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Contents: Volume 2 - Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordered Time Year B November 14th, 2021

 

33rd

SUNDAY

Year

(B)


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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Sun. 33 B

With so much negativity and calamity going on in the world today, these readings seem like the end of the world is being given a new timeline, right now, and a short one at that! These writings, however, are designed to give us hope. It is the kind of hope that says God is with us now, with whatever is going on, and will be in the hereafter, always.

We hear/read in the Book of Daniel about the glorious future for the wise and those who lead the many to justice. In Mark's account of the Gospel, Jesus tells us that angels will gather the elect. Jesus also says that his words will not pass away.

What other biblical words of comfort and hope can you recall that will be consolation now, in present times of hardship or worry, or that might be helpful in the future? I have my own list, but today's responsorial psalm refrain seems to fit here very nicely. "You , O Lord, are my inheritance!"

As I grow older, I have found that such short biblical quotes have become more meaningful. A times, they become my usual prayer pattern. These now frequent but brief reminders help me not to lose myself in worry so that I can return to a reasonable more structured prayer time.

What positive things do you use to "hold on" to the Lord's promises when everything seems to be slipping away? What consoles you? Those things are valuable sacramentals of a sort. They need to be appreciated as blessings and gifts from the Lord. They can help nourish you and allow the Spirit to revive your spirit. They do for me. God does work in mysterious ways, including what seems to be, on first thought/reading, scary biblical passages or re-sending a gift of encouraging words.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Thirty Third Sunday in Ordered Time November 14 2021

Daniel 12:1-3; Responsorial Psalm 16; Letter to the Hebrews 10:11-14 & 18; Gospel Acclamation Luke 21:36; Mark 13:24-32

The book of Revelation for us seminarians in the 1960’s was a frightening thing, full of darkness and threat. It appeared to be a great source for scaring the heck out of people in sermons. Then we experienced the wisdom of our resident Scripture scholar, Fr. Ed Siegman, C.PP.S. He used that book to teach us the Greek language. The original Greek and the wisdom of Fr. Ed brought Revelation around to a more helpful understanding. The horrors of death, destruction, famine, pestilence, war, had to do with the condition of the world, of despots, of thieves, and charlatans. These violent men and women spilt blood with no remorse, no conscience in their pursuit of what pleased them. Their gods are their bellies, their power, their wealth, and their influence. History is consistent in the outcomes of such persons. Their gods eventually turn on them and destroy them and their empires as well as those who honor them. There is, however, always a period of devastation, of violence, of blood shedding and suppression. That is the basis of the prophecy we hear proclaimed in the reading from the prophet Daniel.

The beast in this prophecy of Daniel is emperor Antiochus. By intrigue he took power in the Syrian region of Alexander the Great’s empire. This was in the second century before the birth of Jesus. He presented himself as the Greek god Zeus and added the Greek term Epiphanes to his name. That title means "god manifest." He attempted to conquer the empire of Egypt, another region of the empire of Alexander the Great. He nearly accomplished that. He set out to Hellenize the Jews. His plan was to create a unity based on loyalty to the Greek pantheon and Greek philosophy and customs. He believed that unity of his empire would suppress rebellion. He believed that conformity in religious practices would control the people and conform them to his wishes.

The Scriptures of the Hebrews became forbidden and when discovered those possessing them were slaughtered with their entire family. The scrolls were burnt. The temple was converted into a shrine for Zeus, the altar profaned with the blood of pigs and a statue of Zeus erected in the holy of holies. Amazing, the face of that statue was the face of Antiochus. Circumcision was forbidden as was the following the of the Law of Moses, the celebration of the Sabbath, and other traditions and customs of the Jewish religion. Gymnasiums were built and prominent Jews found ways to disguise their circumcision so as to avoid persecution. The oppression was so very great that one Judas and his family fought back. Men at arms followed him. His military victories were amazing, so much so that Judas was renamed Judas Maccabeus. Maccabeus means "the hammer."

Among the Jews one outcome of this persecution by Antiochus was a political party. That party became powerful and continued to exist to the time of Jesus. The families of wealth and influence tended to welcome the effort to accept Greek philosophy and theology. It appeared helpful to their growth in power, wealth, and influence. These people formed the political party we have come to know as Sadducees.

The apocalyptic prophecies of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures are a cautionary tale. Even though the forces of wickedness take control, God is still the Lord of the Universe and all that is in it. These narratives are meant to provide us with hope to stay the course, to hold fast to the faith that resides in our hearts. That faith is the foundation of our charity and provides our spirits with an energy that is hope. It may sound like a fluffy non relevant thing to speak of faith residing in our hearts. It may seem overly pious and a fawning devotion. The experience of the Jews, in this period a couple of hundred years before Jesus, is an inspiration. Our hearts pretty much dictate our actions. It is what we love, what we care about that gets us up in the morning to take on another day. It is the movement of our hearts that provides the energy to take on overwhelming odds and preserver through all struggles. The mind is more a vehicle of binary decisions. It is either fight or flight depending on rational calculations. It is the overwhelming power of what resides in the heart that provides us with wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. If our hearts are right, then our lives are based on the Truth that is God’s creative love. If our hearts are empty of that love, we tend to wallow in slime pits overwhelmed by threatening despair.

Let us not forget that next Sunday, the thirty fourth in ordered time, is celebrated as the solemn feast of Christ the King. Our readings this Sunday prepare us for the final scene of God’s fantastic work of creation. Just a quick thought here: God creates what God knows and understands. What God knows and understands is what God is. Thus, all creation in some unique way is a revelation of what God is. The uniqueness of each person is evident if we look at each in the light of the Fear of the Lord. For that fear is not one of fright pushing us into a lifetime of flight. Fear in this instance is viewing reality with an overwhelming sense of awe. How magnificent; how very engaging; how demanding of a sense of appreciation; how delightful is the work of God! All these movements within us arise from the heart which is always the center of faith that sees, acknowledges, and appreciates with thanksgiving. All this pounding, pumping of blood through our bodies and, collectively, through the bodies of the faithful enlivens us and brings us to wholeness. It is not a stretch of the imagination to perceive this collective joy and truth as the Mystical Body of The Christ. This is the vision of Paul, that great lover of truth, of life, of the whole of God’s creation. This is the last Sunday before we consider the goal of all creation and especially of humanity. This is the last Sunday before we come together with those who lived, who live now, and who will live. We assemble on that vast plain, in numbers beyond human reckoning, to join in a full-throated song whose harmonies are richer than any composer has discovered. In this we are under the direction of the Lord and Master who modeled for us what it means to live in truth, in joy, and in celebration. Jesus, The Christ, next Sunday is enthroned as Shepherd of all that is. It helps to convert our thinking about Kingship to the function of a shepherd which provides environment and resources that all may flourish. This is beyond the domination of politician, of military general, of academic master, and of wealth, power, or influence. This is the creator claiming the wonder of God’s creation as King/Shepherd. At long last, this celebration of Jesus as the Christ, as the King/Shepherd is the foretelling of God’s creative energy and will. What we experience then is a new heaven and a new earth, where all tears are dried, where death is no more, and joy lifts our spirits to fly as through we are helium filled balloons.

The horrifying readings of apocalyptic scriptures highlight the struggle that brings the Kingdom of God to fulfillment. The images, the stories make us aware of the struggle and lift up the victims who fall to violence and the idols which are the weapons of the way of the world. We should not be surprised at the tactics and armies of the evil ones. The apocalyptic stories all come to victory for those who walk the walk of Jesus. That is the message of these writings. God remains and is engaged. Those whose vision and experience endure the horrors of conflict are those who welcome the born-ing day of the new heaven and the new earth. That is the message of Daniel’s prophecy. By the way, this verse – "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake…" – is the first Scripture that tells of the resurrection of the dead.

In the Responsorial Psalm this Sunday our antiphon is "You are my inheritance, O Lord!" How very presumptuous this sounds! How is it we can claim to share in the inheritance that is God’s? Only those who inherit live in the household as children are eligible to inherit. We become children of God through the work of the Messiah. This sounds impossible and merely a code phrase to engage us in moral behavior. But think of it this way: All that is comes from God, by way of his creative Word. Creation is an expression of what God is. The immensity of God certifies that reality, especially persons, can be unique and different in every way from others like us. We are, after all, created in God’s Image and Likeness. None of us is a complete expression of God – yet everyone of us reflects a bit of that immensity. Yet all of us added together over all time and space can never equal the whole of God. Our life is a gift of God’s creation. That is why each life is sacred and worth preserving and developing to its fullest potential. What we become from our creation is up to our free will and the movements we allow of God’s Spirit in our hearts. When we plaster over that image and likeness and darken it with evil pursuits, thoughts, actions, and intentions we deny that image and likeness and tumble our way to suppression of God’s image and likeness that is ours uniquely. What a tragedy!

There are many through-out the ages who have used mathematical and semantic formulas to determine the day the world will come to an end. There are even some now who actively pursue efforts at creating the Armageddon spoken of in the Bible on a great plain that is in Syria. That apparently was reason for Isis locating their caliphate there. All such attempts will fail. We ought to remember Jesus says not even he knows the day or the hour of the final trumpet. To think we have the capacity that Jesus lacks is foolishness and blasphemy.

As we finish this year, we should review this difficult year and what we have become. Have we grown in our spirits? Are we ready to live in the Kingdom of God where oppression and suffering disappear? Are we ready to let go of anger, of gossip, of competition that harms others? Are we walking in the Way of Jesus and entering the heavenly Jerusalem where every tear will be wiped away? Seems like we still have opportunities.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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THE PASSION OF THE EARTH: 33RD SUNDAY B

Daniel 12:1-13; Hebrews 10:11-14, 18; Mark 13:24-32

We recall with both sadness and gratitude, the Passion of Jesus Christ. We are well aware of our own sufferings, and to some extent the sufferings of many people in Myanmar and Afghanistan. What we need to become far more conscious of, however, is the passion of Mother Earth, the only planet inhabited by human beings, the only place where human beings can live, the only place where God has put us. Tragically, as a result of massive industrialization, our earth, has been exploited, assaulted, ravaged and destroyed at a rate unprecedented in history. For me, ‘the time of distress’ mentioned by Jesus in his gospel prophecy today, is the present distress of the earth, and the distress of the peoples of the earth who, more than ever before, are asking questions of survival and sustainability: ‘Is it all over? Or is there anything we can do to save God’s good and beautiful world, not only for ourselves but for all the generations of human beings who will come after us?’

Consider just a few facts about the damage that has been inflicted and continues to be inflicted on the finite resources of our earth by our modern, technological, industrial, consumer, throw-away society. In global terms, our modern industrialized society is destroying our air, water, sunlight and soils, and causing the extinction of many creatures that God has placed on this earth with us. Every part of the globe and every ecosystem on earth is now affected.

There is an acute problem with LAND. Poor land management, overgrazing, chemical agriculture, crops of one kind only, deforestation and population pressures have caused soil poisoning, soil erosion, and desert territory, on an alarming scale. About 3500 million hectares - an area the size of North and South America are affected by land degradation resulting in reduced cropping and ultimately desert territory. Experts at Cornell University, New York, estimate that about 85 billion tonnes of soil are lost each year worldwide. In Australia, from a total of 5 million square kilometres used for agriculture and grazing, about 2.7 million square kilometres are affected by wind erosion, water erosion, and salinity. Applying the brakes will involve tree planting, improved farming techniques, organic farming, and better land use.

There is an acute problem with WATER. Human activity is polluting water in the oceans, rivers and lakes. More than 97% of all the water on earth is seawater. During the 1998 UNESCO Year of the Ocean, it emerged that the oceans are being seriously over-fished and polluted. Areas of the oceans close to the continental shelf are contaminated with human, agricultural, industrial and radioactive waste, much of it toxic and carcinogenic. Because we human beings have tended to treat the oceans as sewers, the Baltic, Mediterranean, Black, Caspian, Yellow and South China Seas, are all seriously damaged. Even Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which runs for 1,284 miles, is under threat to its coral and sea creatures because of rising ocean temperature and agricultural pollution. According to a report by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in 1995, over 70% of the world's marine fish stocks are either 'fully-to-heavily exploited, overexploited, or slowly recovering'. Many countries face problems in the supply of clean water for domestic purposes including drinking.

There is an acute problem is with AIR. Chemical pollution is changing the composition of the earth's atmosphere, destroying the ozone layer, producing climate changes and exposing human beings to higher levels of dangerous ultraviolet radiation. The concentration of carbon dioxide, methane, carbon and other 'greenhouse’ gases are expected to increase by 30% during the next 50 years. This build-up is likely to raise Earth's temperature by between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees centigrade by the year 2030. As the oceans warm up and expand, sea levels are rising, leading to ferocious storms and severe flooding over lowland areas. The recent call at the Glasgow Climate Conference to limit carbon emissions to one and a half centigrade by 2030, was unacceptable to the big polluters. Dependence on supplies of polluting oil for transport, building materials, cars, plastics and pharmaceuticals, means that oil-based economies will simply collapse if the oil wells run dry.

There is an acute problem with FORESTS. Tropical forests once covered 20% of the land area of the earth. They are now disappearing at an extraordinary rate. An area greater than the United Kingdom is cleared and destroyed each year, for logging, cattle ranching and agriculture. Since 1780 two-thirds of Australia's native forests and three-quarters of our rainforests have been removed, with drastic effects on land fertility, climate, rainfall, agriculture, human health, the health of rivers and estuaries, and the mega-extinction of species. In Australia 2,200 plant species are endangered, half of our mammals are threatened, 10% of our native birds, 20% of our reptiles, amphibians and freshwater fish. Mega-extinction is the direct result of the expansion of the industrial economy into fragile eco-systems like rainforests.

But so far, too many of us have failed to sufficiently register what is happening, let alone respond to it in sustained and creative ways. How then, should we respond to the ecological crisis, this passion of Mother Earth? Pope Francis answers that ‘… we must examine our lives and acknowledge the ways in which we have harmed God’s creation …’. Unless and until we do so personally, collectively and creatively, that question remains as the elephant in the room.

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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Year B: 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near."

One of the things I have to do from time to time in my work as a doctor is to tell someone they are going to die. Well, in one way, that is no great surprise. Sooner or later, we are all going to die. And we will all die of something. But it always comes as a shock to anyone to know that they now have the disease which will probably kill them.

Telling someone that he is going to die is – for me – a little like going to confession. I don’t really like doing it. I have to steel myself to it. Truth hurts. Sometimes I feel like it hurts too much. But afterwards, I feel better because I know it was the right thing. Because every time I do it – every single time – the person says ‘thank you’. And that is odd because people don’t often thank doctors. Even when we do something really good, like making a clever diagnosis, or managing to cure some problem, people don’t often thank us. But every time I tell someone they are going to die and there is nothing ultimately that medical science can do about it – every time they thank me.

Why is that? Well, I don’t rightly know... but I have to think that it has something to do with the fact that we are telling them something they already know. Most often people have been sick for some time and they know perfectly well what is happening to them. And the last gift their doctor has to give them is honesty.

When I was training in geriatrics, the medical care of the elderly, I had to go with my boss, one of the senior consultants on what is called a "domiciliary visit" – that’s when a hospital doctor comes out to see a patient in his or her own home. This patient was an old lady of 92. Three months before, she had been fit enough to dig the garden she had tended for the last 50 years. But gradually she had noticed herself, feeling very tired, losing a lot of weight, her clothes suddenly becoming too large for her and lumps appearing all over her skin. She wanted to know what could possibly be causing this. As we listened to her story, around her clustered protectively her two daughters and her son-in-law.

When she had finished her story, the two daughters and son-in-law left the room. My boss then did a very careful and thorough examination, which took about half an hour. Then the lady went away for a few moments to the toilet to tidy herself up. Instantly, the two daughters and the son-in-law rushed back into the room and broke into passionate argument imploring my boss that, if it was bad news, he should not tell her, because she would not be able to cope with it. They knew her well enough to know that she could not possibly live with any bad news - they were her two daughters and son-in-law. My boss looked at them very sadly and said that he would only tell her what the patient herself wanted to know.

When she came back in the room, he sat her down and said very simply: "Mrs <Jones>, I have come here to find out what is wrong with you. I think I know what it is. Do you want to know what I think?"

There was a pause and then she replied very firmly: "Yes, doctor."

And I will always remember what he said – if you wonder why, it’s because I’ve often recalled his words and wondered if I would ever have the courage to say the same. This is what he said:

"Mrs. Jones, I think you have a very widespread cancer all over your body. If you wish I can take you into hospital and cause you a lot of pain and spend a good deal of the country’s money doing a lot of tests to find out if I am right or not. But I honestly think that I am right. So, if you are prepared to trust my judgement, then here is my telephone number. If you get any pain or any other problem that you think I might be able to help you with, please call it at once. Is there anything else you would like to ask me?"

The two daughters and the son-in-law all collapsed in an untidy heap. Mrs. Jones ignored them completely. She smiled beautifully and said: "No doctor. Thank you very much. You have helped me."

After that there was nothing more to be said and we left. I never saw her again, but I happen to know that my boss called her every week for months after that until she did need help with her pain.

There are signs in our lives which, if we are willing to pay attention to them, tell us all we need to know about what is really happening with us – whether or not we are really living well – living the lives God created us for. But so much of our time is spent on other things – the daily grind – the pinprick problems of everyday life – that we forget those signs. Or worse, we try to pretend that they are not there. But the truth is that we cannot pretend forever. Sooner or later, reality bites. And then we have no choice but to be honest and alone before God, offering him the fruit of our lives.

Let us "Take the fig tree as a parable" of the shortness of our own time on Earth and our need to use it well.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who shows us how to live in His Light.

Paul O'Reilly <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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