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Contents: Volume 2 - The 30th SUNDAY (A)
 - October 25, 2020


The

  30th

  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. 30 A

In this day and age where there are so many things that you should and shouldn't do to stay alive, having just two commandments in the Gospel on which to focus to stay spiritually alive sounds so easy and refreshing! Even I can do that. Wait a minute.... I need to look again, this time a bit deeper.

This response of Jesus to what is the greatest commandment is simply stated, but definitely not simple to do. There is no one thing to "satisfy" either of the things he says. I think that is really the beauty of the dilemma though.

How many ways can you show that you love the Lord? It would take multi-hours, multi-days, well, a lifetime, to think about and put your answers and good intentions into consistent practice. That is the point, I think.

The same is true of the second commandment. Our first reading gives us a great head start on some possible answers. Tuning in to any media news outlet about current events can make that list very long indeed in a very sort time.

Reflect, start, reflect, adjust, repeat. This type of pattern can become a life long habit resulting in a lifetime of honoring God and following the path Jesus modeled. Will you make the time to reflect? What will you do first? How will what you do improve your life, both physical and spiritual, and the life of others? To me, that seems to be how best to honor the God who made us all, one little bit at a time, consistently.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Thirtieth Sunday of Ordered Time October 25 2020

Exodus 22:20-26; Responsorial Psalm 18; 1st Thessalonians 1:5-10; Gospel Acclamation John 14:23; Matthew 22:34-40

In Matthew’s gospel, ever since Jesus made his triumphant entry into the holy city, Jerusalem, he has been conflicted with the powers that controlled the socio-economic system. Just before the gospel selection for this Sunday, he had a run in with the Sadducees. If we think this group was just some difficult people from the past, we are going to be mistaken. The Sadducees were the most conservative of the groups in Judah. They held the money, they owned the land, they controlled manufacturing, and were the banks and lending agencies of the nation. It was in their best interest that everything remained the same. They did not want change as change would affect their wealth and their power and their influence. Quite naturally, since they had an expansive life with all the perks, they had little hope in an afterlife. Heaven or paradise was something to keep the lesser citizens happy and working in their system. They held to the Law of Moses, strictly. They believed the law could not and was not meant to develop to give wisdom to current events. They were scriptural literalists. Tradition, national experience, or even personal experience would give a broader or more inclusive meaning to the words of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy.

The gospel begins this week with the words, "When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they gathered together and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested him…" If it seems the organized groups of Jews were out to get Jesus, we would be right. The Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Priests wanted no more than to prove that Jesus was not the Messiah, was clearly not a holy person, and was not schooled in the Law of Moses. The Sadducees had tried to take Jesus down by asking him to prove from the Law of Moses in the five books of the Law that there was eternal life. Eternal Life was a continuing theme of Jesus’ preaching. The Sadducees believed the Law of Moses said nothing about it. Jesus proved them wrong. They walked away, defeated, failed in their effort to prove Jesus violating the Law of Moses. The Sadducees were the wealthy who focused on increasing their wealth and reducing their obligations to community.

Now it was the Pharisees’ turn. The Pharisees studied the five books of Moses and defined several hundred laws to guide life. Compliance was their focus. They used the law to criticize, to condemn, to separate sheep from goats, and to elevate themselves with pride. Surely Jesus would miss one or another and they could point that out and use it to condemn Jesus and his teachings. Again, as with the Sadducees, their mindset prevented them from understanding the presence of God was active forming a community of persons, all equal. The Pharisees were the "law and order" group of Israel.

The priests were another grouping. They were the ordained, the ones set apart. In being set apart they were special, not like the ordinary folks of the street. They claimed to be closest to God; they presided over worship. They blessed and cursed. It was in their best interest to avoid appearing to be involved in politics. They worked behind the scenes in collusion with the Roman occupiers. They pedaled influence quietly. Their efforts were protected from public criticism.

In this Sunday’s gospel selection, one of the Pharisees, a guy who was recognized as an overachiever as regards the law, thought to trap Jesus using the Law. He addresses Jesus as "teacher." He gave Jesus a revered title the better to make Jesus feel pride at the recognition and thus make him more vulnerable. "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" No matter which prescription Jesus chose, he would have overlooked others of equal importance. This would give priests, Sadducees, and Pharisees cause to criticize Jesus. The people would be confused and walk away from Jesus. Jesus would just be another itinerant preacher overwhelmed by their cleverness.

You will notice that the priests are not mentioned in this gospel selection. It was beneath their status to engage in street argument. They would hold their tongues until the appropriate time and bring Jesus up on charges from both a religious and a secular sense. Their argument would end Jesus’ influence and hopefully his life at the hands of the Romans.

Jesus’ answer to the scholar of the Law reached into the Books of Moses. The Jews even now Jews begin their worship with the words of the Shema prayer. It begins, "Hear O Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is One." Then Jesus answers. "You shall love the Lord, your God." There could be no contesting his response. This is the first prayer every Jewish child would remember. It meant that to God we owe a love that is total, that dominates our emotions, that directs our thoughts, that is the energy for all our actions. Every other prescript, every other regulation, every other law comes from this love of God. And from this love of God comes the love of our neighbor that is equal to and surpasses our love of self.

This prayer is ancient and derives from the experiences of the Hebrew people. It drove the people to excel in faith. In the renewal of faith during the Babylonian captivity, this prayer found new meaning. Jesus continues: "This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

There we have it! In this short teaching of Jesus, derived from the Hebrew Scriptures, we have the message of the Messiah, of the Son of God. How well do we apply this message? To Love God, we must experience God. For 99.999 percent of us this has nothing to do with visions or apparitions. Most of us are not knocked off our high-horse --- well maybe that is not true. Unlike Paul who it is said was knocked off his horse as he rode to ancient Damascus to persecute the followers of Jesus, we get knocked off our high horse by the events of our living. Perhaps it is illness, perhaps it is loss of wealth, perhaps it is the insidious gossip that robs us of standing in the community. Perhaps it is loss of a job or contentions within family or community. In any case we are all robbed of pride by what happens to us. Only the very wealthy – the Sadducees among us – are insulated from such events and thus never come to love God. Perhaps we are so strongly opinionated that there is nothing that can persuade us of the truth. When the falsehoods we cling to bear bitter fruit, we too are brought down, knocked from the high horse of empty alliances to come to hear, "Hear O Israel; The Lord our God; The Lord is One." With that we shed pretentions, we surrender our pride, we see others and know compassion and mercy. That is how God watches over us – compassion, mercy, and unconditional love.

We create many classifications of people that have nothing to do with race, national origin, language, faith tradition, gender, or other categories we delight in. There are the fundamentalists, the literalists who cling to formulas that endorse their lifestyles and efforts. The Pharisees among us find comfort in knowing they are right. In their righteousness, they ignore these two great commandments. There are those who look down on others from the great height of their titles.

There are those satisfied with their lot in life. They gain wealth and prestige on the backs of lesser folk. And while they complain mightily about those dependent on welfare, those who live by entitlements, those who are a blight on society – yet it is on the backs of these lowly that wealth is amassed. It is no wonder that Jesus talks about the wealthy entering eternal life with the ease of a camel passing through the eye of a needle. They are too insulated from the vagaries of life to be affected by life changing misfortune. These are the Sadducees of our time.

There are those who ride the waves above all else because of their positions. They insulate themselves in their pride of knowledge, of skill, of alliances, or of power. Their use of power lacks compassion and mercy. Their use of power ignores the human condition and passes judgment without heart. These are the Chief Priests.

These three groups will not understand Jesus’ explanation of the greatest commandments. These three groups will not heed the word of Exodus today. "Thus, says the Lord: "You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them, and they cry out to me I will surely hear their cry."

We are in the final stages of a general election. We can hardly consider ourselves Christians if we fail to apply these two great commandments to our discernment. Political strategists will pick and choose issues to reach the emotions and thus cloud voter judgment. Discernment is difficult and must be divorced from the rantings of political discourse. In the end, the decision must be based on God’s love for us – for all of us. Not only the citizen, but also the immigrant fleeing intolerable conditions. It must consider the poor, the uneducated, the persons without access to basic health care. It must consider not only the unborn but also the infants, the toddlers who need basic life sustaining materials. It must consider responses to pandemics, to taxation, to international relationships, to efforts to secure peaceful trade and relationships with the world’s nations. It is not an easy answer as so many would tell us it is. It seems there is no perfect candidate. But it is essential that Christians discern, study the issues without partisan allegiances and choose under the guidance of the Spirit of God made known through the miracles of Jesus and his preaching and his love demonstrated on the cross. That Jesus’ work and life was approved by God is proven by the emptiness of the Tomb on Easter and his walking, eating, and teaching the disciples after that awesome event. His miracles sought to bring people into community, to return them to full participation in life. Whoever divides this community does not love God nor love his neighbor.

For there are two great commandments: "You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it; You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments." So says our Lord, Jesus who is the Christ.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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LOVING GOD IN LOVING NEIGHBOUR: 30TH SUNDAY A

- In raising their children to be good people, how might parents fail to be truly loving and caring?

- What kind of treatment tends to lead children to resentment, rebellion, and alienation from their parents?

- What most contributes to good, happy and harmonious relationships with others?

- In the teaching of Jesus about love, what was new and original?

- From his parable of the Good Samaritan, who is the neighbour that Jesus calls us to love. Give some examples.

- What helps has God provided, to enable us to be more loving persons than we are already?


A mother in a country town a long way from here became very concerned about the children she saw in the streets of her town. She was convinced that they were wild, unruly and disrespectful. She called them ‘ferals ‘, and to anyone who would listen she would say: ‘Parents no longer teach their children to be obedient.’ She made up her mind that this would never happen in her family. So, she insisted on total and absolute obedience. Either her children did exactly what she told them to do, or they were punished very severely.

For disobeying any of her orders or breaking any of her rules, she stopped them going out to play or going to their friends’ homes, sent them to bed without a meal, gave them no pocket money, stopped them from getting or giving Christmas presents, cancelled their birthday parties, refused to let them get a driver’s licence when they were old enough, and stopped them going to university. She was a real tyrant.

Her campaign was very successful. Her children were very obedient and respectful. On the outside, that is. On the inside, they were seething. Finally, when they were older, every one of them moved away from their mother as far as possible. As things turned out, they were all very successful in their careers. One day the mother got on the phone to her youngest daughter and complained: ‘Why don’t any of you love me? Didn’t I teach you the discipline you needed to succeed in your work?’ ‘Yeah,’ said the young woman, ‘but you never loved us.’

That mother goes to church every Sunday. Every Sunday she receives the risen Jesus in the consecrated bread and wine. Every Sunday she hears the teaching of Jesus. But she completely misses the point of his teaching. His teaching that the most important thing in life is having good, happy, harmonious and peaceful relationships, relationships of love! Having love for God and love for fellow human beings as the two hinges on the door to life!

The need and the requirement to both love God and care for others as much as I care for myself, were already well known in the Jewish community of Jesus. What is new and original with him is his insistence that you cannot have one without the other. What is new and original with him is that the proof, the test, of our love for God is our love for others. What is also new and fresh about the teaching of Jesus is that obeying any of the laws of God has to be done with love. Love must be the energy that empowers all our efforts to be good people and all our efforts to do good things.

In the teaching of Jesus too, love for neighbour includes every other human being without exception. Wasn’t his answer to the question put to him ‘who is my neighbour?’, to tell his famous story of the Good Samaritan. And isn’t the point of that story that the neighbour God calls me to love is always the person who needs me here and now? For example, the man up the street who has just lost his wife to cancer; the woman over the road who is old and bedridden but has no family to visit her; the asylum seeker languishing in detention in Maribyrnong Australia or in a cage on the US-Mexican border, with no-one to support his claims for a safe home and a new life for his family; the drought-stricken farmer watching his sheep die one by one, his breeding-stock among them.

Of course, we couldn’t possibly be ready to love all other persons, were it not for the example of Jesus himself, and for the gift of his Spirit, the Holy Spirit of love. Without Jesus and the Spirit, we couldn’t possibly forgive those who have hurt and harmed us. Without Jesus and the Spirit, we couldn’t possibly reach out to someone we don’t like, or to someone who is not part of our comfort zone of family and friends. But with Jesus and his Spirit, we can do good and great things for others, even for complete strangers we have never met before. This is just what was happening during the nightmare of the two Bali bombings that happened over eighteen years ago this month. It brought out the best in those generous people – quite a few - who cared more for the safety of other victims than they cared for themselves.

For that gift of love – generous, unselfish, and wholehearted love for God, and generous, unselfish, and wholehearted love for neighbour - let us come to the Lord today! Let us also pray to the Lord during the rest of our prayer today, prayed alone or with others, that every person we know, will bit by bit become a more loving, a more caring, and a more generous person!

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

 

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Year A: 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

"You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And you must love your neighbour as yourself."

"Love your neighbour as yourself?"

Why your neighbour?

Why not the people down the road?

or people in the next town?

Or some other people a nice safe distance away..?

Or the man in the moon?

Why your neighbour?

Well, I think we all know why

Liverpool versus Everton

Arsenal versus Tottenham

Celtic versus Rangers

Manchester United versus Manchester City.

Chelsea versus Fulham

Millwall versus - well, just about anybody really.

Neighbours are often the hardest people to love.

And so, when I hear these words of Jesus "Love your neighbour as yourself", I think of the worst day in British football in my lifetime.

- worse -far worse - than losing on penalties in the world cup quarter finals.

You are all too young to remember it - but your parents will. It was the 15th April 1989.

It was Hillsborough.

What happened at Hillsborough was that there were too many people in one place at one time.

They got crushed together - so crushed that 96 people were crushed to death.

Half of them were teenagers.

The oldest of them was 67.

The youngest was just 10.

It was a terrible, terrible accident.

People argue to this day about just whose fault it was.

But at the time, people weren’t arguing about that. We were all just numb with the grief of so many young deaths.

One week after the accident, there was a memorial service for the dead at Anfield. You can still see the pictures of it on the internet. And when you look at those pictures, the first thing you notice is that the entire pitch is covered with flowers, football scarves and football shirts.

But if you look more closely, the second thing you notice is that about half of the flowers are red, but half of them are blue. The blue ones are from Everton. That day they made a rope out of Liverpool and Everton football scarves that stretched all the way from Goodison to Anfield. The entire city of Liverpool was united in its grief.

And if you look still more closely, you will see that some of the blue scarves and shirts are from Manchester City and some of the red ones are from Manchester United.

An entire nation was united in our club’s grief.

I’ll tell you a secret: since that day I have still always loved it when we win, but I can now bear it when we lose - even, as we did recently, to Manchester United - because I know that we have not lost to an enemy, but to a neighbour.

Loving the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength means recognizing the presence and goodness of God in the other people God has created and placed alongside ourselves in His World.

Loving your neighbour as yourself means that no matter what divides us, there is something more - much more - which unites us.

As Christians, we call that the Presence of God.

I never thought I would say this – and certainly never in public – but I love Manchester United as I love my own team.

God Bless Football!

And God bless us all.

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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