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Contents: Volume 2 - The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 11th, 2021

 

The

15th

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. 15 B 2021

The Gospel story today tells us that Jesus sent forth the Twelve two by two to preach redemption. His brief instructions about what not to bring and what to bring speak volumes. The instructions softly but roaringly empower them with not only their mission, but supreme confidence in the Support to fulfill it.

It is because of those Twelve that we are here today. Our job is to continue the same preaching. How well do we understand that mission? Do we have the same confidence to share it with others? Do we believe we are among the chosen and adopted ones spoken about in the second reading who have been given every spiritual blessing and the grace to do this or is it someone else's job?

Our Baptism makes it our job and such it is according to our state in life. With Jesus at the center, we are all connected to the Source of radiating grace to us as in a circle. We are equal and empowered whether priest, religious or laity, or whatever our other circumstances in life might be.

Perhaps this week we might ponder that gift and responsibility, talk to the Lord about how to proceed, and look around for like-minded companions on this journey. May we discover what impedes us from this mission and allow the Lord to help us navigate that obstacle. May we then do the Lord's work as did the apostles long ago.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Fifteenth Sunday of Ordered Time July 11, 2021

Amos 7:12-15; Responsorial Psalm 85; Ephesians 1:3-14; Gospel Acclamation Ephesians 1:17-18; Mark 6:7-13

This Sunday the grand saga of Mark’s gospel continues. Since Pentecost, that celebration of the coming of the Spirit, Mark has been telling us about the good news, about what it does to and for us, about God in the Trinity, about how we are healed and nourished in the Body and Blood of the Lord. Then the focus turned to God’s work among us, inspired by the Trinity and fed by the Body and the Blood of the Lord. The instruction the twelfth Sunday of ordered Time was about prophecy. Prophecy’s purpose is the disclosure of truth, lining up the truth of the Creator with the actual practice by humanity. Then we explored why bad things happen to good people. Then we came to understand that prophets and prophecy is often rejected because people think they can judge the truth of the situation by the one proclaiming the truth. Thus, prophets have no standing in their own territory because their upbringing, their education, their family are all known. That knowledge allows people to deny the value and truth of their teaching. Deny the goodness of any prophet and we are able to deny the truth that challenges us to turn away from what harms us and our neighbor. We recognize this in the partisanship which we all too readily endorse in place of good judgment and honest thought.

This Sunday all three readings come together with one theme. Typically, the second reading is a writing attributed to the Twelve Apostles. That reading is chosen in a sequence that is not often aligned with the Hebrew Scripture reading and the Gospel. The Hebrew Scripture reading is chosen to augment, to enlighten through the history of Israelite faith experience the Gospel reading. This Sunday even Paul’s letter to the Ephesians contributes to the theme.

Simply put, the theme is "now that you know and have experienced the Good News, hit the road and share it with the world." The very choice of words to describe the twelve disciples is a Greek word meaning "one who is sent." Thus, apostle is the term applied to a person who is to announce something of high importance. The message contained, then, in the reading from the prophet Amos, the excerpt from the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, and the missionary journey described in the gospel of Mark are all about being an apostle. The clear implication of this Sunday’s reading, therefore, is that Christians are ones who are sent into the world. That sending is for the purpose of countering the influence, the power, and the presence of unclean spirits. That is focus and the authority Jesus gives the Twelve.

Looking at the excerpt from the prophet Amos helps us realize we too are called to be apostles. Amos lived in Judea. But God called him to be prophet to Israel, the split off Northern Kingdom. The priest there told him to go home and prophesize to his home crowd. Amos’ retort to the priest of the Northern Kingdom gives us no refuge from our call to be prophets. He tells the priest that this is not his choice. After all he is not a member of a cadre of prophets, he has not been schooled in the Temple in Jerusalem. No, he is a simple person who did not choose this responsibility. He is a shepherd who would rather be minding his sheep in solitude. He is a trimmer of sycamores so that poor folk can eat those trees fruit. This is not his idea of a summer vacation. It is not his choice.

Isn’t that the case with most of us? We would rather be in the shadows about the practices of our faith. We would rather go along to get along than to make visible choices that demonstrate the customs and truth of our faith. Amos is a clear example of how most of us feel when it comes to our public practice of faith. "Let me alone, God. I love you and believe in you in my heart. Do not ask me to be an example to my family, my neighbors, my community. Do not ask me to confront alternate realities or rebuke those who ignore the poor, the widows, the unborn, old people, refugees, or those of other nationalities and races. I’ll stay in my closet and earn my heaven by staying within the confines of the law of church and state."

The story of Amos contradicts such an attitude. We, each one of us, are confirmed by our baptism to be priests, prophets, and Shepherds. The liturgy of baptism says "kings" not "shepherds." That sounds like a throw-back to medieval times. To be a king or a queen in ancient tribal times meant to take care of the tribe, the people, so that the community is safe and flourishing. That is the role of a shepherd toward the flock. So, Amos, the shepherd and trimmer of sycamores is called out of obscurity to speak truth.

In the beginning of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul insists he and all who are like him are blessed in Christ. "he has made known to us the mystery of his will in accord with his favor that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth." The blessing in Christ is for mission. That is the import of this letter to the Ephesians. Living in accordance with the will of God means we have been chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things. There is our assignment as prophets, as apostles, sent out to make known the God for creation, the Son for redemption, and the Spirit for life.

The Gospel is forthright in describing the role of the apostle, the one sent out. The goal is authority over unclean spirits. Anything that harms the truth and flourishing of the people is an unclean spirit. That would include pandemics, wars, poverty, violence, and empty lives lacking purpose and meaning. Unclean spirits rob the human psyche of dignity and worth. Anything contradicting God’s evaluation of his creative work is an unclean spirit. For, we read in Genesis, God evaluates his work each day saying, "it is good." On the sixth day of creation of living beings and humanity God insists, "It is very good." Anything, any force that contradicts God’s evaluation is an unclean spirit, an unclean and harmful disease that steals goodness.

There is a serious point and one the story of Amos supports. The apostle is not to be a showy, flashy, icon. The apostle has only a walking stick, a pair of sandals and the clothes on his/her back. The truth of their preaching is the point, not expensive clothing, fancy footwear, or luxurious means of transportation. The apostle is not free from the call because they have no fine garments or footwear or fancy car. They are not to carry a boxed lunch or a fat wallet. The message is the important thing.

The message is given that those who hear repent. In our perceptions, the message about repentance appears to be sorrow for heavy sins. So average sinners may turn away thinking the preaching is not meant for them. Repentance is not so much about a sinful choice. This repentance is about aligning oneself with the life focus of pagan cultures. Such cultures believe wealth, control over others, and adoring fans are the only meaning to human endeavors. Those are pagan gods; those are idols that consume those who worship them. Those idols are never satisfied but always demand more and more till those believers die of exhaustion and despair. Repentance means more than foregoing sin. It means a "turning away" from those pagan gods to worship the God of all creation. The true God imparts dignity and worth to all creation. The true God is blind to nationality, language, gender, race, their culture, wealth, power, fanbase, and faith beliefs. The true God seeks only the happiness and well-being of God’s creation – all of it.

So, how does this apply to us? It applies to us in attitudes toward ourselves, to our families, to our neighbors, to our communities, to our nation, and to our world. If we believe in cut-throat competition in business, we serve Mammon. If we believe in claiming prestige because of education, where we live, what we consume, we are on a slippery slope. When we practice respect for ourselves, our family members, our neighbors, our communities, our nation, and all citizens and creation, then we are in truth behaving as apostles of the Christ.

We are called to be healers of what causes dis-ease. We are called to act in truth and faith. We are prophets, we are priests, we are Shepherds. In those three assignments of Baptism we are more and more truly; we are apostles.

It is said a person learns by doing, though experience. It is also true and more certainly helpful to each of us that we learn in depth, in the essence of reality and truth when we teach. That is why professionals are said to have a "practice" that further informs them and makes them more aware of the truth and its impact and importance. That is true as well in the practice of faith. A tiny seed of faith, a gift to our hearts, contains the possibility of germinating and springing up into a tree that supports the birds of the air. May it be so, all you apostles who seek God.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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CHANGING FOR THE BETTER: 15TH SUNDAY B

We have heard Mark say in the gospel today: '... [the twelve apostles] set off to preach repentance' (6:12)

What did the apostles mean and what did Jesus mean when they called on people to 'repent'? In a nutshell, they were asking people to completely change their lives. Right now, let's explore some of what repentance involves.

Repentance and conversion go together. They are about change and transformation. Conversion is turning away from something to something else. For every person, it involves turning away from how I live my life now to another way of living - a new, better, more genuine, more Christ-like way!

It happens when I respond to the gift of God to me, the gift of God’s love, God’s grace. It happens when I come to see and accept that God loves me with infinite and unconditional love, with a forgiving and everlasting love, a love that led his Son to stretch out his arms on the cross to embrace me, and a love that has been with me every step of my life’s journey.

This love that God has for me is brilliantly illustrated in the famous story Jesus told of the lost son who runs away from his father and family and their love and gets himself into one hell of a mess (Lk 15).

As it happened with the prodigal son, the beginning of the process of conversion is marked by a loss of tranquility, and by feelings of restlessness, dissatisfaction, and disillusionment. This is necessary, for without unrest there is no felt need to change. Further along the path, conversion requires time and effort and struggles to grow and mature. It requires rooting out old habits, bad habits, and establishing new habits, good habits. It requires working at treating others differently and working at creating a different environment, a more peaceful, harmonious, and caring atmosphere around us in which to live and work.

It requires admitting and facing painful facts about myself: - I have done wrong. I have hurt others. I have let them down. I have deceived myself. I have flopped and failed again and again and again. It requires humbly admitting that I cannot change and become a better person without outside help, that I need to put my trust in the power and love of God to free, heal and change me. Only those can be liberated who know they are enslaved. Only those who have nothing can receive everything. The Word of God says so over and over again.

My conversion will be shown gradually in a change in my relationships – in how I relate to the members of my family, to my fellow parishioners, to the people I work with, to the people I pass in the street, to strangers, to the general public, to Jesus Christ in person, and to myself. My conversion will happen in the ways I begin to think about life and people, in the ways I feel about them, and in the ways that I respond to them.

My conversion will happen too in my change of values, as I re-make my life commitments in keeping with the best human values. These are not the values of this world where everything revolves around competition and success. No, my new values will be the values of Jesus – truthfulness; honesty; integrity; acceptance; affection; friendship; kindness; compassion; forgiveness; generosity; fairness; peace; patience; joy; fidelity, and trust. I will remember that God does not ask me to be successful - for success is not a gospel value - but to be faithful, faithful always.

I will show my conversion by deliberately and consistently reaching out to the poor, the lost, the losers, and the broken. Was it not to such people most of all that Jesus announced the coming of the kingdom of God? Did he not say that it belonged to them? Did he not say both in word and action that the kingdom of God is above all for the misfits, the ‘uglies’, the sinners, the tax-collectors, the lepers, the lonely, and the prostitutes? Did he not demonstrate over and over again that the kingdom of God is a kingdom for the messy and the losers rather than for 'the beautiful people’ – the celebrities of our glossy magazines?

It cannot be stressed strongly enough that conversion is about turning away and turning to - turning away, on the one hand, from selfishness, sin and evil, as well as the golden calves of money, prestige, status, and power, and, on the other hand, turning to God, to Jesus Christ and our shared values as a church community - truth and integrity, goodness and love, justice and equality, peace and joy. Turning away and turning to, all through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit of God given to us with our baptism!

So, during the rest of our prayer today – with others and alone – let us ask God for the grace of conversion - for one another, for our church community, for our society, and its culture!

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

 

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Year B: 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Take nothing for the journey..."

I once met a rich young man.

You see, once upon a time, when I was young, fit and good looking – well all-right, about twenty-five years ago - I once cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats - from the South to the North of Great Britain – more than a thousand miles. And one day, I met an American tourist who was doing the same. But he was having a lot of problems with his bike and he was making very slow progress. So he asked me for my help. After about nine hundred painful miles, I knew pretty much everything that could go wrong with a bike.

Well, his bike was beautiful - very expensive and brand new - made with the very latest lightweight alloy steel with 18 gears! (I had to count them three times to be sure.) And it had double disc brakes and lights that come on automatically when it got dark. And when you rode it, it was as smooth as a Mercedes. (Well, I’ve never actually been in a Mercedes, but I’m pretty sure this is what it must feel like.) So I brought it back to him to tell him that there was nothing wrong with his bicycle - but if he wanted to swap it for mine, I could see my way clear to arranging that.

"Yes", he said, "it’s fine now, but when you put the load on you can hardly get to move at all."

So I asked: "Well, what is the load?"

He showed me - it weighed one hundred and forty two pounds! That’s ten stone! That’s an extra person!

So I said, "No wonder you are not making progress, you are carrying far too much weight."

And he said: "Well, I know it’s a lot, but I really need it all."

And so I had to say to him: "My friend, how much do you really want to get to where you’re going?"

He thought for a moment and said "I really want to get there."

So I asked him: "Then what are you going to have to do with all this weight you are carrying?"

At this, a look of intense pain came across his face. There was a loooong silence. And eventually he said: "I’m going to have to lose some of it, aren't I?"

So together we divided all his stuff into two piles - one pile of the stuff that was helping him get to where he was going - and another of the stuff that was holding him back. It wasn’t always easy to decide what to put in each pile. Sometimes we had to give an item the benefit of the doubt. But even so, I think you can guess which was the bigger pile. And then we had a big sale! I would like to be able to tell you that he then gave the money to the poor (that is of course ME!) but that didn’t quite happen - Americans aren’t stupid, you know!

Next day I agreed to cycle with him for the first hour. There were a lot of hills to start with and he went up them like he was in a Mercedes and I trailed behind. After an hour, he was past me and gone. I never saw him again.

But he left me with a question that I try to ask myself about once a year. To list all of my possessions and ask: "Which of these are really helping me to get to where I am going and which are just holding me back?" Because all of us have places we want to get to in life. All of us have our John O’Groats. And it is very hard for a rich man to get into the kingdom of heaven, or even to John O’Groats. And that is nothing to do with God not loving rich people - it’s just the law of gravity.

Ignatius says that realization is the Principle and Foundation of his way of life. I saw it recently translated like this:

"Human beings are created to praise, reverence and serve God, Our Lord, and by this means to become the people God created us to be. All other created things on the face of the earth exist to help us to achieve this End for which we are created. Accordingly, we should make use of them only insofar as they assist us to become the people God created us to be. And we should rid ourselves of them whenever they prevent us from achieving our End.

Therefore we should hold ourselves indifferent to all created things, having or not having them only according to the Will of the Lord."

That is not an easy ideal. Believe me - in this matter, I speak as one who knows. But it is the ideal of all Christian stewardship that everything we have in this world, we have as gift from God and on trust from our children.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God, who gives us the only True and ultimate wealth there is.

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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