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Contents: Volume 2 - The Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 9, 2018


 

The 23rd

Sunday

Ordinary

Time

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

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

 

 

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1.

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Sun. 23 B

We read/hear in today's Gospel story according to Mark that the people "were exceedingly astonished" after Jesus cured the deaf man. This story is one of the many miracles reported in the Gospels, but this particular one is remembered in great detail. Jesus's prayer for the opening of the man's ears and his new ability to speak are important enough to be included in the Rite of Baptism today.

Perhaps we have not been graced with a "major" miracle like this particular cure, but I believe that there are many miracles that are gifted to us all the time. Are we too complacent or busy to notice them? Have we ever mentioned one, even quietly, to a close friend?

There are subtle ones like a sudden change of heart after a long standing estrangement or the grace of forgiveness either given or received. There are shortened illnesses and extended visits of friends and family in time of need. There are bottlenecks in traffic when you are late for something important that just surprisingly clear or a parking spot that just appears after you have circled the lot several times at your physician's office building. How about good results from that lab test? There is the hug of a child that staves off your tears from some unrelated frustration. Maybe you notice a pocket of sunlight on an anticipated rainy day... on the last day of summer vacation. You get the idea.

Jesus "has done all things well" and continues to "do" things in our lives today by His personal touch. Our Baptism opened our ears to hear the Good News of unconditional love, Divine Providence, and salvation. We were called to proclaim the Good News to all, piece by piece, little by little, drop by drop. How have you been touched by the Lord and showered with blessings, large or small, recently?

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordered Time September 9 2018

Isaiah 35:4-7; Responsorial Psalm 146; James 2:1-5; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 4:23; Mark 7:31-37

Who could Isaiah possibly be addressing in the first reading this Sunday? "Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!" As we listen further into this reading it appears that Isaiah was encouraging the People of God that God had not forgotten them. The evil that had come to them God would overcome. He would vindicate the suffering and pain evil had done to them. God was coming to save his people from evil.

Isaiah tells these frightened people they should not be fearful but have confidence that God has their back. Though evil may seem to triumph, God would overcome it. Even those who had become blind to God’s presence would begin to see his presence. Even those who could not hear the whisper of God’s enveloping presence would again be capable of hearing his words. Those whose limbs had atrophied or been broken would be healed and the people could, would again walk with purposeful strides and walk in the Lord’s presence. That which was dry and lifeless would spring forth with abundant life. Living waters would form streams in the desert and burning sands would spring forth with glorious life.

So yes, be strong, fear not. Confidence and hope are the message of Isaiah to a people whose future was rapidly disappearing under the forces of Assyria, of Egypt, and of Babylon. There was nowhere to turn, no grand armies that would preserve and safeguard the People God had chosen. Those who were most harmed by the evil afoot in their world would receive what they needed to flourish. The blind, the deaf, the speechless, the lame – all would discover health and strength in the Lord’s presence.

The reading from James tells us we are to treat all persons with equal respect. The Declaration of Independence of the United States is a civil statement of this.

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

More than two hundred and forty two years have passed since the declaration began this grand experiment of freedom, opportunity, and dignity for each person. We still discover in our daily living much that is a denial of this declaration. The evil of this denial finds its strength in the idolatrous pursuit of personal and/or group power, wealth, and influence. We must struggle individually and collectively to live up to the standard and values of this declaration. For this declaration mirrors the hopes and values of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. This declaration is an affirmation of God’s observation that his creation "is good!"

Evil does abound in our world. God’s response to evil is to transform that evil into good. As the prophecy of Isaiah tells us, "the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf will be cleared, then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing." Then will creation itself be what the Creator declared it to be as he looked over creation and saw that it "was good." Then that Creator will look on all living beings and declare them "very good." However, God’s ways are not our ways. When we response to evil with violence, God does so with divine love. Jesus is proof of this. While we may shout and scream at those who do evil, God comes to them in the silence of their hearts. When we demand blood and execute those who violate our social covenants, God reaches out to call his sons and daughters home. He is the prodigal’s father looking anxiously up the road for his son to come home where he might be healed. Yes, in our eyes, God is certainly an impractical being. Love does that to persons – makes them impractical and capable of seeing beyond evil and finding a way of turning evil into good.

The story of the deaf and speech impaired man in Mark’s gospel this Sunday is a story unique to Mark’s gospel. It is not repeated in any other. If we think of this story in the context of the prophecy of Isaiah in our first reading, we can easily see that Mark is telling us that God is present with us in the person of Jesus. For by his actions he sets things right so that all many flourish and have opportunity to reach the potential of the creative act of God that they are.

It may seem strange that Jesus takes this man aside in private. It is more strange that Jesus opens his ears and loosens his tongue in a step by step process. In other miracles, Jesus asks for faith and the miracle just happens. Why this laborious process? Why no verification of faith? Mark stresses that each person is important, is worthy of salvation. All of creation is the object of God’s presence, nothing is too insignificant to lack his attention. This man is without value to the community. His very needs are a drag on the community. He cannot even speak his thoughts, contribute ideas, make a difference. Yet he is taken aside, individually, privately, and healed of that which has marginalized him.

We should not overlook the statement attributed to the crowd. "He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak." For the persons familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures the phrase "doing all things well" would reflect back on the creation stories in Genesis. It was God who saw that creation was "good".

Were we to propose a lesson from the readings this Sunday, we would say simply that the Creator has continued to create. Where there is evil, where there is lack of strength, where there is lack of abilities because of evil the Creator creates anew.

Is there anyone who doubts there is evil in our world? Is there anyone who can claim they have not contributed to evil in the world by their choices and attitudes? Who can doubt that the world portrays corruption as virtue? Who believes as God’s truth the fabrications and manipulations of reality that serves the prince of evil?

The message today is the instruction given to Isaiah: "Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you."

May it be so.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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3.

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HEALING OUR HANDICAPS AND WOUNDS: 23RD SUNDAY B

Every time we find ourselves listening to the stories of God at Mass, we need to ask ourselves two questions: - 1. Where am I in the story? 2. Where are we in the story? Let’s apply that now to the story we hear today about the healing by Jesus of a handicapped man, handicapped by being both deaf and dumb.

Our first response to this story might be: ‘Well, I’m not deaf, and I’m not dumb. I’m not handicapped. Or if I am, not much! So what’s the story got to do with me?’ The fact is, we’ve all got limitations, we’ve all got handicaps, and we’ve all got wounds. Just because ours are not as visible and as obvious as that of the man in the gospels, doesn’t make them any less real.

In one way or another we are all wounded and hurting. We see this in husbands who take refuge in work because they are no longer attracted to their wives. We see it in wives who are wounded by lack of attention and affection from their husbands. We see it in parents who are fighting and arguing with one another or with their children. We see it in children who are not getting the love they need, or who are feeling smothered by ‘helicopter parents’ hovering too closely over them.

Some people carry deep wounds from bad experiences as a child. Others are wounded by sickness, or by the death of a loved one. Some are wounded by the infidelity of their partner, or by not being able to accept themselves as they are. Some are wounded by failures at work or in relationships. Others are wounded by being unable to forgive or forget. Some are wounded by being rejected by someone they love.

Some of us are more wounded than others. But the deepest wounds may be those not visible to the eye. Inside each of us there might be a whole hidden world of suffering.

With some people their inner wounds have driven them to drugs, drink, depression or pornography, or a combination of all of these. In others their inner wounds have led to a compulsion to prove themselves, to appear successful, to win, to dominate, to show off, and even perhaps to an obsession with helping and saving others – to acting out a kind of ‘messiah complex’.

On the road to healing, the first step is to own that we are indeed wounded and hurting. Counselling with a caring therapist or even deep conversations with a trusted friend, may help us find the source of our frustration and put us on the road to recovery.

But no matter what our wounds are, what needs healing most of all is our heart, our mental and emotional outlook. If only our heart could change we could move on and give so much more to our relationships. But as a result of particularly painful experiences, the heart is often left empty, cold and unwelcoming, hard and unyielding, and weighed down with worry and anxiety. Maybe we even find ourselves suffering from a broken heart?

We should not be surprised by any of this. It means simply that we are human beings, who have hearts of flesh, not hearts of stone. Just the same, our wounded hearts ache to be relieved and healed, so that we can find freedom and deliverance, love and peace, joy and contentment.

This miracle Jesus did on that deaf and dumb man reminds us that hearing is a precious gift. But it is only with the heart, a heart like the heart of Jesus, that we can hear what is hurting others most of all. The cry of someone in need may reach our ears, but if it does not touch our heart we will not feel that person’s pain, and we will not do anything about it. The miracle that Jesus worked reminds us too that the gift of speech is a precious gift. But if we do not speak our words from the heart, they will be empty, hollow, and a waste of time.

In touching the ears and tongue of that handicapped sufferer, Jesus also touched his wounded heart. More than anything else it was that touch which made him a different person, a new man in fact. That was the real miracle. It’s the same for us. So, for the healing of our wounded, damaged or broken hearts, we must look to Jesus, just as Pope Francis has recently advised:

If there are times when you experience sadness, depression, negative feelings, I would ask you to look at Christ crucified. Look at his face. He sees us; in his eyes there is a place for us. We can all bring to Christ our wounds, our pain, our sins. In his wounds, there is a place for our own wounds. There they can be soothed, washed clean, changed and healed. He died for us, for me, so that he could stretch out his hand and lift us up.

We must also be ready to look to other human beings, persons who can and will put us together again, who can and will put us on the road to recovery. In this great work, we can experience them as agents of Jesus - the greatest and best healer there has ever been - of wounded, handicapped, and broken people - of people like us, you and me.

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

 

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4.

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5.

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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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