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Contents: Volume 2 - The Thirtieth Sunday of Ordered time -C- October 27, 2019


 

The

30th

SUNDAY

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Deacon Russ O'Neill

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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Sun. 30 C

The first sentence in our readings this Sunday tells us "The Lord is a God of justice who knows no favorites". We know God hears the cry of the weak, the oppressed, the orphan , and the widow and "affirms the right". Jesus also reminds us that the humble shall be exalted and anyone who exalts himself will be humbled.

So where does that leave some "other" people in God's sight like the strong, the happy family, or respected leaders in our neighborhoods, parishes, and workplaces? It is a tough question because I think God puts them in a tough place, perhaps to even the playing field so there remains no favorites. To me, anyone who is among the strong or happy or respected has a gift from God, a gift that must be acknowledged.

It is a gift that does not put one on a pedestal, however, but adds quite a bit more responsibility to one's life. To be sure that "the Lord will not delay", those a bit more fortunate must be the helping hands that get things done, that insure that justice will prevail. The truth is that we are all sinners even if we are not guilty of any of the "really bad stuff", at least in our eyes.

That God knows no favorites is hard to comprehend at times. Each of us "crosses the line" of good and bad in our daily lives or at least waivers quite a bit. To despise another is to have a false view of oneself and of the "other".

When we stand before the God of justice, we will know our rightful place. Bragging won't cut it, for sure! I think a grateful, humble person who is the servant of others will be more what God had in mind, no matter what one's status was here on earth.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Thirtieth Sunday in Ordered Time

Sirach 36:12-14 & 16-18; Responsorial Psalm 34; 2nd Timothy 4:6-8 & 16-18; Gospel Acclamation 2nd Corinthians 5:19; Luke 18:9-14

It seems like we’re revisiting again the practice of prayer. This Sunday’s readings from the Wisdom literature of Judaism, the second reading from Paul’s second letter to his wavering disciple, Timothy, and Luke’s famous story about the Pharisee and the tax collector who came to the temple to pray. But this is not merely a commentary on prayer, how to pray, and what prayer amounts to. The depth of the message points to human character. So very often we judge the worth and dignity of a person by what they achieve, accumulate, and/or their notoriety. The point of this Sunday’s readings is not about accomplishment and accumulation or notoriety. It is about the person, each person’s character that speaks to what that person is. It points to the truth that human life is about the growth and development of character in truth, integrity, and depth. It is the interior truth of who and what we are.

We may think of prayer being about God’s power and wealth. We think it’s a way of getting what we need. Well, perhaps not so much what we need, but more what we want. And the wants we pray for often are what Madison Avenue tells us will give us satisfaction, fulfillment, and fullness of joy. Joie de vivre! Typically these are empty promises.

When we think of prayer, we often discover ourselves drawn into a discourse with God when we stumble into troubling situations which have no apparent way out. We look around and find ourselves in a tight situation, like a room without an exit. Frequently such situations are physical. We experience the pain and despair of a life-threatening disease. Medicine has no apparent cure. Experimentation causes as much pain as it does health. God becomes our go-to savior.

When we think to pray, we may well have come to a cross-roads in life’s journey. Which way to turn? Where to look for employment? How to deal with a failed relationship? What to do about a rebellious child who seems to have lost all sense of a moral compass? How to mend fences with family, co-workers, employers, neighbors when heated words built walls? God is above such petty, but life-shaping occasions. Because God is so beyond the pettiness and the immediacy of anger, hatred, poorly spoken and harsh words that wound – because God transcends all this, we look to God as our savior.

In times of war we pray that God is support our military. We should wonder how God chooses sides when the only way to resolution of geographic or political conflict seems to be the murder of opposition. How does God choose? In all the wars the northern hemisphere has experienced, both sides offered prayers and petitions for success in battle. Each side believes it is right. Does God choose one side over the other?

If we take the time to think about the human comedy from God’s perspective we’ll discover our minds rushing in tight circles of ever increasing speed. We’d become totally disoriented and unable to make rational sense of humanity’s violence and self-centeredness. If we could see and understand the details of human interaction among itself and with the environment that so richly supports it, we’d wonder why the all-powerful God doesn’t just pull the plug and start over again to express his goodness and compassion.

We realize when we take a 30,000 foot view of the lives we lead that God is beyond our understanding. Were we God, would we put up with our behaviors? How do we treat our children when they’re still young enough to fear our anger? Isn’t that how we think of God? After all we call the Creator of all, "Father." Jesus goes even further and calls the Creator "Daddy." Such familiarity appears to be unfitting, disrespectful and rude.

For those of us experiencing the joys and trials of parenting, we have a better way of understanding God. Being a parent is a vocation. (It forever surprises me that when the Church encourages vocations that the married state is not considered a vocation!) Despite rudeness, disobedience, distrust, and anger the love of a committed parent will never be destroyed. Most parents thrill at stories broadcast each Christmas time that teach us the wonder of reconciliation. The stories bring tears when the storied family is rejoined and past sins forgiven. Hugs and kisses become the entrance way to conversation. And those conversations are a sharing in experiences, motivations, trials endured, and victories won. The bonds of family increase when repentance brings family together. Repentance is how we come to accept our need for each other. It is said and sung that "no man is an island unto himself." Family is our source of pain but even more so of joy and peace, acceptance and value.

The readings this Sunday are so much about prayer as it is about character. The reading from Sirach tells us that God has no favorites. We may believe that or not. Don’t some seem to have more of God’s loving attention than others of us? Doesn’t God seem to visit some of us with pain and suffering, failure and despair? Isn’t that what the book of Job is about? Sirach goes on to tell us the ones most forsaken, the orphan, the widow, the wretchedly poor, the lowly ones among us have their prayers heard. But Sirach does not tell us that God changes their lot in life. God provides endurance and strength to the person so that they can flourish even in the worst of circumstances. Viktor Frankl, following his experience in Hitler’s concentration camps, wrote of that experience. The title of that book is Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl writes in an introduction in 1983 the following admonition to his students. "Don’t aim at success – the more you at it and make it a target, the more you’re going to miss it. For success like happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue and it does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must follow, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it." Frankl spent his thoughts in the camp wondering why some prisoners there never gave up hope, never gave up caring about others. Praying for and caring about others more than success or pursuing things and notoriety always leads to a sense of failure. For no one can ever accumulate enough to want nothing additional. No one can ever capture enough power to control all outcomes. No one can ever claim enough fame to be the very best. The Most High responds to their prayers and judges justly and affirms truth, what is true and right. The ones who serve God’s truth about themselves and the world in which we are placed are those whose prayers are heard. Pride is a chain binding us to the hamster wheel that goes nowhere, that cannot satisfy our hearts.

What is this about? God has a preference for the poor and the lowly, the forsaken and those in pain? If this is so, then why do some persons go through life with success and wealth? Everything seems upside down. It is this paradox that gives us a clue to how to pray. The lowly, the poor, the orphan, the widow, and those in pain understand their dependency. Where can they find the courage, the hope, the endurance to live in peace and with joy? Those without resources have two strikes against them and a 100 mile per hour curve ball coming at them. The one thing they lack completely is self-pride. Their prayer to God is without pretension, without self-praise, and without demand. They understand their need. They know they will not survive or grow as a person unless God encourages them and lifts up their spirits.

This doesn’t mean that the poor, the diseased, the forgotten, the uneducated are necessarily better than the rich, the powerful, or the influential. Those who come to God come with hope and not despair. Their characters are vibrant and powerful, rich in courage and patience. How unlike those endowed with assets and resources who have learned to be rugged individuals, in charge of their own lives. They believe they need no-one.

Isn’t that what the gospel parable is about this Sunday? The tax-collector in the story calls himself "THE" sinner. Our translation of the Greek doesn’t say "THE" but only "A" sinner. This person, rejected by the polite, the powerful, the wealthy, and the influential comes to God looking for help in growing through life’s experiences. It is God he approaches. The Pharisee comes to the Temple to pray. Well, actually, he comes to tell God how great he is. It’s like this Pharisee wants God to give him an "atta-boy." The Pharisee is so full of himself that God is only an after-thought. This Pharisee tells God God is not needed. The weakness and error of this man’s character is pride.

This Sunday as we work toward the end of our liturgical year, we should take another look at how we live our gift of life. Are we so focused on accumulation, power, and/or notoriety that we don’t have a need for God? Are we looking for God to give us things, power, fame? How do we view ourselves standing before the face of God? It’s time to take stock of the year of grace. Have we grown? Have we come to appreciate God and his loving kindnesses?

The close of our liturgical year is the feast of Christ the King. We’re celebrating not so much a person in that feast day as we are a reality. That reality is the presence of the Kingdom of God. What are our thoughts about the characteristics of that kingdom?

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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COMING CLEAN WITH GOD: 30TH SUNDAY C

I once knew a priest, now deceased, who was always telling his people that only he and his housekeeper would get to heaven. Needless to say his congregation got smaller and smaller. I was reminded of this when thinking about the story Jesus told of the two men who went into the House of God to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax-collector.

The Pharisee is not a bad man. In fact the people listening to Jesus regard him as a model citizen. He does everything expected of him and more. He fasts once a week as required by his religion, but also on one extra day. He gives not only one tenth of his farm products to the Temple, as required, but also one tenth of everything else he earns. He is faithful to his wife, and in his dealings with fellow men and women, he is neither greedy nor unjust.

On the other hand, the people listening to Jesus regard the tax collector as a rogue, a villain, and a traitor. There are plenty that would rough him up, if they could. For as a tax collector for the occupying Romans, he has been making money from the sufferings of his fellow-Jews, cheating and swindling them.

Yet it is the shady tax collector, who goes home 'OK' with God, not the respectable Pharisee. God accepts the villain, but rejects the saint. We have to ask: 'What’s going on here? Why is it so?'

The difference is in their fundamental attitude to God, the way that each of them prays before God. The Pharisee does not really go to the House of God to pray, but only to tell God and himself just what a fine fellow he is, and just how bad other people are. What he says is not really a prayer, only a piece of proud and arrogant boasting. Deep down he does not feel any need for God. So much so that it’s amazing that he goes to the Temple at all.

The tax collector, on the other hand, far from standing up and telling God how good he is, stands just inside the back door. As he thinks of all the wrong things he has done, he cannot bring himself even to look up. He just keeps beating his chest with his hands, and saying over and over again: 'O God, I’m a broken man. I've been a real rogue, both to you and just about everybody else. But please help me. I need your assistance much more than I can say. Have mercy on me.'

Brothers and Sisters! It's important for you and me to remember that Jesus first told this story to 'people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else’. For Jesus knew that good religious people sometimes have a tendency to add up their religious devotions and practices before God, and tell God just how wonderful they are. He knew too how good and religious people sometimes become self-righteous, on the one hand, and critical and contemptuous of others, on the other hand. They build themselves up by putting others down. Jesus knew too that to outsiders, to people who don't go to church, self-righteous people can seem hypocrites, phonies in fact. He knew too what a mess their arrogance can make of their prayers.

So today, Jesus Christ, present among us, and speaking to us again in the words of this powerful gospel story, is reminding us of three helpful home truths: -

1. No proud person can pray sincerely. Every one of us has the need to see ourselves as we really are before God – to see ourselves therefore as sinners, and yet sinners loved by God, embraced by God, and hugged by God. Every one of us needs to humbly ask this God of mercy to forgive our past mistakes and to give us help, healing and strength. to live in God’s way in the rest of our time on earth.

2. No one who despises and condemns their fellow human-beings can pray properly. For in prayer we don't lift ourselves above others, but come before God as one of a great mob of sinning, suffering, struggling human beings. (The sense of his own sinfulness used to lead Archbishop Lanfranc, a famous Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, to get down on his knees with every penitent, and pray for forgiveness of his own sins, before presuming to hear the confessions of others).

3. Everything good about us comes from God. Everything bad about us comes from ourselves. True prayer comes from setting our lives before God just as they are. In the light of God's goodness, in the light of the life of Jesus, we have nothing to boast about. All that is left to us is to thank God for the many good things about us, and, like the tax collector, to pray about the evil that is ours: 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner. Help me, cleanse me, and change me.' All that is left for us is to heed the gentle invitation of God in a popular hymn, an invitation which Jesus is speaking to us tonight (today) in our holy communion, our sharing with him.

Come as you are, that's how I want you.

Come as you are, feel quite at home.

Close to my heart, loved and forgiven;

Come as you are, why stand alone?

Come as you are, that's how I love you.

Come as you are, trust me again.

Nothing can change the love that I bear you.

All will be well, just come as you are.

 

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

 

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30th Sunday OT - Cycle C

We’ve all met them. Maybe some of us are those people. Like the Pharisee in today’s Gospel, some people put their pious acts above everything else and think that is how they will be justified. Like the Pharisees, some people say prayers constantly but are anything but charitable to others. Prayer is a good thing, but when it makes us self-righteous, it isn’t.

The contrast between the prayer of the Pharisee and the prayer of the tax collector goes beyond the contrast between boastful prayer and humble prayer. They both went to the temple to pray. They both sought God, who had already seen them though they did not notice. The Pharisee, the "man of God," had his pride and ego. He is checking in with God to remind him how wonderful he is, grateful that he is not like the other people. Did you catch the one line – "he spoke the prayer to himself." He addresses God, but is literally speaking to and about his own pious actions, expecting a gold medal. Then there’s the tax collector. These were crummy guys in Jesus’ days, probably overcharging people, pocketing the extra, and despised by many. And what does he do? He stands off at a distance, barely able to raise his eyes heavenward. He tells his truth addressing God directly, "O God, be merciful to me a sinner." He knew in his heart that something in his life needed to change. He is aware of his own unworthiness and realizes that he does need God, and he opens himself up to God’s touch. One man encountered God; the other didn’t.

Which one has heart? Which one focuses on God and which one focuses on himself? Which one is like me? Which one is like you? Maybe most of us can identify with both. We, too, come here seeking God. We see ourselves as both saint and sinner. At times we feel like we’re so much better than others, convinced of our own righteousness and feeling exalted, at least in our own eyes. At other times we feel like we’re not good enough, not holy enough to even approach this altar. We, too, come here at times knowing that something in our life needs to be changed. The Pharisee teaches us that religious practices are not enough. We also must be humble and have a goal of deepening our relationship with God. The tax collector teaches us that God doesn’t offer salvation only to the perfect, but to those who acknowledge their sinfulness and cry out for His mercy.

The shock of the parable is lost if we forget that the Pharisee is the very model of a religiously observant person, and the tax collector is a public reprobate. Neither gets what he deserves – and that’s the point! God’s mercy is not owed to, or earned by anyone. Its very essence is grace – a gift given by God, in this case, to the one who asks for it, no matter how sinful. The Lord knows no favorites, says Sirach. The one who serves God willingly is heard; his prayer reaches the heavens.

Our church is a church in which are found both holy and sinful people. God loves all who come to Him. The focus is not on what we do for God but on what God does for us. There is no need for us to huff and puff about our accomplishments to please God. Nor is there a need to wallow in our weakness and misery. We cannot comprehend the depth of the love of our God. He sees each of us as we are, with all the warts and bumps, yes, but also with the love, conviction, courage and character, the virtue that is part of who we are. God sees Himself in us, our unique reflection of His being, and He loves us. He is far more concerned with extending us His mercy, with lifting us up, than he is with our sinfulness. We come to this altar and put our hands out for the life-giving bread that sustains us. And as we reach out to God, know that we are already in His loving embrace – we just need to realize it! He embraces you – and you – and you – and you. Stop and feel him holding you close to His heart.

Deacon Russ O'Neill

Diocese of Youngstown

 

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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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