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Contents: Volume 2 - Twenty Eighth Sunday of Ordered Time Year B October 10th, 2021

 

28th

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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Sunday 28 B 2021

There are lots of life lessons in today's readings. Our first reading reminds us of the benefits of the incredible Gift of Wisdom. The letter to the Hebrews recounts the living, effective, and often puzzling power of the word of God. The Gospel according to Mark gives us some insight into the age-old question we all ask of Jesus, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" The wealth of good advice from these readings is enough for a lifetime, not just a weekend reflection!

Even all of this good advice, however, does not make the Christian life easy, long ago or now. The apostles were confused enough that Jesus offered these words of reassurance: "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God." To me, that is a much needed, albeit subtle, reminder that God does the initiating and the guiding, we have to respond in the best way we are able.

There must be some vestige of the original perfection in the early days of Adam and Eve that gnaws at me to aim for perfection. Of course, I get tangled up in trying to find the right path or where to go when it dawns on me that I am off-course! Lots of synonyms for confused and befuddled could fit here, but none that lean too close to giving up totally. The answer for me is to pray and weigh the possibilities, then let the Holy Spirit (aka Wisdom??) take over the task.

The tasks are not easy, not even the few examples given in today's gospel of the commandments, choosing a profession, or what to do with the kinds of wealth we have. "Following" Jesus has many wonderful possibilities and they all begin with wanting to do so. I believe that when we "give up" ourselves in some way to follow Jesus, we will receive the graces to do just that, and reap the promised reward. God's got this!

Come, Holy Spirit!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Twenty Eighth Sunday of Ordered Time October 10, 2021

Wisdom 7:7-11; Responsorial Psalm 90; Letter to the Hebrews 4:12-13; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 5:3; Mark 10:17-30

Here we go again – another inscrutable passage from Mark’s gospel challenging our version of a happy life. In the narrative this Sunday Mark takes everything we believe about a successful life and throws it into the dumpster. The pursuit of wealth is one of the three pillars of a happy life. The other two are power and influence/notoriety. These three endeavors are driving forces in western culture. These three pursuits have driven our lives into tremendous human progress over two thousand years of Christianity. How do we explain Jesus looking at this rich youth and loving him? Then Jesus tells him to sell all his inheritance and all the wealth he is gained through his efforts. How can we relate this gospel narrative to our lives? We work hard to support our families, to see to their clothing, shelter, food, heath, and education. We spend most of what we earn on those necessities. What is this gospel lesson teaching us? How is it relevant to our living?

To understand this message, we need to listen to the beginning dialogue between this young man and Jesus. He calls Jesus "Good Teacher." That sounds innocent enough. But Jesus takes the word "good" and applies it to God alone. Only God is completely good. We creatures are at best partially good. Jesus redirects this youth’s praise and honor directly to the source of goodness. Anything less is not worthy of being identified as good – even if only a "good teacher." Jesus makes certain that there is One God, there the name of God is not taken in vain and keeping Holy the Sabbath rest. These are about the goodness of God and the first three commandments.

Then Jesus lists six other commandments. All but one of those are "thou shalt nots" except for honoring one’s mother and father. That commandment is different from the other commandments regarding human relationships because it is stated in a positive manner and actually specifies a reward for such behavior. If we notice these are commandments of avoidance, that is, of NOT doing something, then we better understand the rest of the story. The young man testifies that he has been faithful in living by these rules. Jesus looks on him and his heart is stirred by the youth’s faithfulness. Then comes the clincher. "If you wish to be perfect, sell all that you have and give it to the poor!"

If we think about it, this advice from Jesus is about doing something. This is no mere compliance with law or sets of moral behaviors. This is more positive and certainly more demanding.

If we feel that selling everything we have and giving it to the poor is not something we can do, then we should take to heart the intent of Jesus’ advice. It is not enough to avoid sin. If we wish to be perfect – well, if we wish to work toward being perfect – then we must do more than avoid sin. One current spiritual writer calls this avoidance an "evacuation plan for leaving this life." If we want to live the eternal life that is God’s life, then we must go beyond avoidance, beyond a survivalist approach to our decisions, and stretch ourselves to be more than "good people." That is good with a small "g." Providing those in need, on the margins of society, oppressed by bigotry and or poverty, that is more like what the life of God is about.

What we have believed in our Faith is that there is a Creator God. That Creator had no need for material things, no need for spinning galaxies, and certainly no need for humanity who has the ability to make choices, good and bad. What a risk God has taken in creating us! We can ignore, curse, deny God --- or we can discover in God the source of our uniqueness and beauty. What a risk God took then! And what about sending his son to become one of us? What a risk and see how that turned out!!

The cross, however, is not the end of the story. The cross affirmed Jesus’ commitment to the truth of God and God’s undying and unconditional care and love for us. The Jews call that active relationship with humanity and the universe "Loving Kindness." Some writers use a Hebrew word – hesed – when they write about God’s "loving kindness." That loving kindness, that hesed is the "eternal life of God" the rich young man sought. Unfortunately, he held such a strong belief and attachment to his wealth that he was only willing to live an" evacuation plan" in his spiritual life. To live with the life of God is to do as God does. That life is well described by the terms hesed, unconditional love, or "loving kindness." That kind of living takes a huge amount of practice and effort.

If we are satisfied with riding in a jump seat for eternity, then avoidance of sin pretty much works for that. If, however, first class with drinks, delicious food, plenty of leg room, comfortable seats, and wonderful companionship is our desire – then we are required to move beyond an evacuation plan for evacuation as our ticket the the joys of first class.

There is a part of the message often overlooked. We have been snookered into a belief that living the life of God is something that begins only at the end of physical life. That is a mistake. Time is a gift during which we have the opportunity to practice living the life of God. Athletically inclined people know, practice makes perfect. And wasn’t it perfection the young man sought?

And oh, one more thing. No one is excluded from this life of God because they lack wealth, power, influence, extraordinary education, or whatever in this life. Every person has access to living with "loving kindness." There is always room in first class for deserving persons!

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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RICHES GETTING IN THE ROAD: 28TH SUNDAY B, OCT 10, 2021

Wisdom 7:7-11; Hebrews 4:12-13; Mark 10:17-30

A questionnaire was once distributed to a class of high school students. It asked: ‘What would you like to be?’ Two-thirds answered: ‘A celebrity!’ Not an answer Jesus would have given!

Mark, today’s gospel storyteller, tells us that Jesus is setting out on a journey when this young man – he is not named - comes running up to him. All enthusiastic, he asks Jesus what he must do to make the most of his life and time on earth. What he is wanting is a greater closeness to God and a greater sense of fulfilment. He has already been walking the right path for any good young Jewish man. He hasn’t killed, cheated, or robbed anyone. He hasn’t fooled around with another man’s wife. He has always shown his parents love and respect. But right now, this doesn’t seem enough to feel completely at home with God and at peace with himself. There must be more that he can be, and there must be more that he can do. ‘What is it?’ he asks Jesus.

Jesus takes a shine to this rich young businessman for his evident honesty, sincerity, and goodwill. But Jesus wants to free him from his addiction to possessions and to help him share more with others. Looking him straight in the eye Jesus puts to him one massive challenge: ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’

Let’s hear Jesus saying that to us 21st century people. What would we think? What would we feel? What would we do? Let’s hear Jesus, then, asking any one of us to give up every single thing we value and treasure. My family! My friends! My pets! My home! My garden! My kitchen with its new cupboards and appliances! My air conditioner and air fryer! My computer! My smart TV! My smartphone! My iPod! My iPad! My digital camera! My swimming pool! My jacuzzi! My secure job and pay packet! My superannuation! My pension! My gym subscription! My holidays! My concerts! My books! My movies, my videos, my CDs and DVDs! My restaurant meals! My motor car! My football! My cricket! My tennis! My squash! My basketball! My health insurance! Just imagine Jesus asking us to give up just about every possession, pursuit, and hobby we have that gives us meaning and makes life worth living!

And all for what? To keep walking with Jesus along those dusty roads of Palestine? Not being sure of having a roof over my head on any night you care to name! Never being sure of where, when, or whether my next meal will be coming! Being exposed to the jeers and sneers of enemies of Jesus! Travelling light all right, unbelievably light!

If, then, like that rich young man we did meet Jesus on his journey and he was to look steadily at any one of us and say: ‘Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor . . . then come, follow me,’ it would be very understandable, perhaps even predictable, that our jaws too would drop, and we too would walk away sad, because we would probably be thinking and feeling: ‘Jesus is asking too much of me. The cost is too great. It’s beyond me. It’s unreal. I can’t do it.’

Jesus knows that what he asked of that young man is quite beyond the great majority of human beings. ‘For mortals,’ he comments, ‘it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’ He is speaking, surely, of the special grace of God, and of the power of that grace given to particular individuals, who all through history have left everything to follow and imitate Jesus. St Francis of Assisi is a striking example. In 1206 the crucified Jesus spoke to him three times from the crucifix in the church of San Damiano. ‘Go, repair my church,’ Jesus said. (He was speaking of his church community). So at the age of 25 Francis completely renounced his inheritance, stripped himself of all his fine clothes and all his possessions, and consecrated himself totally to God. From that day he began to live the teachings of Jesus as literally as possible. He put all his trust in God as his only source of security. The amazing thing is that from that day on, Francis found more joy in living than in the entire first twenty-five years of life. It can be done, then, but not by everyone.

Where does the gospel story leave you and me? Right now, we can’t pack up the bare necessities and hit the road. For most of us that would even be irresponsible. But let our gospel remind us that we can let our lives get too cluttered and too complicated by too much stuff and too much attachment to what we have. It’s not that possessions are bad in themselves. But they can become a terrible hindrance if they start to possess us and block our minds and hearts from what matters most. Surely our freedom to be loving persons to family and friends, but also to those poor people not far away without even the bare necessities of life. What matters most of all is our relationship with Jesus. He was calling that young man of the story into his company. He keeps calling us too to share his company - to spend time with him and to share our lives with him. Let’s do just that, then, in the rest of our prayer together today!

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: 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"How hard it is for those who have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God!"

There used to be a tradition in Ireland that at a baptism the godparents would give the newly baptized infant a little silver christening cup. But when my mother was asked to be godmother to my cousin Catherine, she didn’t have the money to get it immediately.

But eventually it was bought.

And then it had to be engraved.

And then it had to be polished.

And then, we’ll I think if we are honest, it got a little bit forgotten about, gathering dust on a high shelf.

Then my family moved to the South of the country.

And then a little later Catherine’s family moved to the north of the country.

So, in the end, what with life, the universe and everything, Catherine only finally got to receive her little silver christening cup at her seventh birthday party. It was all very suitably presented to her, with a nice speech and all nicely wrapped up with flowery paper. And, being a very well brought-up young lady, Catherine was very pleased to get it and said "Thank You" very nicely. And the birthday party went on.

Perhaps a couple of hours later, Catherine’s best friend picked up the silver cup and looked at it and said how much she liked it and how much she wished someone would give something like that to her., without another thought, Catherine gave it to her and said she could keep it. But Catherine’s mother was shocked and scandalized. You don’t give away your sterling silver christening cup - not ever! And certainly not after you’ve just spent seven years waiting for it and the giver is still in the room!

Immediately she intervened, snatched the cup back from Catherine’s best friend and returned it to its rightful owner. The result of course was two howling seven-year olds. But Catherine’s mother was too busy apologizing to my mother: "I’m ever so sorry. But Catherine doesn’t yet understand the value of things."

"Ah yes," said my mother, "but she does understand the value of people".

Thirty years later, when I was working in the Rupununi in the Amazon in South America among the Amerindians I was asked to go and see a man called Crispin. Now, Crispin had been given the chance of a lifetime. He had been offered a good paying government job in Georgetown the capital city. It was a wonderful opportunity for him to have financial security for the rest of his life, for his family to have a better standard of living and even for the whole village to have a friendly representative in an important government position in town. But Crispin didn’t want to go. And he wouldn’t tell anyone why. So I was asked to go and talk some sense into him. So off I went.

Now I don’t know if you know any Amerindians, but the key thing when working with them that you have to take things very slowly and gently. Village people don’t like any sort of confrontation.

So we started off, I thought quite safely, talking about the weather. And after a while we both agreed that we had never seen the rains so late in the season. It was very worrying indeed.

Then we talked about his farm and he spent another while telling me all about his worries for next year’s cassava crop.

And eventually I worked the conversation around to talking about the job. And he agreed that it was a big opportunity for him. He could see the benefits for himself, for his family, for his village. And so, after a little while – probably about two hours – which, in that part of the world, is only a little while, we got to the point. If he was clear in his mind that this was a good opportunity for himself, for his family and for his village, then why didn’t he want to go?

"Well, you see Father," he said, "two years ago, when we had the hunger, my family had the least food of the whole village. And people shared with us. One man – I didn’t know him well – but he shared his last bowl of cassava with me. If I go to the city and there is a hunger, who will share their cassava with me?

So I tried to explain – the city is a big place – there are lots of people; they have lots of money; they can truck in food from all over the country. There won’t be a hunger there.

He thought about that for a little while. And then he asked again, "But, Father, what happens if the hunger isn’t just for food?"

Again, I tried to explain that there are many good people in the city. Even deeper hungers can be satisfied.

Crispin thought about that for quite a while.

And then I could see him make his mind up. A little light of decision came into his eyes.

"Well, Father," he said slowly, "you may be right. But, even so, I always want to live my life in a place where a man will share his last bowl of cassava with me. And that place is here."

And so, as it happens, Crispin never did go to Georgetown. He never did get the big job and is probably to this day still growing his field of cassava and worrying about how late the rains are this season.

But as I left him – with I have to say a certain reverence - I was thinking about Catherine’s silver cup. Because we all want to live our lives in a place where people are more important than things and where, when the Hunger comes (whatever kind of Hunger it happens to be) there will be a community which supports us and someone who will share with us their last bowl of cassava. Someone who will share the very last of their treasures.

As Christians, we call that place the Kingdom of God and we believe that is the place where the Lord invites all of us to live.

Paul O'Reilly <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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