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Contents: Volume 2 - 32nd Sunday 11-11-18


 

The 32nd

Sunday

Ordinary

Time

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

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

 

 

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1.

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Sun. 32 B

The Gospel story according to Mark about the contribution of the poor widow to the treasury is a poignant lesson in having a proper perspective of oneself. Her kind of humility is praised, not as a version of "I'm not as good as other people" feeling or action, but on the contrary, as an honest return to God of all she has been given. It encourages stretching a bit rather than seeing the giving as an obligation or after thought, certainly giving from the heart rather than for show.

In today's churches, giving back to God through the church entails one's treasure but also one's time and talents. Giving only from one's surplus really amounts to putting God last and offering the left overs, even though that may be a large amount of time, talent, or treasure. Realizing that everything we have comes from God helps to correct that faulty thinking.

Putting God first in allocating one's available time, talent, and treasure is a matter of choice. It involves prayer and a conscious look at possibilities. It mandates both trust in God and sensible judgement about one's human responsibilities.

My family once took a leap of faith long ago in purchasing a house near a church we wanted to attend before selling our current house. We prayed and discerned it was where God wanted us to live so we could be involved more fully in church life with our young family. It felt a bit foolish financially at first, but the choice was 100% confirmed by our immediate spiritual growth and involvement in that church... and a quick selling of the first house!

There are other stories of churches wanting to be built with sketchy promised funding and then, once started with that minimal funding, the money pouring in! A person volunteers at an organization and the effectiveness of everyone is elevated. Spending time helping at a Children's Liturgy of the Word suddenly makes the Gospel come alive for the children and a reluctant teen helper.

We have all been gifted by God in one way or another. Being pompous about it reduces its worth and effectiveness. Acknowledging it as coming from God puts it into proper perspective and helps build the kingdom cooperatively.

Sometimes we have to stretch a lot, financially or otherwise, to do what we discern is God's will. I think of my major professor when I was struggling to submit my Ph. D. thesis (far too many years ago) and his not-so-nice or constructive comments about how poorly I wrote. Sure glad I prayed about how to satisfy his quality control while maintaining my integrity and polishing my emerging talent in writing. Published books and awards followed after the Ph. D. but soon gave way to over 25 years of writing about "God things". No fame or glory there, just a better personal understanding of spiritual things and a hope that I help to keep God's Word alive.

Here are some things to think about at the Offertory of the Mass: Where is it that you might focus your "all" whether it be your time, talent, or treasure? What speaks to your heart and emanates from it? What will you humbly offer to God's service to "pass it forward" and build the kingdom?

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Thirty Second Sunday of Ordered Time November 11, 2018

1st Kings 17:10-16; Responsorial Psalm 146; Letter to the Hebrews 9:24-28; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 5:3; Mark 12:38-44

In the readings this week-end, it may appear Elijah and Jesus tells us that living in poverty is a good thing. In the story of the widow who shares the last bits of flour and drops of cooking oil with Elijah seems to glorify poverty and powerlessness. That drought is thought to be an expression of God’s wrath for the Northern Kingdom’s idolatry of Baal and Astarte, pagan gods of agriculture and fertility. The good suffer along with the evil. How is this fair? There are those who say the good suffer because they remained silent. The good were complicit with evil of idolatry. They should have fought against it. It’s difficult for anyone to judge whether the good are complicit or if they are just trying to survive.

In the gospel Jesus derides the Scribes who strut like peacocks in their ostentatious dress, in their oversized phylacteries, and their exaggerated cloak tassels. Phylacteries are little boxes bound to the foreheads of pious male Jews. The boxes held parchment inscribed with Scripture verses. The practice was to honor the admonition to keep the words of the Scriptures on their minds. This external display of piety and devotion to the words of the Law and the Prophets was a show. The exaggerations were an effort to impress ordinary people. Jesus’ exposure of the intentions of their hearts advises us to examine our intentions. Do we make a show of practicing our faith even while we fail to imitate God’s love of all persons and of all creation? In our work and business practices do we take advantage of those without resources? Do we prey on the ignorance and lack of skill of the aged, the poor, the immigrant, and mentally or physically ill persons? Abuse of those on the margins was frequently the source of wealth and power for the Scribes and Pharisees. Those favored persons knew how to game the system. It takes uncomfortable effort to examine our conscience, to uncover attitudes and intentions hidden in our hearts. Are we careful that widows and orphans are not forgotten? Do we review and analyze business policies, operating protocols, political regulations and laws for abuses of the least among us? Does tax policy take from those with little so that the rich become richer using the subterfuge of "trickle down" economics? Do shifting from taxing income to increasing licensing and permitting fees adversely affect those struggling to survive? The Sadducees, the Scribes, and to some extent the Pharisees were complicit in the socio-economic culture that oppressed those in need.

Perhaps the Cross and our thoughts about the Cross carry some fault for our near-sightedness when it comes to suffering. Since the time of St. Anselm there has been a view of the Cross as a correction of offenses against God’s transcendence. Anselm spoke of the Cross as making satisfaction for slights to God’s dignity. In some way Jesus dying on the Cross corrected an affront to God’s ego. Anselm’s thoughts were based on the feudal system in which Lords and Ladies offended by peasants demanded satisfaction for the offense. This could mean days in the stocks, time in a dingy dungeon, or banishment from the kingdom. Applying that principle of offense and satisfaction became a way of looking at ways of making satisfaction to God for slights to God’s dignity and worth. The suffering and death of Jesus was looked as suffering as a mystically correction of sin’s offenses. That makes suffering a good thing. It made suffering aligned with God’s will for humanity. Poverty, suffering, and even persecution were viewed as a way of making satisfaction to God. So wars, ghettos, lack of educational and employment opportunities are just a way of joining in the suffering of Jesus.

But God does not will suffering! God does not will the death of the sinner, but the sinner’s conversion. Let’s be clear, God does not will death or suffering. A great mystery of God’s relationship with us is that he has given us freedom to choose. All persons are called to holiness. We have the choice on how we achieve that holiness. We are not predestined to a certain form of living out a commitment to God. We have choice; we are given freedom to choose a path. How we walk on that path is taught us by the Hebrew experience and the teaching, ministry and living and death of Jesus. Throughout salvation history, God continually points out how we should walk on the paths we choose for ourselves. Unfortunately, over and over again, we individually and collectively turn away and spend that great gift, the gift of freedom, to choose what is harmful to others. The ways of the twentieth century, the isolation of nationalism of our time seek to exclude the poor and those without resources to survive. We divide ourselves into friends and enemies. We decide who is worthy of dignity and respect by race, by gender, by national origin, by wealth/poverty, by religious affiliation, by orientation. We forget, we deny, we reject any thought that God is the creator of all. We look on others as unworthy of God’s love, of God’s kindness, of God’s compassion, of God’s mercy. How very foolish and evil are such choices!

It is said there are seven million jobs available in the U.S., most of them entry level. Yet, the hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking asylum and the hope of a future are feared. Those refugees are political pawns used as wedges to divide us. Politicians insist these thousands illegally enter our country from the south. Yet at every point of entry, each person, each family is screened and judged worthy of asylum or not. Such rhetoric is false and harms our nation and the peoples so desperate seeking relief. Why do we allow ourselves to be so badly misled? Does God of the Christians not love all humanity? What gives us the right to judge and to deny anyone God’s love?

God does not encourage suffering. In the death of Jesus on the Cross God shed tears along with the women who had the courage to stand with Jesus in his darkest hours. Where are the brave, strong, daring men? They are in hiding behind the evil ways of the world. Those who abandoned Jesus later repented and grieved their cowardice. Despite that Jesus stuck with his commitment of love for all humanity? What was it that gave Jesus the courage to suffer so horribly on the Cross? The leadership, civil and religious, judged it expedient that "one man die that the nation might not perish." Religious leadership made the judgement and convinced civil leadership of the threat that Jesus’ message was to the empire. Those leaders and their followers as well as current leaders make a choice. God gives humanity the freedom to make those choices. God certainly did not will and work for the death of his son.

God does not will poverty and suffering. God did not will that the widow Jesus observed in the temple should suffer from want! The suffering of anyone, especially of children, especially of widows, especially of the aged; even the suffering and hardship of desperate persons fleeing impossible political violence and failure of socio-economic catastrophes; these freely willed efforts at self-enrichment at the expense of those on the margins bring tears to the eyes of God! It is God’s will that all his creation – even the widows and orphans – have what is necessary to FLOURISH, not merely survive.

If we look at the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, from just the perspective of the Cross, we get only a smidgen of the greatest story ever told. Jesus was born, learned as do all children, practiced the Jewish faith of his family, learned a trade, worked as a carpenter, owned a house, and practiced his Jewish faith. Jesus was born and lived as a Jew. When he was baptized by his cousin John in the river Jordan, he began a new phase of his life. He went about Galilee and then Judaea, healing the sick. The effects of his healings brought those isolated persons back into society. Their illness, their addictions, the evil spirits that controlled them prevented them from active participation.

Jesus preached. He taught the Way of God to those searching for meaning and purpose. He did not manipulate, he did not coerce. He spoke to the free will, minds and hearts of those who sought fullness of life. He wasn’t political. He wasn’t looking for wealth. He wasn’t seeking fame. Recall the three repeated temptations of his ministerial life. Power, wealth, and fame were ways he could have chosen to bring about the Kingdom of God. But each of those would have been a coercion of the gift God gave humanity. If Jesus used power, wealth, or fame to achieve his mission he would have stolen the gift of freedom. God does not regret his creation. He loves it as a Father loves his child. Jesus listened to the Father – we use the word "obey" to describe that listening. God gave freedom of choice to even the religious and civil leaders of Israel. It was their choice that Jesus should die.

In the history of faith of Jews and Christians there is a continual effort by God to lead all into freedom. The event of the Exodus released his chosen people from Pharaoh’s slavery. Recall that Pharaoh of Moses’ time is never named. That despot is a type of despot that continues to enslave us throughout history. We are also called to liberation from Pharaoh. A second event in the life of the People of God was the liberation from slavery to the Babylonian empire. God reached out and used a pagan, Cyrus the Great of Persia, to affect that freedom. The beginning event of the Christian era is Jesus’ ministry, rejection of the slavery of civic and religious leadership. God’s stamp of approval on this rejection is the Resurrection.

Freedom, liberation, compassion, mercy, and love are the constant work of God on our behalf. If God allows us the freedom to choose what is great; if God encourages us to live with compassion and mercy for all others; if God demonstrates how we must deal with those who would enslave us and seek to kill our spirits; then should we not be more decisive in how we live? Should we not make our choices with compassion and mercy for those widows, those orphans, those fleeing desperation? Should we not with Elijah go to the widows and orphans and extend a helping hand that lifts them up beyond starvation and death? Should we not leave behind the robes and ostentatious trappings of power and wealth and live in the community of God’s creation? Should we not imitate our God’s leading us and our communities to freedom and growth as members of the Kingdom of God?

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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GIVING WITHOUT GETTING: 32nd SUNDAY B

Paul, a seasoned and experienced Jesuit priest, remembers in Preacher Exchange II that in the year he was ordained he was assigned to a parish in a big city. He was young, keen, energetic and enthusiastic. So, he says, ‘his superiors put him in a place where they thought he would do the least damage’. On arrival he unpacked his bags. He then made his way to the laundry to wash his clothes. On the way he met one of the older men in the community who said to him: ‘You don’t have to bother to do your own washing here. We have Mrs. Jones to do all that for us.’

That same day Paul bumped into Mrs. Jones. She was 82, stiff and bent over with arthritis. She could barely walk. The very thought that a young fit man should make her wash his clothes made Paul’s blood boil with a sense of injustice. He would rather run a marathon than add to her burdens in life. So for several weeks he kept washing his own clothes and even felt a bit smug about how considerate he was to a dear old lady.

Then one day his superior took him aside. He was a wise and gentle man. He said: ‘Paul, I have to ask you to give your clothes to Mrs. Jones to wash.’ Paul’s instant response was: ‘But why? Surely this is a terrible bit of priestly privilege and a horrible imposition on a poor old sick woman!’ As Paul kept protesting, he could see that in a quiet way his Superior was getting madder and madder. Finally, his Superior brought the discussion to a close with the demand: ‘Look, Paul, that’s enough. I simply want you to give your clothes to Mrs. Jones to wash. OK? Just do it.’

So, a bit baffled and bruised by this conversation, Paul just did it. He brought down all his dirty clothes and gave them to Mrs. Jones. She seemed delighted. So he asked her how she felt about having to wash all the clothes of all the priests in the community. She said very simply, ‘I love it. It’s my way of serving Jesus.’

Paul left her presence feeling very humble, and thinking of the words of Jesus in our gospel today: ‘they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’ Clearly Mrs. Jones was one of those special quiet achievers of this world, a real unsung treasure, with so much love to give, that despite all obstacles, she would keep giving 100%, would keep giving her all, until she could give no more.

In keeping with the gospel message, let us acknowledge today the work and ministry of all those ‘quiet achievers’ who faithfully serve the needs of our parishes and of our local neighbourhoods, mostly out of sight, and never looking for even one word of praise. The people, mostly elderly, who get together to pray the rosary every day! The greeters, who meet and welcome us each Sunday! Those who clean the church! Those who arrange the beautiful flowers around the altar! The volunteers who serve the cuppas! The ones who run the piety shop! Those who wash and iron the altar cloths and the altar servers’ robes! The sacristans who put out everything needed for our liturgical celebrations! The ushers and collectors! Those who make and serve the sandwiches and cakes for the special occasions! The ones who count the collections! Those who go out collecting food and clothing for the St Vincent de Paul Society! The visitors from Vinnies to poor and struggling persons, and especially to the new arrivals and refugees! The receptionists and volunteers in the Parish Office! The catechists who bring the light and love of Jesus Christ to children after school and to children’s liturgies on Sundays! The bingo workers! The coaches of the parish sports teams! The musicians and singers! And all others whom I have unintentionally overlooked! Our parishes could neither survive nor thrive without them.

In all the hustle and bustle of the Temple that day, with people moving around left, right, and centre, who could possibly have noticed that poor humble little widow quietly putting into the collection for the House of God? Who could have noticed her putting in all the money she had, and then quietly departing the scene, without keeping even a single cent for herself and her own needs? Who could have noticed her? Jesus did. He noticed her, he appreciated her, he admired her, and he praised her.

He also notices, appreciates, admires, and recognizes every good deed done by every parishioner as done to himself. He knows that what you do you never do for show or recognition or fame, but only to love, help and serve others as much as you can and as often as you can. So, in the rest of our Eucharist today, let us give praise and thanks to God for all the good deeds done by so many of you to so many others, and let us praise and thank God for filling your hearts with so much kindness, generosity, and fidelity!

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

 

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Year B: 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

‘I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’

The year I was ordained, they put me into a parish in North London. I was young, keen and enthusiastic, so they thought they had better put me somewhere safe, where I couldn’t do too much damage.

And when I arrived, I unpacked and the first thing I did was to wash my clothes. One of the others remarked to me – "you don’t have to bother doing your own washing. Here, we have Mrs. Jones to do all that for us."

I met Mrs. Jones. She was 82, very bent and stiff with arthritis. She could barely walk. The very thought that a young fit boy should make her wash his clothes made my blood boil with the sense of injustice. I would rather have a millstone hung round my neck than add to her burdens in life. So, for several weeks I washed my own clothes and felt very righteous about it indeed. That should have been my warning. Generally, it is only when I’m feeling righteous that I do really stupid things.

Then, one day, my superior took me to one side. He was a very wise and gentle man. And he said to me: "Paul, I need to ask you to give your clothes to Mrs Jones to wash."

And I asked, "But why?" And I went on to tell him why I thought that this was the most terrible clericalist imposition on a poor old sick woman. I fear I may even have got in a paragraph or two of Vatican II on the vocation of the laity and one or two quotations from Paolo Freire. And, as I talked, I could see that, in a very quiet way, my superior was getting very angry indeed. And when I had finished talking, he simply said: "Look, I want you to give your clothes to Mrs Jones to wash. OK? Just do it!"

So, with my tail firmly between my legs, I just did it. I brought all my dirty clothes and gave them to Mrs Jones. She seemed delighted. So I asked her how she felt about having to wash the Fathers’ clothes. She said, very simply, "I love it – it’s my way of serving Jesus."

I realised that, in my arrogance, I had thought of her as my servant, rather than the Lord’s. So I left her presence feeling very humble and thinking of these words of Jesus. "they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’

Thank you Mrs Jones.

And not just for the cleanest shirts I’ve ever worn.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who never wastes anything or anyone.

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.

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