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Contents: Volume 2 - Twentieth Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – October 1, 2017


 

The

26th

Sunday

2017

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Barbara Cooper, OP

3. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

4. -- Brian Gleeson CP

5. --

6.. (Your reflection can be here!)

 

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Sun.26 A

Most of us have had times in our lives when we have strayed from the straight and narrow road. Truthfully, as our readings point out, the road is rarely a straight one. Detours seem inevitable.

What will it take, however, to "change our minds and believe" in a more permanent way than the chief priests and the elders were able to do in today's Gospel reading? How will we change our mind set, our perspective, our total way of living? When will we receive and fully accept God's graces and mercy?

Life whizzes by at warp speed it seems these days. Intentionally slowing down the pace of living does help to put important things (like your own salvation) in proper perspective. The world events around us, and possible those within the family and closer to home, can definitely make one catch an extra deep breath or two.

I think it takes more than that, however. I think it takes a serious commitment to pray regularly. It also involves becoming connected with people and organizations that have caring for and about others, not wealth or status etc., as their main focus.

Looking out for the interests of others as well as for your own interests is the message of our second reading. We are to act the way Jesus did. That is how to change: consciously change one action at a time.

There are lots of places to begin. Begin at your home. Begin where you work or visit regularly. Begin at church. Just begin, prayerfully and purposefully.

One action at a time will begin to change a person. Little changes add to turnaround changes. A turnaround change is a more permanent response to God's graces and mercy.

The world needs to turnaround. Many places and people need to turnaround. Lord, help us as we spin ... and point us in Your direction!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – October 1, 2017

Can you picture those two sons? In response to their father's instruction one enthusiastically says: "I'm your man sir!" But he doesn't get off the couch.

The other says: "I don't want to!" But later he feels badly about it and goes into the vineyard to work.

Does it sound familiar?

Matthew places this story in the week after Palm Sunday. Jesus has entered Jerusalem, gone to the Temple and evicted the merchants doing business there. In response, the religious leaders challenge him with the question of what authority he has to do such things. Jesus asks them in verse 24:

"Jesus replied, "I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?"

They discussed it among themselves and said, "If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet."

So they answered Jesus, "We don’t know."

The audience must have gasped out loud as Jesus countered with today's story? Were they shocked that Jesus seemed to equate their religious leaders with a rebellious child? Did the Pharisees protest strongly, resenting Jesus' comparison of them with tax collectors and prostitutes?

The child who appeared to be dutiful and obedient doesn't follow through. Sometimes I'm like that. I've received gifts from God, been sent to live the Gospel and serve, and promptly went back to sleep.

At other times I'm like the child who says: "No thank you God" and then repents and goes where the Spirit leads. Perhaps we all have a bit of each child within ourselves. Hopefully we will mature into one who constantly says "Yes!", and then gets moving.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;

teach me your paths,

guide me in your truth and teach me,

for you are God my saviour.

 

Barbara Cooper, OP

Vancouver Island, BC Canada

bcoop60@yahoo.com

 

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Twenty-Sixth Sunday of Ordered Time, October 1, 2017

Ezekiel 18:25-28; Responsorial Psalm 25; Philippians 2:1-11; Gospel Acclamation John 10:27; Matthew 21:28-32

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Prophet Ezekiel. Three Sundays ago we also read from Ezekiel. In that reading, God choose him as watchman for Israel, to look out for enemies from outside the nation as well as enemies from within. Ezekiel’s message was those enemies’ goal was to snuff out the people’s faith in the God who had formed them into a nation. Those enemies weren’t in fact intent on attacking faith. By conquering Israel, those nations would insist on their culture which was always supported by their religion. The effect of being conquered challenged the Jewish practice of faith. And with the absence of practice, their faith -- the source of hope, of strength, and of energy for the nation -- would die. With that death, there would be no meaning and purpose to the lives of these chosen people. They would become like all other subjugated nations and gradually be assimilated into cultures that lacked faith in God.

In the book of Ezekiel we learn this prophet lost his wife. When she died, it was as though a delicate flower had died robbing him of the beauty of living. In this experience Ezekiel realized how intense, life giving, and meaningful is the faith in God’s holiness, in God’s abiding presence, and in God’s transcendence. Ezekiel loved and appreciated the great traditions, the rituals, the culture, and the faith that was the underpinning of the life of Israel. He defined sin as a denial of the presence of God a denial of God’s holiness, and a rejection of God’s love for his chosen people.

As deeply as Ezekiel loved his nation and depended on the faith that was its purpose and meaning, as he observed the signs of the times, he understood the need for change. Based on his experience and the inspiration of God, Ezekiel blends into his person the roles of priest, prophet and king. His understanding that the person of faith was to act as priest, prophet and king was the beginning of a new faith relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. His beloved nation, the seat of faith in the God whose promise was to remain with the people, was disintegrating. The vitality of the Jewish Religion was at stake in the events of his time. He understood the absolute necessity for a purification of the institutions of faith. That is the intent of this Sunday’s first reading. He insisted that the times were changing. To survive those times and the threats and challenges to faith, those who kept the Jewish faith must get to the basics of their faith. The trappings, the piled up rituals that were more show than substance, needed to be purified. This purification did not mean a return to traditions and rituals of yesteryears. It means a complete renewal of the roles of priest, prophet and king. This was not reserved to the Temple, but in the marketplace and fields as well. The essentials were faith in God’s abiding, unconditional loving presence. It was faith in God’s holiness. It was faith that God was above all things, and yet inextricably connected to the daily living of each person of faith. Despite the terror of siege and defeat, despite losing their homes and livelihood, despite being taken into exile and slavery, despite all this, God remained with them. Their faith would carry them through adversity and defeats. Just as surely as they had been conquered, they would one day rise up again: but only if they purified their faith and lived with faith in God’s Loving Kindness, in his commitment to always be with his people. As Ezekiel intones the words of the people this Sunday "The Lord’s way is not fair!" we may discover in our own hearts identical sentiments. We question why we suffer, why we are ignored, why we have no voice. Be purified in your faith of God – know and live within God’s presence. No matter the pain, suffering or even the joy and delight in life – know that God is with us as he promised. Sin covers over that faith and renders it sterile and impotent. We doubt God’s goodness and presence. We relegate him to a distant judge, waiting to catch us doing wrong. God does not condemn. We handle condemnation very well by ourselves.

There are many historians of Judaism who insist Ezekiel is the prophet who renewed Judaism and returned its purpose and meaning to the people’s practice of their faith.

That is a great segue into the Gospel from Matthew this Sunday. In this story, Jesus is in Jerusalem. This is after his triumphal entry into the city just before his passion, death, and resurrection. In earlier stories Jesus had been offering instruction to the people of the countryside. The resistance to his preaching in the countryside had been the Scribes and the Pharisees. Now, in Jerusalem, it is the elders – the Sanhedrin – and the chief priests. These were the officials of the Jewish faith. For the most part they believed the survival of their faith was dependent on accommodating to the demands and culture of their occupiers, the hated Romans. In this context, Jesus tells the story about two sons. It’s really the story of empty commitment for show contrasted with sinners who never committed but came to repent of their lack of faith. These are the tax-collectors and the prostitutes who never practiced the Jewish faith. But it was they who came to faith in the Christ. These were the ones whose life experiences left them empty and searching for meaning and purpose. Thus the son who says "yes, yes! I’ll go into your vineyard and work" but nevertheless hangs out with his friends – he is the one who speaks eloquently about faith and serving God but does nothing to practice that faith. They are not doing the will of God. However, if we asked these Sanhedrin members and the chief priests, they would have insisted they were the pure ones, the ones who lived the faith.

The second son said no by the way he lived his life. He didn’t even bother to make a show of agreeing to work in the vineyard. He just went and did as his father has asked. Turning away from a lack of faith to a lived-out faith is more important than the show having no effect on daily living.

The question then for us is: "Are we represented in this story?"

Both of these readings are about faith and its effect on us. Ezekiel insists faith is the source of meaning, purpose, and relevance. Underlying both these readings is the theme of the "will of God." If we look to Paul’s letter to the Philippians read this morning, we find further explanation. (It is hoped that the longer version is the one chosen by the presider to be read.) Paul speaks of the "encouragement in Christ". That encouragement is the truth of the Incarnation. By faith we understand that Jesus is both God and Man. God is, in the person of Jesus, present with us, walks with us, teaches us, demonstrates the unconditional love God has for us. There is our encouragement; that God cared for us enough to send his own son to be with us. That God is one of us is the foundation of our faith.

But there is in this reading – if the longer selection is chosen – a path for us to walk that grows our faith. Paul speaks eloquently: "Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

I’ve always struggle with the phrase "becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." This sounds like God’s will is expressed by a cruel despot, an insensitive taskmaster. Who could love such a maniac? Who could believe and follow such a tyrant? Who could think God who would demand death as a condition of obedience? How can such a person have our best interest at heart? Such a God lacks mercy and compassion. That’s not the God I want to listen to.

After years of struggle, I finally thought to look up the Latin word for obedience. One of the definitions I found is "to listen". Faith, as St. Paul insists, is a matter of the heart. Belief is a matter of the mind listening to the heart. We think of the heart as the source and center of affection, of love. If we listen to God with our hearts, with love, we will always find ways of expressing our love for God. Thus when fortune denies us success, when the world beats us down, when friend and foe abandon us, when politics denies us access, then listening to God with our hearts provides us a way forward. Christians are not masochists. But we are people who endure pain that comes our way without believing God has denied us. Christians delight in wonders of relationships and in the magnificence and beauty of creation. And we know that by the Son of God experiencing the most horrific death devised by mankind, that God has sympathy for us: God has shared in our life and knows from experience what it’s like to be human. What a great gift and aid to our faith!

The question remains: what is God’s will for us? John’s gospel provides an answer. Jesus says he came that we may have life and have it more fully. Not just in good times, but in times of great struggle. According to the first reading, we hear God’s Word, sense God’s Presence, and understand God’s hope for us if we are free of entanglements of sin. This doesn’t get us off the hook of providing for our families, of contributing to our communities, of standing up for what is right and just for all persons. But it clearly does tell us we have God’s presence with us. And we are encouraged by how much God loves us because of the great works of Jesus the Christ.

Some would identify what Ezekiel and Jesus describe as strength of character. That would be the secular way of speaking of maturity. In the arena of faith we identify this as depth of spirit practiced by persons of faith.

We should not forget what Paul also tells us in the second reading. We are to regard others as more important than ourselves. This is the basis of community. As Ezekiel and Jesus both preached: community supports and grows the faith in our hearts. It’s not so much about life. It’s more about how we live that provides us with meaning and purpose for the days of our lives. Faith is essential to fullness of life, completeness of spirit, and harmony with others.

May we grow together in the maturity of faith!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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SAYING YES TO GOD: 26TH SUNDAY A

It’s one thing to talk the talk, but another to walk the walk. We’ve been listening to the story Jesus told us about a father who said to his two sons: ‘Go and work in the vineyard today.’ The first answered: ‘No! I won’t.’ But later he changed his mind and went. That story reminds us that one of the wonderful things about being human is that we have free will. Having free will, we can change our minds and make a decision to say ‘yes’ to God and start living a new and better life.

A man turned to drink. He began to live for his next drink. Drink became such an obsession and compulsion, that he also turned away from God and his family. One day while he was walking along and thinking of the mess he was making of his life, he saw a bent, rusty nail in the gutter. It reminded him of himself and his life. So he picked it up and took it home. He put the nail on an anvil, and began to straighten it out and clean it up. An hour later, it looked like new again.

Then the thought hit him that he could straighten out and clean up his life too. That thought triggered his conversion. He turned away from drink and back to God and his family. Today he keeps that nail, now straightened out, clean and bright, in his wallet. It reminds him to remain on the right path.

Both stories tell us that as long as we are alive, we can change, change for the better. Both stories tell us that actions speak louder than words, and louder than just good ideas and good intentions. Indeed there is much truth in the proverb: ‘The way to hell [which is to say, separation from God and goodness] is paved with good intentions.’ The second son in Jesus’ story knows the right words: ‘Certainly, sir,’ he says, but he does not keep his word. The first son, on the other hand, has second thoughts about his refusal and shows his repentance by going to work in the vineyard after all.

That story Jesus told us is a powerful illustration of the truth he taught in his famous Sermon on the Mount: ‘It is not those who say to me, "Lord, Lord", who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven’ (Mt 7:21).

Next, Jesus blitzes his opponents, the religious leaders, by turning his parable on them. You’ve been mouthing all the right words about God’s law, he tells them. You’ve been carrying out all the prescribed rituals. But you have not been doing what God wants. You have not been living in God’s way. And when John the Baptizer called on you to repent, you took no notice of him. On the other hand, tax collectors and prostitutes, who used to say ‘no’ to God, have now been saying ‘yes’. They have meant what they said, and are now living in God’s way as good, law-abiding and honest people. So they well and truly belong now to God’s kingdom. But you, he tells his opponents, are not there yet, and you are not even close.

Jesus has a message for you and me as well. We are church-goers. We say the prescribed words every time we come together to pray. We carry out the right rituals as laid down in the book. Then we go back to the world from which we came. Now there are many good and beautiful and wholesome things about our world. But there are also many evil and corrupt things. It’s a world where God has been pushed in the back, gang tackled, elbowed out of the way, and shoved across the boundary line. Few blows the whistle about it in protest, and not enough face the tribunal for what they do to God and the interests of God. All too often, in fact, rough play and dirty tricks get applauded and rewarded out there. Our world has been saying to God: We don’t want you in our state schools. We don’t want to call on your name when asked to tell the truth in our courts. We don’t want you calling us to financial responsibility. We don’t want any mention of you on any public occasion. And we simply refuse point blank to stop polluting this planet you gave us.

After all, our world protests in its defence, not everyone believes in God. And with God out of its way, and out of its consciousness and conscience, our world has decided that just about anything goes. In movies and on television there is so much profanity, violence, manipulation, seduction, casual and promiscuous sex. Pop music occasionally endorses drugs, suicide and witchcraft. Our world calls it entertainment. I call such excesses empty, superficial, meaningless, loveless and heartless.

Our world has well and truly lost its innocence. It is also putting you and me in serious danger of losing ours. And should we have already lost our innocence, our world makes it difficult for us to straighten out our lives and clean up our act. But all is not lost. From having said ‘no’ to God, perhaps many times, we can start saying ‘yes’, and saying it not just many times, but saying it every time.

Our greatest hope for achieving this remains the person of Jesus, Saviour of the world and our personal Saviour. Every time we come together for the Eucharist, he comes to us, and joins us to himself. Here at the Eucharist we remember all that he has taught us. Here we are inspired by his example. Here we are influenced and empowered by him. Here he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us along the path that leads to both goodness of life and the goodness of God. Thank God, then, for our mighty and merciful Saviour!

So we place our trust in him, not only to survive the presence of evil and corruption in an otherwise good and wholesome world, but even to thrive, to thrive as his followers. He is the medicine we need for our weakness. He is the food we need for our strength. He is our way, our truth, and our life. So we thank God for Jesus then, over and over again, as our personal and community Saviour!

"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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