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Contents: Volume 2 - 30th Sunday 10-28-18, All Saints AND All Souls 2018


 

The 30th

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. 30 B

It was hard for me to read these readings for this Sunday without immediately connecting them to the horrible plight of so many in our world today. The reading from the book of Jeremiah reminded me of the "caravan" of migrant people leaving the poverty and violence of several Central American countries to seek asylum in Mexico or the United States. Sure there must be traffickers or some other criminals among them, but the media picture of such an immense throng tugged at my heart nonetheless. Too many stories continue of separation at the US border, children taken from a parent, crying out as did Bartimaeus for the Lord's pity.

One rather old homeless man today was so grateful for the few dollars I gave him that I wondered if he really was Jesus when he peered from beneath his worn hat and blessed me! I was glad to be stopped at a traffic light because it took me a moment to regain my own composure. Look around the world: there are many many people in desperate situations due to poverty, war, illness, and natural disasters.

And here I am at my computer, deeply saddened. My first impulse is to hug my own family members, struggling though we are at times. I am ever so thankful that we are safe, together, and with ample food, clothing, and shelter.

Our readings tell us about struggles but also about hope. Our first reading tells us that God will bring back those who are desperate, and "console and guide them". We must continue to hope ... and then DO something to help that hope be realized especially for those in such need. There is always a need to send financial support to organizations that have proven records of assisting those in need locally and globally. There is always a need to be listened to ...and the need for compassionate listeners is truly great.

Think here about a family member or someone in your office or parish or a distant friend or relative who is alone and would love a phone call or even a stranger who needs a few minutes of undivided attention. Everyone has a story and some of the details cry out for healing. The world's needs are simply overwhelming, but God's grace overwhelms the world... if we look for it and spread it among ourselves and those in need.

So when Jesus asks each of us "What do you want me to do for you?", do ask for a specific healing for yourself. Then follow Jesus by asking to be shown how to help someone else. Let us be thankful for the bounty we have in terms of human resources, people among us who will indeed reach out to others who are in such great need in Jesus's Name. Let each of us become one of them, acting just like Jesus.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Thirtieth Sunday of Ordered Time October 28 2018

Jeremiah 31:7-9; Responsorial Psalm 128; Hebrews 5:1-6; Gospel Acclamation 2nd Tim 1-10; Mark 10:46-52

As an aging grandpa, I’ve found the best way of teaching my grandchildren is to tell them stories. Though some think it’s the ramblings of a crazed old man, for the kids it’s telling them about their ancestors. I’m delighted to tell stories about my parents, my grandparents, and relatives long ago and relatives still living – through far away geographically. The stories carry a point of encouragement, a note of warning about foolishness, a reach into the spirit of this one or that one demonstrating courage, faith, hope, thrift, and even humor. Kids have great memories. When I repeat a story with a different ending Charlie and Anna and Will correct me and tell me I’ve forgotten something. It’s a sort of game with them to catch grandpa making a story mistake. I’m not an Uncle Remus but in the telling of stories I’ve learned something about myself and about my trajectory through life. It seems when we express our experiences those experiences take on meaning and add to or subtract from who I am.

Clearly the gospel story this week-end is such a story. It expresses an event in the ministry part of Jesus’ life. The details give color and depth to the story making it real. It’s not the high sounding rantings of a philosopher or a theologian. Though many will attempt to make it about morality, the story is not about rules or regulations or commandments. It’s a story of a person. Its plot line is about the intersection of two lives – one Bartimaeus and the other Jesus. It describes the beginning of a relationship that stretches out into the future of Bartimaeus and of Jesus.

The addition of disciples and the crowd walking along the road to Jerusalem with Jesus adds a depth that allows us to cast ourselves either as participants in the story or as mere spectators. It’s a story that has meaning and purpose. When Mark chose to include this story he chose it to make a point. Well, no, not A point. There is a whole bundle of information and inspirational details in this story.

If we begin with Jesus, we’ll set the scene from his perspective. In this story, we see Jesus leaving Jericho, that ancient city whose walls came tumbling down when the Hebrews are led by Joshua into the Promised Land. Joshua – a lad walking at Moses’ right hand during the desert wanderings had taken over the leadership of the Hebrew tribes – all twelve of them. Their destination was the Promised Land where God would be with them. They faced years upon years of battles to take possession of that land. Jesus leaves that city headed for the place where the Jews thought of God dwelling among them. It was Jerusalem that was the destiny of Jesus on this walk. Jerusalem is the City of David, the destiny of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims for celebration of the three high holy days of their faith. Prophecies, ancient and recent, claimed Jerusalem as the place where the Messiah would set up shop in a renewal of the Kingdom of David which would free the Jews from captivity a third time. The first liberation was from the clutches of Pharaoh: the second liberation was from the despotic powers of the emperor of Babylon. This third liberation was hoped to be release from the awful rule of the pagan law of temporal controlling power and the crushing might of the legions of Rome.

Jesus is on his way to claim his kingship. But this third liberation was a release not from military or political power. It was not a conquering of land or trade routes. This liberation reached more deeply into the very psyche of persons and of communities of persons. This liberation was not on the surface of human existence, but reached deep and completely into the hearts, minds, hands, and feet of human existence. The disciples and the crowd that walked along the way of Jesus didn’t get it. What Jesus was headed to Jerusalem to do was to conquer death itself. In so doing, the failures to live a full and complete life would be whittled down to size. Persons and communities could live in a new way. That way, the obstacles to growth into peace and unbridled joy was buried. The Way of the World was disclosed as the charade it truly is.

For Mark writing this first of the chronicles of the Good News, the problem was to break through the ordinary way of thinking. For Mark there had to be an avenue for showing in a story narrative just how a follower of this Jesus would begin to live the Way of Jesus. What better way of explaining this change of heart, this redirection of the human spirit than to write about the ability to see? Clearly this story is not a fantasy made up by Mark. Was there a Bartimaeus? Certainly! But if we think of Bartimaeus as just a person along the road cursed from birth with blindness we make a mistake. Bartimaeus is a type of each one of us. We tend to grow physically and to expand our lived context. We expand our lives through education, through interaction with others, through engagement in the civil world. We grow mentally and psychically. We put aside the things of a child and take our place, create a niche in the world for ourselves. Just like Bartimaeus, Mark tells us, there is an inherent blindness within our spirits that nags and tears at us. Just like Bartimaeus we listen, we struggle to survive; we look for and search for answers to that deep-seated longing that cannot be satisfied by things, by simple relationships, by power over others, by great successes with wealth, or by the adulation of those who admire our skills, appearance, or things. When we realize our blindness we can understand Bartimaeus. We too will be unafraid to cause a scene as we shout out, "Son of David, have mercy on me." Reminds us of the "Lord have mercy" of Mass.

Thinking about Bartimaeus and putting ourselves in his life. He has from birth been dependent on others to guide him, to explain to him what was happening. In those ancient days, a blind person had no place in society’s workings. He was without purpose and meaning. His was a life of total dependence. He learned to relate to the way of the world. He became proficient at begging for crumbs and pennies from those who walked by. He was surviving. Even with his handicap that made him different and less competitive, he learned and grew. He knew about David through listening. He knew his nation’s history by stories others told as they walked in pilgrimage. The burden he carried grew heavier as he understood his need to see. To see would release him, free him and make him whole.

In this miracle, Jesus doesn’t touch, doesn’t say a prayer over Bartimaeus. He orders directly and without fanfare with his word that Bartimaeus might see. And so he does. In his seeing Bartimaeus leaves his cloak on the ground where he has cast it and walks with Jesus. He walks with Jesus to Jerusalem to witness and share in the battle with death and deceit. He walks with Jesus to share in an event that impacts his life, his very person.

There is a lot to unpack in this short, simple story of an encounter between Bartimaeus and Jesus. Its application to us is hardly discernible in a short reflection. I suggest this story as one that contains many facets of wisdom. Like all of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, the riches contained in the words are never completely mined. Each experience of living is illumined by the experiences of those who have gone before us. As we grow physically, mentally, spiritually, and psychically there is in our Scriptures riches to brighten our living. Repeatedly the scales cast over our sight by the way of the world are peeled away and we see more clearly the truth of God’s creation.

Bartimaeus is an example of us. What we first learn of God, we learn from stories told us. Each story has depth and color discoverable only as we experience the world and our relationship with it. As we grow and experience others sharing this world we learn about ourselves and about the uniqueness of each other person. Over the thousands of years of experiencing relationship with creation humanity came to encounter the creator. And those encounters were told first in stories spoken and ultimately in written words. When Bartimaeus wishes to see, there was more to his request than eyesight. His life experience created a hunger in his spirit to discover, to see the hidden depths of his relationships. He learned about persons and creation through his other senses. He longed for sight by which he could pull together and better understand. He would realize how he belonged in creation. In relating he would discover the creator. Thus the gift of sight, of insight, he followed Jesus journeying to his battle with death and sin. Bartimaeus saw, he understood. This growth, this coming to sight and understanding was not a single event in the life of Bartimaeus. He had lived sightless for his entire life, since birth. So also we learn to shout out for sight over the course of our lifetime. We learn from experience of our need to see, to understand.

Those who struggle to live by faith always wish to see. As we mature in spirit and psychically, we cry out, "Lord that I might see." And with a Word, the Son of God opens our eyes. In the Scriptures that we hear, we hear Jesus say the words that open our eyes. By living year after year we gain through experience a collection of information that demands we discover meaning and relevancy. We need eyes open to the mysteries hidden in the gift and mystery of life. In the Words proclaimed and explained we are given sight. We are drawn into the journey to Jerusalem. There we confront death and deceit and sin which hold us captive. In confronting death and sin and the lies of the world we gain confidence that our person will endure because we have faith in the One we follow and in the Way he has shown us. Even through our experiences contain much that beats us down, that holds us captive, that wishes to kill our spirits, we walk the way of the Cross and understand that even death has no sting. We come to understand that cruelty and pain and suffering at the hands of the way of the world have no control over what we are. For we walk in the Way of the Lord who gives us sight and insight into the meaning and purpose of our individual and collective lives.

Let us listen for the crowd walking with Jesus and cry out, "Lord, Son of David, that I may see!"


Solemnity of All Saints November 1 2018

Revelation 7:2-4 & 9-14; Responsorial Psalm 24; 1st John 3: 1-3; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 11:28; Matthew 5:1-12

Many years ago while visiting our son and his family; we attended Mass on Pentecost Sunday at St. Matthew’s parish in the south of Charlotte. It was a low time in our lives as we had lost much of our retirement because of the bankruptcy of an individual who purchased our business. We found a seat toward the back of this huge hall. It was arranged in a semi-circle with theatre-sloped seating, all seats focusing on the altar and ambo. As I sat there immersed in sorrow and lack of appreciation at our situation, I wondered why God had visited this pain on us. Then I looked around at the fifteen hundred persons seated with us, awaiting the entrance of the presider for Word and Eucharistic liturgies. It seemed to my eye at that moment that each person had chosen colored clothing of contrasting hues. The variety of textures of their clothing was striking. Looking into the faces of the persons gathered in his Name, it became apparent that St. Matthew’s parish was an assembly of great diversity. The colors of the faces spanned from lily white to deepest browns. All races and nationalities appeared to be present with Carol and me. There came to mind at that moment the words from the first reading this feast of All Saints: "After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, ‘Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne and from the Lamb!’ "

It was an exhilarating moment. I was overwhelmed with the sensation that all would come round right despite our setbacks regarding our retirement’s financial security. It was a moment when, without my efforts, I felt touched by the Spirit of God. And there, in that moment, a quiet peace and a gentle joy embraced within me.

The words of this feast day’s first reading continue. "These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and make them white in the Blood of the Lamb!"

Carol and my distress could hardly compete for severity in comparison with the distress endured by so many millions who live now and who have lived before our time. Great tragedies arising from disordered nature – floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanos, landslides, storms, drought and searing heat killed and maimed millions of people before us and clearly will affect more after us. In our day humanity does harm to our world creating more distress for our children’s children.

Not only does nature conspire against human peace and joy. There are also the malevolent and evil inclinations of those who seek to control, to dominate, to rape and pillage. They pursue not only the earth but persons who struggle without benefit of power, wealth, or influence. The violence of tyrants and despots, the misbegotten theories of social and economic justice of those in power, and the efforts of the violent among the poor to ravage their own class have murdered and maimed millions more. If we look at the violence so prevalent in our world, we may succumb to despair at human life ever coming round right. Where is our God? Why does our Father turn a blind eye to the evil of nature and the violence of sinful humans? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do the evil prosper while the good suffer at their hands?

We forget the lesson based on human experience spoken to us in the first book of the Hebrew Scriptures. God created humanity (male and female he created them – in equality and diversity) and placed it over creation to "till and care" for it. We often hear that humanity is to dominate it and make use of it. That phrase is used by those who preach the ‘prosperity gospels’. However, dominate must be viewed in the sense of human experience at the time the stories were spoken and subsequently written down. A shepherd – a king – sent delegates to the provinces of his region of responsibility. That delegate was expected to ‘dominate’, to direct, to organize, to see to the productivity of the region for the "BENEFIT OF ITS INHABITANTS." This is not to rob the region of its resources but to apply them for the good of the people. The shepherd’s role is for the sheep, to protect, to nourish, to lead, to encourage growth. A good shepherd is one who forgets his own welfare in favor of the welfare of his sheep.

So it is with God’s creation. In seven days – according to the oldest narrative about creation in Genesis -- God completed his work. If we think about the story, on the seventh day God rested, and God gave over responsibility for the earth to humanity. Thus when a nation is out of order, when it rebels against the order God established, it is not God’s will that evil visit creation. It is for humanity to work to return nature to its order and productivity. It is for humanity to heal nature where it hurts.

Evil persons seek only their own self. Violence springs from their self-centeredness. Physical, spiritual, and psychic harm come from their actions. This is not God’s will. God had no hand in their choice. God took a huge chance when he created humanity endowing it with freedom to choose. That is the story of sin in the first chapters of Genesis. The Adam and Eve narrative, the Cain and Able tragedy, the disorder that resulted in the world-wide flood Noah and family experienced, and the disruption of the ability of humans to understand and speak with each told in the Tower of Babel story; these narratives describe our situation even now.

This bad stuff, this evil visited upon us by capricious nature and by the choices of evil persons comes to us not because God wants to make us suffer. It comes to us because of the unfinished nature of creation. It is humanity’s responsibility to complete nature’s creation. Evil comes to us because of those who choose to do evil rather than good. Those persons have created the Way of the World. It is a way that conflicts with the way of the beatitudes in the gospel for this feast day.

What we are certain of on this wonderful feast day is this: God is with us in our struggle with the vagaries of nature and the evil choices of humanity. We know this because God became man in the person of Jesus. Jesus is God and Man – two natures in one person.

Jesus willingly and knowingly walked up to Jerusalem in the last days of his life. Jerusalem was the center of the Jewish world commercially and with secularity. It was also the center for the presence of Yahweh, the God who loves. This city embraced all of humanity’s endeavors and aspirations. That which was evil in the hearts of men – especially those who controlled the emotions and goals of the people – was at work, thinking to kill off this messenger of God. In that way, "it would be better that one man die than that the nation perish."

That is the message of the first reading. God remains with us especially in the life-blood of the Lamb. Jesus came to Jerusalem to confront death, death brought on by sin. After sin entered creation, death was no longer merely a transition, a passageway to eternity. It became a punishment, a darkness we enter into, a doubt in the loving kindness of God. Jesus’ acceptance of the challenge of death was a vindication over the terror of death. That terror was forever removed when the Father through the Spirit raised him up from a cold, dark, foreboding, and blinding grave.

That is the message about evil. It is possible because of God’s gift to humanity, the gift of freedom to choose good or evil. It arises from the incomplete state of nature where disorder arises from nature’s opposing forces. God will not regret his decisions. Instead he stands ready to help us through those troubles and to lead us ever toward the banquet prepared for those who love him. He never interferes in our freedom – his great gift given after the incomprehensible gift of life. He always stands ready to speak to us in our spirits, in our minds, and most effectively in our hearts to help us through the pains, sufferings, terrors, and violence we experience. The beatitudes of the gospel reading are a roadmap to his presence within us. We ought to think deeply on how to implement them in our lives.

May we rejoice on this feast-day that assures us of a place in the kingdom at the time of the great harvest!


Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed November 2 2018

Wisdom 3:1-9; Responsorial Psalm 23; Romans 5:5-11; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 25:34; John 6:37-40

The celebration of All Souls days sticks in my childhood memory in large part because of my Uncle Florian. November 2 was his birthday. He always thought of himself as a poor soul, struggling to be better than he was. He had a grand sense of humor and was among the kindest persons I’ve ever known. I think he was born a day late.

The readings this day are about God’s loving care for all his created humanity. Not one of them, Jesus tells the crowd will be lost. The book of Wisdom, written many centuries before the birth of the Christ speaks of the souls of the just and how the world looks at them as being dead. But in the eyes of God they live.

There is something about how we read the term "soul" that bothers me. The soul and body philosophy of the Greeks was not something the ancient Hebrews believed in. A person is a person. The spirit of a person is that which animates the body. But a person is not a person without body, without spirit. We are not split personalities: we cannot blame our bodies for the bad we do. We cannot imagine our spirits at war with our spirits. We are a person and to divide that person into two warring factions is ridiculous.

The All Souls ’ Day liturgy of the Word is captured very well in the psalm favored by nearly all who know of it. "Though I should walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me." God never lets go of us. God continues to behave, as does the dad of the prodigal son. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, this dad looks up the road to where it meets the horizon, scanning for his son who has abandoned him. Every figure is analyzed. Is that his particular, peculiar stride? Is that his height? Is that him, skinnier, thinner because of his need?

That is the image of All Soul’s Day. It is a time when the Lord reaches out to those of us who stumble and fall along the way home. It is a time of hope for us. "Even though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage."

Paul writing to the Romans expands in his words this hope. "Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God had been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us."

This day is a day when we remember all those who have gone before us on the final journey. We remember parents, siblings, classmates, uncles and aunts, cousins, great friends, great enemies. All are commended into the hands of the prodigal’s Dad. In our heart of hearts we hope on this day that our family and friends will not soon forget us as we pass through.

Have we ever thought of what it will be like to make the crossing and encounter our family and friends? What a joyful reunion, what a noise of shouted greetings, what a clatter of voices, what a bunch of hugs and kisses will greet us. What about those we had difficulty with in life? What about those we hated, those we fought with, those we distrusted, those we harmed by murder of spirits or theft of necessities? How will we greet those who harmed, ignored, or discouraged us?

Perhaps it is because of this latter question that we celebrate an All Souls day. If we can’t make peace on this earth before our transition, we’ll need to make it when we reach our terminal point. Wouldn’t it be better if we took care of that now in time rather than spoil that grand reunion?

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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PRAYING IN PAIN: 30th SUNDAY B

Every now and then we come across people knocked for six by things that happen to them. We’ve seen e.g. people on television in deep grief because a loved one has been murdered, or been killed in a car accident, or their house with all their belongings has just burnt to the ground. In the face of such disasters, they may sit on the ground with their heads in their hands, rocking from side to side, or they may just stare blindly ahead. In their extreme pain they are often incapable of saying even one word about what they are feeling. So when someone asks: ’How are you feeling?’ or ‘Is there anything I can do?’, or ‘Can I bring you a cup of coffee or tea?’ there’s just no answer. The victims of sudden disaster simply cannot answer anything at all. In their numb state they are feeling just too much pain and too much shock even to hear what is being said to them, let alone responding to what is being said.

The first step to easing their pain, is for them to find a language, however slowly, to express it. So we are not surprised to find in the pages of the bible a language to express the pain that comes from loss, and the pain that comes from fear. In fact there are many prayers of lament, many lamentations of one kind or another in the bible. What they have in common is that they are cries from the heart, shouts of suffering, groans of anguish, and even screams for help. One we will soon come across is in the Responsorial Psalm for our 33rd Sunday: ‘Keep me safe, O God; you are my hope.’

Cries, shouts and groans to God when people are in acute pain not only help people to express themselves. They are also expressions of hope that things can get better. Lamentation, then, is not pessimistic, it is trustful. It refuses to remain powerless and passive in the face of pain, frustration, disappointment or disaster.

When that poor blind beggar Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is near by, he shouts out his lament: ‘Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.’ But some of those near by resent him expressing his pain and his scream for help. They tell him rudely to ‘just shut up’. But Bartimaeus knows that if things are ever going to change for the better, he must communicate to Jesus the loss of his sight and his lack of any income to buy food, clothing, or any of the necessities of life. Having been blind nearly all his life, he’s had enough of living in his world of total darkness, and he’s just not going to take it any more. So, with the arrival of Jesus on the scene he’s convinced that his one and only chance of a brand new start has arrived at last.

His cries for help stop Jesus in his tracks. He tells the bystanders to reach out to Bartimaeus by calling him over. They now change their tune. ‘Courage,’ they say, ‘Get up; he is calling you.’ Jesus asks him: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ When the blind man blurts out his desperate plea, there and then Jesus heals him and praises him for his faith in Jesus, his life-saver. Saved by that faith, he goes on to use his newly restored sight to follow Jesus along the road, as his newest, his most enthusistic, and his most grateful disciple.

So this marvellous healing of the blind man takes place as the result of a prayer of lamentation. Its story reminds us that in the frustration and anger over bad things that happen to us or others, in situations of acute pain, it’s quite all right and indeed advisable, to give vent to our feelings, and even, like Bartimaeus, to yell or even scream at God for help. After all, God is big enough, great enough and good enough, to absorb all our cries of pain and all our cries for help.

But if, on the other hand, we’ve been brought up to think that the religious response to pain and suffering should be silence and passivity, then we won’t ever pray those prayers of complaint and lament to God that we need to pray. We’ll just take it all on the chin, and fall into a crumpled heap of depression and anxiety. To do that, however, means that we will be depriving ourselves of a language to state our suffering. Instead of honestly telling God our loving Father and Mother exactly what we are thinking and feeling, our prayer will be a kind of polite and reverent game of ‘make-believe’.

We will also deprive ourselves of the possibility of divine help and healing in one form or another. Just as Bartimaeus touched the heart of Jesus and found the comfort and healing he needed in his life-long predicament, you and I will also find that our prayers of lament will go straight to the heart of God. In every painful situation and especially when we find ourselves or others burdened with unbearable pain, may we also hear Jesus our Saviour saying to us too, those same tender and gentle words he spoke to Blind Bartimaeus: ‘What do you want me to do for you?’

"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.

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