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Contents: Volume 2 - Twenty Ninth Sunday of Ordered Time Year B October 17th, 2021

 

29th

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 29 B 2021

The Gospel passage according to Mark today is about being a servant, that is one whose priority is to care for an other's needs. We have all had a pastor (or boss) or two who have truly exemplified the true servant leader that Jesus encourages and perhaps even one who didn't quite understand that message. How we have responded to those differing leadership styles spiritually might give us a hint as to which version of servant brings people closer to the Lord and to each other.

We are all to be servants, whether we are in leadership positions or not. The attitude of helping others as equals is what Jesus is promoting. We are called to care for one another because we are brothers and sisters in the Lord. We journey together; we journey for the common good; we journey as tirelessly as possible because it is the will of the Lord.

From my view, modern events do not mirror that sought after picture. Power struggles are incessant, widespread, and often violent. Acting as a "servant" and certainly a "slave" is often looked down upon by some as becoming "less than" the other and just plain weak. That is the complete opposite of how God sees the issue and what Jesus said about it.

Our pastor recently ended a homily with very profound words: "You must be different from the world if you want to make a difference in the world." What we have in today's Gospel is a specific and radical way to do just that in the very same way that Jesus did. It is certainly not easy, nor can we do it all by ourselves! It is certainly time for each of us to "confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help." In our own weakness or timidity, let us ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength to serve others and the Lord.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Twenty Ninth Sunday of Ordered Time October 17 2021

Isaiah 53:10-11; Responsorial Psalm 33; Letter to the Hebrews 4:14-16; Gospel Acclamation Mark 10:45; Mark 10:35-45

This is the second time that Mark relates to the apostles talking about who is most important. It is obvious the disciples thought of the Messiahship of Jesus in terms of political and authoritarian governance. Leadership practiced in the first century is not much different even now from how secular and religious leadership function.

A quick look at the reading this Sunday make it seem as though we heard all this before. What is different in James and John looking forward to their future when Jesus takes over and forms his kingdom? Just as the disciples walking to Capharnaum were trying to arrange their pecking order in the new kingdom, so now the story focuses on just two of them wanting the highest-level positions in the new kingdom. The intensity of this scene is different from the scene on the road. Now there is a consequence to the desire. There is suffering involved. The notion of privilege is lost. Being important in the new kingdom is painful. That is where the first reading from Isaiah should warn us something big is about to be taught. That is the clue to what it means to be a leader in the Kingdom of God’s presence on earth. The suffering that Isaiah prophesizes is a necessary experience in bringing light and salvation to the people. The focus is on suffering, of a career as a servant whose achievement is liberation for the people brought about by a suffering servant.

A little background regarding the prophet Isaiah is helpful. Scholars divide the book of Isaiah into three sections based on the lived situation of the Jews in a particular time period. The first section contains a warning of impending violence. Choices of Jewish leadership would lead to war and destruction. Thousands would be slaughtered. The bodies of men, women, children, and even domesticated animals in Jerusalem will litter the streets. Their blood would color the dust of the streets tainting and coloring the sandals of any who walked there. Survivors would be taken into exile, the citizenry scattered as slaves in the many cities of the conquerors. The warning prophecies of this first Isaiah were not heeded and proved to be true.

The second segment of Isaiah chronicles the time when the Jews were exiles in Babylon and its many cities. More importantly that time of slavery gave meaning to historical experiences of the Jews. This time in Jewish history is a time of rebirth in their faith in God and God’s intervention in their nation’s history. During this time, the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures were collected from the stories of four different traditions. That is why there are two accounts of the creation in Genesis as the source of those stories sprang from two distinct traditions in Judaism. Those stories and others were written down in a final form. That work gave energy to the rebirth of Jewish faith in the one God. Rituals based on history and current life were reformulated to be a source of education and piety for the Jews. Central to those experiences was the experience of the Exodus which was the story of liberation for their ancestors. In the remembering of that liberation, the exiles found hope for their eventual liberation. Those rituals had much to do with the Jews retaining their national and religious identity in a foreign land.

It is the second segment of the Prophet Isaiah that is the source of the first reading this Sunday. This selection is one of the songs of the "suffering servant." It promises a new liberation for the Chosen People. But that liberation comes with a price. The "suffering servant" effects the liberation of the people. Liberation is achieved by his suffering and challenging work. This is the place to recall that the term "servant" and the term "lamb" are the same in Hebrew. Thus, when John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God, that identity contains a reference to the "suffering servant" of Isaiah. God’s will of liberation for his covenant people is achieved through the suffering of this servant. This servant would take on the guilt of the people – the guilt of the nation for installing idols in the holy of holies in the Temple of Solomon. The idolatry of power, of wealth, of prestige and influence denied God’s presence. This denial was done as a concession to treaties with other nations who negotiated with Judah’s political leadership. Through his suffering the Servant would see the light. That light then – as now as we especially celebrate at Christmas time – is the presence of God with his people. It demonstrated – better stated as a revelation instead of demonstration – of God’s unconditional love for his people.

This narrative helps us realize the place of suffering in individual and communal living. Suffering is never to be sought. It just comes with the territory of being human. As Isaiah tells us, suffering is often the cause and source for liberation. What is harmful to us, to our communities, to our nation, and to the world repeatedly in history brings on suffering. Finding our way – obviously with the absolute need for God’s help – through the crises leads us to a new place, to a new understanding and to renewed commitment. This is the light the suffering servant comes to in the Isaiah reading. The light is the truth that bad choices, evil intentions, tyranny, enslavement of others destroys humanity. Any person interested in history more than the news of the day realizes the constant struggle of humanity with what is wrong with our thinking and inclinations. The guilt that comes to people who practice sympathy and empathy is lifted from the backs of those who learn love. Such suffering is taken up by suffering servants, always.

That brings us to the gospel for this Sunday. It seems very much like a repeat of the disciples arguing among themselves about who is most importance in the new Kingdom. This time it is two brothers lobbying with Jesus to gain seats of importance in Jesus’ kingdom. They presumed his kingdom would be like the kingdom of David, or like the Assyrian empire, or the Egyptian empire, or in imitation of Babylon’s economic and military engine. They were looking for a career of prominence, wealth, power, and influence. They misunderstood the kind of kingdom Jesus was beginning. But more importantly, they had yet to learn being a disciple was no career for ambitious men. This was a mission. This was not a profession. It more than a career, it is more than a job or exalted position. Discipleship was and is a mission. Throughout Church history the Kingdom has at times been harmed by apostles, disciples, and members of clergy attempting to make the mission a matter of personal superiority. The servants of the Kingdom of God always fail when they transform the mission into power, glory for themselves, or an opportunity for an institutional career. Persons called to the mission of the Kingdom of God are living the role of humble, suffering servants.

Anyone not in the clerical or religious state may think this is a harsh and undeserved criticism of persons who have given up everything in service of God’s Kingdom. Yet this the role of suffering servant is the example given by Jesus. The ways of the world are easier to attain than suffering servitude. Our experience demonstrates what happens to persons who give their all for power, wealth, or notoriety. The way of disciples of Jesus are not as evident. The spirits of persons who understand and live the servant role are only visible in the thousands of little, quiet things they do, they speak, and they think. They understand their mission is Jesus and his Kingdom.

It is not only the religious or clerical state that serves others as Jesus served. When we are baptized into the Body of the Christ, we are chosen and informed by the words of the ritual that we are now priests, prophets, and Shepherds (often stated as Kings/Queens). Just last week, Jesus encouraged the rich young man to get beyond mere compliance. Living the Way of the Christ leads us beyond mere compliance to rules and regulations. We learn to reach out to the persons on the margins. Persons on the margins are most obviously those without resources or lacking in physical or psychological access to resources. This means food, drink, clothing, housing, and education. But it is more than that. It includes reaching out to the isolated, the mentally infirm, those with disease, those who are ignored. It includes simple things – a greeting, a kind word, a door held open, allowing another access to a place on a highway. It is looking at others and discovering the image and likeness of God. What gets our anger and revenge going in hearts and minds is those who fight against us, those who disrespect us. Jesus says it is easy to love those who love us. It is those who hate us that most need our sympathy, empathy, mercy, compassion, and care. Such is the mission of followers of Jesus.

I know that in our household we have work to do. I suspect that goes for anyone else who reflects on this Sunday’s readings. The reward in our life before our final journey, our evacuation from this world is overwhelming peace, unlimited joy, and an abiding sense of happiness that the way of the world cannot provide.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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OUR SHARED CALLING FROM GOD: 29TH SUNDAY B

Isaiah 53:10-11; Hebrews 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45

In our gospel today Jesus reminds us that he ‘did not come to be served but to serve’, and to give his life for the wellbeing of others (Mk 10:45). As for Jesus, so for us! Has he not said of us: ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you’ (Jn 20:21)? Today, then, let us reflect on our shared mission, our shared vocation, our shared calling from God. In a nutshell, it’s about being ministers and missionaries, ministers and missionaries of God’s goodness and love.

The word ‘ministry’ simply means ‘service’. Any service, any outreach, given to other people in need may be called a ‘ministry’. The service of others flows, in the first place, from our shared humanity, our being human beings together. For example! Just last week, a nurse told me that on her two days-off each week, she welcomes people to her home, where she teaches them for free how to cook. One husband eagerly looks forward to the result of his wife’s lessons. It’s such a nice change from a jar of ‘Chicken Tonight’ on just about everything! Steve Irwin, known far and wide as ‘the Crocodile Hunter’, worked energetically all his life for the conservation of the environment and the preservation of many species of animals.

Any true service that anyone does, whether they are aware of this or not, is working for that better world of goodness and kindness, justice and joy, love and peace, that Jesus called the ‘kingdom of God’ on earth. For us Christians, our service of others also flows from our connection with Jesus Christ and his gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus empowers us to go out and tell everyone everywhere, by word, deed, and example, the good news of the never-ending love shown us by Jesus Christ. So being a minister and missionary of God’s love means loving others in all the ways that Jesus loved people.

A glance through the gospels gives us glimpse after glimpse of the many different ways in which Jesus loved and served others. He treated everyone with truthfulness and respect, fairness and love; he prayed for them; he felt distress and compassion for those in pain; he healed and liberated lots; he rejoiced and celebrated with those who were glad. He reached out most of all to those who were the ‘little ones’ of Jewish society - the poor, the sick, the social outcasts, and those, such as women, who were treated contemptuously, cruelly and unjustly. He befriended sinners so much that the Pharisees complained to his disciples: ‘Why is it that your Master eats with tax collectors and sinners?’ (Mk 2:16; Lk 6:30).

So, Christians, like Jesus, serve others by proclaiming the truth of God and the laws of God, by praying, giving a good example, acting to defend human rights, and by being respectful, fair, kind, compassionate, caring and forgiving towards others. His teaching and example have left us with a brilliant example of an authentic life, for becoming the best people we can be.

Vatican II was the first church council ever, to spell out the meaning of mission and ministry. It taught that the whole church is missionary, and that to be a Christian is to be both a follower of Jesus and an agent of his love to others. It taught that all baptised people share in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ and are responsible for carrying out the mission of the Church in the world. It emphasized humble, loving service rather than status, honours, robes, titles and privileges. It also said that as Christians all members of the church are equal.

Since the Council (1962-1965), there has been nothing less than an explosion of lay ministries and activities of every kind - to sick, disabled and dying people; to bereaved families; to dysfunctional families; to youth; to migrants and refugees; to battered wives, and other people in need of counselling, therapy, and protection. Laypersons function as pastoral associates, teachers, principals, parish councillors, catechists, readers, ministers of communion, musicians and singers, prayer leaders, artists, and architects. There are nurses, doctors, ambos and other health workers, who view their services as Christian ministries.

Some laypersons are campus ministers, social workers, prison visitors, day-care workers, and foster parents. Others contribute their love and skills to the rehabilitation of alcoholics and drug addicts. Some work in marriage tribunals and marriage counselling, some as experts in church law, givers of retreats, and spiritual directors, and still others in the areas of social justice, ecumenical and inter-faith dialogue and co-operation. Some go out of their way to give loving support to the lonely. In some places lay people have become, equivalently, the pastors of parishes. Night and day, mothers and fathers of families everywhere, keep laying down their lives for their children. There’s nothing they would not do to help them.

The explosion of such lay ministries is a fulfilment in our time of what St Paul said about his: ‘To each person is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good’ (1 Cor 12:7). He notes that the Holy Spirit distributes a variety of gifts to a variety of people for a variety of ways of serving God and God’s people. (vv.4-6).

That, briefly, is what I mean by being a minister and a missionary. It’s a vocation to which we are every one of us is called both by our humanity and by our baptism. Today, therefore, let us renew our firm and sincere commitment to keep living as disciples of Jesus and missionaries of his love, in our very broken and needy world!

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: 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"The Son of Man himself did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

There is that in all of us that wants to be close to power - to be the best friend of the biggest boy in school, or to be the best pal of the most popular girl in the group; to be the one who goes drinking with the manager, or plays golf with the chief executive. It is a temptation to which we also come. But just once, I knew a man who had sat very, very near to the top. Just for a short time he had been a cabinet minister and, on one memorable and glorious occasion, he had got to sit on the left hand side of the Prime Minister during a cabinet meeting.

Sadly, that was as high as he got; as close to the summit of power as ever he managed to achieve. Just a couple of weeks after his peak moment, his party lost the election and he lost not only his position in government, but his seat in parliament and he found himself unemployed and suddenly, actually, really quite poor. So, when I knew him, he was a man saddened by life and disappointed in many of his ambitions. And, I think perhaps detecting some unhealthy ambition in me, he once went out of his way to give me some advice. I don’t think I understood any of it at the time, but I could see it was important to him and at least I had the sense to write it down. He said this to me…

"Remember lad, there is no top to the greasy pole. The higher you climb up the greasy pole, the more you realize that no matter how much greasy pole there is beneath you, there is still a lot more above you. And one’s life achievement is not measured by the place on the greasy pole from which you retired, but by whatever good you did from whatever place you were upon it. Therefore, the purpose of climbing the greasy pole is not to get to the top, because there is no top; it is to get to the place where one may best serve the people who will never have the chance to climb the pole at all."

So now, when I meet those moments in my life when I feel that, if I just played my cards right, I could hitch myself another notch on the greasy pole and survey the world from just a slightly higher perspective and – so I tell myself – put myself in a position better to help those who need it. I hear his voice reminding me once again that there is no top to the greasy pole and indeed the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. The cross is the end of all greasy poles.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who came not to be served, but to Serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Paul O'Reilly <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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