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Contents: Volume 2:

Third Sunday of Ordered Time
January 22, 2023
year A

 

3rd

SUNDAY

Year

A

 

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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1.

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Sun. 3 A 2023

The Scriptures this Sunday emphasize three things. Each of us, not just ordained preachers, is called by reason of our Baptism to preach the Good News. The Good News is that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, but most essentially that Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer. Our task as Christians is to mirror Jesus to all as the Light that dispels the darkness in our world. Pretty easy to write, much harder to live!

Central in how we live is where we focus. The essential message and our focus needs to be The Message, Jesus,as Paul so directly tells us. As important as hearing and understanding the Scriptures is, it is not just one preacher's way of interpreting it or to whom it is preached or how it is preached that should be the only reason we attend a particular church. How it is lived there must be in the mix. The part we have in that reality is also crucial.

I could probably write a very long reflection of the pros and cons of "church shopping" as someone who encounters this concept frequently. We all do it; we are human; we can not live what we do not understand. Let me focus instead on how we can live the essential Message of redemption in our everyday lives regardless of why we attend the church we do.

For me, redemption is the key element of my faith in Jesus. Without Jesus, including both his life and his teachings recorded in Scripture and in tradition, eternal life is a guessing game. With Jesus and the undeniable message of forgiveness, second/many chances, and unconditional love , not only is eternal life put in a different perspective, but so is the life we lead right now.

What that says to me is that each of us must live that message, intentionally, however we can, in whatever circumstances are present to us, everywhere. It is important to live that call and thus share/preach it in the confines of our homes, workplace, community, and in not-so-everyday places. No one, ... no one, has the call or how to live it perfectly understood or lived. Whether it is a young child or an elder in the community, each of us needs to hear (perhaps repeatedly) the undeniable message of Jesus, as our Savior and Redeemer. That way all of us yes all of us, can journey to the promised kingdom together, the kingdom which is both now and in heaven.

So, we have each been called to do that work in our corner of the world. There are many resources from on High, locally, and even digitally, to make it possible to do. We can do it, but will we? The weeks of ordinary/ordered time are there to help. Let us pray that each of us will be able to carve out some time to figure out where we can "order" ourselves to act prayerfully on that call.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Third Sunday of Ordered Time January 22, 2023

Isaiah 8:23-9:3; Responsorial Psalm 27; 1st Corinthians 1:10-13 & 17; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 4:23; Matthew 4:12-23

The gospel this Sunday begins with the statement that Jesus withdraws to Galilee. Perhaps this withdrawal is from the Judean desert where Jesus prayed and was tempted. He returns to his home in Nazareth. Matthew comments that Jesus is thus called a Nazarene. That reference appears to be more about the prophecy of Isaiah that states that a sprout – a neser – would spring forth from the dead stump of Jesse, the root of the destroyed Davidic dynasty. Jesus moves from Nazareth to Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee. This town was on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and on trade routes that brought merchants and travelers through Capernaum. No reason is given for Jesus’ change of residence. Perhaps Capernaum and its economy would provide more business for Jesus’ trade as carpenter.

Jesus spends a lot of time healing and preaching in Galilee. It’s not a big state either. It’s about twenty-five miles wide and about fifty miles long. It is bordered on the east by the Sea of Galilee – the fishing hole for Peter and his brother Andrew. But Galilee – despite its smallness -- was a great place for agriculture. The area was fertile and even unskilled farmers could easily grow crops. Galilee was heavily populated. It was also an area where the population was open to new thoughts and changes in culture. Travelers passing through brought new ways of thinking and doing. So, a dynamic preacher would be listened to. And a healer would quickly gain popularity in the region that was home to many with infirmities.  There was a downside to the traffic and great soil. It was a prize for tyrants seeking to enrich their kingdoms. And so it was that the Assyrians in 734 B.C. led by Tigath-pileser III conquered the area. That was the area that had been the region given to the tribes of Aser, Naphtali, and Zebulun. The conquest had been brutal and the peoples were scattered so as to keep them from returning and fomenting rebellion against their conquerors. So, yes, the people sat in a great darkness. They would see a new light; the Messiah would begin his mission in that territory. The death that overshadowed those three tribes would come to see a great light. Naphtali and Zebulun were the first tribes conquered and dispersed through the world. In the first reading, it is Naphtali and Zebulun that first hear the good news brought by the Messiah.

The announcement of Jesus to Peter and Andrew that they would become fishers of men sounds a lot like a recruitment device for this Kingdom of Heaven preached by the Baptist and then by Jesus. There is more to that statement than recruitment. First, the Kingdom refers not to a region, a geographic nation, or nations. It refers instead to a presence, an energy, a power that comes into the hearts – not merely the minds and bodies – into the hearts of those who become its citizens. There is a change in the persons who allow the reign of God to enter their hearts.

Secondily in the culture of Israel, the seas were the dwelling place of demons. Anyone who fell into the sea was doomed to death. It symbolized chaos. Recall the first verse of Genesis where the spirit of God hovered over the waters calming the chaos and disorder of the seas. Monsters lived in the seas. So, Jesus gives the mission that would be the mission of the apostles, of the disciples then and now. It is their responsibility to fish out of the chaos of life and living all humanity. In being fished out, humanity would be able to live without fear of the chaos of the world, live without the chaos of violence.

How often we are troubled by events seek to crush our peace of mind and heart and force us into darkness experienced by the peoples of Zebulon and Naphtali. Moving out of the darkness is beyond our strength, beyond our understanding, and well beyond our courage and communal efforts. Because we seem trapped, the turmoil steals the vitality of our spirit, crushes the unique character of our person. We respond with anger, a seeking of revenge, and plotting the destruction of whomever we hold responsible for the harm done us. Unless we hear and practice the good news brought by the Messiah, we sink beneath the crashing waves and currents of chaos and loss of meaning and purpose. We desperately need a fisherperson to net us and lift us above the maelstrom that threatens our well-being, our livelihood, our peace of mind, and the viability and endurance of our family.

This Jesus preached good news of a new way of living, of coping with the sin that besmirches the goodness of creation and of the very good creation that God identifies as “very good.” Living is a struggle, often an endurance buoyed only with the hope things will improve. Unless we are extraordinarily wealthy, powerful, or famous living is filled with soaring peaks and submerging tides. It may well be difficult for the wealthy, the powerful, and the well connected as well. But their resources are often paint over anxieties and pain, a paint that puts on a good face to the world and an ersatz contentment because they are better off than others. Such comparison amounts to a standing on the shoulders of the less fortunate.

What a time for Jesus to begin his ministry to the Chosen People. John the Baptizer had just been put into a dark, damp dungeon at the edge of the wilderness because he pointed out Herod’s great sin. It would be a difficult journey for anyone to visit John. He was isolated from all but his most ardent disciples. His imprisonment was a signal for Jesus to begin his ministry. Even so, the message Jesus preached was “repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” a repeat of John’s message.

How would we think if the homilist began his sermon with those words of Jesus. “Repent. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Is Father losing his mind? We’ve heard this story before – how about something new? Maybe he didn’t have time to prepare a sermon. What’s the Kingdom of Heaven? Oh, yeah, that’s where we’d like to end up, right? I’ve got time to get ready for the move. It certainly has nothing to do with me now. I’m too busy making a living and raising my family.

The question hidden under the living room carpet is this: what is the meaning and value in our living? What we choose now, what we take as truth, what the basis of our relationships has an affect on our persons. The struggle for meaning and purpose and growth of the uniqueness I am is not something we wait till the last seconds of living. The storm-tossed chaos of daily life and how we relate to it and to others and to God is how our person grows or decays. Is my focus on taking from others for building up my prestige, my comfort, my ego? Does climbing on the backs of others – stomping on them to slow them down so I can surpass – does this add to the chaos in my spirit? Isn’t getting ahead of the pack what the world holds as our reason for living? Isn’t getting ahead the global anthem? Is truth a commodity that is bent into a pretzel so that my increase is what is being served? Is lying admissible as a tool for conducting business, politics, and relationships? Killing off competition, is that not how I grow? In relationships with neighbors, competitors, wives/husbands, children does it matter that we surrender to domination over appreciation, compassion, mercy, and kindness?

So, what is living for? What is living about? Is it all merely a chase after wind?

Behaviors such as these introduce yet again the chaos of the oceans and seas. Holding onto the way of the world is ultimate a drowning of our persons. Holding ourselves as the center of all that is denial of the unique image and likeness Genesis tells us is how we are created. That spark, that seed that is us is planted in the world. Unlike seeds that grow solely based on their DNA, humanity has free will to choose righteousness and justice over selfishness and idolatry of self. Depending on the way of the world is to surrender our meaning and purpose to nothingness.  

Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons. Why? What was in it for him? Did that healing get him an audience? Did he pick up stock options and estates because of it? Why did he do this? Why all the healing without price? Why the feeding of the multitudes with no tips? Is he crazy? His relatives back in Nazareth thought so and wanted him committed or eliminated by throwing him off a cliff. What is his message?

Jesus understands the wonder and beauty of creation and as Jesus lives as one of the pinnacles of creation. After thousands of years of human experience, the judgment of humanity, guided as it is by God’s Spirit, believes all creation is good – beautiful, orderly, a wonder. Humanity itself is very special. Humanity is not merely good. It is “very good.” That ‘s God’s view of God’s work. What happened to sully its beauty? How did humanity get so caught in the ruts of self-centered idolatry that everything looks like a battle to win, a foe to conquer. Human persons struggled and continue to struggle with self-image, with relationship with others, with wives and husbands, with sons and daughters, with neighbors, with tribes and nations. Gone was the obvious beauty. There is something wrong. Gone is the beauty of living, gone the pleasure of being with others, gone the flourishing of each person. Hatred replaces appreciation. Competition replaces communal efforts. In this crushing need for reconciliation sacrifices were made with blood from innocent lambs to wash away the putrid stench of wrong behavior. Yet not the blood of tens of thousands of lambs is sufficient to wash clean. Persons depend on power, wealth, influence, and pleasure for meaning, for purpose.

Into all this came this one who acted and dressed like Elijah that prophet who didn’t die but taken to heaven in a fiery chariot. And the Baptist preached, “repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” He had purpose, he had meaning by pointing to one yet coming. The one coming came. He healed blindness, deafness, non-speaking, lameness of limbs, disease, possession, and alienation. He made over the ugly into the beautiful. He taught that meaning and purpose has to do with how life is lived now. The kingdom of heaven isn’t like the kingdom of the world. The world’s is an attempt to claim for self. The other is filled with compassion, with kindness, with mercy. The turmoil, the raging seas are calmed, and persons are chosen to fish out of the crushing waves of disorder, selfishness, most importantly the hate that comes from lack of meaning and purpose.

Jesus chooses apostles to fish out of the drink, out of the crashing waves, out of the maelstrom of evil that brings only death and oblivion.

Our gospels in each succeeding Sunday are a journey with Matthew. Look beyond the words and find meaning and purpose for the building up of what we are – unique bits and pieces of the Image and Likeness of God.


Dennis Keller
with Charlie
dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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Year A: 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

"They left their nets at once and followed him."

It doesn’t very often happen that I have a total pastoral success. So when it does happen I want the whole world to know about it.

A few years ago, I was in bed asleep when the telephone rang at about 2am. I was annoyed because I had to get up early next morning to travel to the wedding of an old friend of mine called Christine. But I answered the phone – and the person calling was Christine.

"Paul I need to talk to you…. It’s about getting married…. What if I’m wrong?"

My heart sank for two reasons:

-first, because I knew I had to get this right. A lot of people’s happiness was riding on this.

-second, because I was also pretty sure I wasn’t going to get any more sleep that night.

I smiled sweetly, like you’re supposed to into the phone.

"Christine", I said, through gritted teeth, "how nice of you to call. OK, tell me all about it."

And so she told me about her fears for the future and what her marriage might turn out to be like – he might become an alcoholic; he might stop loving her; he might turn to other – younger – women; he might not look after her; he might not want to have children. It might all turn out to be a horrible mistake.

… and much, much more in the same vein……

Then I made two mistakes. In my defence, it was two in the morning.

First I interrupted her, usually a mistake.

Then I tried to argue with her – always a mistake.

So I tried to point out to her that she had known this man for four years. In that time he had not drunk any alcohol at all; he had been entirely constant to her – in fact a little more constant than she had been to him (but – hey - let’s just not go there!) he had not looked at another woman and he was looking forward to having a family just as much as she was.

And – predictably - I got absolutely nowhere.

"But Paul!" she said, "that’s what he’s like now – but he might change in the future. People do change. So what if it’s all a mistake?"

And I was forced to admit that, yes, people do change – there’s no denying it. Past record is not necessarily a guide to future performance.

I realised that I wasn’t helping her. So I went another road. I asked her: "Is this really an important question to you?"

"Yes."

"Is it the most important question in your life?"

"Yes."

"Is it a question you simply must answer?"

"Yes."

"Then I think you have to marry the man, because there is no other way you are going to get the answer."

"Oh", she said – and then there was a long silence.

I crossed my fingers.

And finally she said: "Yes… OK… , good night."

And then we both went back to bed.

And next day, for better or for worse; for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health; till death did them part, Walter & Christine both left their nets to follow Jesus together.

Sometimes in life, we meet questions that are so important that we have to answer them.

"Is this the right way for me to go?

Is this the right person for me to marry?

Is this what God really wants of my life?

Is this what God created me to be and is calling me to do?"

And sometimes those questions are so important that we cannot let them go by. And, even when we have thought about them, reflected about them, prayed about them – even for years – we don’t really know the answer. Is this my vocation? Or is a mistake – a dead end?

And sometimes the only way to know is to try it and find out. Often these are the key decision points in our life. And what makes them hard is that they may be decisions – like the decision to get married – that, once taken, cannot be taken back. And all we can do is to embark upon them with courage, knowing that we considered all, brought all to mind and made the best decision we could at the time. Whether in years to come we will look back on that decision with pride or with sorrow, we took the best decision we could at the time and we put our trust in the Lord.

That is what I think the apostles do here. They don’t know what they are letting themselves in for. They don’t know how it’s going to turn out – if in a few years’ time they might not be regretting an impulsive decision – if it’s all going to end in tears and a messy death – and for most of them it did end in a messy death.

But these are such important questions: Who is this man? Is He the Christ? Should I follow him?

We all know people who have asked important questions of life and got the answers wrong – sometimes tragically wrong. But I believe that the greater tragedy in some people’s lives is not that they get the answers wrong – it is that they don’t ask those questions.

I mention Christine today because I heard from her at Christmas (her wedding anniversary was last week). She is happily married with a son called Joshua and a very loving husband. She now indignantly denies that any such telephone conversation ever took place!

Let us stand and profess our Faith in the Lord who calls each of us to our own Vocations.

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Paul O'Reilly SJ <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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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.

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