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Contents: Volume 2 - Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – October 29, 2017


 

The

30th

Sunday

2017

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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Sun. 30 A

Jesus is again being tested by his critics in today's Gospel reading. He is asked which is the greatest commandment. True to who he is, Jesus responds with seemingly soft but very challenging words.

Jesus tells us that our full attention needs to be upon loving God and loving our neighbor. We are also called to love ourselves! Jesus's words, while challenging, are still rather general, however, leaving much breadth and width and giving few specifics.

What does Jesus mean by "all" and how exactly do we meet those expectations? Our other readings provide some suggestions. Those suggestions are right in line with the word "challenging" also!

Specifically, we are told to treat aliens, widows, orphans, and the poor with care, honesty, dignity, and kindness. We are assured that God indeed does hear them especially if they have to cry out to God again. That "or else" part is an eye opener.

I know God reads hearts but I am not sure if God reads any newspapers or clues in to other media sources! If so, our world in general is in deep trouble! Seriously though, the cries of those downtrodden in our society are thunderous... do we hear them? The world is in deep trouble in many ways.

In many US parishes, Fall is when we reflect on stewardship. We ask ourselves how we share our blessings via our "time, treasure, and talent". It is time to lend our voices in attention to anguished cries.

St. Catherine of Siena wrote: "Preach the truth as if you had a million voices. It is silence that kills the world." It is time to do just that in solidarity with those in need in our neighborhoods, parishes, and cities as well as in the world. The opportunities are endless and are only restricted by our own priorities, commitment, and stamina.

Pick something, just do it! Change a priority or two. A little less golf or more time helping an older neighbor rake leaves or a widow care for her children. Start small.

In that way, each and every one of us can be better "imitators of the Lord" and "a model" to others. We will be caring for ourselves/ our souls and feeling good about it. We will certainly be loving the Lord more consciously and authentically than before by loving our neighbor... a good thing especially for a Christian since we profess to follow Jesus anyway.

Maybe periodically we should ask ourselves "How do I love thee (Lord), let me count the ways!"

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – October 29, 2017

What can one say about today's readings? They seem a call to action more than a subject for words. Especially in today's world where roads are overflowing with refugees and displaced persons, and the poor pay more for what they need.

"Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless..... If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest."

"Thus says the Lord"

It is a challenge – especially in today's world. But then, it's probably always been a challenge or the words from Exodus would not have been needed. Whether someone owns a thousand acres of country estate, or a scrap-wood shelter on a postage sized piece of someone's land, it seems to me we are anxious to protect "our space". And this might seem reasonable because if we lose "our space", where would we go? Who would we be? Where do we find our security?

The reading from Exodus threatens punishment for those who forget that we or our ancestors were once foreigners looking for a home, and that is a reason to welcome others in need. Jesus takes us to a different level.

"Jesus replied: "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Moreover, in a few chapters further in Matthew, we read: "‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’"

We don't act from fear of God's punishments, or "karma", or because it could be embarrassing for us if we appear too hard-hearted. We are given a Spirit that will move us to act in Love, if we allow it. When seeing the famous picture from space of this tiny, blue and white ball we call "home" we can get some feeling for how we are "one". There are no borders visible, no isolated Countries, no major or minor nationalities. There is just one planet that we all share and are supposed to care for. And the Divine command:

"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind'. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'.

We are all guests of our Creator.

Barbara Cooper, OP

Vancouver Island, BC Canada

bcoop60@yahoo.com

 

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Thirtieth Sunday in Ordered Time

Exodus 22:20-26; Responsorial Psalm 18; 1st Thessalonians 1:5-10; Gospel Acclamation John 14:23; Matthew 22:34-40

Beginning with last Sunday’s Office of Readings those who pray the Breviary we began reading the Book of Esther. It’s a beautiful story in an historical setting that provides a reflection to the Jews of what it means to be a people of faith. That story uses an explanation of the secular feast of Purim to tell its story. By tying this reflection to that story, everyone from the oldest, wisest person to the youngest child of the age of reason was interested. Purim is still celebrated with gift giving, almsgiving, and masquerade parties. Purim is derived from the word PUR. That word is translated with the word lot. It’s like a roll of dice, or perhaps a better way to describe it is to call it destiny.

The historical setting of this story is after the Jews are released by Cyrus the Great to return to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. The new emperor is Xerxes and the year is 484 B.C. The Breviary reading names Xerxes with the name Ahasuerus. The story starts with an upright and righteous Jewish man named Mordecai who remained in Persia after the Jews returned to their homeland. The conflict in the book of Esther comes from the Jews continuing the practice of their faith and rituals in this pagan land. The Jews were non-conformists in regard to the religious and civil practices of Persia. Religion has always, even to this day, been a tool for tyrants to control and certify the loyalty of their subjects. The Jews had faith in the Living God, this Yahweh who had covenanted himself to the welfare of these people of faith. This made them non-conformist and, because they were very different, made them easy scapegoats for persons looking for an opportunity to claim power and wealth. Haman is one of those and with his connections with Xerxes’ court he was able to fan flames of hatred for the Jews living in Persia. Haman convinced Xerxes the Jews were not patriotic. Xerxes empowered Haman to set in motion the extermination of all Jews in the entire Persian Empire. On a specific day, all Jews were to be slaughtered, men, women and children. Their property would confiscated and be given to Haman. Haman focused his attacks on the prominent Jew, Mordecai.

Esther was an orphan, adopted by Mordecai. She was exceedingly beautiful and, because of her beauty, was chosen by Xerxes to become his queen. Esther had been carefully instructed not to reveal her religion or her nationality to Xerxes or his court. Esther, coached by Mordecai, was able to expose the evil of Haman’s self-serving efforts. Haman is subsequently hung from an eighty five foot tall gibbet as the reward for his working only to increase his own interests. The Jews are saved through the efforts of this woman, Esther, this foreigner, this alien among the ruling nation. The message to Jews reflecting on this story is that God’s people will be misunderstood and persecuted. They stand outside the ways of the world and are living witnesses to the love God has for his people and his creation. God will rescue his people from persecution, making them stronger in their faith through persecution. God delivers his chosen people from the hopelessness of a human history focused solely on goals and values of secular power. There is more to human life than power, wealth, influence, and notoriety! Holding this faith in their hearts and in their actions made and makes the Jews non-conformists.

When reading this short book of Esther, we may be shocked to note God is not mentioned.

Our first reading this Sunday is from the Book of Exodus. The Hebrews are instructed how to live in accord with the covenant. It is God’s will that all people be respected, for indeed all people are created in his Image and likeness and are endowed with dignity and worth. This may remind us of the words of the United States’ Declaration of Independence:

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.

God reminds his people they also were once aliens in a foreign land. In our time this reminder comes to those of us who cannot claim ancestry from the Native Americans we identify as Indians. Predominantly, our ancestors came to this land escaping oppression and servitude in the lands of their birth. They came to find freedom to grow, to accomplish, and to live lives in peace and hope for their children. So often in the bitter diatribes shouted at persons fleeing war, persecution, violence, and oppression there is little thought given to God’s instruction to the Hebrews nearly six thousand years ago. Surely, we cannot think that God’s words, so clear, so precise, so helpful have lost their meaning or that God may have changed God’s mind about this. How is it we forget, how is it we allow ourselves to be drawn in by loud, violent, self-serving voices spewing hatred for our fellow man? As Catholic/Christians we are non-conformists to such secular thinking and agendas. Just like the Jews in Egypt, or the scattered nation of Judah living in Persia, we Catholic/Christians make our rational judgments and apply the movements of our hearts according to a different drummer. It is easy to be caught up in the bombast and divisive rhetoric of separatists, of those who have forgotten the reasons their ancestors came to this wonderful land. When we stand up in solidarity with the refugee escaping the horrors of war and persecution, the migrant in search of the dignity of work to support their family, the immigrant rejected in his homeland because of race, gender, national origin – when we stand up in solidarity as the People of God, we obey the commandments God gave Moses for the Hebrews. We obey and live the two great commandments Jesus reminds of in the gospel this Sunday.

This Sunday’s gospel is another conflict story. Last Sunday the Sadducees failed in their attempt to divide Jesus from his followers. They used the time-tested warfare principle of divide and conquer. Jesus didn’t fall for their ploy and reminds them Caesar, the secular reality, has a place in their lives. Jesus used their own practices to prove God is God of all, including Caesar. This Sunday it’s the Pharisees’ turn. They were proud of their understanding and knowledge of the Scriptures and the Law they had so thoroughly reviewed and studied. They thought they had a question Jesus would bungle. "Which commandment in the law is the greatest?" Jesus preached and worked his miracles in the name of God, for the benefit of the people and the community. So if Jesus said loving God was the most important, the Pharisees could confront him with his attention to the people, even to the point of breaking the Sabbath Law to heal. If Jesus said loving your neighbor was most important, then Jesus would be an idolater. Jesus foils their designs by quoting from the Scriptures the Pharisees claim to love. Jesus rates Loving God and loving neighbor as like each other. Loving God and loving neighbor are necessary ways of living faith in God’s loving, living presence. By using these two quotes from the book of Exodus and the book of Leviticus, Jesus pointed out the dishonesty of the Pharisees. They were more about the law than about God’s love for mankind and the necessity of mankind’s returning that love to God by loving one’s neighbors.

As we reflect on this Sunday’s readings and the story of Esther, most of us will find room in our lives for improvement. There is such a heated and angry discussion about immigration. Well, it’s not really a discussion. What is going on is a diatribe, two armies drawn up in battle lines. There is no negotiation; there is no search for a way forward to loving the alien in our midst. Each new flood of immigration around the world is based on flight from their nation of birth because of violence, persecution, and their becoming victims of desire for power and wealth. It is a nearly universal truth that each wave results in a growth in economies and an expansion of the cultural heritage enjoyed by citizens. The "no-nothing" movement of the late eighteen hundreds in this country was against the immigration of Catholics in this country. Yet, the contribution to our nation by the Italians, the Irish, the Germans, the French, the Polish --- and all others fleeing pogroms and efforts to suppress the Catholic faith – their contribution has enriched all. The entire issue of immigration has lost its way. The question has become a matter of who wins instead of concern for and following of the two great commandments.

Is there anyone who doubts that Catholic/Christians are nonconformists? If we approach our lives and communal activities from a foundation of Jesus’ message, we find ourselves out of step with much of the political and commercial beliefs in the world. The Haman’s of this world would have us at war with each other while they stand in the wings waiting to loot the victims on the battlefield.

The absolutely clear message of salvation history is God’s unconditional love and care for every bit of his creation. God insisted at the creation of humanity that his creation of mankind is "very good!" It is so good that the Son of God became one of us as evidence of God’s love. God became man so that God could experience our joys, our pains, our accomplishments, and our sufferings and death. How then it is that we who profess to follow the Way of the Christ fail to reflect on our daily lives in the light of God’s revelation? How is it that we lack the courage to judge events based on God’s love for us and the love God expects us to share with each other?

We call ourselves Catholics. Being Catholic does not separate us from others, exclude others from our love, does not make us somehow elite. Catholic means quite simply extending our love to all persons – disregarding all that divides us. There is neither Gentile nor Jew, neither woman nor man, neither slave nor free, neither rich nor poor. We are all called into the one Body of Christ. We are Catholic! Anyone who divides us, excludes or denies others doesn’t know what Catholic means. May we all become Catholic in our love for God and for each other.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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LOVING GOD IN LOVING NEIGHBOR: 30TH SUNDAY A

A mother in a country town a long way from here became very concerned about the children she saw in the streets of her town. She was convinced that they were wild, unruly and disrespectful. She called them ‘ferals‘, and to anyone who would listen she would say: ‘Parents no longer teach their children to be obedient.’ She made up her mind this would never happen in her family, and so she insisted on total and absolute obedience. Either her children did exactly what she told them to do, or they were punished very severely.

For disobeying any of her orders or breaking any of her rules, she stopped them going out to play or going to their friends’ homes, sent them to bed without a meal, gave them no pocket money, stopped them from getting or giving Christmas presents, cancelled their birthday parties, refused to let them get a driver’s licence when they were old enough, and stopped them going to university. She was a real tyrant.

Her campaign was very successful. Her children were very obedient and respectful. On the outside, that is. On the inside, they were seething. Finally, when they were older, every one of them moved away from their mother as far as they could. As things turned out, they were all very successful in their careers. One day the mother got on the phone to her youngest daughter and complained: ‘Why don’t any of you love me? Didn’t I teach you the discipline you needed to succeed in your work?’ ‘Yeah,’ said the young woman, ‘but you never loved us.’

That mother goes to church every Sunday. Every Sunday she receives the risen Jesus in the consecrated bread and wine. Every Sunday she hears the teaching of Jesus. But she completely misses the point of his teaching. His teaching that the most important thing in life is having good, happy, harmonious and peaceful relationships, relationships of love! Having love for God and love for fellow human beings as the two hinges on the door to life!

The need and the requirement to both love God and care for others as much as we care for ourselves, were already well known in the Jewish community of Jesus. What is new and original with him is his insistence that you cannot have one without the other. What is new and original with him is that the test and proof of our love for God is our love for others. What is also new and fresh about the teaching of Jesus is that obeying any of the laws of God has to be done with love. Love must be the energy that empowers all our efforts to be good people and all our efforts to do good things.

In the teaching of Jesus too, love for neighbor includes every other human being without exception. Wasn’t his answer to the question put to him, ‘who is my neighbor?’ to tell his famous story of the Good Samaritan. And isn’t the point of that story that the neighbor God calls me to love is always the person who needs me and needs me now? For example, the man up the street who has just lost his wife to cancer; the woman over the road who is old and bedridden but has no family to visit her; the asylum seeker languishing in detention with no-one to support his claims for a safe home and a new life for his family; the drought-stricken farmer watching his sheep die one by one, his breeding-stock among them.

Of course we could not possibly be ready to love all other persons, were it not for the example of Jesus himself, and for the gift of his Spirit, the Holy Spirit of love. Without Jesus and the Spirit, we could not forgive those who hurt and harm us. Without Jesus and the Spirit we could not reach out to someone we don’t like, or to someone who is not part of our comfort zone of family and friends. But with Jesus and his Spirit, we can do good and great things for others, even for complete strangers we have never met before. This is just what was happening during the nightmare of the two Bali bombings that happened over seventeen years ago this month. It brought out the best in those generous people – quite a few - who cared more for the safety of other victims than they cared for themselves. More recently It brought out the best in all those brave people who rescued the dozens wounded in the Los Vegas massacre.

For that gift of love – generous, unselfish, and wholehearted love for God, and generous, unselfish, and wholehearted love for neighbor - let us come to the table of the Lord today! Let us also pray to the Lord during the rest of our Eucharist together, that bit by bit every single one of us here will become a more loving, a more caring, and a more self-giving person!

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

 

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Year A: 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

(Fr. Paul noted, "This is written for a prison congregation..." )

"You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And you must love your neighbor as yourself."

Last week, one of the gentlemen here asked me why I didn’t preach about football any more and if this was in any way connected to Liverpool’s less than brilliant start to the season. That gentleman, of course, supports Manchester United!

I said "no, of course not, I was merely waiting for the right occasion."

So, "Love your neighbor as yourself?!"

Why your neighbor?

Why not the people down the road?

or some people in the next town?

Or some other people a nice safe distance away..?

Or the man in the moon?

Why your neighbor?

Well, I think we all know why

· Liverpool versus Everton

· Arsenal versus Tottenham

· Celtic versus Rangers

· Manchester United versus Manchester City.

· Chelsea versus Fulham

· Millwall versus - well, just about anybody really.

Neighbors are often the hardest people to love.

And so, when I hear these words of Jesus "Love your neighbor as yourself", I think of the worst day in British football in my lifetime.

-worse -far worse - than losing on penalties in the world cup quarter finals.

You are all too young to remember it - but your parents will. It was the 15th April 1989.

It was Hillsborough.

What happened at Hillsborough was that there were too many people in one place at one time.

They got crushed together - so crushed that 96 people were crushed to death.

Half of them were teenagers.

The oldest of them was 67.

The youngest was just 10.

It was a terrible, terrible accident.

People argue to this day about just whose fault it was.

But at the time, people weren’t arguing about that. We were all just numb with the grief of so many young deaths -

One week after the accident, there was a memorial service for the dead at Anfield. You can still see the pictures of it on the internet. And when you look at those pictures, the first thing you notice is that the entire pitch is covered with flowers, football scarves and football shirts.

But if you look more closely, the second thing you notice is that about half of the flowers are red, but half of them are blue. The blue ones are from Everton. That day they made a rope out of Liverpool and Everton football scarves that stretched all the way from Goodison to Anfield. The entire city of Liverpool was united in its grief.

And if you look still more closely, you will see that some of the blue scarves and shirts are from Manchester City and some of the red ones are from Manchester United.

An entire nation was united in our club’s grief.

I’ll tell you a secret: since that day I have still always loved it when we win, but I can now bear it when we lose - even, as we did recently, to Manchester United - because I know that we have not lost to an enemy, but to a neighbor.

Loving the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength means recognizing the presence and goodness of God in the other people God has created and placed alongside ourselves in His World.

Loving your neighbor as yourself means that no matter what divides us, there is something more - much more - which unites us.

As Christians, we call that the Presence of God.

I never thought I would say this – and certainly never in public – but I love Manchester United as I love my own team.

God Bless Football!

And may God bless us all.

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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