parable is about ME and each one of us.

 

What part of the problem am I?

 

What part of the solution can I become?

 

What are the ways in which I have lacked commitment to the Lord and strength in His Faith?

 

What are the ways in which I have failed the community of the Church?

 

What are the ways I need to change?

 

What is it that I have to allow God to do in my heart so that I can be the person He created me to be?

 

What is that I must do yield a harvest, 30 and 60 and 100-fold?

 

The answer to those questions is individual for each of us. For once in my life I prescribe no answers. But I would like to ask that we – each of us – spend this Eucharist reflecting on the question for ourselves.

 

Who is the person God created me to be?

 

What were the hopes that God had when I was born?

 

And what is it possible that God can still do in my life to bear fruit for the Kingdom?

 

Let us pray that we may be given the grace to judge only ourselves and that each of us may find our part in God’s harvest.

 

And let us stand and profess our Faith in God who gives the increase.

 

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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