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Contents: Volume 2 - Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – August 13th, 2017


 

The

19th

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. 19 A 2017

According to today's Gospel, Jesus rescues the frightened then bravado, then panicked Peter. Jesus says to Peter afterward, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" How many times has Jesus asked us the same thing or we have asked ourselves, "Why did I doubt"?

If you are like me, a truthful answer reveals too many times. Being unsure and genuinely frightened, to me, especially in really serious situations, brings out both my faith and the fact that I am very human. Most of the time, my mind and heart and soul tell me "it will be OK". The rest of me does its own thing, however... maybe I cry, or have butterflies, or develop a pounding headache. Sometimes I just get quiet and try to remember Whose I am.

Jesus comes to my rescue afterwards, always, no matter if I have remained outwardly calm or appeared to have fallen apart. Jesus is the Great Comforter. He remains such before, during, and after a crisis. Jesus is our Rock and Safety and our Stronghold even if everything, including us, falls apart. (Playing John Michael Talbot's song about that helps!)

If Peter had drowned, Jesus would have still saved his soul. It is difficult for human beings to relegate what we know and love on earth as less important than what we don't know but hope for in heaven. Literal survival or surviving the current crisis, whatever that may be, understandably grabs all of our attention and energy. Somewhere in the midst of everything is Jesus, stretching out His hand to us and reminding us that He is there. Our spiritual life in Him is what matters in the end.

Let us pray that we will be affirmed by that truth through prayer each day. Let us pray that we will rely more on Jesus whenever a crisis presents itself. Let us pray that our faith will be strengthened so we will not ever doubt Whose we are.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – August 13th, 2017

Last week we climbed Mount Horeb with Jesus, James, John and Peter. We witnessed Moses and Elijah, two of the great spiritual leaders in the Hebrew Scriptures, conversing with Jesus, while the light of the Divine Presence radiated from them.

This is the same prophet Elijah who "spoke truth to power" - confronting the king and queen of Israel. As so often happens through the centuries, this earned Elijah threats of death. Elijah fled into the desert, hiding out with fear, depressed to the point of wishing to die. Then he did what I consider "the sensible thing" - he laid down and took a nap. Never doubt the power of taking a deep breath, and relaxing when things are stressful! It indicates faith, and gave an angel opportunity to catch up to him and bring nourishment. With the strength from that food, he traveled to Mount Horeb, the mountain of God. There, Elijah was embraced in the "soft whisper" of Divine Presence, strengthened, and sent on a new mission.

The disciples in today's Gospel story are also in peril. The 'sea', symbol of chaos, rages around them. Their boat is tossed around and battered by waves. Land is far away and hidden by darkness. Then their terror is increased by seeing Jesus walking toward them, walking on the sea. They don't recognize him until he tells them: "Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid". My heart is pounding just imagining it. But then, we have probably all experienced times like this in our own lives; times when grief and disasters and the feeling of hopelessness threaten to overwhelm and drown us.

Peter leaves what security the boat provides and dares to walk toward Jesus in the turmoil of storm and sea. Faith leads us to sometimes do impractical things, marvelous things. But fear will sink us. I used to limit my concept of "faith" to believing doctrine. Now I see it as the willingness to lay on my back in the middle of the sea, and float. When I struggle in fear, I become exhausted and drown. Faith gives buoyancy. When Peter becomes afraid and starts to sink, it is named by Jesus as "little faith".

Resting in faith is not the same as doing nothing in the struggle with chaos. Rather, it helps us to be more focused and retain our balance on the shifting sea. Then through the roar of the wind and pounding of the waves, we can see Jesus, and hear him say: "Don't be afraid. I am here."

Barbara Cooper, OP

Vancouver Island, BC Canada

bcoop60@yahoo.com

 

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Nineteenth Sunday of Ordered Time, August 13, 2017

1st Kings 19:9 & 11-13: Responsorial Psalm 85: Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-33

The first reading story about Elijah and the gospel narrative about the disciple filled boat on the Sea of Galilee have a lot in common with the stories of our personal lives. Take the story of Elijah. The back story to the first reading this Sunday is that Elijah had effectively eliminated the idolatry of Baal and Astarte in the Northern Kingdom. He was able to accomplish this by convincing Jezebel to arrange a contest between him, representing the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the prophets and priests of the pagan gods worshipped by Jezebel. Jezebel was the pagan wife of Ahab, king of Israel. This Israel, we should remember, is the northern kingdom which split off from Judah after the death of Solomon. The contest was arranged in which Elijah and the priests of Baal would provide the altar, the firewood for the holocaust and a bullock to be sacrificed. The fire of the holocaust was to be provided through divine intervention by Baal for those pagan priests. Elijah’s God would provide the fire for his holocaust. In this way, whichever god provided the fire would be the true and living God. The other would be proved to be merely an idol created by the hands and minds of men. Keep in mind as well, that for kings and queens religion and the pagan worship of gods was about consolidation of power in support of a nation’s ruler. So the priests of Baal prepared a sacrifice and prayed in increasing frenzy even slashing their bodies to get Baal’s attention. Elijah taunted them: "Call louder, for he is a god: he is preoccupied or he is busy, or he had gone on a journey; perhaps he is asleep and will wake up." No fire came from the heavens, proving to the assembled people Baal a made-up god. Then Elijah prepared his altar and soaked the firewood with buckets upon buckets of water. He called on Yahweh and fire came and consumed first Elijah’s sacrifice and then the sacrifice and even the altar of the idolaters. The priests of Baal were slaughtered to end idolatry in Israel.

Obviously Jezebel was upset and threatened Elijah. The people witnessing the failure of Baal and the effective intervention of Yahweh didn’t repent of their idolatry. Instead, Jezebel threatened Elijah. It appeared his efforts at leading the Israelite nation to Yahweh were an abysmal failure. Elijah was disheartened and felt Yahweh had forsaken him, rendering his work without effect. He went into a desert and prayed for death to relieve him of this burden of prophecy. An angel ministers to him, feeds him not once but three times so he has strength to make the trip to the mountain of Moses, Mount Horeb – also known as Mount Sinai . The distance would have been about three hundred miles. The forty days this writing tells us it took Elijah is a hint this story of Elijah is in parallel with the narrative of Moses coming to Mount Sinai. There Moses received the law. It is also where Moses experienced Yahweh in the whisper of a breeze. Elijah, like Moses enters a cave. There is a violent wind storm, an earthquake, and a firestorm. In these powerful, violent manifestations, Yahweh is not found by either Moses or Elijah. Suddenly and quietly there comes a whisper of a breeze. It is the passing of Yahweh. How very counter-intuitive. Most of us think an experience of God will be with thunder claps, flashes of lightning, terrible winds, cleansing fire. The Moses and the Elijah experience tell us God is found in gentleness, in quiet, in the slightest movement of tree and grass. Perhaps we should rethink where we will find God?

If we listen with the story of Elijah in mind this Sunday to the story in Matthew’s gospel, we find a parallel with the encounter with God experienced by Moses and Elijah. Jesus is off praying after the miraculous feeding of five thousand men, not counting women and children. Jesus instructs the disciples to take a boat across the lake. There were only a few miles into the lake when a strong wind came against them. Their boat made no headway for hours. In the darkest part of the night, some three hours or so before the dawn, the disciples saw Jesus walking toward them on the crashing, foaming waves. How could this be? This was not their experience of the sea: no one walked on water! They conjectured it was a ghost, a mirage, an image created by their fear of being drowned in this tempest. But he reassures them. In the same way Moses was reassured when Yahweh called him to the top of the mountain as Moses faced with great anxiety the forty year trek through the desert. In the same way Elijah was reassured with the ministry of the angel bringing him food and water for his journey to the mountain of Moses. In each of those Hebrew Scripture narratives, both Moses and Elijah faced a very difficult, troubling, and unsure time in their missions.

The gospel tells us Jesus spoke to them. It doesn’t say he shouted, yelled, bellowed above the noise of the storm. No, he spoke as in a conversation. "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." Peter was willing to test the apparition. "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." Jesus responded, "Come." Peter began to walk on the water. He didn’t sink at his first step. He began to walk on the water. But, then Peter paid more attention to his circumstances than to the Lord who beckoned him. And he began to sink. "Jesus caught Peter and said to him, "Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?" Then as Jesus and Peter entered the boat, immediately the wind died down. The disciples were amazed and they honored Jesus saying, "Truly, you are the Son of God!"

These three stories of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus walking on the water are similar and have application to each of us. Perhaps it would be better to call the last story "Peter walking on the water in faith." That’s the intent of this story.

After Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, the disciples were moved to tell the stories of Jesus with an understanding of Jesus in light of the collection of Hebrew writings about God’s interventions with the Chosen People. After the initial shock experienced by the Jews of this story of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, many began to discount the story as a fabrication by these disciples. The Way preached by Jesus and supported by the signs of his miracles tended to get lost in the day to day living of the Jews. The Chief priests, the Sadducees, the Scribes, and the Pharisees did all they could to discount the stories of Jesus’ miracles and to twist his preaching into blasphemy. They fabricated stories of the body of Jesus being stolen and hidden away in order to deny his resurrection. Those who believed and followed the Way Jesus taught, those who heard and found faith to live according to his preaching were persecuted. The disbelieving clever found ways to deny the power of Jesus’ teaching and his works. Quickly, these followers of Jesus’ Way were expelled from the synagogues and disallowed entrance into the Temple.

If we think of the experience of the early Christian communities that sprang up in the Middle East, we will understand the terrible head wind that prevented the disciples’ boat, the good news, from making progress. We can understand Peter doubting his mission and his ministry. But the story of Jesus coming to the disciples battered by such strong and unforgiving winds tells us Jesus is present in the boat of those who live their lives in the faith of God’s intervention. Even in the most inhospitable places, and in the worst of circumstances, Jesus is there --- if we walk with faith in his message, in his work, and in the Way he demonstrated to us.

Who among us has not felt the pressure to follow the idols of the world as we make life’s choices? Who has not felt the strong winds from the mouths of those who call us fools for loving our enemies? Who has not doubted that the Way of Christ is the way to fullness of life here and now even though it runs contrary to the power, wealth and influence the world holds so dear? The storms that batter our little boat keep us in the middle of a maelstrom. There is no small comfort we share the same boat with many others. These others are those gathering in assembly to offer daily efforts and achievements on the altar of our thanksgiving sacrifice. But being in the same boat, battered and threatened by the forces of power is still frightening. Our situation is challenging.

We find ourselves beat up, threatened by the gods of the world that work to seduce us into believing we’re the center of the world. Those gods entice us into denying the dignity and worth of persons, destroying the wonder and magnificence of the created universe, and into disbelief there is a divine plan that all creation and all peoples will be recreated in the image and likeness of his Risen Son. When we find ourselves battered and storm tossed, we should take comfort in the company of those with us in the boat. We should take courage in the quiet of God’s whisper to us, of Jesus spoken word of encouragement, "Come!"

We are on a journey of growth personally and collectively as the people of God. We should not believe we will be treated differently by power and wealth and influence than Jesus was. Let us listen for the whisper of God as he passes by us. Let us be attentive to the invitation of the Lord, "Come!"

Our simple response to Jesus’ call repeats our Responsorial Psalm this Sunday: "Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation."

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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WALKING ON WATER WITH JESUS: 19th SUNDAY A

Jesus said to Peter the Apostle: ‘Come to me across the water!’

They say that 'life begins at forty'. Some of you may have personal experience of that. But just when he was about to turn forty, another Peter – he lives thousands of miles away - had a very bad year.

He crashed his car. He was drunk at the time, so he lost his driving licence. He needed that driving licence for his job, so he lost his job. When he lost his job, he could not keep up the mortgage payments on his house. His wife divorced him and took their two children away. He took up the only two options he thought he had left in the world - he went home to live with his parents, and he started to drink heavily.

His mother was very old and confined to a wheelchair. But the only thing she asked of him was to take her to church every day. So, every day, he wheeled her to church, where he listened to a very long and boring homily by a very old and decrepit priest. He got to thinking: ‘What a hopeless old man! I could do better myself!’

It was a bizarre thought for someone who by now barely believed in God. But the thought stuck with him. Every day when took his mother to Mass, the thought grew and grew. He went to make his confession - a long one. Next he started to receive Holy Communion. And all the time, the thought kept growing within him that he should seek to become a priest.

When Vocations Sunday came around, the old priest gave a particularly long and boring homily, during which he asked all those present to ask themselves whether they might sense within themselves a call to the priesthood or religious life. After Mass, Peter took his courage in both hands and went to see the priest in the sacristy. He told him he thought he had a vocation. First the priest was shocked and then he got the giggles. Didn't he know that married men couldn’t become priests?

Peter went away humiliated. In fact he was so angry that he wrote a long letter to the bishop complaining about the attitude of the priest. The bishop wrote back saying that the old priest was, in his opinion, one of the holiest men in the diocese, but that if Peter felt that he wanted to keep considering a vocation, the bishop would be happy to meet him.

So, feeling a little foolish, and not really sure what there was to talk about, Peter went to see the bishop. The gospel for that day was the one we’ve heard today - Peter hoped it might be a good sign. They spoke for a long time and, for the first time, Peter opened up his heart. And, in talking about his deepest hopes, he discovered that he really did have a burning desire to be a priest - the conviction to give his whole life in the service of God and God’s people – a conviction that is given only by God himself. At the end of their conversation, the bishop told him frankly that he believed Peter had a genuine vocation, but he had no idea whether within the rules of the Church he could become a priest. He would see if anything could be done. Peter went home feeling the best he had all that year.

A week later, he was called in to see the bishop again. The bishop explained that there was a provision in canon law after all, for men in his position to become priests. Ten years ago Peter was ordained and is now working as a priest in a parish in England.

There are times in life when the things God asks of us seem so difficult that we conclude all too quickly that they are simply impossible. We even doubt that what God is asking of us is really coming from the Lord at all. Might it not be coming from the bad Spirit?

Sometimes the only way to find out the truth is to ask the Lord to tell us to come to him across the water of our fears and doubts. And when, like Peter the Apostle, we start to sink beneath the waves, to reach out towards the Lord with both hands, and say to him not once, not twice, but over and over and over again: ‘Lord, save me!’ ‘Lord, save me!’ ‘Save me, Lord, lest I sink beneath the waves of my doubts!’

"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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