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Contents: Volume 2 - The 18th SUNDAY (A) - August 2, 2020


The

  18th

  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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1.

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Sun. 18 A

Our God surely understands the impact of the pandemic on so many of us and so, what has God done? In the first reading this Sunday, God issued an invitation through Isaiah to "come to me"...but there's more! Our second reading reminds us that we are inseparable from the love of Jesus. We are shown through Jesus in the Gospel story how to nourish ourselves and others along the way when the unexpected occurs. Yes, in the middle of millions of questions and doubts and perhaps quite a bit of confusion and a lack of direction, God shows us a way through and to hope.

Among the familiar lines in the first reading we also hear/read: "Listen that you may have life." In this time of global need, we all really do need to re-read and listen to Isaiah's words and also to those comforting ones in the selection from Romans. They remind us that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus. Nothing. Nothing. For me, those words ease the paralysis that sneaks into my life at the most unexpected times. They nudge me closer to what I believe. They push me gently out of the darkness of gloom into the light of hope once again. They move me, even if they don't quite propel me yet, past my own worries to ways to nourish myself and others.

In the Gospel, Jesus does a not-too-subtle job of pointing the disciples and us all in the right direction in times of need, worry, or confusion. The disciples and we thought: Lots of people/lots of needs and not much in the way of supplies, can you do something, Lord? Jesus had a different idea. Just like the disciples, we, too, can share what we have, even if it is a tiny bit of hope or a smile or a comforting word, that will multiply among us .

If nothing will separate us from the love of Jesus, then we simply must share being grounded in that love with others. We can do that if we delight in that love ourselves and let it fill us to overflowing, a little at a time. Replenished or at least re-enlivened ourselves, we can offer a bit of the Lord's love to someone else. How? The ways are endless, just like the Lord's love. You might try repeating some of the familiar lines from today's Scriptures or "Be still and know that I am God" and the ways will become more evident for sure.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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Eighteenth Sunday of Ordered Time August 2, 2020

Isaiah 55:1-3; Responsorial Psalm 145; Romans 8:35 & 37-39; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 4:4b; Matthew 14:13-21

What is there about the narrative of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes that might open our eyes to the presence of Jesus, the living God, with us? We who attend weekly Mass -- even if only virtually -- have heard this story each year. There are six accounts of this event -- two in Mark (chapters 6 & 8), two in Matthew (chapters 14 & 15), and one each in Luke (chapter 9) and John (chapter 6). Thus, the contents of these stories are all similar. But why two in Mark and two in Matthew? In both Mark and Matthew the second feeding of the crowd counts the men as 4,000. What is so very important about this so-called "multiplication of loaves and fishes" that each gospel writer includes it and two of them repeat it in their narratives? If we take the time to closely analyse these stories, we should note several things: first of all is that none of these stories speak about bread and fish being multiplied. Second, each story begins with Jesus feeling in his gut or in his heart pity for the crowd. All the crowds are desperate for something, some food that will nourish them, that will heal what is lacking. Thirdly, the crowds have been following Jesus for the better part of the day after they witnessed an event in their lives that frightened them. In two narratives, the breaking of bread occurs after the 72 disciples return from their missionary journey or after the 12 apostles return from their mission. Fourthly, in each story there are crowds that looked for Jesus, that searched him out, usually after Jesus has healed the sick, the infirm, the maimed, in general the rejects of society. Jesus is found in a deserted place, away from the hustle and bustle of commerce, of industry, and of socio-politico-economic endeavors. In the second stories in both Matthew and Mark, the feeding of the 4,000 takes place after Jesus has cured a foreigner’s daughter of an unclean spirit and a deaf man with a speech impediment. This is as to say that even those who are gentiles may come to be fed and healed of what keeps them separate from the community.

In this Sunday’s narrative of the breaking of bread, Jesus has learned of the murder of his cousin John the Baptist at the hands of Herod Antipas. Herod would later worry that Jesus was the Baptist returned to life. An early Christian writer, Origen, wrote since Jesus and John were born of cousins, Jesus likely bore a physical resemblance to John, giving Herod a constant attack of conscience when Jesus’ presence was spoken to him.

John the Baptizer had a large following. He appeared to be the promised Messiah. His preaching and baptizing affected many in Galilee and Judaea. When the crowds and Jesus heard of John’s death, they were shocked, dismayed, and believed they needed to forget their hopes. Their hopes for the Messiah in their lifetime were crushed.

We can bring this experience to our own time when we consider the ravages of Covid 19. The powerful Herod was the source of despair robbing the people of hope for a new age, for a time of peace and sovereignty. John the baptizer was their hope for the coming of the rule of God. After all, John’s preaching was about the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. The crowds believed John was the prophet signaling the start of a new era for God’s chosen people. Yet power murdered this prophet, John. For Jesus, John’s death was a time for considering his future, his preaching, and his efforts to spread the Kingdom of Heaven. He needed time away, time alone. Still, the crowds sought out Jesus as the successor to John as a Messiah. Jesus took a boat to the east side of the Sea of Galilee, a less populated area for rest, for consideration, and most importantly for prayer.

It was there, in this Sunday’s gospel the crowds looking for hope, for consolation at the death of John, for a leader to inspire them, discovered Jesus. Jesus didn’t turn them away, didn’t run from them, even in his need for rest, for prayer, and for plotting a path forward in his mission. Instead, he healed those brought to him -- returning these unfortunates to full participation on their communities. He taught them, making sense of the events of the day, inspiring hope for tomorrow, and belief in the presence of the Living God. As daylight began to wane, the disciples brought practicality to the event. Jesus should send these people to their homes. They sought an end to the day and to Jesus healing and teaching and preaching. Jesus asked them to provide food for the crowd. They objected -- they didn’t have the resources with them to buy or even to feed a portion of this huge crowd. But they did have five loaves and a couple of fish. It is significant these disciples believed they lacked what was needed to feed the crowds.

It is significant that Jesus blessed the bread and broke it, giving it to the disciples for distribution. Blessing bread is the father’s responsibility in the Jewish household. Breaking the bread is a sharing among those gathered. What actually happened then? None of the four gospels think it important to say whether the bread -- and the couple of fish -- were multiplied or if the giving of what the little they had with them inspired the crowd to share what they had with each other. In any case, the gospel tells us that all ate their fill and were satisfied.

The narrative is obviously a reference to the Eucharist. The "breaking of the bread" is consistently used in Christian Scriptures and in the writings of early Christian writers to indicate the Eucharist. It is noteworthy, as well, that the prelude to the "breaking of the bread" is healing and preaching and teaching. So, we begin our Mass with an invocation of the Trinity and a greeting to share in the peace of Jesus. That is followed by an examination of conscience, a recalling of how we missed the mark in our living, how we harmed the community by our words, our thoughts, and our actions. And in harming the community, we separated ourselves from our community and in so doing were deafened, muted, lamed, diseased in mind, body, and heart. We are in search of healing of welcomed return to the community which we shunned and harmed. Then we are taught the Word of God -- from both Hebrew and Christian writings. The preaching that follows opens for us the wisdom and depth of God’s presence with us. It is the gospel -- the good news that stirs our hearts to direct our minds and will to the work and vitality of the Kingdom of Heaven.

When our day draws to its close, we are hungry, we need nourishment to continue our journey home to live yet again the words and instructions of the Lord. It is then that we bring to the table what we have brought with us. It is the gifts brought to the altar that the Presider, in the name of Jesus, collects and blesses, and breaks and passes along to be distributed to one and all. After we are fed, we hear from the presider Jesus’ parting words. "Go, you are sent to the world to proclaim what you have heard, what you have seen, and what you have experienced."

How cruel and heartless we have made this reflection. We raise up the great need for Eucharist, for coming together to hear the Word of God preached and explained, for sharing in community the blessed and broken bread. Yet because of a disease that affects all persons -- young and old, rich and poor, healthy and diseased, regardless of national origin or language or race or gender -- because of this disease we cannot come together. There are some who believe they should have the freedom to gather in what would be a petri dish for the distribution of the virus -- that this is the religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. How supremely foolish that is. It is akin to the tragedy and foolishness of the "Children’s Crusade" in the age of the crusades. Instead, let us nurture our understanding of the wonder of the message this Sunday. Isaiah tells us to come to the water and drink for free, and eat what satisfies us. Paul insists that nothing, nothing, nothing can ever get in the way of Jesus’ love for us. "In all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us." And in the gospel -- we should put ourselves in mind and heart in that huge crowd -- "all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over -- twelve wicker baskets full." The twelve baskets, one for each tribe of Jacob and all gentiles then and now and in the future. The food comes from us and is blessed and broken and shared by the Lord, Jesus, the Christ.

Carol & Dennis with Charlie dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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3.

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FEEDING THE HUNGRY: 18TH SUNDAY A

There are at least three kinds of hunger. There is a hunger for bread, for the food and drink that satisfy physical hunger and nourish health and life. There is emotional hunger, a hunger for acceptance and welcome, affirmation and affection from others. And there is spiritual hunger, that includes a craving for the company of good people. For Christians, this means most of all the company of Jesus Christ.

Mother Teresa of Kolkata has spoken well of these three kinds of hunger. She says:

Your poverty is greater than ours ... the spiritual poverty of the West is much greater than the physical poverty of the East. In the West, there are millions of people who suffer loneliness and emptiness, who feel unloved and unwanted. They are not the hungry in the physical sense; what is missing is a relationship with God and with each other.

In the gospel today we meet people who are experiencing these three kinds of hunger. Their greatest hunger is for the company of Jesus, for the enlightenment, truth and challenge of the words he speaks, and for the warmth and comfort of his understanding, kindness and compassion.

Tired out from hard work, and looking for a little rest and recreation, as well as some quiet time to mourn the recent killing of his cousin, John the Baptist, Jesus sails with his friends for the eastern shore of the lake. But seeing where the boat is heading, the crowds hurry to reach that shore on foot. You can imagine what you and I might have thought and even said about this. Jesus too might easily have felt annoyed and resentful, and even have moaned and groaned: "Why won't they leave me alone for a while? Why won't they let me have a little bit of time to myself? Why won't they give me just a bit of peace and quiet? Why won't they stay away for now? Why won’t they?"

But Jesus, ever "the man for others", thinks no such thoughts. He thinks only of them, of their need for him, and of the love and assistance he can provide. Sensing their longing to be with him, and seeing so many sick and troubled persons among them, his heart is moved with compassion. So, he goes from one little group to the other -- listening to them, talking to them, comforting them, and healing their physically and mentally sick ones. Their cravings to be with him, then, and their longings for his welcome and acceptance, affirmation and affection, are satisfied and fulfilled.

All this goes on for a long while. So long in fact, that his disciples, watching the sun sinking rapidly below the horizon, start to get impatient and annoyed. They speak bluntly to their leader of the frustrations they are feeling: "This is an isolated place," they say, "and the time has slipped by; so, send the people away, so they can go to the villages to buy themselves some food." "No way," says Jesus, just as directly: "you give them something to eat yourselves." Grudgingly, they place in the hands of Jesus the five loaves and the two fish, their own picnic lunch. First Jesus thanks God for these gifts of fish and bread. Then he breaks the loaves into pieces and hands them to his disciples, who distribute the food to the crowds.

Something amazing is happening here. Not only is Jesus multiplying the bread. Not only is he feeding the hungry people with more food than they can eat, he is also involving his disciples in the task of feeding such a vast number of people - well over five thousand at a single sitting. It’s a sign of things to come.

All this has much to say to us today as friends and followers of Jesus. We must face, first of all, the physical hunger of millions of our fellow human beings around the world, much aggravated right now by the economic effects of Covid-19. Can anyone right now still indulge in conspicuous consumption with a clear conscience, when so many others lack the basic necessities of life, and are even starving to death? What will Jesus say to you and me on Judgment Day? Will it be, "I was hungry, and you gave me food? I was thirsty and you gave me drink" (Mt 25:35-36)? Or will it be, "I was hungry and you never gave me any food, I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink" (Mt 25:42-43)?

In the second place, you and I keep coming across deprived, despised and lonely people, yearning for just a little bit of affirmation, a little bit of acceptance, and a little bit of affection. The problems in both city and country of persons being picked on and bullied, of runaway and homeless children, of drug addiction, of discrimination, of cruelty, of domestic violence, of suicide, are but symptoms of deep unsatisfied longings to be loved and to love. Can we, then, be at least a little more sensitive, a little more responsive, a little more pro-active and caring towards hurt, lost and lonely persons out there, and perhaps even right here among us? And will we let our Leader say to us: "I was a stranger and you made me welcome, lacking clothes and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me (Mt 25:36-37)?"

Over and over again, Jesus clearly identified himself with people in physical, emotional and spiritual need. To meet them is to meet him. "In truth I tell you," he says, "in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40-41). Or else, "in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me" (Mt 25:45).

It’s the very same nurturing Jesus whom we are meeting today in our prayer. He keeps waiting to nourish us with the gift of himself in bread and wine. He also keeps waiting and wanting to send us out from our prayer, to be for others his eyes, ears, heart, hands and feet. May we do more than we've ever done before, then, to satisfy the physical, emotional and spiritual hungers of those persons, who are both needing and waiting for us, to be for them agents of the goodness of Jesus, and missionaries of his love!

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

 

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Year A: 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Jesus saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, and cured their sick."

I wonder if anyone here still remembers Philip ("Doc") Loretz. He was the first Jesuit doctor in the British Province. Up to the age of 55, he was a GP in the South of England -- happily married with children and a successful practice. But, when he was 55, very suddenly and tragically his wife died. Suddenly he was alone -- all the children had left home. And he was bereft -- like a boat cut from its moorings and tossed without power or steering into the current of life. And somewhere among all the grief and mess and misery, he found himself called by God to become a Jesuit priest. Obviously at 55, he did not have time to waste, so they trained him as quickly as the law allows and sent him to work in Guyana in South America.

It was when he got there that the trouble started. There were many people in the Rupununi who needed his medical help, but his superiors were not absolutely sure that it was right for a good and holy priest to be dirtying his hands with common secular medicine. So, he was asked to pause that work and consider carefully whether or not it was right, or even possible, for him truly to fulfill both of these roles.

And after a lot of thought and prayer, Doc Loretz turned to this passage of Scripture in which we see Jesus at His daily work:

- healing the sick

- preaching the Good News

- feeding the people with the Bread of Life.

Doc Loretz decided that if that was a good enough day’s work for Jesus, then it was good enough for him. And so, he spent the rest of his active life ministering to all the physical and spiritual needs of the people of the Rupununi. When I went there 20 years after him, everyone wanted to tell me about my predecessor who had delivered them and baptised them; healed them and confessed them; preached to them and married them; fed them with the bread of life and anointed them.

Jesuits we take our name from our tradition of attempting in our own lives to continue the work of Christ on earth. Of all the Jesuits I have ever known, Doc Loretz is the one who took that most literally.

And so, when I was missioned there, it was a delight to me to meet him in the flesh for the first time at the age of 92 and still sharp as a tack. And I told him just what I told you. And, in his mild, gentle and elegant way, he was very angry with me. And he said -- ‘no, that is not what it is to be a Jesuit; it is what it is to be a Christian’. I promised him that I would remember that; and that I would pass it on.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in Christ whose example we all follow.

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

 

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