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Contents: Volume 2 - 4th SUNDAY (B) Ordinary Time
- January 31, 2021

 The

  Fourth

  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. 4B

Our readings this Sunday are about the authority of the prophets and the outstanding authority demonstrated by the Greatest Prophet of them all, Jesus. Jesus spoke with the kind of authority that is innate and undeniable. In our ever-questioning world, do you know of anyone who speaks with a similar voice of authority, like the prophets or even seemingly like Jesus?

My understanding of a prophet is not of a person who predicts the future, but rather one who reveals what is somewhat obscure in the present and then what needs to be changed to align the future with the will of God. I believe that there are prophets in families, work places, churches, communities, and hidden in world events. With so much noise and mis-information swirling around our present day world, how can we hear, listen, and heed the authentic prophets of our time?

In my opinion, I think we really do need to carve out personal quiet time, time to "just think". I frequently refer to my activities these days as similar to an in-house air traffic controller! Quiet, personal time, really? YES!

It has to be. We need time to be, to think, to pray, to become attuned once again to the authentic voices within us and around us. If we don't make this time, we will miss the words and direction of the prophets of old, of Jesus, and of today's prophets among us. The Lord knows, we surely need to listen to and heed the prophets of today!

Blessings,
Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP
Southern Dominican Laity
lanie@leblanc.one

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2.
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Fourth Sunday of Ordered Time January 31 2021

 

Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Responsorial Psalm 95; 1st Corinthians 7:32-38; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 4:16; Matthew 1:21-28

 

The most difficult reading for this Sunday is from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Paul’s reading begins with “I should like you to be free of anxieties.” He then goes on to speak about marriage in terms of anxiety for those married being about the matters of the world. It seems Paul is telling us that marriage is a lesser state than non-marriage. It seems that Paul is attempting to free the body of all passion. But it is no part of Christian duty to eliminate natural instincts implanted in human psyche by the Creator. Paul’s comments are not meant to make religion a stress and a strain so that human life is haunted rather than helped by religion. Christianity is not to teach humanity how to eliminate material instincts created by God in humanity, but how to use those instincts in such a way that passion is pure and human love is the most ennobling thing in God’s world. As much as I would like to claim these thoughts as my one, I must give credit to the pen of William Barclay’s commentary of the Letters to the Corinthians (page 68).

Paul, in this first letter to the Corinthians, believed that the Christ was returning at any moment. Thus, his writing focusing the human heart on communion with God who is coming now or tomorrow. Many preachers and teachers of Christian faith have used these teachings of Paul to insist that the celibate life in the clerical state or consecrated state higher and more perfect than the married or single state. So much so has this been, that vocation directors fail to consider the married or single state of life a vocation. How sad that we fail to see the commitment, the dedication, the sacrifices, and the anxieties of family life as pleasing in God’s eyes. All vocations are truly consecrated for the Christian. To lord it over those living in a non-celibate life is an error of faith. Even though this reading from Paul is how we begin this reflection, we should not overlook what we discover in selection from the book of Deuteronomy and from Mark’s gospel. The truth of the matter is that the Christian’s vocation comes to each person in the sacrament that initiates to a living of what we become because of the preaching, healing, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In baptism we are all called – another word for “called” is vocation – to be priests, prophets, and kings/queens in the work of completing the Kingdom of God. What a huge army of evangelists, healers, prophets, sanctifiers, and shepherds we truly are!

Moses is the greatest prophet of the Hebrew tribes. It was through him that God is revealed. What an enormous difference between the faith of the Israelites and pagan religions. In pagan religions, the linkage between the people and their made-up gods was an effort to control and leverage the deity for the deity’s favor. In our contemporary times, we still apply the religion of the pagans. We think we can benefit our financial security, our health, our relationships by appealing to god, thinking that our petitions will have god enter onto our team and do our work for us. In fact, it is God standing at our shoulders, extending us energy, wisdom, and insight to learn from and grow from the contingencies that threaten and endanger our living. What Moses tells us in this reading is that prophets will continue to come to the people. This until there comes the final prophet who will reveal all that is in God’s heart for us. It was the hope and expectation of the Jews – especially following the release from Babylon – that there was coming a Messiah who would release the people from all that holds them captive. Addictions, allegiances with the evil ones, succumbing to passions, and evil that resides in the human heart would be overcome. We should be especially attentive to the last line of Moses’ statement this Sunday. “But if a prophet presumed to speak in my name an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak, or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.” So those who speak untruth, who speak in the name of the gods of the world, these shall die in their lies and untruths.

The gospel selection this week is the final step in Jesus beginning of his ministry, his campaign to establish the Kingdom of God. The work of John the Baptizer was a herald to Jesus, calling him to action. At his baptism, Jesus in the gospel of Mark hears God’s certain approval. Jesus was then tested by the devil to use the ways of the world to achieve God’s mission for him. In response, Jesus uses God’s word from the book of Deuteronomy to combat the devil’s wiles. Then Jesus chose a group of kindred spirits on whom to impress and reveal his mission. In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus launches his campaign to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. He does this in the Jewish place of instruction and teaching, the synagogue. In villages and towns where Jews lived, when there were ten Jewish families in that place, a synagogue was required to be established. There was no established cleric or homilist. There were scribes who were learned in the writings of the Law of Moses. They studied the word of God and interpreted the revelations of God given through Moses to every condition and aspect of human life. They began their explanations and instructions with the phrase, “It is written.” Apparently, Jesus omitted that phrase and instead intoned his message of the reading with something like, “Hear what I say.” Jesus presented himself as a prophet of the Lord, speaking directly for God. And what he spoke was the Word of God, that creative, healing, and truth about reality created by God. His choice of words exposed him as the prophet.

Thus, the person enslaved by evil spirits could shouted out in the synagogue, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God.”

The evil spirit convulsed the man and left him. All present wondered at what they experienced. Here was a prophet who spoke God’s Word. Here was a prophet who evil spirits feared. Here was one whose very presence would overwhelm evil that took possession of humanity.

The Scriptures are the revelation of God to us. The Words bring us truth. The evil ones - spirits and persons - would attempt to twist and knot those truths, making them lies that lead people and nations into darkness.

Truth is often an ethereal thing. What is presented as truth may well be the work of demagogues who manipulate truth to suit their purposes. Truth is always about unity, about hope, about mercy, about compassion, and the abiding presence of the Love of God for his creation. That is a good measure to determine the truthfulness of persons.

In this first public speaking of Jesus at the synagogue in Capernaum, Jesus is recognized as the promised prophet speaking truth. He begins the work of his mission. He begins showing the Way, the Truth, and the Life that makes the Kingdom of God present among us. He is, indeed, the Way, the Truth, and the Life that shows us how to relate to reality, that presents real reality, and demonstrates what it means to be living in fulfillment of the possibilities in which we are individually created.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

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3.
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THE POWER OF JESUS AT WORK: 4TH SUNDAY B

 

When praying the Lord’s Prayer, how confident do you feel, when you ask God to ‘deliver us from evil’?

 

A lovely line in the Book of Psalms says: ‘The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord’ (33:5). It certainly is. The crops keep producing food for our tables. The summer heat gives way to cooling autumn breezes. Most diseases are now curable. Tyrants are sometimes overthrown. Social reforms like pensions for the needy are here to stay. Conflicts end in reconciliation. Shaky marriages get patched up. Love survives misunderstandings, thoughtlessness, insults, and indifference. Wars come to an end. Enemies become friends. We forgive others and are forgiven. Sport keeps contributing to what is good, decent, and noble about human beings. A striking example of exceptional goodness is a prayer scrawled on a piece of wrapping paper found at the Nazi Concentration Camp at Ravensbruck. This is what it prays:

Lord, remember not only the men and women of goodwill but all those of ill-will. Do not only remember the suffering they have subjected us to. Remember the fruits we brought forth thanks to this suffering – our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage and generosity, the greatness of heart that all of this inspired. And when they come to judgement, let all these fruits we have borne, be their reward and their forgiveness. [from Anthony de Mello]

In short, there is goodness everywhere. But where there is goodness, there too is God and the Kingdom of God. So, God’s loving rule is still happening among us.

But so too is the anti-kingdom of evil. Its power and force keep staring us in the face. Newspapers and news bulletins report it daily in its ugliest manifestations. Our consciences remind us of its hurtful and harmful influence. It has been reliably reported recently, for instance, that 1% of the world’s population now owns 50% of the world’s wealth. Too many persons work for less than a dollar a day, and others are denied health and safety protection. Random acts of terrorism are inflicted on defenseless people. Refugees exercising their legal rights to seek asylum are visited with systematic acts of cruelty, as deterrents to others. Persons are being kidnapped and sold into slavery and sexual degradation. Racism, consumerism, and devastation of the earth’s natural resources, are still raging around the world. In many places, large segments of the population are involved in unrest and war. Violence is growing. Individuals, high on drugs, smash their targets to the ground. Bullying is everywhere. What we are facing, then, are both the evil acts of individuals and evil social structures.

In the days of Jesus on earth, people called different evil forces demons. Jesus himself recognized one super-force behind them all. He named it ‘the EVIL ONE’ - also known in his day as ‘the Devil’, ‘Lucifer’, ‘the Enemy’, and ‘Beelzebub’. Today’s gospel is a striking example of his confrontation with, and victory over, the ‘the Evil One’. As the story has it, ‘the Evil One’ has taken possession of a deranged man, who interrupts Jesus as he teaches, and challenges his power and authority over evil. Jesus does not answer the man’s taunts, but addresses ‘the Evil One’ sharply and directly: ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ Throwing the sufferer into convulsions, and with a last loud and desperate scream, ‘the Evil One’ wriggles out of him. At long last, its victim is free from its torments.

More recently if less dramatically, followers of Jesus in a particular parish, acting with the power of the Spirit of Jesus, chased out evil from a disturbed man at Sunday Mass. From the back of the church, he kept repeating the Mass parts after the priest, softly at first but gradually more loudly and belligerently, with profanities and mockery thrown in. Although the man was irrational, some people began to feel offended and angry. Then something wonderful happened. At the Sign of Peace, a woman left her pew and extended her hand to the man. He took it, and then another person appeared behind the woman, then another. Soon dozens gathered to offer peace to the troubled intruder, and then the man began to weep openly. When he sat down, a small child, touched by his tears, climbed onto his lap. The Mass continued and the poor man never spoke another word. [from Alice Camille]

In the presence of Jesus, then, Evil did not, and does not, have the last word. So, to return to our leading question: ‘When praying the Lord’s Prayer, how confident do you feel, when you ask God to ‘deliver us from evil’?”

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

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4.
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Year B: 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

“He taught them with authority and not like their scribes.”

 

Just about this time twenty years ago, my old French teacher died – Ted Sammons, of Wimbledon College.

When we were boys of 13, religion really didn’t mean very much to us. We had not yet experienced in our own lives any real need for God. But Mr Sammons, our new French teacher, insisted on starting our French course by teaching us the Rosary in French. We found out that it was the first thing he taught every class he took.

And he explained to us very simply why he did that – it was because he believed that the most important thing he would ever teach us was not how to communicate in French (which was, as he freely admitted, a lost cause), but how to communicate with God – how to pray when you are facing the moments of great crisis that occur sooner or later in all our lives.

For Ted Sammons, that crisis was during the Second World War, when he was in North Africa. His army was being regularly and heavily defeated – losing ground and men. Most of his regiment - most of his friends – had already been killed or injured. Every day, he faced terrible dangers. It was at that time in his life that praying the Rosary became the most important thing he ever did.

The Rosary celebrates the great moments of crisis in the life of Jesus. By praying over these times and seeing how Jesus continued to trust in the goodness and the power of God, even at the most fearful moments in his life, Ted Sammons was able to find the Faith to endure his own time of great crisis.

I have long since forgotten nearly all of the French that he taught me. But I have never forgotten his lesson on prayer. Because he taught us with the authority of a man who had been there – a man who had faced the desperate struggles of life with Faith triumphant.

So, in his memory, I would like to say to you today, “Bonjour, et Merci Beaucoup, Monsieur Ted Sammons”.

 

Notre Père, qui es aux cieux,
Que ton nom soit sanctifié,
Que ton règne vienne,
Que ta volonté soit faite sur la terre comme au ciel.
Donne-nous aujourd’hui notre pain de ce jour.
Pardonne-nous nos offensés
Comme nous pardonnons aussi à ceux qui nous ont offensés.
Et ne nous soumets pas à la tentation,
mais délivre-nous du mal,
car c’est à toi qu’appartiennent le règne,
la puissance et la gloire, aux siècles des siècles.

Amen.

 

And also in his memory, let us pray that we too may face our own crises with Faith and with Prayer.

And let us stand and profess our Faith in God in whom we never walk alone.

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

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.


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