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Contents: Volume 2 - 23rd Sunday - C
September 4, 2022

 

  The

23rd

SUNDAY

 (C)

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Brian Gleeson CP

3. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

4. -- Dennis Keller

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

 

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Sun.23 C 2022

Now this is a tough homily or reflection to give, isn't it? Do we take Jesus literally in this Gospel selection from Luke when he says "anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple"? Maybe we should pick a different reading, a generic topic or even have a guest speaker talk about a different but needed topic?

We do have to address this message "eventually", however, personally if not to a congregation. I think that getting a full understanding of Jesus's meaning here will be gradual though as with many of Jesus's deep messages. For me, the words "renounce" and "possessions" are a good beginning point.

Jesus has made it clear that to do the Father's will is key to being a disciple and spreading the Good News. I understand that to mean that God needs to be the center of my life, the core, the first thought, and the bottom Line. Whether God be viewed as the Father, Son, Holy Spirit or the Triune God, God must be Number One. Anything else (person, place, thing , even feeling etc. ) that takes that first place needs to be renounced as NOT being the Supreme, the Almighty, the One, who/that influences and tips my decisions, period. Secondly, anything and everything (Jesus said "all") that I "own" that I consider "mine", also needs to be put in a different place.

Read that sentence again. Whatever I "own" or consider as "mine" isn't. My "possessions" actually come from God and/or what God has given to me in some way. I am a steward of them. I need to view them as to be used in God's service and/or returnable to God in a better way than when given to me. If any of them are taking over the place in my life that God should have, well, I need to review the place of honor he/she/or it has and boot it further down the priority ladder!

How to do all that initially when the realization of its necessity hits and then consistently is life's journey. To me it is part of being a disciple of Jesus as an authentic Catholic. To me it requires dealing with the hard messages in the Gospel as straight-on as the bumps in my continuing journey allow.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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THE COST OF COMMITMENT: 23RD SUNDAY C

Wisdom 9:13-18; Philemon 9b-10, 12-17; Luke 14:23-35

It's September again, and so many people in Australia are thinking about which football team will win the premiership this year. It's a time of both agony and ecstasy, as we see our hopes and dreams for our favorite team either smashed to pieces bit by bit, or else completely and deliriously fulfilled. when our team of heroes is making its victory lap around the sacred turf of the Grand Final ground.

To be a league footballer takes an exceptional dose of raw talent, skills in marking, kicking, passing, reading the play, running, jumping, and tackling, as well as at least a little bit of sheer luck. What is often not realized or not given enough attention, is the tremendous personal cost of becoming and staying a champion. The many nights of laborious practice at the ground, the fitness training, the sacrifice of recreation and leisure time, the self-discipline, the humiliation of being singled out by the coach for some merciless correction, the disruptions to family life, putting a promising career on hold, and deferring some important studies, etc., etc.

To become the best in other occupations, careers, and pursuits, involves just as much cost. The great novelist, Charles Dickens, author of such favourites as A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, and The Old Curiosity Shop, did not receive a cent for his first nine novels. Lawrence Tibbet, a star tenor at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, was so poor before his dazzling career took off, that on his first visit to the Opera, his ticket took him to the Standing Room only section. John Rockefeller, famous for both his fortune and his philanthropy, started life hoeing potatoes at four cents an hour. Every good wife, every good husband, and every good parent knows just how much it costs to hang in there, doing all that has to be done on what has been labelled 'the terrible every day’. It costs energy, it costs courage, it costs feeling inadequate, it costs being misunderstood, and it costs doing one's very best regardless of the outcome.

It's the same with being a follower of Jesus. It's going to cost, it does cost, and it costs a heap. It costs being both single-minded and single-hearted. That's very clear from his teaching today. It's a message put in stark words. Jesus speaks of walking in his footsteps carrying our cross as we go. He speaks of giving up our possessions. He even speaks of 'hating' our father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters.

Does he possibly mean us to take that last one literally? Surely not! For isn't one of two basic commandments, to love our neighbour as another self? And isn't our neighbour our very own family, first of all, those whom we call 'our nearest and dearest'?

To make sense of what Jesus means, but without watering down his message, we must realize that Jesus speaks as a first-century Middle Eastern Jew. As such, he gets the attention of his listeners by using shocking, even exaggerated images. So, when he tells us that we must be prepared to 'hate' the members of our own family, we don't take his words literally. We understand that to mean we must not prefer anyone else to him, that he must be the number one love of our lives. Even if our choice to follow him and belong to the Church, his community, gives us grief and costs us a lot of hostility from family and friends, we must not flinch from our commitment.

In the early Christian communities, this was often the case. Those who took the plunge of getting baptized, joining the Church, and living like Jesus, often found themselves dumped and ostracized, by family and friends The same thing has happened in every other century. The same thing is still happening today. You might even know of people who have been thrown out of their own home when they announced they were joining a Church and told never to come back home again!

Being a disciple of Jesus is neither a hobby nor a part-time activity that we pick up when we are interested, and drop when we get bored or when the going gets tough. The opposite applies, that 'when the going gets tough, the tough get going.' Being baptized is belonging permanently to the family of Jesus, that new family that he spoke of, in which the basis of the relationship is not having the same blood or the same genes but 'hearing the word of God and keeping it'.

So being baptized is like being married. It's a life-long relationship, an ongoing relationship with the person of Jesus, and with the other members of his body on earth, our fellow Christians.

The bonding that we have with Jesus personally and with his Church. is both a priceless gift and an enormous daily challenge. Like any lover, Jesus has for us high hopes and great expectations. In his story of the man who began to build the tower but left it an unfinished shell, Jesus challenges us to keep living the commitment we make to him at Baptism, Confirmation, and First Holy Communion.

So, it's appropriate for each of us to ask what aspects of our lives remain 'unfinished business’? Does Jesus Christ mean more to us, when all is said and done, than anyone else or anything else in the world? If the crunch came, would we be willing to die for him?

It's also appropriate for us to pray, and during this Eucharist, for the grace to see him more clearly, love him more dearly and follow him more nearly, day by day, and especially in our relationships with all our fellow followers of Jesus.

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

 

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Year C: 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Come up higher, friend."

I saw just that happen once – a long time ago in Northern Ireland. A rich man - a pub landlord – funny how pub landlords in Ireland are always rich men – can’t imagine why. Anyway, this rich man held his daughter’s wedding feast at the biggest hotel in Northern Ireland, in a town a few miles outside Belfast. But this was in the time of the Troubles. And on the day of the wedding, there was a lot of trouble in the city, with fighting and shooting and bombs and road blocks, so many of the invited guests were too frightened to come. And so there we were - only about ten or fifteen people in an enormous hall set with dinner for two hundred and fifty. The bride was crying; the groom was silent; nobody was talking; everyone was tense. The atmosphere was horrible!

At the back of the hall stood the father of the bride – a big stout powerful man in his early fifties. And I have never seen a man look so angry! His whole face was purple; the veins were popping out on his forehead; his whole face was working – as they say in football - like a bulldog chewing a wasp. Just once I have seen the like. Sir Alex Ferguson, in his last year as manager of Manchester United, at Old Trafford, losing at home to Liverpool.

And then, just as I was watching, something inside him just suddenly snapped. He could stand the strain no longer. For a moment, I thought he had had a stroke. Then I saw a look of decision come into his face. He had had enough. He wasn’t going to take this any longer. He was going to do something.

He went very slowly and very quietly to the manager of the hotel, grasped him warmly by the throat. (Well, remember he was a pub landlord and in moments of stress we all go back to the methods that have served us well over the years.) And he said very quietly but with emphasis, in a whisper which carried the length of the hall: "Bring all your staff, all your cooks and waiters, porters and chambermaids, barmaids and entertainers. Let them bring all their families because we are still going to have a party. This is still My. Daughter’s. WEDDING!"

The manager was a wise man. He just nodded.

So they all came, pulling on their good clothes as they came. And they filled up the empty spaces. And they were delighted. Normally they spent all their time serving other people. Never before had they had a party in their own hotel. And we ate. And we drank. And then we ate some more. And drank some more. And gradually the party started to warm up. The hotel band happened to have come along. So they pulled out their musical instruments and we had some music. And peoples started to dance. And the party was just beginning to really swing, when...

Well, you know what’s going to happen next, don’t you? All the people who had been delayed on the road finally arrived in a bunch. And there was total confusion. And it was packed. It was heaving. It was massive. It was Brilliant!

Eventually, in the early hours of the morning, as we all tottered our various ways unsteadily home, we all agreed that it had been the best wedding we had ever been at!

The lesson of that moment – the lesson of this Gospel – is that God does not have favourites. Anyone and everyone, black or white, slave or free, rich or poor alike, is welcome to the wedding feast of his Son.

And when we celebrate, we do not celebrate for ourselves alone. We celebrate with the entire Body of Christ – the Church. In our Eucharist today we are united with Christ and with one another. And beyond this place we are united with more than a billion people all over the world. And beyond this time we are united with the billions of people who have gone before us marked with the Sign of Faith. And into the Future we are united with the billions of people who will follow in our own footsteps of Faith.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who invites us all.

Paul O'Reilly <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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Twenty Third Sunday of Ordered Time - September 4, 2022

Wisdom 9:13-18; Responsorial Psalm 90; Philemon Verses 9-10 & 12-17; Gospel Acclamation Psalm 119; Luke 14:25-33

A most interesting set of readings this Sunday. The first reading from the book of Wisdom seems fairly innocuous until we look at the context in which that book was written. The second reading is Paul writing a personal letter to Philemon. We note it is so short that it needs no division into chapters. That is typical of Paul’s writings. Its content is a source of concern for social justice as it seems to endorse slavery. The gospel is the piece-de-resistance! Jesus appears angry and lashes out at the crowd. This crowd had no intention of commitment. Most of those following him are thinking he’s about to establish his kingdom and want to be there at its inception. They’re just a bunch of spectators like at a rock concert, hanging out just to be able to say, “I was there when…”  How can we cobble together a theme that has the power to encourage and enlighten the assembly?

The writer of the book of Wisdom was a Jew in Alexandria in Northern Africa. Alexandria at that time was a center of trade, finance, culture, and learning. In the time of this author, education and thinking were heavily influenced by the Greeks. The book was written totally in Greek and directed, it seems, to the Jews in Alexandria. The first half of this book is written as a public address, something the author would present in the public square. The second half is pointedly a sermon given to an assembly of practicing Jews. Those Jews would be living under the influence of the culture and the economic and social aspects of Alexandria at that time. Perhaps it is helpful to know that Alexandria hosted the largest library in ancient times. It seems any visitor to the city had to leave their scrolls with the library to be copied for the benefit of the library. After copying the scrolls, the library retained the originals and gave the copies to the owners of the originals.

The purpose of the book of Wisdom was to strengthen the faith of fellow Jews. In Alexandria, the Jewish community was exposed to Greek Philosophy. Science at this time opened up the world in a more global fashion, disclosing the beauty and mystery of the world in which they lived. Life was more cosmopolitan and more laced with individualism than in Judaea. Those ideas and thoughts were inviting. Many Jews moved away from their traditional culture and the practices of their faith. Within the Jewish community there was a skepticism and dissatisfaction with traditional ideas. In Alexandria’s secular population there was anti-Semitism and some denial of access to the social and economic life of the city. The Jewish community raised the question of retribution – why were bad persons thriving while the good suffered? With those thoughts as background, the reading this Sunday from Wisdom makes a lot more sense. If we consider our current situation, are we not in parallel with the time of Wisdom? Do we not see in our expanded world a push back against globalism? Do we not see leadership developing partisanship for the purpose of power? Do we not see self-serving people laying burdens on the backs of the poor, of orphans and widows, and on the aliens in our midst? This reading has the depth and a reading of the signs of the times that can move us to search for the God who is with us. These conflicts between the way of the world and faith in the Creator God, the God who reveals, the God who gives life are a constant stream in human history. God doesn’t cause this conflict or its expression in violence, theft, murder, illness, and death. God’s work is to create possibilities for us to overcome, to grow from the pain. Isn’t this the very structure and foundation of our faith? Isn’t the message of Jesus – and of the Hebrew Scriptures – that suffering comes to each of us? We can fight against that cross attempting to eradicate it. Or we can lift up our cross and know that our endurance is supported by God’s grace – God’s Spirit that gives life. And from our suffering – as in the case of Jesus – comes resurrection. As Paul writes in another place, through suffering we learn obedience. Ah, that terrible word, “obedience.” The word itself has the underpinning that goes beyond an act of human will. The root of the word means “to listen.” In the context of faith, that listening means “listening with the heart.” Such listening – such obedience - is more than what the ears can handle. It is the heart that moves our choices as in the case of Jesus’ acceptance of his mission and what it entailed – that is the cross.  That is God’s plan for us; to lift us up, often with the help of our community – to a newness of life. The reading from Wisdom this Sunday asks us to have Faith in God’s presence.

The responsorial psalm hammers that idea home with its antiphon: “In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.”

Onesimus, in Paul’s letter, was an escaped slave, the property of Philemon. An escaped slave could be crucified or returned to his master for punishment. Punishment was a deterrent to rebellion. The entire economy of the world was operating on the backs of slaves. The story is that Onesimus, the property of Philemon, had escaped his master who lived in Laodicea and made his way to Rome where he could blend into the crowds. In some way he encountered Paul and was converted to a follower of Jesus the Christ. Paul speaks of Onesimus becoming his son. Yet, Paul knows that keeping Onesimus as his helper would cause trouble for him and for Onesimus. In Roman Law, Onesimus was a slave and unless he were officially freed by his master, he would die a slave. Anyone who aided an escaped slave was a criminal of the state. A slave was a non-person. We can easily get on our high horse and condemn Paul for sending this slave back to bondage and cruel punishment. But listen carefully to Paul. He obeys Roman law by asking for Philemon’s consent to retain Onesimus as his helper. Paul uses the assumed close by saying “that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary.” The entire letter – short as it is – works toward moving Onesimus from being worthless for Philemon to being “profitable.” That is the meaning of the name Onesimus – profitable. Paul works at moving Onesimus from slavery and a non-person to becoming a person. Ultimately, it appears that Onesimus became bishop of Ephesus as mentioned in the letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch.

Two thoughts come to mind because of this reading. The first is about slavery. In our time, slavery has been outlawed in most civilized countries. The question arises: “Has it really been outlawed?” What about the slavery of ignorance? What about the slavery from lack of food? What about the lack of health care? Let’s go through all the things wrong with our world, our communities, our church: do we allow, ignore, encourage a slavery systemic slavery of deprivation, of racism, of gender? Think of raising a family on a minimum wage job, the only job available because of no access to quality education. Paul had the right idea. The slave master must be the one who frees. And freedom is necessary for Christian living. Every one of Jesus’ miracles in public ministry were about freeing someone. From blindness, from flow of blood, from addiction/possession, from leprosy. Each was freed to return to their communities and participate in the life of the community. Onesimus was returned to his master, made free by faith – but also physically, socially, economically, and psychologically. That freedom changed him from being worthless to being Onesimus – that is profitable. This is no easy task. It takes a sharp-eyed discernment. As we look about us, where do we see slavery? Do we think of the enslaved as persons? That is the critical question. Personhood is fundamental to human life. We must examine our living and our relationships. Does our lifestyle demand the enslavement of others? Then we have a duty to accomplish. Clearly there is work for each of us to do that we be freed and that all we encounter are brought to freedom as well. It’s strange, Onesimus went from being worthless – an expendable asset, a thing, a tool of economic value to being promoted to personhood. Actually, it is a return to personhood in which we are created and lose that to slavery either chosen by ourselves or imposed on us by society. Many are scandalized that Paul allowed slavery. Perhaps in a couple of hundred years the general population will be terribly scandalized that in 2022 the majority still supported nuclear munitions that could (perhaps did) vaporize billions of persons in a single day.

In the gospel, Jesus sees the crowds following after, watching, anticipating him setting up his kingdom. They had no skin in the game; they were along for the ride for the profits that would come with a new kingdom. How frustrating for Jesus who knows the demands made of his followers. The way of the world enslaves persons to power, to wealth, to notoriety, to accumulation, to violence, to consumerism. His way is different and demands the old way is left behind. Like leaving behind family, kin, and communities. Following in the way of Jesus demands we seek freedom. Following of Jesus means we take up the pains and sufferings --- and the joys and delights – and put them on the altar of sacrifice for healing and for sharing our delights. On the altar they are washed with the sprinkling of the Blood of Jesus. Taking up one’s cross is just that – putting one’s pain on the cross – that is on the altar. The whole of the Christian living is about life – never death. So that which will kill our bodies or even more importantly our spirits must be carried – must be added to the cross of Jesus and washed in his blood. Putting ourselves with our troubles, our struggles, our fears and anxieties puts in the footsteps of Jesus. And from that comes freedom from the pain, freedom from the struggle, from the anxieties the world dumps on us. And the ultimate achievement of such living even in the here and now is resurrection.

All three readings and the responsorial psalm are about how we can live. We cannot be spectators, followers in the crowd. There is more to the purpose and meaning of life than being a spectator. Many attempt to use power, wealth, and honors and adulations received to dull the pain. But none of these lift up the pain and transform it into nourishment for our spirits. Those ineffective things are routinely part of our living. If they become distractions, if they become addictions, if they become paint over rotten wood, then we are merely spectators in history. The joy of such is short term enjoyed or guilt ridden. Guilt is the most painful of enslavements.

Dennis Keller <dkeller002@nc.rr.com>

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