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Contents: Volume 2 - 31/32nd Sundays - C
October 30 & November 6, 2022

 

  The

31/32nd

SUNDAYs

 (C)

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP - 31st SUNDAY

2. -- Dennis Keller - 32nd SUNDAY

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP - 31st SUNDAY

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ - 31st SUNDAY

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

 

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Sun. 31 C 2022

These are quite powerful readings this Sunday! They tell us the depth of God's love for us in a way that is soul-shaking! We have all felt a bit unloved sometimes in our lives but imagine what those who are truly despised repeatedly by others in our society today must feel.... and how important it is that they hear and receive the depth of God's love individually and let it profoundly touch their souls!

I find some very important things in the first reading from the Book of Wisdom. "For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned." Those who live on the fringes of our society don't often hear that! Those who live a privileged life or have a "holier than thou" approach to life often don't think those words apply to everyone. It reminds me of the impact the sweatshirt my teenage granddaughter wears that reads: "Love one another (yep, even them)" has. Usually it is just a sheepish smile and lowered eyes.

If each of us looks deeply into our lives and souls, we must admit some people fall into the "them" category, either individually or as a group somehow, sometimes. Reflecting on the words ""O LORD and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!" can change our perspective. So does the tutorial reminder of how God rebukes offenders, including us!

Yes, the crowd may grumble (then and now) as in the Gospel story about those who are looked upon as unfavorable, but the bottom line (both figuratively and literally in this case) is "The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost". Let us seek to be both as inclusive and forgiving as God is, with everyone. Let us pray that the Imperishable Spirit within each of us with be the guide along the way so that Jesus can welcome both us and them, happily and together into the Kingdom.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Thirty Second Sunday of Ordered Time

November 6, 2022

2nd Maccabees 7:1-2 & 9-14; Responsorial Psalm 17; 2nd Thessalonians 2:16 – 3:5; Gospel Acclamation Revelation 1:5-6; Luke20:27-38


As we come to wrap-up time of our liturgical year, we rely on images of agricultural harvests. The week began with a celebration of those persons who have completed their time of growth in wisdom, age, and grace. We follow that great cloud of witnesses who have entered into the completion of their living successfully connected with, to, and for God. There follows a concession to those of us who have lived out lives without a full commitment to the growth of spirit – some call it “soul.” The pursuit of what the physical world considers success, regularly mitigates the human sense of goodness, which Scripture names “righteousness.” The fruit of these latter isn’t quite ready for harvest. Their spirits need additional time basking in the purifying light of God’s presence. So, All Saints and All Souls are really harvest feasts whose celebration is meant to be a reminder that we too will at some undisclosed day will be ‘harvested.’ The harvest is completed next weekend when we celebrate the Thirty Third Sunday of Ordered Time, speaking about the end of our current era. Then on November 20th, we have the final summation of God’s providence in his creation, the final phase the Kingdom of God. That is the grand feast of Christ, the King.

Over and over again in human history, unrecorded and recorded, death is not the end of living. This is a common recurring theme in the earliest stages of humanity wherever there were/are persons. Archeological evidence of burial practices of the most primitive humanity point to a belief in the continuation of a person beyond death. With the first reading this Sunday, we hear the narrative of the seven sons dying for their faith against Antiochus Epiphanes. That tyrant wanted unity in his empire. He failed to understand that unity does not mean uniformity. We still struggle with that dealing with diversity. Is it because we are unsure of the truth of our cultures, of our traditions, of our dignity and worth? Do we need to remake everyone in our image and likeness in order to have peace? The question remains, when will we ever learn that diversity is how God made us and we should rejoice in the panoply of its richness. Violence comes when we wish to force others into our images of our own self-worth.

This first reading is a clear presentation of faith in God who provides us with a Resurrection, a new creation of our persons. Even though the limbs of the seven brothers were severed, they believed those limbs would be renewed, making their bodies whole. Their suffering for their faith in the light of the promised of resurrection was endurable because of God’s promise of Resurrection.

In the gospel the Pharisees gave up trying to trap Jesus. He was too clever, too astute, too versed in Hebrew experience recorded in their Scriptures. The Sadducees thought they’d attempt to prove Jesus a charlatan. The Pharisees were believers in the Law – and the prophets. Their failing was that they made the law and its precepts what they worshipped. Instead of adherence to the law as a tool to connect with God, they made it the purpose of their faith. The Sadducees were the capitalists of those times. They collaborated with the occupying Romans. Failure to cooperate would mean the loss of their wealth, their ownership in factories, farmlands, olive groves, and vineyards that brought them great wealth, power, and prestige. These were religious leaders wanting to hand Jesus over to the Romans for execution. Getting rid of Jesus would ensure a continuation of their lifestyle, their power, their prestige. Sadducees did not believe in life after death. Once a person died, only their memory lasted for a couple of years and then all trace of that person was lost. The effort to trap Jesus focused on arousing the anger or disbelief of among the poor, the infirm, the marginalized persons. These were a significant number. These poor found in Jesus, hope for dignity and worth. The Sadducees’ question to Jesus about a woman passed along to six brothers after a seventy died without an heir. That’s an interesting question. What does happen when a man marries after losing his first wife? Will heaven consider the last his true wife or do the two become like sister-wives?

At first read, this story expresses the disdain of these Sadducees for womanhood. It is as though a woman is a non-person, a commodity, a soulless machine for satisfying men’s lust, for producing babies, and for keeping house. Jesus was having none of that. And neither should we. How many of us menfolk still think of women – even wives and daughters – as less than men? Whether such prejudice arises in secular or religious circles, it is contrary to the two stories of humanity’s creation in Genesis. How have we been so easily misled by forces of evil to apparently deny the image and likeness of God in women?

This Sunday is about resurrection. In this questioning by the Sadducees who didn’t believe in resurrection, Jesus provides the only answer that means anything. For anyone to believe in Resurrection – meaning a complete human being of a spirit incarnated with flesh, a person as we define that – requires a radicalizing of belief in God. In the face of the great unknown that follows the process of dying – a being harvested, if you will – death appears to end point of human persons. How do we prove there is resurrection from a scientific model? There are some who deny the existence of an afterlife because it’s not scientifically provable. If we leave it there, we overlook the lack of proof that heaven doesn’t exist. Science cannot neither deny or affirm death after life. Only faith can comprehend this. And faith sees this because we have thousands of years of history of nations, especially the Hebrew nation, declaring the presence of God among humanity. A careful reading of the Hebrew Scriptures – what we call Old Testament – shows God’s fingers at work. It’s not always a rapid response intervention. But it always has the same effect. The people are freed. Look at the captivity in Egypt; how about the threat from Assyria: what about the Babylonian captivity; what about the time of Antiochus Epiphanes who wished to eliminate Jewish culture and religious practices? The Common Era after Jesus continues that same story line. We worship people, things, ideas that have nothing of Transcendence in them. We’ll eventually become enamored with wealth, power, prestige, violence, and hedonism. Then as literature, art, and music teach us, the emptiness of such things lacks lasting power to satisfy our inner selves. Those things tend to capture us, to enslave us, to rob us of vitality and inner peace.

So, there is a dying preceding our final harvesting. Such a death is a dying to what is false. The Cross on which Jesus did battle with death – the intermediate deaths of suffering now – and the final death of earthly existence cuts us loose from the worldly pursuits of success as measured by the worldly. The cross is the cross: it’s painful, it’s a struggle, it’s something we fight completely to avoid. Yet the crosses come into our living. It’s part of our life’s work. But, as with the arc of the life or Jesus, the victory over death is confirmed in a marvelously unexpected way. Resurrection!

It's an important point that we know there was no one who witnessing the actual event of Jesus’ resurrection. No one witnessed the folding of the face clothes or the burial shroud. What did get witnessed was Jesus alive and at first not recognized – he had become a new creation. We cannot forget, we cannot ignore, we cannot wish it away: for resurrection occurs only in the shadow of the Cross.

Hans Kung in his book Eternal Life? writes: “Belief in the One raised up to new life means then looking back to the life he led, to the path he trod; in a word it means initiation into the discipleship of the One who binds me absolutely to follow my path, my own path, in accordance with his guidance. Thus from his new life there reaches me again in retrospect everything for which this Jesus of Nazareth stood and for which he – as the Living One – also stands today, simultaneously inviting, demanding and promising.”

Kung dramatically continues as he makes the argument for Resurrection in the person of Jesus.

“Yes he is right when he identifies himself with the weak, sick, poor, underprivileged and even the moral failures; he is right when he demands endless forgiveness, mutual service regardless of rank, renunciation without return; he is right when he endeavors to remove barriers between comrades and non-comrades, between strangers and neighbors, between good and bad, all this in a love that does not exclude even the opponent and enemy from goodwill; he is right when he sees norms and precepts, laws and prohibitions, as existing for man’s sake, when he relativizes institutions, traditions, hierarchies, for the sake of men; he is right when he sees God’s will as supreme norm and as aimed at nothing but the well being of man; and he is right in regard to this God of his, who identifies himself with the needs and hopes of men, who not only demands but gives, who does not suppress but raises up, who does not punish but liberates, who makes grace instead of law rule unconditionally.”

This writing is far reaching and challenging. Can we actually live as Kung understands the life, ministry, and revelation that is Jesus? To live in that manner requires faith in the rightness of Jesus’ life and message. That is the faith that leads us to understand and make it part of our life’s perspective that also tell us a cross is always the preamble to resurrection. In this life many and finite crosses visit us. The tremendous leap of faith in the loving, merciful, and compassionate and truth-filled God makes each of us a new creation, following in the path of the Living One who dies never again.

So, the answer for the Sadducees is this: you have no idea – well neither do we – what heaven is like. That’s the great God’s purvey and anything we speculate is just that speculation. Faith, faith, faith! Faith understanding that God is God and hasn’t foretold us what heaven is like. But in faith, we trust God will reward our crosses with recreated life. Heaven to me, is not a boring, sitting around all day gazing at God. In thinking of my loved one, I instead picture heaven described in the Hebrew Book of Wisdom. “In the time of their visitation they shall shine and shall dart about as sparks through stubble…” That description so much better matches her life.

Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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ZACCHAEUS MEETS JESUS: 31ST SUNDAY C

Wisdom 11:22-12:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10

We find ourselves today in the city of Jericho, an oasis city in the Jordan valley, known as the 'City of Palms'. We smell its famous balsam trees which perfume the air for miles around. We gaze at its equally famous rose gardens which attract so many visitors. In the middle of all this beauty there occurs that deeply significant meeting between Jesus and a little man called ‘Zacchaeus’.

Now Zacchaeus is a tax collector, indeed a chief tax collector, for the occupying foreign power, the Romans. For that very reason, he is despised by his fellow Jews. For making so much money at their expense through collaborating in cheating and swindling them, he is loathed and hated like no other person in town. Although Zacchaeus is now a wealthy man, he is not a happy one. Lately, he has become quite fed up with being hated and despised by everyone, and with feeling so isolated, lonely and lost. Lately, he has started searching for some turn-around in his life, some way to change his occupation and his lifestyle.

When one day he hears the news that Jesus of Nazareth is on a walkabout in the neighborhood, and that he is heading in his direction, he knows that he simply has to meet this Jesus - to get the comfort and hope, the love and forgiveness, the brand-new start which he so desperately needs.

But getting to meet Jesus is anything but easy. First, there is the risk of going into that crowd, many of whom will surely take their chance to jostle, push, and even kick him. When he does join the crowd, he finds he cannot see over the tall people hemming him in on every side. So, he hits on a brainwave. He races ahead and climbs a tree, with a short trunk and wide branches. Just right for a short, overweight person like him to look out for Jesus!

He has not long to wait. To his surprise, Jesus looks up from under the tree, smiles, and says with a touch of humour and presumption: 'Zacchaeus, get down. Hurry up. I've got to stay at your house today.' Zacchaeus is bubbling with joy and excitement as he walks his guest to his home, and welcomes him at the front door: 'It's just so wonderful to meet this Jesus,’ Zacchaeus keeps telling himself, ‘I just can’t believe my luck.’

Meanwhile, the crowd that would willingly strangle Zacchaeus if they could get their hands on him, cannot believe what they are seeing: 'This Jesus,' they complain, 'has gone to stay at a sinner's house.' Their cutting words, however, are a moment of truth for Zacchaeus, There and then, in the presence of Jesus, who has been so kind, so friendly, so accepting, so understanding, Zacchaeus stands his ground: 'Look, sir, he says, 'I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay back four times the amount.' His turn-around, his change of heart, could hardly be more spontaneous, more sincere, or more complete. Jesus acknowledges this when he replies: 'I have come to seek out and save what was lost. Today salvation, today wholeness, has come to this house.' Yet once more, as happens again and again in the gospels, it is contact with Jesus, that triggers conversion, that changes mind, heart, and lifestyle.

Brothers and Sisters! There is just so much enlightenment and comfort for you and me too in this touching incident. We see Jesus for what he was and what he remains - 'the friend of sinners', and therefore our friend. Our understanding, compassionate, and forgiving friend! Our friend who is there when others fail or desert us! The one who is present when others are absent! The one who calls us by name, and invites us to his table! The one who helps and heals when others criticize and condemn! The one who never gives up on us and never despairs of us! The one who waits patiently for us to change our lives, and who allows us time to do so! The one, in short, who loves us with an everlasting love, an everlasting forgiving love, an everlasting healing love, and an everlasting transforming love! The one whom we are meeting today in our holy communion with him and one another!

Just like Zacchaeus, then, let us welcome this great person Jesus and his ‘amazing grace’ into our homes and lives, knowing and trusting what an amazing and lasting difference he will make!

So, from the bottom of our needy and yearning hearts, let us pray as never before: ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul (i.e., I myself) will be healed.’

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

 

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Year C: 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Today salvation has come to this house, for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost."

The first time I ever read this Gospel in Church, it was when I was working in the Caribbean. And it was to a youth Mass in a place called Albouystown - a very bad part of Georgetown in Guyana - a rough area, full of poverty, disease, crime, violence and drugs. So, I read this Gospel to the young people and I asked them to give me an image – an idea - of what it would be like for Jesus to walk into their town and into their lives, the way He walked into Jericho and into the life of Zacchaeus.

They thought for a bit and then one young girl, Charlene, said that it would be like having the Pope come to Guyana, come to Georgetown, choose to come to Albouystown, walk down the main street and go in for dinner to the house of one of the local drug-dealers. She mentioned a certain name and everybody laughed. And then there was a longish pause. I had the impression that there were quite lot of people would have like to have said some things, but, on reflection, decided it was safer not to. And then, very quietly, Charlene continued. She said that would be a symbol of how a true prophet - a true woman or man of God - can reach out and touch the hearts of even the most lost.

I was really struck by that, because this story of Zacchaeus always reminds me of a man I once knew in Moss Side in Manchester called Zach - his full Christian name was actually Zachary, but it’s close enough.

When I knew him, Zach was a man in his early 30’s, a very big powerful well-muscled man, who didn’t have a job as such, but he had a very large and expensive house in a very poor part of town, drove a brand-new brilliant white Mercedes Benz, had several children by several different women, always carried a gun and he was of course a drug dealer.

One day, an eleven-year old boy that he knew quite well was killed in a drugs-related drive-by shooting. Although Zach was accustomed to violent death, even he was shocked at the death of one so young. And he was more shocked when he found out that the shooting had been done by the gang to which he belonged. Apparently the 11-year old boy had not shown sufficient respect to an important gang member.

So, Zach did what he always did when he had worries - he went to work out at the gym. And at the gym he got talking to the man next to him on the equipment. And that man turned out to be a priest. No, sadly it wasn’t me - I don’t have muscles like that.

To this day, I don’t actually know what was said. Although Zach was not then a Christian, the priest always thought of the conversation as like a confession. But it was an encounter that changed his life. Zach turned his time, his energy, his money, and his enormous talents into organizing community activities for young people in the area - youth clubs, boxing clubs, scout clubs, all kinds of clubs - anything to get them off the streets and away from trouble - and especially away from drugs. And he was tremendously successful. Without exaggeration, I am sure that he saved many lives and many parents’ heartbreak.

His former colleagues in the ‘profession’ were initially surprised, then shocked, then angry at his "betrayal". A couple of times he was beaten up - he had given up carrying the gun. And about 4 or 5 years after I knew him, he himself was killed in a drive-by shooting. He knew the risks he was taking. He sometimes talked about the threats that he received. But he was not deterred by them. Because - as he saw it - that chance encounter in the gym was the day that salvation came into his life.

I have always thought of him as a kind of modern martyr. He is not the kind of saint you will ever read about in books, but he is for me the unofficial patron saint of our little surgery for homeless people in Westminster.

And that I believe is what Jesus means when he says:

"Today salvation has come to this house, for this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost."

Let us pray that the Lord may enter our hearts and our lives to seek out and save what was lost within ourselves.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God for whom no child of Abraham is lost.

Paul O'Reilly SJ <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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