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Contents: Volume 2 - 6th SUNDAY (B) Ordinary Time
- February 14, 2021

 The

  Sixth

  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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Sun. 6 B 2021

The difference in the care of a leper in the first and third readings is astonishing. Both are essential and important. The first was out of necessity to protect the people while the second was a more compassionate act to restore a particular person to society.

What really grabbed hold of me though was how the leper spoke to Jesus. The leper begged Jesus. He said, "If you wish, you can............ "

It seems to me that each of us has some problem that we would beg Jesus to "fix" for us if we met him. In fact, we might have a longer list than we would like to admit. We might think, "if only Jesus would....., then ...."

Maybe the list or even the most profound request is really not personally about us, but about people or situations that are dear to us. I fall into that category easily. I often say that Jesus definitely knows the names of those I love.

But what about me and my personal needs and you and your personal needs? What needs to be healed so that cleansed, we, as individuals, would proclaim the glory of God unabashedly to everyone everywhere as did the cleansed person in the Gospel? Asking Jesus's help to figure that out would be an excellent preparation for Lent which, by the way, is coming up sooner than we think.

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

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Sixth Sunday of Ordered Time February 14, 2021

 

Leviticus 13:1-2 7 44-46; Responsorial Psalm 32; 1st Corinthians 10:31v- 11:1; Gospel Acclamation Luke 7:16; Mark 1:40-45

 

There is an apparent difference for the lepers in the first reading from Leviticus with the outcome for the leper in the Gospel of Mark. Leviticus required that anyone with a skin disease – including leprosy – must be declared unfit to live in community. Lepers were charged with shouting out their condition to all passersby so that any contact would be avoided. In Mark’s gospel Jesus encounters a leper living on the margins and heals him. He sends him to the priests as required by Leviticus. It is the priests who were responsible to judge whether a person could return to society. Leprosy, any skin disease, was a threat to the community because it was considered as contagious as we now consider Covid 19. In order to protect the community, affected persons were removed from family, from neighborhoods, from civil society, and would lose all rights and accesses of citizenship. They could not work for a living and had to depend on charity for nourishment and clothing. With Covid 19 we understand the need for quarantine to prevent spread. Since there was no cure for leprosy, a leper would be cut off from all contact except with other lepers and would die alone. While Leviticus focused on removing an individual from society, Mark’s narrative of Jesus and the leper teach of healing that leads to a return to active participation in community. This is the nature of all of Jesus’ healing and freeing miracles. Each one allowed for the return of the individual to community.

The scene in Mark’s gospel tells us this diseased man is cured not only of his disease but also of his isolation. Jesus insists the man follow the law of Moses and show himself to the priests for examination. But the man could not contain his joy. He likely leaped into the air, must have shouted – “I’m healed, I’m no longer unclean! Welcome me back into our community, let me share at your feasts, let me work alongside you, let me share in your joys and your sorrows. I am healed. I can live with you again. Welcome me!”

During our terrible pandemic there are compelling concerns for the health safety of family, for those who are health challenged, for the aged among us. Those of us who care about community, hope for and work for the good of others wear masks, socially distance ourselves, and engage in frequent ritual washings. It is not a political matter that we wear face masks. Doing so protects others in our communities. It provides protection for us: protection from droplets containing virus. We distance ourselves from friends, family, fellow-workers, fellow citizens so as to encourage the virus to its death by limiting its potential victims. The motivation for this self-isolation is as protection for the community. Our isolation separates us from community. This isolation gnaws on our spirits. We can understand the joy of the leper cured at his release from isolation.

In these two stories, the focus is that we each need community. It seems we are hardwired to finding a place in community where we can be full participants. That is the point of the Leviticus and of Mark’s gospel this Sunday. For centuries, our Church focused its energies, its conscience, and prayer life on a privatized spirituality. The focus has been on Me and Jesus. Our goal was not this world, but a looking forward to the shadowy world that was to come after we passed to another existence. The goal of our spiritual efforts was to be caught by death in the state of grace. In that way we would have a place in eternity, sharing in a reborn paradise long ago lost by pre-historic parents of the human race. Conversion was all about a change in my life that removed barriers to a full relationship with God. As we grew old, that change often moved more and more into a denial of the world in the hopes of eternity. In that spirituality the material world was viewed as being in conflict with the spiritual world. There was a divide between ordinary life and spiritual life. Material life had to be controlled, manipulated by the spiritual life as something base and a stumbling block to the spiritual. The spiritual life was always looking for evil and in doing so often overlooked the wonder and beauty of God’s creation. Such a spirituality overlooked the presence of God in his marvelous creation. We lost in such a spirituality the ability of creation to reflect God’s continual and abiding presence. We tended to look at the material world and its beauty and its pleasures as lepers among us. Other people were shunned because they held the potential of misleading us into sin. Others were lepers with the power to corrupt us, to rob us of our chances of getting past St. Peter at the golden gate. So, we avoided, said no to God’s creation. Some even misused creation and people. If nature and others were the source of temptation, then abused nature and people it did not matter. There is more to spiritual life than sin and its avoidance. There are attitudes and activities that bring life to fullness.

A thoughtful look at the first chapters of the book of Genesis portray for us four distinct statements about sin. First is Adam and Eve’s transgression which separates them from God and moves them from a glorious paradise, a full appreciation and enjoyment of God’s creation, into a difficult world where nature is in conflict and a threat to humanity. The second narrative is the murder of Abel by Cain brought on by jealousy and envy. If another has more than I the solution is violence toward the other. The third story is the lack of order and purpose that came with God’s creative hand. When God’s presence is rejected then the chaos of the waters before God placed them in order, that chaos and destruction returned. The destruction is complete except for those who see clearly. Their community, their family is saved. The fourth and final story of sin is a story about the Tower of Babel. When technology, when engineering, when humanity believes it can solve everything through science and technology, it forgets the need to relate to others and to the Creator. Those people believe they have control of their fate and are at the top of creation, needing nothing but their wits, intelligence, and science. They become so certain of themselves that they no longer need community. They discover they no longer understand each other. And in their fear of the other they spread throughout the world. Their conversations no longer convey but are nothing more than a babble without meaning. Arrogance and pride created a tower, a monument to their lack of community. All four sins created division within God’s creation. What God had declared “very good” on the sixth day of creation turns into slop, sludge, violence. In isolation, mistrust, and any sense of the common welfare of each is lost. The wonder and magnificence of each person is slathered over with insignificance. Death of the other is unmoving. Pain of the other is the problem only for the other. Community is dead. Forgotten are the words of the Creator: “Let us create man in our image and likeness. Male and female he created them.” With the loss of community, the world itself lost the particular and individual image of the Creator. And in its newfound isolation hatred and distrust and violence became the gods worshipped.

When the nation of Israel was freed from the Pharaoh and began those forty years of wandering, that people were formed into a nation. What was unique of this nation among all the nations of the world was simply that this people’s faith taught them that God is present always and everywhere. No other nation held such a belief. For those other nations, their gods were on Mount Olympus, removed from the day to day living of the people. During those long and difficult days in the desert, Moses worked with the present God to form a nation. The clans, the loosely connected tribes descended from the twelve brothers, did not have a whole lot in common until they began their migration to a land promised. King David became the high point of that nation, completing its nation building. His son Solomon was a great builder and fostered pride in the elite while taxing and conscripting the non-elite into near servitude. Solomon’s son was so bad that the nation split into two, a northern and a southern kingdom. It was during the southern Kingdom’s exile in Babylon that there came a longing for something more. It was during this time that the prophets spoke and wrote about one promised who would call back together the scattered twelve tribes, returning all to the city Jerusalem whose name means city of peace. Unity, community, common cause, common good – these were the goals of the Messiah.

Then came a preacher – a prophet after an absence of four hundred years of prophecy. He dressed like the revered prophet Elijah: he preached on the banks of the Jordan river where Elijah disappeared in a fiery chariot into the heavens. What did he say? What did he do? He shouted to the people a simple message – well simple perhaps because all that is recorded is his statement that the Kingdom of God was at hand After millions of years of human life, of life lived in the shadows of Adam and Eve, of Cain’s murder of Abel, of the chaos from which Noah and family were saved, and loss of understanding because of tongues twisted by pride and ears plugged by arrogance: after so many years of violence and war, of theft and murder, of idolatry and sacrifice of first born sons to the dark god Moloch – after all that comes John the Baptizer. And his message is one of hope – one of a call to pay attention. The One who followed John would overcome all obstacles. And humanity and the earth would be renewed. Once again, the community of mankind would become a great Kingdom, a thriving and flourishing community. Leprosy, blindness, deafness, misshapen limbs, addictions – all these would be healed, and all individuals would be called again to became what they were created to be – a community of life.

So, what is the leprosy that keeps us from becoming the Kingdom of God? We should think of these two readings about leprosy in those terms. What are the diseases that keep us apart and participants in the kingdom of darkness? What is it that keeps us from growing the Kingdom of God to take the world back from the evil course begun in those sins described in Genesis? How about racism? How about the violence of war and failure to accept and respect the alien who is in our midst? How about small mindedness that excludes others? How about the misuse of natural resources to the detriment of third world nations? How about the enslavement of the poor in meaningless and sub-living wages? How about the absence of affordable health care for all? How about accepting lies and spin of truth because it fits our thinking? How about competition that seeks to eliminate the livelihood of others? How about…. Well, the list goes on and on.

In all Jesus’ work, he only confronts those who think themselves better than all others. He deals with all persons who seek him because of his mercy and compassion. He is our model. When we forget mercy and compassion in favor of judgment and condemnation, when we think ourselves better than anyone else, then we are like the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the chief priests. It is obvious in the gospels who chose not to repent and seek the Kingdom of God. We are Church, a community of respect, of sharing, of welcome, of hope, of faith in God present, and of binding love that overcomes all that divides us one from the other. We are Church when we believe in the supreme worth of every person no matter their color, their nation of origin, their economic status, their educational achievements, their work, and even their faith tradition. God is creator of us all – no one is created who is lacking the image and likeness of that God. Let us remove the divisiveness of leprosy no matter what form it takes in our minds, in our hearts!

We are headed for Lent this coming Wednesday. We should begin our focus on creating the Kingdom of God in this year.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

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OUTSIDERS BECOMING INSIDERS: 6TH SUNDAY B

 

What kind of people do we tend to despise and reject?

 

I guess some of you will have seen the movie ‘Shine’ starring Geoffrey Rush. It tells the amazing story of the successful concert pianist, David Helfgott. Early on, as he improves his piano playing, he also falls into a serious mental illness and starts to disintegrate as a person. He is suffering from manic depression, and his moods swing from the bright heights of elation, joy, and excitement, to the black depths of sadness, loneliness, and despair. Very soon he loses his job, his home, and his family, and is placed in a mental hospital. His psychiatrist there even bans him from playing the piano. He ends up feeling rejected, isolated and abandoned, worthless and hopeless.

One day a woman called Gillian comes to visit one of the other patients at the hospital. A long-time fan of his music, she sees David mooching around and recognizes him. She says in the movie, ‘at once I knew what the rest of my life would be about’. She takes him into her home, looks after him as one of the family, and takes on the responsibility for his recovery. Bit by bit he gets better, and with the help of medicines, he starts to control his mood swings. Most importantly to them both, he returns to playing the piano. Soon he is back on the concert stage, and his performances to exuberant and enthusiastic audiences are a personal triumph.

Of course, ‘Shine’ is only a film. But its story is true. It happened. It happened through the providence of God and the love of a good woman. It’s a story too that is still happening, because David Helfgott continues to enchant concert audiences.

That story is an extension of the message of Jesus in the Word of God today, which is about accepting and welcoming the broken, the despised, the rejected, the odd bods, the misfits, and the outcasts, into our company and community, and offering them help and healing through our openness and generosity. In fact, Jesus challenges us to go out of our way to accept outsiders and outcasts in the way that he put himself out, to befriend that poor leper of our gospel story.

As a leper, the man was barred from going to the temple. He was not allowed to associate with others in any way. He was not allowed to even see his family or friends. If anyone came anywhere close, he had to warn them by shouting out, ‘Unclean!’ ‘Unclean!’

Since today we don’t usually run into anyone with physical leprosy (Hansen’s disease), we might identify at least some of those who are often treated as social lepers. Whom might we include? Let me suggest the following: - Persons with AIDS; alcoholics; drug addicts; mentally Ill persons; neurotics; persons with obsessions; the very obese; the odd dressers; Gays and Lesbians; the handicapped; and the homeless. At times the outcasts of society even include the elderly; persons with dementia; teenagers; Immigrants; refugees; asylum seekers; and those who speak foreign languages. We can work out whom we would consider outcasts by asking ourselves: Whom do we judge as not being our kind of people? Whom would we avoid? Whom would we not want to be seen with or mix with? Whom would we leave off our invitations to parties?

By contrast, it was said of Jesus, that great mixer with all kinds of people - high and low, rich and poor, successful or drop-outs, influential or ordinary: ‘This man welcomes outcasts and (even) eats with them.’ Often, it was his sharing with them, his communion with them, that led them to better ways of being and better ways of living. Think, for example, of Zacchaeus, the tax collector, and how he turned around his life through contact with Jesus!

The care, kindness, welcome, compassion, generosity, and healing touch of Jesus towards outsiders, come through loudly and clearly in all the details of today’s story of his meeting with the leper. He not only healed the man of his hideous and embarrassing skin disease, but he also healed him of his social isolation. by returning him as a changed man, to the company of his friends, family, and community.

Today Jesus is challenging me to rethink and alter my attitudes, my judgments, and my behaviour, towards all kinds of people out there who are different. What about you? Where do you stand?

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

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Year B: 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

“A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to’ he said ‘you can cure me.’ Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to!’ he said. ‘Be cured!’”

 

I hope this will not seem disrespectful, but do you ever wonder what it must have felt like to be Jesus?
- to have the power to heal people just by touching them...

“Do you feel sick?” – I touch you – and immediately you get better. No fuss, no bother, no drugs, no injections, no side-effects, no operations, no clinical commissioning groups, no Health & Social Care Bills – you just get better right away. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing to be able to do for people?

I often wonder that because, during the week I work as a doctor. And, in my own little way, I try to heal people too. But I’m not as good as Jesus. Quite often when people come to see me, I don’t know straight away what’s wrong with them and I have to send them away for tests that are complicated and painful and not always accurate. And when it comes to trying to make people better, I need to use tablets and medicines and send people to have operations. And my medicines don’t always work. And they can have bad effects as well as good ones. And the surgeons who do the operations have to be “cruel to be kind” - they have to hurt people in order to help them. It’s very hard to cut out the bad part of a person without hurting the rest of the person. But Jesus doesn’t have to do any of that – he just touches people and immediately they get better. Wouldn’t it be great to be like that –to be able to heal people by just touching them.

And the person who made me think that the most I shall call Tessa. You see, the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life was making Tessa see again.

When I first met her, Tessa was a 14-year old girl who had just come into our remote mission hospital in the Amazon with a very serious and very rare infection of the brain called cavernous sinus thrombosis.
That’s when an infection gets into the blood vessels right inside the brain and it cuts off the blood supply to the eyes. And often people who get it die because it’s a very serious infection. And even if they don’t die, they are seriously and permanently brain damaged.
Well, we managed to stop Tessa from dying. But she was completely blind. And we were all afraid that this would be permanent. According to the books we looked up, once this happens, it usually is permanent. But we put her on all the treatment we could think of and hoped for the best. And for once, the best happened. Almost miraculously, she began to recover and every day, when I went to see her on the ward round, she would be able to see just a little better. Until, after about six weeks, her sight was almost completely back to normal. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so proud of myself.

So one day on the big weekly grand ward round, with all the doctors and nurses and students standing round, I asked her how it felt to be able to see again when all of us had thought she was going to be blind for life.
She thought for a little while and then she said she felt a bit sorry.
“Sorry?!!
How do you mean ‘Sorry’?!!”
Surprised – and a little disappointed – and rather regretting having asked the question in public - I asked her why?
She said – because she wanted people to go on treating her like they had when she was blind.
She explained – when she was blind, whenever people came to her, they would touch her – just to let her know they were there. And they would touch her with great gentleness and love. That hadn’t happened to her before. And she liked that. And now that she could see again, she didn’t want them to stop doing that.

I learned from that – I hope. I learned that it was not I who had healed her at all. Certainly, I had used my medicines to fight the infection and stop her from dying and even get her sight back. But the people who had healed her were all those people who had come to see her and had touched her with love. And to her, that was more important even than getting back her sight.

So I learned from that it isn’t just Jesus who can heal people simply by touching them. All of us have that power vested in us – if we touch them the way that Jesus touched them. Let us pray that we may all recognise the power of Jesus’ touch and let us pray that we may all use it well.

Let us stand and profess our Faith in God who has touched us all with His Love and who uses us to heal.

Paul O'Reilly <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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