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Contents: Volume 2 - Seventh Sunday & Ash Wednesday
Year A
Feb 19 & 22, 2023


7th Sun


Ash Wed




1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Dennis Keller (and Ash Wednesday)

3. --

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






Sun 7 A 2023

For some people, sometimes the take away from the readings don't hit home, so to speak. Such was the case for me this week with the Gospel message. "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" didn't seem possible. I got the main idea. How to get closer to this ideal just "didn't compute"!

I found quite a bit of insight , however, from looking at a different Catholic translation via The Message. Matthew 5: 48 onward says: "In a word, what I am saying is Grow up! You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you."

To me, those words make more sense. They are powerful. They are eye-opening. They are hopeful. They make living the Christian life not only possible but excitingly probable.

It seems time that we Christians enjoyed living the Christian life, not with excuses for why we can't, but with enthusiasm for why we should, can, and do. We can act more God-like if we can be our authentic selves. We can certainly be more generous and gracious! These are good starting points, for sure. What have these words stirred within you?


Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity





Seventh Sunday of Ordered Time February 19, 2023

Leviticus 19:1-2 &17-18; Responsorial Psalm 103;
1st Corinthians 3:16-23; Gospel Acclamation 1st John 2:5; Matthew 5:38-48

My heart sank, and my mind went blank! The Gospel this Sunday appears very much like a mission impossible. Loving enemies, turning one’s cheek, giving up of my garment and blanket! Then the clincher! "Be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect." Thinking about Jesus’ words in this Sunday’s gospel creates terrible confusion in my mind. Who can live in accordance with Jesus’ instruction?

There is a clue in first reading from Leviticus about Jesus’ instruction. Jesus’ words are a restatement of the Lord’s words to Moses: "Speak to the whole Israelite Community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy." The Lord tells Moses to speak not only to the elite, the holy ones, the Levites, the clan/tribal leaders: "Speak to the whole Israelite Community." In our time and place the Lord tells us, "Be Holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy." There is no special group that is called. The call is universal and includes each of us. Really?! For even the least among us, holiness is much more than a following of commandments and precepts. Those are guard rails to keep us out of the ditch. We’re not meant to wait for death to begin the Kingdom of Heaven in our spirits, our souls. What is this holiness?

The answer to that is how Jesus speaks of the Father. The holiness of the Father is recognized in how the Creator is toward His creation. "For he makes his sun to rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust." If we’re to be holy as the Father is holy, then we have a duty to behave as does the Father. When we are insulted, we should not react seeking revenge but not be disturbed when that one insults us more. That line about turning the cheek never made sense to me until I more careful read it. Being struck on the right cheek by a right-handed person means being struck with the back of the hand. It would be impossible to strike another on the right cheek, presuming I’m right-handed, with an open hand. Being struck with the back of the hand is being treated as a child or a slave. It is clearly an insult. Jesus is saying if someone insults you and demeans you, don’t fight back even if they continue to insult you.

If another takes you to court, even in a capricious legal suit to take your extra tunic, let them have as well your cloak, your blanket for sleeping. In your living make certain you are not tied up and spending resources in legal wranglings. Being holy gets really lost in such activities and becomes the source of bitterness.

Then there’s the admonition about walking an extra mile with one who has the power to demand it of you. Just don’t get yourself all caught up in resisting, even though that authority has the right to demand your compliance. Make the best of it. Focus on being helpful and fulfilling the other’s need.

In all these guides to living a Christian life as a follower of Jesus, the goal is to be holy, as the Father is holy. The Father doesn’t discriminate. Rain falls on the just and the unjust, on friend and foe. The sun shines on all, even murderers and thieves and adulterers.

With these admonitions based on the Beatitudes as the new law, is it any wonder lots of people reject following Jesus. Revenge, demands for retribution, legal maneuverings, an eye for an eye justice; these and more are the way of the world. Jesus’ instruction is not about rights. It is about our duty to ourselves, our fellow humans, and creation itself if we are followers of Jesus. Some would object that Jesus wants us doormats for others, always being taken advantage of because of weakness. To the worldly we may appear just weird seeking to live a life based on love of self and of other equally as to self. Love is difficult but lifts a person up to a elevated consciousness of living and of creation and time in which we are placed. The way of the world is the way of the hamster wheel – a constant pursuit of what doesn’t satisfy.

The gospel this Sunday is in the fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. This chapter began with Jesus going up a mountain to instruct his disciples. Matthew intended we identify that mountain as the mountain like Mount Sinai where Moses received the Law. The sermon on the mount was the place of the New Law, the Beatitudes. The beatitudes are the law of a New Covenant. These continuing instructions in Chapter five expand and add depth to the application of what it means for a person to live in a state of peaceful bliss.

But the instructions this week in the gospel are so contradictory to the way of the world. And isn’t that the point. How happy are we when we seek revenge, demand our rights in battles that consume our resources and rob our hearts of peace? How much joy do we derive from refusing to assist those in need? How do we view those in need? Do we believe they’ll take the resources offered and run off for alcohol, drugs, licentious living? What joy comes to our spirits in judging others without knowing the truth of their destitution?

Oh, but to live the way of the beatitudes is not easy. Take a long look at the crucifix. There is suffering involved in following the Christ. But following the suffering and the death to self is the promise of becoming a new creation.

In all this we should never be trapped into thinking we’ll reach a beatitude state by wanting it. Practice, practice, practice is how we grow in faith, in hope, and in charity. We are given along with the gift of life, the wonderful gift of time. Time is a venue of choice. In our choices we can either seek growth in the way of the Beatitudes or decay and exhaustion in the pursuit of the way of the world. Were we to be violent, vengeful, miserly in regard to others’ needs, angry, insensitive to the physical and spiritual needs of others – we become alienated from others. In the smallness we achieve when we reject living as did Jesus we devolve into inner chaos, self-isolation, and see ourselves as god, a center of all that is. Jesus instructs us, heals us of brokenness.

It's a coincidence that this Sunday of such frightening instruction should come the Sunday before our Lenten Journey. Great time to take stock of what and who we are.

Dennis Keller

Ash Wednesday February 22, 2023

Joel 2:12-18; Responsorial Psalm 51; 2nd Corinthians 5:20 – 6:2;
Gospel Acclamation Psalm 95:8; Matthew 6:1-6 & 16:18

"Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart." What a way to begin our journey through the desert of Lent. It’s a forty day trek through dryness, through longing as does the deer for running waters. If it’s the same old, same old, then we should examine our attention to what we are and compare it with what we’d like to be. The readings this Ash Wednesday are the recipe for training for the combat of life. The environment in which we live, work, love, hate, respect, disrespect – well all the various and diverse emotions, inclinations of selfishness, and hardness of heart – all these less than right behaviors, thoughts, and choices are meant to become visible to us during this desert walk. It’s a time to take inventory of our persons.

The time proven exercises to practice in growing in holiness pretty straight forward: prayer, sacrifice (a.k.a. ‘fasting’), and almsgiving. In this reflection, I make bold to offer suggestions.

Prayer: I’d suggest the psalm used as the response to the first reading on Sunday, recited throughout the week. On this Ash Wednesday psalm 95 would be the one for the rest of the week. Read that psalm as a family. The setting for the reading, I suggest, should be the evening meal. During this Lenten journey, gathering together for a meal is a practice to strengthen family ties and awareness of each other’s lives. That practice would enhance the family experience. Reading the psalm will seem awkward at first. But reading it with understanding will cause that psalm to bring a level of peace – perhaps even the very young – that allows for family sharing.

Sacrifice (a.k.a. ‘fasting’): This is the part the more senior among us will remember as "giving up candy for Lent." Just the giving up part is a sacrifice, taking away something we enjoy is a sort of suffering, at least in a minor sort of way. The very word, however, should give us more to think about when we choose what to sacrifice. The word is from the Latin – meaning to make holy. Making holy means setting aside something of value for service to the Lord. We can picture the animal sacrifices in the Temple – the sin offerings for atonement, the gifts of praise of incense and wine, the purification sacrifices to make clean what had become soiled. If and when we decide individually and as a family what we’re going to set aside for our "making holy" this season of Lent, we should truly and honestly set it aside consistently. If it is some consumable, we should take the value of that consumable and set it aside for the third leg of the stool of Lenten travel: that third leg is almsgiving. If what is set aside is some activity, then the time or expense saved in foregoing that activity should be applied to some charitable purpose. Perhaps volunteering in some Ecclesial or Civic effort on a regularly scheduled basis during the weeks of Lent would be a contribution to the benefit of others. If the sacrifice consists of prayer, choose a specific object to pray for – specific person or persons. Generic praying often is more of a distraction than a lifting up of hearts and minds. Being specific adds attention, purpose, interest, and concern for the object of prayer.

Almsgiving: Nearly every parish has a list of charitable enterprises they support. The Cathedral in Raleigh has a list including the Door Ministry that is my favorite. It helps families struggling with inadequate income, housing, food access, health care access, and even clothing. To make a Lenten material sacrifice and not apply the savings of money and/or time to the welfare of others is not really a sacrifice. That which is saved in sacrifice is effective for our hearts when it is truly sacrificed and offered to the use of those in need.

These practices are meant to soften our hearts, unstiffen our necks so that we are more available to God’s urgings for us to come to Him. The little deaths we achieve to our selfishness, inconsideration of others, and petty evil that continues to gnaw at our hearts – all these we can put into the tomb with the mutilated body of Jesus. Easter will be more than a dress-up day, more than a family celebration, more even than a coming together and great liturgy. Lent can be the start of a change that removes the sad influence that seeks to destroy our integrity and peace.

Dennis Keller









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