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Contents: Volume 2 - 3rd SUNDAY (B)
- January 24, 2021

 The

Third

  SUNDAY

   2021


 

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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1.

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Sun. 3 B

In our readings for this Sunday, Jonah and the newly-called apostles seem to have no trouble in doing what the Lord wanted them to do. We know that Jonah had an inner struggle and an outward detour that preceded his acquiescence, however. The apostles went along happily it seems, until the going got tough at the end.

So where are we in our tussle with the Lord's call? Have we balked at first and then said "yes"? Are we still ignoring the call? Are we getting tired of following the Lord and want an easier way out?

The Lord told us that the call is not an easy one, even if most of us still sorta think it will be once we do say "yes"! I think that somewhere along the way, at the beginning, middle or end, the Lord supplies booster shots of grace. That is a good thing for each of us, for sure.

Our times are not easy. We need many booster shots of grace it seems, maybe many times a day. Jesus knew that himself. Right after grieving about the death of John the Baptist, he called on his reservoir grace to begin calling more of his followers. He got to work living out his own call.

Some of the inauguration events that we witnessed in the US this past week seem to be God's booster shots of grace and healing to a very weary people in a divided nation. I felt calmed. I still feel more hopeful for my country and the major challenges we have still to face. (If you haven't watched Amanda Gorman's deliver "The Hill We Climb" during President Biden's inauguration, google it and give yourself a gift.)

Perhaps tonight, during our prayer time, we might ask for a personal booster shot of grace and one for world leaders. That asking is a positive response to the fact that it is God's initial call, not ours , that gets us moving in the right direction in the first place. It is our willingness to follow God's lead that will keep us going to the very end, no matter the challenges or sadnesses we face each day. Thanks be to God!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Third Sunday of Ordered Time January 24 2021

Jonah 3:1-5 & 10; Responsorial Psalm 25; 1st Corinthians 7:29-31; Gospel Acclamation Mark 1:15; Mark 1:14-20

The book of Jonah is such a mystery. It is not meant as a history but as a story, a teaching fiction to make a point about the relationship of God with his creation. The people of Nineveh and the Jews were not exactly allies! Nineveh was in the Assyrian empire which laid siege to Jerusalem at one point in history. For Jonah to accept the call of the Lord to preach repentance to the enemies of his nation would have been repulsive. He would have argued with the Lord; "Why should I go preach repentance to my people’s enemies. It would serve them right if they were destroyed in the cruelest fashion." He tries everything to avoid going to do what God has asked him to do. He is even swallowed by a whale when he attempts to flee to the ends of the earth. In the midst of a threatening storm, the sailors decide it is Jonah who has brought on God’s wrath on their ship. So, they throw him overboard. A whale picks him up and deposits him on the shores of Nineveh. For God has influence and power even over the denizens of the deep. He tries to hide under bushes. But the sun comes and dries up the bushes and he finally agrees to go into Nineveh and preach repentance. For God has influence even over plants and the sun. Much to his surprise, the people accept his preaching. And even the ruler hears and repents. The entire nation does penance. What does this story mean?

After the Babylonian exile, both religious and civic leaders of the nation believed only they were to be saved by God’s efforts. This Jonah story insists that God offers salvation to whom he pleases. The special relationship of God to Israel was not merely a sign of God’s love for his people. The nation, the sons of Jacob, were chosen not only for their benefit, but for the benefit of all creation. The sign of Jonah is about the will of God that all nations, all creation be saved from its sinfulness and depravity. The arrogance of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and priests prevented them from accepting their mission of preaching repentance and God’s call to salvation by all nations. That is the sign of Jonah, that all nations are God’s darling. All peoples, all languages, all nations, all races, all genders are called by God to live their lives fully now in a life that leads to an ever-greater life after leaving this world.

In that context, the gospel makes a lot of sense. Jesus calls fishermen to become the new Jonahs to all the nations. These fishermen are not leaving their trade to better their lifestyle. They were leaving a successful fishing business – note, Mark indicates they were successful enough to have hired men working for them – and entering a life without security, without physical accumulations, without probability of fame. Jesus chose those who would go to all the nations of the known world to preach repentance from the ways of the world and entrance into the Kingdom of God. What Mark’s gospel does for us from this start is indicate the spread of God’s message of mercy, compassion, and loving kindness to all the world. Enemies as well as friends are preached to and encouraged to live the way of the Lord. That is the way of salvation. Just as the people of Nineveh responded to Jonah’s reluctant preaching and saved themselves from destruction, so also all nations will receive the preaching toward repentance which will lead to eternal living in the presence of God, the Creator, the Father of us all.

There is another side to these stories. It is the selection from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in the early part of his preaching that gives us a sense of our role. Paul, as so many of early Christians, felt and believed that Jesus, now the Christ by reason of his sacrifice and Resurrection, was returning very soon – maybe tomorrow, maybe the day after. He would come to collect all those who were living in his way. Paul seems, in the selection, to downplay marriage. In the light of Jesus returning tomorrow, that would make a lot of sense. In a later letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes eloquently about marriage as the sign of the relationship of Jesus with his church. The intimacy of marriage is indicative of the intimacy of Jesus with his Church. And his Church is made up of all nations, all languages, all traditions, all cultures, and - most certainly in the greatest challenge of our nation in this time --- all races and ethnic backgrounds. As God is our Father, we are made into brothers and sisters to one another. We are God’s family by the preaching of the apostles. It is our responsibility to hear and accept the compassion, mercy, and light of the Messiah and live as though we are loved by the God who created us and maintains us in life.

I wonder, in this terrible time of political conflict, what the difference between those who see our past four years as a destruction of the basis of freedom for all citizens and those who see the efforts at authoritarianism as a positive development of our nation. How can we see so differently? How is it that family members can overlook their blood ties and refuse to speak with each other? How is it that our Church, so singly focused on the moral issue of abortion, can support an administration that gained power and influence by dividing the nation? How is it that my beloved sister and I so totally disagree on the facts as to avoid any political discussion so as to maintain our loving relationship?

I think this is a practical experience of how the Word of God, the Son of God become Man is received. For some there is an absolute rejection in favor of the Ways of the World. For some, the compassion, mercy, and unconditional love of the Creator/Father for each person is a myth created to control. For others, it’s not about God’s love for us, but about the rules and regulations, the absolute power of infallibility of the successor of Peter that is our salvation. Staying within the lines as we color our lives is how we’ll be judged. For these, life is about being controlled. Yet God created man in his own image and likeness. And that image, that likeness is bursting with creativity and incomprehensible beauty. If there is doubt about this, take a few moments to view the world in which we live, the natural world that contains so much beauty and so much complexity.

Why is truth so difficult to discern? Why will no amount of evidence, no matter how many persons with a reputation of truth testify ever change persons’ minds and – more importantly – hearts of those who deny what is apparent truth?

Perhaps the awful answer is what the Hebrew Scriptures and Paul in Christian Scriptures identify as stiffness of neck and hardness of heart. Is this why so many hearing the Word of God deny its value, its effectiveness in leading us to happiness, its ultimate achievement of everlasting life? What a tremendous sadness that so many of us pick and choose bits and pieces and deny the presence of God’s mercy, compassion, and unconditional love for all his creation? It is for each of us to examine ourselves in this regard. It has been revealed to us the Way, the Truth, and the Life of God’s presence and work among us. We should catch onto this speeding train and move along in our journey home.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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CALLED AND SENT: 3RD SUNDAY B

Do you really believe, that Jesus has chosen you to be his disciple, as well as a missionary and agent of his love, to others?

In our various communities, we are fortunately not all the same. We have health workers, lawyers, tradespeople, teachers, and students. There are those who work more than one job, and those who simply cannot find work. There are adults and children, retired and semi-retired persons, family persons, and single ones. There are those born here and those born overseas, sick people and healthy, carers and cared for. There are big-picture persons and those with attention to detail. There are passive people and there are active ones. There are those strong on theory and those that make things happen. There are those who talk a lot, and those that do a lot. There are those who think a great deal, and those who cannot concentrate.

For all our differences, there are two things we have in common, which we treasure. We are human beings together and we are Christians together. We have been baptized by Jesus (through his Church) and have become his disciples. Within our different situations, we keep striving to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and to keep walking in his footsteps. What he has called us to be and to do. become clearer from today’s gospel story.

Mark relates that as soon as Jesus began his work in Galilee, he recruited Simon and his brother Andrew, as well as James and John, the two sons of Zebedee. He chose them to be his companions and to work with him to make God’s loving rule happen everywhere, and over everybody and everything. There and then they left their occupations and their families to follow Jesus as his disciples, and like him, to become ‘fishers of people’.

In the gospels, the word ‘disciple’ means ‘learner’. We note that his followers did not choose Jesus as their teacher. No, he chose them to learn from him as life-long learners within an ongoing relationship with him. As they journeyed with him from place to place, they would experience his kindness, compassion, and pastoral care, again and again. towards thousands of people in urgent need of deliverance from physical, mental, or emotional illnesses. On their shared journeys, he would tell them his parables and other very important truths. They were to share his wisdom, his life-style, his sufferings, and hardships. Sometimes they, like their Leader, would even find themselves without a roof over their heads, sleeping rough.

But despite the trust and affection Jesus gives his disciples, they don’t come through the pages of the gospels as larger-than-life heroes, who effectively and efficiently promote and expand the mission of Jesus. We note that his very first choices are, in fact, a bunch of uneducated fishermen, and the rest of his eight later choices hardly stand out as simply the best people for the job. At times they misunderstand their teacher so badly, that they come through as dull and stupid - thick as bricks. For all that, we recognise that they are the ones Jesus deliberately and personally chooses to share his mission of making the kingdom happen - the rule and reign of God over everyone and everything

All this leaves you and me with a great deal of hope. Jesus has picked us, with all our faults and failings, but with all our potential, to be on his Coming of the Kingdom Team. Right now, we are even his Team of the Century.

The first thing to emphasize about all that is that he needs us. His mission in our world will not happen without us. To illustrate! A poor boy in a ghetto was being teased by another boy who said, ‘If God loves you, why doesn’t he take care of you? Why doesn’t God tell someone to bring you shoes, a warm coat, and better food?’ The little lad thought for a moment. Then, with tears in his eyes, he answered, ‘I guess God does tell somebody, but somebody forgets.’

The beauty of the call of Jesus to each of us, communicated by his connecting us to him at baptism, means that each of us may tell ourselves this truth: ‘He has chosen me, not because of any merits and achievements on my part, but simply because he loves me and wants me on his Kingdom of God Team. He has chosen me, not because I am more virtuous, more gifted, or more suited than someone else, but only because he loves me and wants me.’

This means that for the mission of Jesus, which is the mission of God, I am a partner and a player. My life, my efforts, and my contribution, count a lot.

So, to return to our leading question!

Do you really believe, that Jesus has chosen you to be his disciple, as well as a missionary and agent of his love, to others?

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

 

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Year B: 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (The Power and the Glory)

"Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men."

Just once in a while, usually in that really quiet period after Mass when nearly all of the people have gone, I will notice out of the corner of my eye a young woman or a young man hanging about suspiciously near the poor box by the candle-stand. And as I clear up after Mass, they will continue to hang around, loitering with what looks like intent. And then when I walk up to the back of the Church, they will very slowly sidle up to me. And then, as they get near me, I will see a shifty look come into their eyes. And then I will know that they want to ask me something – something a bit more than the usual: "Oh Father, could you lend me a fiver to get through to next Thursday." No, they will ask, quietly and hesitantly, whether or not I think they have a vocation to the priesthood or religious life.

To tell you the Truth, I never usually have any good answers for them. After all, if they don’t know when they are living with the question all the time, I don’t know how they expect me to know. And so I give them the usual advice – to pray, to read the Scriptures and to trust that God will open their path. If they have a specific sense of call, then I will give them the details of the vocations promoters either of the diocese or of a religious order. But most often, they are too unsure of their call to want to take that step. And sadly – at least I think sadly – it is not usually that they feel that they are too good for religious life; but they believe that religious life is too good for them – not that they do not feel the call, but that they do not feel the confidence to respond with generosity to it. They are held back by the fear that they are not actually good enough for God.

Often they ask me for something to read about it. And out of all the great spiritual texts that have been written throughout the ages on the spirituality of priesthood and religious life, I nearly always find myself recommending a novel by Graham Greene – a religious sceptic of very doubtful faith and even more dubious personal moral standing – who ultimately became a Catholic of sorts and – as it happens - a member of this parish of Farm Street in London. That novel is called ‘The Power and the Glory’ and it describes the life of a priest during the great atheist persecution in Mexico in the 1930s, when a fascist regime attempted to annihilate the Church in Mexico through persecution. Thousands of priests and nuns were shot; many more simply gave up the faith for their own protection. Only a few persevered. Our "hero" was one of them. And, as we follow his story, we discover that he is not much of a hero.

He cannot obtain the wine he needs to say mass, even by bribery.

He runs from the enemies of the Church and, three times, tries to escape across the border. Each time, however, the needs of the people draw him back.

He is a whiskey-priest – a man who cannot face his fears sober.

He even has an illegitimate daughter, growing up poor and illiterate in a remote village with her destitute mother who now despises him and all he has ever stood for.

And at the end, he is betrayed by a man whose life he saved.

And he is shot – a reluctant martyr for a Faith he only just about still retains.

We never learn his name.

And yet, throughout the book, we know that he is a martyr we can believe in and understand, much more than any plaster saint. This is a man if not like you, then very much like me, who has bet his life on God’s promise that it is in our own weaknesses that His strength will be most clear. It is because of women and men like him that the Faith in Mexico endured that bitter persecution and endures to this day. It is because of women and men like him that the Faith will continue to endure future persecutions. And we pray that, if it falls into our calling, we may endure with it.

And so, now, whenever I meet a shifty eyed youngster at the back of church who wonders whether God could be calling her or him, despite whatever personal weaknesses – and we all have them - I lend a copy of that book. I don’t know for sure how many of them actually get around to reading it. Sometimes the young person comes back; sometimes I never see them again; hardly ever do they actually return the book. But those who do, I hope, come to understand that living a life in the service of God is not actually about the personal gifts and talents of the person; it is about what God can do with us. It is not about what I do for God; but what I allow God to do in and through me.

I hope that there may be some here today to whom the Lord wants to say: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Wherever you have been in your life before; whatever you have done or failed to do; I am the Lord. Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.

Let us stand and profess our faith – and our hope that all of us may respond generously to the calling that each of us have been given to be God’s people in the world.

Paul O'Reilly <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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