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Contents: Volume 2 - Twenty Sixth Sunday of Ordered Time Year B September 26th, 2021

 

  26th

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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Sun. 26 B 2021

Our readings this Sunday seem to be in the category that makes us all squirm just a little bit as a way to redirect any wayward thoughts and actions. They invite both private as well as collective scrutiny. While reflections and homilies that are specific and relate to controversial events of our time are not among the favorite to preach or listen to, they, perhaps, are the kind that are needed to help guide us closer to God's ways this week.

The first reading from the Book of Numbers sets the stage to quell exclusiveness and favoritism among us. Joshua reveals a human-like tendency: each of us likes to be considered special or favored. This tendency can expand to look down on "those others". It still rears its ugly head over and over in our modern world, from within families, to those without prestige in parishes, in the workplace, in the treatment of migrants, refugees, and the homeless, and even in the schoolyard.

In the Letter of St. James, we get another type of condemnation of those who are rich and also forget kind care of those who are less fortunate. It would be good to review our fair/just treatment policies now rather than "weep and wail over your impending miseries" at judgment time! Again, these are not very comfortable reflections, but oh so necessary in so many areas of our collective lives today.

In the story from the Gospel according to Mark, we read/hear two rather strong rebukes from Jesus. We are basically told to stop being self-righteous, indignantly self-protective, and snobbishly elitist in our religious views for "whoever is not against us is for us." The other strong admonition is about causing another to sin by personal bad example. Jesus really gets our attention by his exaggerated words for probable remedies/consequences including being thrown into Gehenna, the foul smelling garbage dump of Jerusalem at that time. Although not truly accurate, many today hear this as a wake-up call that the opposite of being invited into the "kingdom of God" would be the eternal torment of Gehenna/hell.

Well now, where do these readings leave us today? Hopefully, our personal views and practices are not too far from God's views. We might need to revamp some policies collectively as Christians, or the members of a particular parish, neighborhood, or country, however. That seems like a monumental task perhaps, but, like all change, it begins with an individual's commitment and effort.

I was talking to a close friend this past week about a belief that consistently underscores his actions. He used the term "a man of conviction" as a self-description as we spoke, saying that was why how he responds is something relatively automatic for him. It seems to me that the world would be a better place for all of us if each of us could honestly be part of the "people of conviction" who foster the inclusiveness and unconditional care of others that God shows to each of us. Pinpointing one way to do that consistently is the beginning of a great movement by people of conviction toward God's ways.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Twenty Sixth Sunday of Ordered Time September 26 2021

Numbers 11:25-29; Responsorial Psalm 19; James 5:1-6; Gospel Acclamation John 17:17; Mark 9:38-43, 45, & 47-48

I must have been around seven when this happened after the High Mass one Sunday in late summer. Our family came together on the steps outside St. Henry church after mass. In those days families did not sit together; the kids attended mass seated with classmates, monitored by one of the public-school teachers. Several men had clustered together on the steps and motioned for Dad to come join them. Dad shooed Mom and us five kids to our Model T parked behind the church. More than fifteen minutes later, Dad came storming to the car. He was red in the face; he was silently angry. Us kids knew better than to ask. We drove home. As we turned onto Kremer Hoying Road from state route 118 Dad growled the reason for his anger. "See that house? The Pazitnees bought that. They are not Catholic. Those guys after Mass wanted me to give them money to buy that family out. They wanted them out of the parish so they would not corrupt our community. Just because they’re protestant!"

This Sunday Mark’s gospel continues a critical lesson Jesus gives his disciples. The time is growing short moving toward his crucifixion and resurrection. The lessons are more intense. Last Sunday Jesus chided the disciples because they cherished status and self-importance. The true disciple is one who serves others without concern for personal status. That story was about how the disciples treated each other. This Sunday the story is repeated. The difference is that this time it is about how a true disciple treats those outside his own group.

Mark tells us that John, the beloved disciple - considered the model of a true disciple - comes to Jesus complaining that there is a stranger driving out demons. "Tell him to stop. That is our job. That is why we are disciples. He has no right to push us aside taking our work from us." Jesus must have either laughed out loud or grimaced with frown lines knitting on his forehead. "How can you guys miss the point? The point is the freedom granted those controlled by Satan. Who does the freeing isn’t the story."

The story we heard in the first reading has the same story. Two of those gifted with the Spirit of God shared with seventy elders had missed roll call. Yet, even though they were not physically in the group gathered with Moses, they too prophesized just as the others. The ones who made roll call with Moses, thought it improper that Eldad and Medad in some way received the Spirit. The one complaining in this incident is Joshua – that favorite intern of Moses. The parallel with the story of John complaining to Jesus is clear. The message to us Christian/Catholics is obvious. In no way can we ever judge ourselves more than others because of the group, classification, nationality, gender, language, citizenship, or race. There is no place in the Kingdom of God for exclusion. Anyone who does good is part of the Kingdom.

There is a damnable trait in humanity. We have an uncontrollable desire to consider ourselves important. And we do that by considering other groups – not merely individuals, groups – as inferior to ourselves.

How does this apply? It helps us to consider the teaching of James quoted in the second reading. "Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away… your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you." Before we jump to the conclusion that persons of wealth, or power, or influence, or fame ought to be EXCLUDED from our assembly, we must continue to read what James has to say. The wealthy are condemned not because of their wealth – we can add in power, influence, and fame – but because of how they acquired wealth, power, influence, and fame. As in all of Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, the poor, the persons without power, influence, and fame, these are the ones who MUST be included, brought into the assembly, and welcomed. This listing leaves out one group: that group not listed are the aliens, the migrants seeking a haven and a place to live a productive and peaceful life with their families. The Hebrew Scriptures insist the "alien among you must be cared for."

Being a good person, a true disciple of Jesus has very little to do with membership. It has to do with character as it relates to others --- all others!

It is that damnable trait that is the cause of violence, of starvation, of poverty, of hatred, of division, and failure of nations and of civilizations. We have to be better than someone else. It makes no difference "being better" deprives those others of basic human rights, opportunities, education, and access to resources. Isabel Wilkerson wrote a book about this terrible addiction of the human race. That addiction is the source of violence, poverty, ignorance, and source of a myriad iterations of conspiracy theories. Conspiracy stories really have a dual purpose. First it is to deny value and worth to whole groups. Secondly it lifts up the tellers to a superior position. When Isabel Wilkerson wrote her book, Caste, she writes about the caste system in India and its affect on the lowest class as well as on the highest class. The clearest example of what it does is the death camps in Nazi Germany. It is also about the gulags of Stalin. It is about racism, Jim Crow, and the disenfranchisement of native Americans robbed of their lands and forced into continuing poverty and squalor.

White Supremacy is one of these damnable traits. Triumphalism in the Catholic Church is one of those traits. Persecution of the poor and handicapped is one of those traits.

In the ending of the gospel this Sunday Jesus stresses the necessity of resisting temptation to deny citizenship and participation to any person. There is much work to be done on the movements of our minds and especially on our hearts. There are millions of Eldads and Medads, denied inclusion in community, in business, in education, in health care, and in athletic or social events. There are millions of healers, of teachers, of conscientious political, industrial, financial, and rights workers who can share with us their experience of the solidarity of the human race. Let there be war no more. Let us turn our hearts from our inclination of creating a caste that makes us more than others.

Let us hear the meaning and intent of the Gospel Acclamation this Sunday. "Your Word, oh Lord, is truth; consecrate us in the truth." Letting go of our need to be exclusive will bring us closer to full participation in the Kingdom of God, now and in our life eternal.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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BELIEVERS TOGETHER: 26TH SUNDAY B

Numbers 11:25-29; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

A Hollywood star of the 1930s and 1940s, Greta Garbo, is famous for saying ‘I want to be alone.’ But it’s only human and natural to want to be with other people. Many of us join a club or other group for that reason. It may be a group at work, such as a football tipping competition. It may be a sporting group like a football, cricket, netball, bowls, golf, fishing, or tennis club. It may be a social group, e.g., people that get together to play cards. It may be a political party. It may be a church group, such as ‘Passionist Family Groups’. Some of us may belong to several groups at once.

We join because we want to meet other people, join in the activities of the group, and work for the goals of the group. Being with other people widens our horizons and gives us the satisfaction of feeling wanted, accepted, and respected. Life in a group, however, can become a problem if the group becomes exclusive, if its members snipe at or about others, and if they become either fearful or contemptuous of persons outside the group.

In our gospel today, the apostles are feeling very threatened by a man outside their group who is successfully casting out demons in the name of Jesus. Perhaps they are afraid Jesus will invite him to replace them. But like some selfish child who has more than enough toys but won’t share any, they seek to stop the man in his tracks. But Jesus is much more generous than they. He tells them to let the outsider be: ‘You must not stop him,’ he says, ‘anyone who is not against us is for us.’

Some of us were brought up to believe that ours is the one and only true Church. The Second Vatican Council did not push that line. While it did assert that our Catholic Church is directly descended from Jesus Christ and the apostles, and while it did assert that our Catholic Church has all the means of salvation – ways of being at right with God - it recognized that Christians in other denominations can be real and genuine followers of Jesus. Just like Catholics! As the famous Irish writer James Joyce once put it: ‘Here comes everybody!’. Vatican II recognized that through baptism, non-Catholic Christians too are joined to the person of Jesus, are members of his body on earth, and are destined to enjoy the company of God forever in heaven. Just like Catholics!

So, even though we have our differences, some of them quite serious, Vatican II called non-Catholic Christians ‘brothers and sisters’, not outsiders, and certainly not heretics or impostors. It also recognized that their churches are anything but fakes and shams. Their churches also bring the grace of God - the presence and love of God - to their members. Like the Catholic Church, they too are expressions of the Christian church as a whole.

So, while we rightly take pride in all the many good features of our Catholic community, we also recognize and affirm all the good people and all the good deeds that exist in the Anglican, the Uniting, the Baptist, the Pentecostal, and the Lutheran forms of the one Church of Jesus Christ, just to name a few. We do this even as we also pray that we and they will in time become more united in faith, hope, and love than we are already.

Another great truth proclaimed by the Second Vatican Council, one that also leads to tolerance, dialogue, and cooperation, is that the Spirit of God - the Holy Spirit - influences the minds, hearts, and lives of persons in the other great world religions, e.g., Islam. There are people in other world faiths living near us wherever we are. Some, like us, believe in one true God. So, we must meet them, accept and affirm them, as good people too and as children of God, children of the one Creator who through our human parents has made us all. Like us, they too keep striving to know and live that truth which the Spirit of God keeps making known in our various faith communities. As Jesus said it so well, ‘the wind (of the Spirit) blows where it pleases’ (John 3:8)! I offer two striking examples: - Moslem Doctor Jamal, has made a drive-in clinic in the front yard of his Sydney home, and has so far administered 35,000 Covid jabs. Throughout this pandemic the Sikh Community of Victoria has been serving many thousands of free meals to poor persons and health workers.

So, for the continuation of the presence and influence of the Spirit of God among all our communities of faith, let us keep giving praise and thanks to God - their Lord, their King. and ours!

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: 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Anyone who is not against us is for us." [Mark 9.43]

For many years I lived in South America in a place where most of the people aren’t Christians. And so it would often happen that many of the people who would come to the weekend Masses wouldn’t actually be Christians. They came because they wanted to feel close to God and they felt that in Church. And also, if we are honest, they came because it was free. In their religion, you had to pay a fixed fee at the door, so they loved the fact that here, you only had to put into a voluntary collection whatever – if anything - you thought was right. Obviously, because they weren’t Christians, they wouldn’t come to communion, but they would often come up for a blessing and generally they would stay after mass for a cup of tea with the other parishioners.

And this used to happen particularly on the Sunday evening masses. And, because I was newly ordained and not very good at saying Mass, they were putting me down for a lot of the Sunday evening masses….

Come to think of it, funny how little has changed, really…

Anyway, I noticed that there was one particular young woman, who would always come to the Sunday evening Mass, and would always sit in the front row in the left. You could tell that she wasn’t a Christian because she always came dressed in the traditional dress of her own religion. But she came faithfully every week and knew all the responses in the Mass and she prayed them with great reverence. And you could see to look at her that she was a woman of goodness and prayer. But she would never come up, not even for a blessing and would never stay to tea. And at the end of Mass, she would sit for a little time in prayer and then just go away on her own.

So eventually, I thought to myself, "I have to talk to her and get to know her and find out what’s really going on here."

So the next time I said the Sunday evening mass, I waited for her after Mass and, as she was going out, I asked if I could talk to her just for a minute. And I wanted to say to her that, even if she couldn’t take communion, maybe she would like to come for a blessing or at least come to tea.

To start with, she didn’t want to tell me - I think she thought that if she told me that she wasn’t a Christian, I might ask her not to come back, but I assured her that from whatever religion, she was always welcome. And so she said how much she always liked to come to Mass - how it was a place where she could really feel the presence of God.

I asked her to explain. Where did she – as a non-Christian - feel that in the Mass? Was it the Eucharist? The Gospel? Even the homily perhaps?! I asked rather hopefully.

She said: "it’s that bit where everyone touches you and shakes your hand, looks you in the eye and says ‘Peace be with you’... And – you know - they sound like they really mean it! That’s the bit I really love. Because I’m a widow and all week long, I feel alone - and very lonely. But whenever I feel tired and lonely, I remember how it felt to have all those people I don’t know shake my hand and wish me peace. And it makes me feel better for the whole week."

I felt really challenged by that because, like a lot of Catholics, I am sometimes tempted to be careless about the Sign of Peace. It can seem like a mere gesture, a matter of rote, a thing of thoughtless habit. But the moment I heard that, I made myself a promise that whenever I gave a sign of peace, I would always remember what she had said, and I would always do my best. Because I think there is something really beautiful about the fact that a person from another faith finds the presence of God in our church simply and solely because of the quality of our welcome.

Well, you all know the saying, "practice makes perfect".

So, just for a moment, I’d like to ask you all to just have a little practice at doing the Sign of Peace. We’ll be coming to the real thing later in the Mass. But now I’d like you just to turn to the person nearest to you…

Take their hand…

Look them in the eyes…

And say from the bottom of your heart, (or the closest you can get): "Peace be with you."

And just notice how it makes you feel.

So, when we do the full Sign of Peace a little later in the Mass, I ask us please to do it carefully and do it right and at least try to look as if we mean it. Because, for all we know, that may be the only love the person we touch will feel all week.

And now, let us stand and profess our faith in the peace and love of God.

Paul O'Reilly <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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