Carol & Dennis Keller
Brian Gleeson CP
Paul O'Reilly SJ
reflection can be here!)
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
14th Sunday of Ordered Time - Year B - July 4,
Ezekiel 2:2-5; Responsorial Psalm 123; 2nd
Corinthians 12:7-10; Gospel Acclamation Luke 4:18; Mark
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
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!
Gleeson CP" <email@example.com>
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:
above with those we love
Is full of
bliss and glory.
To live below
with those we know
Is quite a
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
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
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
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
Let us stand and
profess our Faith in God’s capacity to inspire us to be His
People in this World.
O’Reilly, sj. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the
next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear.
Send them to
email@example.com. Deadline is
Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.
-- Fr. John