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Contents: Volume 2 - The Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 22, 2018


 

The 16th

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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Sun. 16 B

The first reading this Sunday is quite a condemnation, and a very worthy one, of shepherds who have led astray the Lord's flock. The image of a shepherd caring for a flock may not be familiar to modern day urbanites or suburbanites so the seriousness of these words might not strike us as so very strong. Perhaps broadening the term to anyone who takes advantage of another might help us understand this connection more easily.

Our day and age sadly would reveal a long list of similar perpetrators. The list includes nefarious drug dealers, negligent caretakers of the elderly, anyone who abuses children, those who scam others, human traffickers, those leaders or clergy or teachers who care for their own needs more than or instead of those of whom they should serve or mentor, and those in authority who use their power for intimidation or who know of harm being done and say or do nothing about it.

Unfortunately, we all know of people who might fall in that horrible category of today's counterpart of a really bad shepherd. We should support and thank whistle blowers and those who say "enough is enough" about these people not only in words, but by their actions. We should join them in some way as a defender of anyone who is victimized.

Now the much needed Good News! The Lord shepherds us by caring for each of us rightly and personally. Jesus cares for us and all those needing rest and spiritual nourishment as he did his apostles and crowd in our Gospel story! We have only to listen to Jesus speaking within our hearts for guidance.

In addition to that blessing, we all know someone in our midst who mirrors the Lord's lavish and unselfish care for others. Often we are the recipient of that attention. We might take those people for granted whether they be in our family, community, work place or parish. Perhaps it has been too long since the last time you have told such a person about the value they add to your life.

Recently, I have been noticing this special kind of person among the strangers my family has been meeting throughout the summer. These folks do not "just" do a job, they do it personally, with joy, and with extra attention to others. So far there have been a park ranger, a waitress and a waiter, and a former Girl Scout leader who came all the way across a large group of older campers to compliment and hug my grand daughter, a former camper of hers. These are people of whom and to whom we can say "You made my day".

The movement toward random acts of kindness seems to be gaining momentum, possible to dispel the nastiness and selfishness that can invade our lives. Perhaps we should simply try to brighten the day for all those we meet, even if we have to start by designating one person or one time frame or one place per day as a starting point. A genuine smile would be great! The brightness of our attempts would certainly reflect Jesus, the Good Shepherd. It would also remove some of the tarnish that has been found from the actions of those despicable "shepherds" of our time.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Sixteenth Sunday of Ordered Time July 22 2018

Jeremiah 23:1-6; Responsorial Psalm 23; Ephesians 2:13-18; Gospel Acclamation John 10:27; Mark 6:30-34

The readings this Sunday make this seem like a Sunday dedicated to the Good Shepherd. However, we have already had such a Sunday already this year dedicated to the Good Shepherd – the Fourth Sunday of Easter – based on John’s gospel chapter ten. In that gospel, Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. In ancient thinking – well before the time of Jesus – the tribal king was understood to be the shepherd of his people, one who both led and followed the people of his tribal nation. In times of great trouble the king led the fighting men and women. He would be the point of attack, leading the way to survival and security of his tribe. In time of prosperity and peace, the king followed the herd, watching out for dangerous paths, lack of water, and poor grass for grazing for his sheep. Those ancient images are the basis for this Sunday’s readings.

The Israelites were God’s chosen. Of all the tribes on earth in ancient times, God chose to reveal himself to the Hebrew tribes. God revealed himself as a true God who loved his creation and every tribe, nation, gender, and people. Yahweh revealed his relationship was a relationship of compassion, mercy, and constant care. At first, when calamity struck the Hebrew tribes, the people thought God was angry with them. In this they parroted the pagans whose gods were capricious. The pagans thought of their gods as self-serving, fighting among themselves, and demanding the impossible from their worshipers. Over time as the Hebrew tribes experienced God’s presence, they came to realize that their difficulties and problems came as a result of their own failures or the failures of their communities. Nature itself wasn’t a force they could be controlled. There were droughts, famines, storms, earthquakes, and floods. They learned to deal with those problems with hope in God’s mercy. The pagans offered sacrifice to the gods of nature in an attempt to control them and find favor with them. The difference with the Israelites was the prophets, like Jeremiah in the first reading this Sunday. They warned the people about their behavior. His revelation contained one very strange truth about God’s relationship with his people. God granted communities and individuals freedom. Well, God not only granted freedom, he insisted on freedom for each person. While the pagan gods were about controlling their adherents, the God of the Hebrew tribes was shepherd to the nation. His shepherding was characterized by mercy and compassion and his truth. The later prophets insisted God is not interested in holocausts of bullocks or the blood of sheep. God desires the sacrifice of love in our hearts not the blood of animals.

Despite kings being considered shepherds of their people, most kings lost their way and sought to enrich themselves through abuse of their people. Even David often forgot and worked to acquire wealth, power, and fame for himself and his children. The kings who followed David made alliances with pagan nations. Those alliances required the Israelites to deny their faith in Yahweh and to transform the Temple of Solomon into a place of orgy and idolatry. The abomination and desecration of the Holy of Holies brought tragedy, death, and slavery to ordinary people. They either fled to distant lands to escape captivity or were carried off into slavery and subservience to gods that were empty promises serving those in power, robbing the spirits of the people. This is the reference in the reading from Jeremiah this Sunday. After telling his people that their choices brought on this horror and pain, God promised the nation would be reunited, that those who fled would return to the city of God, Jerusalem. In retrospect we Christians understand this promise a call to the Kingdom of God established by Jesus.

The truth of human living over the centuries of recorded history and for as long as there have been humans on the earth is that we are hardwired to believe in something more than ourselves. In early human times, there was worship of the energies of nature. The wonder and incomprehensible energy contained in seeds planted in the earth: the awesome power of storms: the unbridled strength of earthquakes: the overwhelming wonder of birth of a child and that child’s growth and expansion into a thinking person – all these wonders forced humanity to belief and trust in a presence more than themselves. There is an invisible force that draws every person who ever lived, lives now, or will live in the future. It is a force. This may sound like something from the Star Wars sage. And in a sense it is. That force has two sides. Star Wars presents the two sides as a side of brightness and hope and a side of darkness and destruction. In the saga, the characters have the power of freedom, the power to choose, to make a choice of where they will grow their hearts and spirits. One characteristic of this force is the energy binding wives and husbands in mutual respect, love, and caring; it ties together siblings with siblings into a family; it binds together neighbors with neighbors, communities within themselves looking to the common good. Ultimately that force binds together nations within themselves and with other nations. This bond over history is understood as coming from a force outside persons and communities and nations. We’ve come to call that which binds us together love. Who can see love, who can touch it, who can hear it? Yet love is visible in an invisible sense. The mystery of love comes to us as uplifting joy, unquestioning commitment, and abundant respect for the other. The sadness of all this is that we understand it ONLY when we personally experience it.

The opposite of that invisible force is a characteristic Star Wars calls the dark side. It is what separates us, drives us apart. What drives us apart denies dignity and worth to others. When we examine our thoughts from the week gone by at the penitential rite of Mass, we should focus on what hatred and division we have allowed to grow within our spirits. We should understand that what divides us is not of God. We should understand like Luke Skywalker that he has a choice and that choice either grows our joy and happiness and peace or destroys it. Hatred becomes a marauding demon flying around the created universe seeking out weak spirits and leading them to pledge by their life choices to focus on wealth, power, and fame. In this way the dark-side demons bring us to worship false gods. Were we to choose the dark side, its invisible force energizes our powers to separate us from family, from siblings, from communities, and from civic relationships. The application of this energy in the form of division, of overwhelming competition, of pursuit of status, of capturing enslaving power, of commitment to accumulation by taking from others allows the demons to take possession of our spirits. Evil binds us: evil blinds us: evil kills our freedom and our unity with others. It seeks to rob all humanity of freedom and personal dignity and worth.

Good shepherds – according to Jeremiah this Sunday – can be religious leaders or secular authority. The Good Shepherd is one spending all his/her energies to unify, to free those enslaved, to lift up those who are weak, to welcome the alien, to extend a lifting-up hand to all without resources. Jesus tells his disciples we will know those who are true shepherd-prophets by the results of their efforts. Where division is sown, where power is achieved by enflaming sentiments of fear and hatred, we have wolves as leaders. It makes little difference if those wolves come to us wrapped in sheep’s clothing. They are still ravenous wolves, committed to robbing us of our dignity and worth. All this sounds like right-thinking to most of us. We cannot allow what sounds right to remain solely in our brains. What is right must reach our hearts and direct and energize us to action. Perhaps we are blinded and cannot see the wolves who even now strike at us and our children, seeking to divide us and to denigrate persons for their own gain.

Perhaps an example would be helpful. There are very few persons who believe the death of an unborn child is a good thing. Decades ago the Evangelical Movement began to look for a way to influence the political life of the nation. They chose abortion as an issue that would arouse anger and make a call to arms for Evangelicals. At first their leadership rejected abortion as a tipping point issue because it was believed abortion was a Catholic issue. The Rev. Falwell approached a presidential candidate promising to provide him votes from the South if he would agree to make abortion an issue in his campaign. The candidate did and won the election. Little has been accomplished leading to a culture of life since then except to polarize Americans and to make elections a one issue matter. In effect politicians wrapped themselves in sheep’s clothing with an often feinted care for the unborn. The emptiness of that care is apparent. After the unborn is born there is little to no support for those born into poverty, ignorance, no concern about health care, about education, about opportunities for worthwhile, rewarding work. The wolves achieve their purpose and the side of goodness and light is buried under the one issue political environment. All life is equally important and worthy of our support, our protection and our love. To overcome the wolves we must make the choice for a full and complete culture of Life. That is the only way to strip off the sheep’s clothing from those who manipulate our beliefs and our emotions.

The righteous leader, the Good Shepherd cares for each sheep: not only those now living but also the unborn, those born into poverty or ignorance or in nations reeling from violence and tyrannical leadership. How can we in good conscience support a culture of life for those yet to experience daylight and enable a culture of death for those who are born, for those who lack the necessities of life, and for those whose future is bleak and empty of opportunity, of education, of engagement, and inclusion?

In all the great narratives of the Hebrew Scriptures and in the Words and Healings of Jesus in the Christian Scriptures the focus is always on freedom of persons and communities and inclusion in community. That is the measure of good leadership in church and government. Anything short of that is imperfect. Anything that denies or robs persons of inclusion, freedom, and the common good is from the raging demons who create and encourage evil. We should not allow ourselves to be fooled by wolves in sheep’s clothing.

The ending of the gospel reading this Sunday is an encouragement. It tells us that despite the evil that roams the world God continues to respect and encourage our freedom and growth of spirit. Those final verses point to what God is. Jesus looks on the crowds that sought him in the desert place because they were like sheep without a shepherd. We should keep in mind that his teaching on this occasion leads to the wonderful miracle of the feeding of the five thousand with a few barley loaves and a couple of fishes. That’s next Sunday.

Let us remember this week as we go about our routines the last words of this Sunday’s gospel. "When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things."

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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FEEDING THE HUNGRY: 16TH SUNDAY B

There are at least three kinds of hunger. There is a hunger for bread, for the food and drink that satisfy physical hunger and nourish physical health and life. There is emotional hunger, a hunger for acceptance and welcome, affirmation and affection from others. And there is spiritual hunger. This, for Christians, is a craving for Christ and his company. As a famous song puts it, in words of St Richard of Chichester, this hunger is a longing 'to see him more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly, day by day'.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta has spoken well of these three kinds of hunger:

Your poverty is greater than ours ... the spiritual poverty of the West is much greater than the physical poverty of the East. In the West, there are millions of people who suffer loneliness and emptiness, who feel unloved and unwanted. They are not the hungry in the physical sense; what is missing is a relationship with God and with each other.

In our gospel today, we meet people who are experiencing the three kinds of hunger. Their greatest hunger is for the company of Jesus, for the enlightenment and truth of the words which he speaks, and for the warmth and comfort of his understanding, kindness and compassion. They are also feeling the pangs of physical hunger and hoping he can relieve those too.

Looking for a little rest and recreation Jesus sails with his friends for the eastern shore of the lake. But seeing where the boat is heading, the crowds hurry along the shore and are already waiting for them at the other side. You can imagine what you and I might have thought and even said about this. Jesus too might easily have felt annoyed and resentful. He might easily have moaned and groaned: 'Why won't they leave us alone for a while? Why won't they let us have a bit of time to ourselves? Why won't they give us just a little peace and quiet? Why won't they stay away? Why won’t they?'

But Jesus thinks no such thoughts. He thinks only of them, of their need for him, and for the love and assistance he can provide as their Good Shepherd. Sensing their longing to be with him and seeing so many sick and troubled persons among them, his heart overflows with compassion. And so, he goes from one little group to the other - talking to them, listening to them, comforting them, and healing their physically and mentally sick ones. In this way the longing they have felt to be with him, and their need for acceptance and welcome, affirmation and affection, are completely satisfied.

All this has much to say to us as the disciples of Jesus in the world today. We must face, first of all, the physical hunger of millions of our fellow human beings. Can we any longer feel easy about so much conspicuous consumption and so much waste in our Western world when so many are deprived of the basic necessities of life and are actually starving? What will Jesus say to us on Judgment Day? Will it be: 'I was hungry, and you gave me food? I was thirsty and you gave me drink' (Mt 25:35-36)? Or will it be: ‘I was hungry and you never gave me any food, I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink' (Mt 25:42-43)?

In the second place, there are all around us so many deprived and lonely people who are craving for even a little bit of affirmation, acceptance, and affection. The widespread problems of so many runaway and homeless children, of drug addiction, of domestic violence, of suicide, are but symptoms of deep unsatisfied longings to be loved and to love. Can you and I be a little more sensitive, a little more responsive, a little more active and caring towards so many lost and lonely persons? And will we let Jesus Christ say to us: 'I was a stranger and you made me welcome, lacking clothes and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me (Mt 25:36-37)'?

Jesus has clearly identified himself with people in physical, emotional and spiritual need. To meet them is to meet him. 'In truth I tell you,' he says, 'in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me' (Mt 25:40-41) and 'in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me' (Mt 25:45).

It’s the same Jesus whom we meet today in our celebration of the Eucharist, as the Jesus who took pity on the crowd of hungry people on the shore of the lake. He will shortly be nourishing our friendship with him in the signs of bread and wine, in order to empower us to become more and more like him. And at the end of Mass he will be sending us back into the world as a source of nourishment to others, by reaching out to them with our words and actions of acceptance and welcome, affirmation and affection.

Fed, then, by our holy communion with him, may we do more than ever before to satisfy the physical, emotional and spiritual hungers of all those needy persons out there, whom God has put on our paths to nourish them with practical signs of God’s own compassionate and caring love!

 

"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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