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Contents: Volume 2 - The Thirtieth Second Sunday of Ordered time -C- November 10, 2019


 

The

32nd

SUNDAY

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

5. -- Deacon Russ O'Neill

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

 

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1.

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Sun. 32 C 2019

The first and third readings are a bit unusual for modern day folks, yet they still touch on interactions and feelings that are present in our world. Imagine watching your children tortured! Imagine suffering the death of several husbands!

The main purpose of these stories is not to arouse sympathy or empathy though but, as written in the second reading, "to encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed." Jesus never ignored the trials of this life nor how they affected people so deeply. He did, however, emphasize that we should focus on our eternal life.

Christians believe firmly in our resurrection after death because we believe Jesus was raised from the dead. Connecting with Jesus in this life and bearing the sometimes intense sadness this life brings, will lead us to everlasting life. Our always faithful God does not abandon us; God does provide.

It is interesting to think about what everlasting life will be like, but that is not the main point. God will be there with us and all the negative aspects of life here on earth will be gone! Letting God fill in all the surprise details sounds REALLY good to me!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Thirty Second Sunday of Ordered Time November 10, 2019

2nd Maccabees 7:1-2 & 9-14; Responsorial Psalm 17; 2nd Thessalonians 2:16 – 3:5; Gospel Acclamations Revelations 1:5 & 6b; Luke 20:27-38

There is a strangeness about the readings this week that can leave us pretty much confused about the message they contain. In the first reading the seven brothers and their mother refused to eat pork. In our time and place pork is a part of most menus with pork chops, sausage, ribs, shoulder roasts, and ham part of our eating experiences. So what’s the big deal about this? Why would these young men be so encouraged by their mother to embrace death in a hot furnace rather than eat pork? The larger story is that in this time of the Greek ruler of the Middle East there was an effort to convert conquered peoples to Greek culture. That culture was supported by the religious practices of the Greeks. Part of that acculturation was the pagan communion sacrifice in which meat sacrificed to Zeus was to be eaten by the people. To share in that sacrificed food was an act of idolatry for pious Jews.

It was important for the Greek conquerors to ensure their support among the conquered people through their culture. The rejection of the mother and her seven sons of eating pork sacrificed was worship of idols. But in a broader sense, to share in the temple of Zeus rituals would be a denial of the covenant with God, their God. It was better that they endured a tortured death than to deny the God who formed them and guided them as a chosen people.

Under the culture imposed by the Greeks, death was the worst that could be done to anyone. But for these Jews who followed the culture, practices, ritual, and covenant enacted through Moses, death was not the end of life. It was better that the faithful suffer the loss of their lives rather than deny the God who would raise up those faithful to his covenant. The question that stymied the Greeks was how can there be anything more important than living? It was incomprehensible to them that anyone would accept death rather than make an empty gesture of accepting Greek religious practices. In another story in the books of Maccabees, one prominent person is encouraged to just act as though he shared in the communion sacrifice and so save his life. This also was rejected because it would be a scandal to those of his faith and a lie that denied the truth of his faith in Yahweh. In the faith of the Maccabees, death was not the end of the story.

It was critical for the conquerors that the conquered accept without question their religious practices. It was a method in controlling the crowds. And, sadly to say, this method of controlling people is still practiced in our own time by those who would use religion to their gain. Civil societies choose their own gods and work mightily to force all persons to worship them. Whether the gods be power, wealth, technology, influence, peer pressure, or just consumerism, all are encouraged to worship and share in their pagan "communion" sacrifices. Cultures and political creeds create followers by setting up exclusive clubs. Being a member of the "club" is an essential characteristic of secular culture. When we finally understand that leaders focus on what makes us different from others we should realize those leaders are using pagan techniques to foster passionate followers who blindly obey their bidding. Ultimately, it is the conscience of each person that must judge goodness or evil of their choices. The guides for our consciences are hard-wired into our persons by the Creator and augmented and supported by the Gospels, the apostolic writings, and the writings of the prophets and the other books of the Hebrew testaments.

The first reading from Second Maccabees is relevant to our time. Do we "eat" at the communion table of sacrificial offerings to the gods of mammon and power? Do we come to the table of consumerism and a worship of technology that denies the dignity and worth of every single human person? Do we worship a culture that seeks to destroy the earth by its uncontrolled and greedy/avaricious taking of resources? Do we deny that human activity can and does endanger the balance of nature that has provided shelter, food, and beauty for millions of years? Are we in effect eating at the altars of the current despots who seek to control, to steal, and to dishonor the Creator for their gain?

But the story goes on this Sunday. The Sadducees in this segment of Luke’s gospel try to play a word game with Jesus. The Pharisees and the scribes and priestly class have failed to rob Jesus of the truth of his message and ministry. So now the Sadducees, lovers of law and order and the status quo, and miserly in the use of their wealth and capital, look to trap Jesus and rob him of his standing among the crowds. If they make Jesus look silly his influence will no longer challenge their way of life. Better to eliminate him by making him look irrelevant than to convert and live according to his teaching and ministry. In their question, the Sadducees portray women as mere chattel. It is through the bodies of women that their immortality is possible. In their thinking, immortality is assured by the birth of sons who will carry on the name of the man. In the Sadducees question the woman is passed along from brother to brother in an effort to continue the family name. The Sadducees had no belief in a continuance of life after physical death. They understood life only as it exists in this present age. Jesus uses the scriptures to prove there is more to existence than this life. Because Moses at his experience with the burning bush learned that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob he realized those ancestors continued to live. Because God is the God of the living and not the dead. God remains actively the God of those ancestors so there is continued life for those of faith. There must be more to life than what is seen in this age. In the coming age, there will be no more death and the customs and culture of the present time give way to a new age. Those who are children of God are those who have faith in the living God. And for them death is not the end of the story, but merely a transition into a new age where death is no more.

Living in such a way as to honor God as our Creator, as our Father, as our one and only God is how we are deemed worthy to attain the coming age. Idolatry is worship of false gods and leads to permanent death.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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‘LIFE IS CHANGED, NOT ENDED’: 32nd SUNDAY C

If you happened to be at Flemington (Melbourne, Australia) for the Spring Racing Carnival this past week, you would have seen on display a stunning crop of beautiful roses. But in just a few days they’ll all begin to wither and die. This is the lot of all living beings on the earth. Eventually they all wither and die. This includes human beings, even though we generally last much longer than the flowers.

When I was young I felt so alive, so strong, and so energetic, that I could not imagine myself as dying or dead. It was hard to think that way of any of my immediate family either. But in 1975 my father died, in 1991 my mother, in 2001 my sister Marie, and in 2006 both my sister Eileen and my brother Pat died. Now with all those experiences behind me, it’s a lot clearer now than it was then, that I too am destined to die.

What about you, Brothers and Sisters? Can you imagine yourself dying or dead? I wonder what your thoughts and feelings are about this. What questions do you have about the end of your life on earth? Does the prospect of your death fill you with fear and dread, or have you accepted that it’s something normal and natural? Will your relationship with God then be different from what it is now? Do you expect to meet your loved ones again after you’ve gone from this world? Do you see yourself as passing away into nothingness or as passing over into the arms of God, the God of life and love?

All our questions and concerns about this are connected with the incident in today’s gospel. At the time of Jesus one of the powerful groups confronting him was the Sadducees. They were religious fundamentalists. They accepted no development in religious insight and teachings beyond the first five books of the bible. Because the Pentateuch (the first five books) had nothing to say about life after death, they strongly denied it. They knew, however, that Jesus did believe in life after death. So they decided to bail him up about this, in order to ridicule and humiliate him. They put to him a silly scenario. There was this woman, they said, who married seven times successively to seven brothers. In the next life, whose wife will she be?

Even though they are trying to set Jesus up, he answers them politely and courteously. He insists that there is a real life for good human beings after this one. We survive death. We are not annihilated. We don’t pass into nothingness. But in many ways the life to come is quite different from our experience of life now. Thus, in heaven, where we hope to be with God for ever, there is no getting married and no sexual union. Basically, when good people die, they pass over into the arms of God. They see God face to face, and they see their loved ones in God. They enjoy the company of God for ever. In the presence of God there will be no more sadness, no more crying, no more grieving, no more worrying, no more anxiety. In their union with God they will be totally, perfectly, and permanently happy.

A story may help our understanding. A little girl was waiting in an airport lounge to board a plane. She was so excited she kept bouncing up and down. ‘Little one, where are you going?’ her mother asked. ‘To Granny! To Granny! To Granny!’, the child kept saying over and over again. Her answer helps to illustrate the point Jesus was making about the afterlife. We should think of it not so much as going to a place as being with a person, i.e. with our great, wonderful, interesting, fascinating God, who is Life and Love Itself.

Every now and then I look at the Death and In Memoriam notices in "The Sun" or "The Age" local newspapers. I’m intrigued at the sheer number of people, religious ones and non-religious ones, who show that they believe strongly in life after death. They get that much correct. But some of the things they say about it suggest that they imagine that life after death is simply a continuation of life as they experience it now. Thus they talk about looking down from the sky, about having a beer with their mates, about Sunday lunch with Mama and enjoying her pasta once again. Rugby union players, perhaps with tongue in cheek, claim that their game is the one that is played in heaven.

The facts of faith, though, are that good people survive death, and after being purified, they go to God in heaven. But the life with God then is not identical with the life they live now. The famous Preface for Christian Death sums up the matter beautifully when it prays: ‘For your faithful people, Lord, life is changed, not ended.’ But even though it’s a new life we hope and expect to live, that life has already begun. It has begun now in our relationship with God and with people.

How important it is, then, to live in harmony with God in the here and now, to live life now in a loving way, to live it in friendship with God! For, as a very wise saying has it: ‘As we live, so we die. And as we die, so we stay!’

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

 

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Year C: 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

"He is God, not of the dead, but of the living"

On the wall outside my office in the Hospital where I used to work, there is a plaque dedicated to the memory of one Dr Bettencourt-Gomes – someone who is universally remembered as a good man and a fine doctor. It says this: "To live in the hearts of those we leave behind is not to die."

It is a very fine and memorable phrase. And it speaks of a man who lived a fine life and is remembered for it…

But it is also false.

To live in the hearts of those we leave behind is to have lived a good life and to be remembered for it with love. That is something for which we all hope. But it is not the answer to death.

Some years ago, I presided at the funeral of a man who had died of AIDS. Perhaps you may think that for a priest, presiding at a funeral is something that ultimately becomes a routine – a ritual which through much use eventually stops meaning very much. And there is that danger. But this was the funeral of someone I had known well – and one of the holiest men I have ever known. In the time that I was looking after him as a doctor, we worked hard to help the various problems that he had with the disease – HIV - that finally killed him, but as time passed it became increasingly clear that he was dying. On one of my last visits to him, he asked me if I would preside at his funeral and I agreed.

I mentioned this in a letter to Fr Tim, the previous parish priest of the place where I was working who I think some people here will remember. Fr Tim wrote back and said this: "Just remember with this man – if he ever feels a bit down – just give him a meditation on death. That’ll pick him up."

I was shocked, but as I got to know this particular man, I realised that Fr Tim was right. This particular man had a very rare gift. He had the gift of being able to look death in the face – and to see it for what it really is – the time to meet and be with the Father finally and forever. And so, when he did get down, we spoke about death and about what it would mean for him to be with the Father finally and forever. Speaking and meditating on that brought him peace.

That is a very rare peace. In the course of my work, I meet many people who are afraid of dying and of death. Many people fear the pain and the suffering that they may encounter in the course of disease; but many more fear what might come after: death – is it an ultimate nothingness? Is it the complete destruction of everything we have ever done and everything we have ever been and everything we have ever hoped for?

Our Faith tells us ‘no’. We do not follow Jesus into a meaningless nothingness. We follow his way to our Father. That is what I learned from one of the bravest – holiest - men I have ever met. To live in the hearts of those we leave behind is to be remembered and that is good. But to live in the heart of God is not to die.

And so, I am going to ask that - in his honour - WE will have a meditation on death for just one minute – and WE will try to face our own death with a little of that same faith and the same courage with which one very holy man faced his death.

Let us stand and before we profess our Faith, just stand in silence and contemplate the ultimate meaning of our lives...

<Minute’s Silence>

I believe…

Paul O'Reilly <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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28th Sunday in OT, year C

Our readings today talk about lepers and leprosy. Most of us have heard those words before, but probably most of us have never known anyone with leprosy. In the days of the Old Testament and in the time of Jesus, people who developed skin sores and rashes were lepers. It was a dreaded diagnosis. They had to wear strips of cloth around their hands and feet, torn clothing and long, unkempt hair. Leprosy was considered to be an outward sign of sin and people with it were ritually unclean; it was so serious that neither they nor anyone who came in contact with them could worship before God. So, people judged to have leprosy were sent outside the community to live. They were the untouchables.

Touch is so important to us. We can’t imagine what it would be like to be in a situation where people were prevented from touching us, whether that be a hug or a hand shake or a calming hand on the shoulder. But a person with leprosy could not be touched, because the person doing the touching might then become unclean.

So, in today’s Gospel passage, we have the 10 lepers who were ostracized by friends, relatives, associates and neighbors; cast out, and no doubt desperate for another way of living. They had heard about Jesus and now had to decide whether to remain hidden in the background or risk pain and more suffering by going up to him who might, hope beyond hope, have at least one miracle left. "Jesus, Master, have pity on us." In the Gospel of Mark, there is a story of a single leper who asks Jesus, "Lord, if you are willing, will you make me clean?" And Jesus, filled with compassion, reaches out and touches this untouchable man, probably the first touch he’s felt in a long, long time.

I think these Gospel accounts are not just about healing lepers, though that healing is powerful. Yes, it shows power over disease, but more than a healing is taking place here. Jesus interacts and responds to the lepers, showing that the ritual laws were not as important as the person in need, that following cleanliness laws and cultural traditions took second place when confronted with a person who has a particular need, even if that person is an untouchable, an outcast.

What does all this say to us. Our culture and society today still have outcasts and untouchables. Many people in our country are still terrified of dealing with a person with aids. We have heard stories of children with aids – no one wants them in the local schools; no one would dare touch them. Many in our society look at adults with aids as unclean and being punished by God. Despite the progress our society has made, many in our country still view those of other races as outcasts, as untouchables. In today’s America, many people of middle eastern descent are viewed with fear and suspicion. The rhetoric of war fills our world. I am troubled by how we can apparently so easily force certain people to be "untouchables" in the world. Sometimes these untouchables are not people with certain diseases or illnesses, but people who simply live in a different location, who live under a government we don’t like. If things continue the way they are going, there are going to be a lot of people in the world – people created and loved by God – who are going to die simply because of where they live.

Jesus’ actions of love and compassion put him at odds with the authorities, with the culture, with the tradition, and he reached beyond those cultural barriers to touch and heal those that no one else would touch. The man with leprosy was a valued human being in Jesus’ sight. He was a child of God. He was not an untouchable. Not an outcast, not less of a person than anyone else.

Our response must be no less. Our faith calls us to reach out, to understand, to touch. Recently, I visited Hartville Meadows, a residence for those who are mentally ill – people that many see as fringe people, untouchable people. Several of them hugged me or shook my hand. As uncomfortable as I may have felt, I could tell the touch was important to them.

Let us pray today that Jesus’ compassion and mercy will touch the people of this world that God loves. Let us pray that when that touch is to come from the community of faith, from the Church, from us, that we may respond as Jesus did. Let us pray that all people would see one another as valued human beings, so that wars would end, wars would not begin, people of all races and ethnic backgrounds would be respected, those suffering from aids & other illnesses would be touched by love, and that the peace of Jesus would transcend all barriers of nations and cultures and unite a fractured, broken world.

Deacon Russ O'Neill

Diocese of Youngstown

<russon2330@sbcglobal.net>

 

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