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Contents: Volume 2 - 21st Sunday - C
August 21, 2022

 

  The

21st

SUNDAY

 (C)

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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Sun. 21 C 2022

The Scripture readings this Sunday are both encouraging and challenging. In my opinion, they mirror the complexity of life right now. I do not think I know anyone who is not facing an important challenge or who does not need an encouraging word or two!

Our world today certainly needs to hear the inclusive words in the first reading from the Book of Isaiah. Everyone is important to and cared for by the Lord! How comforting are the words in the Letter to the Hebrews as well that promise healing to our drooping hands and weak knees!

The Gospel does challenge us, however, to remain focused on the message and work of the Lord. Even though the storm rages about us, we must remember the Good News and share it with others. We must mirror the Lord's care for others and keep hope alive.

How each of us does this is, of course, based on each one's circumstances. Let us join in prayer for one another and for our world. Let us seek the Holy Spirit for guidance in making a positive difference wherever we go and with all we meet.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Twenty-First Sunday in Ordered Time August 21 2022

Isaiah 66:18-21; Responsorial Psalm 117; Letter to Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-12; Gospel Acclamation John 14:6; Luke 13:22-30

When the Sunday Scriptures are complicated and seemingly so complex as to boggle our minds, we need to step back and engage our hearts. Only with an eye to Jesus will these writings make applicable sense.

The first reading comes to us from the last part of the book of Isaiah. It’s actually the third set of prophecies in Isaiah. The first, of course, is Judah before the Babylonian exile. The second part is about the years of slavery help by Babylon. That period was a period of great renewal. The question in the hearts and minds of the Jews was what happened to the covenantal attitude of God, his attitude of loving kindness. During this time, the ancient stories were collected from four different traditions and were written down. Thus came the final form of those first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures. The third part of Isaiah is the release from captivity by Cyrus the Great and the home coming. This Sunday, our first reading is from the very last chapter of Isaiah. It presents us with the return of captives to their city, Jerusalem. Picture as we listen to Isaiah’s description of a vast multitude of exiles return home. They come from Tarshish – that is southern Spain. They come from Put and Lud, that is regions of Africa. They come from Mosoch and Tubal, that is the lands surrounding the Black Sea. They come from Javan, that is the Isles of Greece and Greece itself. This prophecy of Isaiah is revelation about God’s will. This is the will of God we pray for in the Our Father, "thy will be done." All persons of whatever nation are coming home, home to the City of Peace. Jerusalem for the Jews is where God dwells among humanity. This triumphant ending of Isaiah carries two messages. All people are called home. All people are our neighbors. The cautionary part of this message is that anyone, anyone, or movement that seeks to divide humanity from each other is contrary to Isaiah’s prophecy. Differences among nations, cultures, and even faith traditions are derived from the faith experiences of God. Each culture, each tradition, each faith liturgy has truth within it and deserves to be understood and applauded. What is divisive in those cultures, traditions, and faith liturgy will be purged as humanity processes to Jerusalem.

All the exiles from the Hebrew tradition and experience have endured their exiles and are coming home because of their endurance. This segment of Isaiah doesn’t tell us about the enduring the pains, the suffering of separation from one another. The glorification of suffering and pain in this third part of Isaiah comes in chapters preceding this one. Those chapters speak of sin, those talk about God letting humanity swelter in their guilt. It insists that God did not create the people as his own. They his people because God redeemed them from what was killing their spirits.

The second reading is from that difficult Letter to the Hebrews. It speaks clearly about the state and nature of human living. What is written applies to all of us and puts into a community of faith. All, whether rich or poor, powerful, or weak, elevated in stature or homeless – all live their lives with incursions of suffering and of pain. This past Monday we celebrated the Assumption of Mary to eternity – body and spirit. There is often a seriously putting of Mary on a high pedestal out of reach of ordinary folk. The truth of Mary is that she suffered. She was a young girl, pregnant with God’s intervention. How to explain that to Cousin Elizabeth, how to speak with fiancé Joseph, how not be shamed by neighbors and townspeople. How to understand Jesus going into his adolescence staying in the temple. How to deal with being overlooked when she and cousins came to see him. Mary suffered; Mary lived as we live. Her suffering on Calvary is understood best by moms who witness the sufferings of a child. For all that, Mary at the end of her life is taken up into eternity without dying. That taking up, that lifting up is her resurrection. That is the hope of all of us.

Ah, but I digress. Trouble comes to us unannounced and unwelcomed. We suffer in many ways, often unnoticed by others, often deep within our psyche. Trouble comes, but trouble is not God’s will for us. It comes with being human. What is God’s will is that suffering should lead us to humility. Humility is necessary for anyone to be open to instruction, to growth of character, to expansion of our spirits. It is a form of discipline that moves us from living in the way of the world to living in the world in the way of the Lord. Our troubles are not God’s will – God doesn’t give us trouble. Trouble is from having our feet in two realities. We are spirit – created little less than the angels – who are incarnated in the world. Our spirits can be exiled from our created reality and held captive. The world itself is imperfect and that imperfection causes us pain and suffering. God intervenes and makes use of that suffering and pain to get us to focus on the spirit that makes us life. Pain is helpful to us as a discipline as we know it from training for sports, for skills, for learning and for expanding our awareness of the physical and spiritual worlds in which we grow. God’s intervention comes in the form of Grace.

Grace, now there’s a code word. We all believe it’s a good thing but have a difficult time knowing it or what it does for us. Is it some magic potion? Is it some elixir concocted by Merlin the Wizard? It is more than a potion, an elixir. Grace is energy, is wisdom given, is power for us to apply. Grace is what makes three persons one, the unifying power of the Trinity. It is more than an elixir. It is inspiration that comes to us in the night or while driving. It is the wisdom we learn listening to the voice of God often through the medium of a preacher – sometimes boring, sometimes exciting, sometimes sleep inducing. But listen to your heart: take on suffering and accept it as a discipline as the Letter to the Hebrews instructs us today. It is discipline like the discipline of homework. It is the discipline of a sports training camp. It is the discipline of a musician learning an instrument of music. It is the mechanic with wrenches and computer analysis equipment, learning, growing in skill. Discipline is essential for growth in wisdom, age, and grace.

The reading from Luke’s gospel this Sunday is a lot challenging. From what Jesus says, it appears that heaven is a bridge too far for most of us. What a downer. Isaiah tells us of a great procession headed to the city where God dwells. It’s exciting to walk along, or ride in chariots or on horse or camel backs. Everybody is singing in their own language in songs from their heritage. So many different songs all somehow harmonizing one with all others.

The Letter to the Hebrews makes sense of human suffering. It becomes an opportunity for God to touch us, to teach us, to become more than we are by ourselves. There is no need for us to seek out pain. It comes with being human. We are spirits incarnated and that incarnation makes our bodies holy, and wonder filled. No shuffling off of the mortal coil, this thought. So now Jesus answers the question whether it’s easy to enter into the kingdom of heaven. His answer frightens, discourages, gives rise to despair in the onlookers. What’s this narrow gate? How come being associated with Jesus isn’t enough? When we coming knocking on heaven’s door, why are we turned away?

There are two issues at play here. There was the sense of superiority among the leadership of the Jews. Sort of like the arrogance of the ecclesial leadership in our church many years ago. There is no salvation outside the church. All other faith traditions were excluded from heaven. We’ve since understood it’s not our place to make judgment of who is granted salvation and who is not. That’s God’s personal arena. So, in the first place Jesus is putting down that arrogance. Not only in the Jews but also in us in the twenty-first century. In the second place, Jesus tells those questioners and us that it's not just about hearing about the Way and assenting to it. We’ve got to walk the walk. We are not welcomed into the great banquet because we go to church every Sunday and follow the rules. For the follower of Jesus, we’ve got to practice in our daily living what we hear, what we learn from the discipline of suffering. We are not able to hang on the coat tails of others who practice the Way of Jesus. We’ve got to practice each day the revelation of who and what the Father is. That revelation is definitively revealed in the life, healing, teaching. and suffering of this Jesus. The summation of Jesus’ message is his resurrection. That is our hope that is the purpose of following Jesus. That through the moments of our living we practice and grow in the loving kindness, compassion, mercy, and love Jesus demonstrated. That’s a really big job. That’s the narrow gate. It’s there for us to enter into now in time and place. It makes all the difference in how rich and fulfilling this life is. That is our focus. It is now that we live. The life of Jesus tells us this. We preach by our example; we heal by our relationships with others. We suffer so that God has our attention to help us grow. That is the path that comes when we enter that narrow gate.

Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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PRIDE BEFORE A FALL: 21ST SUNDAY C

Isaiah 66:18-21; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30

Once upon a time, there was a dad who prided himself on his driving skills. He wouldn't let the mum of the family drive when he was in the car. Never! Nor would he let their one teenager with a licence drive. They were simply not competent enough, he would say, or careful enough, or responsible enough. Only he could be trusted to drive the family car. Moreover, as he drove along, he would give his family a running commentary on the mistakes of other drivers. The mum and the kids had long ago learned to tune out these commentaries. They thought: 'Away from the car, he can be a nice man, really, and anyway you have to put up with certain things in dads, don't you?'

Well, one public holiday, on their way back from a picnic, they called at a milk bar for ice cream. When they were backing out of their parking space the dad didn't see a car that was coming behind him and ploughed into it. The car was a brand-new Jeep Cherokee. It had the right of way. The Dad was furious because he knew it was his fault. Just the same he jumped out of the family car and cursed the young man who was driving the Cherokee.

All the young man could say was: 'Sir, you've wrecked my twenty-first birthday present!' The mum said to the dad: 'He had the right of way, didn't he?' Then the young man heaved a sigh and made sure that the Mum and the kids and the dog were all right. 'I guess I can get it fixed,' he said, as he walked away. But the dad wouldn't apologize; though everyone, himself included, knew he was in the wrong. Yet, like God, the young man forgave him anyway.

The Dad in that story was at heart a good man. But, a bit like some of the people Jesus had to deal with, he had become proud, conceited, and complacent, and just a bit too ready to put others down. When disagreement and conflict arose in the family, his opinion had to prevail, he had to come first, had to be numero uno, and always the one in the right. But in this incident, he came a cropper and found himself on the outer with his family. The words of Jesus came true, 'the last will be first and the first will be last' (Lk 13:30).

In the Jesus story today, an anonymous person asks him the question that you and I might also like to ask him: - 'Will only a few be saved? (Lk 13:23) And will I be among that number when the saints come marching in? Jesus refuses to answer the question directly. But it gives him an opening to warn us against complacency, to advise us not to take our spiritual health for granted, and to urge us to keep on striving and struggling to consistently live his values, standards, and teachings. We might be tempted to think: 'I'm all right, Jack, I'm not a saint but I'm pretty good. I don't do anybody any harm. I'm a regular at Sunday Mass, where I listen to the words of Jesus and receive him in Holy Communion.'

But is that automatically good enough? Perhaps that's being just too like those people Jesus spoke about in our gospel today, the ones who come knocking on his door and saying: 'Lord, open to us. We once ate and drank with you; you taught in our streets.' Too like the ones that, sad to say, Jesus has to turn away from his company at the coming feast of the kingdom of God: 'I'm sorry about this. But you stopped being my friend. You stopped trying to live like me. You let the love in your heart dry up. At home and work, you became proud and selfish, arrogant and complacent, impossible to live with. You know, you and I have become strangers to each other. I just don't know you anymore. We simply don't belong here together. Better be on your way!'

Could that really be Jesus talking, the kind and merciful Jesus? The Jesus who makes allowances? The Jesus who walks the extra mile? The Jesus who welcomes outcasts to his table? The Jesus who tells the story of the prodigal son? The Jesus who dines with Zacchaeus and tells him, 'Today salvation has come to your house'? The Jesus who forgives the repentant thief? The Jesus who prays for his executioners, 'Father, forgive them'?

Yes, it is the very same Jesus. For the same Jesus who is kind and merciful, is also the one who has great expectations of us, who wants us to stay with him, who wants us to keep walking life's journey with him, who wants us to not only hear his words, but also to heed them, who wants us to not only receive him in Holy Communion, but to renew our friendship with him every time, and commit ourselves to following him with faith, hope and love. Did not this same Jesus say: 'From those to whom much has been given, much will be required?’ (Luke 12:48)

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

 

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Year C: 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time

"People from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God." [Luke 13.29]

These were the readings at my diaconate ordination twenty-three years ago. And the Church I was ordained in was right here in St Ignatius. And I will remember forever the homily that the Bishop who ordained me gave on them. I wrote it down, as best I could remember it right after the Mass

He began by reminding us of what St Paul says to the Galatians: that Jesus has the power to transcend the barriers that so frequently divide our society - between Jews and Samaritans; slave or free; male and female; all of us are one in Christ Jesus.

He said that we were a community which has seen many waves of immigration into England – the Jews, the Irish, the Caribbeans, the Pakistanis, the East African Asians, the West Africans, the Somalis, Ethiopians, Eritreans, the Kurds, the Polish, the Romanians and Bulgarians – and so on.

He said that, for him, the whole history of our community was, quite literally, built into the Church. Because he said, if you look around this church you will see that it is built in many different styles of architecture.

It has at least two of everything – but never two the same. It has two towers and you don’t have to look very carefully, to see that they are quite different.

If you look at each of the pillars, you’ll see that they’re all different. Each one is individual, unique. Even the bricks in the walls aren’t all the same. And there’d be a reason for that.

This is what is called an Irish penny-church. It’s called that because it was built by very poor Irish immigrants who could only afford to pay for a small bit at a time. So, every time they had enough for one more pillar, or one more wall, it was a different builder who came to do it and he built it a slightly different way, using slightly different materials – probably whatever happened to be cheapest at the time.

And over the years, more than 30 years it took them, building styles changed, so each pillar, each wall, each brick, each little thing in the Church is just slightly different from all the others. Each one is individual, unique. But they’re all still standing.

This church was built by people who knew what it was to be a poor suspect minority in a cold country. But they were people of faith. They could only build a little bit at a time, but that didn’t stop them thinking big. They could only afford one pillar at a time, but they knew that if they kept at it – kept on keeping on, as my mother would say – they would one day have a building that would give glory to God. And that is why we have this magnificent church today. Every brick in this place was somebody’s heart-felt gift to God.

Probably, there were people who went hungry to build this building. But they kept on keeping on.

Many of the people who contributed to it knew that they would never live to see it completed. But they kept on keeping on.

That is the kind of people who built this church. And if you have never been up here onto the sanctuary, I would encourage you to come up after Mass and just see what a beautiful job they made of it.

Now for these people, the most important thing about the Church was the Eucharist - the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. And so on the gates of the altar rails, the place where they met God in the Eucharist, they wrote the thing that was most important to them. That’s why I closed the gates so that you could all see them. The inscription reads:

'Laudate omnes gentes;

omnes populi laudate eum.'

Praise him all you nations;

all you peoples praise him.

They were very poor people who built this church, but they acted locally and they thought globally. They wanted their church to be a lasting witness that our God is a God for all peoples.

That is, to the best of my memory, what the Bishop said.

But for me, coming proudly from that same Irish peasant stock, let me tell you this: if they could stand where I stand today and look out over a church full of people of every tribe and tongue, every people and every nation, they would praise God and they would celebrate that every penny they scrimped and saved, every hardship they underwent, every meal they did without had been worthwhile. They would know that now other people stand where they stood, sit where they sat and kneel where they knelt and all of them continue in the Faith that unites us all.

Praise him all you nations;

all you peoples praise him.

Let us stand to praise God.

Paul O'Reilly <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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