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Contents: Volume 2 - 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – November 12, 2017


 

The

32nd

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. 32 A

Our first reading this Sunday from the Book of Wisdom does indeed extol that virtue. Our Gospel reading, in a subtle way, tells us that such Wisdom is absolutely necessary if we are to be admitted to the heavenly banquet. Although Jesus has won salvation for us already, it is up to each individual to be "ready" when the doors/pearly gates are opened!

For me, there is an extra message here for procrastinators, the complacent, and even caretakers. It is quite jolting: we need to "stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour." The kind of life we lead is our calling card so to speak, and, given so many tragedies reported in the news, I think we we need to laminate it and let it shine forth every second. That is a reality of life and death.

But what about caretakers? Well, there are formal caretakers who have an occupation and there are also millions of caretakers who are "just" Christians. Sure, we also may be mothers and fathers, grandparents, pastors, teachers, relatives, friends, etc., etc......, for, you see, we are all commanded to care for one another.

The extra message that I hear for us caretakers is that we need to be sure to add an essential step to our caring. We need to be sure that those for whom we care KNOW for certain that we can not sneak them into the banquet on our guidance and prayers! Entrance is based on a personal readiness no matter how much we may want to help someone else.

In my mind, that means that my choices need to be exemplary and explicit whenever I am viewed as a caretaker. "Choice" needs to be a word that appears frequently in caring relationships. Being prepared and good choices go hand in hand to make life smoother without unpleasant surprises that can easily be avoided.

Phrases like "I wish I had", I shoulda", "if only I had" ... are ones we all use. It is Wisdom that helps us to slow down and think passed the present moment and to prepare for important things in life. In that way, we will enjoy life more and also be ready to meet Jesus in the afterlife. May more Wisdom seep into the lives of procrastinators, the complacent, and all caretakers.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – November 12, 2017

What is your most valuable treasure in the whole world?

I've been thinking about that for awhile, and can't come up with just one. There is so much to appreciate. What would life be without friends, family, flowers, trees, the oceans and rivers and lakes, healthy clean air, earth and water, the animals that share creation with us. What a blessing it is to have shelter, food, skills for reading and working, and the opportunity to help those who have not yet received these blessings.

Then it dawned on me! Wisdom is the most valuable because it reveals to us the other treasures we have. Without Wisdom, we might consider "getting a lot of things" or "making a big profit" or having lots of power over others to be our treasures. To be signs of "God's favour". Without Wisdom, we forget compassion and community and truthfulness and right relationships with God and creation.

Reading the whole of chapter six from the Book of Wisdom, our first reading, it is addressed to the kings and rulers of earth. It begins: "Listen therefore, O Kings, and understand...." Without listening, we won't hear. Our hearts will remain deaf to the voice of God. "Listen with the ear of your heart"

It's not like we are being forced to listen to something unpleasant or shrill.

"Wisdom shines bright and never grows dim; those who love her and look for her can easily find her.

She is quick to make herself known to anyone who desires her.

Get up early in the morning to find her, and you will have no problem; you will find her sitting at your door.

To fasten your attention on Wisdom is to gain perfect understanding.

If you look for her, you will soon find peace of mind, because she will be looking for those who are worthy of her, and she will find you wherever you are.

She is kind and will be with you in your every thought."

What do we desire and treasure? If we don't pay attention to this, we will be like people stumbling around in the dark, with no batteries for our flashlight, or oil for our lamp.

Barbara Cooper, OP

Vancouver Island, BC Canada

bcoop60@yahoo.com

 

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Thirty Second Sunday of Ordered Time November 12 2017

Wisdom 666:12-16; Responsorial Psalm 63; 1st Thessalonians 4:13-18; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 24:42 & 44; Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus’ parable this Sunday seems out of character for him and what he stands for. He is uncharacteristically harsh. Where is his mercy, the compassion that healed, that mended limbs, that gave sight; where is his gentleness in forgiving sins? He seems to write off those virgins who were unprepared for the coming of the bridegroom. Jesus obviously speaks of the bridegroom as the promised Messiah. And it is he, Jesus, who is that Messiah. This uncharacteristic harshness is absolutely contrary to our images of the sweet Baby Jesus lying in the manger, hand raised in blessing with the sign that is the cross. Didn’t the cross come at the end of his life, not the beginning? Perhaps this parable is a gloss inserted by some dystopic monk in a scriptorium in the early Middle-Ages. Perhaps this was an outlet for his anger about giving up a comfortable life in the world to labor in a cold, damp, room smelling of ink and unwashed brethren. Perhaps Matthew just wants to frighten half-hearted Christians into more fervor. What is the rest of this story?

If we begin reflecting on the readings this Sunday with the first reading from the book of Wisdom, we’ll find a key to unlock the parable’s intention. This whole Sunday is about Wisdom. We most often attribute Wisdom to wise, scholarly old men who reflect on their experience in the light of history. Understanding the motivations, actions, and outcomes of men and women who lived before is a superhighway to understanding how to live a full, rational, and honest life. What strikes anyone who knows about Wisdom portrayed in the Hebrew Scriptures is that Wisdom is always presented in the image of a woman. This flies in the face of thinking and policies that consider women unwise, foolishly inane, capricious, lacking in ability to think logically, and easily distracted by shiny objects. Women are frequently portrayed in Church history as incapable of authority and serious roles of ministry. They are more about seduction than about knowledge and understanding. However, Wisdom is presented in Scripture as a characteristic of womanhood. Wisdom is portrayed as a mother nurturing her children, teaching them how to survive and thrive in the world of evil, violence, and other competing for dominance. Wisdom speaks less to the physical domination prevalent in men than it does to the heart that seeks to unite brothers and sisters into a vital, sharing, loving family. Wisdom goes beyond physical achievements and speaks to the achievements not only of the heart but of that unique reality, the individual person. How easy it is to forget our personhood when we are collected and herded into mobs, manipulated by harsh and angry rhetoric to thinking in terms of violence, distrust, division, and group exclusivity.

In the gospels, Mary, Jesus’s mother, is presented not so much as the Queen Mother as she is the example of what it means to be a disciple. When we put Mary on an elevated, remote pedestal, we remove her from human experience. She loses her life’s relevance to our daily activities and relationships. We put her out of reach and thus out of seeing her as a model of what following in the Way of Christ can be. We forget her as a woman who cooks, sews, cleans, teaches, gets tired and possibly grumpy at times in her months. We do ourselves a disservice when we remove her from our daily living. If we let her, she shows us what it means to follow her son, the Messiah. When Luke presents Mary in his gospel as a loving mother who keeps the events, teaching, and his modeling example in her heart we get a clue about why wisdom is presented as a Woman. She reflects to find the meaning and purpose of her life and her relationships. She wonders, considers, searches the ancient writings, and the wisdom of teachers to discover the depth and worth of her son’s life, words, and activities.

Wisdom is applying knowledge acquired through education and past experience to future experience. Wisdom is found in humans residing in the character of living persons. We might call character the spiritual side of personhood. It has to do with who we are as persons. The person with strength of character is formed by reflecting on their living and relationships in the light of God’s revelation as found in our Scriptures. It is not only the ancient writings that open our minds to the Wisdom of God, but contemporary writings about wisdom that comes to us from both religious and secular sources. Even science has clues for us of the Wisdom of God that formed all that is, including our very unique and individualized persons. The person of mature, truth-filled wisdom is like the virgins who bring with them vessels of oil for their lamps. They store up from their daily efforts and relationships oil that is a continuous building up of their spirit, their character. They are ready for whatever comes their way because their spirits are nourished by Wisdom. Jesus never promised our lives would be smooth, delightful, or filled only with good things. God’s gift of life puts us in a world where we struggle to grow and reach the fullness of the unique persons we were created to be. Our characters, our spirits, are built up over time, in the heat of battles for truth and decency, in classrooms, in relationships with friends and enemies. And most clearly, our characters are built, our vessels filled with oil, in our relationship with God, the source and personification of Lady Wisdom.

Human life is a constant journey of discovery. Who am I, what am I, where do I belong are constant questions. In early childhood the practices and attitudes of our parents form us. Formal education expands our understanding of the physical world and of other persons and how I fit in with the real world. In adolescence we struggle for self-identity. Often peer pressure manipulates and robs individuals of their personhood. Adolescence is a period of rebellion, an effort to discover who I am as a person. If we survive that time, we grow into adulthood where we look at wisdom in the way the world looks at wisdom. The influence of the world overcomes much of our childhood reliance on a kind and loving God. Our value and worth in the first phase of adulthood are measured by achievement, by quality of life, by the toys at our disposal, and by accumulation. In later adulthood the vanity of accumulation, of domination, and of violence become apparent and there is the ‘mid-life crises. We come then to the autumn of life. There, at long last, there is time for reflection, for digging deeper into whom and what we are. It is then our failures at building character, growing our spiritual depth, haunt us. We spend time looking through our history to discover the points of light that formed our spirits. We drive our children crazy with our retelling of same stories. Each telling is slightly different as we search for meaning and value in our life’s experiences. For some there is crushing sadness at missed opportunities. For some there is confusion at the inability to discover who they are. They lack the light a full vessel of oil, a mature spirit, which would give light to their life. If we find rest in our reflection on our lives, there comes to us an understanding of the wonder of our life. This puts us in the company of Mary. During her life she kept all those things in the recesses of her heart, reflecting on them, connecting them. And finally in the upper room after the resurrection Mary came to full wisdom of the life of her son, his work, his ministry, his preaching, his healing, and his crushing death. Her spirit was completed; her life found its fullness.

The message this Sunday is that we must work to fill up the vessels of oil that are our spirits. In the course of human life, there are always conflicts with nature, with relationships, and even within our own persons. If we have been building up reserves of light giving oil, we approach all challenges with the light of Wisdom. Difficulties can’t sink our lives into deep depression and despair when we have the light of Wisdom to illumine the truth of life.

As we continue our liturgical year to its end this month, we are led by nature to consider the end of our lives. If we reflect on the end of our lives, we can apply this parable of Jesus to the last moments of life. How will our characters deal with the impending transition from this life to our final destination? It has been a deep-seated human intuition and understanding for tens of thousands of years that there is life continuing after our earth time. There are those who deny it; there are those who wonder why we don’t hear from those who have gone before us. Those are questions whose answers we’ll discover as we complete our transition. What is important is how we ready for that trip. Our readiness will depend on the Wisdom we’ve acquired; on the strength of character we’ve grown or denied in our persons. How we reflect on the events and relationships in our lives in the light of education, faith, and personal and communal experiences will be the measure of the fullness of our vessels of light-giving oil.

We cannot ignore the influence of the world on the development of our characters, our spiritual selves. We are participants in the ongoing history of human life. Our contribution to the history of the world is in the context of the history of our family. The famous pioneer of psychology, C. G. Yung, believed he had discovered that the historic experience of our families is imprinted into our personal DNA. We are, in some way, who we are based on the experiences and wisdom of our ancestors. In some manner, what our ancestors endured, how they grew in wisdom and understanding, how they thrived - all this becomes part of who we are as persons. Knowing our family history, the good, the bad, and the ugly is a source of knowledge for us. The history of our communities, our nation, and the world contributes to our character. Failure to acknowledge in our actions and relationships the dignity and worth of others is transmitted from generation to generation. Hatred for races other than our own, distrust for others of differing national origins, denial of the value of faith-traditions other than our own – these attitudes seem fated to be passed from father to son, mother to daughter. The opposite is true as well. Our spiritual maturity and depth is passed along as well. What a legacy, what an inheritance it would be that could change the course of human history! We would as a gifted creation come to know what our Scriptures insist: every persons is created equal in the image and likeness of God and thus worthy of dignity and worth. Even the secular Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States insists all are created equal. Yet our common experience is that leaders often achieve their power by dividing us from ourselves. Those despots create winners and losers effectively denying the truth and strength of our personhood. We are easily drawn in, seduced by rhetoric and bombast. When we allow or contribute to this in our public life, the truth and worth of the spirits of our persons and of others are affected. When we allow or encourage this, we are the foolish virgins who fail to build up a reserve of oil for their lamps. We actually rob those who have carefully built reserves of oil for light for humanity’s journey. As the bridegroom approaches we find ourselves in the darkness brought on by our foolishness.

May She, the acquired wisdom of the ages grown and expanded by the presence of the Holy Spirit, come to us, encourage us to reflect, assist us in separating the truth from falsehoods. May that Spirit assist us as we reflect on the events of our time and place and on our experiences and relationships.

Wisdom is defined as applying knowledge acquired through study and reflected experience correctly to the moments of our lives. Those who fail to reflect find themselves hitting the same potholes on their daily journeys. When we reflect, we become aware of what harms and kills our spirits. We are aware we are not alone in the world. We understand and work for the common good. As we reflect on the Word of God and on our experience in the light of that Word we will realize we are not alone in waiting for the bridegroom.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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EXPECTING THE UNEXPECTED: 32ND SUNDAY A

‘Stay awake,’ says Jesus, ‘because you do not know either the day or the hour.’

A class of Year 12 Students was preparing to sit for their Victorian Certificate of Education final exams. The results would determine whether they would be accepted for university, and which university would take them. A bunch of the brightest students decided they would romp it in. So the night before every exam they partied hard. The rest of the class did not go to even one party and kept studying right up to the very last minute. When the results were published, many in the last group did just as well as those who went out partying. Some of the brilliant ones among the party-goers, in fact, missed out altogether on getting into uni. Their lamps, the lamps of their minds, went out at the critical times, just like with five of the ten bridesmaids in the story Jesus told us.

Of course, the point of my story is not exactly about the importance of exams, but the importance of being ready. Being ready, being prepared, when Jesus Christ, representing the God of surprises, offers us precious opportunities of one kind or another! So too the point of the story Jesus told is not really about ancient wedding customs or rescuing silly people from their own mistakes, or even staying awake at night. His point is specifically about being prepared, being on the alert for the coming of Jesus Christ into our lives at any time, and about being ready to welcome him whenever he comes. Even though we do not know in advance the day, the hour, or the form of his arrival! Will we hear his voice when he speaks to us e.g. in the plight of a stranger close by, in the pain of a family member, or in the need of someone working with us in our office, factory, or classroom?

A man phones the priest to say that his 45 year old neighbour and friend has just dropped dead while out jogging. He leaves behind his adoring wife, two small children, and dozens of family friends. A fit athletic person never expects that a late afternoon run will be the very last thing he does in his life. One hopes that his lamp of faith was still burning inside him, that he wasn’t putting off e.g. the word he needed to speak - a word of love to some of the people in his life, and a word of forgiveness to others. One hopes that he had made good and wise choices in his life, and that he took seriously the standards of Jesus for facing the judgment of God. One hopes that people would say and God would acknowledge, that he was a man of compassion, who helped his neighbours, who reached into his wallet to feed the hungry and clothe the destitute, and who went out of his way to visit sick people or prisoners.

A holy old monk was sweeping up the fallen leaves in the monastery garden when a visitor asked him: ‘What would you do, Brother, if you knew you were to die in ten minutes time?’ The old monk replied: ‘I’d keep on sweeping.’ How wise and sensible!

No doubt we’ve all heard the slogan ‘Carpe diem’ -‘Seize the day!’, and in the sense of taking every chance to do good rather than hurt or harm anyone or anything in any way. (That, incidentally, includes the environment, God’s precious gift of creation that day after day is being terribly wounded and degraded by human greed and stupidity). ‘Seize the day, and the hour, and the moment’ is surely what Jesus is saying, and you won’t find the door to life slammed in your faces, the way it happened to those silly giggly bridesmaids, who turned up quite unprepared for the wedding feast.

The story Jesus told about having our lamps blazing with light reminds us that the words of dismissal at the end of Mass ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord’ or equivalent are all about going out from Mass to make a better world, by our love for God and by our practical love for our fellow human beings. Loving others in all situations, whether they are easy or difficult, or whether they are convenient or inconvenient.

Let’s think and pray, then, about the message to us from Jesus today!

"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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