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Contents: Volume 2 - Thirty-First Sunday of Ordered Time Year B November 7th, 2021

 

32nd

SUNDAY

Year

(B)


1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

4. -- Brian Gleeson CP

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

 

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Sun. 32 B 2021

The readings this Sunday focus on absolute trust in the Lord and giving "all one has" to the Lord's service. All each of us has has been given to us freely, inviting total trust in the Giver. All, therefore, should be earmarked in some way for God's service in return.

The treasure theme, to me, is not just about money, but about one's time and talent as well. I do not think that we must relinquish everything and live in poverty if we have been blessed with wealth (or time or talent), but rather that we seek to use those blessings wisely and intentionally. The widow in the first reading gave Elijah her hospitality and her last bit of food. The widow in the Gospel account gave two coins but they were "all she had, her entire livelihood" to be used for others. Both women put their trust in the Lord to sustain them.

How do we follow these examples of complete sharing and complete trust? I'm not actually sure which I think is easier or harder to do!! Most people, especially Americans I think, strive , and do some degree compete, for personal success because we are almost automatically taught to do so from birth. To share, to include others in whatever success we have, however, must be intentionally added and practiced. In the complexity of modern day life, being intentional about both the small things and the larger ones seems to be most challenging.

I think that realization is where each of us must begin now, wherever on the road to complete trust in God and sharing more with others we might find ourselves. Each of us must find a "teachable moment" for ourselves, that "aha" or "yikes" time when we could have been more in tune with trust or sharing but it got by us. To reflect on that moment and decide to change that one small thing is the Holy Spirit nudging us forward... to enliven and proclaim the Kingdom here on Earth.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Thirty Second Sunday in Ordered Time November 7 2021

1st Kings 17:10-16; Responsorial Psalm146; Letter to the Hebrews 9:24-28; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 5:3; Mark 12:38-44

Carol and I went to Ohio a couple of weeks ago to visit my two sisters and brother. We had hoped my brother from Villa Rica, Florida might be able to join, but health issues and covid made that impossible. The visit was an opportunity to spend time with each individually leading to a final gathering of the five of us for lunch before we began the eight plus hour drive home to North Carolina. Something happened on that trip that subsequently lifted our despair at the current condition of politics and culture wars in our beloved Church.

The west central Ohio fields in early October were rich with harvest. Corn and soybeans were ripe in fields no longer fenced. Cattle, hogs, and chickens no longer roamed those rich fields but were penned in loafing sheds, in slatted feed lots, and in two story, windowless quarter mile long buildings where egg production was automated. There were no weeds among the stalks of corn or bushes of soy. Those had been eliminated by airplane delivered Roundup early in the spring. Genetically modified seeds were impervious to Roundup while weeds had not gained such tolerance. In this region of Cross Tipped steeples, Sunday appeared no different from the rest of the week. Catholic culture requiring Sunday rest seemed lost as we observed combines harvesting. Their presence was marked by great clouds of dust and chaff that rose from their progress across those fertile lands. In my youth, working in fields on Sundays was permitted only when threat of storm challenged crops.

In many of the well-kept farmyards there were two signs. "Pray for an end to Abortion," and "Trump Pence." The two themes were connected in the hearts and minds of these communities. The implication was/is that the party of those two men would enact laws that would result in the elimination of abortion. Viewed historically, such a connection hardly seemed possible. Before the 1973 Roe v Wade supreme court decision, there were hundreds of thousands of abortions despite laws forbidding them.

Up until the 1980 Presidential campaign, only Catholics stood firmly against abortion. In that campaign, Pastor Jerry Falwell, Sr. approached Ronald Reagan promising him the vote of the Evangelical South in exchange for an anti-abortion policy. That arrangement would provide Falwell and Evangelical communities a place at the political table. Thus, politics entered in. In the forty plus years since then, the rate of abortion has steadily declined. A significant decline is noteworthy when the Affordable Care Act was enacted. Pre-natal care was supported and no longer considered an avoidable condition by insurance. Women were able to carry a fetus to term without bankrupting their families.

Abortion continued to take center stage, despite signs that abortion was not merely a choice for reasons of convenience. The financial impact of pregnancy, pre-natal care, necessary unpaid time off for birthing and for nurturing was and is still a part of the choice for abortion. There are, of course other reasons that play a role.

In political campaigns since 1980, abortion has been a deciding issue for many Christian and Catholic citizens. The conservative faction insists the more liberal faction actively markets abortion, even though that’s not the case. Talking points from political rallies and from Christian and Catholic pulpits often fail to include the human aspects of the terrible choice. There is a silly notion that a law making abortions illegal will end abortion. In all this bluster and angry rhetoric, what is missing is an awareness of the reasons many, if not most, choose abortion. In paying attention to the talking points of both sides of the issue, it is apparent this is not about respect for life, for creation of a Pro-Life culture. This is about Pro-Birth. Pro-Life is more inclusive and includes issues of education, housing, justice, economic access, an end to the death penalty, reform of prisons, and a more focused effort at diplomacy rather than weapons of mass destruction. This list is not complete as there are many more issues about Pro-Life. Pro-Life is a lot messier than a limited focus on Pro-Birth.

Carol and I and my siblings avoided political discussions in our coming together. We are obviously on opposite sides. However, in conversations, we learned of a woman in Russia, Ohio who is doing something about the reasons for abortion. She had spent time praying at abortion clinics in Dayton, witnessing to her Pro-Life convictions. At some point she came to think that praying was not enough. She began collecting clothing, furniture, diapers, and such like to assist pregnant women who lacked access to those necessary things. She also made room in her home for expectant single mothers in a safe, supportive environment. That effort quietly grew and grew. A Reformed Christian congregation in Willow-o-Dell donated their abandoned church property to her efforts. She holds classes there for mothers and expectant mothers. There is a staffed childcare room that baby-sits children while mothers are in classes designed to lift them up into productive roles in their communities. These classes are meant to educate persons to participation with dignity and worth in their communities. From time to time, in addition to contributions from within the region, there are benefit suppers to fund those efforts. It struck Carol and I that here is a way forward to limiting and eventually eliminating reasons for abortion. We had hoped efforts in U.S. Congress would provide at least a four-week parental paid leave. In that way an expectant mother would not be torn between providing for her family during birthing and recovery from birthing. Even state minimum paying jobs provide essential money to the poor among us. Loss of two to four weeks income would devastate poor families. Just as the Affordable Care Act provided dignity and respect for persons lacking employer provided medical insurance, so paid parental leave would support Pro-birth and the more challenging Pro-Life.

What has this to do with the Gospel and first reading this Sunday? Perhaps this sounds like a liberal diatribe. The reading from the First Book of Kings tells us the story of the great prophet Elijah depending on a widow with a small son for nourishment during the great famine in the Northern Kingdom. What little she had, she willingly offered this prophet, knowing full well it meant starvation for her and her son. Yet, for the remainder of the period of famine, she and her son and Elijah had bread from her little store of flour and oil. In the gospel, Jesus observed the wealthy and powerful putting bags of money in the temple treasury. It seems they were making a show of it, clanging the coins so those in the area would hear and admire their largesse. Along comes a widow who quietly puts in two pennies and scurries away unnoticed. Jesus calls together his disciples – this is a story with admonition. "Don’t be like these Scribes and these pompous wealthy, powerful ones. They put on a face of generosity but are not interested in the work of the temple. They are hypocrites." That word, hypocrite, comes from the Greek. It is the term applied to actors on a stage who portray persons other than themselves. They put on a face and that is not who they are.

As we discussed our adventure on the way home, Carol and I were reminded of the ministry of Jesus, of every one of the miracles recounted by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each miracle provided healing for persons in a bad way. Diseases, obsessions, addictions are set aside. But that is not all. Each person is returned to communities that once rejected them. We hear nothing more about them – except for the Samaritan Leper who was the only one of ten who were cured to return to thank Jesus. In each cure, the person is dignified, receives worth and has a route to return to the communities that held them at arms-length. What would Jesus do? Would he condemn, set up rules and regulations that would imprison persons who are desperately needed in their families? What would law do for us? Would it change the reasons for abortion? Have we researched, sought understanding why persons seek abortions? Jesus condemns no one except hypocrites.

At our final meal together, we met at a small restaurant in Osgood, Ohio. It was named "Do Good." The woman whose vision created this place thought it her mission in life to "do good" to those in desperate need. She realized how fortunate her family was/is and this was a way to pay forward. The restaurant was neatly and welcomingly decorated. The staff consisted of a paid chef. The administration and wait staff were all volunteers from the farming community. Each month one person of great need is identified from the communities around Osgood. This particular month, it was a mother and wife who was suffering from an aggressive brain cancer and had no insurance to assist. The funding for that relief came from tips given by diners. We arrived there at 11:15 a.m. and found we were the second group seated. The first group numbered twelve. We were seated and given menus. My brother ordered the porkchop dinner. When it came, it filled a ten-inch China dinner plate. Even my farmer brother, accustomed to large meals, was surprised. I chose shrimp and grits – mostly because that is a southern dish, and I was curious whether the chef knew how to make it. It was excellent. When the check came, we had to go to the cashier to pay. We left no tips on the table for the wait staff. All tips were inserted into a metal sleeve. It was those tips that for the month of October would be gifted to the woman with the cancer. Oh, by the way. Before noon, all tables were filled.

It came to mind from this experience in rural Ohio that despite the anger, the loud shouting, the accusations, the Way of Jesus, the Christ, continues these twenty centuries after his ministry. We do not hear about these followers of Jesus over the bluster of the powerful, the wealthy, and influence peddlers. A classmate of mine is one of those who follow in the Way of the Christ. I’m certain he is laughing at my claiming he is following in the Way of the Christ. He and his second wife, shortly after their marriage, adopted three infants, each from an addicted mother. D.G. has been admirably successful in the business world. Yet, in their choice of infants to be adopted, they chose persons who were destined by birth to lack dignity and worth and acceptance. Again, the way of the Christ. How many more of these are there who keep our society from spinning out of control? How can we join their ranks?

We attend the Cathedral in Raleigh. The parish has a coordinator who writes a justice column for the Dominican blog titled "Preacher’s Exchange." In the most recent monthly newsletter to parishioners Barbara listed sixteen opportunities for us to participate to make the Christ present in our community. Included among them is a new one, one promoted by Bishop Naumann of Kansas City titled "Walking with Moms in Need." This sounds like the work of the woman in Russia, Ohio.

Perhaps we ought to take down the signs in our front yards and become doers, not just pray-ers. We should be careful about the rantings and shouting of those who seek our endorsement. We must get better at discerning the truth and the values of those who use our values to only solicit support and votes without regard for the common good.

The gospel message from Mark this Sunday tells us as much. We should beware of those who dress the part but fail to walk the walk. We have been warned by the Lord to beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. We will know them by their deeds. So many of our leadership, of our intellectual elite, of our religious authorities can easily fall into the pretense of high office. When that occurs, they are no longer open to hearing and seeing the needs of their people. Pope Francis is noted for saying that he wishes the clergy to have the smell of the sheep on them. Only shepherds walking with their sheep carry that scent. Thirty second soundbites appear designed to separate us from integrity, truth, compassion, and mercy. Even more critical, those soundbites effectively divide us from one another. We become enemies instead of members of the Body of the Christ. Beware of those who divide our communities to attain power. Division is the work of scapegoating, portraying widows and orphans, aliens, and dark-skinned persons as threats. The results are violence and disintegration of communities. The righteousness of those purveyors of falsehood is hypocritical, destroying communal peace and good will.

In the gospel this Sunday, Jesus warns his disciples – and us – about hypocrites. The Greeks called their actors who put on masks in their stage plays hypocrites. They put on whatever face that supported their lines, their story, their acted part. As Jesus watched, the Scribes in fancy robes, appropriate to their social standing and wealth, make a great show of their supposed charity. Out of their great resources they gave a little in order to be honored. The widow dropping in her two pence gave the temple all she had. And she did it in obscurity without seeking honor. In all we do let us avoid hypocrisy and be true to ourselves. Let us be careful not to put on a false face. Halloween was this past Sunday.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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Year B: 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

"I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on."

The year I was ordained, they put me into a parish in North London. I was young, keen and enthusiastic, so they thought they had better put me somewhere safe, where I couldn’t do too much damage.

And when I arrived, I unpacked and the first thing I did was to wash my clothes. One of the others remarked to me – "you don’t have to bother doing your own washing. Here, we have Mrs. Jones to do all that for us."

I met Mrs. Jones. She was 82, very bent and stiff with arthritis. She could barely walk. The very thought that a young fit boy should make her wash his clothes made my blood boil with the sense of injustice. I would rather have a millstone hung round my neck than add to her burdens in life. So, for several weeks I washed my own clothes and felt very righteous about it indeed. That should have been my warning. Generally, it is only when I’m feeling righteous that I do really stupid things.

Then, one day, my superior took me to one side. He was a very wise and gentle man. And he said to me: "Paul, I need to ask you to give your clothes to Mrs Jones to wash."

And I asked, "But why?" And I went on to tell him why I thought that this was the most terrible clericalist imposition on a poor old sick woman. I fear I may even have got in a paragraph or two of Vatican II on the vocation of the laity and one or two quotations from Paolo Freire. And, as I talked, I could see that, in a very quiet way, my superior was getting very angry indeed. And when I had finished talking, he simply said: "Look, I want you to give your clothes to Mrs Jones to wash. OK? Just do it!"

So, with my tail firmly between my legs, I just did it. I brought all my dirty clothes and gave them to Mrs Jones. She seemed delighted. So I asked her how she felt about having to wash the Fathers’ clothes. She said, very simply, "I love it – it’s my way of serving Jesus."

I realised that, in my arrogance, I had thought of her as my servant, rather than the Lord’s. So I left her presence feeling very humble and thinking of these words of Jesus. "they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’

Thank you Mrs Jones.

And not just for the cleanest shirts I’ve ever worn.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who never wastes anything or anyone.

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

 

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GIVING WITHOUT GETTING: 32nd SUNDAY B

1 Kings 17:10-16; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44

Paul O’Reilly, a seasoned and experienced Jesuit priest, (who contributes to Volume II), remembers that in the year he was ordained priest, he was assigned to a parish in a big city. He was young, keen, energetic, and enthusiastic...

(Editor’s Note: Since Paul O' Reilly has just related his story above, I have chosen to not repeat it here. It is certainly a testimony of the impact of Fr. Paul’s preaching, to have had it handed on by another preacher.)

... Paul left her presence feeling very humble, and thinking of the words of Jesus in our gospel today: ‘they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had, has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’ Mrs. Jones was clearly one of those special quiet achievers of this world, a real unsung treasure, with so much love to give, that despite all obstacles, she would keep giving her all, until she could give no more.

In keeping with the gospel message, let us acknowledge today the work and ministry of all those ‘quiet achievers’ who faithfully serve the needs of our parishes and our neighborhoods, mostly out of sight, and never look for even one word of appreciation. The people, mostly elderly, who get together to pray the rosary every day! The greeters, who meet and welcome us each Sunday! Those who clean the church! Those who arrange the beautiful flowers around the altar! The volunteers who serve the cuppas! The ones who run the piety shop! Those who wash and iron the altar cloths and the altar servers’ robes! The sacristans who put out everything needed for community prayer! The ushers and collectors! Those who make and serve the sandwiches and cakes for special occasions! The ones who count the collections! Those who go out distributing food and clothing to poor, homeless, and struggling persons, and especially to new arrivals and refugees! The receptionists and volunteers in the Parish Office! The catechists who bring the light and love of Jesus Christ to children after school, and to children’s liturgies on Sundays! The bingo workers! The coaches of the parish sports teams! The musicians and singers! And all others whom I have unintentionally overlooked! Our parishes could neither survive nor thrive without them.

In all the hustle and bustle of the Temple that day, with people moving around left, right, and centre, who could have noticed that poor humble little widow quietly putting into the collection for the House of God? Who could have noticed her putting in all the money she had, and then quietly departing the scene, without keeping even a single cent for herself and her own needs? Who could have noticed her? Jesus did. He noticed, appreciated, admired, and praised her.

He also notices, appreciates, admires, and recognizes every good deed done by every good person as done to himself. He knows that what you do, you never do for show or recognition or fame, but only to love, help and serve others as much and as often as you can. So, in the rest of our prayer today, let us give praise and thanks to God for all the good deeds done by so many to so many others, and let us praise and thank God for filling your hearts and theirs, with so much kindness, generosity, and fidelity!

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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