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Contents: Volume 2 - Twenty Second Sunday of Ordered Time Year B August 29, 2021

 

  22nd

SUNDAY

Year

(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. 22 B 2021

Meditating on the readings this Sunday allowed me to continue my conversation with my granddaughter about being spiritual vs. religious and about God's commandments vs. human tradition. In today's Gospel, Jesus gave a long list of evils and then said "All these evils come from within and they defile." What a wealth of content in talking about what is really evil according to Jesus' perspective and not the world's!

The commandments were given to us, according to the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, "that you/we may live", not as a punishment or hardship! The reading from the Letter of James tells us "Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls" and adds "Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves." What wise words for a 12 going on 17 year old and really for all of us in this complicated world of ours.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Twenty Second Sunday of Ordered Time August 29, 2021

Deuteronomy 4:1-2 & 6-8; Responsorial Psalm 15; James 1;17-18 & 21-22 & 27; Gospel Acclamation, James 1:18; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, & 21-23

This Sunday’s readings are easily interpreted as Law and Order admonitions. In the first reading Moses instructs the people to follow in the statutes and decrees he brings to them. Nothing can be added to those statutes and decrees, nor may anything be taken away. When Israel practices these statutes and decrees, the nations of the world will judge them wise. Moses insists no nation is as close to their gods as this nation to the One God. That closeness is evident in how God attends to calls for guidance, assistance, and redemption when evil comes their way. Then the writing includes a sudden inclusion of a word. That word is "just." This is not the meaning we typically give this word – as though "just" means being exonerated in a secular court of law. "Just" has more the meaning of "this is what is right" and appropriate to what we are, who we are, and how we are as creatures of God. We believe God is present in our history. Adhering and practicing the statutes and decrees of God makes the nation an example to other peoples and nations.

Nothing can be added to those statues and decrees – nor anything taken away. In the many centuries following this manifestation of God’s guidance and plan for humanity, in fact interpretation of the statutes and decrees became an industry. Persons engaged in those interpretations made a career, a way of status, of power, and in some instances a way of wealth. This nation was the point of the spear for God’s intervention in his creation. This nation’s role presented the nations of the earth with a living God. That God was and is present as more than a power source for earthly success. The interpretations did little to instruct the nations. It did however, separate this nation from all others by its disciplined acceptance of detailed practices. In Jesus’ preaching and miracles the layers of regulations and picayune traditions were stripped away.

So much of the traditions of the Scribes, the Elders mentioned in the gospel, was about applying specific rituals and incantations to every moment of living. The practices of life were centered on ritual purity that became a ploy to avoid love of God and love of neighbor. It had little to do with the heart. It was discipline and a deification of ritual. Washing, cleansing one’s body from ritual uncleanness was central. Certain foods would cause a person to be unclean. Touching certain things or bodies would cause a person to be unclean and a barrier to participating in religious services and communal activities.

In this Sunday’s gospel Jesus turns all this on its head. He insists that uncleanness comes not from the outside of a person but from the inside. It is what is in the heart that makes a person unclean. And Jesus lists – in unusual fashion for his preaching – a number of evils that cause a person to be unclean.

This is not about washing, about cleansing, however. No water fortified with the ashes of a heifer can wash away this uncleanness. Jesus begins his listing with "evil designs." This means the intentions of a person, choices a person makes. This has little to do with external cleanliness. Before what a person does that is wrong – unjust – there comes a choice. That choice is the "evil design" of the heart. "Of the heart" means that which a person cares about, about what a person holds attractive and judges good. These are thoughts that come from hearts lacking in justice. Jesus lists evils arising from unjust choices from the heart.

The word fornication means more than illicit sexual relations outside of marriage. It means any sort of sexual vice that steals from another their personal dignity and worth, rendering them mere objects of passion. It robs human sexuality of its tremendous power to unite one person with another, rendering the abuser and the abused worthless and degraded.

Thefts are next. A thief in the Greek word’s meaning is a mean, dishonorable pilferer, a sneaky, underhanded person.

Then Jesus lists murder which is the theft of life.

Then come adulterers who steal, and break committed relationships.

Greed is the curse of a heart misdirected. It is a sin that never allows a person rest from accumulating more.

Malice is a resident desire of the heart to do harm to another. It is a person who does evil and causes others to do evil as well, all the while insisting the evil they do and solicit is good.

Deceit is the use of trickery to foment discord, using what appears to be something good in order to achieve self-serving results. It effectively divides persons one from another, often leading to violence.

Licentiousness is a disposition of one’s heart that is undisciplined, uncontrolled. This robs a person of any felt shame for evil they may do.

Envy attempts to rob others of their successes and happiness. Often it consists in stealing the good reputation of others through gossip, lies, or spinning of facts, creating alternate realities.

Blaspheming when used against another person is simply slandering another’s actions, achievements, and/or intentions. When used against God, it is words thrown against God’s goodness.

Arrogance is also known as pride. It means holding others in contempt. This arises from comparing oneself with others in such as way as to put down the other. Pride and arrogance rob communities and nations and religious organizations of goodness. It also goes by the term "corruption." It’s easy to understand this if we look at the situation of Afghanistan in which corruption of political and military leaders robbed the people of the energy to resist and come together as a nation. Arrogance also is hubris which insists a person’s errors, false judgments, and evil actions are not sin. That person holds themselves as perfect in power and decision.

Folly is the last of Jesus’ list of what makes a person unclean. This is not actions or thoughts that spring from lack of education, talent, or communal support. It is the willful choosing of half- baked thinking and choices. It runs contrary to human cognitive and rational gifts.

Jesus insists in this gospel that uncleanness does not enter a person from the outside. It comes from the heart of man. I don’t think we come close to understanding what this teaching meant to the Jews – especially Pharisees, Elders, Scribes, and chief priests. We need only recall the stories of the Maccabean period. In that historical time, there were many forces attempting to move Jews from their faith and traditions to a more secular way of life. At the center of this was an effort to force Jews to consume pork. Recall that seven sons chronicled in the Book of Maccabees who were each tortured to death in an effort to make them eat pork. Each died rather than violate this dietary tradition. So, Jesus is telling the people that those dietary regulations were not essential to cleanliness, to a positive relationship with God and their fellow man. Think of it in terms of racism. It is difficult to overcome in our hearts the prescriptions of racism. Racism is evidence of the state of our hearts. Whenever there is a process of scapegoating, of refusing to grant equal God given dignity and worth of each person - whenever we place ourselves above others - then are not the movements of our hearts creating a tradition that is indeed sinful?

And what then is sin? So often we think of sin as an offense against God. And it is. But not in the sense commonly believed. Sin is an offense against our fellow humans and against the creation of God. So, yes, it is an offense against God, but only because it harms, murders, robs, and denigrates others and our creation. Sin is lack of justice, of what is right as decided by the Creator. Sin arises from what is in our hearts. If we love God and love our neighbor, then we are being freed of the sins Jesus enumerates. It is a continual cleansing. If we practice, in the movements of our hearts, the folly Jesus lists, then we are enslaving ourselves in a false, unjust, and alternate reality. We align ourselves with Pharaoh and Babylon.

God’s justice is recognized and applied when all of God’s creation has access to what it needs to flourish. What a world this would be were we able to cleanse our hearts of the evil that lurks there! What peace and prosperity would derive from hearts overflowing with Love of God and Love of neighbor and creation!

We ought to recall Jesus’ words as he prepared his disciples for his ascension. "I will not leave you orphans but will send you an advocate to help you." That advocate is the Spirit who cleanses our hearts of what is unclean and brings us to fullness of life. May it be so!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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BEING CLEAN AND PURE: 22ND SUNDAY YEAR B

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8; James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

‘... the things that come from within,’ says Jesus, ‘are what defile’ (Mk 7:15)

There are three kinds of cleanliness, three ways of being clean. There is bodily cleanliness, i.e., hygienic cleanliness, as when we take a bath or shower or use a hand sanitizer to ward off germs. There is ritual cleanliness, as when our priest at Mass washes his hands. And there is ethical cleanliness, i.e., moral cleanliness, i.e., doing what is right and good. Today Jesus our teacher has been emphasizing ethical cleanliness as the kind that matters most.

The opponents of Jesus blame him because his followers are not observing Jewish rules of ritual cleanliness. They are not washing their hands before and during meals. In reply, Jesus calls them ‘hypocrites.’ They are hypocrites because, as he points out: ‘You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.’

The word ‘hypocrite’ has an interesting history. It begins by meaning simply someone who answers. It goes on to mean someone who answers in a set dialogue and conversation, i.e., an actor. Finally, it comes to mean someone whose whole life is a piece of acting, without any sincerity at all. Jesus tells his opponents they fit that category. 'You are hypocrites,' he says to them, 'you are great pretenders.’

What Jesus was up against was the belief of his enemies that the human rules and regulations which they stressed, were the heart and soul of religion. For them, to keep those rules was to please God, to break those rules was to sin.

What was true when Jesus was walking around Palestine is still true. Anyone for whom religion is just a set of human rules, anyone for whom religion means conforming only on the outside to human rules and regulations, anyone for whom religion is only the exact compliance with a list of taboos, is a hypocrite.

Take the case of legalistic Jews at the time of Jesus. Just like some public figures still, Pharisees might fiercely hate fellow human beings, even colleagues. They might be full of envy and jealousy. They might conceal bitterness and pride. But so long as they carried out the prescribed hand washings correctly, the acute suffering and misery of the poor and needy around them, e.g., did not bother them or challenge them to respond with kindness, compassion and care.

So, Jesus takes them on. He begins by quoting the Word of God as expressed in the prophet Isaiah: 'This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.' He insists that what most defiles a human being is the evil behaviour that comes from within - from the thoughts and desires of the heart. He strings together a powerful set of examples, things we read about in our newspapers every day: - malicious intentions; sexual irresponsibility; theft; murder; adultery; greed; hurting and injuring others; trickery and deceit; self-indulgence; jealousy; slander; contempt; and acting the fool in ways that hurt and harm others. For Jesus, then, being good on the inside leads to being good on the outside too. Having a good heart, then, is where becoming a good person must start. So much so, that Jesus taught: "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they will see God" (Mt 5:8).

One of the excuses we often hear from people who stay away from church is that those who go are 'hypocrites'. I don't believe that is true. Yet what they allege does point to the danger of identifying religion with outward observance - with such religious practices as just going to Mass, fasting, reading the bible, saying morning and evening prayers, and putting money on the plate. These are good and worthwhile things to do, but only if our hearts, disposition, motives and attitudes towards God and our fellow human beings, are right. If our hearts are not in what we do, or worse still, if in our hearts there lurk enmity, bitterness, grudges, hatred and contempt for others, our outward practices will show us up for what we really are – hypocrites!

So, let’s be sure to pray to Jesus our Saviour in our contact with him today, both for ourselves and one another, to keep saving us from any and every kind of hypocrisy, and to keep helping us live and act with clean, committed, pure, sincere, constant and consistent hearts – in short, with loving and caring, hearts!

"May the passion of Jesus Christ, and his everlasting love, be always within our minds and hearts!"

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

 

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Year B: 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

"You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions."

My mother’s favorite story was the well known Anthony de Mello one about the Sikh Guru Nanak and how liturgical traditions sometimes develop:

"When guru Nanak sat down to worship each evening, the ashram cat would often walk among his disciples, brush up against them and distract them from their meditation. So he ordered that, during evening worship, the cat should be tied up. After the guru died the cat continued to be tied up during evening worship. And when the cat died, another cat was brought to the ashram so that it could be tied up during evening worship.

Centuries later learned treatises were written by the guru’s scholarly disciples on the liturgical significance of tying up a cat while worship is performed."

Well, when I was a deacon, before they made me a priest, for a while they put me in charge as head of the altar servers. And we had one altar server who was very, very, very good. She was very reverent, very willing, and very helpful - very keen, very enthusiastic, very punctual, always on-time, always reliable - everything you could possibly want in an altar server. But she wanted to give it up. And the reason she wanted to give it up was that there was one thing she could never get right - she could never remember to ring the little bell at the right time during the Consecration. She would get so involved with the Mass - so caught up with it that she would forget to ring her little bell at the right time. It wasn’t that she wasn’t trying or wasn’t concentrating - if anything she was trying a bit too hard. She would be there kneeling down with the bell in her hand, concentrating really hard, trying ever so hard to get it right - and then the moment of consecration would come and she would be so taken up with it that she would miss her cue to ring the little bell.

And it happened time after time after time. So all the other altar servers gave her a hard time about this because they thought she was getting it wrong and making them all look bad. And so we had to sit them all down and explain to them that the important thing is not so much ringing the bell at the right time, but the reason we ring the bell at all. It is not so much How we serve, but Why we serve and Who we serve.

That is why this passage always disturbs me. Because sometimes human traditions are very important. Often they are the accumulation of generations of wisdom and experience in how to live well - and how to organise society so everyone can live well and at peace. And just to take this particular example, as we were all taught as children, and have recently had to relearn, washing your hands before you eat is actually very important. First century Palestinians didn’t know anything about bacteria and viruses, but they did know that washing your hands before eating will stop you from catching a lot of seriously nasty diseases. It was true then and it is true now – now we just have a better explanation for why.

Of course, the problem is that, sadly, all human rules and regulations - however wise and well-intentioned - are open to abuse. Every rule can become a whip to beat people with - especially when we get into the evil habit of applying it more to other people than to ourselves. And if we are not careful, we can become so concerned with the rules and with not making mistakes with the rules that we lose sight of the big picture - which is the Reverence and Praise of God and Love for His people. As human beings we need rules and traditions, and we value them but let them not prevent us from seeing what is really important.

The purpose of that bell at the Consecration is to draw attention to the Real Presence of Christ on the Altar. The purpose of our lives is to draw attention to the Real Presence of God in the World. So, when we come to ring the bell at the Consecration, let us remember that it is not When we ring it and How we ring it that is important - what is important is Why we ring it and Who we ring it for.

And when we live our lives, let us remember that the rules were made for us and not us for the rules. And we follow the wisdom of our human rules but we never forget that what is ultimately important is not How we live, but Why we live and Who we live for.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God’s Real Presence in our lives.

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

 

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