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Contents: Volume 2 - The Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 13, 2021

 

The

11th

Sunday

(B)


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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1.

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Sun. 11 B

I feel especially philosophical and reflective about today's readings . For us here at my house and in my immediate family, we have (finally) come to the end of another school year with its extra challenges of remote and hybrid learning. We are also grateful that we have all been fully vaccinated and are beginning to look forward to rediscovering an all-around better way of living.

To me, it seems a confirmation of the Lord's words in the reading from the Book of Ezekiel where the Lord said "As I, the Lord, have spoken, so will I do." Throughout this year, and truly, throughout years past, the Lord has been faithful in small ways and in the bigger ones, even through many challenges and even the death of loved ones. What has the Lord done for you? In what ways do you still need to rely on that faithfulness? How can we be faithful to the Lord as well in what we do, including what we do for others ?

We do indeed walk by faith and not by sight as our second reading reminds us. That is not easy, for sure! It seems at times as if life just goes on, perhaps like how the seed seems to grow and come to harvest in today's gospel. We know, however, that there is the love and power of our Triune God initiating all that is good and guiding us through life. We must hold on to that mustard seed of faith that each of us has been given. God's promises are true!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time June 13, 2021

Ezekiel 17:22-24; Responsorial Psalm 92; 2nd Corinthians 5:6-10; Mark 4:26-34

Most practicing Catholics have heard the stories, the parables of Jesus regarding the Kingdom of God. That Kingdom is a new and forever Kingdom that is established by Jesus in his ministry and all his work, including his overcoming the forces of the world on the tree of the cross. That victory is, of course, confirmed by God when Jesus is raised from the dead and becomes a new creation. Our becoming a citizen of that Kingdom is not something that comes to us when we die. It is NOW, it is relevant to the moments of this earthly life. That Kingdom embraces all the moments of life from our birth to the completion of our life.

In much of past Christian Culture as evidenced in art and literature, this life is portrayed as a mortal coil that restricts us, limits us, threatens our purity and integrity. Some would preach that we must endure this life and struggle against the sinfulness of our nature. Such culture, such thinking reduces religion to a militant battle against sin. The focus becomes avoidance of the pit falls and enticements of the world, the flesh, and the devil. We are constantly in danger of falling into error and sin if we adhere to such thinking and practice.

I wonder where this comes from! Reading the gospels, we discover Jesus speaking about life. He attends many banquets, he brings healing to the maimed, the deaf, the bed ridden. He returns a dead son to his widow mother. He feeds five thousand men plus uncounted women and children. But not just once – he feeds another four thousand later. How is it that he encourages sinners to healing and to let go of sin in their living? He hands out forgiveness even to a violent and condemned thief. He forgives those who have judged him illegally and undeservedly and for their own purposes. He didn’t deserve this judgment, the following torture, and the horrific and prolonged execution on a cross. But if ever it demonstrated commitment, his passion and death clearly do so. The Kingdom he speaks about is of such importance. And it is NOT RESERVED FOR AN AFTERLIFE. IT IS NOW, IT IS AVAILABLE, IT IS GROWING QUIETLY AS DOES THE FARMER’S SEEDS.

This growth is worldwide and includes not only those who profess a Catholic Faith. Wherever persons seek the good, work to overcome hatred, violence, and poverty, there the Kingdom of God is growing, taking over from the weeds planted by despots, by thieves and charlatans. Ever so slowly, those seeds rob weeds of room to spread their poison. Even so, the weeds persist and continually explode into battles fueled by hatred for others, murderous competition, and self-serving tyranny. But even so, even in our troubled time, the Kingdom of God will continue to spread, to grow. There is no need to wait until the end of time for the influence and support of that Kingdom.

This view is the collective view – the view that embraces our solidarity with all humankind and with all of nature. There is another side to this story we should examine.

This examination should start with a question that goes to the very hearts and minds of us – INDIVIDUALLY. The question asks each person of experience – that is maturing adults and mature adults – what each of us has become in the course of our daily living. How am I different at this moment in comparison with what I was a year ago, a decade ago, three decades ago? Am I the same old person as I was back then? If the answer is yes, then we’ve wasted our time. The seed that is the image and likeness of God within us has lain ungerminated in the soil of God’s creation. At some point, that seed will just rot and never spring up with a leaf, then a stalk, then a head of fruitful grain. Beyond the parable that speaks of the growth of the Kingdom of God because of the efforts and attitudes of its citizenry, there is a personal application. We can’t just let go of our individual participation in this Kingdom.

If we are seeds planted by God’s creative hand through the cooperation of our parents, then our lives are hotbeds of possibilities. We have choices to make. From a collective, cultural, and social point of view, it is our responsibility to do Christ’s work of making those myriads of possibilities available to all persons living and yet to be born. As those possibilities are taken up and embraced, the Kingdom of God grows. We learn, we contribute, we grow in our spirits – some still call that soul – and the Kingdom of God welcomes us as full citizens.

Let’s review the readings for this eleventh Sunday of ordinary time. The first reading is from the prophet Ezekiel. He was a prophet to the Jews during their Babylonian captivity. He looks beyond the pain and constriction of their slavery. He sees hope and a rebirth. He is the prophet of the "dead men’s bones" we spoke about a couple of Sundays ago. He sees God taking a sprig from one of the towering, majestic cedars that grew in Lebanon. That sprig had potential and God planted it on a place where its growth could be seen. On that high mountain of Sion, the birds of the air would discover it and rush to its protection. All other cultures, all other trees would discover it and know the wonder of that sprig planted. That sprig is the remnant of Israel. With the possibilities afforded it by God, it would become a majestic cedar. This is a prefiguring of the Kingdom of God initiated by the Son of God – yes, that one who entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey to claim his Kingdom. He came as a king of peace and fruitfulness.

We are all sprigs taken from a great tree. How we grow in our characters, in our spirits will show us to the world and attract persons to the wonder of God working within us.

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, we get a clue about how we come to know about growth of the seed that we are created to be. He insists we walk not by sight but by faith. When then is this faith by which we see what is unseen? What is this faith that germinates the possibilities planted in our spirits by our Creator? That faith itself is a gift which we can either embrace or reject. That faith amounts to a great trust that God is with us as he promised even back in the time of Moses. We should know that all things – as Paul says – in our living, all relationships and achievements and failures, all these work out for those who love God. When we fall in illness or strife, God’s presence makes it possible for us to grow in the fertilize and water and sunlight that shines on us through his hands.

In the Gospel, Jesus speaks about the Kingdom of God and how it grows. It’s in secret – we don’t quite get how it happens. Even though science can describe the processes that cause a seed to grow, science is less available to describe how we grow as persons. What makes one person thrive in adversity and another, in similar circumstances, to fold up their tents and disappear into oblivion? It seems that Jesus is telling us that we are continually supported by what is invisible to us. If we absorb the minerals of the soil, soak up the waters from the heavens, and bask in the sunlight of God’s Word and works, we grow. Thus, we are able to look into our rear-view mirror and see the road on which we’ve come. Perhaps then we’ll understand how we’ve grown and see in that growth the fingerprints of the Creator – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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3.

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HOW GOD WORKS IN OUR LIVES: 11TH SUNDAY B

When we want to explain something, particularly something so personal as falling in love, we may struggle to find the right words. Often we have to say that it’s like something else. When Jesus speaks about the kingdom - the reign and rule of God - and how God works among us to make God’s kingdom happen, he never says just what the kingdom is. Rather he speaks about what it’s like. So, Jesus uses parables, i.e., comparisons, to teach his message that God is on the job, and that God’s kingdom is really and truly happening. All appearances to the contrary notwithstanding!

So, in his first parable today Jesus compares the coming of the kingdom of God, God’s promised reign of truth, justice, love, joy and peace, to what happens when a farmer sows seed in the ground. Once it’s sown, the farmer waits for harvest time. Even though nothing seems to be happening, the miracle of growth is taking place. The farmer cannot get a better crop by staying awake at night and worrying. The seed grows of its own accord. Neither can God’s work of making a better world, God’s kind of world, the world of God’s kingdom, be hurried. After all, it’s God’s kingdom, not ours.

A customer once went to a Farmer’s Market. Passing a stand heaped with luscious tomatoes, he asked the farmer behind it, ‘Did you grow these tomatoes?’ ‘No,’ he replied, ’I planted the seed.’ Afterwards the farmer said to God, ‘Thank you, Lord, for the fine harvest!’ Then he sensed God saying to him, ‘And thank you too for preparing the soil and sowing the seed! We did a good job together, didn’t we?’

In his second parable Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a tiny mustard seed that bit by bit grows into the largest shrub, big enough for the birds of the air to shelter in its shade. Once again, in the work of God, ‘small is beautiful!’

Both parables, then, are about the growth of seed. Jesus told them, and then writers like Mark retold them, to encourage the first followers of Jesus, who were worried about the slow growth of God’s kingdom. Their point in telling them was the need for their hearers and readers not to expect instant results, but to wait, be patient, and keep trusting God.

That message is timely and encouraging to us too, particularly to those of us who are always rushing around, like that woman in the poster who has to admit, ‘The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get!’ We live in an age of instant soup, instant coffee, instant tea, and instant photos, just about instant everything. We can make many things happen simply by pressing a button or turning a switch. We forget that certain things cannot be rushed. For example! To mature fully as a human being takes a lifetime. To build a good relationship with another usually takes lots of time. To get to know and understand one’s children or one’s parents never happens instantly or automatically. To overcome one’s sins and weaknesses is an ongoing task, yet with God’s ‘amazing grace’, slowly but surely at work in us, we can succeed. When so much of life today is getting instant results, we must remember that some things actually require considerable time and practice, e.g., the skills to play the piano, to sing opera, to play league football, or to successfully raise a family.

Those two lovely parables of the seed growing of itself show us that there is an almighty power working for us and among us. Our part is to do a good job preparing the soil, sowing the seed, and nurturing the growth. Then we must let God take over, as God usually does. Any farmer will tell you that if we do the right thing, if we do the very best that we can do, and if we take to heart the teaching of Jesus, the harvest will surely come. God and God’s work in us and among us will ultimately triumph.

But can we be patient? Can we keep waiting? Can we keep on trusting that it will all work out in the end? In short, can we just ‘let go and let God’ – let go of our anxiety and let God be God? Can we stop trying to control how things work out, and keep praying to God, ‘thy kingdom come,’ as Jesus taught? Can we? Will we?

Today's first parable reminds us of what we do when we share our faith. We scatter seed. Once we do that, the seed is out of our hands. Will people be affected by what we share? Will they be touched by our telling and living the message of God as well as we can, or will they not?

It's not, then, about our control. It's about God's active presence in what we do and share. That's why the first of the two parables Jesus taught, should be particularly consoling and encouraging to every one of us, to keep sharing with others our faith, trust, and love, and to keep doing so by our words, deeds, and example. May God bless our every effort!

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

 

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Year B: 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time

‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’

There is no copyright on homilies. Any "intellectual property" there may be belongs always to the Holy Spirit. But even so, I really do try as hard as ever I can not to pinch other preachers’ homilies. But, sometimes, I come across a homily that is so good, so powerful, that it deserves another telling. I had one of those just recently in a Wedding Mass that I was supposed to be preaching at - but there was another father there who actually gave the homily.

Now, I have to admit to you that, just sometimes as a preacher, I really don’t like it when children cry in Church during Mass and distract the congregation from the homily and all of those other things that I think are really important. And this was one of those occasions. The reading had been from St Paul to the Corinthians. You all know the one…

"Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes."

Well, that was the reading at the wedding, but the words were completely drowned out by a three-year old page-boy who was having a terrible temper-tantrum. He was fully dressed up in his page-boy outfit – little pin-striped suit, crisp new white shirt, and red bow tie and carefully combed blond hair. But now, it was all going horribly wrong. I never discovered the exact cause of the young man’s distress. But I think it must have been one of those transient little disappointments in life which somehow seem terribly important and monstrously unjust, when you have just turned three. None of us need to be pompous about it: most of us at some point have been three years old ourselves – thank goodness, in my case, long before the invention of the camcorder.

So, he shouted and screamed and rolled around on the ground and punched and kicked with all four limbs in all directions. I’m told that it all came out very well on the wedding video and will probably embarrass the poor lad for many years to come. And by now the smart pin-stripe suit was in disarray; the shirt was stained with tears and the dust of the floor where the little boy had been rolling around in the ferocity of his anger. The little red bow-tie had fallen off and the hair was all a terrible mess. But all of us who were there knew that nothing of that really mattered, because we were in a place of love. His father held him, his arm gently holding his son’s body, absolutely calm, still and silent, like a protecting wall around all that inner torment.

And still the boy struck out in his anger, punching and kicking at the air. And some of the blows were landing on his father’s face and chest, crumpling his own pin-striped suit, staining his own shirt and knocking off his own red bow tie. And all the time, the father was silent, still, calm, holding his boy gently enough to keep him safe, but not so tight as to make him feel constrained.

In all, the temper tantrum must have lasted perhaps fifteen or twenty minutes – in liturgical time, the distance from the first reading until the Creed. It was obvious to me that the congregation were all so distracted that none of them heard a word of what I was trying to say in the homily about the patience and kindness of love. But (I asked around at the reception) none of them were left untouched by the silent homily that was preached by that boy’s father at the Eucharist that solemnized the love of two holy people.

And it reminded all of us of our own fathers. This was something that seemed particularly to affect the men. At the reception, I saw strong men – tough, rugby-playing types - twitching a little around the upper lip and feeling the need to rush off and make a phone call. And others, like myself, whose fathers are no longer on the phone, drifted into quiet corners with our glass of champagne and silently toasted men we understood a lot better now.

And it reminded all of us of our heavenly Father, whose Love is not even dented by our temper tantrums and whose Grace is at its strongest in our weakness.

Just sometimes as a preacher, I have to admit to you, that I really LOVE it when children cry during Mass and distract the congregation away from the homily and towards other things that I think are really a bit more important.

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.

-- Fr. John Boll, OP


 

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