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Contents: Volume 2 - Twenty First Sunday of Ordered Time Year B August 22 2021

 

21st

SUNDAY

Year

(B)


1.-- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

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

 

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1.

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Sun. 21 B 2021

In today's Gospel according to John, Jesus asks the disciples if what he said to them also shocked them since many among them were murmuring. Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

Those truths of Jesus are still a part of our faith and a choice we make to believe even if we don't fully understand. Unfortunately, added to some doctrinal doubt in our times are the actions/non-actions of many "church people" that cause many people today also to seriously consider just "leaving". Moving to an adult faith requires questioning, along with prayer and discernment, but it can be very unsettling.

I won't list recent scandals, disputes, and problems here, but I have been discussing some of them recently with my now almost 13 year old grand daughter. Her reasoning is right on, but only from a limited, inexperienced viewpoint without having a full historical picture. Such is the usual growth process for most Christians who hopefully reach adult formation and decision-making through lots of prayer, guidance, discourse, reading Scripture, and, of course, grace.

Yes, as she voiced, we really should rightly leave the Church in response to some horrors that have come to light, but as Simon Peter asked "to whom should we go?" We need to stay with our faithful and merciful God and the teachings of Jesus through faith. We should curtail our connecting or equating any offenders and offenses to "God", "the Church" or our beliefs; they are not, they belong to individuals!

That is extra tough for any adolescent whose life is supposed to already naturally be in a bit of turmoil developmentally! We returned to a softer discussion of spirituality vs. being religious, and, of course, right vs. wrong and some of those gray areas. We focused on the first reading about miracles then and those now. Open discourse and lots of grace will guide the future!

Many of Jesus's teachings are hard even after explanations and for all of us. So is the Christian life. We, the Church, the body of Christ, are guided by the Holy Spirit, however, and it is to the Triune God that we must turn for insight and answers, not exclusively to the mortals who walk(ed) the earth who might even have (had) some just or perceived authority.

Our Creator gave humanity a wonderful gift in giving us the ability to reason. A well-informed conscience is what determines sin. If reason is guided by prayer and faith rather than power and self-gratification, then right actions and alignment with God usually happens.

Let us return to the Divine Law imprinted on our hearts. We can trust that what Jesus taught is true, even if we do not fully understand how it could possibly be. Many saints died for their belief; hopefully we can live our faith fully, even in times of doubting some doctrine or even the wisdom or actions of some of those in the Church.

The ultimate question still is: Who has the words (and path) of eternal life? The answer still is Jesus.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Twenty First Sunday of Ordered Time August 22, 2021

Joshua 24:1-2, 15-17, & 18; Responsorial Psalm 34; Ephesians 5:21-23; Gospel Acclamation John 6:63 & 68; John 6:60-69

After the death of Aaron and of Moses, Joshua became the leader of the Hebrew Tribes, not yet called Israel. Moses, as you may recall, did not get to enter the Promised Land because of his demonstration of pride at Meribah where he identified himself as the one offended by the complaining of the nation about lack of water. In that scene, Moses and Aaron took the peoples complain as an offense to themselves, acting as though they were the ones who freed the people from Pharaoh and fed them and guided them as they became a nation. This is "Massah" a word which means "the contention." Because of their pride, neither Aaron nor Moses were permitted to enter the Promised Land.

Joshua was chosen as a young man like an intern to serve Moses. He becomes the military leader in the desert battles and ultimately begins the conquest of the Promised Land. In this first reading he calls an assembly. He posits the question, "If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, the gods of your fathers served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." The people recalled their liberation from slavery in Egypt and protected in their desert experience. Joshua called for a commitment from each member of the nation. This promised place would become their homeland where they would live under the guidance of the commandments and the law of Moses. It was a new beginning. Just as the crossing of the Reed Sea was a prophecy of Christian initiation, of leaving behind slavery to Pharoah, so also Joshua led the nation into the Promised land by a renewed baptism. Theirs was the crossing of the great river Jordan. Again, this is the second baptismal crossing for the Hebrews: the first signifying a casting off of the chains of Pharoah, this second a commitment to living a full life under the terms of the Covenant of the Law of Moses.

This great story is filled with gratitude toward God for his interventions and miracles. It is God who liberates the people. It is God whose word and covenant provide a clear guide to living a full and fulfilling life for individual persons and for the nation collectively. It is God who creates an understanding of what freedom from Pharoah is all about. This freedom is a step providing opportunity and room for growth of character and personhood. But for freedom to be freedom, it cannot enslave the one choosing nor inflict harm on other persons of freedom. In all choices true freedom always considers the goodness or evil of the outcomes arising from freedom. Otherwise, it is not freedom at all but only a form of licentiousness.

So, the first reading is about commitment, about a choice for God or for false gods from the region of the Euphrates River. Or are the false gods of the Amorites in the promised land your choice? Idolatry is always the key faults that bring on corruption and failure of social, economic, and cultural ideals. Every failed nation begins a descent into oblivion when corruption and idolatry are accepted and touted as good.

The Responsorial Psalm, again this Sunday, focuses on the antiphonal response of the assembly: "Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord." Its subject is the theme of the gospel reading this Sunday. A reading of Psalm 34 before the liturgy of the Word would help us understand the meaning and purpose of the gospel this week-end. This is the final selection from John’s gospel. These selections beginning on July 25 are readings of the sixth chapter of John’s gospel. That started with a picnic of five thousand men plus women and children on a grassy plain. All were fed. Each week since then we’ve read from that chapter six of John. Well, we did skip last Sunday when we celebrated the Assumption of Mary into paradise and complete presence with God. This is the last Sunday we read from John’s gospel about the food and drink of the new Kingdom of God. And it’s the reading where we either fish or cut bait. This is the time of decision, this is the Sunday we hear about choice. We’ve been informed – now is the time of commitment or not. After all these weeks of hearing about the Eucharist, now we need to decide whether to stick with Jesus or walk away. The reading from John we missed last week is from Chapter six and speaks about the necessity of "eating" his flesh and drinking his blood. This sounds like cannibalism and is certainly repulsive. Is it any wonder that many of his disciples left him? What was Jesus thinking? He must have known that many would turn away from him. What did Jesus mean? Why does John throw this in our faces?

In the gospel reading from the eighteenth Sunday, Jesus announced that he is the bread from heaven. It’s easy to gloss over this saying in a sort of pious acceptance without considering what Jesus means or how this fits into John’s teaching on the Eucharist. What John is teaching is that God became man. Jesus became one of us from the start of human life – birth – to the end of human life on this earth, death and burial. In between Jesus was a baby with all the needs of a baby, became a child even being as inconsiderate as a child would be when he stayed in the temple. He was an adolescent with all the difficulties of that segment of human life. He engaged in a trade to provide for his needs and the needs of others. Then he began ministering as he understood the purpose of his life confirmed by God at his baptism by John in the Jordan River. The "bread from heaven" is his incarnation, his coming as the person of Jesus, both divine and human. His very life is that bread. Bread signifies what is necessary for health, energy, growth, and healing. Thus, his coming to live among us as God and man feeds the crowd at the picnic. His coming is food for us. His living is blood for our veins and arteries. When we take into our hearts the life of Jesus we become his followers, believers in his way, people of the Christ. Jesus becomes for us the food essential – truly essential, absolutely necessary – for living a free, achieving, surviving, and growing life. Without that bread and blood in the light and movements of our hearts, we stumble and fall prey to the gods of the River and the Amorites. We rush into bondage to the likes of Pharoah whose gods are abusive power, unneeded accumulations, and the ersatz adulation of fickle crowds.

The Eucharist is food indeed: it is drink indeed. And that nourishment and hydration are essential for growth, for healing, and for life leading to paradise. And paradise is a place and time for us of joy and a celebration with others who have completed their journeys. It is seeing and relating intimately with God whose finger created each person as a unique expression of God’s image and likeness.

Often, the Eucharist is portrayed as a necessary object of adoration. This puts the Eucharist into a passive role, lacking in vitality for daily life. It is a whole lot easier to adore than to emulate. John’s chapter six insists on the necessity of emulating Jesus. In this Sunday’s gospel Jesus insists the proof he is the bread from heaven is when he ascends in their sight to the Father, his life’s work complete. It is the spirit that gives life to our bodies. And it is the spirit of humans that must feed on the bread from heaven and hydrate on the blood of the Lamb. The teaching, the ministry, the healing, the liberating from addictions, and the acceptance of the pains of living and dying are all a part of Jesus’ incarnation in human flesh. That is the bread and the blood from heaven. It is amazing that Jesus never asks us to adore or worship him. He asks us through the gospels and apostolic writings to follow him. The sadness of this Sunday’s gospel is that many who had seen and heard him and followed after him for a time turned away. In this failure to believe in Jesus as the "bread come down from heaven," they returned to worship the gods of Pharoah, the clay gods from the Euphrates, and/or the gods of the Amorites who lived in the land promised to Abraham.

As the Bread from Heaven, Jesus fully embraced the glories, the sufferings, the growing, and the deaths of being human. All human experience is transformed, not eliminated. We pray for God’s presence and help in getting over the bumps in the roads of our life. As we recall, Jesus promised to not leave us as orphans but would send an advocate who would counsel us. Living with faith of Jesus’ incarnation as one of us is the model for how we can live. We don’t walk around preaching. Our preaching, our evangelization is living as humans and modeling what it means to be children of God. The "bread" that nourishes and heals us comes through us to nourish, to heal, and to liberate from the gods of corruption and destruction. Those objects of idolatry are the ambassadors of evil that disrupt, that murder, that rob, and that deny the dignity and worth of humanity and all creation that is humanity’s home. All news media and social media are evidence of the need for us to step up and practice Jesus’ way. His way is the way of compassion and mercy. His way is to relate to each with love. As we view the current state of our world, who is there that thinks we can stand up to forces of violence and destruction? That’s why we so desperately need the bread from heaven.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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PERSONAL COMMITMENT REQUIRED: 21ST SUNDAY YEAR B

Joshua says to the people he has led across the River Jordan to the Promised Land: 'As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’

Peter says something like that too. He’s answering the question Jesus put to his inner circle of disciples, 'What about you, do you want to go away too? Peter replies: 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the holy one of God.’

The movie Lady Sings the Blues is an oldie but a goodie. It’s the life story of the famous singer, Billie Holliday. Diana Ross spent months preparing for her role as Billie. She read miles of print about Billie's life. For hours on end, she listened to Billie's songs. 'I was committed to doing a good job,' Diana said, 'I tried very hard to know her as much as I could.’

On the other hand, Mario Lanza was shaping up to be the greatest tenor in the world. He was chosen to play the part of Enrico Caruso in the movie The Great Caruso. It was a smash. Fame and fortune followed the handsome singer. Soon he was lured to Hollywood. But there he went off the rails with booze, babes, and drugs, the usual temptations in show biz. At age 38, he died mysteriously in a slimming clinic, apparently a victim of the Mafia. Basically, what went wrong with Mario Lanza is that he fell away from his commitment. And failing in his commitment, he failed in the necessary self-discipline to keep practicing to go on singing at his peak.

A crisis point has come into the relationship between Jesus and his followers. Many are outraged by all he has said of himself as the Bread of Life. So, they walk away. We can imagine the sadness of Jesus. But it brings him to the point of putting out a challenge to those who are left. 'Do you want to stay with me?’ he asks. ‘Or do you want to go away? Make up your minds. Make your choice, one way or the other.' Peter speaks up for the group. You know what he said.

Perhaps there are times when we too feel like walking away from our contact with Jesus the Bread of Life, times – I’m speaking of times when the Eucharist is fully available again - when we feel like staying away from the Eucharist, either occasionally or permanently. It may be that we are tired of words about it. It may be that we are tired of poor celebrations of it. It may be that some changes in the new wording have upset us. Perhaps we find it too slow. Perhaps we find it too fast. Perhaps we are saying to ourselves: 'It's all so mysterious. It's all over my head.’ Or perhaps the problem is: ‘I don't know anybody much at the church.’ Or ‘there's not enough time to say my prayers.’ Or else ‘the priest is too old. He's out of touch with what's happening in the world. He doesn't understand what's happening in my life.'

May I suggest that when all is said and done, all such explanations may just be excuses and rationalizations for the one big thing that may be missing, viz., personal commitment, and what goes with personal commitment, perseverance, and fidelity? Personal commitment, perseverance, and fidelity! Those tried-and-true values no longer seem to count the way they used to and the way they ought to. Being entertained, having fun, going out, going shopping, watching TV, playing a sport, watching sport, doing home renovations, anything else at all nowadays seems to matter more and be more attractive and appealing than an ongoing commitment to Jesus and on-going commitment to God. Anything but Jesus seems to be valued more than a loving commitment to God and God’s people.

Unless and until we value our Sunday Eucharist as the renewal of our covenant relationship with Jesus, as time shared with him during its celebration, and as the renewal of our commitment to go out from his table to make a better world, we just won’t be ready to say to the Lord those wonderful words of commitment spoken by Joshua and Peter: 'As for me and my house,’ said Joshua, ‘we will serve the Lord.’ Peter said: 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of everlasting life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.'

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

 

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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.

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