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Contents: Volume 2 - The Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 4th, 2021

 

The

14th

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. 14 B 2021

In our Gospel selection according to Mark today, we hear/read a comment about Jesus's personal reaction after he returned home. His thoughts took place after those in his native place took offense at him and his good works. It says, "He was amazed at their lack of faith."

What would Jesus think about the faith of those of us who call ourselves Christians today? What would our thoughts and actions reveal about us and our faith, individually and as a set of "believers"? Do we today sometimes match the description that the Lord gave to Ezekiel in our first reading of a "rebellious house" who were "hard of face and obstinate of heart"? Do we believe that God is with us only if things are going our way? Do we hide our intolerance of others by flaunting God's commandments?

I imagine that no two people's faith can be matched exactly, but we people who acclaim to belong to a certain Faith usually believe in a "core" set of beliefs. That kind of faith would certainly be at low ebb in today's world of covid variants, unequal availability of vaccinations, collapsed buildings, record-breaking heat waves, and poverty to name just a few challenges faced in the USA where I live, not to mention the political divide over some policies and practices. Where is faith in our God amid so much tension and confusion? Thankfully, Faith does have some wiggle room!

I have come to believe, and try to practice, that faith is a combination of "blessed assurance" and "patient endurance". My personal wiggle room reveals itself when I lean more toward one of those places rather than trust in their unifying combination. I do strongly believe that God will take care of me and important issues in my life regardless of the outcome here on earth because of the promise of eternal salvation.

It is clear to me that being comfortable in air conditioning in a world where so many are homeless is NOT of supreme importance but it may serve as an example. This past week has been historically difficult for those of us in the Pacific Northwest with such extreme heat. Usually our temperatures are temperate, rarely reaching into the 90's on a few summer days, so fans suffice when uncomfortable. Central air conditioning is truly rare! With record highs and no cooling overnight, sleeping was impossible and family irritability matched the temperatures. Our patient endurance came through last night after an 11 hour marathon installation of a week's delayed window air conditioning unit that allowed us to sleep for the first time in a week.

Whatever the challenge of the moment, the truth is that it is only one among many in our world. How do we view such things, whether those with objectively great impact or small annoyances? How do we accept the challenge that God gave Ezekiel to proclaim God's message even in our own "native land", family, or community?

For me, it amounts to reflecting on what Jesus actually did and to try to do likewise myself. That includes my personal life, with my family, and with those who encounter me and I them. I am grateful for the "wiggle room" of God's compassion and forgiveness as I try to combine the blessed assurance with the patient endurance that my growing faith requires.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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14th Sunday of Ordered Time - Year B - July 4, 2021

Ezekiel 2:2-5; Responsorial Psalm 123; 2nd Corinthians 12:7-10; Gospel Acclamation Luke 4:18; Mark 6:1-6

It is a bit shocking to hear Mark in his gospel, read this Sunday, speak of the "brothers and sisters of Jesus." It has been an insistent understanding in Catholic tradition that Mary was a virgin before her pregnancy, during her pregnancy, and subsequent to the birth of Jesus. Scour the scriptures, if you want to find there a declaration of that belief, that cult, that tradition. You will not discover it. Yet, from the very beginning of Christianity, it is a belief and an understanding of the Christian Assembly that Mary is "ever virgin." Explanations of Mark’s listing of brothers and sisters focus on the traditions of villages in Palestine. In those tight knit communities cousins were considered in the same category as members of a single household. Another explanation is that Joseph was a widower with children before he was betrothed to Mary. In any case, it is in the beliefs of Catholic Tradition that Mary was ever a virgin.

Within the authority structures of Catholic tradition there is an understanding that the Spirit of God, gifted to the assembly at Pentecost and continuing through out the ages, is ever present to the Assembly of believers. The faith of the Assembly is guided by the Spirit of God as it lives out and applies the truths passed on by the Scriptures and by the traditions handed on under the guidance of the successors of the apostles. That sense, that lived out faith, has a name. It is called the sensus fidelium – the sense of the faithful. Where the faith is practiced as God’s gift of the Spirit within the collection of assemblies, that presence enlightens and provides energy. We are inspired to convert to the truth of God’s creation and to confront the attacks of those who insist there is no God but Mammon.

Yet even beyond the appreciation of Mary’s virginity, there is the understanding of Mary that comes to us through Mary’s "yes." That "yes" was contrary to the common experience of all. Through her "yes" the unthinkable, the incomprehensible, the totally unexpected event occurred. Through her "yes" God became one of us and walked among us, worked among us, taught us, and healed what was diseased. God’s commitment to saving us from the despair of death was Jesus’ embrace of the cruel and despicable death on a cross. It is the transformation of the wounded and murdered Jesus in his resurrection on the third day that certified and insists this is God’s work.

There is this about Mary: in what little the gospels and apostolic writings give us, it is clear that she saw in all the events of Jesus’ birth, growth, ministry, and destruction on the cross that God is present. It is said of her that she kept all these events in her heart, turning them over to discover their meaning and application to her life and the life of all humanity. Because of that, Mary is often pictured in art and literature as Hagia Sophia – the personification of Holy Wisdom.

Yet, again, there is another aspect of Mary’s "yes" we should consider. In thousands of paintings and sculptures, Mary is depicted as a fully clad woman presenting to all who would see a naked baby boy. This depiction of Mary offers us Jesus, God who is incarnated into the realm of vulnerability and nakedness to the forces of the world.

What has all this to do with the readings this Sunday? Let us begin with the least obvious of the readings, Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. In that reading Paul explains his frustration with a "thorn of the flesh." Some scholars believe this has to do with a persistent bout with malaria he contracted on one of his missionary journeys in the marshy land along coastal waters. He abandons a successful missionary journey among coastal cities for the less humid high plateau cities. The presence of the Spirit within him insists God says to him, "My grace is sufficient for you; for power is made perfect in my weakness." A personal affliction opens God’s resources of strength for Paul to overcome and deal with difficulties that come his way. This is a lesson for us about faith. Every life has its ups and downs. Sometimes those downs drive us to the brink of despair. From within the vast reserves of God’s grace channeled to us through that unseen gift of faith, we can rise above and convert those evils into strengths. Or failing that, we can at the very least confront such sufferings with hope for God’s living presence. This is a way of looking at the readings this Sunday. This is a Sunday for a bolstering and holding in our hearts the wonder of grace that comes to us through the gift of Faith.

The selection from Ezekiel insists this prophet speaks for God. Listen to his understanding: "But you shall say to them: Thus says the LORD GOD!" The prophet understands how difficult his message will be for those he teaches. For they are hard of face and obstinate of heart. These are a people of stony hearts and stiff necks; so imbued with the ways of Mammon are they. That is their excuse for not hearing the Word of God meant to encourage and guide them. Mammon is more in their minds and actions than is God.

In the gospel we hear another excuse for lack of listening. Jesus goes back to the town of his youth and where he practiced a career as a carpenter. The Greek word Mark uses to name Jesus a carpenter means more than a guy who knows how to put two pieces of wood together. The word in Greek is about a skilled and experienced craftsman. This craftsman could design and fashion a plough to prepare soil for seeding. Yet also he could design and build a granary that was varmint-proof to store and protect the produce of the land. He was an expert in building two-hole privies yet was also fully capable of designing and building a mansion with indoor plumbing and access to cooling breezes off the mountains. Perhaps this is the reason his kinsmen and townsfolk rejected him. "He’s the carpenter, that guy so well known and respected for his skills and creativity. What is he doing preaching? How can he claim to understand and know God’s will, God’s law, God’s presence? This guy can’t be a prophet – we know who he is."

So, his childhood friends, neighbors and relatives refuse faith because of their past association with Jesus.

It is a tenet of our faith the God loves each one of us, even when we mess up. God cannot do other than love us. In our conception and birth God sees a bit of the image and likeness of what God is. We are loved; we are cared for; we are God’s dream. And to that end, for that purpose, God remains within us with compassion and mercy. There is not one, not a single person who ever lived, who lives now, or who will live that does not reflect the presence of God to the rest of us. It is through the gift of faith that we understand and see others in this light. Whenever one of us is harmed, is assaulted, is ignored, is murdered, is taken suddenly and violently from sharing in our communities, all are hurt. Consider this: what possibilities are lost when we lose one such being created in God’s image and likeness? What happens when we ignore others and their needs? What happens if we allow our selves to deny the dignity and worth of even one other person?

It is this faith, it is this understanding of Mary’s role in her "yes", it is this sense of the faithful that makes God’s creation flourish and blossom. The faithful through the gift of faith make his image and likeness visible and effective. This is so far removed beyond what law and order can do to make us safe. The greatest of saints all possessed great faith. Even though we frequently see art and literature portraying them with folded hands and uplifted eyes, in fact they are more like Francis of Assisi or Teresa of Calcutta. They see in the poor and miserable that spark of God’s image and likeness with the eyes of faith and respond with respect and healing. Their hands are extended to help and their eyes are focused on God’s presence

Faith is a gift. Paul insists on this. Faith resides in the heart, that organ to which we ascribe the mystery and wonder of love for others. A message this Sunday is that we must care to protect and welcome the gift of faith. With that faith we are empowered and energized to know God loves me and every other person unconditionally. When we practice love of creation and humanity whose home is creation, we grow the depths of faith. We become like Mary who kept all events and relationships in the recesses of her heart, thinking on them and discovering there God’s abiding presence.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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3.

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THOSE THAT SPEAK FOR GOD: 14th SUNDAY B

When people from ordinary backgrounds become celebrities, e.g., Meghan Markle, now the wife of Prince Harry, the football star David Beckham, and the pop idols Justin Bieber, Adele, Missy Higgins, and Guy Sebastian, journalists and television crews often seek out the family and neighbors of the new star to find out what they think of their local boy or girl made good. Mixed impressions and reactions are given. Some show their surprise, some their shock, some their delight, some their pride. But others show their disbelief or jealousy. While some locals claim they saw it all coming, others refuse to admit that anything out of the ordinary has happened. They urge caution and claim that all the hype and hoopla will soon fizzle out. The saying is just too true: ‘Familiarity breeds contempt!’

In our Gospel today Jesus comes back to his home town of Nazareth. This is not a social visit. Like the other towns in Galilee, Nazareth too has to hear the Good News that with Jesus God has stepped into this world and begun to rule as their King over everything and everyone. When Jesus highlights this in their local synagogue, his listeners are amazed. They wonder about the wise things he has said, about where he got his ideas, and about how on earth he has been curing so many sick and disabled persons. But despite their favorable first impressions of him, they later let their prejudices, their pre-judgments, take over. They decide that all along Jesus has been fooling them into thinking he’s someone special. ‘Just who does he think he is?’ they sneer, ‘Local boy made good? No way!’

They try to cut him down to size, their size. They sniff: ‘Once a carpenter always a carpenter! Don’t we all know his mother, his sisters and his brothers? There’s nothing special about them. He’s got too big for his boots!’ Mark summarizes their negative reactions in six sad words: ‘And they would not accept him.’ For them, his sheer ordinariness as their local tradesman cancels out their first impressions of his new and special wisdom and the reports reaching them from other places of his extraordinary deeds.

How does Jesus react to these locals and their prejudices against him? In the words of the storyteller, he is ‘amazed at their lack of faith’. So, he tells them: ‘A prophet [i.e., one who speaks for God] is only despised in his own country among his own relations and in his own house.’ Mark has told us already that even members of his own family were convinced he was out of his mind (3:21). His being rejected by his former friends and neighbors now completes his experience of rejection.

His rejection in Nazareth by his people also makes him powerless for the most part, to work any miracle among them. The negative way they react to him and their lack of trust limits his ability. So, after curing just ‘a few sick people’, he moves elsewhere, and it seems, sad to say, that after moving on, he never sets foot in Nazareth again.

In the 1960s there was a popular song called ‘The Sounds of Silence.’ One remarkable line says that the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls. The messages of prophets are two-way communication. They state what God wants to tell people for their well-being. But rejection or resistance to the message tells God what the people think of both the message and the messenger.

I think you will probably agree that it’s an extremely painful thing to try to tell someone what they need to hear for their well-being only to be told: ‘What’s it got to do with you? You back off, you butt out!’ Parents know that pain when their children tell them ‘What would you know? You’re so out of date, so last century! You’re a has-been, you’re a loser!’, or something else equally rude and insulting. Teachers know the pain of it when their pupils just scoff or giggle at the lesson they’ve so carefully prepared and presented. Police know the pain of resistance and opposition when they try to restore order amid mob madness or violence, and for their trouble are spat upon and called ‘pigs’ or worse by drunken revelers.

Day by day you and I face situations in which God is calling us to stop, look and listen, and take to heart some message for our good, a message being delivered to us by another person in our lives, someone who is on our side, someone who is also a real prophet, a spokesperson for God, a real godsend, whether they know it or not.

So, in our prayer together today let us ask God both for ourselves and one another, that we might always be open to hearing and heeding the Word of God, in whatever way God speaks to us, and through whatever person or persons God sends us, as his messengers, his agents, his angels!

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

 

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Year B: 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house."

My brother in the Lord, Eardley McDonald of the Society of Jesus often liked to say this of his experience of living in community with other Jesuits:

"To live above with those we love

Is full of bliss and glory.

To live below with those we know

Is quite a different story."

Until about five years before his death, Father – I’ll call him Father John - was not the best loved man in the British Province of the Society of Jesus - not by a long chalk. He was respected certainly, admired even, for his zeal, commitment, sheer hard work in every mission to which he was sent, but he was sometimes disliked - even a little feared - for his irritability and short temper.

Then he had a stroke.

It paralyzed the whole of his right side -arm and leg. He lost the power of speech. After two weeks in the hospital, he recovered most of his speech and some of the power in his right arm and leg.

After three months, it was clear that he was going to be permanently disabled. He was barely able to talk, to walk and to look after himself. He would certainly never be able to work again.

He met with the Provincial, the Superior of all of the Jesuits in the country. It was not a happy meeting. He cried for the first time in fifty years. Despite the Provincial’s best efforts, he left the meeting in despair. Having given his life and his life’s work to God and the Society of Jesus, he felt that he had just been dropped, let go, made redundant, made surplus to requirements, returned to sender. And of all he had ever hoped for, he had nothing left. With hindsight, he was prepared to admit that he gave way to bitterness and I can personally testify that he was not an easy man to live with. Never did I see a man more angry with God.

But his lowest moment came when he received the annual Province catalogue - the list published every year of all the Jesuits in the country and their jobs. Against his own name were written the words "Orat pro Soc". It is a Latin abbreviation the sentence "Orat pro Societatem Jesus et Ecclesiam", which translates: "He prays for the Society of Jesus and for the Church". That is something every Jesuit is supposed to do every day, but they only write it against your name when it is the only thing you can do. For the first time in his life Father John wished he was dead.

The next morning, it occurred to him that, never actually having prayed much for the Church and the Society, he wasn’t too sure how to go about it. So he tottered slowly and painfully down to the Chapel, committed his heart to the Lord and thought about the Church and the Society.

Nothing much seemed to happen - which, to be honest, didn’t greatly surprise him. Towards the end of his hour, he found himself being distracted by the thought of how fortunate the community had been in its superior – a man who, he felt, had really spent himself in trying to bring the community together as genuinely a union of hearts and minds in the service of God. And it occurred to him that, through the various businesses of life, he had never found the time to tell him so. But now, he had nothing but time. So, as soon as his hour of prayer was finished, he set himself to walk down to the superior’s office to set right that tiny wrong.

The next day, his prayer went no better. And he found himself increasingly distracted by thoughts of all the people who had done good things for him and had never been thanked. They seemed to be legion; many of them were no longer alive. So, after his hour’s prayer, he said a special Mass for all of them. And then he went back to his room, lifted his telephone and started making some calls to those who were still able to answer the phone. Quite a number seemed genuinely pleased to hear from him. It warmed his heart.

In subsequent days, he found himself increasingly distracted by thoughts of the younger men in the Society who, he felt, were doing good work in difficult circumstances – in a Province of declining numbers, in a nation of aggressive secularism. He wondered if anyone ever told them they were doing a good job. He thought, probably not. So he decided that was something he could do.

Anyone who has ever lived in a religious community can finish this story for themselves. Even those blessed with the calm, even, tranquility of family life (at least that’s what they tell me) might just be able to guess at it. It was not long before Father John became the living, beating, vibrant heart of our community. We became a place where no good deed went unappreciated; no man went unaffirmed; nobody at all could feel that there was no port in a storm. A fair few Jesuit students, myself included, discovered that many of life’s problems seemed a bit more manageable after a little of father John’s single malt and a lot of his fatherly listening.

Speaking personally, I invite you to imagine how it makes you feel as a newly ordained priest, that a crippled old man feels the need to climb four flights of stairs to tell you that he thought you said a good Mass today.

So it is true that Father John’s worst fears did indeed come true. He never fully recovered from his stroke. He never was able to work again. He never was able to contribute meaningfully to the material support of his community. What saddened him the most was that he was never able to say a public mass. But, in his last years I never saw a happier man. And, believe me, we miss him now he’s gone. And in his memory, I would like to suggest that the next time any of us feels absolutely useless, valueless, a waste of space, a useless eater, and that the world might be a better place without us - and remember that most have us have such moments – think of Father John. Make your way to the Chapel and pray for the Church and the Society. Ask the Lord if He can use one more faithful servant. And notice how that changes your heart and your life. There are worse jobs that ‘Orat pro Soc’. And that is the fundamental call of every Christian.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God’s capacity to inspire us to be His People in this World.

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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