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Contents: Volume 2 - Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A –
July 23, 2017


 

16th

Sunday in

Ordinary

Time

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. 16 A

Who among us has not asked questions about evil in the world? !! Even my eight year old grand daughter asks why some people do evil things, the latest being robbing Egyptian graves! Our moral consciences form early, even during independent reading about history. Early or later on is a good time to reinforce a great adage: "what is wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it and what is right is right even if no one else is doing it."

Yet, evil remains. Why doesn't God just wipe evil from the face of the earth, we might ask? Well, the truth is, if God did that, not one of us would be here! We have all sinned and sin is evil in God's sight, plain and simple.

Here is the good news: God is understanding, forgiving, and merciful. The bad news is that knowing that good news can make us vulnerable, lazy, and complacent. The slippery slope has a sharp incline, downward, and oh, the weeds!

The Gospel warning is a strong one. At the end of the age, our age or THE age, there will be an accounting. Our forgiving God may not "keep score" but God does know "evildoers" from "the righteous".

How do we reconcile those two seemingly opposing things? The answer is "reconcile"! An awareness of right and wrong must lead us to a confession of our personal wrongs, frequently and honestly. ("Cover-ups" are really bad news! Talk about a tangled mess!) If we do not "catch ourselves" sliding down the hill, we will roll way down and get caught among those weeds and perhaps become an unrecognizable lump at the very bottom.

Thank God (literally) that the hill is a long one, long enough for us to have many chances to figure out what is happening. Mercifully, even a "lump" can ask forgiveness and mend evil ways, however. The climb back into God's "good graces" may involve substantial changes but God does provide for that, too.

Our resolution has to be to find ways to stay close to God and not aimlessly wander away. Our plan must be to learn to recognize the evil, in ourselves and others, and not get tangled up in it. The parable may not generate an immediate action in our lives but, if we don't take a good look at our path and "recalculate" soon, the end of the journey may be masked by a bunch of nice smelling roses that fade into a horrific pile of thorns.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A – July 23, 2017

"What do you think?"

Jesus included the above question in many of his stories. Parables are meant to provoke thought, questions, discussion. This one certainly does for me!

A farmer went and sowed good seed in his field. But then an enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat. That's how it is with the Kingdom of God.

Immediately I associate the good seed and the sower with the Spirit of God. But who is this enemy? And how is this like the Kingdom of God?

For the author of today's Gospel reading, the "enemy" was probably the religious leaders who opposed and attacked Jesus and the early followers. However, as I look around in our society, I'm convinced that we blame others too often for the weeds in the field of our life: the perceived enemy, the devil, foreigners, immigrants, Black people, Muslim people, people who are different. Anyone and anything other than our own choices, our fears, our immaturity, our bias, our sinfulness. I don't believe Jesus intended us to blame others, but to reflect on our own actions and attitudes. That's where our "weeds" come from, and they grow quite well without any help at all. What do you think?

Some who labour for the farmer want to rip out the weeds right away. But the master is more patient, and wise. "Let them grow together so pulling out the weeds doesn't destroy the crop". What do you think about this? What does it teach about our modern tendency to kill weeds by any means we have, even if it poisons the earth in our own gardens and farms. So we excommunicate, or banish, or shun those who we don't understand, like, or agree with in our communities? What does this parable have to teach us about the weeds in our own lives? In our own selves? What do those we consider "undesirable, strange, marginal", have to teach us?

What do you think?

Two more parables follow. The kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed that grows to be a bush large enough to become shelter for the birds. And the kingdom of God is like yeast that leavened a large batch of flour. Shelter and fulfillment. Do we find it in this kingdom of justice, peace and love?

What do you feel? What do you think? What will you do?

Barbara Cooper, OP

Vancouver Island, BC Canada

bcoop60@yahoo.com

 

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Sixteenth Sunday of Ordered Time, July 23, 2017

Wisdom 12:13 & 16-19; Responsorial Psalm 86; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43

Matthew’s Gospel this week-end reminds me of the time of our school’s summer vacation. As one of five siblings on our family farm in western Ohio as a kid we were never faced boredom as the farm provided us opportunities for helping with the family enterprise. As wheat, oats, and corn grew to adult knee-high, I and my two older sisters would spend mornings in the fields, hoeing thistles – water and Russian --, wild carrots (aka Queen Anne Lace), blue flowers, milk weed, and saur docks. It wasn’t so much free child labor as it was a way of occupying us kids while instilling a work ethic and a sense of belonging to the family enterprise. It was tedious work and we kids carried on lengthy conversations and rowdy renditions of popular songs. If we finished a field on a Tuesday, during evening milking Mom and Dad conspired, discussing the merits of a movie title. We were excited. It usually resulted in the family hopping in the ’47 Chevy and driving over to Starlight Auto Theatre for a movie on the Tuesday night dollar- a- car- load special. A great reward! As the youngest of us hoeing kids, I had to learn the difference between evil weeds, robbing the soil of water and nutrients better used by wheat, oats, and corn. It kept us occupied and out of trouble, this work in the cool of the mornings. It also gave personal understanding to Matthew’s narrative this Sunday. Our question was simple. Why on earth would Jesus allow weeds to rob the wheat of what it needed? Maybe Jesus didn’t know much about farming? Well, Jesus is God, so there had to be a divine reason. Whatever it was, it wasn’t an argument Dad accepted for not hoeing weeds.

In view of this agricultural parable, how does the first reading from Wisdom make any sense? Where is the practicality of allowing weeds a chance to thrive? This Bible teaching was just another occasion for us practical people to question whether the Bible is really in touch with reality. Isn’t that a question many ask today?

The first reading insists God is in charge. No matter what happens, God is at the wheel, steering the ship of life. He’s got the whole world in his creative, preserving hands. This reading explains why God doesn’t wipe out weeds from creation, making life easier for humans. We should always remember God gave the job of taking care of the world and increasing its productive by cultivation and organization to us humans. The writer of the Book of Wisdom tells us God is all powerful – after all God is the creator, the source and beginner of everything that is. Because God is the master of all, he can afford to be lenient, he can judge our choices and our actions and our thoughts with clemency. According to Wisdom, God models how we should think and behave. God’s example teaches us being just – being honest and truthful – means being kind and generous with others. God is patient even with weeds, with thistles, with Queen Anne’s Lace and even those rapacious blue flowers. So also, God is patient with those who practice evil in their hearts, minds, and hands. Our reading doesn’t include verse nine of this chapter twelve of Wisdom. Here it is, the writer addressing God:

"Not that you were without power to have the wicked vanquished in battle by the just or wiped out at once by terrible beasts or by one decisive word: but condemning them bit by bit you gave them space for repentance."

God is patient even with the weeds so perhaps they might amend their ways (repent) and become fruitful and demonstrate the presence of God their creator and sustainer. God is patient with evil-doers so they can repent and reform their thoughts, their hearts, and the work of their hands. The truth of this Godly attitude is God loves all his creation, even that part that does evil; God is patient to allow time for us to experience the fruit of our evil choices, to recognize and admit our sins. The most difficult part of repentance is to recognize we have indeed sinned. Who willingly admits to having done evil? Can the self-centered person, the proud, the arrogant do that? To admit failure is contrary to the Way of the World. Better to bluster, mislead, and obfuscate the truth of intentions and deeds. However, to turn one’s life around and approach spiritual maturity, a person must face themselves and recognize their lies, inconsistencies, and denials of God’s love. That admission is humbling and opens us to the rains, the sun, and the breezes that cause us to thrive in the field of God’s farm.

Back to Matthew’s gospel: Is there any grown-up person in this world who denies the existence of evil? In this week’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us evil exists and will continue to exist. It’s all part of an incomplete nature: it is a characteristic of the spiritually immature who only seek to be loved. When we come to realize it is not the seeking of love, but the giving of love that fulfills our lives we are on the Way of Jesus. It is then we let go of the need to satisfy our egos and learn to be lovers. Just as us three kids in Dad and Mom’s wheat, oats, and corn fields had to learn to distinguish good plants from bad, so we also must realize there are good and bad people. But God, unlike our Dad, doesn’t give us a hoe and teach us how to chop them into oblivion. At harvest time, the wheat is distinguishable from the weeds by their fruit. The weeds are first collected for destruction so their seeds are not able to infest the fields next season. The wheat is gathered into barns for the sower of next year’s crop and for grinding into flour for the bread to nourish God’s people.

The addition to Jesus’ parable of the story of the mustard seed and leaven in three measures of flour and water seems out of place. Surely the weeds and the wheat is a stand-alone story: why did Matthew add these stories here? The common element is seed. God is the sower. And, like the insignificant, tiny mustard seed and the dollop of yeast, the Word of God appears insignificant and irrelevant to our life in the world. Our world is so filled with work, competition, activities, social engagements, entertainment and family that the Word is allowed a mere hour on Sunday. In our time and place, the Scriptures and the Way of Jesus the Christ is commercially and socially associated with undesirable traits conflicting with culture, economy, and social practices. True, some theologies of Christian practice deny the greatness of God’s creation in favor of a God far removed from physical reality. Such a transcendent God would never dirty his hands with such trivialities. Often diversity is portrayed as the result of Satan’s manipulation of God’s creation. Often Christianity is the source of persecution of other faith experiences of God practiced by other religions. This is true, in our time, especially of those that spring from the same Patriarch, Abraham. Such practices and teachings are in effect weeds among the wheat as they deny God’s activity in the entirely of his creation. Jesus tells us to let them be. The harvest time will be sufficient for the separation. Until then all must have the possibility of growing into fruitful examples of God’s love. The hidden teaching here is simply "by the fruit of our lives, we will be wheat or weed."

Yet, the stories of the mustard seed and leaven provide us further insight. We can hardly compare the Word of God with nuclear power, military power, with the threat of violence or terrorism, with political power. Yet that tiny seed putting down roots in the soil of our spirits grows as it experiences the light of God’s Word, the rain of the Spirit’s grace, and the heat of the love of Jesus for each of us. It grows large and holds the birds of the air. These birds of the air are all persons we meet and all events in which we participate. In our actions, in our thoughts, in the movements of our hearts, and in the works of our hands, that seed supports the faith and growth of all we meet. Just as a little leaven – a little yeast – can transform three measures of flour and water into croissants, loaves of bread, sweet rolls, sandwich buns, cakes and biscuits, so also the Word of God working in our spirits makes us much more than flour.

Jesus told his disciples they are in the world, but not of the world. In this Sunday’s gospel Jesus tells all disciples there is evil in the world. Instead of doing violence to evil, we are to concentrate on growth in our relationship with God and God’s creation – all of God’s creation including what is evil. By the work of our hands, motivated by the love of God resident in our hearts, bit by bit we reveal God’s love to those who do evil which they believe is good for them. We become standard bearers who are not overbearing. We are welcoming and inclusive!

We encourage everyone to read the twelfth chapter of Wisdom this week. There is a treasure there that reveals the strength we need to live as Walkers-on-the-Way of Jesus. If we practice God’s clemency we would do much to relieve the world of violence, lies, manipulation, abuse of human rights, and even fake news.

May it be so!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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WEEDS AMONG THE WHEAT: 16TH SUNDAY A

People who are perfectionists get a great deal done. They show a marvellous attention to detail. But there’s a shadow side to this. They may become workaholics, and be unable to relax, to stop and think, to stop and listen, to stop and talk, or simply to stop. Being high achievers themselves, they may expect too much, indeed may demand too much, of others. They may want others to be just like them, and may even pressure others to conform. In being like this they may, in fact, become their own worst enemies.

We may possibly know people who are so perfect and yet so locked up in themselves, that they have cut themselves off from others – not listening, not speaking, not caring, and not helping.

There may be something of a perfectionist mentality in us, especially about other people. Should we find ourselves dwelling on the flaws and faults of others, if we find ourselves wondering why they don't think and feel and act just like us, if we find ourselves saying with Henry Higgins, ‘why can’t a woman be more like a man?’, if we find ourselves getting frustrated or annoyed by the weaknesses of others, we are possibly expecting too much of them. And we are possibly failing to respect the individual differences among us of experience, background, culture, character, personality and temperament.

Jesus in the Gospel today speaks to this situation. He speaks of that field in which the wheat his Father has sown is growing. But all through the field there is not only the wheat from the divine sower, but many weeds as well. Jesus is telling us that not a single one of us is really perfect, that we too are mixtures of good and not so good. And so a husband cannot expect his wife to be all wheat with no weeds in her character, and vice versa. Neither can children expect absolute perfection from their parents, and vice versa.

If this is true of all human beings as individuals, it is true too of all human organizations, societies, and structures. Capitalism and socialism e.g. are not only different. They are also imperfect. In both systems weeds can be found as well as wheat.

The Church too is imperfect. The Second Vatican Council said that it is sinful as well as holy, and that it is ‘always in need of reform’ and renewal. Weeds were even found in the original Christian community that Luke tells us about in the Acts of the Apostles. While those first Christians in Jerusalem prayed together, shared their lives, shared their food and the rest of their goods and possessions, one couple named Ananias and Sapphira, were the exceptions. They wanted to keep things back for themselves.

Disciples around him were saying to Jesus: 'Let's root up all those weeds! Let's burn up those cities which won't welcome you! Let's put them right and show them who's boss! Let's have the kingdom now!' But Jesus says to them in effect: 'Wait! Let God be God! Let the wheat and the weeds exist for now side by side! Wait till God is ready to start the harvest and sort things out!' Be like God, be patient, and wait!’

This suggests that our basic first response to the weaknesses and failings of others is meant to be understanding, compassion, gentleness, patience, and respect. St Francis de Sales used to say that more flies are caught with a spoonful of honey than a barrel full of vinegar.

Jesus, however, did not say that things should always stay the way they are. No, he speaks of growth, and therefore about change, and about the power to change that God puts in the wheat that God has sown. So, through the power of God a person who is lost and confused can find meaning and purpose. A smoker can stop smoking. A drinker can stop drinking. A mean person can become a generous one. A sex addict can become chaste. A narrow mind can expand. A fault-finder can become an affirmer and supporter. A racist person can become a welcoming and befriending one. And if we ourselves are sick and tired of the way we have been living, we too can change direction.

In fact we are not to let the weeds in us choke the wheat. We are to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. And yet despite all our best efforts, the reality is that both we and they will remain a mixture of wheat and weeds till God is ready to reap the harvest. So we must be like that little koala in a poster who keeps saying, 'Be patient with me, for God hasn't finished with me yet!'

For the amazing grace of God for ourselves and others, that we might accept the things we cannot change, and change the things we can, let us pray to the Lord of the harvest, during the rest of our Eucharist together 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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