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Contents: Volume 2 - The 27th SUNDAY (A) - October 4, 2020


The

  27th

  Sunday

   2020

 

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. 27A

The Gospel account in today's readings tells the parable of wretched men being put to a wretched death because of their wretched deeds. It ends with a warning from Jesus and an expectation that we, the people, need to produce good fruit for the Kingdom. Our second reading from the Letter to the Philippians gives us a suggestion on how to have a mindset that will enable us to do exactly that.

We in the US and most of the world are still in the midst of this pandemic where some restrictions are being lifted, but more cautions are being made because of rising numbers in many places. Anxiety and prayer petitions are normal reactions! Add some intensity if you or a loved one are an essential worker, in a risk category or have school age children or are economically challenged.

The additional advice given in this letter is very applicable to each of us, as an antidote to this downward spiral type of thinking that is also a normal reaction to the times. My suggestion is to print these verses and hang them in a prominent place where they will remind you to be positive. We certainly need the peace of God to guard our minds and hearts as we ride this unsteady roller coaster. For me, returning to this kind of calmness will enable us all to "keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard..." to produce good fruit for the Kingdom.

We can do this. We can do this with the help of Grace. We can have this peace that surpasses all understanding!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Twenty Seventh Sunday of Ordered Time October 4, 2020

Isaiah 5:1-7; Responsorial Psalm 80; Philippians 4:6-9; Gospel Acclamation John 15:16; Matthew 21:33-43

Is there anyone who would have expected God to be disappointed at the outcome of his efforts? Hey, God is God and how can it be that God fails? Even God can fail – is that what we learn from Isaiah’s prophecy this Sunday? The history of Isaiah’s writing this Sunday is about the time before Juda was conquered by Babylon. This was before the city was captured and occupied, governed by a governor from Babylon. Yet to come was the assassination of that governor by Judeans who favored occupation by Egypt instead. Strange thought: that a nation’s leadership would choose which empire should occupy them, robbing them of their freedom and their relationship with the God who brought them to freedom.

We humans cherish freedom. We don’t want to be occupied by anyone. We don’t want to be slaves to oppressive regimes. How often do we rebel against one slave-master and choose a different one, more savage, more vicious, more destructive of culture, faith, and human ability to achieve its potential. Eventually we rebel, risk our lives, our livelihood, the lives of our family, and the safety of the nation to defeat slave masters.

The admonition in Isaiah chides the leaders and citizens of Judea. God worked within them, bringing them to strength, to understanding, and to freedom hoped for. Isaiah compares God’s work to the vision of a landowner who creates an exemplary vineyard. The establishment of a vineyard is a lengthy, challenging process. Isaiah lists the key steps in that creation. But instead of luscious, plump grapes suitable for a great wine, the vines only produce stubby, hard, tiny grapes expected from wild vines. Such wild vines are not tended, not manured, not hoed, not pruned. Such vines produce no fruit.

God worked diligently to bring the vineyard of the Chosen People to a great harvest. Instead of a great people, the nation resorts to bloodshed, to lies, to loudmouthed demagogues with a personal agenda of self-promotion. There is no justice, not even human justice. God’s justice, we understand, is that all creation is entitled to what it needs to flourish, to thrive and produce fruit. Instead of justice, of honor, of concern for the common good, and of a bias seeking for the presence of God, there is murder, theft, rape, pillage, and efforts to grow wealth and power on the backs of those on the margins of society. Throughout salvation history God works with the Chosen People with special concern for orphans, widows, and aliens – people from other nations. These people of the margins must be respected and assisted in their search for health, work, shelter, clothing, and most importantly, dignity and worth in the eyes of the community. The book of Exodus makes this clear in its 22nd chapter: "Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan (Exodus 22:21-22).

If we pay close attention to the gospel’s parable, we learn a great deal about God, about our place in God’s plan for creation, about individual and collective meaning and purpose, and the outcomes of ill-chosen thoughts, efforts, and relationships that bring failure to our role in God’s plan. It begins with a statement about the origins of things. The master of the vineyard created an ideal vineyard and trusts humanity to maintain it and encourage its fruitfulness. Humanity is trusted and is talented enough to handle the work of maintenance and productivity. That is God’s understanding of humanity’s place in creation. In his trust of humanity, God is patient. He sends messenger after messenger to collect what is due him. God repeatedly asks us to return to him what is his due. The workers in the vineyard are responsible for their denial of what is due to the landowner. They beat his messengers, stone one, kill another, and continually reject the landowner’s claims to the fruit of his vineyard. Finally, the landowner sends his own son, thinking the workers of the vineyard will respect the son. But even the son is abused and murdered because the workers think they will have the vineyard as their own with the death of the son. In the end God will provide judgment on all who work in his vineyard. The reward of those who deny God is the second death.

Even so, there is a focus on those who work in the vineyard. First, they are trusted, they are privileged to work at maintenance and on production in whatever way suits them. They are free to make decisions in their work. God is no micro-manager. But in all this freedom, there is a responsibility to bear fruit. Humanity is accountable for what comes of the vineyard and giving it to the Creator.

Jesus wraps up his message with the parable about the stone, that stone which the builders rejected became the most important stone of the building. It is the cornerstone which is the focal point of calculation for the entire building. The entire construction is dependent on the strength of that corner stone. The meaning of corner stone in Jesus’ parable is twofold. The Jews were despised, rejected, and abused by other nations. Their religion rejected man-made gods of the pagans. That tiny nation was the cornerstone of God’s work in creation. The Chosen People were the foundation for life well lived, life with meaning and purpose, and a life that was built on the ultimate reality that is God. The second meaning is that Jesus – the Son of the landowner – is the foundation for all is held together. Rejection of the Christ is the beginning of self-destruction. It is easy to reject the Christ for his symbol, his way is through the cross. It is in the suffering and pain of life that we come to bring forth fruit which is returned to the landowner. If we fail to return to the landowner what is rightfully his, we encounter a second death, a death of finality. Such a death renders life lived as empty, meaningless, a mist that dissipates in the brightness of the sun that is God’s presence.

The parable is addressed to the chief priests and Pharisees. These are the influencers, the leaders of culture, of socio-economic policy, of the principles of faith. They were the ones who had responsibility to bring all nations to the truth of human existence. Their rejection of their responsibility would cause them to lose what was their glory and their responsibility.

I wonder if we often are among those who view those leaders and the people of Israel as hardheaded and stiff of neck. Before we make such a judgment we must examine our choices, our hearts, and our actions. We hear over and over again the message of the gospels: we hear the witness and the instruction of the apostles in their letters to the churches. We are given the history of God’s chosen people with all their faith as well as their faithlessness. It’s a typical judgement that those ancient people really messed up. But in such a judgment is often used to avoid examining ourselves.

If we fail to place ourselves in these parables, we fail to understand what is expected of us. It is true, we are free, we have talents and skills that we apply to our reality. Is that reality one of our own making, in which we are the center of the universe? What do we make of it all? What is the fruit we return to the Lord? What are the gifts, the fruits of the earth and the work of human hands we bring to the altar?

Each of us is endowed with freedom to choose. How well do we choose? Do we remember the teachings, the miracles, the example of the Lord on the Cross and emerging from the tomb? Do we pay attention to the landowner? Do we use our lives to return to the Lord what is his?

What is the truth of our time? Do we allow weeds to overrun the vineyard of our endeavors? Is our use of power, wealth, and influence productive of fruit fitting for the creator? How will our moment, of our personal judgment before God, of our mandatory rendering account of our living go? There is a personal and collective obligation that we live by the truth. Embracing the lies of the serpent first noted in the Garden, will work toward our personal and collective destruction. We live in the world and influence it and are influenced by it. Our living is evidence of our allegiance to our Creator or to the prince of lies. Even our smallest actions go to the destruction of the vineyard or its growth and productivity. The plan of God is to unite all things in his Son. The method of appreciation for and care of creation. This is especially effective for good or evil in our relationships with others. If the basis is hatred, division, and oppression then the prince of lies is central to our living. If we form our relationships on the basis of compassion, mercy, and genuine care and love for others, then the Lord is central to our living.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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MURDER, MAYHEM, AND MERCY: 27TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME A

Lest we forget!

Thanks to the mass media, in 1999 the world became aware as never before, of the people of East Timor, Australia’s nearest neighbour. Many people cheered at the good news that 78.5% of the East Timorese had voted for their independence from Indonesia, whose armies had invaded and annexed their territory in 1975. Their hopes were shared across the world, that at long last they would be free to decide their own future, to choose their own leaders, and to govern themselves.

Within days, however, hopes for the world’s newest nation turned sour. A local minority, made up mainly of murderous militias, armed to the teeth by the occupying Indonesian army, would not accept the people's vote. They therefore turned against the majority of their fellow-citizens with a ferocity equal to anything that has ever been perpetrated against innocent people anywhere. In Dili, the capital, and in other cities and towns throughout the territory, the combined enemy maimed and murdered thousands of pro-independence supporters, drove thousands of others from their homes, and forced thousands more to leave their own country as refugees. Once the people were gone from their homes, the enemy systematically looted and plundered the people's possessions, before finally burning their houses, their shops, and many of their public buildings to the ground.

What the world witnessed, thanks to the extensive news coverage, was nothing less than the implementation of a 'scorched earth' policy. It was all as horrific as the sending of so many Jewish people to the gas chambers during World War II, the mysterious disappearances of hundreds of citizens in Argentina and Chile during the military dictatorships there, and the more recent campaigns of so-called 'ethnic cleansing' in Bosnia and Kosovo.

It has been as totally baffling and as totally unexpected that in our own time, human beings could treat one another with such hatred and violence. As baffling and as unexpected as what the enemies of Jesus did to him, when God sent Jesus to his own people, to show and tell them just how much God loves them, and to show and tell them just how much God expects of them in return. God expected their leaders, most of all, to yield a harvest of ripe grapes, but it was sour grapes (vinegar) only, that they produced. So, as we have heard in the gospel today:

Finally, [God] sent his son to them. "They will respect my son" he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, "This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance." So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him (Mt 21: 37-39)

In East Timor, known also as Timor-Leste, the torture, the suffering, and the crucifixion of Jesus happened all over again. Night after night, television screens displayed scenes of undiminished horror, and left viewers wondering: Is there any hope for these poor broken people? Does anyone care?' Perhaps some even wondered: 'Does God care?'

It was just then, when all was seemingly lost, and after both the humanitarian agencies of the International Committee of the Red Cross and that of the United Nations were thrown out of the country, that the world became aware of two marvellous initiatives and developments. In the midst of the carnage and destruction all around, the first powerful ray of hope was from the leaders of the Church. Priests, nuns, and other church workers, constantly supported the people, 98% Catholic, in their quest for human rights, democracy, and self-determination. (Church support and protection for freedom and justice, in fact, went back to the days when Timor-Leste had been a colony of Portugal). This time, for that love and loyalty towards their people, many church persons paid the ultimate price. They too were expelled from their homes. They too were mutilated. They too were murdered. They too saw their own houses, and the church buildings of their people, ransacked, robbed, and burnt to cinders. But the great expectations which God had of them during that darkest period of their history, were not disappointed. Put to the test, they have yielded an abundant harvest for God and for God’s people.

The second powerful ray of hope, one which arrived later, was the preparation and deployment of the Interfet (the International Force for East Timor). At enormous personal risk, this Interfet force went in to protect the surviving East Timorese from further murder and mayhem, and to prepare for the re-building of their country almost from zero. Viewers became amazed at the integrity, the decency, the humanity, the generosity and the restraint of the troops, who, under mandate of the United Nations, entered East Timor not as aggressors but as peace-keepers and Good Samaritans, indeed as agents of divine mercy and compassion.

Finally, Timor-Leste’s struggle for independence was firmly established on May 20, 2002. Further good news is that bit by bit its relationship with its former enemy has been steadily improving. Today the relationship is quite peaceful and harmonious, and Indonesia is its main trading partner, and regularly contributes to its development.

For all the achievements and signs of hope just outlined in commemoration, would you please join me in praising and thanking God during the rest of our shared prayer today? And would you also please join me in praying that God will continue to bless and protect its government, its peace-keeping forces, its Church leaders and workers, and the people of God entrusted to their care? Will you, please?

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

 

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Year A: 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone."

I remember once seeing a stone that the builders rejected.

It started out in life as a large slab of granite outside a London building site, about 6 foot by 3. It was one of many thousands that had been transported from the quarry to the site. And alone among all of them – this one had been damaged so much in the transportation that it could not be used in the construction of the building. But it was also a bit too big just to throw away. So it was left out front by the entrance to the site till some big truck would come and take it away. And there it stayed.

But the devil makes work for idle hands. And a black stone face makes graffiti artists of us all. Gradually at their tea-breaks, the builders began to decorate it – initially with hugely uninspired obscenity. Then with only slightly more inspired lewd depictions of the female form.

But then one of the foremen thought that this all looked a bit embarrassing, especially when visitors came. So he thought the stone should be cleaned off and then have inscribed on it all the names and signatures of everyone who had worked on the site. The proposal was accepted, the stone was scraped clean and all of the men on the site added their signatures. And the stone that the builders rejected became the stone on which the builders inscribed their pride. Which was such a nice corporate symbol that the foreman got an award from the management and a promotion.

But unfortunately, the builders didn’t know when to stop. Not all were content simply to inscribe their names. Some needed to add small quotations from Sacred scriptures– first from the Bible, then also from the Quran and the Bhagavad Gita – and from Bob Dylan. Small carefully carved pictures were added symbols of hope and love; true some still of the female form, but of a rather different kind. Until finally, every single man on the site had added not just his name, but a symbol of his heart.

But now there was a problem: the building was finished. It was time to go, to move on, to break up, to go and build something else. The Caravan moves on. There was a tense meeting with the management. What to do with the stone? Someone in the senior management remembered this verse and whispered it in the Chief Executive’s ear.

And so it was that the stone that the builders rejected became the keystone of the building of an accounts firm in central London – a huge slab of rough granite laid in the middle of the floor of an otherwise lofty and elegant front atrium. And if you go there – to this day – you can see people walking past it, being reminded that a building is more than an accumulation of bricks and mortar,

just like a business is more than a way of making money;

just like a vineyard is more than a place where you make wine,

just like a church.

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

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

 

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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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