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Contents: Volume 2 - LENT IV (B)
- March 21, 2021

 

  LENT

  V

   2021


1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP
2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller
3. -- Brian Gleeson CP
4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ
5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

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Lent 5 B 2021

The readings this Sunday speak to me of the personal, yet all inclusive, relationship of God's covenant invitation to each of us as well as the call to service in following the path that Jesus took. That is a mouthful to read/say/or write, and a very tall order to comprehend. With that said, it seems reasonable to focus on the impact of the scriptural words on each of our personal understanding and lives through the Invitation.

The Invitation is the New Covenant, initiated by God and offered to each of us. God stretched a LONG way, given humanity's persistent sinfulness, to present such a gracious and generous plan that both begins and culminates in Salvation. God's part includes giving each of us all we need, including such things as intimate knowledge of the Divine and the law written on our hearts, a Model for the expected way of life, and total forgiveness without any remembrance of our wrongdoing. Our part is to give up the life we tend to want and instead embrace a life of service in following what Jesus did.

Sounds like a great deal and it surely is! At first, it might sound easy on our part, but we all know that it is not. So what is our choice... to ignore the offer, to stumble as we assuredly will and give up, or.....?

I gotta go with door number 3! To me, that means taking a good long "effect analysis type" look at God's offer, faithfulness, and accompanying graces. It means acknowledging how specifically I have failed to take advantage of God's unconditional love and offers of endless opportunities. It means a renewed commitment to take advantage of the Lenten opportunities of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to re-balance my life.

I personally have to start by re-looking at how I can fast from the quicksand of negative "what if's" of life during this pandemic with all of its pitfalls and challenges and replace that quicksand with continued leaven of efforts toward hopeful solutions. Prayer and attending to my neighbor will go side by side with more hopefulness. What is your choice and what will that choice mean for you this Lent and in the future?


Blessings,
Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP
Southern Dominican Laity
lanie@leblanc.one

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Fifth Sunday of Lent March 21, 2021

Jeremiah 31:31-34; Responsorial Psalm 51; Hebrews 5:7-9; Gospel Verse John 12:26; John 12:20-33

So, do the Greeks from Bethsaida in Galilee ever get to see and hear Jesus? John in his gospel does not ever tell us or indicate what the Greeks were looking for or if they were satisfied. I wonder how that went. Perhaps these Greeks were in Jerusalem for Passover and witnessed Jesus cleaning out the Court of Gentiles of the thieves and charlatans who masked their thievery by claiming to be of service to worshippers. Ah, now there is a word worth pondering. Service! The Greeks were a people of great curiosity. It was from that people that a search for truth, meaning, and purpose came into the psyche of humanity. Reality for them must have some reason, some purpose. And in that reason and purpose would be discovered the truth about creation, about what it means to be a person, about the value and worth of relationships.

In what follows this unfinished story, Jesus begins to speak about life and its meaning and purpose. Perhaps that is the completion of this encounter with a group of Greeks in Jerusalem for Passover. To sum it all up, human life fulfills its purpose and the intent of the Creator of human life when it spends itself, uses itself up in the service of others. Ah hah! There is that word again. Service!

What Jesus speaks about when he says that the one who loses his life in service to others and to creation has discovered the truth about human existence. Those persons who chose to accumulate for themselves power, wealth, and notoriety will ultimately die suffocated by the things they have amassed, by the power that corrupts them, and by the notoriety that stifles their relationships. Consumerism fills closets, garages, warehouses, and homes. Consumerism squeezes out relationships and devalues love. In the place of love the powerful install an idol of self. Value is described only as what is good for me.

Being in charge, having a cadre of bought persons or slaves takes away a person’s respect for others and for the beauty of creation. Without respect, people and things are mere commodities, valued only by their usefulness. Persons are cherished in-so-far-as their work adds power to the abuser. How frequently we speak about those work in public service as powerful. Power is an aphrodisiac that seduces persons and blinds them to the common good. Lies, conspiracy stories, manipulations of crowd’s emotions become the tools of the despot. Power derives from dividing people into opposing camps. Such a person steals the integrity of the weak who are easily fashioned into victims. Yet, the person in leadership who uses authority and power to unite the strong with the weak, the healthy with the sick, the gifted with those with limited gifts – that person is focused on service the well-being of all people. That is the wonder of leadership who embraces a democratic attitude. Such leadership grows and expands the possibilities of others. How often persons in political, commercial, or clerical authority use their authority to create an empty image of themselves.

Being a celebrity can be a blessing when their status is used to lift up others. But it is so fraught with the quicksand of self-deception as to eventually repulse rational persons.

In all three of approaches offered to Jesus in his temptations there is the possibility of greatness as well as septic waste of a life. The difference is always service. There is that word again. Service!

In the first reading this Sunday from the great prophet Jeremiah, we learn that there is a new deal being crafted by God, the Creator. Jeremiah saw it coming. The cruelty and violence of that ancient world could not stand. The world of Jeremiah was pretty much the world of the powerful, the wealthy, the celebrities of our own time. Individuals were valued to the extent they increased power, wealth, or notoriety. Slaughter of innocents was acceptable. Slavery by chains, by economic castings, by racism, by religious affiliation, by national origin, or by a blood line declared noble – all these sought to enforce personal glory. That glory was understood in the time of Jesus as conquering others.

The first reading is a prophecy from Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s prophecy insists there would be a change. That change is revolutionary. There would be a world in which a new contract with the Creator would be written not on tablets of stone but in the hearts of humanity. And God would claim those people as his own. And those people would claim God as their God.

As we look at the events of this past year, we have to question just how much this new covenant of God has come into being. We observe political leadership playing games with truth. We observe the partisan criticism that adds nothing to solutions. Their criticism is not for problem solving. The criticism disallows dialogue. Its purpose is solely the ability of the other party to achieve positive change. There is a crying need for change in social justice, in reduction of poverty, in improving educational opportunities, in access to health care, and in a reduction of violence and the probability of war. Clearly, politics is about internal warfare when in fact it must be about the common good of the people governed.

We observe warfare in our Church as well. Various groups of clergy foment division and distrust among the people. Some ultra conservatives insist on a blind traditionalism. Some ultra-progressives seem interested in ignoring Christian experiences over the ages. The culture wars are fought between those who believe past practice and ritual is immutable and not subject to discoveries and understandings of humanity as it lives its history. The opposite side seems to believe that change demands a shedding of past history. In truth, it is God who is present with us through our faith. God grants us life and then enriches it with his gift of faith. Through our experiences, our faith discovers God present even now. This is a continuing certification of the name that God gives God – I am who am with you – always. To rely solely on past glories is to deny God’s presence even now. To deny God’s presence in our history is to rob our faith of its foundations and to miss the wisdom that is so great a part of our history.

But in all of this, it is service that Jesus speaks to us about this Sunday. He will be raised up – on the cross as a sign of the great Love God has for his people. It is the cross that is a sure sign that God does not give up on our possibilities. Not even the perfidy of religious leadership or the iron fisted violence of civil leadership can overcome God’s service of his people.

We live in difficult times. Many despair of a future of the Kingdom of God on earth. Yet in this time of a horrible, death dealing pandemic, we witness the service rendered by so many. It is not only the health care professionals and the staffs that support them: it is not only the first responders who understand the critical nature of their service to respect each person: it is not only the activists pushing for respect for the lives of all – no matter the race, no matter the faith tradition, no matter the language, no matter the cultural tradition: it is not only the educators whose creativity and efforts continue educating the young: it is not only the moms and dads who work tirelessly and with oppressive anxiety about maintaining a home for the family, food for the table, and security for their children: it is not only the politicians who struggle with integrity and courage to confront systemic economic, social, and relational issues that oppress and enslave millions. It is the hope of the world that these persons are listening to the voice of God speaking to them in their hearts. Just as Jesus and the crowd surrounding him hear God’s voice insisting that the service of the Lord is glorified and will continue to be glorified, so also all those among us who behave like the Greeks and seek truth will be glorified. Include among the truth seekers all those who continue to be of service to the common good, the welfare and safety of the most vulnerable among us.

The cross tells us that the way of the world will continually seek to bend us from our faith and the service our faith demands of us. How easily it is to turn away from seeing others as persons created in God’s own image and likeness. How easy it is to pursue fame, or power, or wealth as the purpose of our living. The cross is a struggle, is always a confrontation to the way of the world. And it hurts terribly. And we can never ever forget that service begins in the home. That children learn about service in observing their parents. We should not forget this. As Jesus tells us, we are expected to daily pick up and carry our cross – our duties, the objects of our hearts, and the welfare of family, neighborhood, state, nation, and the world. It is a big job.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

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HIS SUFFERINGS AND OURS: FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT (B)

  • Are you and I are saying during Lent - ‘… we wish to see Jesus’?
  • In what ways are we drawn to him, lifted up on his cross?

A wise philosopher once said: ‘Jesus did not come to do away with suffering or remove it. He came to fill it with his presence’ (Paul Claudel).

Our Second Reading today recalls the agony of Jesus in the Garden of Olives. There and then, when he is feeling all alone, the prospect of his passion and death makes him cry out to God in fear and dread. One thought is overwhelming, the thought that he is going to die. Like any young man, he doesn’t want to die. He wants to stay alive and enjoy life. But he knows that his enemies are already on their way to arrest him. By this time tomorrow, he’ll surely be dead, strung up in disgrace on a rough cross outside the city. What, then, will become of his mission, to make God’s kingdom of love, peace, and joy, happen? The horror of it all overpowers him, and though a grown man, reduces him to tears. And yet he does not run away or escape. He does not even think of doing that. He humbly accepts his destiny and submits himself to his mission from God, to save and change the world.

Our gospel according to John, however, has a different angle on the attitude of Jesus to his fate. Even though the thought of it is truly troubling and upsetting, far from asking God the Father to save him from his doom, he welcomes it. For two reasons! In the first place, to give praise, honour, and glory to God! In the second place, to attract the appreciation, respect, and love of all human beings! This is what he means when he says, ‘when I am lifted up from the earth [on my cross], I will draw everyone to me’.

Jesus also sees his forthcoming death from a third angle as well. It’s in his words, ‘whoever serves me will follow me’. He is saying that you and I, and all his friends and followers, have to share his journey to Calvary, share in his sufferings and death.

Suffering comes in many forms and so does death. Death also means many little deaths before our time comes ‘to face the final curtain’. There are hundreds of ways in which you and I have to die to ourselves, die to getting our own way, die to our ease, pleasure, and satisfaction. Probably more than any other group with us today, you who are parents know the meaning of laying down your life for others, over and over again.

Raising your family – the sleepless nights, the feeds, the colds, the rashes, the nappy changes, when your children are helpless babies! And the time, care, attention, and skills you give them in their growing- up-years, are all ways you die to yourselves day after day. You do this for the outcomes you hope, expect, and work for. You do this so that your children will grow into adults who will live good, fruitful, useful, and productive lives. The sacrifices you make are another application of what Jesus means with his image of a seed having to first die in the ground before it can spring up a vibrant and productive plant.

In later years the roles are often reversed. Now grown children are asked to be the grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies. Aging and ailing parents require time, care, and energy from their adult children, who are often still caring for their own children. Schedules are changed and plans are altered, when e.g., an elderly parent requires an emergency trip to the doctor, has a fall at home, cannot find their glasses, or starts losing their mind.

Being alive now means all kinds of ways we are invited and called to follow Jesus in his sufferings and dying. The challenge which goes with our situations is this: - Do we accept the sacrifices we are required to make? Do we accept them as he did, i.e., willingly, cheerfully, generously, and lovingly? Or do we resent and hate what we have to do? Or worse, do we run away from our responsibilities?

It’s not all pain, thank God! There is gain as well. The gain of becoming a better person, a more caring, genuine, and generous person! The gain too of closeness to Jesus Christ in the present, and the prospect of everlasting life with him in the hereafter! As Christopher Monaghan puts it: ‘Love will always call us into a bigger world where we learn that it is in giving that we receive.’ So, the slogans are simply true: ‘No pain, no gain!’ ‘No cross, no crown!’

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

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Year B: 5th Sunday in Lent

“Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies,
it remains only a single grain;
but if it dies,
it yields a rich harvest.”

Well, yes, but the question I’ve always wanted to ask is: “how is the grain of wheat supposed to know that?” All that the grain of wheat gets to know is that it’s dying. It never gets to see the happy ending.

Twenty years ago I was sent out as a missionary for the first time to Guyana in South America. The plane brought me from Britain to Barbados and then I stayed over one night in Barbados before I could catch the plane into Georgetown, Guyana. That night I read a book called “Men of Faith”. It was an account of the work of Jesuits in Guyana – men who came from many countries in the world to give their lives to the service of the Gospel and the Church in Guyana. There were in the book many fine and inspiring stories of good and holy men giving great and sometimes heroic service to the Faith. Some names figured prominently – Cary-Elwes, Wilson-Browne, and – closer to our own time: Bernard Darke, Bryan O’Reilly, Bernard McKenna, Andy Morrison, Bernard “Breezer” Brown. You’ll never have heard of any of them, but in Guyana, those names are revered by people of faith. I had met some of them and been inspired by their example. These were stories of real men of faith and men of hope. For a young man, embarking on his first real work in the Jesuits, it was a rather heady mixture – a little like a young man’s first shot of rum! How could any red-blooded young Catholic not want to serve alongside such men and continue the work that they had done?

Then, when I got to the back of the book, there was something rather more sobering. It was a list of all the Jesuits who had come to Guyana for the last hundred years and what had happened to them. What was shocking to me was the large number of men who had come and who, within a few months had either died or had become so ill they had to be sent home. Thinking about that and wondering what I had got myself into, I didn’t get a lot of sleep that night.

It wasn’t until next morning that it occurred to me that the extraordinary thing was that, even with such a high death-rate, they never stopped coming. These men came knew the risks they were running – that perhaps they would die or be incapacitated very soon having achieved little or nothing. Can you imagine that happening today? Can you imagine the scandal? Can you imagine the Health and Safety investigations? But those were risks they were prepared to take, because they believed that this was what God was calling them to. Suddenly, I realized that, whatever I did to try to help build the Church in Guyana, I would walk in the steps of many men who gave their lives to the same endeavor – men who knew that:

“Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies,
it remains only a single grain;
but if it dies,
it yields a rich harvest.”

We all hope to be grains of wheat. We all hope that we too can contribute whatever gifts and talents we have in service of God and God’s people. Certainly, we would all prefer to stay alive and healthy in doing so. But each of us, in our own little way, hope to be grains of wheat that will be seeds for The Lord’s harvest. We do not know – we cannot know – exactly which of us will yield a harvest some sixty-fold, some a hundred-fold, some a thousand-fold. Some of our attempts may succeed. Some of them may fail. At this point, we cannot know –we are only grains of wheat. In times to come, some of us may be remembered; some of us may even have books written about us. But, if each of us is prepared to give of our best in whatever way is given us to do, then all of us will have contributed to the harvest.

Let us pray that in our day too, we may be given the grace to take risks for the Kingdom. And let us stand and profess our Faith in Christ who leads us to the rich harvest.

Paul O'Reilly <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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2 EASTER (B) The TRIDUUM PALM SUNDAY LENT V LENT IV LENT III


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