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Contents: Volume 2 - The Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 16, 2018


 

The 24th

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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Sun. 24 B

Some things seem difficult to understand especially at first. Some Scripture passages fall into that category. Most of the time, Jesus's words do also!

Not this time, really though. Jesus is pretty clear about the path of suffering that He must follow. He is clear that the apostles and we, too, must conform our lives to His.

What is difficult for most human beings is to let go of our preconceived notions of what that might mean. What is difficult is recognizing and accepting what stands in the way of understanding things more clearly. What is difficult is just doing what Jesus expects once we figure it out.

Jesus's question of "who do you say I am?" is a haunting one. Is Jesus just a good role model? Is Jesus a fix-it person when our lives become shattered or our cross becomes too heavy? Is Jesus the One Who really matters? Who Is Jesus.....???????????

Reviewing that question fairly frequently is a wonderful way to try to stay on the right path, the path perfectly modeled and laid out for us by Jesus. It is a way to demonstrate our faith through good works. It is a way never to be put to shame before God.

Is it a way that you and I can live as more authentic Christians?

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Twenty Fourth Sunday of Ordered Time September 16, 2018

Isaiah 50:5-9; Responsorial Psalm 116; James 2:14-18; Gospel Acclamation Galatians 6:14; Mark 8:27-35

Students of human history which spans more than forty centuries can choose how to view and understand the great achievements of humanity. There is also awful violence, expressive great art, and the manufacture of fearsome weapons. Nations have suffered from, the power of autocrats but benefitted from the generosity of persons of great character. Economies have improved quality of life but have also crushed millions with poverty. Who can overlook the death and oppression visited humanity by the awful cruelty of despotic power. If we drill down and study individual persons we tend to think with assumptions. We contrast peasants with noblemen. The impoverished are overlooked in favor of the wealthy. The undereducated recede to the shadows cast by the greatly educated. How can we be totally inclusive of all persons if we view history only through the prism of power, wealth, and influence? How can we identify the truly mature, the most awesomely genius, the kindest and most loving among those who have gone before us if we use standards of influence, power, and wealth? Are these the only measures of importance to the Creator God?

This is a hard thought. We don’t think of the insignificant person in terms of character. It is a leap too far for most of us to discover that fullness of character is the measure of individual human existence. We tend to judge ourselves and others not so much by the depth and greatness of our character but by things accumulated and power we exercise. When we do so, we descend into a black hole of isolation, of idolatry of the worst kind. Those black holes in human history are filled with violence, with theft, with murder, with adultery, with cruelty, with abuse of the most vulnerable among us. Thus we date human existence by wars fought, wealth achieved, and influence peddled.

The truth of human history is expressed in our culture. Art is recorded and expressed in art, in songs, in images created for our entertainment. Contemporary entertainment is laced through and through with violence, hatred, revenge, and domination. Anger and suppression of others is a hallmark of socio-politico-economic environments. Murderous competition marks economic efforts. Political energies are applied to the elimination of views of non-aligned movements. Racism, nationalism, and disdain for persons of divergent cultures are accepted as valid national priorities.

If we understand our time and place in God’s creative endeavor we can easily be overwhelmed by the world’s inclination to evil. Is all darkness; is all destined to self-destruction? Are we on an accelerating tread-mill rushing like hamsters madly into a future that is merely more of the same, made more effective by technology? Where can we find hope for a better future for our children and grandchildren?

Where is God in all this? Are God’s hands tied? Is God’s presence ineffective in human life? Why doesn’t God just put an end to all this? Are we victims to evil? Is there no way out? Perhaps this Sunday’s readings may provide us a clue forward?

The first reading this Sunday is from Isaiah. If we listen closely to this prophet we’ll notice that he tells us that God works on our character, on our spirit. He speaks to us and expects to carry out what is right and responsive to God’s way. God provides us energy so that we can endure, that we can take on the suffering with which evil challenges our persons. Isaiah is clear: "The Lord God is my help…" God isn’t interfering by changing the rigors and challenges this Isaiah in servitude in Babylon. This reading is from the second part of Isaiah when the Jews were slaves in Babylon. It is the part of Isaiah that tells us about the suffering servant, the Lamb who suffers and endures evil. This suffering servant endures and in his witness to God’s presence brings hope to the captive nation. Evil is identified as contrary to God’s will and purpose for his people. But the victory of God’s chosen people does not come as a military victory. It is through suffering that faith is discovered, that the love of God is found, and that hope for the future is born.

Keeping this suffering in mind, we listen to the reading from James. His words seem to overlook the suffering of Isaiah. He speaks instead of social justice. He writes that we must feed the hungry and clothe the naked. He insists that faith must include action or it is not real faith. The faith of the Christian is that the Christian makes the love of God present by loving other persons. Faith that does not reach out with concern for others’ condition not faith because it denies the meaning and revelation found in the life, the work, and the death and resurrection of the Lord. Faith is not a matter of devote self-centeredness. Faith imitates the Lord, Jesus.

We come then to Mark’s gospel. Mark’s gospel is characterized by a gradual revelation of Jesus as the Messiah. In the early part of the gospel, Jesus preaches, teaches, and heals. This is a revelation of God’s presence among the people. That revelation calls persons into community. There is meaning and purpose in the events of history. God does not create evil. Imitating God’s life is not about domination, the accumulation of wealth, or the pursuit and application of influence. Jesus’ preaching, teaching, and miracles are how God reveals what he is. Those efforts of Jesus are a call to an intense and engaging vision of God’s presence. Jesus reveals, through his ministry, the Creator’s abiding love for creation. Already in the Hebrew Scriptures, God is characterized not by wrath or anger at his people. God is characterized by his "loving kindness" toward his people. God’s wrath is not person directed but focused on sin, on what is out of order with the intent of his creation. This is hardly a vengeful, tyrannical god so characteristic of pagan cult and worship. Even when his people do evil, deny the dignity and worth of any part of creation, God continually creates ways to transform the harm down by evil into an opportunity for an avenue of growth.

In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus asks the disciples who they think he is. Peter answers for those who are witnesses and follow Jesus. "You are the Christ." The Christ is the one hoped for who will bring about a new kingdom, a new nation, a completion and fulfillment of the promises made to King David. What the apostles thought that kingdom would look like was certainly not the Kingdom God had in mind. Jesus tells them not to share this insight with any others. Perhaps this is because Peter’s and the disciples’ understanding of what "you are the Christ" meant was hardly what God had in mind. Our first awakenings of faith individually often are like those of the apostles at this point before the death and resurrection. We are attracted by the words, by the miracles, communities of fellowship, and the joy of belonging. This is only the beginning of faith. If our faith gets stuck in this beginning we’ll miss out on the depth and impact faith can have in our living. The deeper our faith, the more intense will be our peace of spirit, the less will we be in completion with others. We will discover the ability to discern worth and dignity in every person and in even the smallest item of God’s creation. Our lives will be fuller.

For centuries the theology of the mystery of the Cross focused on providing satisfaction to God for the transgressions of humanity. It is often said, even in our day, that Jesus died for our sins. That our God would demand the death of his own son in order to be satisfied for slights against his dignity is a throw-back to the feudal period of human history. In those days anyone who offended, dishonored, or did physical or reputational harm to the Lord, the Lady, or the retinue of the Castle would have to make satisfaction to the offended person. Typically this occurred by numbers of days in the dungeon or in public humiliation in stocks in the market place. In extreme cases only painful death would provide the required satisfaction. This system was created to maintain law and order and make the Lord, Lady, and retinue the centerpiece of order against chaos experienced in the dark ages.

In our time, each person is considered endowed with certain inalienable rights for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Evil in the world continually fights against these principles. We contribute to an evil that insists the greatest good is the accumulation of power, wealth, and influence. Leadership often serves its own interests instead of the common good. Here and there in civil endeavors there are some who rightly believe in servant-leadership.

Many have pointed to the death of Jesus on the Cross as our example for bearing up and thus achieving personal salvation. Yet, the gospels are clear that Jesus died on the cross not because God willed his suffering and pain on his own son, but because of the idolatry of religious leadership for power and retention of prestige. Jesus refused to surrender the Father’s love for creation to the need for power and prestige evidenced by the Sanhedrin. Jesus’ witness of God’s love for creation was of utmost importance. Jesus acceptance of death, even death on a cross was a denial of the worth of the ways of the world and a forever change to the status quo of worldly ambition.

The message of the cross is that God loves us even though there is pain and suffering as we cling to his love. If we deny God’s love in favor of the way of the world we make a mistake. When we stand up for the marginalized, when we believe in truth, and especially when we hold onto what is right according to God, we will suffer and some of us will die as witnesses to the truth of God’s love for us. The message of the Cross is a part of the truth of our salvation. The whole truth of God’s revelation through Jesus must include his ministry and his resurrection. Without his ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing and gathering together into one community all people the cross would just be the end of a wonderful story. The revelation of the life of Jesus is that no matter how difficult and crushing is the evil that visits us, God will transform our suffering into a resurrection that is so unexpected that "eye has not seen, nor ear heard" of it. Even the most expressive of art throughout history has not been able to capture what God has revealed in the life of Jesus.

When we walk in the way of Jesus, we will suffer evil. That is certain. But we are promised by the very fact of Jesus’ resurrection that we will achieve fullness of person in standing up to witness and reveal God’s love for each person and all of God’s creation. It is in loving our fellow humans by feeding them and clothing them – as James tells us this Sunday – that we reveal God’s loving presence among us. The summary of the revelation of Jesus is simply this: "God so loves the world…"

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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PERSONAL Vs. SECOND-HAND FAITH: 24TH SUNDAY B

There are two kinds of faith. The first is inherited faith. This is the faith that comes from ancestors, our forefathers and foremothers. More immediately it is the faith practised and passed on by parents. The second kind of faith is a personal faith. It is the faith of those who, helped by the ‘amazing grace’ of God, believe because of their own reasoning and reflection. There are gains and losses to be had with each kind.

Those who inherit their faith have the advantage that they are not easily tempted to doubt or denial. Even when confronted with attractive arguments against what they believe, their faith stays strong. This is because of their strong family traditions about it, and because it has never been part of them to analyse what they believe. But they also have a disadvantage. They have not thought enough about their faith. It is more a habit and a routine than a matter of personal conviction. So too they find it hard to put into words just what they believe or live what they believe. It’s not yet a big part of their personal identity. Until it is, they may be more cultural than convinced Christians.

Those with a personal faith have this particular advantage. They have discovered God for themselves. They have reached their convictions with their own minds. But they too have a disadvantage. What they believe can be shaken by arguments to the contrary, and when that happens they may be tempted to ditch their faith, to toss it completely overboard. For them to keep on believing, their faith has to be grounded in something more than themselves and their own thought processes.

The best kind of faith is a mixture of both inherited and personal faith. While affirming and valuing what has been passed down to them, such believers also count on their capacity to question the origin and meaning of what they believe, to think things out for themselves, and to conclude that their personal beliefs are solidly-based, meaningful and helpful.

It’s just not enough to say, ‘My family has been Christian. My parents are believers.’ Because an inherited faith is a second-hand faith! Every generation has to own and personalise the faith that has been passed on. It has been said that some church-goers are little better than baptised pagans. That’s unduly harsh. But just the same, we see some glum and tired, bored and indifferent faces in church, the faces of people who come late and leave early. Words of the 19th century philosopher Frederick Nietzsche come to mind in their regard: ‘Christians should look more redeemed.’

It’s important for us to come up with our own answers, and to be able to state our beliefs and values as Christians. It is not sufficient to repeat the official answers and state the official formulas, such as ‘consubstantial with the Father’. For faith to be alive and influential in our lives, we have to make inherited faith our personal faith. What our family believes is not ours until we are walking the journey of faith ourselves, and ‘walking the walk, not just talking the talk’, as the rappers put it. The more convinced believers we have in the Church, the more it is founded on rock, not on sand.

The questions Jesus asked his apostles today are the most important in the whole gospel. First he asks: ‘Who do other people say I am?’ The answers they give him were way off the mark. Then he turns to them and asks: ‘And you, who do you say I am?’ Peter speaks up for the group, ‘You are the Christ.’ He says, ‘you are the Messiah, the Saviour’.

Peter got Jesus right. Jesus was and still is the Messiah. But he did not get Jesus fully and perfectly right. He did not know or accept that Jesus would be a suffering Messiah, not a military and political leader. That was something he had to learn, and learn the hard way.

What Peter did get right were his words as far as they went. But when he came to acting on his faith, he failed. His lowest point was when he denied that he ever knew Jesus. This shows that we need God’s grace, not only to profess our faith in words, but also to live it, to practise it, and especially if or when we find ourselves under pressure. In fact, in asking us what do we think of him, Jesus also implies that additional question: ‘So, what are you going to do about it?’

So, for the great grace of an active and practical faith, let us pray to the Lord, both for ourselves personally, and for one another!

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

 

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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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