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Contents: Volume 2 - The Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (A) February 9, 2020


 

  The

  Fifth

Sunday

2020

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

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

 

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1.

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Sun. 5A 2020

I'm not sure about you, but I don't usually feel like I am "the salt of the earth" or the " light of the world" in the public arena, with my family, or even in the quiet of my own thoughts. That standard is what Jesus called his disciples in today's Gospel reading to be though. That is also who we are supposed to be as Jesus's disciples of today.

OK, there is a mis-match here, for sure! The disciples were not "the cream of the crop" according to society's standards to use another well-used phrase, yet they were chosen directly by Jesus. We have been chosen also through our Baptism.

I think that two things interact here that make the what seems impossible become possible. In our first reading, the Lord through Isaiah gives us a list of things to do so that our "light will rise in the darkness" and will "break forth like the dawn". Our second reading tells us that Paul counted on the "demonstration of Spirit" and the "power of God", not himself, in order to preach the Word.

The combination of good works done authentically in the name of the Lord plus the blessings and power of the Lord does change mere people into effective disciples. We can become the kind of disciples who focus not on ourselves as the doers, but become empowered by the One to Whom we give the glory. It seems that the good works we do for others produce blessings for them and for us while giving glory to God.

In all honesty, being transformed by the Lord while doing good works seems to have a better chance of my living up to Jesus's super high standard than relying on the person I know I am. I think that may be true for anyone counting only on other wonderful though flawed people who are in ministry. This spiritual and transformative partnership each of us has with the Divine has the backing and investment of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Surely, I can give my best and find meaningful work to do, from the list given to Isaiah, in God's kind of inclusive kingdom, where the Almighty has already taken the initiative! Oh Lord, walk with us!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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2.

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Fifth Sunday of Ordered Time February 9 2020

Isaiah 58:7-10; Responsorial Psalm 112; 1st Corinthians 2:1-5; Gospel Acclamation John 8:12; Matthew 5:13-16

The reading from Isaiah this Sunday is from the third section of the Prophet. A little historical context might help understand the message of the Prophet and help us apply it to our own times.

The first section of Isaiah was proclaimed and written prior to the defeat of the Jews at the hands of the Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. During that time Judaea was concerned about their safety since the Assyrian, the Egyptian, and Babylonian empires all wanted Judaea and its strategic location in their camp. The Prophet warned the Jews not to throw in with any of those nations as doing so would mean the acceptance the idols of those nations.

Nebuchadnezzar attacked Judaea’s capital Jerusalem. After the fall of Jerusalem, a Babylonian governor was assigned to rule over Judaea. Some in Judaea wished to cast their hopes for freedom on an alliance with Egyptians. They assassinated the Babylonian governor thinking this would allow them their former freedom. Instead Nebuchadnezzar came again and leveled the city and its iconic Temple on Mount Sion. Many, many men, women, and children were slaughtered. All surviving citizens of note -- some 4700 men with their families - were exiled -- most to the city of Babylon. During this time there was a tremendous revival of the Jewish faith. They looked for answers to the question why this tragedy was visited on them. They looked to the stories and songs about their history to find there the God who seemed so distant at that moment. They wrote down those stories as remembered in four distinct traditions. Those stories were written down during this time in Babylon and became the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures. These stories, songs, and liturgical rituals were the unifying glue during this forty-eight year captivity. Especially impactful were the rituals of circumcision and Sabbath observance. These created an inspiring culture even in this hostile environment. When Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon he authorized the Jews to return to their homeland and to practice again their religious traditions. Cyrus understood that religious tolerance exercised toward conquered nations was an effective way of maintaining order.

The second section of Isaiah speaks the truth of God’s providence with the Jews during those trying forty-eight years. This section educates us regarding the character of those who serve the People of God. The image Isaiah creates is that of the Suffering Servant. Only the Suffering Servant would have the energy and power to resurrect the homeland’s City. This Servant is not violent but by absorbing violence saves the People from destruction. He takes on their burdens and becomes a shining example of what it means to be a servant of the God who saves. In the ancient languages of the Jews, the word used for "servant" is also the word for "lamb." Thus, when John the Baptist points out Jesus to his disciples as the "lamb of God," he was referring to the Suffering Servant Isaiah describes. That Suffering Servant is the one anointed to save the People of God from oppression, from homelessness, from violence, and from the yoke and rod we heard about last week. Those images -- of yoke and rod -- were images from the agricultural use of animals for tilling the soil and for transportation. Thus, the people in exile believed they had become beasts of burden, subject to the whip and club. They longed for the freedom that oral stories of creation and the release from Pharaoh gave them. In those stories there was freedom and friendship with the Creator. This Creator made a "deal", a covenant with this people. The Creator scored his evaluation of the creation of humanity as "very good." In the crushing captivity of Babylon the people felt anything but "goodness."

Our reading this Sunday is from the third prophecy of Isaiah. This third section speaks truth to the time when the Jews had returned to Jerusalem. They found their once beautiful city on a hill and its towering Temple totally destroyed. What the Babylonians had not destroyed, the Edomites and others picked over, plundering what little remained after Babylon looted the city. The returning Jews set about rebuilding the walls and the Temple all the while fighting off organized groups of brigands and bandits who sought to rob a devastated people. The Prophet speaks for the Lord. And in speaking to these people five hundred and thirty years before the birth of the Christ -- the promised Suffering Servant -- the Prophet speaks to us as well. We make a critical mistake for ourselves and our children and grandchildren if we allow current events in our social, economic, and political world to clog our ears and bend our hearts. During this rebuilding, thieves and charlatans gamed the energy of good people, seeking to reap unconscionable profits and power from the uncertainty of the times and the fears of the people. It is critical for our moral characters that we listen to the Prophet. This rebuilding and revitalization of faith is not a self-centered effort. Community is essential to the faith. Isaiah speaks for the Lord: "Share your bread with the hungry; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own." The Prophet exhorts us to keep our focus on what is right, what is good. We must not allow ourselves to be manipulated into thinking God has nothing to do with every aspect of human living.

In our time, we’ve been blasted with social, economic, and political half-truths and planned calumny and slander of persons. The loud shouts of the wealth, the powerful, and the famous seek to bring us into a partisan grouping that supports without analysis and criticism the positions of liars and power-seekers. We experience this now regarding the sanctity of human life. Those who seek to divide us want us to believe that Pro-life means only the life of the unborn. The sanctity of life begins with the unborn, but it does not stop there.

During the Ronald Reagan presidential campaign, Jerry Falwell, Sr. thought to gain a seat at the political table by promising the votes of the South. If Reagan would commit to a fight against abortion legalized by Roe v Wade, Falwell would rally the Evangelicals of the South to vote for Reagan. Since then politicians have used anti-abortion dressed up as Pro-Life as a vote getter. Evangelical Christians and Catholics are encouraged to support "Pro-life" candidates. Yet, looking at the record of those politicians beyond the issue of abortion, we see a constant and repeated anti-life agency that denies access to basic medical care for millions of children and adults. There is a return to executions of federal criminals at a time when most of the Western world has moved beyond the notion of vengeance. Tens of thousands of children have been removed from food stamps. Those stamps ensured necessary nutrition to children under five whose brains need adequate nutrition in order to grow. Without such nutrition their future would be hampered by an inability to study and understand how to survive in the contemporary world. We have effectively denied asylum to children and adults who are fleeing for their lives from countries that our politicians in the past effectively maneuvered into totalitarian governments as a misbegotten effort to thwart communism. We have abandoned the Kurds who did the heavy lifting in the conflict to suppress ISIS, leaving them to be slaughtered by a totalitarian. We have done nothing to investigate and work out ways of supporting the second amendment while at the same time seeking the safety and well-being of children and adults from weapons designed to kill enemy combatants. Those bullets tumble and shred flesh. We overlook the need to protect the mentally ill from weapon possession helping them avoid suicide.

These are a few of the issues that should be part of any true "Pro-life" stance. These do not include the most significant challenges to "Life" in our time. There continues to be a denial of the oncoming disaster of climate change. Under the influence of lobbyists, we are encouraged to disregard the signs and science that insist human endeavors are ruining our Common Home. Most of us lack the energy and insight to dream of human life without energy supplied by the burning of fossil fuels. We are enslaved to the idea of an extraction economy both as to our natural resources and as to our abuse of persons lower on the socio-economic classes. Political systems suppress efforts to deal with the issues of climate change. All the while, military strategists are preparing contingency plans on how to control global unrest as arable land and potable water becomes scarce. The effect on the more than seven billion residents of our Common Home is clearly anti-life. Where are the "Pro-Life" activists, politicians, and religious leaders regarding these initiatives of the culture of death? Is their silence perhaps because they are not "Pro-Life" but find "Pro-Life" merely an effective tool to manipulate and enslave the people of the world? Is this not a self-serving theft of the truth of a Pro-Life culture?

When Jesus tells his disciples in this Sunday’s gospel that they are the salt of the earth, he is speaking directly to each of us. If we allow ourselves to be swept along without discerning truth, we become salt that has lost its taste. Listen again to his words: "It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others. "

If we are true followers of the Way of Jesus, then we have our marching orders. We have work to do. Our faith carries us to being the ransom of our chaotic, violent, and enslaving times. Clearly, we must rely on the presence of the Holy Spirit for understanding, for discernment of truth, and for inspiration to action. There are voices that help us toward the truth. Among them are the Bishop of Rome, Francis. The writings and words of the deceased Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago are well worth reviewing. The initiatives of the current Cardinal of Chicago, Cardinal Blasé Cupich, among others, address the issues of the "seamless garment of life." The Signs of the Times for Catholic Christians beg us to pray, to study, to discern, and to work for a Culture of Life. Only a pervasive Culture of Life will solve the tragedy of Abortion. Laws lack the energy to change human spirits. Please God, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.

Carol & Dennis + Charlie dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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BEING SALT AND LIGHT: 5TH SUNDAY A

A man called Mike tells this story: -

Several years ago, I was doing a TAFE course. One of the subjects we covered was motivation. We were asked to make a short class presentation, about five minutes long, on a famous person who had motivated others and us. Subjects chosen ranged from Attila the Hun to John F. Kennedy to Martin Luther King, Jr. I was one of the last to speak. I gave my presentation on Jesus Christ. When I had finished, I felt embarrassed. I'm not sure why. Had I chosen a poor subject? Had I imposed my opinions on others? I cannot fully explain my feelings at the time, but they were not good. So, I just hung my head and said, 'I'm sorry!'

Mike goes on. 'I was immediately howled down with cries of 'What for?', 'Don't apologize' and the like. I then realized I had said something worth saying, even if I did not do it well. That was the last time I apologized for being a Christian. My class mates had taught me a valuable lesson.

In this roundabout way Mike had discovered just how real, practical, and effective is the teaching of Jesus about being the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

In the time of Jesus salt was connected, in the first place, with purity. So then, if a Christian is to be the salt of the earth, he/she must be an example of purity, single-mindedness and integrity, in thought and speech and behavior.

By itself salt, however, is useless. You cannot do anything with salt on its own. When you are hungry you cannot eat it. When you are thirsty you cannot drink it. Salt is only useful when it is mixed up with other things, e.g. when it is sprinkled over fish and chips. So, Jesus does not say 'You are salt', and leave it at that. He says: 'You are the salt of the earth.' As his followers, we are to be mixed up with the earth and the people of the earth. He doesn't expect us to run off and lock ourselves away in an enclosed monastery or convent and have nothing to do with the people outside. That message comes through loudly and clearly in the very popular movie Sister Act I. On the contrary, the message of Jesus to his followers is to identify with the people around us, to get involved in their lives. This is echoed in the powerful opening words of Vatican II about The Church in the Modern World: 'The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men and women of our time, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well' (#3).

In the time of Jesus, and before refrigeration, salt was a preservative. It kept meat and fish, e.g. from going bad. So, when Jesus says to us. 'Be the salt of the earth', he's asking us to save the world around us, the society to which we belong, from going bad or getting worse than it is already. Recent public news concerning corruption and cover-ups in Australia, Britain, and the USA, suggest that It is more urgent than ever for politicians and all others in public service to act constantly and consistently with honesty, integrity, justice and compassion.

In the third place, salt adds flavour. Food without salt or a salt substitute is bland, insipid, unattractive, even depressing. In using this image Jesus is suggesting too that our task, our mission in the world, is not be negative kill-joys, but people like himself, who love life and live it the full, people who care so much, people who love so much, that we bring joy not sadness, hope not gloom, to those we meet daily. Just like Pope Francis does!

Both images Jesus uses - being salt to the earth and light to the world suggest that faith and good deeds, belief and action, cannot be separated. Walking the walk is, in fact, more important than talking the talk. So, he says to you and me: ‘Don't hide or water down your love for Christ. Shine it, show it, prove it, do it! Your faith is a gift to be shared with others -- with family, friends, colleagues, clients, parishioners, strangers, indeed with all human beings.’

The Prayer of St Francis, 'Lord, make me an instrument of your peace ... etc.', sums up the teaching of Jesus: 'You are the salt of the earth ... you are the light of the world.’ Let us make it our special communion prayer at Holy Communion today:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: Where there is hatred let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon, where there is doubt, faith, where there is despair, hope, where there is darkness, light, and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not seek so much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. AMEN.

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

 

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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.

-- Fr. John


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