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Contents: Volume 2 - The 13th SUNDAY & Feast of St. Peter & Paul(A) - June 29 & 30, 2020


The

  13th

  Sunday

   2020

 

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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Sun. 13 A

The readings this Sunday are about rewards. In the first reading, the "woman of influence" and her husband are so kind to Elisha that he promises them a son by the next year as a blessings from God. In the second reading, we are told about the reward we will receive, that is, rising with Christ to new life, if we are buried with him into death through Baptism. In the Gospel reading, Jesus relates a whole series of if/thens based on the choices people make concerning Jesus, his followers, and people in need.

I think it is easy to get lost in the words of our readings and perhaps, lose part of their meaning. To me, the focus is on one's intention. Two things seem applicable here. The first is a very familiar caution that Jesus tells us all: "whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. " That statement tells us that Jesus must be first in our lives and we must do as Jesus did. Secondly, in our second reading we hear that " you too must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus." That, too reminds us that Jesus must come first and the way to make him "first" is to live for God as Jesus did.

That all may take a while to sink in. We all certainly have crosses to bear in our lifetimes, especially now while still in the midst of the pandemic. Add on any more to that universal burden as some families must endure and, well, we might just feel a bit overwhelmed. We can not be pulled down by the constant news cycles of what is wrong with our world... because that IS overwhelming. Instead, we must bear what we are able to bear and continue to live as Jesus did... with kindness and care for others. Our psalm focuses on God's goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and strength.... and so should we!

Losing our own agenda in favor of doing the Father's will might be a modern way to look at how we should lose our life. I think a great deal of the problems in the world today can be traced to an imbalance between personal gain and the common good. Maybe there is even an enormous over-emphasis of personal gain and the consequent ignoring of the common good. If we need to self-correct along those lines, well, that is a good starting point. It is a good starting point for following in Jesus's footprints and, perhaps, remembering the visual aid of only one set of footprints when Jesus has to carry us on the journey. It might also help us to walk with someone in need and help him/her manage a heavy cross.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Thirteenth Sunday of Ordered Time June 29 2020

2nd Kings 4:8-11 & 14-16; Responsorial Psalm 89; Romans 6:3-4 & 8-11; Gospel Acclamation 1st Peter 2:9; Matthew 10:37-42

As we began working on a reflection for the thirteenth Sunday of Ordered Time, we struggled to find a connection between the first reading and the Gospel. The liturgists who make these selections tend to begin with the Gospel message and match that with a reading from the Hebrew Scriptures. That Hebrew Scripture reading helps us understand the message of the Gospel. So how does the hospitality of the woman of Shunem amplify, explain, or add to the message of this Sunday’s Gospel?

The context of the Gospel continues the narrative of Jesus preparing the disciples for their preaching to the cities of Galilee. Their mission was to prepare for Jesus’ preaching regarding the Kingdom of Heaven. He warns the disciples not to be surprised at resistance to his message. That resistance will come not only from strangers who hear the Gospel for the first time, but even from their Moms and Dads, sisters and brothers, uncles and aunts, and friends and neighbors. Jesus really puts it out there. "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me!" These words likely strike us as mean-spirited. Who would think of not loving Mom and Dad because of a message? And what is the "worthy" condition in Jesus’ admonition?

Worthy, in this context, is does not mean "deserving" as we might think. Jesus is talking about ability, a capacity to perform. We would understand this better if the translators had translated this thought with a better choice of words. They could have translated it this way. "Anyone who changes my message because of the opinions of anyone, including the closest family members as a concession to their prejudices isn’t capable of representing my message to the people."

How does this insistence of Jesus to speak and live the message without consideration for the untruths held by family have anything to do with the first reading? That story tells us how the great prophet Elisha, successor of the greater prophet Elijah, accepts the hospitality of the unnamed woman of Shunem. Whenever the Hebrew Scriptures fails to name a person, typically that person describes a type of person. Thus, this woman offering hospitality stands for everyone who welcomes ministers of God and finds ways of supporting them, without asking for anything in return. Those who behave in this way receive an unsolicited gift that is new life. That is the story here, where this woman still of childbearing age receives a son who can support her in her senior years after her currently aged husband has died.

When we think of prophets, we often think of someone like a fortune teller – a predictor of the future. This is far from what prophecy is in our faith. Hebrew and Christian prophets are those who understand in the light of the truth of God’s Word the present time and its values, its energy, and its inclusive/exclusive focus of its society. The true prophet gets into a lot of trouble. They are persecuted, imprisoned, derided, pushed aside as impractical and irrelevant to the socio-economic conditions of their time. A great contemporary example of such prophecy is available on YouTube with the presentation of Rev. William Barber’s sermon at the National Cathedral on June 14, 2020. He unwraps the history of our nation and exposes it to the light of our beloved Gospel.

There is always blow-back against prophets. There are always sensible reasons why we should not listen to them. Even Moms and Dads, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, and closest friends and neighbors will insist we are wrong when we judge leaders, movements, entertainment, industrialization, and use of the treasures of the earth for self-profit. Here is what Jesus means when he insists that his disciples must take up their cross and follow after him. The Gospel message flies in the face of the culture of the World. The World’s way is to divide, to take for oneself everything within grasp. It makes little difference to those choosing the Way of the World whether others have access to what they need to grow and live life fully. When asked why he came, Jesus responds to the crowds and to us that he came that we may have life and have it more fully. Those who embrace the Way of the World insist he means life after we die. That’s merely their excuse for continuing to abuse the others. It makes little difference to followers of the Way of the World that persons are enslaved. We think we have abolished slavery. Ha! Slavery with chains of iron is obvious slavery. Slavery by poverty, by disrespect, by starvation wages, by lack of access to health care, by unfair taxation, by an unequal education system, and a thousand other methods of suppressing and robbing others of vitality and opportunity. Doesn’t it seem strange that black lives have suffered from hundreds of years of oppression so much so that a slogan insisting that Black Lives Matter is created so that we focus freeing a race from their continual slavery? Does not anger over a president who robbed a whole nation of American Indians of their land because gold was discovered there in northern Georgia not justify the urge to remove his monument from public land? Thousands of those Cherokee nation died on their forced march away from their native lands in what is known as the Trail of Tears.

The Way of the World seeks to divide. The Way of the World seeks wealth, power, and influence that steals from the workers of the fields, of the factories, of the offices. The exponentially continuing expansion of wealth between those in the very top of society from those who produce and make wealth by their labors is a sign of the Way of the World. The solidarity of humanity is denied and the dignity and worth of those in the lower classes of society is obscured by pride, by greed, and by tyranny. In all this so very many Christians believe there is nothing wrong with such enslavement. Yet, if we hold as true our God who is a Trinity of three persons, we cannot exclude anyone from what gives us life and life more fully. If we espouse to life eternal, then we should consider this: life eternal is the life of God, of the Trinity. Our experience of Trinity, of the Kingdom of Heaven, of the Reign of God, is the life of a vital, inclusive community. The Way of the World is to divide us into the haves and the have-nots. In God there are no have-nots.

Jesus insists that each of us is to take up our cross. If we fail to pick it up and walk in the way Jesus walks, we are not his disciple. Part of walking through our lives carrying our particular cross is that we constantly walk in the Way of Jesus. That way is always the way of life. The Way of the World acquires its gain by division, by taking what belongs to the common good. That is the evil that we endure; that is the evil which threatens our freedom; that is the evil that threatens the very life of our spirits – of our souls.

When families gather the common wisdom is that we should never speak of politics or religion. IN that way the painted over harmony will not be disrupted and all will have a good time without anger to divide. It is also said that religion should not engage politics; that faith should be reserved for Sundays or the Sabbath. That is certainly great advice, especially when politics or religion are more about emotions, about supposed loyalty, about my interests. That is great advice when religion serves our sinfulness and divisiveness. If we could seek truth, our conversations become more about dialogue than diatribe. If our faith has no impact on our living, it is salt that has lost its zest; it is leaven that has lost it power.

One final thing: the rest of the story about the woman of Shunem is that as foretold, when Elisha returned the following year, she did indeed hold a newborn son. However, on a visit several years later, Elisha returned to that house only to discover the woman grieving the death of that son. The gift had disappeared. Elisha saw her grief. He dismissed her, and in prayer revived the son and returned him to his mother. The gist of this story is that the gift of life comes from the Word of God. When we listen to and accept as our guide the Word of God we come to fullness of life. Even in death the Word of God triumphs and provides us fullness of life, the eternal life of God. Perhaps this story has the power to encourage us to live our lives in the truth of the Life of God. Elisha is a great prophet. Jesus is the Son of God AND the Son of Man. As we listen to his words, as we view his work, as we study and seek understanding of his willing acceptance of death at the hands of those who follow the Way of the World, we should be inspired to live the great gift of life we received and walk in the Way of the Lord. By doing so, we become a disciple who preaches the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. Our example becomes our words of healing and growth to those we encounter. We prepare the Way of the Lord.

May it be so, may it become central to our living. May we bask in the light of the Light of the World and see past the world’s lies and come to the truth that is God.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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COMMITMENT TO JESUS: 13TH SUNDAY OF YEAR (A)

A while back I was talking with a man who was tiling a bathroom in the house where I was living at the time. He does a lot of work for Christians and a lot of work for Muslims. He claims that Christians and Muslims have this much in common: 'Some are fully dedicated,' he said, 'others are half-dedicated, and still others are only a bit dedicated.' I am reminded of the tiler's words by the words of Jesus in the gospel today.

As Jesus talks with his first disciples, he raises the question of just how much attachment and dedication to his own person he expects his followers to have. His seeming exaggeration and even unreasonableness in this matter emphasizes one point. This is, that the greatest love of our life has to be the God-man Jesus himself, and the things he wants and requires of us. Of course, there are other loves in our lives - e.g., our families, our friends, our work, our sport and our leisure. But in the words which Jesus is using to make his point, he insists that his person, his will and his plans for us, must have first place in our lives. Everything and everyone else must be secondary and subordinate.

Where does this teaching of Jesus leave us? It surely challenges us to renew our commitment to him and to the people who matter to us, and to do this not only when we are able to take part in the Eucharist, but daily.

Jesus goes on to emphasise that commitment to him involves hospitality to others: ‘Whoever welcomes you,’ he says, ‘welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.’

An anonymous writer has composed a biting piece about the opposite of hospitality and welcome to others which he has labelled "the circle around my life":

"Much of our lives is spent in keeping people out. We have private houses, private clubs, and so on. Of course, there are times when we need to be alone. Yet there is a sense in which our size as human beings can be measured by the circles we draw to take other people in: the smaller the circle, the smaller the person. A strong person isn’t afraid of people who are different. A wise person welcomes them. By shutting other people out, we deny ourselves the riches of other people’s experience. We starve our minds, and harden our hearts. In the beginning God gave the earth its shape. He made it round. He included everybody. So should we."

Right now, however, while Covid19 rages, many of us are living lives in lockdown, and are severely restricted in the number of people we can welcome into our circle. But this too will pass, and the challenges will return of giving welcome and hospitality to Jesus in others. But it will be a return to a world of personal and family security that was changing rapidly even before the pandemic struck. Back in 1956 and for a long time afterwards, whenever my parents left the house to go to work in the city, they left their back door unlocked. No thief or vandal ever broke in. Nowadays, however, we feel the need to fortify our houses with locks, bolts, chains, peep holes, alarm systems, and watch-dogs. In our kind of world there are more strangers, aliens, and displaced people than ever before. So, in our current pandemic of isolation and loneliness, there is a more urgent need than ever for friendliness, welcome and hospitality, hospitality that has been described so well as "making space for a stranger to enter, and become a friend". The teaching of Jesus, then, is more relevant than ever.

When all is said and done, hospitality is more about open hearts than open doors. The teaching of St Paul of the Cross on being a loving person, then, remains up-to-date: "Love is ingenious," he says. Of course, there is a risk in having an open heart. One can get hurt. But to open one’s heart is to begin to live life to the full. On the other hand, to close one’s heart to Jesus in others is to begin to die, psychologically and spiritually.

We know from experience, perhaps from bitter experience, just how easy it is to make promises and to undertake commitments, but how difficult it is to keep living without any turning back from, or any taking back from, what we have promised. I remember words about this from the writer Michael Quoist: He says: "Only God is faithful; our fidelity lies in the struggle to be faithful amid all our infidelities."

The teaching of Jesus on who and how to love also encourages us, not to rely on our own power and strength to live up to our commitments, but to put all our trust in the power and mercy, the goodness and fidelity of Jesus, God’s greatest messenger and representative, and our personal and community Saviour.

Brian Gleeson CP <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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June 29th: Feast of St Peter and St Paul (Day)

"’But you,’ he said, ‘who do you say that I am?’"

Just recently, when I was a teenager, I used to spend a lot of time volunteering at a care home for mentally handicapped adults. They are people who, as a result of accidents of birth or disease, had major brain injuries and so had the bodies of adults, but the minds of children.

And one day we took a group of them to a Safari Park. For anyone who hasn’t been, that is a kind of zoo where the animals are kept free to roam around the parkland and the visitors drive through in vehicles to see them. It’s better for the animals because they have at least some degree of freedom to roam around the park, rather than being cooped up in cages; and also for the people who get to see them in something like a natural habitat. So we drove through the safari park in our ancient creaking little minibus. And as we came round one corner, there, standing right by the side of the road, was a fully grown lion! Emily - still a beautiful child at the age of about 35 - had her nose right up to the window. "Paul! Paul!" she shouted, "look at the big dog! It’s as big as a house!"

I am so stupid that for a good ten seconds, I seriously thought about trying to explain to her that actually it’s not a big dog - it’s actually a big cat that roams around the savannahs of Africa. But then, mercifully, I caught some sense and thought: "It doesn’t matter. She’s not going to understand all that. And she doesn’t need to. Just let her just enjoy seeing the big dog."

For once, it was the right decision. After that, in all the time I knew her, I don’t think she ever really stopped talking about the dog the size of a house. She named it Hector - I don’t know why. And at least a couple of times a month I would have to take her back to the park to check on how Hector was getting along. Fortunately he was a very healthy animal, with a gentle disposition and a truly incredible appetite for sausages, which Emily, against all the rules, insisted on smuggling in for him, claiming that "they don’t feed him anything like enough". Unfortunately, it was an opinion which Hector seemed to share. And after a while I think he came to enjoy Emily’s visits almost as much as she did. It seems that even lions can get used to a little unconditional love, particularly when you say it with sausages.

I like to think that taught me something about the names we give to things - and to people. Simon, son of Jonah is not a happy man because he has found the right answer to the question and picked out the correct name, like a quiz in school. He is a happy man because he has put Jesus Christ at the centre of his life - the Christ - the Son of the living God. He has recognized the presence and goodness of God in the world and in his life.

We do not have words to describe and understand God any more than Emily had the words to describe and understand a lion. To her it will forever be Hector, the big dog that she loves to bits. And for Peter, Jesus will forever be the Christ - the Son of the living God – the origin and goal of his existence.

So, who do you say that I am?

Each of us must answer for ourselves to articulate what is personally most meaningful for us about the life we have in Christ. But let us pray that, whatever name we give to the Lord, we serve Him with all our hearts, with all our minds and with all our strength.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in the source and goal of our own Existence.

Paul O’Reilly, SJ <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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