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Contents: Volume 2 - The Twentieth Sunday
in Ordinary Time -
August
19, 2018


 

The 20th

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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Sunday 20 B 2018

Few would disagree that in our times, too, as we are told in the second reading, "the days are evil" or at least that many people behave in evil ways!! A quick check of any form of media will confirm a barrage of possibilities for the worst evil thing of any day. I am becoming rather creative in answering my 9 year old granddaughter's questions about some very grown up words she hears/reads such as duplicity, prevaricate, premeditated, misogyny, cover-ups, and whistle-blower.

When I was 9, a discussion about truth usually involved words like tattle-tale or what standing up for what was right meant. A cover-up did so to one's bathing suit. The whistle-blower we knew was the policeman in Frosty the Snowman!

Things have definitely changed in our fast paced world where the speed and saturation of different kinds of communication boggles the mind. How do we "update" and fine tune our understanding without giving up tried and true Wisdom as encouraged in the first reading? Do we ban technology when it could be beneficial to our spiritual growth? Do I put this inquisitive child (and myself) in a protected information bubble indefinitely or keep seeking understanding about whatever comes before us?

I am all for better understanding, even if some conversations are difficult. The first reading from the Book of Proverbs encourages us also to seek understanding as the key to right living. High on the list of my "how to" suggestions are the "old faithfuls", things that help one to develop an informed conscience in accordance with "the will of the Lord": prayer, reading and studying Scripture, connecting with like-minded people, and service to others. I firmly believe in "input, output" even though what it means today requires more carefully planned talks.

In our Gospel reading, Jesus says, "I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me." This profound mystery of partaking in the Body and Blood of Jesus, true food and true drink, is something that escapes mere human understanding, but yet a solid belief in its necessity also sustains one's spiritual life. For Catholics, the ultimate way of feeding on Jesus is indeed the Eucharist. Many positive opportunities to use media and technology to nourish one's soul in other ways are also appropriate to help us "feed" on Jesus, the Word of God, who gives our lives meaning and direction.

Wisdom can appear to be various things, some authentically so and some not so much. It seems to me that forsaking the foolish and deceitful things in our day is the way to avoid evil, advance in understanding, and gain true Wisdom. What current practices ("input") will help you "watch carefully how you live", nourish your intimate relationship with Jesus, and help those around you do the same?

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Twentieth Sunday of Ordered Time August 19 2018

Proverbs 9:1-6; Responsorial Psalm 34; Ephesians 5:15-20; Gospel Acclamation John 6:5-6; John 6:51-58

This last week-end we were visiting long-time friends in Liberty Township, Ohio. Bob and Dennis had sung together for nearly twenty years and Dennis was invited to join the choir for the celebration of the feast day of the parish patron, St. Maximilian Kolbe. Kolbe was a priest in the time of the Nazi rule of Germany and the Second World War. He was a prisoner as were many Catholic clergy in one of the concentration camps for speaking out against the policies of the Third Reich. While in Auschwitz it is said of Fr. Max that he encouraged those who were in the death camps with him to fight hatred with love. The only thing that could save these persons condemned to almost certain death from succumbing to the damnation of their spirits by hatred was the love of their love for others. Hatred twists and destroys what is good in us and robs us of life. Hatred destroys community, unity, and in the process the individuals within the community. Hatred and violence can never be overcome by more hatred and violence. The only way to save one’s person – one’s soul – is to love those who hate you, to love those who persecute you. Humans who respond to hate with hate lose their souls as their spirits become more and more absorbed with hatred and vengeance. When all that a person has left is their own personhood, allowing hatred and violence and vengeance to absorb their character results in the total destruction of their souls. In 1941, Max volunteered to take the place of a man condemned to the gas chamber so the man had a chance to return to his family.

Do we not experience the destructive nature of hatred? When we allow hatred of another to enter our hearts and to cloud our minds, our judgment, we begin a spiral that destroys what is the hope of God’s creation. It’s like the little boy who suffered a hurt from a playmate and clutched the hurt to his chest, took it home and put it under his bed. Each morning and each evening he would take the hurt out and concentrate on it. Eventually the hurt grew so large as to take all the space in this boy’s room, squeezing out the breath of life it had once contained.

The second reading for Max’s feast day was taken from the 1st letter of John 3:14-18. That chapter starts with these words: "Think of the love that he Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are." The reading for St. Max is as follows: "You must not be surprised, brothers, when the world hates you; we have passed out of death and into life, and of this we can be sure because we love our brothers. If you refuse to love, you must remain dead; to hate your brother is to be a murderer, and murderers, as you know, do not have eternal life in them. This has taught us love – that he gave up his life for us; and we, too, ought to give up our lives for our brothers. If a man who was rich enough in this world’s goods saw that one of his brothers was in need, but closed his heart to him, how could the love of God be living in him? My children, our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active; only by this can we be certain that we are children of the truth and be able to quieten our conscience in his presence, whatever accusations it may raise against us, because God is greater than our conscience and he knows everything." The gospel for St. Max was from John 15:12-16. "This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. A man has no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you. I shall not call you servants anymore, because a servant does not know his master’s business; I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learned from my Father. You did not chose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last; and then the Father will give you anything you ask of him in my name. What I command you is to love one another." These two readings from John tell us what God is about, who God is, what the life of God is, and what eternal life is. We cannot, however, separate this belief in love from our daily living. Were we to do so, our faith would become empty tinkling of cymbals and cacophonic clanging of gongs.

Our readings this Sunday demand our attention to seek an understanding of what our faith teaches us. We cannot live as Christians if we overlook the message. The single command of Jesus to his followers is that we love one another as he loves us. It’s a terrible command that we follow him to Calvary --- and then to emerge from a tomb that cannot hold us because we live with the very eternal life of God --- which is love.

Starting with the first reading form the book of Wisdom, we are to think of wisdom as a person, a lovely lady who encourages us to understand the truth of our existence. That lady tells us to drink deeply of her wine she has mixed and eat of her food. To do so means that we give thought to what it means to be wise, what it means to live fully. We are to forsake foolishness so that we may live. To ignore wisdom, to avoid understanding God’s Word is to not live. Who among us would forsake the great gift of life we have received to pursue what is temporary, what is empty, what can be consumed by the moth and by rust or removed by thieves?

Paul in his letter to the Ephesians proclaimed this Sunday insists we should watch carefully how we live, not as foolish persons but as wise. Who among us cannot agree with his observation that our "days are evil?" We should seek wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of God’s Word by seeking to know and live the Will of God for us. We should give thanks always for everything, especially our lives. To be ignorant of what God says to us is foolishness and leads to emptiness of life here and now and most certainly in a permanent dismal future beyond this life.

But it is the Gospel from John this Sunday that is most difficult. Jesus tells the crowds, "I am the bread come down from heaven." Very quickly our minds rush to identify this bread as the Eucharist. We think immediately what Jesus is talking about is his presence among us in the forms of bread and wine. But this bread is way more than that, important as it is. In his choice of the words "I am" that Jesus identifies himself with the Great I Am. That is the name of God spoken to Moses from the burning bush. Jesus tells a cynical, unbelieving, crowd blinded by lack of understanding that he is God come from heaven. He is the Incarnate Son of God who comes into this world to bring us fullness of wisdom and knowledge of God’s will for us. By becoming man he brings us wisdom enough to live a full and complete life. He comes from God not because God is playing with us. He comes from God and is God for us because God loves us so much that he chooses to become one with us, to share with us his divinity so that we can share with him our humanity. The message is a revelation of the incomprehensible love God has for us. If we eat the "bread" that is his incarnation, if we swallow the great love God has for us, our living changes. No longer will we be like the rest of humanity that wallows in hatred and division. No longer can we disregard the dignity and worth of any immigrant, of any child no matter their race, their national origin, their poverty or disfigurement. God is three, but in their love so totally united as to be one. In like manner by eating the revelation of the bread that is the incarnation of the Son of God and drinking the life that courses through the arteries and veins of this Incarnation, we become one with him and in this manner enter into eternal life that is the Son’s to give because he possesses it as the Son of God. We cannot eat the Bread nor drink the Cup and hate any other! We cannot embrace the life of the Son and deny dignity and worth to anything that the Father has created! It is God’s love for his creation that is revealed by the Incarnation!

The message is that God loves us and his presence and his physicality in the person of Jesus provide us with the necessary nourishment to love others as God loves us. Not only are we to love God; we are to love all that God loves. Where in God’s love can anyone of us find room for hatred, for vengeance, for violence, for disregard for the dignity and worth of even a single other? Where in God’s love can we find the death of any other – born or unborn, enemy or friend, criminal or just person – a virtue? Francis, Bishop of Rome recently condemned the death penalty as a violation of the commandment of Jesus. Will we not see Francis’ teaching as the truth of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of the Lord?

When we approach the sacrament of the Eucharist ought we not think of the unconditional love of the Father for his Son and through the Spirit to each individual person who lived, who lives, and who will live? When we consume the host and drink the chalice should we not understand this as a reception in our bodies of the wonder of God’s love for us? Is there any room left for hatred, for violence against another, for failure to respond to the needs of a single other, for any effort to divide us from each other, for vengeance? When we eat the "Bread come down from Heaven" we accept the revelation that Jesus is the Son of God who is the manifestation of God’s love for us.

Our struggle must be to continually work on our feelings of anger, of hatred, of revenge, of violence, and of division among us. It takes a life-time to "become perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect." How can we allow ourselves to be misled by the rantings of demagogues who seek power by dividing us one from the other? Wisdom is knowledge and understanding applied to the moments of our living. In wisdom we find peace and contentment during our struggles to survive and grow. Without wisdom we are dust moved by even the smallest gusts of bombast and contention. If Jesus is God and brings us the wisdom of God, then let us get with applying Jesus’ command in our every relationship and in all our thoughts and efforts.

This is what we learned at the celebration of the feast day of Maximilian Kolbe. That to love is to grow: to hate is to die. And to love as the Christ loved us is to love, as the Bread of Heaven loves, is to discover the fullness of life. Hatred kills our spirits! Love enlarges them and brings us to happiness, fullness of life, and peace.

May it be so!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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HOLY COMMUNION, A PACKAGE DEAL: 20TH SUNDAY B

The message of Jesus to us today is a promise. He promises to be for us just what he is. He’s our Bread of Life, and he promises to be our nourishment, sustenance and support, all along our journey of life. Unlike some people, perhaps ourselves, Jesus keeps his promises. So today let us move in our thoughts to where he keeps his promise, the Upper Room in Jerusalem.

As Jesus is about to take leave of his disciples, and submit to the suffering and death which awaits him, he shows his intention to continue to be present to his friends and followers, but in a new and different way. The new form of his presence will be the bread and wine of a community meal celebrated in his memory. Just as human beings must eat and drink if they are to stay alive, so must the followers of Jesus eat and drink if they are to live by his teachings and example, and remain united with their Lord and one another. In becoming food and drink for their journey to God Jesus adapts himself to the need which all human beings have to both eat and drink in order to stay alive and well. This is to say that the new form of his presence will be one based on nourishment and refreshment, and will involve both eating and drinking.

It’s important to remember, however, that communion with Jesus is not simply a private conversation with him. No, it's a package deal. When we receive and meet the risen Christ in Holy Communion, we are challenged to open our hearts to everyone else who belongs to Jesus, to everyone else who shares the same food and drink in the same meal, and to everyone else who forms one body with him. We are challenged to love others as he loves them. For this reason some words that have been put on the lips of Jesus by an anonymous writer seem very much to the point. Let’s hear him saying those words to you and me now: -

I tried to catch your attention this morning.

Remember when you came back to your seat and closed your eyes and put your head down and talked and talked to me.

I wanted you to listen.

I wanted to tell you to open your eyes and look at my broken body all around you.

I tried to catch your attention that time the toddler stood on the seat and spoke to you, but you gave me a dirty look and humiliated me and didn't hear me.

I was the unmarried mother at the end of your seat, the old man in front of you, the family of seven children across the aisle from you - and I almost had the impression you disapproved of me.

I was the woman in the green coat whose husband left her this week and whose heart was being eaten out right through Mass, and a friendly smile or word would have been a little support to me.

I am your wife who cooked the lunch and coped with the children and all the burdens of the house while you read the Sunday newspaper and then went out.

I am your husband and your children and you stamped and huffed and gave us your cold silent treatment for three and a half long hours after Mass. You blackened and deadened the whole atmosphere of our home.

I am your mother and father and you have ignored and mocked and criticised and tortured as only a teenager knows how.

I am your teenage son whom you've lost belief in and your nagging is driving me crazy.

I am your next-door neighbor whom you spend so much time gossiping about and criticizing.

I am your fellow parishioner whom you meet every day in the street and you ignore me, busy about your own concerns.

And it sickens me, all the coldness, all the squabbling and division and those endless running battles that scourge me and crown me with thorns. And then you pierce my side at Holy Communion with your empty words of love.

If you love me, feed my sheep, my starving sheep, and start in your own home.

Please don't keep me at bay any longer.

Don't talk to me. Listen.

I don't want you to go on loving my spirit and ignoring my body. I don't want you to open your mouth to receive my body and close your eyes and ears to shut it out.

When will you understand that you cannot have Holy Communion with me if you don't have communion with your brothers and sisters in your own family and parish?

Stop thinking of me as some kind of spiritual being in the skies. I am one with these people and you cannot have me without them.

On the last day, I won't ask you how many times you went to Mass - that is not your holiness. I will ask how your own family and neighbours fared, how your spouse and children grew in love and faith.

How did they live their Mass?

Please. Open your eyes and ears. Stop, look and listen, and make time for me by making time for them.

"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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